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Posts Tagged ‘somerville’

A Dutch diplomat started following me on twitter. He’s a Yale World Fellow, so how bad could it be? (Better than, say, Contagious Disease Fellow.)

@Alex_Verbeek is focused on environmental issues, and today he tweeted about the Stockholm Environment Institute, “ is ranked second best think tank worldwide.”

Because of my Swedish relatives, I naturally felt curious about SEI and looked it up. The website doesn’t say which think tank is first — or at least not prominently — but it does say that the US office is in Somerville, Mass., of all things. You learn something every day. I did know that the great environmental radio show Living on Earth is in Somerville, but the city is still a bit under the shadow of its industrial past.

From SEI’s website: “SEI’s vision is a sustainable future for all. Our mission is ‘to support decision-making and induce change towards sustainable development around the world by providing integrative knowledge that bridges science and policy in the field of environment and development’.

“To deliver on our mission, we work across issues like climate change, energy systems, water resources, air quality, land-use, sanitation, food security, and trade, and we approach these issues from a range of perspectives from the natural and social sciences.

“We combine scientific research with policy analysis, connecting our work to decision-makers and civil society in global governance, national public policy, regional cooperation, local planning, and the private sector. We generate and share knowledge that catalyses action, and always take a highly collaborative approach: stakeholder involvement is at the heart of our efforts to build capacity, strengthen institutions, and equip partners for the long term.

“Making scientific knowledge accessible is a priority. We publish our own series of open-access reports and briefs, alongside articles in leading academic journals, and work creatively through a range of media to ensure that our research is available to those that need it. We convene seminars and conferences that bring together decision-makers, academics, and practitioners to debate key issues and share knowledge, and engage in and inform policy processes, development action, and business practice worldwide.”

Whew! Wonky! Wish I could introduce SEI to Somerville neighbor Steve Curwood of Living on Earth. He’s pretty good at using everyday language for listeners.

I hope to learn more about the Stockholm Environment Institute, in any case, and am delighted its US office is so close to home.

Photo: Stockholm Environment Institute
One environmental concern SEI is studying is disaster risk in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Rupa Shenoy had an interesting story on WGBH radio recently. It was about local startups interested in urban farming. I wrote previously about Higher Ground Farm, situated on top of the Design Center in South Boston, but Grove Labs, with its use of LED lighting for indoor gardening, was new to me.

Shenoy says, “Some of these new entrepreneurs are thinking big. Jamie Byron and Gabe Blanchet graduated from MIT and started Grove Labs two years ago with the idea to make every living room a potential growing space. …

“Their product is a cabinet that allows people to grow fruits and vegetables year-round in the home. It’s connected to the internet, controlled by an app on your phone, and designed to make urban farming easy and engaging.

“There are a few models set up in a space at Greentown Labs in Somerville, which they share with other startups. Each wooden cabinet, with several components, is about the size of an entertainment center.

“At the heart of the cabinet system is a fish swimming in a tank. The waste from that fish is sucked into tubes and converted into nitrate fertilizer. The fertilizer is pumped around the cabinet to trays filled with brown clay pebbles. That’s where the fruits and vegetables grow, with the pebbles serving as soil. Byron says once you get the system up and running, you can harvest enough for about two small salads everyday.” More at WGBH.

For more on using fish to fertilize your produce, see my recent post about an experiment in Duluth, here.

Photo: Rupa Shenoy / WGBH News
Somerville startup Grove Labs plans to sell cabinets for growing produce in your home.

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Somerville, Massachusetts, is adding another innovation to its roster: bubble soccer. Sports don’t get much wackier than this.

Steve Annear writes at the Boston Globe, “A new form of entertainment is set to bounce into Somerville this fall, bringing a unique twist on conventional team sporting events.

“Beginning in September, the city will host a ‘bubble soccer’ league, a sport in which participants cram themselves into massive, inflatable balls and then use the air-filled bubbles to knock their opponents off their feet.

“Participants can’t move their arms while inside of the see-through plastic bubbles, and rely solely on their lower bodies to move a soccer ball into a goal.

“ ‘It’s a silly sport,’ said Matthew Aronian, co-director of MA Sports Leagues, the company bringing the team sport to Somerville. ‘But it’s getting bigger and bigger and more popular.’

“Bubble soccer is already being played in Norway, Italy, Austria, and other countries. There’s also a league in Chicago, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States.

“Aronian said the game is fun to watch and play, as opponents send each other flying through the air. The bubble-wrap encasings are intended to prevent serious injuries during contact. …

“The game aligns with Mayor Joe Curtatone’s ‘bump factor’ theory that the community thrives when innovative people, ideas, and activities collide.

“ ‘While bubble soccer isn’t exactly the type of bump factor he means, folks bouncing off one another in giant, inflatable orbs fits right into Somerville,’ said Somerville spokeswoman Denise Taylor in an e-mail.” More here.

Photo: Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
What does it look like? Here, players compete in the Chicago Bubble Soccer league.

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The rainy Saturday turned out to be gorgeous, so we went to the Somerville PorchFest and ran into some people we know.

A variety of bands play on porches around the town.  Neighbors sit on their steps to listen, families and college students wander in, entertainers entertain, and almost everyone is moved to dance.

My grandson and his best friend are pictured cutting a rug.

Read about this annual event here.

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Cultural institutions are getting smaller. And more local.

We wrote about a library in a phone booth here and the Little Free Library here. You can see fully realized short films on YouTube and street art just around the corner.

Now folks in Somerville have launched a museum in a doorway. It’s The Mµseum.

From the website: “Judith Klausner (Co-Founder, Curator) is a Somerville MA artist with a love for small, intricate, and overlooked things. She first dreamed up the Mµseum in 2010, as a way to combine her love of  serious miniature art with her passion for making art accessible, and her conviction that New England arts institutions should show the work of New England artists. Three years (and a lot of planning) later, she is delighted to see it become a reality. … Contact Judith at judith@themicromuseum.com.

“Steve Pomeroy (Co-Founder, Engineer) is a programmer and a builder, both by profession and by nature. He’s largely responsible for the engineering behind the Mµseum, from the solar-powered miniature track lighting to the 3D-printed doric columns and laser-cut façade typography. He formally studied computer science at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he discovered a love of communication protocols and formal computer languages. Contact Steve at steve@themicromuseum.com.”

WBUR had a story on the micro museum here.

There is something childlike and innocent about miniature enterprises. Didn’t you always think as a child you could take a few toys and tea cups and bags of flour and new sponges from around the house and set up a table on the street as an authentic store? You thought, Why not? Just do it.

I get a kick out of people just doing it.

Photo: Mara Brod, http://marabrod.com/fineart.html

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The Globe has a good story today on Whole Foods, which hired an urban farming company to grow an anticipated 10,000 pounds of food per year on the roof of its Lynnfield, Massachusetts, store.

Erin Ailworth writes, “The soon-to-open Whole Foods Market in Lynnfield will offer its customers something the company says no other major grocery chain has offered before: ‘rooftop produce,’ picked from a field atop the store. …

“Whole Foods and its contractors say the commercial roof garden is an experiment that, if it succeeds, could encourage other grocers to do the same, boosting efforts to expand rooftop gardening. Such gardens not only insulate buildings, lowering heating and cooling costs, but also decrease storm-water runoff, which can overwhelm sewer systems and carry pollutants into waterways.

“And they yield fruits and vegetables that do not need to be trucked or flown, cutting transportation costs and emissions, including of greenhouse gases. The rooftop produce — a tiny fraction of Whole Foods’ inventory — will be sold in the Lynnfield store or used in its prepared foods.

“A green roof, however, is not cheap. It can cost up to 60 percent more than a traditional roof, according to the Sustainable Cities Institute, a program of the National League of Cities. …

“Whole Foods began thinking about the project three or four years ago, [Robert Donnelly of Whole Foods] said, and at first planned to build a basic green roof — essentially, a lawn atop the store. Then the company came across Green City Growers and Recover Green Roofs, two Somerville companies that partnered on a 4,000-square-foot garden above the Ledge Kitchen & Drinks restaurant in Dorchester. (That garden provides about 75 percent of the veggies and herbs served at the Ledge.)

“Whole Foods’ plans quickly became more ambitious as company officials realized the 45,000-square-foot roof (nearly an acre) provided plenty of space for farming.” More. There’s also a fun video at the Globe site showing the construction of the roof farm.

Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog had another roof garden post here; a post about Glide Memorial’s roof garden here; and a related entry about the Guardian Environment Network, here.

Photo: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Workers dumped soil into containers on the Lynnfield Whole Foods roof, which was reinforced to bear the extra weight.

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How great an idea is this? Somerville’s League of Urban Canners gleans neglected fruits from city lots and neighbors’ trees and turns them into jellies, jams, and preserves.

Writes Kathleen Weldon in the Boston Globe, “The group is the brainchild of Sam Katz-Christy of Somerville, who was struck by inspiration last fall after receiving 10 pounds of plums from a neighbor who happened to have an unusually productive backyard tree. Armed with little more than a cookbook and a bit of courage, he and his family preserved their windfall in glistening Mason jars. The committed locavore, who commutes by bike to his job in Cambridge’s Central Square, began to notice just how much unused fruit was hiding in plain sight among the squares and one-way streets he traveled. His daily rides became a treasure hunt.

“After recruiting a posse of workers from his network of food-loving friends, he began knocking on doors, offering an unusual deal to the owners of neglected one-tree orchards: the League would pick their crop, can the harvest, and give residents back 10 percent of the results. The volunteers keep the rest.

“The initiative has proven remarkably successful. More than 220 sites are currently listed in the League’s database, representing more than 3,500 pounds of collected fruit. …

“Though at first the League expected to reap mostly apples and grapes, soon it became clear that Somerville, Cambridge, and Jamaica Plain were rich with ripe possibilities from mulberries to pears, raspberries to quince. A single tree in Harvard Square yielded 245 pounds of apricots, which turned into countless jars of jam.” Read more.

Suzanne loved the mulberries growing in our neighborhood when she was about five. I wonder how we might get our hands on mulberry preserves.

Mulberry season is long past, but there’s still plenty of produce out there, as evidenced by the hardy farmstands at the farmers market today.

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These two murals are from Somerville and Gloucester. Do you get the feeling that the towns themselves have different personalities? One seems to record the history of the city in a formalized way. The other is more about people’s lives today.

If you know more about the genesis of these murals, I’d love to hear it. In both cases, the murals seem to have been created with permission. I wonder if you think that permission subverts the subversiveness of street art?

Makes me think of the kids in eighth grade who were asked to create nice Halloween paintings on shop windows so the windows wouldn’t get soaped as a Halloween prank.

The goody-two-shoes kids painted windows with pumpkins and witches. The rough kids still soaped windows.

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I blogged before about the idea that one and one and 50 make a million, the idea that little actions by many people can make big change.

It speaks to me. So I loved this food-for-the-hungry story in yesterday’s Boston Globe. Volunteers at Community Cooks in Somerville, Massachusetts, provide part of a meal for a charity once a month. It’s relatively small commitment that adds up. Vicki I founded it 20 years ago.

She tells the Globe‘s Jane Dornbusch: “My friend heard the Somerville Homeless Coalition wanted some food support. … It was an era when many young professionals who were interested in helping the community were moving to Somerville, so we were able to recruit very easily.”

Derek Neilson makes potato salad for Community Cooks.

Derek Neilson makes potato salad for Community Cooks. Photograph: Barry Chin, Globe staff

Dornbusch adds, “Community Cooks is just that: a community of cooks that prepares food for the community. Each volunteer is assigned to a team that provides a meal once a month to a partner organization; these organizations include homeless shelters, women’s and family shelters, youth development programs, providers of support for the developmentally disabled, and more.

“The team leader hands out dish assignments — main course, salad, side, dessert — and each volunteer purchases the necessary ingredients and prepares a homemade recipe to feed about 15. Then the volunteer drops it at a central location. Each team serves a particular organization, so volunteers develop a sense of community and partnership with one group. It’s not an overwhelming commitment.” But together the cooks make a big difference  Read more.

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Living on Earth, a national radio program produced in Somerville, Massachusetts, has interviewed an interesting guy who makes audio recordings of nature.

He may record, for example, what a woodland sounds like before a logging company comes in and what it sounds like after clear cutting. He may record the sounds of insects in trees. He says it is nearly impossible to get away from man-made sounds when recording nature.

Listening to his recordings early this morning resulted in my listening for the birds more on the walk I took later. (And I turned to see a very jubilant cardinal.)

“Few have heard the world as Bernie Krause has. Originally trained as a musician, he spent years recording the most famous musicians of the 1960s and 70s. Then he left the studio to explore the origins of music in nature. Krause has recorded wild sounds in places few have ever been or even dreamed of. Living on Earth’s Ike Sriskandarajah listens in.” Listen here or read transcript.

Krause calls his field of study soundscape ecology. Here is his new book, The Great Animal Orchestra.

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We went to Honk! in Somerville today. A few uncomfortable-looking masons and many counterculture bands marched to Harvard Square. It was a hoot. So nice to see these offbeat ’60s types are still springing up. All is not lost! The name of one band may give you a sense of where they are coming from: The Extraordinary Rendition Band. The Institute for Infinitely Small Things joined forces with the Occupy Boston contingent.

Represented below are Nomad Rights (a Tibetan group), unions (including the Postal Service), Darfur activists, and the Puppeteers Co-operative.

  

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