Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

29 DECEMBER, 2010

A is for Armageddon: An Illustrated Guide to the Apocalypse


What rock-paper-scissors has to do with nuclear energy and the primordial soup.

We don’t have to listen too closely to the media to get their predominant message, loud and clear: The world as we know it is coming to an end. But rather than recoiling into paranoia at the all hopeless prospects out there, why not have some fun with it, all the while doing our best to prevent the apocalypse in an informed and intelligent way? That’s exactly what author and illustrator Richard Horne of 101 Things to Do Before You Die fame does in his latest gem, A Is for Armageddon: An Illustrated Catalogue of Disasters — a potent blend of serious science and serious snark exploring the most pessimistic possibilities for mankind’s impending demise.

From religious warfare to grey goo to deforestation, Horne combines science, superstition and sociology in a beautifully illustrated, delightfully dystopian guide to the apocalypse. Underlying the wickedly entertaining tone, however, is a grounded, non-preachy crusade for awareness that exudes the call of urgency none of us want to hear but all of us must.

Edifying and entertaining, A Is for Armageddon came out just after our selection of the best books of 2010, but would’ve absolutely made our list.

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28 DECEMBER, 2010

Rare: An Intimate Portrait of Extinction


Did you know that at least 100 species go extinct each day? From National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore comes Rare — a breathtaking yet heartbreaking visual record of some of the world’s most endangered creatures. From flies to wolves, Sartore’s stunning close-up portraits evoke a bittersweet awareness of the magnificent world we live in and the rapid rate at which we are running it into the ground.

Caribbean flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber)

Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta)

Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas)

Tawny frogmouth

Damaraland mole rats (Cryptomys damarensis)

Hawk-headed parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus)

West Usambara two-horned chameleon, (Kinyongia multituberculata)

With 80 arresting and intimate animal portraits, the book aims to give a voice to the amazing creatures likely to go extinct without people ever knowing they existed and, in the process, to serve as a call to action for preserving the planet’s most precious living resources.

Rare does for animals what Cedric Pollet’s Bark did for the world’s trees, tickling our deepest dormant awe for nature’s remarkable diversity. The book is part of a 3-year project documenting Earth’s biodiverisity and bringing a richer understanding of the Endangered Species Act, a 1973 policy measure attempting to mitigate the environmental consequence of economic growth and development.

via Dump; images courtesy of National Geographic/p>

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08 DECEMBER, 2010

Economy Map: Visualizing the Eco-Impact of Industry


What crude oil production has to do with interface design and public advocacy.

We’re big believers in data visualization as a sensemaking mechanism for the world. Economy Map, a new project from Jason Pearson, former President and CEO of the sustainability institute GreenBlue, aims to be just that by offering an interactive visual map of the US economy and its impact on the environment.

The ambitious project draws on data from the 2009 EPA report and maps the envionmental impact of specific sectors of the economy, ranging from crude oil production to advertising and nearly everything in between. But the project’s greatest strength lies in its capacity for pattern-recognition, illustrating not only the effect of specific sectors but also how they affect one another to exponentially impact the environment.

Each sectoris represented by a dot on a grid. A bubble around it depicts the size of its impact on one of the environmental factors examined — ozone depletion, human toxicity and global warming. Lines connecting the different bubbles illustrate “flows” between these sectors — for instance, see how many different sectors oil production draws on.

Though the interface is a bit clunky and counter-intuitive, Economy Map is not only an important educational tool for us in the “general public” but also a useful resource for public interest advocates and policymakers as they strive to identify areas where environmental impact can be reduced.

via FastCo Design

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