As much as progressives and ecologically inclined individuals promote public transit, car sharing and other planet-friendly alternatives to individually operated vehicles, the fact remains that America loves its cars. To be fair, there are instances when nearly all individuals need or want access to a car, van or truck. In rural areas and regions where public transit is scarce or nonexistent, being without one’s own vehicle literally means being stranded.
It’s no wonder, then, that one of the most heavily visited exhibits at the 2012 Chicago Green Festival was the all-electric Ford Focus, one of several models on display by Ford. Visually modeled after the popular and well-reviewed gasoline powered Ford Focus, the all-electric model is Ford’s answer to the Nissan Leaf and, to a lesser extent, the dual gasoline and electric-powered Chevrolet Volt. According to the representatives at the Green Festival, there are only 36 Focus Electric models on the road at present, mostly utilized as company cars for Internet giants Google and Yahoo. However, the manufacturing plant in Wayne, Michigan is equipped to produce the Focus along with other Ford models, and can increase or decrease production as demand warrants.
The all-electric model is priced at a hefty $39,999. However, buyers are eligible to receive federal income tax credits that can decrease the out-of-pocket costs; additional financial incentives may also be available at the state level. In addition, owners of all-electric cars are spared the pain at the pump of fluctuating (and usually increasing) gasoline prices. Home charging stations for overnight charging of the Focus Electric are available at Best Buy, with installation by the Geek Squad. Public charging stations are also becoming increasingly available, especially in urban areas.
Like the Toyota Leaf, the Focus Electric derives its power from a lithium-ion battery. The Focus Electric has a regenerative braking system that recaptures up to 90 percent of the energy normally lost through conventional friction braking. It also has a liquid-powered heating and cooling system to regulate battery temperature against exterior conditions, which can be a real advantage with the temperature extremes that occur in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »
On The Street of the Lifted Lorax, “the wind smells slow and sour when it blows; and the birds never sing, except for old crows . . . ” In this forsaken place, there are decrepit signs in shoddy disrepair, tufts of grickle-grass, and not much else.
The Street of the Lifted Lorax is Dr. Seuss‘ mythical representation of the consequences of rampant greed and urban sprawl run amok. Although The Lorax was published in 1971, and the animated feature produced in 1972, its lessons still resonate as a cautionary tale, with some of its hardest lessons evidently still unlearned in the real world.
The destruction the Earth’s natural habitats and the effects of climate change are increasingly obvious, with the ironic result of making further commercial ventures viable in regions heretofore inaccessible. The fabled Northwest Passage, long an unattainable shipping lane due to year round Arctic ice cover, may become a reality before the end of this century.
Also ironically, the fossil fuels which are believed to be largely responsible for climate change have become potentially more accessible as well. In August 2005, a Russian research ship was able to reach the North Pole without an icebreaker to clear a pathway – the first time in history. Its mission? To anchor Russia’s claim to virtually half the Arctic Ocean – estimated to hold a full one quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves. Such reserves are nearly irresistible for industrialized and developing economies facing increasing scarcity and higher prices for fossil fuels. A Thneed, after all, is what everyone needs.
The need has become more acute as the planet becomes ever more urbanized, putting further strain on resources such as clean drinking water and arable land suitable for agriculture, never mind uninhabited natural landscapes. According to U.N. Habitat, the world’s urban population will grow from 2.86 billion in 2000 to 4.98 billion by 2030, with much of that growth in the developing world, in medium and low-income countries – with many of the migrants themselves being extremely poor.This is an increasingly urgent situation, which, if unaddressed, is a time bomb in the making. Many cities worldwide are ringed with shantytowns of unimaginable poverty. A major aspect of urban sustainability (if not bottom-line livability) in decades to come will be in dealing with this influx of people, both in numbers and in the scope of their social needs. Read the rest of this entry »
A sellout crowd filled the John Buck Lecture Hall at the Santa Fe Building on the evening of Wednesday, October 13, 2010, as the Chicago Architecture Foundation hosted the showing of the award-winning documentary Louis Sullivan: the Struggle for American Architecture. A Q and A session with the documentary’s director, Mark Richard Smith immediately followed the screening.
Family members and loved ones of longtime CAF docent Aileen Mandel, who was featured in the film and who died in 2009, were honored guests at the event. The film was a highlight of a month-long celebration of Louis Sullivan and his work by CAF.
- The film follows Louis Sullivan from his youth and arrival in Chicago as a teenager, through the course of his career, chronicling his rapid ascent to the heights of architectural recognition to his long decent into poverty and obscurity — at least with the public. Although he was largely unsuccessful at making his living as an architect after the turn of the 20th Century, Louis Sullivan’s reputation never dimmed among his professional peers. In fact, Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most celebrated architects of the 20th Century, considered Louis Sullivan to be a mentor, calling him “lieber meister,” German for “beloved master.”
The height of Sullivan’s career is embodied in one of his most acclaimed structures, the Auditorium Building, which also represents a physical manifestation of the symbiotic partnership of Louis Sullivan, the consummate designer, and Dankmar Adler, the brilliant acoustical and structural problem-solver. The original design of the Auditorium Building seamlessly integrated three distinct functions: an office block, an opera hall, and a grand hotel into what was at the time the largest, heaviest structure in the world. Read the rest of this entry »