Here's the weather report...

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art displays an exhibition on world climate change.

By MORDECHAI BECK
October 18, 2019 00:25
Here's the weather report...

The BIG U is a multifaceted flood-protection project that provides additional benefits such as recreation, public health, clean air, stormwater management, access to the waterfront, and additional transportation options.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Climate change is with us, whether we wish it or not. The entire globe is warming up accompanied by extreme weathers, the likes of which we have never experienced: floods, the melting of ice at the North and South poles, extra high temperatures in the 40s Celsius, forest fires.

All of these, and more, are indications that the world we know is entering into a dangerous phase that if not acted upon speedily, could mean the death of our planet.

But there are positive responses, as the new exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – “Solar Guerrilla: Constructive Responses to Climate Change” – attempts to show.

“It explores our relationship to the environment through a series of projects in the fields of architecture and design, art and craft,” says the curator, Maya Vinitsky.

According to the director of the museum, Tania Coen Uzzielli: “The exhibition showcases a series of interdisciplinary collaborations with a range of private and public institutions, commercial companies and professionals around the world.” Coen Uzzielli is concerned that the museum engages in the public debate of what is perhaps the most pressing issue of our time. The very name “Guerrilla” suggests that the exhibits are meant to be aggressive, if subversive.

The exhibit is accompanied by a book which is divided into six themes written by architects, Utopian architects, city planners, landscape architects, activists, environmental developers, departments of municipalities and science-fiction writers.

One of the last mentioned, Kim Stanley Robinson, gives an overview of the future, which is gruesomely frightening. He imagines a world in which the sea has risen to an extent that one-eighth of the world’s population will be directly affected, fishing and agriculture will be endangered, and the world’s shipping will be under a massive threat. And this is only nature reacting to the warming of the planet.

On a human level, he points out that if electricity, for example, was evenly shared among the nations, then each nation should use about 2000 watts per year. Europeans, however, currently use some 5,000-5,500 watts, the USA some 10,000-12,000 watts, the Chinese 1,500 watts, India 1,000 watts and Bangladesh 300. Israel moves closer to the standard at 2,500 watts per year.

The main danger comes from our use of carbon, which enters the environment and drives up temperatures. Robinson makes the fair suggestion that governments could reduce this use by rewarding those who lower their use of carbon.

“We need a combination of political support and a change in personal habits,” he writes. The overall goal is to switch to clean energy. The question is whether this is possible.

What prevents this? Capitalism certainly has a major part. Firstly, as Robinson puts it, capitalism looks for profit and in so doing publicizes false data, or, as he puts it: “Paid liars deny that climate is changing.”

His own prescription is to nationalize fossil-fuel companies and then regulate them tightly, using the wealth engendered by such policies to invest in clean energy.

The Paris Agreement of December 2015 was a first step in this direction, when an international group of earth scientists, atmospheric scientists, oceanographers, hydrologists, and geologists proposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus take control of the changes in climate. But what are more practical steps to prevent coming disasters?

The actual exhibition opens with a display of geological models showing how climate change over millions of years have left clues in the earth as to the changes in climate, eruptions of seismic scope and so forth. There are other physical hints that can be analyzed, such as rings in ancient trees. But however sophisticated the modern instruments are that measure these geological phenomenon, the findings are open to contradictory results and can lead to a wrong interpretation of any given data.

“Weather” writes Professor Pinhas Alpert, “is not the same as climate. Whereas weather is what we experience every day, climate is ‘a grouping of data concerning different weather conditions that is gathered daily, hourly, every second.’”

It takes 30 or perhaps 40 years in order to define major climate changes. Besides human observation and automatic instruments, this is also measured by satellites. All this makes the analysis of climate change highly complex and somewhat tentative. Nevertheless it is clear that temperatures have been on the increase since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th century. Much of this has been caused by human activity, by the releasing of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and therefore triggering worldwide climate instability.

The focus of all the displays is on cities that can serve as laboratories for experimenting with solutions. The urban setting is the optimal unit capable of influencing these radical shifts in environmental and social change, because it is in urban settings that temperatures rise the most. The more concrete that is poured onto the earth’s surface, the hotter the temperature.

To put things into perspective, we are told in the essay on the Park Royal Hotel in Singapore that “2% of the land of our planet is urbanized, yet this 2% consumes 80% of our energy.” Moreover, “the consumption of fossil-fuel energy in our cities is destroying our planet, and we are all suffering from the global consequences of unsustainable urban growth.”

In response to these global problems, the Park Royal Hotel incorporated pools, waterfalls, planter terraces, and green walls (covered by vegetation) and hanging gardens.

Similarly, an Italian invention called Vertical Forests sees trees planted up and down high-rise buildings that are covered by vegetation. These innovations somewhat resemble the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Austrian-Jewish artist and architect who designed and built houses covered by vegetation some 50 years ago! This included his own house that he built in New Zealand, where he lived a largely self-sufficient life using solar panels, a water wheel, and a biological water purification plant. Also, his first grass roofs experiment took place there. So much for the artistic pioneers.

Many of the models in the current exhibition show possible solutions to the mess that we humans have gotten ourselves into. There are projects that involve huge areas of land such as the Houtan Park project in Shanghai, in which a vast expanse of polluted waterway has been reconstructed into a safe and pleasant public space producing an ecologically rich space for vegetation.

In transforming these wetlands into a place for recreation, education and research, the project has reconnected people to the water’s edge and regenerated the landscape at the edge of the city.

The Big U in Manhattan is an example of how a project is created in response to a natural disaster, in this instance the disastrous Hurricane Sandy of 2012 which caused $65 billion worth of damages and economic loss. Teams from around the world produced holistic designs to prevent another such disaster. The results produced a flood-protection project that generated additional green and recreational spaces, access to the waterfront, clean air and storm-water management.

Other innovations include an Israeli invention that turns humidity from the air into clean and fresh drinking water, and another scheme, from Italy, which harvests fog and dew, transforming them into usable water. Both of these inventions are in use, especially in Africa, where the availability of clean water has become critical.

Another Israeli invention called Eco Wave Power uses the power of sea water to produce cheap electricity.

Other inventions include the Vertical Field Agriculture System, which allows for the growth of dozens of types of vegetables on vertical platforms using hydroponic technologies, and the Breeze Meter originating from Haifa for detecting air pollutants.

The importance of the sun as a source of almost limitless energy is emphasized throughout the exhibition. As one observer put it: “Every hour the sun produces more energy than all of humanity could use in an entire year.”

MIT’s “Solar Edge,” for example, is a solar system consisting of modules made up of PV cells that transform sunlight into clean electricity. It epitomizes an environmentally friendly energy response.

Solar energy has inspired inventions in Abu Dhabi, England, and Copenhagen as well as in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, where the first sustainable district is being planned on the coast that incorporates housing units, areas of commerce, higher education and hotels, and emphasizes pedestrian traffic throughout using electric buses as the preferred means of transportation.

That time is an ever-present factor in bringing these important inventions to the public goes without saying. The rate of melting ice at the poles, for example, seems to speed up with every new survey. Even on more domestic levels, public policy has to respond quickly to the new opportunities afforded by these innovations. The Jerusalem Report asked the exhibition guide why no one had forced Israeli builders involved in the Tama38 project of renovating houses to plant trees and vegetation on the new roofs that they were constructing. The answer was that the municipalities throughout the country had neglected to incorporate this green aspect into their plans, although they had heard of one company that was now doing it.

The exhibition, which runs to December 15, is definitely worth a visit.


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