Archive | October, 2013

Banksy Gives New Meaning To ‘Bubble Letters’ On The Final Day Of His New York Show

31 Oct


It’s October 31, the final day of street artist Banksy’s 31-day installation on the streets of New York City.

For his last work, the artist tagged his name on a building in Queens, off the Long Island Expressway, using inflatable balloons. It’s a nice twist on a classic style of New York graffiti, and a fitting way to end his show.

The work is located at at 35th Street and Borden Avenue, according to Animal New York.


He writes on his website: “An inflatable throw-up on the Long Island Expressway. And that’s it.
Thanks for your patience. It’s been fun. Save 5pointz. Bye”

5Pointz is a reference to a Queens street art mecca that’s slated to be torn down to make way for luxury apartments.

In an audio guide accompanying the work (available on Banksy’s website), the narrator says Banksy said of his month-long endeavor: “If just one child has been inspired to pick up a can of paint and make some art, that would be statistically disappointing considering how much work I put in.”

He also said that if there was one cohesive message from the show, it’s that “Outside is where art should live, among us,” and that “rather than street art being a fad, maybe the last 1,000 years of art history are a blip, when art came inside in the service of the church and institutions.”

One final smirk from the elusive artist: An offer on his website for “the official Banksy New York residency souvenir T shirt.” Just take the jpg to the store and order a copy yourself:


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“We should not have to handle chicken as if it were a loaded gun”

30 Oct



Chris Tackett
Business / Corporate Responsibility

Last week, when the AP reported on how Argentine farmers were being poisoned by chemical fertilizers from Monsanto, Monsanto’s response was essentially that the farmers were to blame for misusing the chemicals.

Following the recent spate of people hospitalized due to salmonella on chicken, Mark Bittman shines a light on the similarly disconcerting shifting of blame regarding the safety of chicken.

We should not have to handle chicken as if it were a loaded gun, nor should we be blamed when contaminated chicken makes us sick

U.S.D.A. does not stand alone. The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.), knowing that manufacturers grow animals under conditions virtually guaranteed to breed disease, allows them to attempt to ward off disease by feeding them antibiotics from birth until death. (This despite the stated intention of the agency to change that, and a court order requiring it to.) This rampant drug use has led to new strains of bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics. And the situation is getting worse.

Believe it or not, the presence of salmonella on chicken is both common and acceptable. (About a quarter of all chicken parts are contaminated, a fact of which F.S.I.S. is fully aware and which it is evaluating.) From the Centers for Disease Control: “It is not unusual for raw poultry from any producer to have salmonella bacteria. C.D.C. and U.S.D.A.-F.S.I.S. recommend consumers follow food safety tips to prevent salmonella infection from raw poultry produced by Foster Farms or any other brand.”

Right. But if salmonella was ever easily killed by careful handling and cooking, perhaps that is no longer the case; perhaps it’s more virulent and heartier, and it certainly now defies some antibiotics.

I was especially moved by one particular line in Bittman’s post: “165 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t a magic number.”

Like everyone, I have always thought that cooking chicken to that temperature would mean it was safe to eat, but these recent outbreaks have suggested that some strains of salmonella could theoretically survive in higher temps, which is why Costco cooks their chicken to 185 degrees. And they still ended up with contaminated chicken, even after cooking.

Just as we’re seeing the overuse of antibiotics in medicine and factory farming has created new super bugs that are resistant to our existing drugs, are we now seeing super salmonella? It’s possible.

Super salmonella or not, there’s a lot to improve upon for our food system to be considered safe and sustainable.

Bittman rightly says that the real solution is not on the consumer end, but requires reforming the production system. He suggests a couple easy solutions:

1. The F.D.A. must disallow the use of prophylactic antibiotics in animal production. It’s almost as simple as that.

2. The U.S.D.A. must consider salmonella that’s been linked to illness an “adulterant” (as it does strains of E. coli), which would mean that its very presence on foods would be sufficient to take them off the market. Again, it’s almost as simple as that. (Sweden produces chicken with zero levels of salmonella. Are they that much smarter than us?)



10 Global Destinations To Visit Without Leaving Home

30 Oct



Did you know you can take a trip around the world today for free…and from your desk? “How?”, you might ask. By using Google Street View, which now allows virtual visitors around and inside many fascinating locations around the globe, all with a 360 degree view. Here are 10 of the most interesting places to visit right now during a lunch break…


1. The Tate Modern: Barring those fortunate enough with the option to jet set across the pond regularly, most of us will find some solace in the opportunity to visit the Tate Modern, Britain’s national gallery of international modern artwork (the most-visited modern art gallery in the world!). Take a walk through the museum here.


2. The Kennedy Space Center: Walk about the Kennedy Space Center and check out NASA highlights.




3. The Museo Lamborghini: located in Sant’Agata is a virtual feast for the eyes for lovers of the Italian bull. What makes this tour even more special is the beautiful contemporary design of the museum itself, competing with the cars for best of show.


4. The Mazda Museum: the car company’s Hiroshima museum feels eerily like a sterile lab. The white walls contrast well with the unique automobiles of Mazda history.


5. CERN: While the search for the Higgs boson at CERN might have been quite elusive, we get ourselves an easy peek at the Large Hadron Collider and the unbelievable technology used to find it.


6. Inside a Emirates’ A380 airplane: Boarding the luxurious Emirates’ A380 no longer requires a $20,000 first class ticket, offering amenities and space most small home owners would envy.


7. J. Paul Getty Museum: The smaller, but older (and somewhat hidden) sibling of the world famous Richard Meier designed Getty Center, the J. Paul Getty Museum houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs, with grounds dotted with Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, of which over 1,200 are on view.


8. The Colosseum: Walk with the spirits of the gladiators of yore within the hallowed walls of the Roman Colosseum and marvel at the centuries old technology and underground labrynth that brought appeasing entertainment to the masses.


9. The Galapagos Islands:
For those with a passion for science and history, how about visiting the protected isles of the Galapagos, made famous by one Charles Robert Darwin. The street view extends all across the island and out to the ocean with multiple views available here.


10. The Wieliczka Salt Mine: How’s this for a unique destination: the Wieliczka Salt Mine is an subterranean museum with dozens of statues, three chapels, and an entire cathedral that has been carved out of the rock salt by the miners!


Check out more fascinating Google Street View interiors of landmarks, natural wonders, businesses, museums, and more.


India’s Man Problem

29 Oct

In a country rife with sexual assault, too many “good men” look the other way.



Light Matters: Europe’s Leading Light Festivals

29 Oct

Light Matters: Europe’s Leading Light Festivals


Srđa Popović

29 Oct

Srđa Popović

Is sustainability a dangerous myth fuelling over consumption?

28 Oct


Our pursuit of constant growth can never be sustainable. Instead, we must deconstruct our consumer society to consume less and value more

Tuesday 20 August 2013 was Earth Overshoot Day, the day every year when humanity exceeds the yearly ecological limits of the planet, and starts to consume and pollute more than the Earth can endure.

Back in 1972, The Limits to Growth had warned that we would soon exceed the ‘carrying capacity’ of the planet, and by the mid-1980s the authors were proved right. Since that time, industrial civilization has been bankrupting future generations not just financially, but by stealing an unfair proportion of their resources.

Unless dramatic changes are made, within 20 years the global supply of oil, fresh water, food and many minerals will cease to meet demand. Yet even against this backdrop, I believe that we should cease our dangerous obsession with ‘sustainability‘.

Life is a physically consumptive process. It is therefore impossible to live sustainably, as by pursuing our continued existence we inevitably deny at least some resources to those to come. Granted, we can choose to go about our business more sustainably, and this is a laudable goal. But every time the dreaded ‘s’ word is thrown into a policy or strategy, it helps to spread the propaganda that there is a means of continuing to live as we do now, but in a sustainable fashion.

Recycling and renewables: a false sense of reality?

Let’s take two practical examples. Firstly, there is the idea that we can seek sustainability by recycling. Certainly putting things into reuse rather than landfill is a good idea. But sadly no technology exists that can efficiently turn discarded products into pristine raw materials.

All current recycling is at best downcycling, as high-quality metals and plastics are reclaimed in low-quality guises with a limited range of applications. We therefore need to seriously promote the solution of consuming far fewer things, rather than continuing to propagate the growing belief that mass consumerism can continue unabated providing that everything we throw away is magically recycled.

Just as recycling does not provide a sustainable means of consuming physical resources, there is also no renewable energy source to which we can transition. In fact, there is no such thing as renewable energy at all. All means of power generation consume non-replenishable resources. Wind turbines, for example, require towers, generators and sails to be constructed, while photovoltaic solar cells do not materialise out of thin air. All forms of alternative power generation also have a limited working life, as well as a relatively low net energy yield.

Back in the 1930s, the sweetest forms of petroleum gushed so freely from the ground that their energy return on investment (EROI) was roughly 100:1. This means that 100 units of energy were produced for each unit of resource consumed. Yet today petroleum extraction is usually a far more intensive process, and typically results in an EROI of between 40:1 and 20:1. The EROI for natural gas, and for unconventional oil obtained from shale or tar sands, is then well below 10:1. EROI values for wind power typically max out at 18:1, often far less, while photovoltaic solar has an EROI below 10:1, as do wave power and biofuels.

Due to falling EROI values, the cost of energy will keep increasing, while energy supply will continue to fall. There is simply no known energy source that can deliver anything like the EROI and hence the cheap and abundant energy that we have become addicted to. This is also hardly a surprise. Today we burn around one million years of stored photosynthesis annually, and yet hope to sustainably transition to a form of energy (such as wind or solar) that has to deliver its output in real-time. There really is only one option on the medium-term horizon, and that is for us all to use far less energy.

Fashionable but not feasible?

Sadly right now, sustainability has become a trendy obsession. Perhaps the only thing that most politicians, economists and many business leaders crave even more foolishly is constant economic growth. In plain survival terms, the latter is as ludicrous a proposition as the former. It is therefore not surprising that spin-doctors and marketeers have conflated the two concepts into the preposterous notion of “sustainable economic growth”.

No natural system – from an amoeba to a civilisation – has ever managed to fight entropy and to sustain itself forever, let alone to grow indefinitely without hastening its inevitable demise. Indeed, in the biological world, constant growth is more normally a sign of obesity or cancer, rather than a healthy state of affairs.

Rather than striving toward sustainability, we would should start focusing on how we can least painfully deconstruct our consumer society and transition to a world in which we consume things less and value things more. To see how this may be achieved, we also only have to look back to the first half of last century.

Lessons from history

Only a few generations ago it was normal to purchase products intended to last a lifetime, and which were frequently repaired. In bizarre contrast, today it is not uncommon for people to still be paying for things that they have long since been discarded. The obsession with with mass disposability must be broken, and an age in which product repair is a common and natural activity must return. There are signs that this is starting to happen with an increasing number of people are joining ‘hackerspaces’ or ‘fab labs’, and in the process becoming part of the growing Maker Movement that seeks to fabricate and repair its own stuff. Even some corporates are getting in on the act. In October 2011, Apple made a patent application that included a variety of new designs for portable devices that would be easier to repair.

Another positive and possible strategy is localisation. For decades most economists have preached the benefits of globalisation, while ignoring its horrific impact on the environment and future generations. I am not suggesting that all forms of global trade should cease but we cannot go on wasting one seventh of the planet’s resources on transportation.

We could purchase as much but consume far fewer resources by sourcing many basic goods – including food and clothing – on a far more local basis. Most economists may tell you that this is a lie. But should we really continue to trust those who still preach the benefits of the consumer society and the need for constant economic growth?

We live on a small planet whose resource envelope we have already significantly exceeded. Any suggestion it is possible to sustainably continue to live as we do today has to be a dangerous proposition. Even if we could tap the resources of the stars we could never build a world that is sustainable. Labelling our endeavours as such, and poisoning our minds with the folly of the sustainability concept, is a pursuit that we ought to seriously question.

Christopher Barnatt is an associate professor in Nottingham University Business School, and the author of nine books, including Seven Ways to Fix the World. He runs the website

Guardian Professional, Monday 28 October