Monthly Archives: September 2007

Urban Spectacles of Wood

While flipping through the pages of (totally not-green-related) Fader Magazine the other day, I came across a little blurb on these beautiful hand-carved wooden glasses in the style section. Intrigued, I went to the website for Urban Spectacles of Wood, where I became entranced by the truly nature-inspired craftsmanship of Scott Urban, the brain and hands behind these beautiful spectacles. Urban designs and hand carves each pair of frames (or carves frames that you design) from an array of ‘eccentric and durable hardwoods,’ as well as other materials such as stone, aluminum and more. The wooden glasses are as lightweight and durable as the plastic ones most of us are used to, and the natural pores of the wood actually breathe with your skin and contour to the shape of your dome.




For you spectacle-wearing wax enthusiasts out there, Urban even fashions frames from records:


Beer lovers? Check these hilarious yet artfully crafted beer goggles (made from actual beer bottles):


Rogue Dead Guy Ale, an excellent choice.

Die hard cyclists? Yes, Urban has even made frames out of bike parts:


Is there anything out there this ninja-worthy craftsman cannot fashion into spectacles??

As we at green.mnp care about our forests, it is important to point out that so does Urban. He gets the exotic woods for his spectacles through a couple lumber companies, Rare Earth Hardwoods and L.L. Johnson Lumber. L.L. Johnson is Forest Stewardship Council certified. Rare Earth Hardwoods sources its exotic wood from Brazil through its sister company Amazon Timber Frames (ATF), and maintains that the wood is sourced in an environmentally sustainable way:

[Richard Paid, President] spends one in ten days a year in Brazil, and he is very sensitive to concerns about preserving its greatest natural resource. “Our goal is to have as little impact on the environment as possible while still producing wood products,” he says.

A little-known fact to many outside Brazil is that many times, even the trees being cut down legally to clear the land for private farming and ranching are subsequently either left on the ground to rot or are burned. That’s where ATF comes in. ATF and its on-site partner, Zero Impact Brazil (ZIB), make arrangements with landowners to buy and remove this unwanted timber. ZIB’s open books confirm that the two companies are committed to ecologically sound business practices and are therefore, in essence, what the timber industry calls a “green” operation. Says Paid: “We don’t cut any trees. We’re not taking raw resources and leaving, but rather salvaging what would otherwise be wasted and whose burning would contribute to air pollution. Our business also helps the country’s economy by creating well-paying jobs for local craftsmen, something that is desperately needed in the heart of Brazil’s Amazon region.”

To learn more about Urban Spectacles of Wood (and be entertained for hours), check its website

ART DAY! Insect Inspired Art

If you have not seen this past Friday’s ART DAY! over at myninjaplease, you must go check it out. This week was all about the integration of art and insects (inspired by green.mnp’s own Savage Worms series, yay). Best ART DAY! to date…in my humble bug-(& art)-loving opinion. Fly on over to to see more beautifully buggy art and to learn about the artists. You can even watch a video of an insect making its own artful home!




Shizen Nouhou

Following on from Midori’s post yesterday, this month’s issue of Orion Magazine contains a lovely article by Lisa M. Hamilton on shizen nouhou, natural agriculture, as practiced by the Shumei group in Japan. Hamilton profiles a farmer named Susumu Hashimoto, who explains how his daily work is a means of spiritual devotion. Hamilton asks him what he hopes to accomplish through shizen nouhou’s labor-intensive, low-yield method of growing food:

“’World peace,’ he replied, then smiled and waited for the next question, as if there were nothing more to say.”

Read the full article, “Land, Farmer, Community: A Sacred Trust,” on Orion Magazine’s website. And while you’re there, don’t miss the gorgeous poem “Boundaries” by the great Mary Oliver in the same issue. The archive of past issues holds such gems as “Small Wonder” by Barbara Kingsolver (an essay reflecting on miracles, myth, and the nature of war), “The Naturalist” by Barry Lopez (discussing the importance of sitting quietly by a river), “Tumult of Vision” by David Abram (introducing the beautiful photographs of Mathew Chase-Daniel), and a lovely little essay on the humble tortilla by Rebecca Allen.

The painting above is “Seed Saver” by Steven Kenny.


Solar Trees by Ross Lovegrove

Speaking of biomimicry




Solar Tree is a solar-powered street lighting systemdesigned by Ross Lovegrove for the Museum for Angewandte Kunst (MAK) in Vienna. The lighting has been engineered by Artemide in collaboration with Sharp Solar.

A project stimulated by the MAK in Vienna that celebrates DESIGN, NATURE AND ART. Therefore it represents the DNA of our times and the need to converge the most advanced technologies with that of the beautification of our collective environment.

The SOLAR TREES communicate more than light… they communicate the trust of placing beautifully made, complex natural forms outside for the benefit of all of society becoming a museum that if folded inside out, the museum as an incubator of change in society… and with this the promotion of environmental science and the joy of the new aesthetics made possible by the digital process.


LAYERING: outside in casa cultura


This is a manifesto of sorts. It proposes juxtaposing the high-tech with the low-tech, intertwining, weaving, stitching and carving the ideas and ethos of one cultural fabric onto another. A matrix created from combining and superimposing layers of cultural image. The vast canvas of landscape is the natural place to undertake this task. This project seeks to integrate multiple cultures and landscapes by layering from the outside in. This notion of layering, outside in, is also used as the primary methodology for this thesis. It is believed that the layering is the way in which we live now. This is unconscious to most but evidence for this strengthens with each passing day. Layering as a method allows independence, letting each layer work on its own and in concert with the others. It provides a mechanism for fluctuation in programmatic and formal inventions. In both plan and elevation, the layers are evident formally as facades, superimposing on each other within the whole. Programmatically, layering occurs between the boundaries of architecture, entertainment and information. On the landscape, layers are shaped to make space more useful and to provide provocation.


Life Creates Conditions Conducive to Life


[image: ‘Supertrees’ by Grant-Associates]

Sounds simple, right? That life creates an environment suited for life is a fact constantly taken for granted by humankind, as we’re the only life that doesn’t follow this beautifully simple rule. Its really quite fascinating how we view ourselves, as something outside of nature – something unnatural. So what’s a ninja to do, you ask? Borrow all the best ideas from your surroundings, and adapt them to your needs : enter biomimicry.


There’s an interesting article at the Architects Newspaper, by Lisa Delgado, discussing biomimicry in architecture, engineering + design – which points out a number of interesting projects that emulate systems found in nature, including trees and termite mounds. The article also pointed me in the direction of Janine Benyus [the speaker from the TED video above], a scientist and author investigating biomimicry and educating designers in how they can learn from nature [also the founder of]. Here’s an introduction to Biomimicry, from

Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a design discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example of this “innovation inspired by nature.”

The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on Earth. This is the real news of biomimicry: After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

::a podcast featuring Janine Benyus from IT Conversations::

Venus, Mars and Titan: Predicting Earth’s Climate Future


David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist, author, and 2006 recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal has some very interesting insights into the world outside of Earth. In “Ghosts of Climates Past,” an article published in SEED Magazine, Grinspoon presents a convincing theory on the ways we might be able to predict the environmental future of Earth by studying the environmental pasts of some of the other planets in our solar system.

Climate is hard to predict because planetary climate systems are full of nonlinear feedback effects that tend to dampen (negative feedback) or amplify (positive feedback) any possible changes. Even though the sun has grown steadily brighter since its birth 4.6 billion years ago, Earth’s climate has stayed within the range of liquid water and “life as we know it” due to a negative feedback loop that sucks carbon out of atmospheric CO2, producing carbonate rock, and volcanoes that pump CO2 back into the air. This process creates a natural thermostat. Regardless of climate, the Earth exhales CO2. But the rate of removal of atmospheric CO2 is highly sensitive to this climate, speeding up exponentially when it is hotter and grinding to a halt when the continents freeze over. A lengthy ice age will always cause a buildup of warming CO2, and a hot period will eventually lower the CO2, cooling our planet again. As the sun slowly brightens over billions of years (by 30 percent so far over its lifetime), this thermostat gradually lowers the overall CO2 content of the atmosphere. Given enough time to respond to any provocation, our climate is stable.

Greenspoon explains how both Venus and Mars started out with climates and landscapes similar to Earth’s – complete with oceans, volcanoes and carbon cycles. He then describes the conditions on Venus and Mars which catalyzed the collapse of the feedback loop maintaining each planet’s temperate climate.

Venus was doomed because of its close proximity to the Sun. As the sun grew brighter over time, it evaporated more and more of Venus’s water, which in turn warmed the atmosphere further (yes, water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas), creating a positive feedback loop and a runaway greenhouse effect. With volcanoes continuing to erupt and nothing to sequester the emitted carbon, Venus developed “an almost pure CO2 atmosphere 100 times as thick as Earth’s, and a much higher temperature. It’s now hot enough there to fry our spacecraft and destroy all forms of earthly life.”


Mars was a totally different story. Despite its “early billion-year spree of rivers, rainfall, warmer climate, and possibly even life,” the 4th planet from the Sun was simply too small. It didn’t have enough gravitational pull to hold onto its atmosphere. Losing its atmosphere cooled Mars, freezing its water and volcanic core so that now, “Little Mars is doubly damned to be a frozen desert.”


The third comparison Greenspoon makes is not to a planet, but a moon – one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. The reason for his interest in Titan is that it is the only other body in our solar system with an atmosphere that is made of mostly nitrogen. It’s atmosphere also has about 5% methane, a potent greenhouse gas. At a “remarkably warm” -180 degrees C and a pressure around 117 millibar, Titan’s atmosphere is near the triple point of methane (meaning the methane can exist as a solid, liquid or gas) a la Earth’s atmospheric temperature and pressure hovering near the triple point of water. Subsequently, it seems, Titan has a ‘methalogical’ system (rather than a hydrological system) with rivers, clouds and rains of methane.

Of course, an important difference is that life itself is intimately involved in terrestrial climate cycles, though it is conceivable that some exotic form of life is involved in the methane cycle on Titan. My colleague Dirk Schulze-Makuch and I have recently proposed a methane-based metabolism for creatures that could live off of the energy and carbon cycling through Titan’s atmosphere. Maybe a biosphere could maintain the climate in a range that facilitates its own survival. It is worth remembering that we are still profoundly ignorant about life, and its possibilities, in the universe. Clearly, complex feedbacks, which we are just beginning to elucidate, have played a role in the evolution of Titan’s climate and will help us to understand those on Earth.


Without much commentary on the current status of Earth’s global warming, Greenpoon subtly reminds us that “a stable, comfortable planetary climate, especially in the face of increasing industrial provocation, is not something one can take for granted.” And he says, “What we have learned from our celestial investigations is that there are many processes that can doom a once mild planet to an eternity of fire or ice.” Unfortuanately, let’s be real ninjas, we have a pretty low success rate of heeding lessons learned from our own history. Can we really expect to heed those from entirely different solar bodies?
[SEED Magazine]

Designing Cradle to Cradle


William McDonough speaks at TED on the wisdom of designing ‘Cradle to Cradle‘.

Today, with our growing knowledge of the living earth, design can reflect a new spirit. In fact, when designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun’s energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.

What is our intention as a species?

::more info, and videos, at TED::