Category Archives: Art

Upcoming Interviews – Charles Truong

As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I will be using hip hop dance as a catalyst for discussing human dependence on coal. I have scheduled an interview with Rebekah Kowal, Chair of the University of Iowa’s Dance Department, for March 23rd at 10:30am.

I decided to interview Professor Kowal because she is not only a dance professor, but a historian and researcher. You can find a feature of Professor Kowal on the University’s Research and Economic Development page here.

I will also be interviewing Jeff Chang, an infamous Asian American writer who has written about hip hop culture and its relation to social justice. I believe that both Professor Kowal and Jeff Chang are individuals that have made remarkable contributions to their fields and it is incredibly humbling to be able to speak with them soon.

Uncharted Territory: WHO Warns on Climate Change

The Guardian reported on the World Health Organization’s report recent assessment of record temperatures in 2016 and implications for the future. “Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme.

Here’s a clip:

2016 saw the hottest global average among thermometer measurements stretching back to 1880. But scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years.

2017 has seen temperature records continue to tumble, in the US where February was exceptionally warm, and in Australia, where prolonged and extreme heat struck many states. The consequences have been particularly stark at the poles.

“Arctic ice conditions have been tracking at record low conditions since October, persisting for six consecutive months, something not seen before in the [four-decade] satellite data record,” said Prof Julienne Stroeve, at University College London in the UK. “Over in the southern hemisphere, the sea ice also broke new record lows in the seasonal maximum and minimum extents, leading to the least amount of global sea ice ever recorded.”

Guardian: Poem a Day on Climate Change

In 2015, the Guardian newspaper, as part of its Keep It in the Ground series, ran a poem a day on climate change for the month of June.

Famous actors read the poems—you can listen here.

Here’s one of the poems:

California Dreaming by Lachlan Mackinnon

Almonds and vines and lawns
drink up the last
of shallow, short-term water

then suck on the black depths
with a draw mightier
than the moon’s. And suck.

In sudden places the ground
puckers and caves.
Far westward, China smokes.

Nobody sees the rains fail
until they have.
Tableland mesas crack.

In the mountains the snowpack thins,
meltwater now brown
reluctant drops.

Cities gasp in the sun’s stare.
Faucets cough
and families turn inwards.

There must be somebody to blame.
Better ourselves than no-one.
We brag

of damage done
but whether we could truly
dry all rain, bake all earth,

science does not know.
The wastefulness was all
ours but this fetid heat

could be a planetary
impersonal adjustment
like an ice age,

so it might well be wise
to keep always
facepaint and ash about us.

When the last clouds
wagon-train off,
loincloth and invocation will be

the one hope for last
woman and last man discovering
she’s pregnant.

Climate Art: Quilt Exhibit

The University of Miami is hosting a new exhibit, “Piecing Together a Changing Planet,” featuring 26 colorful and intricate climate-focused art quilts by 22 Florida artists.

Here’s a clip:

“Seamless complements to the art quilts, interactive multimedia displays and curated library items invite guests to explore a range of climate change issues and how a changing planet is particularly affecting South Florida.

Though certainly one of the most pressing and extremely relevant issues of our time, especially in Miami, climate change and its impacts are not insurmountable.

“The drive to overcome adversity is embedded in the University of Miami’s history,” said UM President Julio Frenk during the exhibit opening. “And now, in the face of growing vulnerability to rising sea levels, we are mobilizing vital resources to protect and preserve our home, while also sharing our innovative solutions to benefit people and places around the world.”

Dugan Project Idea

I have chosen to utilize poetry as a means of exploring human efforts to both decimate and restore American woodlands. Whether or not I will hone in on a specific wilderness, I have yet to decide.

I would like to try out a new approach to free-verse poetry through the use of what I’ve decided to call “layered poetry.” Of course, all poetry has multitudes of layers, both in language and content, though what I refer to is the physical form of the piece.

I would like to print each page on translucent paper, which I hope will provide a more striking and direct dialogue between the pages, as the poem in it’s entirety will be visible to the reader before flipping pages.

This will allow the reader to directly participate in the dismantling of the language, as each page turned removes language from the greater visually-represented dialogue. Ideally, this act can translate to an “emotional deforestation” of the reader’s experience.

However, this experience remains pertinent to the single act of each individual reading. The final presentation of this will prove challenging. Perhaps this is where collaboration comes in?

– Jack

Dawson Davenport Project Idea 2017

I was thinking about creating a cartoon, in the meskwaki language. (subtitled in english) The story would be about the environment, possibly a meskwaki story. There are many reasons i want to do this. one is that i would be able to work with my old job, the meskwaki language department, and theyd be thrilled that im doing this. another reason is because i want to give it to the school as a donation, and to possibly make this something long term, so that i can use it to help teach our language and also teach the children about the environment and environment issues. There are so many educational components that would come of this, as well as preserving my language. The idea I had was along the lines of Dora the Explorer. Have words of the day, for example, tree; or what type of tree it is. Or things like why trees are important and its role with oxygen. I am sure there are many meskwaki stories that can be taught as well, as our culture and traditions sometimes are connected to nature. Like planting and gardening. The possibilities are endless. And i think that this project can teach everyone as well.

Charles Truong’s Project Ideas

I have been seriously conflicted in regards to deciding what creative mode I will pursue for my CNP project. I am interested in writing spoken word poetry and song lyrics, because they have always been unchecked boxes on my bucket list. Being an English major, I have heard from numerous successful writers and poets throughout my time at the university. However, I never was able to truly engage in the art of performance-based writing.

I am also interested in performing a variation of “Dance Your PhD“, where I would be using b-boying (breakdancing) and elements of modern dance to tell a story about pollution in inner cities. I teach and perform dance regularly, so I’m not sure if this would challenge me in the same way that writing would. I acknowledge, however, that there have been countless spoken word pieces in the CNP alone – and even more reflecting on the grand theme of climate change – but there has been little in terms of representation through b-boying. I don’t even think it has ever been done. This could be a way of showcasing the dance I have devoted my life to and how it can tell stories and be relevant in the conversation about climate change.

France Launches Solar Roadway Project

The world’s first solar highway has been opened in France, in the not-very-sunny village of Tourouvre au Perche in Normandy. The roadway is just one kilometre (0.6mi) long, but that still works out at 2,800 square metres of photovoltaic cells—enough, hopefully, to power the village’s street lights.

The road was built by Colas, a large Anglo-French construction company. Colas has apparently been working on its own solar road tech, called Wattway, for at least five years. Wattway has been tested in car parks, but this is the first time it has been used on an active road. There will now be a two-year test period, to see if Wattway can withstand the rigour of being pounded by thousands of cars and trucks per day, and whether it can actually provide a useful amount of electricity.

One of the Wattway panels up close.
Enlarge / One of the Wattway panels up close.
Usefulness aside, the main problem with constructing solar roads is their crippling cost. One of the main selling points of Wattway, according to Colas, is that each panel is just a few millimetres thick, and can thus be installed on top of an existing road, which in turn massively reduces construction costs. Having said that, the 1km road in Normandy cost €5 million (£4.3m) to build. And that’s for a single lane of a two-lane highway!

Expanding that out to €10m per kilometre for a two-lane solar road, you’re looking at a total cost measured in billions or even trillions of pounds to cover a sizeable portion of a country’s roads with solar panels. France has over a million kilometres of roads; the US has over 6 million. And that’s not counting the larger highways with more than two lanes…

Fortunately, Ségolène Royal, France’s ecology minister, has a much more reasonable goal in mind: she would like to see solar roadways replace one kilometre of every 1000 in France. Again, assuming she means two-lane solar roads at around €10 million per kilometre, the total cost would be €10 billion—not bad, assuming the panels (and the accompany electrical system) don’t need regular maintenance, and that they produce enough electricity to be worth the much higher initial outlay.

Copenhagen has more bikes than cars

As the Guardian reports, last year in Copenhagen, 265,700 bikes took to the road compared to 252,600 cars. This phenomenon is part of a long-time redesign and investment in bike infrastructure in the city.

Here’s a clip from the Guardian:

Copenhagen’s efforts to create a cycling city have paid off: bicycle traffic has risen by 68% in the last 20 years. “What really helped was a very strong political leadership; that was mainly Ritt Bjerregaard [the former lord mayor], who had a dedicated and authentic interest in cycling,” says Klaus Bondam, who was technical and environmental mayor from 2006 to 2009 and is now head of the Danish Cycling Federation. “Plus, a new focus on urbanism and the new sustainability agenda broke the glass roof when it came to cycling.”

And check out this video on the Copenhagen bike lanes:

Poplar Trees and Restoration of Contaminated Soils, Water

Check out this old article on Lou Licht, an Iowa-based engineer who works with planting poplar trees for soil remediation and water management. Licht’s trees eliminate the chemicals in wastewater. “Every drop of water passes within an inch of a root,” he said. Those roots and microbes – the tiny organisms around them – breakdown pollutants like pathogens, ammonia, spilled oil or pharmaceuticals.”

Here’s a clip from Iowa Watch:

He’s an entrepreneur with a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Iowa. But in some ways, Licht still is like the dairy farmer he grew up as. Only now, he grows things. His crops are poplar trees that filter fine particles and formaldehyde from the air. When planted in swales, they retain and filter water from rain, reducing storm surges and runoff in flood-prone states like Iowa. And, they can treat sewage.

“In the case of Iowa, where we are surrounded by farmland, the right 15-20 acres can do all the tertiary treatment for a town of 1,000 people,” he said.

Licht, a native of Lowden, Iowa, lives in a North Liberty home surrounded by poplars. Wearing thin-rimmed glasses and black zip-up vest over a long-sleeved beige shirt one breezy October morning, he talked about his professional evolvement, the pollution-fighting trees and his hopes for what they could do for Iowa’s environmental problems.

As he spoke, the sun peaked through the thick forest of spindling trees that shield much of his lake from view. Topped with thin patches of still-green leaves, those trees dot the landscape of the few acres Licht calls home. Green-brown, expansive space, accented with the chirping of birds, it is the type of place where you might expect to find someone who studies trees.

But Licht doesn’t just study trees. He plants them – by the thousands each year in places like Chicago, Atlanta and St. Louis, and gets thousands of dollars to do it. He’s not an in-your-face ecologist who lambastes mankind for “the rape of Mother Earth.” He’s a businessman who speaks of incentives and convergence. To him, cleaning the environment isn’t a moral issue. “It just makes sense,” he said.

But why would the U.S. Air Force or companies like Tyco or Republic Waste, which is the second largest disposer of garbage nationally, want Licht’s trees? Why do scientists around the globe seek his advice?

Licht’s work is “awesome,” said Kenneth Yongabi, coordinator of Phytobiotechnology Research Foundation in Cameroon. “I have no doubt about the formidable treasure this technology has for the future.”

The trees work through a process called phytoremediation that involves tree roots, swales and surrounding microbes, and they save companies money, lot’s of it, he and his environmental colleagues say. They help clean polluted land, air and water.

One of his projects is in Slovenia, where land that once was oil refinery now is an 18-hole golf course still lined with some of the trees he planted years before.

In Iowa, Licht says his methods could help deal with poorly treated sewage. More than 700 un-sewered communities discharge 1.2 billion gallons of poorly treated sewage into state waters, according to two studies by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources cited in a 2005 Iowa Policy Project report. Upgrading those systems to new federal standards can cost millions.