Archive for mayo, 2008

Contaminación Sónica: El Ayuntamiento de Sevilla, condenado a pagar 24.000 euros a una vecina por el «botellón»

mayo 30, 2008
El Ayuntamiento de Sevilla ha sido condenado a pagar 24.000 euros de indemnización a una vecina por las molestias que le causó durante tres años una “botellona” juvenil bajo su ventana, contra la que el consistorio no actuó pese a su “evidencia y reiteración”.

En la mayor indemnización concedida hasta ahora en España por este tipo de problemas, el juzgado de lo Contencioso 5 de Sevilla entiende que el Ayuntamiento incurrió en una dejación de funciones por no actuar pese a las reiteradas denuncias y llamadas a la Policía de los vecinos y pese a tener el “amparo legal” para hacerlo.

La vecina, residente en la Ronda de Capuchinos, sufrió al menos durante los años 2004, 2005 y parte de 2006 la presencia de dos discotecas y de una “botellona” en la calle, donde la propia Policía Local llegó a contabilizar a 750 personas, muchas de ellas haciendo ruido a menos de un metro del dormitorio de la denunciante.

La sentencia, a la que ha tenido acceso Efe, hace un relato dramático de la situación creada por los “gritos, reyertas, coches-discoteca, vomitonas, olor a orines y gran cantidad de botellas y bolsas en el suelo” hasta las cuatro de la madrugada y, “en el caso de los más recalcitrantes, hasta las siete” desde el jueves al sábado de todas las semanas.

A las siete de la mañana -añade la sentencia- la empresa de limpieza municipal Lipasam empezaba a recoger las cientos de botellas que quedaban por el suelo y “producía más ruidos que los jóvenes, pues en vez de limitarse a recogerlas las rompía en el acerado con mazas de madera para luego absorberlas”.

Considera la juez que la demandante padeció un daño moral doble, pues junto a la vulneración de su intimidad sufrió “la impotencia de ver que las fuerzas del orden, que tienen el deber de velar por su integridad física, no ponían fin a la agresión de que estaba siendo objeto, pese a su evidencia y reiteración”.

La afectada estuvo defendida por el abogado sevillano Joaquín Herrera, miembro de la asociación Juristas contra el Ruido, que ha emprendido una batalla en los tribunales de toda España para que la contaminación acústica sea considerada delito contra el medio ambiente.
Recoge la sentencia que, pese a las numerosas denuncias vecinales, con corte de calles y convocatorias a la prensa, la Policía Local apenas llegó a montar en la calle “un servicio de control de la movida, pero con órdenes expresas de no disolver a los jóvenes que se agolpaban a escasos metros de la vivienda de la demandante”.

En el juicio, el Ayuntamiento alegó que, antes de la llamada Ley Antibotellón de 2006, carecía de mecanismos para actuar, pero la sentencia responde que debería haberlo hecho en virtud de su propia Ordenanza de Ruidos, la Ley del Ruido estatal y la Ley de Bases de Régimen Local.

En lugar de actuar contra quienes producían “una contaminación acústica intolerable”, el Ayuntamiento elaboró unas “propuestas para una movida menos molesta” que “despreció” los derechos fundamentales de los ciudadanos a la salud, el medio ambiente o la intimidad del domicilio al “ponerlos a la misma altura que el derecho al ocio”, sostiene la juez.

La afectada recibirá 24.000 euros por el mal funcionamiento del servicio público, en una indemnización que tiene en cuenta, entre otros, la depreciación de un 128 por ciento en el valor de su piso, una vivienda que “se sabe socialmente sometida a una contaminación acústica intolerable”.

Fuente: ABC
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David Byrne’s New Band, With Architectural Solos

mayo 30, 2008

THE symphony of Manhattan Island, composed and performed fortissimo daily by garbage trucks, car speakers, I-beam bolters, bus brakes, warped manhole covers, knocking radiators, people yelling from high windows and the blaring television that now greets you in the back of a taxi, is the kind of music people would pay good money to be able to silence, if only there were a switch.

The other day, in a paint-peeling hangar of a room at the foot of the island, David Byrne, the artist and musician, placed his finger on a switch that did exactly the opposite: it made such music on purpose. The switch was a white key on the bass end of a beat-up Weaver pump organ that was practically the only thing sitting inside the old Great Hall of the Battery Maritime Building, a 99-year-old former ferry terminal at the end of Whitehall Street that has sat mostly dormant for more than a half-century.

PHOTOS: OZIER MUHAMAD / NYT

The organ’s innards had been replaced with relays and wires and light blue air hoses. And when the key was pressed, a 110-volt motor strapped to a girder high up in the room’s ceiling began to vibrate, essentially playing the girder and producing a deafening low hum — like one of the tuba tones played by the mother ship in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Or, if you were less charitably inclined, like a truck on Canal Street with a loose muffler. Mr. Byrne ran his fingers up the keyboard, causing more hums and whines, moans and plunks and clinks until he came to a key that seemed to do nothing.

“We’re not getting any register on that bottom one anymore,” he said, sending two artist-technicians up onto a scaffold to figure out why a certain magnetic knocker was not turning one of the room’s giant Corinthian columns — topped by upended, gaping dolphins — into a kind of architectural castanet.

The project Mr. Byrne has created with support from the public-art organization Creative Time is a kind of twist on the projects Creative Time has brought into being since it started helping artists use the city as a canvas in 1974. Often the organization finds dilapidated, neglected, historically rich buildings, and artists create installations inside, as the British artist Mike Nelson did last year when he turned a wing of the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side into a dimly lighted labyrinth. The ferry-terminal project, called, appropriately enough, “Playing the Building,” opens at noon on Saturday.

But in the case of Mr. Byrne — a founder of the Talking Heads who has been a visual artist as long as he has been a musician and producer — the Beaux-Arts terminal itself has become the installation, or at least a stunning, 9,000-square-foot part of it that once served as a soaring waiting room for passengers who came there to board ferries bound for South Brooklyn. The building has been one of those glorious Manhattan antiques caught in a decades-long time warp, not used for major ferry service since 1938. Plans to have it house everything from a children’s museum to a dance troupe to even Creative Time’s offices have fallen through over the years, and now a developer has been chosen to rehabilitate the terminal and build a hotel atop it.

At least for the next two and a half months, though, the building will simply serve as a gargantuan cast-iron orchestra. Besides being fitted with several motors, which produce the bass sounds by vibrating a set of girders that once supported a stained-glass skylight in the 40-foot-high ceiling, the organ is attached to a pump that blows air through a tangle of hoses. These hoses snake into the huge room’s old water and heating pipes and conduits, making primitive flute sounds. And then there are more than a dozen spring-loaded solenoids, attached like woodpeckers to the columns and even to a linebacker-size radiator that emits a surprisingly sonorous tone when struck in just the right place with a metal rod.

When you get both hands busy on the keyboard — as anyone who comes to see the work will be allowed to do — the room roars and clatters to life, seeming to harbor an invisible band playing something written by Philip Glass in collaboration with the Stooges, a Japanese sho virtuoso and a kitchen full of 3-year-olds with pots and ladles.

Working on the project recently in his SoHo studio, Mr. Byrne said he had generally avoided music-related art projects because he did not want his reputation as a musician to become confused with such work.

But when he was invited several years ago to propose a piece for Fargfabriken, a gallery space in a former factory in Stockholm, he began thinking about how to turn a building into an instrument. (One of his ideas for the Swedish project was to build a huge microwave oven inside the hall.) He had inherited the out-of-tune pump organ from a friend who was moving out of his print studio in the meatpacking district. And so Mr. Byrne used the organ to create the first version of “Playing the Building” in 2005.

Because he generally likes to distance his art from his music, Mr. Byrne has not composed pieces for the building-organ and does not plan to play it publicly. But he said he hoped the project would say something about the direction of popular music.

“I’m not suggesting people abandon musical instruments and start playing their cars and apartments, but I do think the reign of music as a commodity made only by professionals might be winding down,” he said in a discussion about the piece with Anne Pasternak, the project’s curator and Creative Time’s president. “The imminent demise of the large record companies as gatekeepers of the world’s popular music is a good thing, for the most part.”

The music that will soon be heard from the maritime building’s infrastructure and the organ, with assistance from a stream of visitors over the summer, is essentially “authorless,” but “strongly directed,” he said.

With only four days left before the doors opened, Mr. Byrne and two people who helped build the piece, Mark McNamara and Justin Downs, were working hard one recent afternoon to arrange the organ’s keyboard so that it played the building roughly from low notes to high — very roughly. (“Nobody’s going to be able to play Bach on it,” Mr. Byrne said.)

A white rubber mallet, useful early on for determining the lyrical quality of rusty steam pipes and girders, lay atop the organ. And even with the sun streaming through the room’s expansive skylight, there was an element of gothic ghostliness about the setup, a prim-looking church organ commanding an empty waiting room. (By way of unintentional back story, to add a little extra eeriness, in 1885 The New York Times reported that J. O. Weaver, a member of the family that owned the Weaver Organ Manufacturing Company of York, Pa., became “violently deranged” in a Dallas hotel room and committed suicide by cutting his throat “from ear to ear” with a razor.)

Mr. Byrne, wearing a straw fedora with a feather stuck in the band, seemed to grow momentarily bored with architectural harmonies and took a visitor through a doorway into a shadowy hall that led to a seemingly darker history for the building: two empty meat lockers and a tiled room with a drain that might have been an abattoir, perhaps once used for supplying meat to Governors Island, whose ferry leaves from the slips below.

“There’s some really weird stuff back here,” he said.

Then he grabbed his backpack and headed out to another appointment uptown, by means of that weirdest and most musical New York City instrument of all, the subway.

“Playing the Building” opens on Saturday at noon and will continue on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 6 p.m., through Aug. 10 at the Battery Maritime Building, 10 South Street, Lower Manhattan; (212) 206-6674 or creativetime.org/byrne. Admission is free.

Fuente: NYT

Rwanda puts hopes in methane power plant

mayo 24, 2008

Extracting the gas from Lake Kivu’s depths is a risky venture. But officials say it can help solve two problems: drain the deadly pool and provide energy to the electricity-starved nation.

By Edmund Sanders
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 23, 2008

LAKE KIVU, RWANDA — With Kivu’s rolling green swells and serene coastline, it’s hard to imagine why this is called one of Africa’s “killer lakes.”

Fishermen have known for more than a century about the mysterious gas that occasionally bubbles up, killing fish and sometimes swimmers.

The source, scientists say, is a massive pool of methane and carbon dioxide that lies at the bottom of the deep-water lake on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gas levels have been steadily rising, and experts say the gases might one day explode or burst to the surface, releasing a deadly cloud similar to one that killed more than 1,700 people at Cameroon’s methane-rich Lake Nyos in 1986.

Hoping to avert a catastrophe on the shores of a lake where 2 million people live and to solve its energy woes at the same time, the Rwandan government is embarking on a risky project to extract the methane and use it to generate electricity.

Methane-power generation plants exist elsewhere, but the effort here is the first attempt to extract the gas from underwater and burn it to fuel an electricity plant.

“It’s the first of its kind in the world,” said Albert Butare, Rwanda’s minister of state for infrastructure. “In the beginning, it was a myth. But now the technology is promising.”

The government this month launched a $15-million pilot project that will try to power a four-megawatt generator with methane from the lake. A floating platform, installed this year, dropped a pipe more than three football fields deep to reach the methane-rich water.

An American energy investment firm, New York-based Contour Global, is close to signing a deal to build the permanent electricity plant on Lake Kivu’s shore, which would eventually produce 100 megawatts of sorely needed power for Rwanda, nearly twice the country’s daily production, government officials said.

Previous efforts failed

Only about 5% of Rwandans are connected to the country’s national grid, and prices are twice as high as those of other East African nations because of inadequate supply, mostly from diesel-fueled generators.

“This is the only major domestic resource we have,” Butare said.

Rwanda has tried to exploit the methane before. Efforts date to the 1960s, and a previous pilot program produced enough electricity to power a local brewery. A line of international contractors came and went without success, most recently a Danish outfit whose contract was terminated.

It’s a complicated, potentially dangerous process. Removing the gases could destabilize the lake, leading to an unintended release. Engineers must figure out what to do with excess carbon dioxide, a byproduct of the separation process.

“You need to use gentle methods,” said Charles Nyirahuku, a government manager in charge of the project.

Fishermen also worry about leaks, recalling pipeline cracks in the previous pilot program that poisoned the water around the facility.

“From time to time, you would see dead fish floating in the water near the plant,” said Semajeri Mussa, 35, head of a local fishing cooperative.

But, he said, many fishermen support the idea of removing the methane, which he believes has inhibited animal life in the water. “We think it will be better for us in the long run.”

Doing nothing, government officials point out, carries its own risks.

Fear of boiling lava

In a 2006 report, the United Nations Environmental Program voiced “serious concerns” about volcanic activity around Lake Kivu, noting the 2002 eruption of nearby Mt. Nyiragongo, which blanketed the lakeside city of Goma with lava. Rising water temperatures could ignite the methane.

“Large amounts of boiling lava entering the lake could be more than sufficient to trigger a large overturn, releasing huge amounts of deadly carbon dioxide,” the U.N. agency said.

The lake’s pool of methane, scientists believe, is a result of ancient volcanic activity that mixed carbon dioxide from decaying organic material with bacteria. Gases became trapped at the lake bottom because of varying water temperatures and sediments. The presence of methane is often an indicator of oil, though no reserves have been found.

It remains unclear whether the extraction process will be efficient and cost-effective enough to merit a large-scale project.

“When you are dealing with methane, you have to put a lot of energy into it to turn it into something else,” said Teresa Akenga, a chemistry professor at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. When burned, methane also produces less energy than similar gases, she noted.

But government officials expressed optimism that, after some false starts, the project would succeed, bolstered by modern technology and economic incentives.

Contour Global, a 3-year-old firm that has also invested in an energy project in Minnesota that turns turkey waste into electricity, is expected to invest as much as $200 million.

“They are very comfortable with the technology,” said Richard Mugisha, a Rwandan attorney representing Contour. He said the first phase, a 20-megawatt facility, could be operational in two years.

“It’s never be done on such a grand scale before,” he said. “But we have to do something. If not, we’re sitting on a time bomb.”

Bob the Builder

mayo 17, 2008

Collage by Robert Rauschenberg; courtesy David Byrne

I APPROACHED Bob Rauschenberg in the mid-’80s to design a cover for the Talking Heads record “Speaking in Tongues.” I had recently seen some of his black-and-white photo collages at Leo Castelli’s gallery on West Broadway and thought they were amazing, and I wondered what he would do with an LP cover.

It was not unusual for a pop musician to approach a fine artist in those days; other contemporary artists had collaborated with pop bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I was pleasantly surprised, though, when Bob, who died this week, eschewed simply reproducing a work on the album jacket in favor of re-envisioning what the whole LP package could be.

His package consisted of a conceptual collage piece in which the color separation layers — the cyan, magenta and yellow images that combined to make one full-color image — were, well, deconstructed. Only by rotating the LP and the separate plastic disc could one see — and then only intermittently — the three-color images included in the collage. It was a transparent explication of how the three-color process works, yet in this case, one could never see all the full-color images at the same time, as Bob had perversely scrambled the separations.

Needless to say, the design posed some production problems for Warner Bros. Records, so it ended up a limited, but very large, 50,000-copy edition, released in addition to the regular, mass-produced version. Luckily, everyone shared in the crazy idea of making radical art that could also be popular. Nowadays there might be concerns about the return on investment, but at that time the label let these matters slide.

I later became friends with Bob and his collaborators, and it was an incredible world to enter. I sensed immediately that Bob had never become cynical about his work. Even after he found success, he continued to see the world as a work of art that simply hadn’t been framed yet.

Bob’s way of talking was a challenge to many — he spoke in constant puns and metaphors, like a stream-of-consciousness poet, and one had to suspend traditional forms of speech, understanding and discourse and go with the flow. It was liberating, if you could hang in there, and never mundane. Conversation was like one of his pieces: a crazy mishmash of images, multiple layers and references, and a spray of allusions that were simultaneously silly, profound and beautiful — he was the Neal Cassady of the art world. His life, and his relation to those around him, was just like his work; there was no separation and he never went out of character. The love of the world that was in the work was also in the man.

Bob drank heavily. In the ’80s, I discovered him once at his studio on Lafayette Street, in mid-afternoon, with a glass of Jack in his hand. I, rock ’n’ roll guy, was amazed to see an established artist living one aspect of the rock ’n’ roll life much more intensely than I ever dared. I did wonder if some of the beautiful jumps and leaps in his conversation were partly alcohol-related, but his output remained transcendent, so I figured he was managing it.

Being around Bob was often like being on some kind of ecstatic drug — he inspired those around him to not only think outside of the box, but to question the box’s very existence. He was driven to challenge himself. For his globe-spanning project, Rauschenberg Overseas Cultural Interchange, Bob collaborated with artisans and small factories in Chile, China, Cuba, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Soviet Union, Tibet and Venezuela over many years. In pre-“it is glorious to be rich” China, Bob worked with the oldest paper manufacturer in the world, while in India he worked with mud-manure straw clay. Suspicious of Bob’s motives, some countries forced him to wade through red tape, and his open attitude toward materials and creativity occasionally confounded his traditional artisan collaborators. The results, though, were sometimes wonderful, especially when he managed to break his own mold.

Bob was extraordinarily generous. I don’t mean he gave away art — though he did that, too — but he was generous with his time and with his ideas and spirit. He started Change Inc., a foundation that awards grants to emerging artists who can’t pay their rent, utility or medical bills. No questions asked.

He was, of course, famous for making art out of everyday junk he found on the street. One summer I went down to Captiva Island, Fla., where Bob had his main studio. I stayed across the road in one of the houses he had “saved,” and I spent a week or so writing a few songs. When I returned to New York, I left behind a pair of worn-out tennis shoes. A ghostly image of them showed up in a painting not long after.

Bob’s generosity of vision was, it seemed to me, more profound than the financial kind. His openness and way of seeing was contagious and inspired others in their own work — not to imitate and make pseudo-Rauschenbergs, but to see the whole world as a work of art. As corny as that may sound, that’s what he sometimes did.

David Byrne is a musician and visual artist.

Fuente: NYT

Studio Pei-Zhu: A Disappearing Art Museum

mayo 16, 2008

image

Leer +

Fuente: Archinect

Dominicano pronuncia discurso de graduación en el Berklee College of Music

mayo 16, 2008

BOSTON, Mass. (Estados Unidos).-El joven dominicano Carlos Delgado Imbert obtuvo el honor de ser escogido entre 800 graduados como el Estudiante Orador en la Graduación 2008 del Berklee College of Music, de esta ciudad, por sus altas calificaciones, calidad y dedicación.

Delgado Imbert obtuvo el título de Music Business-Songwriting con los honores Summa Cum Laude, los más altos, y ahora optará por la maestría en Finanzas en  la Northeastern University.

Por el prestigio ganado por el dominicano en la comunidad educativa bostoniano, la Northeastern University le concedió el 40% del costo de sus nuevos estudios.

La graduación fue celebrada el pasado día 10, del presente mes de mayo, y el diario Boston Globe destacó en su reseña el discurso pronunciado por Carlos Delgado Imbert. A continuación el texto en español:

 

Carlos Delgado-Imbert

Estudiante Orador en Graduación 2008

Doble Major en Negocios Musicales/Composición de canciones, Piano

Santo Domingo, República Dominicana

En su autobiografía, Miles Davis inicia la historia de su carrera musical declarando lo siguiente: “Cuando llegué a la música, fui hasta el final en la música. No tuve tiempo después para nada más”.

Creo que si nosotros somos capaces de identificarnos con esta cita, sin duda alguna que seremos exitosos en la música. La clave es tener valor: valor para elevarnos sobre los riscos y crear nuestras propias alas al descender, valor para temer, valor para confiar en nuestros instintos, y valor para ser nosotros mismos.

Hoy  recibiremos nuestros respectivos grados y diplomas de Berklee Collage of Music. Les exhorto a todos –futuros graduandos, padres, familia, y amigos- a no mirar atrás el esfuerzo que significó concluir nuestros estudios, sino recordar los largos días entre clases, ensayos, proyectos, y mirar hacia adelante.  Mirar hacia adelante; listos para abrazarnos a la incertidumbre y los múltiples retos, alimentados por la motivación para utilizar el conocimiento y las experiencias que hemos acumulado. Hasta ahora, todos hemos sido extremadamente activos en  el modelaje de nuestras carreras. Al ingresar a Berklee y completar los programas que eligiéramos hemos avanzado unos pocos pasos. Ahora necesitamos saltar adelante combinando las habilidades que hemos aprendido con el deseo constante de continuar aprendiendo de cada experiencia y cada persona.

Cada uno de nosotros en Berklee ha escuchado, de sus profesores o de sus compañeros, que la industria musical se encuentra actualmente en un “mal momento”.

Estoy 100% en desacuerdo!

La industria musical de hoy promete más que nunca, y será cada vez mejor. Porqué? Muchas razones. Les daré mis dos favoritas:

-Primero, después de la ceremonia de hoy, la industria musical recibirá cerca de 800 graduados de Berklee. El pasado año, Berklee también presentó cerca de 800 graduados a la industria musical. Tan sólo en esta década, Berklee ha presentado más de 4,000 graduados a la industria musical. Berklee ha estado desarrollando talentos desde 1945. Yo confío en el talento de Berklee. Yo confío en que cada graduado de Berklee que se encuentra en este salón, y en que cada graduado de Berklee antes y después de nosotros, nunca será un producto de la conformidad y nunca se rendirá a las ideas de aquellos que dicen que nuestra industria está en un mal momento.

-Segundo, quiero que todos miran a los graduados de hoy y quiero decirles que cada uno de ellos puede ejecutar por lo menos un instrumento, componer y grabar una canción utilizando un computador, y ponerla disponible para todo el mundo gracias al Internet. Quiero saber algo de las personas que dicen que la industria musical está en un mal momento. Quiero saber, cuando hubieron tantas personas capaces de exhibir su música al mundo? La buena voluntad ha existido siempre y ahora está resaltada por la tecnología.

Estamos viviendo actualmente en la era digital de la música. No se trata de un movimiento popular, ni de una subcultura. No es exclusivo al verano de amor, o al “Festival Bonaroo”, o a un estilo de pelo, o a un país, o a un continente. Está por todas partes y ese es el real valor de la era digital. Tecnología, globalización y creatividad marchan juntas para hacer la producción y el consumo de la música más asequible y más posible que nunca.

Este es el momento de entrar en la industria de la música. Las estrellas están todas alineadas y siempre lo estarán para cada generación de instrumentistas, compositores, productores, administradores, agentes de reservaciones, y cualquier persona que quiera desarrollar una carrera en la música. Las posibilidades estarán siempre presentes en tanto podamos soñarlas, despertarnos y convertirlas en una realidad.

El mundo cada vez prescinde más del papel, es más eficiente en el uso de combustible, y los alimentos son libres de grasa y bajos en sodio. Sin embargo, la música nunca será sin-música, músico-eficiente, libre de música o baja de música. Me agrada ese hecho. El campo está abierto para la innovación y quiero innovar, crear, y compartir mis ideas con tantas personas como sea posible. La era digital es el tiempo perfecto para mostrar nuestra música y escuchar lo que otras personas en el todo el mundo tienen para ofrecer.

Su futuro no empieza maña; su futuro empieza ahora mismo. Luego de que reciban su grado o diploma, y lo celebren de la forma en que deseen hacerlo, no esperen que el éxito les llegue. Hagan que el éxito se produzca. Elijan ese camino y pueden contar con que tanto yo como todos los presentes en este acto estarán con ustedes durante su viaje.

De nuevo, la llave del éxito es el valor. Valor para saltar un risco y crear sus alas al descender, valor para temer, valor para confiar en sus instintos, y para valor para ser ustedes mismos.

Porque un original siempre tendrá más valor que una copia.

 

 

 

Jane Jacobs Alive and Well

mayo 16, 2008

Alexie Torres founder /director Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice

By Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

May 4 would have been the 92nd birthday of Jane Jacobs and in honor of the date, the Rockefeller Foundation announced the winners of the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal. Jurors, like Paul Goldberger of The New Yorker, Marilyn Taylor of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and Agnes Gund of the Museum of Modern Art, selected Peggy Shepard for the Lifetime Leadership award and Alexie Torres-Fleming (pictured above) for the New Ideas and Activism award.

Both Shepard and Torres-Fleming have spent their careers fostering the same kind of grassroots activism and community building efforts espoused by Jacobs during her lifetime, and both advocate for environmental and social justice in urban planning.

As the executive director and co-founder of West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc, Shepard, sued the New York City Department of Environmental Protection in 1988 for its careless operation of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant, winning a $1.1 million settlement. Shepard went on to become the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Alexie Torres-Fleming left a budding career in Manhattan to found the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the South Bronx. In 1968, when Jane Jacobs moved her family to Toronto in opposition to the Vietnam War, a young Torres-Fleming was watching her neighborhood burn. “The fires that led to the devastation of the South Bronx in the late 60’s and early 70’s still rage in my mind,” she has written. “I witnessed them day after day as a little girl perched on the ledge of my ninth floor window in the Bronx River Public Housing Projects. I was too little to understand things like ‘Planned Shrinkage,’ ‘Urban Renewal,’ ‘Divestment’ and ‘white flight’ back then. All I knew is that they were frightening and tumultuous times for me and all of the children of the South Bronx.” Today her organization works to empower the young people of this neighborhood.

Shepard and Torres-Fleming will be honored at a ceremony in September where they will each receive $100,000.

Fuente: Metropolis Magazine

ASLA Awards 2008

mayo 15, 2008

ANALYSIS AND PLANNING AWARD OF HONOR

Port Lands Estuary: Reinventing the Don River as an Agent of Urbanism, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects, New York, New York
client: WATERFRONToronto

The American Society of Landscape Architecture Awards 2008 .

Seeking an Amazon solution

mayo 15, 2008

By Fergus Nicoll
BBC News, Amazonas state, Brazil

Seen from a small boat emerging from Puraquequara lagoon into the full flow of the Amazon River, this is a world reduced to water, trees and sky.

It’s a full three kilometres to the other side and at that distance even the forest giants that tower over the canopy seem reduced in size.

Amazonas state – a territory three times the size of France but with a telephone book just a centimetre thick – is 98% pristine rainforest.

But it is an environment threatened by powerful forces – like the march of economic development.

Former Harvard law professor Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the man charged with implementing Brazil’s new Plan for a Sustainable Amazon (PAS), is under no illusions about the difficulties he faces.

This report is part of a BBC World Service special on the Amazon rainforest.

Starting at 0500GMT on Thursday 15 May, there are live and recorded broadcasts.

Highlights include a double edition of Newshour, presented live from three locations in Brazil – Manaus, Pargominas and Alta Floresta – at 1200 and a one hour special at 1600.

“The Amazon is not simply a collection of trees,” Unger, Brazil’s minister for strategic affairs told the BBC.

“It’s a group of people: 25 million Brazilians.

“If those people lack economic opportunities, the practical consequence will be disorganised economic opportunity, which will hasten the deforestation.

“What we must do is develop a regulatory legal and tax regime, ensuring that the forest standing is worth more than the forest cut down.”

‘No Amazon support’

The PAS plan is a detailed, yet controversial roadmap. Environmentalists have criticised it for focusing more on development, than protecting the environment.

Even the appointment of Unger to oversee the plan – rather than the former environment minister and staunch defender of the Amazon, Marina Silva – added to this impression.

Ms Silva resigned on 13 May and she criticised what she said was a lack of political support to protect the Amazon among Brazil’s leaders.

However, the plan’s supporters say seizing control of development in a structured manner is the best way to safeguard the forest’s future.

Among the PAS plan’s initiatives are:

* Develop the infrastructure of the region with new roads, navigable river routes and more hydroelectric dams

* Set up a tax regime benefiting those using sustainable practices

* Establish a legal framework for transferring parts of the forest from public to community control

* Add 3m hectares to the “officially protected” zone

* Seek ways of allowing the international community to help preserve the forest.

Ambitious scheme

In Amazonas state, there are practical examples of how these initiatives might work.

Virgilio Vianna of the Foundation for Amazonas Sustainability said that since 2003, tax breaks on commodities such as fish and fruit had made local producers richer.

One of the state’s most ambitious, and controversial, environmental programmes – The Bolsa Floresta (forest bursary) scheme – was set up to compensate the state’s traditional and indigenous people.

It amounts to a straightforward exchange – cash in hand for trees left standing.

To qualify for a hand-out of 50 reais (US$30) per month, a family must attend a two-day training course on environmental awareness and commit to zero deforestation.

Local community associations can get up to $3,000 under the scheme, financed by a partnership between Amazonas State and Brazil’s largest private bank, Bradesco.

Another programme offers cash for sustainable activities that do not produce smoke, such as bee-keeping, fish-farming or forest management.

Compensation ‘derisory’

But there are those who say the Bolsa Floresta has been ill thought-out, and imposed from above.

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“One of the problems is that there was no discussion with the communities concerned, it was a top-down policy and very focussed on [state capital] Manaus,” said Marta Cunha, of the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission.

The compensation levels are also regarded by some as very low – “derisory” according to Angelus Figueira of the Amazonas Green party.

Defenders say the project – now eight months old – is in its early stages.

Investments by Bradesco and the state should provide more than enough funds to sustain the Bolsa Floresta, its backers say.

And according to Vianna, it’s a sign of the “private sector associating itself with the protection of the forest”.

Globalisation

Another programme – a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification scheme – addresses the question of “ethical logging”.

In a typical FSC-accredited business, just five trees would logged from an area of 10,000 square metres of pristine forest.

Growing global demand for Brazilian commodities has helped accelerate destruction of the Amazon forest.

Deforestation increases and declines according to international prices of beef and soya, as well as the relative strength of the real to the dollar.

But some argue growing demands from the global food market will be matched by increasing concern for environmental responsibility.

Daniel Nepstad, a forest ecologist with more than 20 years of Amazon experience, believes international markets and financial institutions will require more responsible land management on the part of Brazil’s beef ranchers and soya farmers.

“There may be a silver lining to the cloud of globalization that has spread across the Amazon,” Nepstad wrote in a recent report for the Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts.

‘Emergency measures’

Nepstad also predicts Brazil will benefit from the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) initiative, launched under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

We do not see any contradiction in principle between an active economic project and the conservation of this treasure for humanity
Roberto Mangabeira Unger

Under the scheme, he says Brazil would be rewarded for reducing deforestation, because burning the trees releases a vast amount of carbon into the atmosphere.

From the local level to the complexities of macro-economics, an increasing range of incentives is influencing the future of the Amazon forest.

For Roberto Mangabeira Unger, maintaining a careful balance is central to the success of his government’s evolving strategy.

“The commitment to preservation has been long-standing,” he says.

“Emergency measures are under way. The next step is to put in place the elements of a long-term programme.

“We do not see any contradiction in principle between an active economic project and the conservation of this treasure for humanity.”

Front line battle to save Amazon forest
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Paragominas

In the small town of Paragominas, in the Brazilian state of Para, watching operation Arc of Fire can be an impressive sight.

This is the front line in the battle to contain deforestation – police and environmental officials setting off in a convoy of vehicles, with armed soldiers from the national security force for added protection.

The precautions are not unjustified – on a recent operation in the nearby town of Tailandia, residents angered by Arc of Fire and its impact on local firms clashed violently with police.

In Paragominas, bemused local people watch as the police cars, with flashing lights and sirens blaring, make their way out of town en route to a local logging firm three to four hours away.

These officials want to know if the wood there has been legally cut down, and if the owner has the paperwork to prove it.

Illegal ovens

When the convoy reaches the logging firm, the owner is not there, as is often the case, but officials begin checking the wood to see if the law has been broken.

If the owner cannot explain the presence of all the logs in his yard, it could be seized and he may face a significant fine.

A short distance away, police cars stop at a site where row after row of open air ovens are being used to burn wood for charcoal.

Checks reveal that more than the permitted number of dome-shaped ovens has been built, so two are destroyed on the same day.

This operation on the ground in the Amazon has been continuing for two months, and police chief, Sergio Rovani, who is responsible for tackling environmental crimes in Para, insists it is getting results.

According to the official statistics, Arc of Fire has recovered enough illegal wood to fill 1500 trucks, and 1600 hundred charcoal furnaces have been destroyed. Many fines have also been imposed.

‘Destruction is chaotic’

However Sergio Rovani also accepts the scale of the challenges is daunting.

“Para is a giant state which covers 1.3m sq km,” he says.

“It is really of continental dimensions, and we have only four local police stations so we don’t have many resources to confront destruction of the forest that nowadays is so chaotic.

“The police are every day investing more in equipment and recently got new recruits – who are being brought as a priority to states in the north to combat deforestation.”

Paulo Maues, who is the coordinator in Paragominas for Ibama, the Brazilian government’s environmental agency, also acknowledges the difficulties faced by his team.

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“In regard to the wood, we have all sorts of problems -illegal logging, illegal transportation, illegal processing of the wood, fraud,” he says.

“People who deforest justify themselves, saying the state is very slow to release licences. However we’re here to do our job, and to execute the law.”

But public prosecutor Felicio Pontes says the Brazilian government is failing to live up to its responsibilities, and his hopes for the future are heavily qualified.

“It depends if we can get the government to recognise the importance of the question of Amazonia,” he says.

“With operations like Arc of Fire it won’t have effective results and we are going to be in a worse situation in four years time because the federal government is much more concerned nowadays about the money Brazil is getting through exports such as soya and beef.”

Deforestation rate rising

In Belem, the capital of Para, satellite images reveal in intimate detail what is happening on the ground in Paragominas, and in other parts of the Amazon basin.

These are being monitored carefully by Imazon, a non-governmental organisation which was the first to alert the world late last year that deforestation in the Amazon was on the rise again.

Senior researcher Paulo Barreto says deforestation dropped between 2004 and 2006, but in the latter part of 2007 and early 2008 the figures have again been showing a rise.

“Brazil has advanced in terms of improving field inspection, now they go there and issue fines against environmental violators,” he says. “But the application of fines is very weak.

“The second point is the free occupation of public lands in the frontier – allowing people to settle in public lands illegally. Land amounting to about three times the size of the UK is occupied by people who didn’t buy it, or pay a lease, and it is very hard to make these people responsible for environmental violations.”

However there are some signs of changing attitudes, with the local mayor supporting a pact to promote “zero deforestation” and encouraging schoolchildren to learn more about the environment.

Environmental pariahs

The history of Paragominas is the history of deforestation in Amazon – those who came here first were viewed as pioneers opening up the rainforest in order to benefit the rest of the country.

Now they feel like they are environmental pariahs accused of destroying one of Brazil’s and the world’s greatest riches.

This is a community trying to reconcile its economic imperative to survive with the wider issue of protecting the environment.

Paragominas is one of the municipal areas with the worst record of deforestation in the region, and has already destroyed more than 45% of nearby forest cover. The scale of devastation is such that a municipality that used to have 240 sawmills now has fewer than 60, as other towns have taken over a leading role in deforestation.

Amid these changing times there is much talk among the local authorities of a new approach, but a lot of harm has already been done, and it will take even more work if that damage is to be repaired.

Fuente: BBC +amazon in graphics

BIP Computers, Chile / Alberto Mozó

mayo 10, 2008

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Fuente: Plataforma Arquitectura