November 27, 2009

Can reefs grow beneath Venice? A TED lecture in which Rachel Armstrong explains the process that uses proto cells to grab carbon dioxide from the air and encrust the old wooden pylons on which this charming Italian city is based. Eventually it is thought that a reef can be built to support the architecture, not only spatially from the bottom up, but procedurally, since no top down construction processes are required, but just the seeding of the old with the new technology.

There is a much older process that once ran rampant, however. Stromatolites are Precambrian fossil reefs formed by cyanobacteria in such places as Shark Bay, Australia. Their formation is rare beyond that early period because they were victimized by the predation of higher life forms. If the new architectural building blocks called proto cells could prove indigestible, then they might grow unimpeded. Is that possible?

  • Air, water, reef: in that order. Another way to reduce the effects of green house gases.
  • ...then they might grow unimpeded. Is that possible? I'll bet Kurt Vonnegut would vote yes. No problems with unimpeded growth. No sir!
  • No problems with unimpeded growth. No sir! and we have such a stellar record when it comes to screwing around with natural systems that we don't fully understand.
  • Fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I do have a fondness for Venice though.
  • So here's a radical idea: How about we just get a team of divers and have them place limestone pillars next to the existing wooden piles? It's something we can do TODAY, not years from now, and it's something that we know would be safe to implement, both from an economic and an ecological standpoint. Or is that idea too Victorian? Little bit of a snarky comment on that whole concept, by the way - "Victorian" is such a self-serving word there, given the speaker's nationality. I assume people were building structures using teams of workers and blueprints long, long before Victorian times. Like, for example, when they were building Venice, a city that had been around in some form or other for at least 1000 years before Queen Victoria took the throne.