Bicycle, Airships and Things that GO! A sustainability primer

Sustainability.

Do the ankle biters know what that means? No.

Do they know the watershed from which the water filling their evening personal pool originates? Certainly not.

Do they know that 90% of the things they own are preloved? Maybe the younger one, but he’d never say.

Do they know that their veg is a little less than perfect or their fruits a bit wonky? No way.

But ask them about their favourite way to get to school and from both you’ll get an enthusiastic ‘BIKE.’ Or jogger pram. Sometimes bus. And before they could speak, trams. Do they know that these forms of transport are better for the environment? No. They just know what they like. And they like the freedom and the speed and seriously the wind on their face. “I like the fresh air, mum.” To inculcate sustainability, or preservation for the future, such a concept needs to be incorporated into their daily lives. They know no other and that they have fun doing it, so much the better.

Thus, this week’s book is a special one. Bicycles, Airships and Things that GO! weaves a sneaky spy tale set against a futuristic sustainability backdrop. Written by Bernie McAllister, this book follows a family of four bears on an excursion from their eco-village to deliver an LED light suit created by Momma Bear to the Sunnyside Science Museum. Along the way they embark upon various forms of transport: bicycles, air ships, bike buses, high speed trains and ferries. A mischievous pair, Monkey and Toucan, are out to steal Momma Bear’s invention. Will they succeed? Think of it as a triple scoop delight of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that GO!, Thomas Friedman’s Hot Flat and Crowded and Hanna & Barbera’s the Jetsons. It certainly gives a nod to Scarry’s animal anthropomorphism, explanatory captions as well as the loveable Goldbug (here represented by solar hornet). With its display of wind turbines, solar power plants and electrical vehicle charging stations, it resonates with Friedman’s clean technological breakthroughs. And the Jetsons? Well, the future awaits and we have the inspiration and technology now. The story isn’t overtly about sustainability but it’s easy to convey as much or as little as necessary if you are reading to ankle biters as I do.

Source: Press Kit | Kids Future Press

Ankle biter 1 sat intently through an online viewing* of this book. His favourite page features balloon cars. I think it’s because, other than the bikes, it was one of the few tangible things he recognises. “How do they move?” Silence and then “Do the balloons move the cars?” A nascent STEAM wonder on our hands.  He also asked about the wave energy machines. “What is THAT?” I thought they were large ocean snakes. (Are they? *ACK* I had to look it up. Perhaps during later readings, I could talk about biomimicry???  Floating snakes could feasibly inspire wave energy collection, hey?) Given the digital nature of this experience, finding solar hornet was a buzzkill- all pun intended. Rather than the glowing solar entity it should be, solar hornet is a difficult shadow to uncover. As for the story in of itself, it’s agreeable akin to this book about public transport or this book about cross-town adventures. Although when Momma Bear recognises the precariousness of Toucan’s and Monkey’s situation, I expected a tiny act of kindness.

I do adore this book because it provides an opportunity for the ankle biters to envision something different. We can’t expect change- sustainable, resilient, healthy, stimulating, whatever buzzword we want- if we can’t envision alternatives. This book helps depict an urban that I can imagine. I delight in the overflowing bike parking garages, vertical gardens, rooftop gardens, indoor urban farm and most especially the interactive public art installation inspired by this. Building an ankle biter’s budding vocabulary with ‘bus-top garden’ and ‘interactive tiles’? Yes, please. This book is gracious enough to include real world inspirations for each page. As such, there is much that can spark the urban imagination.

Whew. Will you read it? We will, again and again.

*For this review, I was generously given a digital, watermarked copy to review. The opinions here, as always, are my own.

Mischief in the street

Toucan stripes.

Crosswalk.

Zebra crossing. Call it what you will but those painted lines pretend to demarcate areas of safety for those afoot. Pretend because those lines act as drag strip race starting and finishing lines where drivers think pedestrians mere spectators. And spectators we are until we start to change our mindset about how we use and share our streets. Sorry automobiles, the time of your reign is over. Streets are for people. Way back when, The City Repair Project started cultivating community with the Sunnyside Piazza pictured below. Like Hans Moderman, Ben Hamilton-Baillie and David Engwitch, we should envision a new way to cross, walk, run, hop along our streets.

Streets made for people * theurbanimagined.wordpress.com

Cue this week’s short story, Lofty’s jungle fun taken from the Bob the Builder Annual 2005. For those of you uninitiated, Lofty is a blue crane truck (sometimes with wrecking ball) and part of Bob the Builder’s construction crew (with the likes of Scoop the digger, Muck the bulldozer). With two avid construction equipment ankle biter aficionados, it was only a matter of time that I’d mention Bob. I’m not quite sure why Lofty gets top billing as it is Spud, the scarecrow who steals the show, literally and figuratively in this story. A school mural is being painted by Molly. Vertically challenged, she Romper Rooms**some paint tins to use as stilts to finish the top edge of the mural. Spud absconds with the romper stompers stepping in paint along the way. He runs across town and leaves polka dotted trails especially over the new road crossing. His escapades finally end when he is hooked by Lofty. Spud is then required to clean up his mischief in the public realm.

Ankle biter 1 loves his Bob the Builder. Incidentally he broke out into the theme song during a premeditated silent stint in a publicly crowded place. He absorbs his two Bob annuals. Although there is no excavator in the crew, he eyeball-drying focuses on each adventure. So no brainer he loves the short story. I adore the story twofold. One, murals. Nothing like a little colour on the wall to enliven a space. Better yet if Molly invited the children to paint along- at least handprints-. Two, it hinted at the possibility of shared streets. Although I don’t like the fact that Spud was made to clean up his mess. Those polka dots may very well slow down traffic. Zebra crossings and footpaths should be made more colourful, more user-friendly. Place it on the radar of both perambulators and motorists.  Take a cue from Jody Xiong who created a green pedestrian crosswalk. Not only a statement on environmental responsibility but a visually arresting shared space. Next time you walk across the lines, think how the space might be altered with colour.

Jody Xiong creates a visual shared space *theurbanimagine.wordpress.com

**Yea, I may have dated myself. But back in the days I remember watching Romper Room. Boy, did I want to drive in those cardboard box fire engines!!! And because my parents weren’t suckers to advertising, I made do with my own romper stompers sans cans. More like walking strings. Ahhh childhood.

Images taken from Sunnyside Piazza — The City Repair Project, author’s photos of Bob the Builder and Green Pedestrian Crossing in China Creates Leaves from Footprints | Colossal

Five distractions to start your weekend

Whimsy awakened with pedestrian and transport movement in a Jerusalem open market square. Source: HQ architects installs flowers that react to the environment

Paper, photographs and a bit of cheeky history: thanks Rich McCor

When a two hour delay transforms subway riders into a community

A high-fiving bee and the nature of humanity

What would you post on Alan Donohoe and Steven Parker’s The Waiting Wall?

A video and five links to start your weekend

This NIMBY is self-interest redirected: go buy a mountain

World Food Day

With drinking straw in hand, Anna Hepler, you take my breathe away

Taxi Fabric weaves a story of Mumbai

What US$1 and a dream can buy in Chicago, thank you Theaster Gates.

A video and 5 links to start your weekend

It’s all about the bass or how hip hop can fight forest fires

An Ohio highway CLOSED down to host a town hall dinner

I’ve only just heard about Vo Trong Nghia’s Farming Kindergarten

Imagine this textile installation by Suzan Drummen in the public sphere

The best rated apps for healthy living

A video and five links to start your weekend

The original guerriila gardener, Adam Purple grew a 15,000 garden in the Lower East Side

Umbracity, or bicycle-sharing for the umbrella set

Each time you shop and request a plastic bag from major UK supermarkets, it will cost 5p

The origin of the coffee break

If a tree falls in a forest, we will hear it

A video and five links to start your weekend

Christopher Herwig photographed ‘wayward roadside punctuation marks’ aka Soviet bus stops.

The ‘Travel by Book’ initiative proves that literature can get you where you want to go.

Noise from vehicular traffic is killing birds.

Kiss knitting goodbye, hello graffiti grandma.

The result of mowing, digging and planting by Stan Herd.