Thursday, January 31, 2013

Between Two Rivers

Last night I went to a screening of Between Two Rivers. It is the story of Cairo, Illinois told in documentary form. It is a sobering, cautionary tale about the last century on the one hand and a really specific glimpse at a community struggling to survive. Could it be a microcosm of a St. Louis-like place? A copy is available here.

Here is the trailer:

Between Two Rivers - Official Trailer from Wurstundgritz on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Breakthrough Institute

M. Shellenberger
I wrote about Shellenberger and Nordhaus in this post last year. Here is a link to the mission of their organization, The Breakthrough Institute.  It is a think tank dedicated to 'modernizing liberal thought for the 21st century.' Michael Shellenberger was on the Colbert Report last night and the message he delivered leaves all energy options on the table while calling for a great deal of innovation.

Here is the intro from the newest book: Love Your Monsters:

Breakthrough Institute's first ever ebook is now on sale at Amazon. Read the introduction here:
The last few years have been demoralizing for anyone who cares about the environment. Emissions continue to rise. Ancient forests continue to disappear. And the world appears unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
The ecological thinkers assembled in Love Your Monsters argue that environmentalism, in its failure to evolve, has become an obstacle to addressing these challenges. A political movement founded on shrinking the human footprint is doomed to fail in a world of seven going on ten billion souls seeking to live energy-rich modern lives.
But if this collection of essays delivers tough love to greens, it also offers hope. By 2100, nearly all of us will be prosperous enough to live healthy, free, and creative lives. Despite the claims of Malthusian pessimists, that world is both economically and ecologically possible. But to realize it, and to save what remains of the Earth's ecological heritage, we must once and for all embrace human power, technology, and the larger process of modernization.
The idea that poor nations can be persuaded to choose a development path fundamentally different from the one pursued by the West is naïve. Brazil is developing its forested interior, as Europe and the United States did before it, with dams, farms, ranches, and roads in order to sell its beef, soy, and minerals on foreign markets. Its indigenous people sell logging contracts; its rubber tappers run cattle. China, meanwhile, is now manufacturer to the world thanks to Confucian grit, industriousness, and cheap coal — not waterwheels,solar panels, and respect for nature. In the process, China has lifted roughly half a billion peasants out of grinding poverty. And, as Siddhartha Shome observes in these pages, India has instead chosen modernization and integration into the global knowledge economy over the ascetic path advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.
For traditional greens, all of this is evidence that humankind is destroying itself — but is it? Geographer Erle Ellis describes how humans have repeatedly transgressed ecological limits since we were hunter-gatherers. Human civilization rests not upon natural systems but human ones, like agriculture, cities, and industry, which have proven extraordinarily resilient to population and climatic pressures. What’s at stake, Ellis and the other thinkers assembled here argue, is not the survival of human civilization, but rather the contours and qualities of our gardened planet.
Though barely audible amidst the loud claims of imminent catastrophe, ecologists have decisively moved away from the conception of nature as a fragile system in a tenuous state of balance. Over the last two decades, Mark Sagoff notes, empirically oriented ecologists rejected the 1950s cybernetic view of nature as a “system” where any disruption could result in its collapse — a theory that, Sagoff explains, was built upon the Christian doctrine that nature existed as a Great Chain of Being. In reality, esteemed conservation biologist Peter Kareiva and his colleagues observe that nature has proven extraordinarily resilient.
Rising economic optimism in poor nations has been matched, over the last two decades, by rising ecological pessimism in rich ones. As developed nations became knowledge economies, their populations enjoyed greater wealth to travel and experience the natural world, but also became increasingly alienated from material (i.e., agricultural and industrial) production. Rising anomie and disenchantment with modernity, we argue in our essay, "Evolve," have driven rising skepticism about the ability of technology to improve our lives. Daniel Sarewitz observes that green liberalism's turn away from technology and modernity beginning in the 1960s also coincided with its turn toward a scientific rationality “unmoored from appropriate moral and experiential foundations.”
But if greens rejected technology and modernization in the 1960s, there is no reason they can't embrace them today. One of the founders of science and technology studies, Bruno Latour, points the way. Through a novel reading of Frankenstein, Latour argues that we must learn to love our technologies as we do our children — not reject them at the first sign of trouble. And given the critical role played by tool use in human evolution, the two of us conclude, we must understand technology as natural and sacred, not alien and profane. A new, postenvironmental liberalism should thus, Sarewitz argues, understand technology as a public good — a way to achieve broadly agreed upon societal goals, whether for improved health or cleaner air.
Meanwhile, Kareiva and colleagues argue, for conservation to be relevant in this new world it must move beyond the old parks and wilderness model and find ways to shape development. We will not wall off the entirety of the Amazon or the rainforests of Indonesia from all development as if we were protecting Yosemite and Yellowstone. 
Ultimately, if we are to be responsible planetary stewards, we need a new view of both human agency and the planet. We must abandon the faith that humankind's powers can be abdicated in deference to higher ones, whether Nature or the Market. And we must see through the illusion that these supposedly higher powers exist in a delicate state of harmony constantly at risk of collapse from too much human interference.
All of this will require a new posture and a new paradigm. We must open our eyes to the joy and excitement experienced by the newly prosperous and increasingly free. We must create a world where every human can not only realize her material needs but also her higher needs for creativity, choice, beauty — and wilderness. In the words of the father of the modern Indian Constitution, Babasaheb Ambedkar, “The slogan of a democratic society must be machinery, and more machinery, civilization and more civilization” — the same tools needed, we might add, for planetary gardening.
End of Intro.
As to whether or not this is the answer or a Faustian bargain - well, time will tell.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Great Rivers Greenway

What they do: for more info...

St. Louis, Oregon?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Well, How Did We Get here?

For those of us who love mid-century modern architecture and for those of us who are curious about how all of this came to be and what it means to be modern, well, there are numerous resources. I am in the middle of reading Marshall Berman's All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. It was published in 1982. Check out the preface from Google books below:


The modern condition is also well represented in this from 1981:

Berman goes on to write:

To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world - and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish....

You may ask yourself....

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Passive House

"Passive House" may be an apt name, but it was not developed by a marketing genius. It sounds kind of lame, but there is a lot of science and research behind the concept.

Here is a part of the intro from the web site of Passive House Institute US:

The Passive House concept represents today's highest energy standard with the promise of slashing the heating energy consumption of buildings by an amazing 90%. Widespread application of the Passive House design would have a dramatic impact on energy conservation. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that buildings are responsible for 48% of greenhouse gas emissions annually and 76% of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes to supply the Building Sector [Architecture2030]. It has been abundantly clear for some time that the Building Sector is a primary contributor of climate-changing pollutants, and the question is asked: How do we best square our building energy needs with those of our environment and of our pocketbook? In the realm of super energy efficiency, the Passive House presents an intriguing option for new and retrofit construction; in residential, commercial, and institutional projects. 

Here are a few pix from a site in St. Louis where a Passive House is under construction. It utilizes insulated concrete forms and structural insulated panels among other strategies to enhance performance. I can't wait to see the finished product.

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Ameren Missouri Incentives/Rebate Programs

Check out this Ameren website and find the right project for you and your home. Energy prices will continue to rise and the best way to keep that from effecting your lifestyle is to invest in efficiency. This is also a real opportunity to  solve comfort issues at the same time. Here is a screenshot from the web page:

I touched base on Ameren's Solar rebates in my last post, but here I am talking about the least expensive/highest pay back options for a typical home. There are organizations like that set standards for energy auditing and certify professionals - it is one of many places to get good information on the process of becoming more energy efficient. In the mean time check out the programs on the Ameren website.

At the end of the day let Ameren help you give them less money.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Timeline of Solar Panel/Power Development

Here is a link to a wikipedia timeline on PVs. I took the following picture, of what appears to be the remnants of Carter-era solar panels the other day:

Here in St. Louis the PV (photo-voltaic) market is growing rapidly, thanks in large part to incentives and tax credits. Contemporary PV installations look more like this:

This is a flat - roof office building above and a typical residential installation below. is  the link to Ameren's rebate programs. A google search for solar in St. Louis will hook you up with some good contractors.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Shadow of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows is one of many great churches in the city of St. Louis. This morning while driving to  an appointment I was struck by the rising sun on its facade and stopped to take a few pix. Here they are:

The image below is of Brunelleschi's Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence from  1419

Free Home Show in Collinsville, IL this Weekend

Gateway Spring Home Show
January 18, 19 & 20, 2013

Show Address:

Gateway Center
One Gateway Drive
Collinsville, IL 62234

Show Hours:

Friday, January 18, 11:00am - 8:00pm
Saturday, January 19, 10:00am - 8:00pm
Sunday, January 20, 10:00am - 6:00pm

Home Show FAQs:

What is the cost to attend?
Admission is FREE.
Is parking available?
Yes, parking is available at no charge.

Where can I buy tickets?
Admission is FREE, tickets are not being sold for this show.

Can I purchase products at the show?
Yes, many exhibitors sell their products or contract for services on-site at the show, often at a discount. Ask individual exhibitors for details.

Are discount admission coupons available?
No, admission is FREE for this show.

Are food and refreshments available?
Yes, there is a concession during show hours where snacks and beverages can be purchased.

Does the facility have wheelchair access?
Yes, but the facility does not have wheelchairs available for public use.

Can I bring a stroller?
Yes, strollers are welcome in all areas of the show floor.

The Energy Wall is there. It is a great demonstration of the value of air sealing and insulation as a big part of home comfort and energy savings.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

'Green Shadow' Program

The Missouri Gateway Chapter of the United States Green Building Council has a mentoring program that is featured in the Beacon. Here is a link to the story.

Here is a quote from the piece:

Hope Gribble, membership and education coordinator with the organization [The USGBC] , said the opportunity allows young people a window on professional life they wouldn’t normally have.

“When you are in school, a lot of your time is really wrapped up in understanding the theory behind what field you are going into. Providing this opportunity lets (students) see what life is like day-to-day for a professional.”
Networking, breaking into a field, takes all kinds of skill and connections - a combination of what you know and who you know. A mentoring program like this helps make connections with people and firms while lifting the veil off the mystery of  the work life in a green industry or profession.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sustainability in the City is the home page for the City of St. Louis' Sustainability Initiatives. Here is their/our (I live here):

The City of St. Louis harnesses the strength and spirit of its diverse community to create an economically, socially and ecologically vibrant City for present and future generations -- one that dynamically serves those who live, work, and play in the City's rich and celebrated historic landscape.

The final version of the City's Sustainability Plan will be published any day. This link will connect you with the draft, for now. Check it out and some of the other work going on around town that address contemporary environmental, social and economic issues. Your future depends on it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Land Lab Charrette

Yesterday the Sustainable Land Lab Competition Design Charette was held in Old North. The competition is led by Washington University and the City of St. Louis. The link above will take you to the website. The meeting brought together all the remaining teams, jurors and other stakeholders to discuss opportunities and priorities for the next round. Here are a few images from the get together:

Phill Valko, Director of Sustainability of Washington U. gets the meeting started.

Don Koster, an architect and Senior Lecturer at Washington U. presents a synopsis of our team's proposal

Here is a good portion of our team reviewing information and discussing options.

This is a screen shot of the competition website with our preliminary concept.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mid-Century Modern Home Workshop

Check out the flyer below. Authenticity, preservation and sustainability can go hand in hand and this event will show you how. Click on the image to enlarge or check out for additional info. to reserve your place

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Fuel Economy Estimates

Thinking about a new car this year? Use this website: to drill down on fuel economy. Compare hybrids and more with tools you can use to find out how they will work for your commute, your lifestyle and more. Here is a partial screenshot of the hybrid tool:

Browse around the site and make informed choices moving forward. Consider this post I did on location efficiency as well and have an energy efficient future.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Sydney Opera House & How to Run an Organization

As I was thinking about about re-charging the batteries for 2013 I saw this photo on

Most everyone will recognize the silhouette of the building in the foreground - The Sydney Opera House. A piece of mid century modernism every bit as distinctive as our arch.

One of the chief engineers on the project was a guy named Ove Arup. He founded an international engineering firm that still bears his name. He is worth learning about. One can only hope the principles laid forth in what is known as the  key speech are still put into practice; still, the document is an inspiring, early take on a triple-bottom line point of view for business.

When you get a few moments click on the link above and read the 8 page piece and have a Happy New Year!