Ensia


Urban Infrastructure: What Would Nature Do?

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January 29, 2013
When urban infrastructure meets nature’s designers, amazing things can happen

We humans are problem solvers. We’re doers. We encounter challenges and complicated situations and we find ways to surmount them—crafting tools, erecting bridges, programming computers. We’ve innovated and designed our way out of countless predicaments and, dammit, we will forevermore.

We are also hopelessly arrogant.

See, we humans sometimes forget that we are not the only innovators and designers out there. We’re not the only ones able to creatively adapt our way through tricky or threatening conditions. We forget about nature.

Bringing Nature Back to Cities is Good for Plants, Animals and Humans

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October 19, 2016
Urban rewilding is about conservation, but it’s also about reconnecting people with the natural world.

The North Saskatchewan River winds through the center of Edmonton, its waters and the surrounding landscape forming a green spine that spreads a network of ravines out into nearby neighborhoods. Since 1904, when the Canadian city was incorporated, it has prioritized this river ecosystem. But the city is growing — from 600,000 people in 1990 to nearly 900,000 today — and that’s pushing development and transportation infrastructure up against this riverine system. Habitats are being reduced in size and fragmented by roads, creating many risks for the river valley’s wildlife.

The Urban Density Dilemma: Love Those Neighbors - Their Germs, Not So Much

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July 27, 2016
Concentrated populations are often seen as a boon for the environment because resources can be easily shared. But so can pathogens. How can cities discourage infectious disease?

Near the corner of Broadwick and Lexington in London’s Soho neighborhood, a single spot on the ground has influenced more than 150 years of urban development. It’s the location of a water pump that in 1854 physician John Snow pinpointed as the source of contamination leading to a widespread outbreak of cholera in the neighborhood that killed more than 600 people.

How Can We Reduce Concrete's Hefty Carbon Footprint?

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April 13, 2016
Bit by bit, innovators are chipping away at this ubiquitous material’s environmental downsides

A roomful of materials scientists, gathered at UCLA for a recent conference on “grand challenges in construction materials,” slowly passed a brick-size white block around the room. They held in their hands, briefly, part of the solution to one of those grand challenges. The white block, rock solid and surprisingly lightweight, was a new alternative to cement, the glue that holds together aggregate, or crushed rock, to make the world’s most ubiquitous building material: concrete.

The Environmental Cost of Moving All Our Stuff is Huge. How Can We Shrink it?

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December 14, 2015
With more than 50,000 ships and 3 million trucks transporting goods around the world, opportunities to reduce our impact abound.

Much of the stuff around us at any given moment — be it product, commodity or raw material — was once on a boat. To get from wherever it was made or processed or harvested to wherever it’s used or consumed, all this stuff embarks on a seaborne journey around the world. It happens thousands of times a day, on tens of thousands of vessels moving from port to port. Ships handle roughly 90 percent of global trade, nearly 10 billion metric tons (11 billion tons) of stuff per year.

What the 'Cold Economy' Means for a Warming World

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July 22, 2015
How we meet the world’s demand to keep things cool has major implications for the entire planet.

The modern world is cold. From air conditioning to temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals production to data center cooling to the vast global “cold chain” of refrigerated food transportation and storage, the ability to create low temperatures at will has become a hallmark of advanced societies.