Love vs Power In Iceland

For some Icelanders, in a country whose inhabitants have survived 1,100 winters without central heating, the environmental costs of aluminium smelting are worth paying if the alternative is a return to a life in grass-roofed huts. To many, that choice does not feel far-fetched. Andri Snær Magnason’s grandfather, for example, worked continuously on the land and sea […]

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The Hidden Costs of Tiger Water

This jequitiba tree in Brazil moves hundreds of gallons of water up into its canopy every day. It does so without pumps, without electricity, and without recourse to the concrete reservoirs and sewage treatment plants on which most modern cities depend. The jequitiba is a joyous marvel to behold, of course – but it would […]

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Why White Is Wicked

[Photograph by Tim Mitchell] You probably need to be naked to read this book with a clear conscience. This reader, for one, felt like stripping off as the revelations piled up: – it took 700 gallons of fresh water to make my cotton t-shirt; – it’s partly down to me that 85% of the Aral Sea […]

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It’s (Still) Not Just The Bags

[I’m re-publishing this story to celebrate the fact that I just got to Sao Paulo, met Adelia Borges, and discovered that the first print-run of her book has sold out in just a couple of months. Adelia explained that one of the organisations doing great work here in Brazil, in support the development of indigenous […]

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How to game the gift economy

In pre-market-based societies, goods and services were distributed on the basis of gift-giving and reciprocity. The most effective strategy for security, in an age without bank accounts and insurance policies, was to develop a reputation for generosity and sharing. This is a heart-warming story – so shall we put it to the test? Here follows a case […]

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Who Is the Arne Jacobsen of Urban Food?

Illustration by Helle Schou Pedersen At a workshop on food in cities at Aarhus School of Architecture  in Denmark last week I learned: that the largest food exporter in Sweden is Ikea (meatballs); that for every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, nearly half a kilo of food is wasted; that about 40 percent of the food […]

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Istanbul: City of Seeds

It was generous of the The Building Information Centre (YEM) and 34Solo to host an xskool event in their city last week. Our starting premise, after all, was that Turkey’s 30 year long construction boom is losing momentum. True, the sound of jackhammers was pervasive in Istanbul during our visit – but the cold winds of […]

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Mr Icarus: Meet Mr Gatherer

All credit to the brave persons from Silent UK for sharing with us their spectacular photographs from the top of Europe’s tallest building, the Shard, in London.I’m especially grateful because their images provides me with a terrific opening slide for a workshop in Turkey at a conference called Ekodesign. (See the subsequent story, above). I’d […]

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Beyond Good Intentions – The Movie

Humanitarian crises caused by civil wars or natural disasters, such as in Haiti, often trigger a wave of support from us, the public. But our support raises two difficult questions: first, do our generous donations actually have the desired effect – or any positive effect? and second, what kind of evidence is available to ensure […]

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