Monday, March 19, 2012

Adaptation and mitigation of small island agricultural systems

Australia's Primary Industries Adaptation Research Network (PIARN) and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility recently ran a webinar on adaptation, mitigation, and management of agricultural systems, focusing on the research work done on Tasmania. The webinar featured Professor Holger Meinke with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture. He spoke on improving early warning systems and risk management of the increasing flood threat, which will enable farmers to adapt cropping systems, and produce methods that will have applications throughout Australia’s flood-prone farmland.

Professor Meinke gave a very informative presentation, which is available to view below. PIARN records the presentation and also allows the public to access the presentation remotely via the internet such that they can interact with the presenter from a distance. It's a great way for the information to be accessed more widely. The presentations so far have been geared towards audiences with a basic understanding of climate change and agriculture, but are not so technical that those not in the discipline cannot understand.

Adaptation, mitigation and the responsible management of agricultural systems - a 'small island' perspective from Climate & primary industries on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

FAO Recycling water for agriculture

This FAO animation is awesome! It explains in simple and easy to understand graphics how cities can use water in alternative ways to grow agricultural goods. Check it out!

FAO Recycling Water animation in English (Flash required)

There's also a Spanish and French version of the animation too!

More information about the FAO Water Development and Management here

Monday, March 12, 2012

Compost Death Star

A few weeks ago, my housemates and I bought a tumbling compost ball. It's pretty much the most amazing thing ever and it looks like a Death Star, which makes it even more amazing (because I am a Star Wars geek and now I have my own dark side of the garden). Most composts don't get turned over often enough or don't get enough oxygen inside, including our last compost bin at the previous house. Having a compost ball that you can roll around helps with turnover and mixing. The design even has little holes for oxygen to breathe in.

Another common problem that people have is an imbalance between the nitrogen-heavy material (your food scraps and garden greens) and the carbon-heavy stuff (dry leaves, newspapers, straw). Too much of one or the other slows down the decomposing process and makes the compost bin really smelly. So far, the compost ball seems to be working - no funky smells. We've left it in the sun to help decompose faster and have made sure to put in lots of newspaper. It'll be a couple more weeks before we get stuff to use in the garden though, so I'll post later about that.

My only problem with it is that the cover is kinda hard to open! It does come with a "key" of sorts, but it takes a certain amount of strength to pry the cover open, and if bits of food gets stuck at the top, that doesn't help.

Now for the exciting photos of the making of our compost ball!

Compost Death Star

The different "layers" of the ball

Compost Death Star

The holes for oxygen

Compost Death Star

Putting things together

Compost Death Star

How the oxygen gets in

Compost Death Star

Putting the middle parts together

Compost Death Star

Pat really likes the ball...

Compost Death Star

The completed Death Star!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wellesley empowers women

Today, I was talking with several women in my field of research in environmental science and we spoke about how women are lacking in leadership roles within science. Apparently, they have all worked with ONLY men in their workplace. WTF, where are all the women?! They said that women in general are hesitant to speak up for bigger roles and more benefits. I ended up telling them about how Wellesley really cultivates an empowering environment for women to go after ambitious career goals and teaches us not to be afraid to be offended or to stand up to bs from our male colleagues etc etc. The others were really impressed with this and said they really wished their schools had the same kind of atmosphere. Empowering women is really honestly a hugely important part of a women's education (in my opinion)!

Also, apparently it is unheard of (or at least really gutsy) to feel comfortable just calling up alums and networking with them because they are alumnae. Wellesley's alumnae network is one of the biggest pulls for me and I'm so proud of how alums are willing to bend over backwards for other alums or students, and as a young alum, I've been able to repay the karma for several students as well. I honestly believe in the quote "There's a special hell for women who don't help out other women" - if you're breaking barriers, make sure to throw down a rope for the others behind you.

I just wanted to share that story and give a shout out to all the Wellesley alums out there who are inspiring, glass-ceiling-breaking or just otherwise kickass role models for all the rest of us. Here's to you all!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tram Community Art Project

This is a bit of a different post from the norm - I wanted to share the results from my community art project that just finished up.

Last month I finished up a community art project with Melbourne's Centre of Multicultural Youth (CMY) and Yarra Trams. It was my first community art project and I loved it! The task was to come up with art designs on the themes of diversity and multiculturalism for two tram stops along the Route 96 line on the corner of Elgin and Nicholson Street in Carlton. Yarra Trams wanted to install artwork in hopes to preventing graffiti on the tram stops and to promote a positive image of youth. A team of 4 young people, including myself, and CMY's artist in residence, Reeham Hakem, started working on the project in September 2011, with lots of discussions and brainstorms on what multiculturalism and diversity meant, how it can be represented via art, and what messages we wanted to send.




Our brainstorming sessions

We came up with two different concepts. The first was a text based design that answered the statement: "I am more than ___ ". Each one of us is more than what others might perceive us to be. No one is simply a face, and no one can be taken for face value or stereotyped under one word. We decided to go around Carlton to ask people to complete the statement "I am more than" and the various 'answers' would make up a word cloud for the design on the tram stop.

text tram before

Text based design tram: Before

The collection of the words was great fun and we got to talk with a variety of people, from university students to shop owners to maintenance workers to schoolchildren, which sampled the diversity of the Carlton community. One kind restaurant owner even treated us to a pizza lunch!

tram stop text final

The text design

The second design was based on the idea that we all have different paths and backgrounds, but come together to form a larger diverse community. We used abstract shapes to represent this and the final design was done in aerosol spray. The panels were stenciled before they were installed onto the tram stop and then we spent a week doing touch up work on the tram stop itself. It was pretty miserable weather during that week, complete with rain and wind, and every 15 minutes, there'd be a tram running by. But we got it done in time.

aerosol tram before

Aerosol tram: Before

aerosol work

Stenciling the panels


Installing the artwork

The artwork was officially launched in February 2012 after 6 months hard work. I had a lot of fun with the team, both in the discussions we had and in the art making. And the idea of transforming a public space into an unexpected art exhibition is awesome.


Text design tram stop



Aerosol tram stop


finished installation

Thanks, Route 96 team! You guys have really inspired me to continue doing community art projects! =)


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Transforming green spaces

My recent project with designing artwork for two tram stops in Melbourne's inner city has gotten me into the idea of transforming public spaces into new things. Public spaces ought to bring a sense of community, so projects that can provoke this, especially unexpectedly, are projects that I love getting involved in.

Here are two great examples of how local communities have taken empty public space and turned them into green spaces.

The Underground Railroad Park: New York City is full of old terminals for streetcars from the olden days. Dan Barasch and James Ramsey of the Delancey Underground project are aiming to build an underground park beneath the hectic streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side using one of the existing defunct trolley terminal for streetcars coming off the Williamsburg Bridge. This project integrates both green technology and the historical architectural features to turn unused underground space into something that can be a community hub, a marketplace, an art exhibition hall, and more. The founders are still raising funds to build a full scale model and to convince the city authorities that the public wants this project, so they've started a Kickstart campaign. Since they've started their $100,000 campaign, they've raised over $118,000 and there's still 33 days more to go! Way to go, Dan and James!

Beacon Hill Food Forest: I'm a huge fan of urban food gardens, so this project is close to my heart. Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood has always been sparse on formal public green space despite acres of free grassland around the long-defunct reservoir. During a permaculture course, a plan was drafted for a sustainable edible garden in the neighborhood, and eventually enough momentum was created to form a community group, contact the city council, and apply for grants to actually implement the plan. Now, the Friends of the Beacon Hill Food Forest are working with a landscape architect and volunteers to plan and execute the project. One of the challenges of a public community garden project like this will be balancing how the work and the harvest is divided. Successful community garden models I've come across, such as Incredible Edible Todmorden, have an open policy where everyone can join in on harvesting and eating, and work is shared by everyone. The trick is to create the community sense and get everyone to feel a sense of ownership over the project so they can share both responsibility and goods.