Trail Marker Trees

Trail Marker Trees were an ancient form of land and water navigational aids, as well as a marking system to denote areas of significant importance such as ceremonial sites. These trees were used by many, if not all, of the Native American tribes and later by fur traders and early pioneers. The Trail Marker Trees differed in their appearance and formation from tribe to tribe and from region to region. Examples of these trees have been found all across the United States and throughout Canada.

One unique characteristic of the trail marker tree is a horizontal bend several feet off the ground, which makes it visible at greater distances, even in snow. Researcher Dennis Downes was first introduced to the Trail Marker Trees as a young boy and was influenced by his own Native American relative. Mr. Downes has spent nearly thirty years of his adult life in the field locating, documenting, and educating others about these historical icons. See and read more on his website: Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society. There’s also a Wikipedia page on the topic.

Via Roel Roscam Abbing. Image: Trail Marker Tree in White County, IN known as ‘Grandfather’. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Reconstrained Design & Locally Produced Gravity Batteries

The Reconstrained Design Group at the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute in Portugal “challenges the dominance of the grid system through developing functional prototypes that operate outside of its control”.

Solutions include gravity batteries to provide night-time storage from solar or wind power using the natural phenomenon of gravity in vertiginous regions. The uniqueness of this battery is its ability to be built, installed and maintained by local communities using local materials and techniques and to not rely on any external help or funding. It uses basic physics principles to provide an easily achievable and efficient way to store energy without conventional battery systems.”

Also check out their manifesto and publications.

Carbolytics: The Environmental Impact of Data Collection Practices

Carbolytics is a project at the intersection of art and research that aims to raise awareness and call for action on the environmental impact of pervasive surveillance within the advertising technology ecosystem (AdTech), as well as to provide a new perspective to address the social and environmental costs of opaque data collection practices. Online tracking is the act of collecting data from online user activity, such as reading the news, purchasing items, interacting on social media or simply doing an online search. It is known that tracking and recording users’ behaviour has become a major business model in the last decade.”

“However, even though the societal and ethical consequences of abusive online surveillance practices have been a subject of public debate at least since Snowden’s revelations in 2013, the energy and environmental costs of such processes have been kept away from the public eye. The global data collection apparatus is a complex techno maze that needs vast amounts of resources to exist and operate, yet companies rarely disclose information on the environmental footprint of such operations. Moreover, part of the energy costs of data collection practices is inflicted upon the user, who also involuntarily assumes a portion of its environmental footprint. Although this is a critical aspect of surveillance, there’s an alarming lack of social, political, corporate and governmental will for accountability, thus a call for action is urgent.”

More: Carbolytics. A project by Joana Moll commissioned by Aksioma in collaboration with Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and in partnership with The Weizenbaum Insitute + Sónar +D.

The Fireless Cooker that Feeds Low-tech Magazine

The fireless cooker is a well-insulated box that keeps food simmering with only the heat of the cooking pot itself. As we wrote in 2014, a fireless cooker doubles the efficiency of any cooking device because it shortens the time on the fire and limits heat transfer losses. A fireless cooker is easy to make and may be one of the most useful low-tech devices around. [Read more…]

Solar Powered Website in Design Museum London

The solar powered website in the Design Museum in London. It forms part of the exhibition “Waste age: what can design do?“, which runs until 20 February 2022.

New Alchemy Institute

From 1971 to 1991, the New Alchemy Institute published its research and activities in a variety scientific journals, including its own journals and quarterlies — these are now online.