By Clara Chaisson
What do you call a sculpture that weighs nearly nothing, never looks the same twice, and vanishes into thin air? Artist Fujiko Nakaya has built a storied five-decade career out of the answer to this seeming riddle: a fog sculpture.
The Japanese artist has presented her atmospheric works more than 80 times across four continents. Now 85 years old, Nakaya is unveiling her most extensive exhibition yet: Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace. For 12 weeks, through Oct. 31, her fog sculptures will be mist-ifying five of Boston's parks: the Arnold Arboretum, the Fens, Franklin Park, Jamaica Pond and Olmsted Park. The free public installation is part of a 20th-anniversary celebration for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that stewards the 1,100-acre park system, which forms a seven-mile green chain (or emerald necklace) through the heart of the city.
Born in Sapporo in 1933, Nakaya came to the United States to earn an art degree from Northwestern University and later studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. The young artist didn't just want to compose but to decompose. She started by painting clouds—formations so ephemeral that we make a game of perceiving recognizable shapes in them before they billow outwards, split apart, or disappear into the sky.
But painting clouds didn't satisfy Nakaya's craving for dynamism; she wanted to makeclouds. A knack for coaxing water particles into complex arrangements runs in Nakaya's family. Her father, physicist and science essayist Ukichiro Nakaya, created the world's first artificial snowflakes, in 1936.
"Fog x Canopy," the Fens, by Fujiko Nakaya.Melissa Ostrow
So Fujiko Nakaya teamed up with physicist Thomas Mee in 1969 to develop the system she still uses today. Pure, pressurized water is forced through a narrow nozzle, where it hits a pin that makes it scatter into droplets just 15-to-20 microns wide. The result is a far cry from the hokey fog machines you might find in a haunted house. The fog she creates is as close to the real deal as a highly engineered system can get. By 1970 Nakaya was introducing her woman-made clouds to the world at the Osaka Expo.
Taking in Nakaya's sculptures is a full-body experience. First comes the serpentine hiss of the nozzles. As the fog quickly thickens, it consumes your field of vision. Think of the sudden whiteout when an airplane dips into a cloud, but then imagine you can feel the cloud, too, and walk around inside it. There's a sudden temperature drop as tiny water droplets appear all over your body, the hairs on your arms stand up, and you find yourself subconsciously thinking of other distant memories of fog.
Artist Fujiko Nakaya with one of her patented fog nozzles.Melissa Ostrow
The fog somehow both transports you to another time and place and roots you firmly in the present. It responds to wind, humidity, temperature, and dew point, making visible the invisible forces that surround us all the time. Nakaya's sculptures roll down hills, hover over water and bounce over structures, gently shaped by the landscape that contains them.
"Hopefully people are slowing things down, taking in the environment, reflecting on what it means to be in nature," said Arnold Arboretum of Harvard director Ned Friedman. "The sculpture reminds you to become more intimate with the plants around you."
The five Fog x FLO sculptures run half-hourly for anywhere from two to eighteen minutes. When the nozzles shut off, the fog lifts just as quickly as it appeared, leaving visitors to muse on their surroundings.
To the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and local Boston curator Jen Mergel, the site- and climate-responsive qualities of Nakaya's sculptures made them a natural fit for the Emerald Necklace (not to mention that they're impossible to graffiti).
"Fog x Canopy," the Fens, by Fujiko Nakaya.Melissa Ostrow
The "FLO" in Fog x FLO stands for Frederick Law Olmsted, widely credited as the father of landscape architecture. Olmsted designed the Emerald Necklace in the late 19th century, along with other American cultural landmarks such as Manhattan's Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the U.S. Capitol grounds and the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina.
Olmsted wanted to connect the Boston Common, which dates back to colonial times, and the Public Garden, established in 1837, to Franklin Park. He intuitively sensed what modern science is now proving: that spending time in nature benefits both physical and mental health.
"He was setting up these parks so that you could walk through and experience this variety of marsh, fens, river, fields, pond, arboretum ... and you would never have to leave the city," Mergel said.
The Emerald Necklace also provides flood mitigation to Boston, making it one of the earliest examples of green infrastructure. Olmsted believed in the "genius of place" and sought to enhance natural characteristics, rather than to tame the landscape into submission. "He designed a park system that looks so natural that people think it is," said Karen Mauney-Brodek, president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
"Fog x Canopy," the Fens, by Fujiko Nakaya.Melissa Ostrow
The conservancy expects Fog x FLO to draw between 800,000 and 1 million visitors during its three-month run, an opportunity to raise the Emerald Necklace's profile, introduce Bostonians to its history, and show off the services the parks continue to provide.
"This is not a white cube situation where you would just neutrally plop any art in this space. [The Emerald Necklace] is a work of art in and of itself, and anything that you place here cannot distract or detract from your experience of the natural and Olmsted's intent," Mergel said. "Fujiko's work is very complementary, a type of art that she describes as a conversation with nature."
Like the clouds she creates, that conversation changes over time. Nakaya positions her nozzles, with great intentionality, based on the weather patterns for a given area. Over the course of 50 years of being intimately attuned to meteorology, she's witnessed those patterns becoming more extreme.
Fujiko Nakaya amidst her work, "Fog x Ruins," at Franklin Park.Melissa Ostrow
Nakaya had to nix the original site she selected for a sculpture at the Arnold Arboretum, for example, because there was no nearby water source. The staff has successfully maintained the 15,000-plant collection since 1872 without irrigation—until now. In July, an Asian oak collected in Japan in 1892 had to be removed after a prolonged decline associated with extreme drought in the summer of 2016. "All of a sudden, we're just trying to keep things from dying," Friedman said.
But in today's sociopolitical climate, perhaps the most important parallel between Olmsted's parks and Nakaya's sculptures is their accessibility. Olmsted saw beautiful public spaces as the right of every citizen and a vital component to a thriving society. "It was something for everyone," Mergel said. "The wealthiest and the least wealthy, someone who was a new immigrant to the city and someone whose family had been here for generations."
Nakaya's works are similarly democratic. Unlike most sculptures, the fog has no boundaries.
Fox x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace is on display through Oct. 31.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
By Douglas Johnson
Residents of major U.S. cities are becoming used to seeing docks for bike sharing programs nestled into parking spaces or next to subway station entrances. Adorned with stylish branding and corporate sponsors' logos, these facilities are transforming transportation in cities across the country.
The modern concept of bike sharing—offering bikes for short-term public rental from multiple stations in cities—was launched in Copenhagen in 1995, but U.S. cities only started piloting their own systems in the past decade. Washington, DC led the way, launching SmartBike DC in 2008 and an expanded network called Capital Bikeshare in 2010. This program now boasts more than 480 stations and a daily ridership of 5,700.
Within a few years, bike-share systems launched in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and dozens of other cities. In 2016 there were 55 systems across the country with more than 40,000 bikes.
And momentum continues to grow. In 2017 Citi Bike in New York City added 2,000 bikes, increasing its fleet to a total of 12,000. San Francisco is expanding its system from just 700 bikes to 7,000, thanks to a sponsorship deal with Ford.
The newest twist in this rapid expansion is dockless bike sharing, which lets users park bikes anywhere within defined districts and lock and unlock their bikes with smartphone apps. Users don't have to locate docking stations or worry about whether space will be available at their destination. These systems also are cheaper to set up, so providers can charge lower user fees. Some dockless bike-share companies offer rides for as little as $1 for the first half hour.
Dockless systems are also helping to address equity issues posed by public dock-based systems, which often are located in more affluent and predominantly white urban neighborhoods. Because dockless systems don't require stations, they can be rapidly deployed in zones that dock-based systems may be slow to reach.
Students at Beijing University developed this approach in 2014 to improve campus mobility. Dockless bike-share companies have flooded Chinese cities with bikes in the past two years, leading to massive piles of discarded bicycles in public spaces.
Dockless cycle share bike in Seattle Joe Mabel, CC BY
Seattle turned to dockless companies to fill the gap after a publicly funded dock bike-share system there failed in 2016. The city could soon have one of the largest bike-share systems in the country. Cities around Boston that are outside of the service area of Hubway, the area's public bike-share system, just reached a deal to provide dockless bike-share service, expanding access to hundreds of thousands of people. And in San Francisco, Uber recently purchased Jump Bikes, a dockless electric bike-share startup, and soon will allow users to reserve electric bikes with their Uber app.
If recent examples are any indication, bike sharing in the U.S. will be a mix of complementary dock-based and dockless systems, run by both public entities and private companies. The humble bicycle, aided by smartphone technology, is resurging as an urban transportation option.
12 Reasons Bicycling Will Continue to Soar in Popularity https://t.co/sqZAYhQY3i @BicyclingMag @peopleforbikes— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512701703.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Valerie Vande Panne
The city of Boston made news in March for receiving four nor'easters in just three weeks. The storms led to piles of snow and coastal flooding. While hurricanes may famously (and fakely) bring sharks to flooded streets, Boston's floods really do bring swans.
That might be a sweet and peaceful picture. But the reality is that much of Boston was built on fill and subject to massive flooding. The city, known for its forward-thinking attitudes, takes the issue very seriously: Does it really want to surrender valuable real estate to mother nature?
Paul Kirshen, a professor of climate adaptation at UMass' School for the Environment, is studying the idea of using barrier walls to protect Boston, though he stresses he doesn't advocate for them. "We were asked to do it because people have had the idea for a couple decades," he said. "The city thought we needed to look at the issue to see if it made sense."
At this point, all options are on the table. The most glaring problem with the idea of barriers that would stretch from Swampscott to Cohasset, Winthrop to Hull, or from Logan Airport to the Seaport District, is that they would not prevent flooding from high tides. And Boston currently gets flooding at high tide regularly.
"As sea levels rise, that's a bigger problem," said Kirshen. Barriers are "only used in storm flooding, not tidal flooding."
In addition, "we aren't 100 percent sure of environmental impact," he added. "We're fairly certain it wouldn't have major impact on harbor environment."
There's another problem with that, and with all of Boston's future climate change plans: "I can't give the exact price, but it would cost billions."
Kirshen suggested "shore-based solutions on land, flood-proofing buildings," and learning to live with flooding are also viable options.
"Shore-based [solutions] have co-benefits," he explained. "They protect from flooding, bring neighborhoods together, create bikeways and walkways." East Boston, for example, "doesn't have much open space, but if you elevate the land, you get co-benefits." Like an elevated playground, for example, or a football field on elevated land.
According to Kirshen, Boston can expect three feet of sea level rise by 2070.
The city has a handy map where you can see just how likely it is that your home will flood. You can assess risk for low-income communities, the elderly, and for people with limited English skills, and once you add those layers, the entire city of Boston looks vulnerable very quickly.
Jay Wickersham, a lawyer and president of Boston Society of Architects, said that this season's nor'easters generated the first and third highest recorded tides in Boston history, creating an "extra sense of urgency."
The BSA, Wickersham, said, is "heartened by how much work and analysis has been done over the last several years. In terms of understanding the problem, Boston is a leader here. We take it very seriously."
The city already has a short-term plan in place to help mitigate water in Charlestown and East Boston that includes building a floodwall and raising a road. Carl Spector, the city's environmental commissioner, declined to return numerous calls for comment.
"Part of what good, sound engineering and design tells us is we need layers of protection around districts like East Boston, Charlestown and South Boston," said Wickersham. "And then sound design tells us, at all scales, we're really going to be building and rebuilding utilities, parklands, [and] buildings."
"Everything," he said, "will have to be rethought in a different way."
Sea level rise is expected to hit nine inches by 2030, Wickersham said. He pointed to Kirshen's report and said when it is released it will "heighten the discussion."
Twelve years passes in a flash when it comes to the municipal and bureaucratic work that needs to be done to protect a large U.S. coastal city from rapidly rising sea levels. Will Boston be prepared?
"The architectural and engineering community is starting to develop best practices," said Wickersham, "and that will need to be hard-wired into building code and state code. Right now, those are backward-looking systems. They need to incorporate best science looking forward."
Wickersham added, "We need systems that can provide evacuation in case of emergency, and when there isn't a storm, they are public open space, and not just a wall against the harbor. We've done a great job restoring the Boston harbor ecology, and we've done a great job making the waterfront accessible to the public. It's 40 miles long. We don't want to turn our backs on that. We need to find ways to deal with the storms."
American parks innovator Frederick Law Olmsted knew Boston was flood-prone back in the 19th century, said Chris Reed, professor in practice of landscape architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and founder of Stoss Landscape Urbanism. Olmsted designed Boston's century-old Emerald Necklace park system from mud flats to create a floodway that stretches through town. Olmsted's idea of parks "were fully integrated systems, they were flood control that had public transport in them," Reed said. "In the 20th century, with the rise of specialties, everything he was working with was separated out. And parks were just parks, separate."
In the 1990s and 2000s, Reed said, there has been an effort to reintegrate these components. "Any work we do on a river has to take into account flooding and flood control, and it's integrated in a way you don't even know it's there."
Yet, the dark cloud that looms over future planning isn't found in the weather or climate change or the plans of the present or the past.
"How are we going to pay for this? That's the huge question," Wickersham said. "We need to be very imaginative. We're going to have to find public [sources], bond sources. But that's also going to have to have private contributions as well."
Wickersham said there needs to be "some kind of principles of fairness that goes to equity. Public support goes first to most vulnerable communities. We think at the BSA, the principles of keeping the city livable and just have to be cornerstones of how planning moves forward." Wickersham pointed to plans for the Suffolk Downs site in East Boston, and how new designs are taking flooding into consideration, allowing the water to come in and go out.
Contrary to Wickersham and the BSA's principles of just planning, people in the East Boston community of mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants believe those plans are exploitative and do nothing to protect them, leaving them to cope with rapid and often unchecked development and gentrification.
"Can we do this in a way that keeps the city livable and keeps the city just?" said Wickersham. The bigger question though, is "And what's the governance? And do we need a new governance system?"
"I think first of all, this is not going to be a public works," he said. "This will require public and private investment. It requires we think of how we plan and design the city."
When asked why not have Amazon kick in some of the cost of protecting Boston, everyone interviewed for this story laughed. Hard. Some laughed more sinisterly than others, but only one was able to mutter, "No comment." (Amazon is receiving $10 million in tax incentives from the city, in addition to the dowry offer for HQ2 that should make anyone with an honest heart for public service squirm.)
Bostonians, Paul Kirshen said, "have to learn to live with more frequent coastal storms than we have now. People need to decide if they want to keep the flooding at bay or move away. Wealthy people might have resources to stay. Poor people won't."
Until Boston figures out its new water-prone present and future, Kirshen recommends residents figure out their evacuation route. Make sure their basement is clean. Have food and water on hand. Be prepared for what might happen.
"We're going to have to learn to live with water," Jay Wickersham said. "We can't wall it out."
4 Key Questions About the Surprising Winter Storm Grayson https://t.co/Ie8x5lxoXb @CeresNews @UCSUSA @OccupySandy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515552309.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
You might want to bring a tote if you plan on shopping in Beantown next year. Boston City Council voted 12-0 on Wednesday to ban single-use plastic bags across the Massachusetts capital.
The measure now heads to Mayor Marty Walsh, who is said to be reviewing the proposal, which requires businesses to charge no less than five cents for other types of shopping bags, such as reusable bags, compostable plastic bags and recyclable paper bags, the Associated Press reported. Businesses would keep the proceeds from the fee.
"More than 350 million single-use plastic bags hit the streets of Boston this year alone, most of which end up filling our landfills, littering our communities, and polluting our air when burned up in incinerators," said Kirstie Pecci, director of the Conservation Law Foundation's Zero Waste Project.
Pecci noted that dozens of nearby municipalities have had similar policies for years. "This new ordinance protects the health of our neighborhoods and our environment, while at the same time easing the burden on taxpayers and saving local retailers millions. We are optimistic that Mayor Walsh will follow the lead of 59 other Massachusetts cities and towns and sign this ordinance into law."
If approved, there would be a one-year implementation period before the ordinance takes effect. During this time, council members plan to work with the Boston Housing Authority, Office of Energy, Environment and Open Space and community groups to make free reusable bags available, according to Waste Dive.
Walsh was opposed to a version of the ban last year due to its potential impact on low income households and small businesses.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which lobbies for plastic bag manufacturers, urged the Democratic mayor to veto the ordinance, arguing that it would encourage the use of products that are "worse for the environment" than the bags the council wants to ban, the AP reported.
But Councilor Matt O'Malley, who introduced the proposal with Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu, countered at Wednesday's council meeting that the convenience of plastic bags "does not outweigh the significant costs associated with them."
O'Malley also said the measure would save the city money because it would reduce the number of hours that the city's recycling company is forced to spend picking plastic bags out of recycling collections.
"This plastic bag ordinance is one example of a small step that is completely within the city's control to take," Wu said. "There is a tremendous cost to doing nothing on every single one of these climate initiatives."
Significantly, Waste Dive observed that Boston's potential bag bag could serve as a tipping point for Massachusetts-wide action due to a patchwork of local bag-law language.
But whatever happens in Boston, it's clear that the bag-ban movement is gaining traction. Around the world, a growing number of towns, cities and even entire countries have banished these petroleum-based, non-biodegradable items over their harm to the environment and to marine life.
Last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a bill that prohibits the sale of plastic bags in 102 coastal villages and towns in a bid to stop the build-up of ocean plastic and to "[take] care of our marine ecosystems."
"Our fish are dying from plastics ingestion or strangulation—it's a task in which everyone must collaborate," Bachelet said.