While wildfires and other “natural” disasters mount in Australia, California, and elsewhere, a growing number of researchers and pastoralists around the globe have found remarkable, untapped opportunities to limit these troubles. It turns out that animals, plants, soil, and air have long collaborated to regulate our climate through their water use—until we disrupted their partnership. An environmental author finds a pathway to reconciliation.
The word artisanal has become so shopworn that it’s almost devoid of meaning. (To wit: we once saw a pizza outlet on the outskirts of a small town in northern France that was fashioned in the style of an ATM-kiosk under the following sign: “Artisanal Pizza.”) In stark contrast to this sorry state of affairs, we would like to suggest a few items for holiday shopping made by some of the masters we profiled in 2019.
Centuries ago, a fleet of rowboats called Whitehalls plied the waters of the San Francisco Bay, helping the chandlers at their helms ferry goods to and from the giant sailing ships working the city’s port. Today, descendants of those early crafts are being built, rowed, and occasionally put to work on the same waters.
You’ve read the news: traditional 9-5 jobs are in decline; a patchwork, “gig economy” of contract workers is rushing in to take their place; and colleges can’t keep up with these changes. The resulting chaos creates at least one unaddressed challenge: In a world with fewer shared ladders for advancement, how do tomorrow’s workers build pathways to success?
Just like cars, today’s motorcycles have become dizzying assemblages of electronic connections—invisible to most riders, inscrutable to many mechanics. The more high-tech these machines become, the more there is to love about classic, old bikes. Among the simplest of the pack are the Japanese motorcycles of the 1970s, particularly the Hondas. They’re also among the most loved, and that’s exactly what keeps Dave Stefani in business.
If you’re tired of smelling like everyone else when you go out on the town, you can finally say ‘No’ to the big perfume houses, and their over-priced synthetic scents. In a growing number of kitchen labs and small shops around the globe, small-scale perfume artists are bottling a world of intoxicating new scents. Some seem to give new meaning to the concept of time travel.
Every few years, discussions about using straw as a building material, in bale form, come up again. Now, as our environmental challenges mount—from wildfires to hurricanes—straw bales seem to offer an answer to a good many of them. As we step into October, and the one-year anniversary of Northern California’s first wave of historic fires, it’s time to ask: Has the straw bale’s time finally come?
Almost hidden on a funky old pier along San Francisco’s waterfront, Autodesk, a world leader in digital tools for makers, is running a prototype shop that seems more like a high-tech playground for grown-ups. In between contracts to make, say, a steel ship propeller with a massive 3-D printer, the company takes in sculptors, engineers, and architects who are pushing the boundaries of their own work. The effect of all this energy is a level of innovation that is expanding—and perhaps redefining—the meaning of craftsmanship.
As the job landscape changes, opportunities open for some and close for others. Since 2010, Kelly Carlisle has been trying to build options for youngsters in East Oakland–using an urban farm to inspire them to engage with the world as curious citizens. “Part of my work,” she says, “is to make sure we expand their worldview.”