Elements of sustainable design

Individual pages on specific design elements of a house could be a great boost to the usefulness of Appropedia in green house design. For that reason, there’s now a building elements page, with an associated  category to hold all the component elements.

The page on windows, for example, is currently a stub page with a few key ideas and links – ultimately it will outline all important factors in window design, as well as how to maximize energy-efficiency and noise insulation, and get the desired lighting.

This would include a brief summary of the pros and cons of reflective film, double glazing and thermal curtains, and links to each of those pages – all of which would go into greater depth on specific design and product choice questions.

That is, unless Appropedia editors – including you? –  find a better way of structuring this page and category.

Note: Although we have many pages on green buildings, there is currently no general overview page on Appropedia for sustainable housing (or green housing, or green house, or sustainable house). Who is going to start?

South to North Knowledge Flow

Some examples of South to North knowledge transfer, from a post on SouthSouth.info (plus one extra example). What other examples do you know of?

From Bangladesh – Microfinance programs (not actually invented by Prof Yunus, but pioneered by his Grameen Bank as an effective tool in development).

From Curitiba, Brazil – Bus Rapid Transit Systems (see Curitiba transportation on Appropedia)

From Brazil & Mexico – Conditional Cash Transfer* programs, using welfare as an incentive to encourage specific actions to reduce poverty, e.g. in health and education  (see the Wikipedia article).

From Colombia – “Cicolovía,” car-free streets for biking, walking, and other activities, on specific days or .

From Cuba – Alphabetization program for literacy,* “Yo Sí Puedo”

From Kenya – using SMS and the web to improve crisis response, pioneered by Ushahidi. (See Mobile phones in development and disaster management.)

And the additional example:

From Bangladesh, again – Oral rehydration therapy.

Do you have other examples? Please leave a comment.

*These pages are stubs on Appropedia, which means they’re very brief and need to be expanded. Can you add a sentence, a paragraph, or a high quality link?

http://www.appropedia.org/Microfinance

Appropriate software design

It makes sense to have an option only if an unsophisticated user can understand what it does and how to set it.  Otherwise you should Do The Right Thing for those users.

That’s a comment from an LXDE developer on their mailing list. LXDE is a Linux desktop environment (i.e. user interface) with a focus is on lean code, and a level of usability appropriate to new users. Principles like the one above are central to what makes the project work so well.

Of course it can be more complex – it can be good to have advanced options, as long as they’re marked as such, and the default is suitable for regular users.

Knowledge sharing in a nutshell

A super-brief version of the article Knowledge sharing in practice, on the wiki:

  • Encourage contributors, especially knowledgeable people.
  • Use an open license – that’s a real open license, no Non-Commercial or No derivatives clauses).
  • Use open standards and open formats. Do not use PDFs unless you also make it available in (say) HTML. And a wooden spoon to those sites that require specific software, often restricted to Windows and/or Mac. Tsk tsk.
  • Use a wiki.
    • Use an existing wiki where appropriate – they’ll be thrilled to have you.
    • You need several highly focused people working on it daily, and you need to avoid re-inventing the wheel.
    • Make it open edit.

Also on the wiki:

Sustainability Co-creation at Smack Mellon

Smack Mellon

Appropedia President, Lonny Grafman, will be available in Brooklyn, New York tomorrow, June 24th, for open co-creation on sustainability topics.

Lonny is the resident artist on the Flock House in the Smack Mellon gallery for June 23rd and 24th.  From 12 to 6pm, he will be hosting open conversations on sustainable design especially for local apartment dwellers, families, change agents and entrepreneurs.

Follow the links for more information on the exhibit and directions to 92 Plymouth Street @ Washington in DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY.

Picture: View from Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, © Smack Mellon 2009

Day in the life of a Travel Intern

On our journey from the rainforest to Lima, we decided to stopped for a few days in the cultural mecca of Cusco, Peru. But a funny thing happened on the way to Cusco…

After an entire night of bus travel on the winding mountain roads I woke up out of my half slumber to find that we were in complete standstill traffic about 30 minutes (by bus) outside of Cusco. The road was blocked and we would be waiting until nightfall. After inquiring with the driver and some of the locals, we were assured that our best and safest option was to walk 4 hours to Cusco down the road. I had naively assumed the block had been caused by a rock slide, as the steep terrain seemed to threaten collapse around every turn of the highway.

I had to  laugh when we came to the first block… it was simply a few logs that blocked the way and a collection of  about 20 people. I approached the group of elderly women sitting atop the logs and asked about the situation. In broken Spanish they more or less said, “We do not have water to grow plants or to live. We do not have access to the lake from which we have always gotten our water. The lake is also becoming very polluted. We want enough clean water to live and we will wait here until our message is heard.”

The sights long the the 30km of road were nothing less than surreal. For over 30 Kilometers, the road was blocked by rocks, boulders, logs, small fires, chunks of metal, glittering broken glass and hundreds of people young and old. This was a major, multi-pueblo, direct-action protest aimed at getting the attention of the Peruvian government.

The walk was very long and difficult, about 30km ( 20miles) on pavement in the mid-day sun. Though I had to fight to keep my spirits up, there was an undeniable beauty in being able to walk this long stretch of highway without a single car passing. There were only mountains splattered with pinkish mud and sagebrush, similarly pink adobe houses, and the faces of countless smiling,relentless people.

As we neared Cusco we saw that the Peruvian Army had arrived in drones to clear the streets. It has been difficult for me to find this story covered in the media, but as far as I can tell from talking with the people, the issue is water privatization. The people get their water from one lake. Someone owns or has recently bought the lake and this private or new owner raised the price of water so that the people could no longer afford enough water to grow crops. This is a simplified version of the story, but it is the only information that was consistent among all the people I questioned.

I am by no means an educated authority on these issues, but I know that these situations are not black and white. If someone owns the water, there is the danger that the people will not have access to what they need, however, there can also be problems when no one feels responsible for a resource.
I am aware that this is an age old debate and as I said, I know only enough to know that I know nothing about this, but I do think it is an issue worth thinking about. I know alternatives exist and I look forward to comments and peoples opinion on these issues. Please enlighten me.

Well, there is much more to say but that all for today. Be sure to check out my next blog (coming very soon) in which I hope to talk a bit about my process as I figure out what it means to be an Appropedia Travel Intern.

Thanks for cheking in!
Isabell

Isabell Kimbrough: First Travel Intern, First Blog

Exploring a lake in the Amazon
Hola! Isabell Kimbrough here! I have begun my journey and stint as Appropedia’s first travel intern.  (Follow the links for more info.)

In a nutshell, I just graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Botany and a passion for conservation and sustainable living. I saved my pennies for quite some time in order to do some traveling in South and Central America; and while I commend those who are able to travel free as a breeze, I come from a world of structure and need to feel that I am on some sort of mission as I wander. This is where Appropedia fits in. Members of the board of Appropedia had already birthed the idea of the “travel intern”, someone who would, during their travels, visit and report on successful projects for Appropedia. My internship is the trial run of this idea. I am excited and honored to have this opportunity.

I have begun my adventures and am writing from the rainforest town of Puerto Maldanado, Peru. My dearest friend Kat Fountain has been working on a conservation project in the state of Madre de Dios Peru , deep in the Amazon. It just so happened that she needed a field assistant and I just so happened to be a qualified biologist. What luck! So I joined her at the Sachavacayoc field station, a center for research, education and ecotourism. For a week we rose before the sun and spent the day exploring and experiencing the incredible Amazon rainforest.

This Amazonian hardwood tree named "La Purma" is 500 years old!

I have learned a lot in a week, not only about the local flora and fauna, but also about the situation of the people. Those working to protect and conserve this incredibly rich and biodiverse region of Peru face many threats and obstacles to conservation including (but not limited to): mining and subsequent mineral contamination in the water, logging for hardwoods, cattle farming, drilling for Petroleum, and slash and burn agriculture. The situation is, of course, very complicated and when taken as a whole, has the potential to be a little overwhelming. However, many of the conservationists and scientists I have spoken with here have a great deal of hope.

I personally find a sparkle of hope in this: There are many people and organizations whose sole (and soul) purpose is to protect this precious piece of the world. One of the biggest problems conservationists faced is that the lack of communication between groups and organizations who share the same goals. Call me idealistic, but it is my belief that as infrastructure for communication improves and these groups continue to collaborate and organize, the looming problems I mentioned before are well within our power to change. As we all know, even the biggest changes happen poco a poco.

This is why I am grateful to be a part of the Appropedia community. Every page, and each connection made, is a step towards change. Perhaps some of you have heard the expression “the revolution will not be televised!” I agree. I think it is being documented in Appropedia.org!

Till next time… Isabell

Appropedia’s Travel Intern Program Initiative: Dock to doc

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the organizations that are working to reduce poverty and help us live both richly and sustainably had the resources to share their best ideas and practices? Of course! (Okay, maybe that was too easy. )

(Port of Callao, Peru by Jim O'Hagan, via Mediawiki Commons)

But we know that most of these organizations are already overcommitted and that thoroughly documenting a project is a big job. Meanwhile, there are lots of folks that want to help make the world a better place, and are quite willing to travel as part of the effort.  But very often the willing traveler is no more knowledgeable than local workers, and so it is hard to justify traveling in-country to lend a hand.

Aha moment.

Juxtaposing these tensions provides a nice little epiphany. Traveling interns can make excellent documenters.  Documenting great projects at Appropedia helps all parties.  The traveling intern learns a ton.  The host project gets some deserved recognition and awareness.  The broader community gets to see well-written, in-depth information that will, ultimately, get categorized, linked and translated for greatest usefulness.

To this end, Appropedia has begun prototyping our Travel Internship program.  Appropedia’s first travel intern, Isabell (Liz) Kimbrough, is already in-country in Peru. She has already coordinated with some partners, but still has room in her itinerary to visit (and document) other projects in Peru (June), Ecuador (July), Colombia (July)  and Panama (August).  And so, we hereby launch the Travel Intern Initiative to invite everyone to help make Isabell’s trip better.  We also want to prepare for broader participation in (and promotion of) our Travel Intern program later this year, so that you can head for the dock, and get your documentation thing on.

Please take a look at these pages to learn more about the program, and find ways you can help it have the most impact:

  • See Isabell’s itinerary to learn where she’s going, or add a potential project or partner for her or a future Travel Intern.
  • Would you (or a friend)  like to be a Travel Intern? Practice writing articles and show your stuff! And check out the application process.
  • How can we make the Travel Intern program better?  Leave a note on this page, or a leave a comment on this blog post!
  • Visit the Travel Intern Initiative launch page for more details.

Please help us spread the word about this program.  Use Twitter, Facebook or your blog to share it with potential interns or partners.  If you’re as excited as we are about this program, and have an hour a week to help out, consider a stint stewarding this Initiative!