Russia! For those with and without their marbles

Guys on a bench in Moscow

If the heat waves and presidential election tomfoolery have spared you any of your marbles this summer, you probably won’t want to trudge through my 857 photos of Russia, the country I was recently fortunate enough to hang out in for two weeks. Then again, if you find yourself sweating, anxious, and entirely sans marbles, it might be pleasant and calming for you to see some objectively beautiful architecture, funny signage, and delectable Russian meals featuring beets, beets, and more beets. If that’s the case, then by all means have at it!

But assuming you are retaining at least a couple of those precious mental stones and would rather spend your time elsewhere, I’ll do you the sanity-solid of offering a brief summary of this epic excursion in words and pictures below:

Left: Our friend Oleg’s favorite cathedral in Moscow. (What was its name??)
Right: Arthur reads in a barn in the “historic rural locality” of Kholmogory.

Left: A cow parade in Kholmogory. (Not pictured: The sample Dixie cups of fresh milk).
Right: Arkhangelsk’s last living angel?

Left: Warning: This club uses Face Control. It doesn’t sound like we should go there.
Right: Man, this is a long story. Let’s just say we were “strongly encouraged” to write and perform a skit about the birth of our country for a group of Russian villagers on the 4th of July… while wearing Putin party t-shirts. God bless the USA.

Putin dog statue at the Hermitage

Putin dog

And finally, rub this one for good luck: A little sculpture of a dog at the Hermitage that bore some immediately-apparent resemblance to you-know-who.

Readers! As you can see, my Russia was chock full of bright colors, international whimsy, and universal good times. Have you spent time in Mother Russia? Tell me about your trip.

More trees, fewer cows = Our best shot at climate change survival

One of my beloved clients is throwing a wonderful conference next Thursday and Friday at the beautiful Bronx Zoo called Wood at Work: Elegant Strategies for Architecture, City-Building, and Forest Conservation. The two-day affair will gather together some of the best minds in architecture, forestry, policy, ecology, and urban planning to talk about how sustainable wood use in cities can actually protect global forests and rural economies and cultures.

2015 Wood at Work conference

In addition to many brilliant presentations and panels, there will be beaucoup de time for informal conversation (and networking) over breakfast, lunch, snacks, and drinks. Plus super fun-sounding workshops like “Japanese Sawing” and “Tree Music”!

I’m not getting paid to say that if you’ll be in New York City and care about a) design or architecture, b) climate change, c) trees and forests, d) native cultures, or e) being in a room packed with brilliant, hard-working, potentially world-saving people, I think you should consider coming. Tickets are pretty cheap, and if you email me, I’ll even send you a magic code for 50% off!

Nice, but what does all of this have to do with cows?, you ask (as you hastily go to the Wood at Work website to purchase a ticket). Perhaps surprisingly, a lot!

As the great Jeremy Radachowsky of the Wildlife Conservation Society explains in a story he just wrote for National Geographic:

Oregon forest by McD22 on Flickr

Flickr’s McD22 captures some Oregonian forest grandeur

There are two existing [climate change-related] technologies that are ready to be acted upon today, whose collective impact could be larger than any future technological breakthrough.

The first technology is a 400-million-year-old solar-powered device that extracts CO2 from the atmosphere and converts it into material useful for construction, essentially “printing” solid materials layer by layer like a 3D printer until a finished product up to 300 feet tall is achieved. Once deployed, the device requires no human input – just water, sunlight, and molecules found in most soils.

This technology is called the “tree.”

A more recent technology extracts tons of carbon already trapped in vegetation and converts it into a small amount of protein-rich food for human consumption. Along the way, large quantities of climate-damaging gasses are emitted. In the moist tropics, the process also requires the clearing of climate-friendly forests and is ten times less efficient than many other methods of food production.

This technology is called the “cow.”

Cows were domesticated by humans more than 10,000 years ago and made sense in the context of a small human population and abundant resources. However, in an era of high population density and climate change, cattle are now an antiquated and obsolete solution to today’s environmental and food security issues. Trees, on the other hand, remain vital to our continued existence.

Makes sense, right? Plus, now that vegan food has gotten so plentiful and delectable, our excuses for massive meat consumption have dwindled to all but nil.

Jeremy’s going to give a talk titled “Trees, Not Cows” on Friday, October 30 at Wood at Work. Come listen with me, then we can share our thoughts over something delicious that’s not beef.