Author Archive | Jin_TheNinja

Living in Little Boxes

Little HouseFor years, it has been reported that standard homesizes (with the US being the glaring exception) are shrinking. How small is too small? And what is the relationship between liveable space, architecture, community, and sustainability? In this article from the Independent, RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) “slams” the (non) architectural standards of suburban house building.

Architects have criticised the “shameful shoe-box homes” being built in Britain today, saying many are too small for family life. Research by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) found the floor area of the average new three-bedroom home in the UK is 88 sq m, some 8 sq m short of the recommended space.

One-bedroom properties, at an average of 46 sq m, are 4 sq m smaller than the recommended size, the Case For Space study found. This is the equivalent of a single bed, a bedside table and a dressing table with a stool, the report said.

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The New (Northern) Police State

Canada Flag MapAn appropriate post, considering today is Canadian Thanksgiving … Amir Alwani discusses the increasingly hostile politics of dissent and oppression in Canada; proving, we in the north, are not faring much better than our cousins in the South.

“I’m sick of people thinking politics is some sort of hobby, like we can just choose to decide it doesn’t have to do with our life, death, happiness and freedom. Looking at the mechanics that underlie our world is not something I do out of boredom. To me, it seems self-evident that we’re on this earth to learn. Learning and gaining experience seems to be what being human is all about. I don’t like reading words on a page/screen. I’d much rather create music or learn to paint but unfortunately, sometimes missing a week’s worth of news is like missing a month. Missing a month is often missing a year.

Few Canadians are aware of the true scope of the horrific G-20 event in Toronto last year.

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The Architecture of Control

Presidio ModeloArchitecture and design made specifically to control and easily subdue populations is nothing new; architects and urban planners have long recognised the inherent ability of design to affect mood, temperament, and even the physical and social properties of people. Prison design is one such exercise that directly engages the dialogue between space and social control. Via Web Urbanist :

Should architecture be used as a punishment in itself, made as harsh and cruel as possible in a bid to make inmates sorry for what they’ve done, or should it uplift and rehabilitate them, showing them that there’s more to the world than a life of crime?

While some architects boycott prison design altogether so as not to participate in what is often seen as a corrupt and immoral system, others produce (often controversial) designs that revolutionize prisoners’ relationships with their environment, each other and the world at large – for better or worse.

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5,000 Years of Sustainability

Rice FieldWhile we currently venerate technology as the panacea for our catastrophic environmental ills, what if we could contextually approach and learn from sustainable civilizations that thrived in the distant reaches of North America’s past? Jude Isabella writes on Archeology:

A re-evaluation of evidence along North America’s western coast shows how its earliest inhabitants managed the sea’s resources stone walls serve as evidence that early peoples cultivated the intertidal zones to build clam gardens and fish traps

When the tide is out, the table is set. —Tlingit proverb

The tide is going out at Gibsons Beach, in the Strait of Georgia on Canada’s west coast. When the tide is low, it’s easy to spot rock walls in the intertidal zone, the area of shore land that’s exposed during low tide and hidden when the tide is in. A person can look at this beach for years and never understand that apparently random scatterings of piled rocks were actually carefully constructed to catch food from the sea.

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The Problem with Social Democracy

FlagAn interesting article that highlights some inconsistencies Center-Left parties have in implementing a social-democratic platform while effectively maintaining and strengthening capitalism … Via Socialist Worker:

With the electoral breakthrough of the NDP in the federal election, attention to the nature of social democracy has returned to the political agenda. What do socialists say about the NDP and social democracy today?

There are two main views about parliamentary — or electoral — democracy in the history of the socialist movement. The social democratic view sees the liberal democratic state as a neutral body that can be peopled by delegates of the right or the left. Marxists, however, have stressed the limitations of the liberal democratic state. This view dates back to Marx’s analysis stated simply in the Communist Manifesto.

Contemporary social democratic parties, like the NDP or the Labour Party in the UK, keep a close eye on every aspect of parliamentary practice.

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Solar Plant Pollutes River in China … Riots Ensue

Solar PanelWhat does sustainability truly mean in an industrial world? Villagers in Zhejiang Province are wondering the same thing since the production of solar cells and batteries at a factory in the area has effectively poisoned their river and their children … Via the BBC:

Hundreds of villagers in eastern China have held three days of protests at a solar panel plant over pollution fears. Around 500 people started gathering at Zhejiang Jinko Solar company in Haining city, Zhejiang province, on Thursday. Some of protesters stormed the factory, overturning several company cars and destroying offices, officials said. Residents in the nearby village of Hongxiao said they became concerned after the deaths of a large number of river fish.

One 64-year-old villager told the Associated Press that the factory — located close to a school and kindergarten – discharges waste into the river and spews dense smoke out of a dozen chimneys.

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The New Religion of Shaolin

Shaolin Statue

Photo: Robin Chen (CC)

Chinese capitalism has something uniquely in common with historical Maoism: atheism. Vast economic growth met with a huge demand for traditional culture has meant Chinese cultural institutions are increasingly trading in their social values for growth-based business plans. Via the Independent:

Young men spring through the air, performing elegant punches and kicks; others bound across the dirt, swords flashing through the misty air. An ancient tree has dozens of small dents, made by “finger punches” of warrior monks over the centuries.

This is the Shaolin temple complex, in the mountains of central China, where kung fu was born 1,500 years ago. Now a place of pilgrimage for martial arts enthusiasts and Zen Buddhists, thousands of young people come to study kung fu, or wushu as it is known in China, in schools around the temple.

The commercial success of the temple is obvious, even if some of the sights are jarring – the telephone kiosks with Buddhas on top, for example.

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First Nations Oppose Tar Sands Pipeline

Keystone XLNative Activists have been on the front lines opposing the Alberta Tar Sands for years. Native Canadians have frequently borne the brunt of industrial pollution, particularly in Northern Canada. How will the new proposed Keystone XL pipeline affect Native communities both in the US and Canada? Colorlines explains:

In hopes that action would discourage President Barack Obama from permitting an extension to the Canadian Keystone pipeline — also known as the “Keystone XL” — a group of First Nations and American Indian activists protested in front of the White House on Friday.

Before being arrested, the protesters insisted that the extension — which will run from Alberta Canada to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas — will harm ancestral homelands.

“Our Lakota people oppose this pipeline because of the potential contamination of the surface water and of the Oglala aquifer,” said Deb White Plume, a Lakota activist. “We have thousands of ancient and historical cultural resources that would be destroyed across our treaty lands.”

Even the New York Times’ editorial board came out against the pipeline, writing that it was concerned about oil spills along the route and carbon emissions.

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