Horse v. CO2 Poop

In 1898, the world’s first international urban-planning conference was brought to a standstill because of a seemingly insurmountable crisis: studies were showing that New York City - like other major urban centers around the world - would be under 3 stories of horse manure within 30 years. 

Horse manure clogging city streets in 19th century cities

Horse manure clogging city streets in 19th century cities

The advent of the streetcar and the automobile, of course, quickly solved that problem. But the advent of the internal combustion engine clearly brought us a new, larger problem: atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution. What would that pollution look like if it was - like horse manure - visible? (Not to mention smellable?)

To answer this question, I got an atmospheric scientist to help me do a back-of the-envelope calculation. We assumed that streets take up 1/3 of San Francisco's 47 sq miles, and we used San Francisco's CO2 emissions only (12.5 tons per person per year – which is far less than the US average of 20 tons per person per year). We used a rough population estimate of 1 million. And here's what found:

The streets of San Francisco will be 538 feet deep in CO2 poop within one year. That's two thirds of the way up the Transamerica Pyramid. By 2020, we'll have buried the Transamerica Pyramid almost four times. I'll let you calculate what 35 more years of this madness might look like - but I don't think you need to. The upshot is that humanity has never been in poop this deep. 

Kids Jury Award for Best Film!

We're back from a full weekend at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival - and we took home the Kids Jury Award for Best Film! 

 

Our film screened in Grass Valley's huge, historic Del Oro cinema, as part of a program of kids films that started at 9:30am. I was worried we'd have a really small audience - but the giant hall was packed!

It was, in fact - hands down - the best audience we've had yet (at least, for screenings that we've attended). 

Elliot on the giant screen... 

Elliot on the giant screen... 

and eating popcorn, at the Del Oro Theater in Grass Valley, CA.

and eating popcorn, at the Del Oro Theater in Grass Valley, CA.

Answering audience questions onstage at the Del Oro Theater, at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Answering audience questions onstage at the Del Oro Theater, at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

In the lobby of the Del Oro Theater, with fans of Worse Than Poop!

In the lobby of the Del Oro Theater, with fans of Worse Than Poop!

Televised interview with Elisa Parker on KVMR at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Televised interview with Elisa Parker on KVMR at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

The festival generously gave us film passes, so we were able to wander from venue to venue, seeing a lot of great films. Elliot's favorite was a student-made short called Distress Call. My favorite was a program on ecological soundscapes - including the jaw-dropping Dutch short The Art of Flying and the fantastic NRDC-funded film Sonic Sea. (I thought I knew about all the ways humans were harming the natural environment - but this film explores how human activity disrupts the sonic environment of undersea mammals in disastrous ways, something I knew almost nothing about.)

Chris from SYRCL gets us ready for a rainy exploration of the local soundscape at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Chris from SYRCL gets us ready for a rainy exploration of the local soundscape at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

After the soundscapes program, we participated in a nature walk to explore the soundscape of our local environment. It was pouring rain - but it felt good to be outside, and it was fascinating to try using my ears instead of my eyes to orient myself.

Recording the sound of raindrops on puddles 

Recording the sound of raindrops on puddles 

After the hike, we came back the warm and dry National Hotel, where we enjoyed a presentation on sound editing using Adobe Audition. There has been a revolution, just in the past five years, in our ability to isolate recorded sounds. This demo used sounds recorded in the field by Bernie Krause , subject of the film Nature's Orchestra

Elliot and his dad learn about sound editing on Adobe Audition

Elliot and his dad learn about sound editing on Adobe Audition

Happy & exhausted Elliot at festival headquarters

Happy & exhausted Elliot at festival headquarters

Holding our prize: Kids Jury Award for Best Film, 2016 Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Holding our prize: Kids Jury Award for Best Film, 2016 Wild & Scenic Film Festival



UNAFF Screening, Panel... and Award!

Last week, Worse Than Poop! won the Grand Jury Award for Best Short Film at the United Nations Association Film Festival. We are so honored!

Vanessa and Elliot take home the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the 2015 UNAFF.

Vanessa and Elliot take home the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the 2015 UNAFF.

Held for the past 18 years at Stanford University, the UNAFF seeks to draw attention to the UN's Millenium Development Goals and, going forward, the UN's new Sustainable Development Goals

Elliot answers a question from the audience at the 2015 UNAFF.

Elliot answers a question from the audience at the 2015 UNAFF.

Our film was scheduled on the last day of the festival, in a section addressing climate change. The other films included DamNation and Antarctic Edge, and afterwards Elliot and I sat on a panel and answered audience questions with filmmakers Matt Stoeker and Dena Seidel.

 

The Streets of Delhi

After checking out the Delhi metro, we wanted to see what life was like above ground. The best way to get around, we were told, was by "Auto" - the ubiquitous green and yellow auto-rickshaws. (I was told NOT to call them 'tuk-tuks' - evidently only foreigners do that. I got the impression it was a colonial thing.)

Delhi's auto-rickshaws are everywhere.

Delhi's auto-rickshaws are everywhere.

The government required, many years ago, that the autos run on compressed natural gas - replacing the ultra-polluting two-stroke engines of the past. I was deeply grateful - Delhi's air is so bad (it now holds the dubious honor of most polluted city in the world), I can't even imagine what it would be like without the CNG 'autos'. 

Elliot on board a New Delhi auto-rickshaw.

Elliot on board a New Delhi auto-rickshaw.

There are also auto-rickshaw-buses - basically three-wheeled CNG-powered collective taxis. We took this one on a day trip to Noida:

Auto-rickshaw-bus provides collective transport in Noida, Delhi.

Auto-rickshaw-bus provides collective transport in Noida, Delhi.

Another cause for gratitude is the city's amazing greenery - utterly incongruent with the super dirty air. The greenery is actually lush and diverse enough (at least in the neighborhood we stayed in) to support whole troupes of monkeys. 

Our walk from the YMCA Tourist Hotel to the New Delhi Convention Centre

Our walk from the YMCA Tourist Hotel to the New Delhi Convention Centre

A monkey scampers across the roof of our hotel in New Delhi.

A monkey scampers across the roof of our hotel in New Delhi.

The streets are also filled with bicycles - many of which appear to be working vehicles.

Delhi has its own 522 bus line! And lots of bicycle carts.

Delhi has its own 522 bus line! And lots of bicycle carts.

There is no bicycle infrastructure, however. Bikes just use whatever space they can find. (I even saw bikes on the freeways.)

Bicycles on the streets of New Delhi

Bicycles on the streets of New Delhi

Bicycle delivery on the streets of New Delhi

Bicycle delivery on the streets of New Delhi

Parking is similarly haphazard. We noticed that many of the parked vehicles did double-duty as a bed for the driver.

Bicycle rickshaw driver napping in New Delhi

Bicycle rickshaw driver napping in New Delhi

An Indian friend told me that John Kenneth Galbraith once described India as 'functioning anarchy' - and I'd have to agree. 

Street in front of the Old Delhi train station

Street in front of the Old Delhi train station

Intersection in front of the Old Delhi train station

Intersection in front of the Old Delhi train station

Despite the chaos, safety doesn't seem to be much of an issue. We didn't see too many helmets. Some motorcycle riders wore helmets - but we never saw a bike helmet. And although maybe half of the motorcyle riders wore helmets, and plenty of them had children on board, we never saw a single child wearing a helmet. We began to wonder if children's helmets were even available in India. (Though it appears that they are available.)

Four riders, two helmets, one motorbike - in New Delhi, India.

Four riders, two helmets, one motorbike - in New Delhi, India.