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Does Makoko Floating School's collapse threaten the whole slum's future?

Multiple award-winning Makoko Floating School was a beacon of hope in this Lagos slum until its collapse this week. Now some fear the whole area and its 300,000 residents are at renewed risk of being cleared out for redevelopment

Like most Lagos residents, I was familiar with Makoko Floating School. Its steep, three-storey triangular roof was visible from the Third Mainland Bridge, which cuts dramatically across the Makoko lagoon, the city’s vast waterworld slum. Designed by the Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi, the Floating School was the winner of multiple awards for architecture and urbanism, attracting great international attention and acclaim.

But I had never actually been up close until yesterday, when I approached in a rickety wooden canoe piloted by a young man in a burgundy T-shirt and grungy shorts.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Paris floods made almost twice as likely by climate change, say scientists

Manmade global warming greatly increased the risk of extreme rain affecting the French capital, analysis shows

The Paris floods, that saw extreme rainfall swell the river Seine to its highest level in decades, were made almost twice as likely because of the manmade emissions driving global warming, scientists have found.

A three-day period of heavy rain at the end of May saw tens of thousands of people evacuated across France, and the capital’s normally busy river closed to traffic because the water levels were so high under bridges. As artworks in the Louvre were moved to safety and Paris’s cobbled walkways were submerged, the French president, François Hollande, blamed the floods on climate change.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Yorkshire fracking approval may be unlawful, campaigners say

Decision to allow shale gas tests in village of Kirby Misperton could be challenged in court, Friends of the Earth says

Anti-fracking campaigners have claimed that a decision to allow energy companies to drill for shale gas in Yorkshire could be challenged in court.

The fracking firm Third Energy was given permission last month to carry out test drilling at a site in Kirby Misperton in Rydale, North Yorkshire, even after locals opposed the application.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Suncatcher: the road to a solar powered global transport network – video

The world is covered in more than 40m miles of road networks. What if this network could act like solar panels, and what if we could power our vehicles with the energy generated by this? In 2009, these questions formed the beginning of a vision for the future for Sten De Wit at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research in Delft, whose ideas are being put into practice with SolaRoad

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Source: Guardian Environment

Climate scientists have warned us of coral bleaching for years. It's here | John Abraham

Coral bleaching is becoming an increasingly frequent and severe problem in a hotter world

Readers may have noticed that it’s been about a month since my last article. In recent weeks I presented guest articles in place of my own pieces. The reason for my absence was due to the adoption I was finalizing in the USA (my second successful adoption!). Anyone who has adopted a child can attest to the time and travel requirements. I intend that this article marks my return to near weekly posting and I thank my readers for their patience.

Coral reefs are important for the health of the ocean biosystem; they support and harbor a high density of diverse organisms. While there are reefs located in many locations around the world, people often think first about the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast. It is known for its size and beauty; it brings travelers close to nature.

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Source: Guardian Environment

open source modular design: the business benefits

When we talk about the circular economy, we often talk about encouraging materials cycles, similar to those in nature. This analogy works great for materials recycling but, breaks down if we think about modular design. We can’t remove the branches of a tree, and rearrange them to make two smaller trees. But with modular design of technology, facilitated by an open source approach, we could do the equivalent – and it could lead to a new way of doing business.

In product design, practitioners aim for design for manufacturability. In high value products, we may design for serviceability. When it comes to the circular economy, we need to design for reusability. That is, the ability at the end of the service life of a product, to disassemble it into useful parts that can be directly reused in another product.


A simple example from today’s products would be screws, nuts and bolts. If a part is labelled ‘M5’, you know what you’re getting – no one would design a product to use M4.8 parts. Similarly, in the open source hardware community and the custom industrial machine space, it has become common to use aluminium extrusions. Examples include 20×20, 20×40 T-slot, openbeam and makerbeam profiles for smaller machines, and more recently, V-slot profiles, which help centre a wheel to make low-cost moving machines.

Aluminium extrusion of the Makerbeam standard

These aluminium profiles are a great start, and these design decisions mean that many open source 3D printers can be dismantled and the components directly reused in other machines. Similarly the Nema 17, 23, and 34 stepper motors used can be directly used in either new types of 3D printers, or laser cutters, PCB Mills, small CNC machines, 3D scanners and many other types of machinery that needs predictable motion.

Open source control electronics also come with flexible open source software that allow for the direct reuse of these boards in different products. It’s an early, accidental example of modular design for reusability. And it’s only happened in the open source world. The practical effect is that virtually all open source 3D printers can be disassembled and the modular parts actually reused at the module level instead of down cycled or reduced to their raw materials. It’s not perfect – this currently involves a great number of components and is time consuming, so not ideal for a really high volume product – but it strongly suggests that an open source approach could unlock the higher value areas of the circular economy.

What if we took conscious control of this process? What if we started deliberately to design mechanical, electrical, electronic – even biotech modules to fit together, work together and be reusable. There will always be some new parts in any technological product but do we really need to redesign the way parts fit together or snap apart again for every single product? Is that really the unique selling point?

Open source hardware, as defined by the Open source Hardware Association, lowers the barriers to innovation by making reuse and redesign explicitly allowed from day one, without needing to involve a lawyer. You are explicitly allowed to make money from it. That’s expected and encouraged. Open source hardware has one very interesting difference from software. Nobody seriously expects hardware to be free, so the business model for open source hardware is the same as proprietary. People pay for objects.

What’s great about open source hardware is that it seems to encourage design ecosystems to form. It harnesses the natural tendency of engineers and designers to tinker, and makes those additions, improvements and refinements available to the community as a whole. The Arduino example is fantastic: from one low-cost single board computer aimed at educational use, we now have an ecosystem of hundreds of different designs, with different specialisations, all using a common open source development systems and capable of running thousands of open source programs.

In addition to this, the use of parametric design, where we can design an object specifically to be modified within limited parameters, provides an entry point for non-designers to be able to “design” their own objects, giving them a higher perceived value and making them much less likely to be thrown away.

Where we need to be heading is a physical analogy of the open source libraries used in software. A set of open source hardware library of functionalities that not only make it easy and inexpensive to build ecologically sound products, but use modules that can be directly reused by disassembling the product.

Just as the human race ended up setting standards for screws since the early 19th century (although if you look at the sizes available you will see perhaps more complexity than feels sensible) a set of standards for interconnecting modules could be a game changer for the circular economy. On the physical side, we should be aiming for clip together parts as seen in Wikihouse, rather than the flexible but hard to fasten directly aluminium profiles. On the electronics side, the spring-loaded modules of the Fairphone provide a great example. On the electrical side, an efficient set of motors, with a clear labelling scheme.

The Wikihouse construction process

How would we do this? We’d need to create a set of circular economy standards that describe these “libraries” and make them available to the world. Traditional standardisation processes take 5-10 years, but we could move faster than that. Perhaps we could adopt the smart label “Spime” concept from Bruce Sterling, and have a circular economy database for circular economy objects that characterises the material makeup and functional characteristics of these self-describing modules.

But for a moment, let’s imagine that we’ve already done this. What would the benefits to business be?

First of all, we’d enable product design to proceed at the speed of software. Having hardware libraries and frameworks shared across industries means that solved problems become very cheap and rapid to implement in a new design. Your engineering teams can focus on the USP. Maybe even marketing and engineering can finally talk to each other? So your engineering and product design becomes more efficient.

Having all the improvement around assembly, repairability and disassembly fed back into the design loop across the world means the products become cheaper to assemble, repair and tear-down at the end of their life. If you don’t use the open source modular assemblies, your competitors will. Best circular economy practices on non-differentiating features spread rapidly across the industry. So your servicing and repairs become cheaper and much easier to outsource.

But that’s not all. If your products are modular and reusable, they are also modifiable. Just as today, modifying a product would cause your two year warranty to expire, but if we’re using known assemblies, the modifying company could offer a new warranty. So we end up with an entire new after sales modification industry, using local artisans.

This leads us directly to the next steps in mass customisation. Imagine being the first car manufacturer that not only allowed you to customise your car when ordering it, but also to go back to the dealer and change your mind years later. Now that’s a USP.

In the 21st century, no one would design an M4.1 screw, just so they could patent it. With the ecological problems that we need to tackle, we don’t have time to go through the old fashioned 30 year “Design, Patent, Land-grab, Accept you won’t rule the world, standardise” cycle again. Through collaboration we can create the 21st century equivalent building blocks, embrace open source modularity, and drive the transition to a circular economy.

The post open source modular design: the business benefits appeared first on Circulate.

Source: Circulate News RSS

Bustards strut their stuff after return to the plain

Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire The breeding season has started late and male great bustards are still performing their elaborate courtship displays

We follow a pitted farm track over the brow of the hill and into the valley, then climb off-road to the hide. The 38,0000 hectare chalk plateau is a haven for wildlife with its patchwork of close-cropped grass, golden oilseed rape and small strips of soil ploughed bare to create stone curlew nesting plots.

In 1998 the Great Bustard Group began exploring the possibility of reintroducing this vulnerable species, which became extinct in the UK in 1832. Annual releases of imported bustards began in 2004 and the first eggs were laid by reintroduced birds in 2007, but the population is not yet self-sustaining. Although breeding has taken place every year, survival rates are low and not all surviving juveniles are recruited to the adult population. Lekking usually peaks in April, but this year the breeding season started later than usual and I’ve been told that there is still a chance of seeing the males perform their elaborate display.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Air pollution now major contributor to stroke, global study finds

Scientists say finding is alarming, and shows that harm caused by air pollution to the lungs, heart and brain has been underestimated

Air pollution has become a major contributor to stroke for the first time, with unclean air now blamed for nearly one third of the years of healthy life lost to the condition worldwide.

In an unprecedented survey of global risk factors for stroke, air pollution in the form of fine particulate matter ranked seventh in terms of its impact on healthy lifespan, while household air pollution from burning solid fuels ranked eighth.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Australia's largest cockatoo threatened by bauxite mining

Exclusive: Proposed mines to produce aluminium are putting the habitat of vulnerable Cape York palm cockatoo at risk, sparking calls for stronger environmental laws

Australia’s spectacular palm cockatoo is being put at risk by proposed bauxite mines, conservationists have said.

The Cape York palm cockatoo, Australia’s largest cockatoo, is listed as vulnerable under Australia’s federal environment laws. About 3,000 mature birds are thought to exist, and their numbers are declining.

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Source: Guardian Environment

CO2 turned into stone in Iceland in climate change breakthrough

Radical new technique promises a cheaper and more secure method of burying CO2 emissions underground instead of storing it as a gas

Carbon dioxide has been pumped underground and turned rapidly into stone, demonstrating a radical new way to tackle climate change.

The unique project promises a cheaper and more secure way of burying CO2 from fossil fuel burning underground, where it cannot warm the planet. Such carbon capture and storage (CCS) is thought to be essential to halting global warming, but existing projects store the CO2 as a gas and concerns about costs and potential leakage have halted some plans.

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Source: Guardian Environment