robertogreco + plastic   12

FixIts | For When You're In A Fix - Quick. Reusable. Strong.
"What are FixIts?
FixIts are mouldable eco-plastic fixing sticks for your tech, home, garden and more.

So handy you’ll want them within arm’s reach no matter where you are, whether that’s your jeans pocket, kitchen drawer or toothbrush holder.

Reusable and compostable, FixIts can help you reduce waste and make the most of the resources you've got at hand too.

1. Heat it: Put the kettle on and get your mug ready

2. Melt it: FixIts melts and becomes flexible at 62 C.

3. Mould it: FixIts can be moulded in any which way, shape or form.

Create anytime, anywhere.
Why buy things you like when you can make things you love? All you have to do is put the kettle on, make yourself a cup of FixIts and get hands-on.

Mend because you can.
You don’t need to be a DIY expert to give your stuff a new lease of life. FixIts melts, moulds and mends in minutes so you can say ‘I fixed it.’

Want to give it another go? Simply heat up to re-use for…

1. Tech
Use FixIts to keep cables tidy and labelled or fix that broken charger.

2. Home & Garden
Mend flowerpots, craft bespoke home décor or even create a hanging herb garden.

3. Adventure
Don’t let broken camping or sports gear hold you back: Fix-It and keep doing the things you love.

Drill it, sand it, cut it and more.
There’s more to FixIts than twisting and moulding: once cooled it becomes hard and tough so you can get your tools out and modify it the way you want to.

You’re the hero, and FixIts is your handy companion when you’re needed to save the day."

[See also: ]
mending  fixing  plastic  plastics  repair 
july 2018 by robertogreco
The Fantastically Strange Origin of Most Coal on Earth – Phenomena: Curiously Krulwich
"This is a story about trees—very, very strange looking trees—and some microbes that failed to show up on time. Their non-appearance happened more than 300 million years ago, and what they didn’t do, or rather what happened because they weren’t there, shapes your life and mine.

All you have to do is walk the streets of Beijing or New Delhi or Mexico City: If there’s a smog-laden sky (and there usually is), all that dust blotting out the sun is there because of this story I’m going to tell.

It begins, appropriately enough, in an ancient forest …"

[See also:
"How Fungi Saved the World"

"This was the one and only time in the last 300 million years that the wood-rotting ability evolved. All the fungi today that can digest wood (and a few that can't) are the descendants of that enterprising fungus. Its strategy may have been inelegant, but wood decay played a crucial role in reversing the loss of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and bringing about the end of the Carboniferous period.

What would have happened if white rot fungi had never evolved? We can only speculate, but it's possible the world of today would look a lot like the world at the end of the Carboniferous period – cooler, high in oxygen, and with a denser atmosphere. Dragonflies with foot-and-a-half wingspans might still roam the forests, but the plant life might still be primeval, stifled by the lower carbon dioxide concentrations. Many a homeowner may disagree, but we're lucky wood-rotting fungi evolved. "]


"For 40 million years, trees were not biodegradable.
430 million years before present, the first vascular plants emerged from early tide pools. In order to stay upright, these plants employed cellulose, a chain of simple sugars ... it was easy to make and offered rigid yet flexible support

This is from How Fungi Saved the World.

90 million years later, heralding the Carboniferous period,
plants developed a new kind of support material, called lignin. Lignin was an improvement development over cellulose in several ways: it was harder, more rigid, and, being more complex, almost impossible to digest, which made it ideal for protecting cellulose. With lignin, plants could make wood, and it lead to the first treelike growth form.

But lignin made the lycopod trees a little too successful. Because their leaves were lofted above many herbivores and their trunks were made inedible by lignin, lycopods were virtually impervious to harm.

Dead trees piled up without decomposing. Compacted by weight, they turned to peat and then to coal. 90% of all today's coal is from this period.

Wood pollution lasted 40 million years.
Finally, however, a fungus belonging to the class Agaricomycetes - making it a distant cousin of button mushrooms - did find a crude way to break down lignin. Rather than devise an enzyme to unstitch the lignin molecule, however, it was forced to adapt a more direct strategy. Using a class of enyzmes called peroxidases, the fungus bombarded the wood with highly reactive oxygen molecules, in much the same way one might untie a knot using a flamethrower. This strategy reduced the wood to a carbohydrate-rich slurry from which the fungus could slurp up the edible cellulose.

Which leads me to think:

There's a ton of plastic in the ocean. Why not engineer a fungus to rot it? Having this magical material that lasts forever is absurd. This is a controversial idea I admit. But although I agree that we need to reduce plastic pollution (via social change and by regulatory intervention), cybernetics tells me that's a fragile solution. Homeostasis is to be found in a ecosystem of checks and balances: instead of eternal plastic, we need plastic plus a plastic-rotting fungus plus an effective-but-hard-to-apply fungicide. Then balance can be found."
2016  coal  plants  trees  fungi  science  evolution  classideas  naturalhistory  decomposition  srg  plastic 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Plastic-Eating Caterpillars Could Help Bring an End to Pollution
"Scientists have discovered that wax worms can eat and biodegrade polyethylene, the rugged, common plastic used to make the shopping bags that are currently glutting landfill sites. The discovery was serendipitous. In an attempt to remove the pesky parasites from her honeycombs, an amateur beekeeper placed the worms into shopping bags, only to find that they’d begun to eat their way out.

Fortunately, that amateur beekeeper is a professional scientist: Federica Bertocchini of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (IBBTEC) in Spain.

Bertocchini teamed up with colleagues Christopher Howe and Paolo Bombelli from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge to conduct a timed experiment based on her observations. The researchers exposed a plastic shopping bag from a supermarket in the U.K. to approximately 100 wax worms. After 40 minutes, holes began to appear in the bag, and after 12 hours, the scientists observed a 92mg reduction in plastic mass.

Though unexpected, this isn’t entirely surprising, as the composition of the bags isn’t that different from the worms’ natural food source, beeswax. “Wax is a polymer, a sort of ‘natural plastic,’ and has a chemical structure not dissimilar to polyethylene,” said Bertocchini in a University of Cambridge news release.


Researchers have discovered that wax worms eat through polyethylene plastic, biodegrading it. If the scientists can determine how the process works, they may be able to devise an industrial-scale solution for plastic waste management.

Scientists have discovered that wax worms can eat and biodegrade polyethylene, the rugged, common plastic used to make the shopping bags that are currently glutting landfill sites. The discovery was serendipitous. In an attempt to remove the pesky parasites from her honeycombs, an amateur beekeeper placed the worms into shopping bags, only to find that they’d begun to eat their way out.

Fortunately, that amateur beekeeper is a professional scientist: Federica Bertocchini of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (IBBTEC) in Spain.

Bertocchini teamed up with colleagues Christopher Howe and Paolo Bombelli from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge to conduct a timed experiment based on her observations. The researchers exposed a plastic shopping bag from a supermarket in the U.K. to approximately 100 wax worms. After 40 minutes, holes began to appear in the bag, and after 12 hours, the scientists observed a 92mg reduction in plastic mass.

Though unexpected, this isn’t entirely surprising, as the composition of the bags isn’t that different from the worms’ natural food source, beeswax. “Wax is a polymer, a sort of ‘natural plastic,’ and has a chemical structure not dissimilar to polyethylene,” said Bertocchini in a University of Cambridge news release.

Plastic-Eating Caterpillars Could Help Bring an End to Pollution

The researchers proved that the chemical bonds in the plastic were breaking via spectroscopic analysis. They observed un-bonded “monomer” molecules, the result of the worms biodegrading the polyethylene into ethylene glycol. This was more than a chewing action because smearing mashed-up worms onto bags had the same effect.

“If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its reproduction on a large scale using biotechnological methods should be achievable,” according to Bombelli."
biomimicry  biomimetics  animals  insect  anture  plastic  2017  pollution 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Deep time’s uncanny future is full of ghostly human traces | Aeon Ideas
"We are accustomed to the idea of geology and astronomy speaking the secrets of ‘deep time’, the immense arc of non-human history that shaped the world as we perceive it. Hawkes’s lyrical meditation mingles the intimate and the eternal, the biological and the inanimate, the domestic with a sense of deep time that is very much of its time. The state of the topsoil was a matter of genuine concern in a country wearied by wartime rationing, while land itself rises into focus just as Britain is rethinking its place in the world. But in lying down in her garden, Hawkes also lies on the far side of a fundamental boundary. A Land was written at the cusp of the Holocene; we, on the other hand, read it in the Anthropocene."

"Deep time represents a certain displacement of the human and the divine from the story of creation. Yet in the Anthropocene, ironically we humans have become that sublime force, the agents of a fearful something that is greater than ourselves. A single mine in Canada’s tar sands region moves 30 billion tonnes of sediment annually, double the quantity moved by all the worlds’ rivers combined. The weight of the fresh water we have redistributed has slowed the Earth’s rotation. The mass extinction of plant and animal species is unlikely to recover for 10 million years."

"There is also something disturbingly banal about the Anthropocene. Arguably, it’s in the encounter with everyday objects, surfaces and textures that we get the best sense of its scope and scale. Some 60 billion chickens are killed for human consumption each year; in the future, fossilised chicken bones will be present on every continent as a testimony to the intrusion of human desires in the geological record. Plastics, which began being mass-produced in the middle of the 20th century, give us back the world as the West has been taught to see it – pliable, immediately available, and smoothed to our advantage. Yet almost every piece of plastic ever made remains in existence in some form, and their chemical traces are increasingly present in our bodies. It is ironic that the characteristic ‘new’ smell of PVC is the result of the unstable elements in the material decaying. Although ostensibly inert, like Chernobyl’s ‘undead’ isotopes, plastics are in fact intensely lively, leaching endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Single-use plastic might seem to disappear when I dispose of it, but it (and therefore I) will nonetheless continue to act on the environments in which it persists for millennia.

The Anthropocene is a product of our fantasies of a frictionless, hyper-connected world. Humans created 5 billion gigabytes of digital information in 2003; in 2013 it took only 10 minutes to produce the same amount of data. Despite the appealing connotations of ‘the cloud’, this data has to go somewhere. Greenpeace estimates that the power consumption of just one of Apple’s immense data centres is equivalent to the annual supply for 250,000 European homes. Traces of this seemingly ephemeral data will persist into the deep time of the future, as rising concentrations of carbon warms the atmosphere."

"Deep time is not an abstract, distant prospect, but a spectral presence in the everyday. The irony of the Anthropocene is that we are conjuring ourselves as ghosts that will haunt the very deep future."
anthropocene  plastic  deeptime  science  time  longnow  humans  chickens  2016  davidfarrier  environment  earth  holocene  consumption  materialism 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian
"We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?"

"Warren’s exhibit makes Bateley’s crackly recording available, and her accompanying text unfolds the complexities of its sonic strata. It is, as Warren puts it, “a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today”. The intellectual elegance of her work – and its exemplary quality as an Anthropocene-aware artefact – lies in its subtle tracing of the technological and imperial histories involved in a single extinction event and its residue."

"Perhaps the greatest challenge posed to our imagination by the Anthropocene is its inhuman organisation as an event. If the Anthropocene can be said to “take place”, it does so across huge scales of space and vast spans of time, from nanometers to planets, and from picoseconds to aeons. It involves millions of different teleconnected agents, from methane molecules to rare earth metals to magnetic fields to smartphones to mosquitoes. Its energies are interactive, its properties emergent and its structures withdrawn.

In 2010 Timothy Morton adopted the term hyperobject to denote some of the characteristic entities of the Anthropocene. Hyperobjects are “so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality” that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension. Among the examples Morton gives of hyperobjects are climate change, mass species extinction and radioactive plutonium. “In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,” he notes, “in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.”

Creative non-fiction, and especially reportage, has adapted most quickly to this “distributed” aspect of the Anthropocene. Episodic in assembly and dispersed in geography, some outstanding recent non-fiction has proved able to map intricate patterns of environmental cause and effect, and in this way draw hyperobjects into at least partial visibility. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and her Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006) are landmarks here, as is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014). In 2015 Gaia Vince published Adventures in the Anthropocene, perhaps the best book so far to trace the epoch’s impacts on the world’s poor, and the slow violence that climate change metes out to them.

Last year also saw the publication of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing. Tsing takes as her subject one of the “strangest commodity chains of our times”: that of the matsutake, supposedly the most valuable fungus in the world, which grows best in “human-disturbed forests”. Written in what she calls “a riot of short chapters, like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Tsing’s book describes a contemporary “nature” that is hybrid and multiply interbound. Her ecosystems stretch from wood-wide webs of mycelia, through earthworms and pine roots, to logging trucks and hedge funds – as well as down into the flora of our own multispecies guts. Tsing’s account of nature thus overcomes what Jacques Rancière has called the “partition of the sensible”, by which he means the traditional division of matter into “life” and “not-life”. Like Skelton in his recent Beyond the Fell Wall (2015), and the poet Sean Borodale, Tsing is interested in a vibrant materialism that acknowledges the agency of stones, ores and atmospheres, as well as humans and other organisms.

Tsing is also concerned with the possibility of what she calls “collaborative survival” in the Anthropocene-to-come. As Evans Calder Williams notes, the Anthropocene imagination “crawls with narratives of survival”, in which varying conditions of resource scarcity exist, and varying kinds of salvage are practised. Our contemporary appetite for environmental breakdown is colossal, tending to grotesque: from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) – now almost an Anthropocene ur-text – through films such as The Survivalist and the Mad Max franchise, to The Walking Dead and the Fallout video game series.

The worst of this collapse culture is artistically crude and politically crass. The best is vigilant and provocative: Simon Ings’ Wolves (2014), for instance, James Bradley’s strange and gripping Clade (2015), or Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014), a post-apocalyptic novel set in the “blaec”, “brok” landscape of 11th-century England, that warns us not to defer our present crisis. I think also of Clare Vaye Watkins’s glittering Gold Fame Citrus (2015), which occurs in a drought-scorched American southwest and includes a field-guide to the neo-fauna of this dunescape: the “ouroboros rattlesnake”, the “Mojave ghost crab”.

Such scarcity narratives unsettle what we might call the Holocene delusion on which growth economics is founded: of the Earth as an infinite body of matter, there for the incredible ultra-machine of capitalism to process, exploit and discard without heed of limit. Meanwhile, however, speculative novelists – Andy Weir in The Martian, Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars – foresee how we will overcome terrestrial shortages by turning to asteroid mining or the terra-forming of Mars. To misquote Fredric Jameson, it is easier to imagine the extraction of off-planet resources than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

The novel is the cultural form to which the Anthropocene arguably presents most difficulties, and most opportunities. Historically, the novel has been celebrated for its ability to represent human interiority: the skull-to-skull skip of free indirect style, or the vivid flow of stream-of-consciousness. But what use are such skills when addressing the enormity of this new epoch? Any Anthropocene-aware novel finds itself haunted by impersonal structures, and intimidated by the limits of individual agency. China Miéville’s 2011 short story “Covehithe” cleverly probes and parodies these anxieties. In a near-future Suffolk, animate oil rigs haul themselves out of the sea, before drilling down into the coastal strata to lay dozens of rig eggs. These techno-zombies prove impervious to military interventions: at last, all that humans can do is become spectators, snapping photos of the rigs and watching live feeds from remote cameras as they give birth – an Anthropocene Springwatch.

Most memorable to me is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, Annihilation. It describes an expedition into an apparently poisoned region known as Area X, in which relic human structures have been not just reclaimed but wilfully redesigned by a mutated nature. A specialist team is sent to survey the zone. They discover archive caches and topographically anomalous buildings including a “Tower” that descends into the earth rather than jutting from it. The Tower’s steps are covered in golden slime, and on its walls crawls a “rich greenlike moss” that inscribes letters and words on the masonry – before entering and authoring the bodies of the explorers themselves. It gradually becomes apparent that Area X, in all its weird wildness, is actively transforming the members of the expedition who have been sent to subdue it with science. As such, VanderMeer’s novel brilliantly reverses the hubris of the Anthropocene: instead of us leaving the world post-natural, it suggests, the world will leave us post-human.

As the idea of the Anthropocene has surged in power, so its critics have grown in number and strength. Cultural and literary studies currently abound with Anthropocene titles: most from the left, and often bitingly critical of their subject. The last 12 months have seen the publication of Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark’s provocative Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene and the environmental historian Jason W Moore’s important Capitalism in the Web of Life. Last July the “revolutionary arts and letters quarterly” Salvage launched with an issue that included Daniel Hartley’s essay “Against the Anthropocene” and Miéville, superbly, on despair and environmental justice in the new epoch.

Across these texts and others, three main objections recur: that the idea of the Anthropocene is arrogant, universalist and capitalist-technocratic. Arrogant, because the designation of the Anthropocene – the “New Age of Humans” – is our crowning act of self-mythologisation (we are the super-species, we the Prometheans, we have ended nature), and as such only embeds the narcissist delusions that have produced the current crisis.

Universalist, because the Anthropocene assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. As Purdy, Miéville and Moore point out, “we” are not all in the Anthropocene together – the poor and the dispossessed are far more in it than others. “Wealthy countries,” writes Purdy, “create a global landscape of inequality in which the wealthy find their advantages multiplied … In this neoliberal Anthropocene, free contract within a global market launders inequality through voluntariness.”

And capitalist-technocratic, because the dominant narrative of the Anthropocene has technology as its driver: recent Earth history reduced to a succession of inventions (fire, the combustion engine, the synthesis of plastic, nuclear weaponry). The monolithic concept bulk of this scientific Anthropocene can crush the subtleties out of both past and future, disregarding the roles of ideology, empire and political economy. Such a technocratic narrative will also tend to encourage technocratic solutions: geoengineering as a quick-fix for climate … [more]
environment  geology  literature  anthropocene  speculativefiction  fiction  novels  juliannelutzwarren  extinction  2016  robertmacfarlane  posthumanism  capitalism  economics  systems  systemthinking  technology  sustainability  technocracy  capitalocene  deforestation  chinamiéville  jedediahpurdy  mckenziewark  jasonmoore  danielhartley  jeffcandermeer  tomothymorton  hyperobjects  naomiklein  elizabethkolbert  gaiavince  annatsing  seanborodale  richardskelton  autumnrichardson  rorygibb  memory  holocene  earth  salvation  philiplarkin  plastic  plasticene  stratigraphy  eugenestoemer  paulcrutzen  history  apex-guilt  shadowtime  stieg  raymondwilliams  fredricjameson  glennalbrecht  johnclare  solastalgia  inequality  annalowenhaupttsing  jedediahbritton-purdy 
april 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 4: education
"We hesitated a bit before tackling this one, because education is such a vast and complex subject. But as far as constraints on possible futures go, education is impossible to ignore. Skill sets and thought paths are determined at an early age, shaping and constraining future possibilities for entire generations of pupils. (It is worth rediscovering Ken Robinson’s 2008 talk on changing paradigms in relation to educational constraints.) There are serious consequences to enforcing the constraint of economic utility on education, drastically narrowing curricula to what are considered core subjects, replacing older - not to say obsolete or useless - technologies with newer ones in the classroom, and so on. Maslow’s evocative maxim, often attributed to Mark Twain for reasons unknown, comes to mind: ‘It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.’ Today this might be paraphrased as: ‘Give a child a computer, and everything has to be coded.’ Or 3D printed. Or laser cut. Or CNC machined. Obviously the more of these tools girls and boys are given, the better for them and the country they live in.

Unfortunately, recent educational trends in the UK paint a rather bleak picture where constraints are concerned. An article from the BBC on the rise of 3D printing in schools states: ‘the key inspiration … has been what is loosely termed the “digital maker” movement’. But why digital maker movement and not simply maker movement? The article goes on to tell us that ‘"Fab lab" stands for a “fabrication laboratory”, where digital ideas are turned into products and prototypes.’ Again, why digital ideas and not just ideas? What is it about a fablab that needs to be wholly digital and not a hybrid of materials and practices? (Some spaces and curricula do seek to fuse the old ‘shop’ class with the new computer lab, but other concerns may arise - as in the case a few years ago of controversial DARPA military funding to put a thousand DIY workshops in US high schools.)

A UK Government report, meanwhile, that lays out the agenda on 3D printing in education there, includes the following ‘points to consider’: ‘Who will use it? What will it be used for?’ These are good questions, too seldom asked. As for the questions that were not asked, they might include: ‘What will happen to the old machines?’, ‘What will happen to the old knowledge?’ and ‘What is lost in the headlong rush to full digitalisation?’ 3D printing holds an enormous amount of potential, as boundary pushing movements like 3D Additivism demonstrate. But the 3D printer and the laser cutter shouldn’t be the only tools in the box, and deskilling leads to a narrowing of possibilities for everyone.

Roland Barthes, writing in the 1950s about the sudden shift from traditional wooden toys to plastic ones, observed:
Wood makes essential objects, objects for all time. Yet there hardly remain any of these wooden toys…. Henceforth, toys are chemical in substance and colour; their very material introduces one to a coenaesthesis of use, not pleasure. These toys die in fact very quickly, and once dead, they have no posthumous life for the child.

A word of warning to those who would abandon old areas of knowledge and useful materials too quickly."
crapfutures  2016  rolandbarthes  wood  education  children  durability  materials  time  slow  plastic  future  futures  3dprinting  digital  digitization  3dadditivism  fablabs  darpa  diy  making  makermovement  economics  purpose  additivism  fablab 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Plastic Passion: The Civil Engineering Solution to Weak Roadways -
"Asphalt: it fades, dips, cracks, and needs constant repairing. This is the type of degradation seen throughout the large majority of construction work, and this is the type of common problem many have tried to address throughout the history of roadwork and construction. And while there have been solutions, none have been permanent or sustainable. One of the newest and most innovative remedies to tackle the common construction dilemma is the idea of actually using plastic to replace asphalt; IE: plastic roads.

Known as Project PlasticRoad and headed up by Dutch company VolkerWessels, the actual plastic in the PlasticRoad project is made out of entirely 100% recycled materials and is the company’s sustainable alternative to conventional road structures. VolkerWessels’s plastic solution basically turns recycled plastic into prefabricated road parts that can later be installed in single pieces.

Lightweight in design and virtually maintenance free according to the company, using plastic in place of asphalt would reduce construction time by nearly a fraction and last three times the expected lifespan of conventional roadwork. Whereas a typical road can take months to be built, the plastic alternative provides construction with the opportunity to cut time in half and complete road work within weeks instead of months. According to VolkerWessels, using plastic as an alternative construction material opens up innovations typically limited by asphalt, such as:

• Power generation
• Quiet road surfaces
• Heated roads
• Modular construction

In addition to plastic’s advantage of being a lightweight material, it also acts as an appropriately durable solution that can take wear and tear in a way asphalt cannot. Plastic is unaffected by corrosion and weather and can handle temperatures as low as -40 degrees celsius and as high as 80 degree celsius without difficulty. The green material is resistant to chemical corrosion, too, and is a true portrait of a low-maintenance construction material.

Because of its predicted lifespan and relatively little to no road maintenance, plastic opens up construction roadwork to less time and labor spent on repairs and less traffic congestion within cities.

But one of the biggest advantages of using plastic instead of asphalt is the way VolkerWesssls envisions its design: a hollow space beneath the road that can be used for basic roadway amenities like cables, pipes, wirings, rainwater, and other infrastructural necessities. In the event of flooding or water retention, the hollow space can also be used to keep roads dry by using efficient drainage built into the roadways.

And because we’re talking about plastic and not asphalt, smart elements can be integrated into the prefabrication process of the actual road. Elements like traffic loop sensors, measuring equipment, and connections for light poles would all be possible by using plastic on roads instead of denser, less manageable asphalt.

Construction is in the midst of a technology intervention and process overhaul, and while asphalt will most likely continue to be the dominant material of choice, plastic as a viable and sustainable construction alternative is on the table for discussion. Could this be the beginning of plastic passion? It just might be."
plastic  roads  materials  infrastructure  construction  2015 
january 2016 by robertogreco
FORMcard by Peter Marigold — Kickstarter
"A handy, pocket sized card of strong but meltable bioplastic that you can use to make, fix and modify the world around you."
materials  plastic  plastics  petermarigold 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Myth of the Garbage Patch – The New Inquiry
"The massive plastic trash gyre isn’t an island, it’s the disaster of capital circling the globe on ocean currents"

"Missing from that myth is a key series of related facts. That the debris breaks down into microscopic pieces. That the garbage actually constitutes more of a “plastic soup” than any kind of patch or island, and that its pollutants are, as a result, widely dispersed. That what breaks down doesn’t remain solely in the Garbage Patch; that anywhere ocean currents converge is this toxic soup. That this soup is suffused with Bisphenol A, pthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls, persistent organic pollutants, and other remainders from discarded commodities that contribute directly to the ocean acidification killing fragile ecosystems from the coral-based Great Barrier Reef off of Australia to Inuit territories in the Arctic. Far from a solid, particulate island, the Garbage Patch is, along with the rest of the ocean’s water, in constant motion. And it doesn’t necessarily stay at surface. In 2010 a team of ecologists, studying ocean garbage patches, observed that the plastic in them accounted for only a small portion of the plastic that has been produced since World War II. “[W]e don’t know what this plastic is doing,” said marine biologist Andres Cozar Cabañas, who worked on the team, adding only that it “is somewhere — in the ocean life, in the depths.”"

"Green capitalism is still capitalism, fundamentally unsustainable and exploitative, and while the world’s most privileged consumers insulate themselves, its devastating ecological effects hit poor communities living in the world’s severest locations especially hard. While Americans and Europeans with money can fill their diets with certified “ethical” fish, this isn’t really an option for native people in the circumpolar North—including the Inuit of Greenland and Canada, the Aleuts, Yup’ik, and Inupiat of Alaska, the Chukchi and other tribes of Siberia, or the Saami of Scandinavia and western Russia—whose cultures as well as diets depend on the ocean. Living, working, and fishing at the edge of glacial sheets, these people can’t really choose not to eat fish with plastic embedded in their scales, or the exorbitant concentrations of pollutants in the larger marine mammals high up in the food web—the ringed seals, walruses, narwhals, and beluga whales—that are both dietary staples and sources of clothing and building materials. Because of the cold and low Northern sunlight, pollutants break down especially slowly – over the course of decades or even centuries, according to Marla Cone, author of Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic. Cone has also noted that even in the 80s Arctic mothers had seven times more PCBs in their milk than their counterparts in Canadian cities.

“At the periphery of the global capitalist system,” writes Chris Chen in “The Limit Point of Capitalist Inequality,” “capital now renews ‘race’ by creating vast superfluous…populations from the…descendants of the enslaved and colonised.” It’s no accident that plastic pollutants pool in the communities that capitalism has historically treated—and continues to treat—as refuse. Somewhere in that convergence—in the attitude that everything that gets thrown away stays far away—lies the second myth of the Garbage Patch.

“It’s been the end of the world for somebody all along,” says writer, spoken-word artist, and indigenous academic Leanne Simpson. Recent studies show that marine pollution and ocean acidification, once thought a separate if parallel disaster to climate change, are in fact contributing to global climate disruption, suggesting that, ecologically speaking, there is no such thing as somebody else’s end of the world. Although the idea of the Garbage Patch is entrenched in the collective imagination, we can use language to help dislodge it. We can begin this process by rejecting the myths of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We must stop thinking and talking in terms of an island that captures everything we throw away in a faraway fever dream of plastic bags and marine birds, and begin to map out the deeply interconnected web of plants, animals, humans, and non-living things in which we actually exist. We must recognize that capitalism depends on us not seeing this web and that capitalism will never fix marine pollution or climate change. As long as, like Andres Cozar Cabañas’ missing plastic, there are lives whose fates remain distant and unaccounted for, everybody’s fates are at risk."
environment  garbage  plastic  recycling  oceans  capitalism  green  greencapitalism  2015  mayaweeks  chrischen  globalwarming  climatechange  greatpacificgarbagepatch  andrescozarcanañas 
may 2015 by robertogreco
BLDGBLOG: Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach
"Incredibly, a "new type of rock cobbled together from plastic, volcanic rock, beach sand, seashells, and corals has begun forming on the shores of Hawaii," Science reports.

This new rock type, referred to as a "plastiglomerate," requires a significant heat-source in order to form, as plastiglomerates are, in effect, nothing but molten lumps of plastic mixed-in with ambient detritus. Hawaii with its coastal and marine volcanoes, offers a near-perfect formational landscape for this artificially inflected geology to emerge—however, Patricia Corcoran, one of the discoverers of these uncanny rocks, thinks we'll likely find them "on coastlines across the world. Plastiglomerate is likely well distributed, it’s just never been noticed before now, she says."

We've been surrounded by artificial geologies all along.

But is it really geology? Or is it just melted plastic messily assembled with local minerals? Well, it's both, it seems, provided you look at it on different time-scales. After heavier chunks of plastiglomerate form, fusing with "denser materials, like rock and coral," Science writes, "it sinks to the sea floor, and the chances it will become buried and preserved in the geologic record increase." It can even form whole veins streaking through other rock deposits: "When the plastic melts, it cements rock fragments, sand, and shell debris together, or the plastic can flow into larger rocks and fill in cracks and bubbles," we read.

It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to suggest that our landfills are also acting like geologic ovens: baking huge deposits of plastiglomerate into existence, as the deep heat (and occasional fires) found inside landfills catalyzes the formation of this new rock type. Could deep excavations into the landfills of an earlier, pre-recycling era reveal whole boulders of this stuff? Perhaps.

The article goes on to refer to the work of geologist Jan Zalasiewicz, which is exactly where I would have taken this, as well. Zalasiewicz has written in great detail and very convincingly about the future possible fossilization of our industrial artifacts and the artificial materials that make them—including plastic itself, which, he suggests, might very well leave traces similar to those of fossilized leaves and skeletons.

In a great essay I had the pleasure of including in the recent book Landscape Futures, Zalasiewicz writes: "Plastics, which are made of long chains of subunits, might behave like some of the long-chain organic molecules in fossil plant twigs and branches, or the collagen in the fossilized skeletons of some marine invertebrates. These can be wonderfully well preserved, albeit blackened and carbonized as hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen are driven off under the effect of subterranean heat and pressure." Plastiglomerates could thus be seen as something like an intermediary stage in the long-term fossilization of plastic debris, a glimpse of the geology to come.

Ultimately, the idea that the stunning volcanic beaches of Hawaii are, in fact, more like an early version of tomorrow's semi-plastic continents and tropical archipelagoes is both awesome and ironic: that an island chain known for its spectacular natural beauty would actually reveal the deeply artificial future of our planet in the form of these strange, easily missed objects washing around in the sand and coral of a gorgeous beach."
bldgblog  geoffmanaugh  geology  plastics  plastic  2014  janzalasiewicz  hawaii  plastiglomerate 
june 2014 by robertogreco
What Screens Want by Frank Chimero
"We need to work as a community to develop a language of transformation so we can talk to one another. And we probably need to steal these words from places like animation, theater, puppetry, dance, and choreography.

Words matter. They are abstractions, too—an interface to thought and understanding by communication. The words we use mold our perception of our work and the world around us. They become a frame, just like the interfaces we design."

"When I realized that, a little light went off in my head: a map’s biases do service to one need, but distort everything else. Meaning, they misinform and confuse those with different needs.

That’s how I feel about the web these days. We have a map, but it’s not for me. So I am distanced. It feels like things are distorted. I am consistently confused.

See, we have our own abstractions on the web, and they are bigger than the user interfaces of the websites and apps we build. They are the abstractions we use to define the web. The commercial web. The things that have sprung up in the last decade, but gained considerable speed in the past five years.

It’s the business structures and funding models we use to create digital businesses. It’s the pressure to scale, simply because it’s easy to copy bits. It’s the relationships between the people who make the stuff, and the people who use that stuff, and the consistent abandonment of users by entrepreneurs.

It’s the churning and the burning, flipping companies, nickel and diming users with in-app purchases, data lock-in, and designing with dark patterns so that users accidentally do actions against their own self-interest.

Listen: I’m at the end of a 4-month sabbatical, and I worry about this stuff, because the further I get from everything, the more it begins to look toxic. These pernicious elements are the primary map we have of the web right now.

We used to have a map of a frontier that could be anything. The web isn’t young anymore, though. It’s settled. It’s been prospected and picked through. Increasingly, it feels like we decided to pave the wilderness, turn it into a suburb, and build a mall. And I hate this map of the web, because it only describes a fraction of what it is and what’s possible. We’ve taken an opportunity for connection and distorted it to commodify attention. That’s one of the sleaziest things you can do.

So what is the answer? I found this quote by Ted Nelson, the man who invented hypertext. He’s one of the original rebel technologists, so he has a lot of things to say about our current situation. Nelson:
The world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everything was known. This is not true. In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along for the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and is essentially defining the way we do everything. My view is that today’s computer world is based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life. And the imposition of inappropriate structures throughout the computer is the imposition of inappropriate structures on the things we want to do in the human world.

We can produce a vision of the web that isn’t based on:


We can make a new map. Or maybe reclaim a map we misplaced a long time ago. One built on:


We can use the efficiency and power of interfaces to help people do what they already wish more quickly or enjoyably, and we can build up business structures so that it’s okay for people to put down technology and get on with their life once their job is done. We can rearrange how we think about the tools we build, so that someone putting down your tool doesn’t disprove its utility, but validates its usefulness.

Let me leave you with this: the point of my writing was to ask what screens want. I think that’s a great question, but it is a secondary concern. What screens want needs to match up with what we want.

People believe there’s an essence to the computer, that there’s something true and real and a correct way to do things. But—there is no right way. We get to choose how to aim the technology we build. At least for now, because increasingly, technology feels like something that happens to you instead of something you use. We need to figure out how to stop that, for all of our sakes, before we’re locked in, on rails, and headed toward who knows what.

One of the reasons that I’m so fascinated by screens is because their story is our story. First there was darkness, and then there was light. And then we figured out how to make that light dance. Both stories are about transformations, about change. Screens have flux, and so do we."
frankchimero  2013  screens  flux  build2013  plasticity  jamesburke  plastic  skeoumorphs  containers  materials  change  transitions  perception  flatdesign  windowsphonemetro  ios7  software  replacement  shape  affordances  grain  design  paper  print  eadwardmuybridge  movement  motion  animation  customization  responsivewebdesign  responsiveness  variability  mutability  mutations  ux  interactiondesign  interfaces  language  ethanmarcotte  maps  mapping  representation  cartography  embodiedmeaning  respresentation  tednelson  computersareforpeople  softwareisforpeople  unfinished  responsivedesign 
november 2013 by robertogreco

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