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The Archive:

January 2012

Unforgettable rides

Steve McGrath · January 17th, 2012

These gorgeous bikes are made of discarded trees – maybe even one you climbed as a kid.

“With urban wood, we know where it came from,” says Bill Holloway, proprietor of Masterworks Wood and Design in San Jose, Calif., in the slick video below. “We know a little history of the tree, so you get a story with it. [Customers] remember playing in that tree in their yard as a kid and their parents have passed, and they now own the house, and the tree is dying or is unsafe for some reason and needs to be removed. They think it’s really cool that we can salvage that tree, give it a second life and give it back to them as something they can ride.”

This is a great example of relevance – an experience that transcends mere logic and involves emotions, senses and community impulses.

From a logical perspective, these bikes are efficient, stylish transportation. What makes them wonderful, however, is, well, the other stuff: the exhilaration of riding, the liberation from oil, the tribute to carbon-eating trees, the reuse of valuable resources, the preservation of craftsmanship, the tactile sense of “having a piece of art under you,” and the emotional experience of sustaining a priceless family memory.

Pedal on.

(Via Urban Velo)

2012: The Year of the Tree

Steve McGrath · January 10th, 2012

Year of the Tree? Well, that’s my vote as I see these carbon dioxide-eating, oxygen-producing engines of our planet endangered all around.

To the south, for example, Texas just lost as many as 500 million. “In 2011, Texas experienced an exceptional drought, prolonged high winds and record-setting temperatures. Together, those conditions took a severe toll on trees across the state,” said Burl Carraway, head of the Texas Forest Service’s sustainable forestry department. “Large numbers of trees in both urban communities and rural forests have died or are struggling to survive. The impacts are numerous and widespread.” A half billion trees would be equivalent to 10 percent of the state’s 4.9 billion tree population.

A case of global weirding? Who can say.

And to the north, environmentalists say Maine’s governor is jeopardizing the state’s forests, as well as the green building movement, by effectively banning the use of LEED in construction in state-owned buildings. At issue is an ongoing battle over standards over standards for sustainable timber harvest.

“The Governor’s action constitutes government-sponsored greenwashing,” said the Natural Resources Defense Councils forestry specialist Sami Yassa, Senior Scientist and Director of NRDC’s Markets Initiative. “Eliminating LEED effectively turns Maine’s once-great green building program into business as usual. The Governor has chosen to benefit a small segment of the state’s logging industry, often financed by out-of-state interests, who refuse to improve their practices.” The administration says it’s simply creating “an even playing field among the diverse forest certification groups.”

Joining us in mourning the passing of trees is Oxford University, which is hosting a traveling exhibition of strangely beautiful tangled tree stumps. It’s called the Ghost Project. Here’s one of the specimens:

We humans love trees, don’t we?

Yes, we do, but our love has its limits. In 2009, Americans started prioritizing economic growth over the environment, according to Gallup.  Last spring, by a 53-38 margin, Americans agreed that “economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.”

Practical perhaps, but also scary.  The planet has been losing 10 hectares of forest per minute, according to UN numbers.

This is why, for me, 2012 is The Year of the Tree.

What about you?

Incisive infographic

Steve McGrath · January 9th, 2012

I love this infographic on wind turbine noise (or stealthiness, depending on your perspective). It’s clear, cogent and relevant.

Click here for a larger image 

Although the infographic medium is by nature concise, this one is a paragon of efficiency, using just one picture statement to make the case. No scrolling required. (Many infographics, though well done, take a couple of minutes to digest and can really test your patience.)

This one also puts arcane statistics in a familiar context, something communications pros too often forget to do. The average person hasn’t the faintest idea how loud 40 decibels are. Oh, equivalent to refrigerator at 150 meters. I get it now.

I also like the prominence of GE’s logo. We don’t have to wonder who’s behind this because they’ve already told us. If we had to search for fine print or track back the source by the URL, we’d suspect  the author is hiding something. Does the logo make the info seem canned? Not really. Sure, we know GE has a dog in this fight.  GE knows we know. They’re entitled to the floor from time to time. It’s all good.

What important message do you need to convey that might best be articulated graphically? What stats could you put in better context?

Via Treehugger