David Foster Wallace and David Suzuki find common ground

Via Kottke, from a recently unearthed 18-year old interview with David Foster Wallace:

When I started the book the only idea I had is I wanted to do something about America that was sad but wasn't just making fun of America. Most of my friends are extremely bright, privileged, well-educated Americans who are sad on some level, and it has something, I think, to do with loneliness. I'm talking out of my ear a little bit, this is just my opinion, but I think somehow the culture has taught us or we've allowed the culture to teach us that the point of living is to get as much as you can and experience as much pleasure as you can, and that the implicit promise is that will make you happy. I know that's almost offensively simplistic, but the effects of it aren't simplistic at all.

From David Suzuki's 2014 Milton K. Wong lecture:

I'd like to end with a story that also illustrates a need for a shift in our perspective. In the 1990s Hong Kong was going to revert to China. Tara and I live in a beautiful part of Vancouver. We live on the water down near Kitsilano Park. We received a letter in the mail from a real estate agent that said “off-shore money is pouring into Vancouver. Now is a good time to sell your house and buy up”. I'd never heard the idea of buying up. I didn't know you would buy a starter house and then you work your way up to a bigger and bigger house. It didn't make sense to me. I was not very happy to get this letter, but I thought, you know, this is my home. If I was going to put down what matters to me, what really gives this place value, what would I put down? And the first thing I put down was the fact that when we bought the house, now it's over 35 years ago, we invited my wife's mother and father to live upstairs. For 35 years our daughters have had grandma and granddad upstairs living with them. And I put that down as one of the most important features of that house. My father was a kitchen cabinet maker. When Tara and I first got married we moved into an apartment and he built a kitchen cabinet for us, and when I bought the house I pulled that cabinet out and put it in our kitchen. It looked like hell but every time we used that cabinet I thought of my father. And I put that down. My father-in-law is a great gardener and he knew I loved asparagus and raspberries. He planted some raspberries and asparagus for me. And I had been in the States on a long tour for a month. When I came home one spring there was my father-in-law with a brown bag. He said “David, these are the first asparagus to come off and it's yours, I saved it for you” and I put that down. My children over the years have dragged all kinds of dead birds, and snakes, and animals off the street. They have a little animal cemetery in our yard. And I put that down. We have a clematis plant that grows along the fence along the water and when my mother died I put her ashes on that clematis and when my niece Janice died, very unexpectedly, we had Janice's ashes to put on that plant. And every year when the clematis come up and bloom I know that my mother and Janice are there. And I put that down. And as I made that list of the things that made my house my home, I realized those are the things that are priceless, and yet on the market they are totally worthless. And I think we've got our eyes focussed on the wrong thing. We are putting values on the wrong thing. We need to look at the world again through different eyes. And see the real home that we have in this world.

Gates Foundation Headquarters: Cost Effective Thermal Energy Storage

From my latest piece on the Arborus Efficiency Journal:

The Winter 2014 issue of Higher Performing Buildings has a great article on the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Headquarters, built in Seattle in 2011. Since the Foundation intends to occupy the building for the long term, the major heating, ventilating and air conditioning system design decisions were based on a total cost of ownership analysis. It’s interesting to see how this analysis informed the design of the central cooling plant. A number of configurations were analyzed and, surprisingly, the one that came out on top is an air-cooled chiller plant connected to a thermal energy storage system. This result is surprising for two reasons: 1) electricity costs in Seattle are low and do not include peak demand charges or time-of-use rates and 2) air-cooled chillers tend to underperform water-cooled systems that use a cooling tower for heat rejection ...

The secrets of the world's happiest cities

I love this article on the happiness of self-propelled transit:

But for a moment I forgot my questions. I let go of my handlebars and raised my arms in the air of the cooling breeze, and I remembered my own childhood of country roads, after-school wanderings, lazy rides and pure freedom. I felt fine. The city was mine. The journey began.

This passage captured my experience of driving in the city:

Driving in traffic is harrowing for both brain and body. The blood of people who drive in cities is a stew of stress hormones. The worse the traffic, the more your system is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, the fight-or-flight juices that, in the short-term, get your heart pumping faster, dilate your air passages and help sharpen your alertness, but in the long-term can make you ill. Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commutes and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travellers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters.

But one group of commuters report enjoying themselves. These are people who travel under their own steam, like Robert Judge. They walk. They run. They ride bicycles.

Malala Yousafzai should inspire courage and hope in us all

"Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."

Many of us here stir and strive in the spirit of applied hope. We work to make the world better, not from some airy theoretical hope, but in the pragmatic and grounded conviction that starting with hope and acting out of hope can cultivate a different kind of world worth being hopeful about, reinforcing itself in a virtuous spiral. Applied hope is not about some vague, far-off future but is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices.
Hope, said Frances Moore Lappé, “is a stance, not an assessment.” But applied hope is not mere glandular optimism. The optimist treats the future as fate, not choice, and thus fails to take responsibility for making the world we want. Applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. The optimist, says David Orr, has his feet up on the desk and a satisfied smirk knowing the deck is stacked. The person living in hope has her sleeves rolled up and is fighting hard to change or beat the odds. Optimism can easily mask cowardice. Applied hope requires fearlessness.

Amory Lovins Address Berkeley Grads

Cities take the lead on green building in US

For several years now, the good news in the U.S. has come from local governments that are choosing not to wait for federal legislation to take the necessary action. In a three-year nationwide survey, the American Institute of Architects found that 138 cities that are home to more than 50,000 inhabitants had developed green building programs. This represents more than 53 million Americans in total, or about 17 percent of the country! The West coast leads the trend, with 56 cities that have implemented green building programs, but the East coast is rapidly catching up, with a 76 percent increase in the number of such cities since 2007.

Elevator dispatch

The latest issue of Canadian Facilities Management and Design (October 2010, sadly unavailable online) has an interesting article on elevator dispatch technology. The idea is that when someone approaches the elevator bank, they enter in the floor they want to go to on a console rather than a simple up/down button. The console then tells them which elevator to get on. The dispatch system optimizes travel by grouping people who want to go to similar locations, reducing the number of trips and waiting time. Because the elevator system operates more effectively and efficiently it can save over 30% on energy and get people where they want to go in less time. Cool, eh.

World Habitat Day Oct. 4, 2010

Support Habitat for Humanity on Monday, October 4 - Designated by the UN as World Habitat Day:

Oct. 4, 2010, in recognition of World Habitat Day, Habitat for Humanity will raise awareness of the need for improved shelter and highlight Habitat’s priorities: the worldwide connection between human health and housing, and, in the United States, neighborhood revitalization. These themes echo the United Nations’ chosen theme for 2010 for events in the host city of Shanghai, China and the rest of the world: “Better City, Better Life.”

Management Plan Could End Brazilian Deforestation By 2020, Study Says

Worldchanging shares a hopeful message about the Amazon rainforest:

“Market forces and Brazil’s political will are converging in an unprecedented opportunity to end deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon with 80 percent of the forest still standing,” said Daniel Nepstad, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center and lead author of the study. Since 2005, Brazil has reduced the rate of deforestation by 64 percent. According to the study, an investment of $6.5 to $18 billion in several areas from 2010 to 2020 can help Brazil end deforestation.

How Elon Musk Turned Tesla Into the Car Company of the Future

Wired has a nice article on the history of Tesla, the new electric car company that demonstrated what might be possible by making it’s dashing Roadster:

The auto industry began to take notice of the little startup with the big ideas. In January 2007, GM unveiled a prototype electric vehicle called the Chevrolet Volt. In an interview with Newsweek, Bob Lutz, then GM’s vice chair, said, “If some Silicon Valley startup can solve this equation, no one is going to tell me anymore that it’s unfeasible.” That same year, Daimler unveiled plans to develop an electric version of its Smart car. Suddenly, the major carmakers were moving into electrics so fast that Tesla risked being left behind by the wave it had generated.