Dirt Houses are Good for the Planet

Inefficiently constructed housing is a problem for the planet and people. Poor insulation, intensive manufacturing process, and costs all have long term impacts on energy usage and people’s budgets. There is a solution to this that has been used the world over: building homes using dirt. Sod, adobe, and other materials have been used to make homes for millennia and perhaps it’s time we return to these natural methods. Iceland is one such country where the discussion of returning housing to its roots is alive and well.

Still, when discussing the contemporary benefits of turf homes to Sigurdardottir, she is largely positive about it. “Turf houses with their grassy green roofs are perfectly environmentally-friendly buildings and sustainable,” she says. “The material is taken from wetland areas where the grass root is thick and strong. It lasts for decades in dry weather and rots eventually like wood, just a little faster. [It] is then used as a filling in new walls or put into holes to smooth the meadow or spread it over it like fertilizer. Dry turf provides good insulation against cold weather.”

And there’s a growing coterie of people asking questions about the contemporary applications of turf homes. Last year, an exhibition in Seltjarnarnes called Earth Homing, Reinventing Turf Homes sought to explore the contemporary applications of turf houses.

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Be a Better Tourist just by Thinking

Iceland Puffing

Over tourism of popular sites, and entire cities, has gotten so out of hand that Venice, Amsterdam, and a handful of other cities have concerned adding a daily fee to tourists just to be in the city. Everyone knows this isn’t a good solution as it won’t impact the wealthy tourists who can afford it, meaning travelling to famous sites will be something only the rich can afford. Instead, if you are going to travel you should think before you go. Anybody who’s been to the Louvre knows that the Mona Lisa is a waste of time, yet everyone goes. Before following the hordes of tourists blindly being led from Instagram site to Instagram site you ought to think for yourself.

“The question is, do you want to go to a place – or show people you’ve been to the place?” says Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission.

“Half the reason people have superficial travel experiences is because they’ve made superficial plans,” says journalist Becker. She encourages people to do more than read a paragraph in a guide book or copy friends on Facebook, then parachute into a city and get the same selfie they did. Otherwise, you risk committing what Becker calls “drive-by tourism”, which stokes many of the symptoms of over-tourism, like overcrowding and irritating locals.

Another strategy is to ask yourself what you really want to do and see, rather than seeing something for the sake of seeing it. Becker recommends not doing things you wouldn’t do back home. If you don’t like museums, for example, don’t clog up the Louvre and whiz through without a clue what you’re seeing, she says.

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Wikipedia Founder’s New Social Project Starts Strong

If you’re like everyone else then you still have a Facebook profile that you barely check, yet still need. Yes it’s handy to be in touch with people using one network, but let’s face it: Facebook is garbage. The amount of lies spread and the lack of effective content moderation ensures that the site will prey on the weak and ill informed. Their advertising model ensures that they will always violate our privacy in the pursuit of profit.

Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, has created an alternative to Facebook. The new WT:Social exists as a counterpoint to the advertising led business model of other social networks and its early success is promising.

“We will foster an environment where bad actors are removed because it is right, not because it suddenly affects our bottom-line.”

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Mr Wales described the advertising-led business model favoured by the social network giants as “problematic”.

“It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content,” he said.

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Hactivist Offers 100k to Hack Evil Corporations

computer screen

The infamous (and very talented) hacker Phineas Fisher has offered $100,000 to people who hack into oil companies, banks, and other companies. There’s a catch: the hacks better be used to help fight the climate crisis or inequality. Since hackers like to remain anonymous Fisher will pay bounties for the hacks using Monero or another cyrptocurrency. Fisher doesn’t just preach that hackers should use their knowledge to fight evil in the world, Fisher does it too. Fisher’s previous hacks have exposed illegal government spying programs, hit Turkey’s authoritarian ruling party, exposed corporate spyware vendors, and other targets including stealing directly from an offshore bank like a modern day Robin Hood.

“I think hacking is a powerful tool, and hacktivism has only been used to a fraction of its potential,” Phineas Fisher told Motherboard. “And a little investment can help to develop that, the golden years [of hacktivism] are yet to come.”

In their new manifesto, Phineas Fisher also claimed to have hacked an offshore bank and called on other hacktivists to join in the fight against inequality and capitalism. The hacker said that in 2016 they hacked the Cayman Bank and Trust Company from the Isle of Man, an island between the UK and Northern Island. The hacker said they were able to steal money, documents, and emails from the bank. They declined to reveal how much money they stole, but said it was “a few hundred thousand” dollars.

“I robbed a bank and gave the money away,” Phineas Fisher wrote in the manifesto. “Computer hacking is a powerful tool to fight economic inequality.”

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Decolonize Games at the Toronto Biennial

This coming Saturday (Nov. 23) from 2-5pm you can play a game which challenges the colonial narratives present in too many games. Presented as part of the Toronto Biennial, Unsettling: Settlers of Catan uses the bases of Settlers of Catan to get players to think about all sorts of assumptions on games. The game was made by Golboo Amani who creates art around and about our social interactions. It’s a really fun game and you should go play it!

Unsettling: Settlers of Catan is a playful, discursive intervention into the popular board game, Settlers of Catan. Artist Golboo Amani disrupts its colonial narratives with methodologies of treaties, collaboration, and allyship, inserting new game pieces, cards, and rules. With these new tools, players develop strategies of building on and repatriation of the colonized landscape, offering the opportunity to play out strategies for radical, social, political, and industrial change.

Biennial visitors can play the full game set with facilitated guidance from card dealers and the artist. Free ticket registration is required to play the full game, or join at any time to watch, or participate by tag-teaming.

Check it out!

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