The Covid Chronicles – A concept album about covid and how it changed our perspectives

As a musician, I really enjoyed the collaboration with other musicians. Playing with multiple musicians, and bands, exploring new rhythms, musical genres, and places. That was not only exciting but also rewarding. The reward always came through learning from others. I honestly think, the more you play better you will be, the more you play with other musicians better we all will be. 

Before the Covid pandemic, I had a band and we were playing music about climate change. The project was great and so much fun to do it. It was an audiovisual project where when playing live the songs would be synchronized with a video. The plan was going accordingly to the expectations but then Covid arrived with lockdowns, uncertainties, and only virtual music. 

To fulfill my creative needs I started a concept album telling the story of how covid changed our lives (for better or worse). After a lot of work and effort (and of course fun!), finally, the 1st song of my Covid Chronicles album is out. I recorded during the pandemic and it is about the pandemic (kind of inception). I played all instruments and my friend Aybars recorded the drums. Because I really like the multimedia concept below you can check the video:

Video of Icarus dreaming, the 1st song of the album Covid Chronicles.

The second song is planned to be released in the summer so stay tuned!

Using Cellular Automata and Climate Data to Generate Visual Art

After the recording of the first demo with my band Mundo Kumo where we create music inspired on per reviewed papers about climate change, it was time to create some of the videos that we will be using on our live show. My initial idea was to use computer generated art combined with real climate data. I had experience with coding and complex artificial intelligence algorithms however not much experience using artificial intelligence (AI) to generate art.

The code used here was developed using the python language and it can be downloaded freely on my github repository called AlgorithmicArt. Although this was the initial idea about the videos,  the idea changed a lot after and we are not using all the videos explained here. However they are still a really good starting point.

When doing a little bit of research on the topic i found that Cellular automata was probably one of the easiest way to start. The concept of cellular automata was created by the mathematician Stephen Wolfram and some of the rules are very similar to the majority vote model used widely on statistical mechanics.

The first intuitive step is the use of the one-dimensional cellular automata (the easiest to implement and understand) . Thus picking a cellular automaton rule, it is possible to create a picture similarly to the pictures found on the internet.

Frame248.jpeg

 

To make things a little bit more interesting, a video can be made showing the evolution of the cellular automata grouping sequential gifs. This can be done using different alternatives. For example using ubuntu and the imagemagick package:

convert -delay 20 -loop 0 *.jpg myimage.gif

The final video is a thing like this:

The second step is to add the climate information in the code and combine with the cellular automata. I used global temperature anomalies from NOAA. I maped the colors based on the range of temperature anomalies. Thus, the colors (global temperature anomalies) and the evolution of the cellular automata are connected:

Next post I will talk about two-dimensional cellular automata.

 

How I am Making Music about Climate Change

People often ask me how I am doing my music about climate change. What are the foundations of you work? What are exactly you talking and writing about? I will try to clarify a little today.

In my music I have to main aspects, the physical aspect and the human/social aspect. The physical aspect is what it is happening or what it will happen physically with the environment. This is what I am using to write the music. Musical notes, chords, changes, rhythmic are my artistic interpretation of the physical aspects.

The second aspect is the human/social factor, or what is happening or will happen with us, humans. How we are reacting to those changes. What it is changing now for us, what it is not changing, etc. This is what the lyrics are about. Books like Tropic of Chaos, give some insights what is happening right now with us, humans and the social aspects of climate change. This book talks about how climate change is acting on humans’ social aspects in Africa, Americas and parts of Europe and Asia. It also gives some historical background and some possible future scenarios (some of them more chaotic than others).

Now, the recordings are on full speed and it won’t take long to release the first song. I hope you enjoy it.

More information about the book:

http://www.christianparenti.com/

One of my major challengers in writing my climate change music: explain that winters won’t disappear any time soon

In general for the public, the concept of climate change is that the world is warmer than a few years ago thus winters will no longer exist and it will be summer all over the year. This is one of my biggest challengers, how to explain with my music this common misunderstanding of climate change.

First the change of seasons are a combination of different factors, but the main factor is the position of the Earth in relation to the sun. The world is getting warmer and there are different theories about who is the responsible for that (CO2, sunspots, etc.). However this does not mean that it will be only summer all over the globe all the time. Winters won’t disappear any time soon.

I’ve been reading some people comments about the misunderstanding of cold temperatures and climate change. For example when a cold temperature is recorded somewhere and someone says that climate change is not happening because of that specific low temperature. Unfortunately,  things are more complicated than that.  The seasons won’t easily disappear. What it is expected to occur is that in some places winters/summers for example will have more severe temperatures. Droughts and blizzards are more expected. However, in other few places it will be less severe and in others it won’t change.

Glaciers are a great example of those changes. Most of the world’s glaciers are melting and losing mass. However a few of them are gaining mass and some of them are with relatively unchanged mass. In addition snow is still falling on the places that the melting glaciers are located but the warmer temperatures are melting more quickly the snow.

Those are some examples of what I have to consider when writing my music. How I should incorporate those factors. Honestly, that is the fun part!

Doing the Climate Change Progressive Rock Opera and the Plan B

Last year I wrote in my instagram post: “Part A,B,…J?H? 11bars? 6bars? Wait, normal songs only have A, B and maybe a C. Am I being too progressive?” The whole Alphabet ? Sometimes it is easy to imagine that the composition of the album is the hardest part. Indeed, that is probably the most important part, but reality hit me hard and doing almost everything by myself take time. In my last post I set a deadline for a possible release of the first song of my progressive rock opera. December of last year, that was my initial plan A and it was kind of reasonable. However I’ve found more difficulties than I expected. First after composing a song, and if the song is technically ready to record (technically because until the music is released it can be always improved and rearranged), it does not mean that the hard work is done. Recording is the next step. As so far I am recording all the instruments and programming the drums, it is a lot of work. Does that mean that I will give up? Of course not, but it is taking more time than I expected.

I remember when I was watching the documentary Rush: Beyond the lighted stage and they mentioned that Rush tried to record “La villa strangiato” in one take but they couldn’t. Taking apart the comparison with the semi-gods of progressive rock and the time they recorded that song, I had to take similar approach. Instead of release the first song with almost 20 min long, I will divide the song in two parts. However live I will play the song without cuts. I’ll post more details about the recording process soon and I am sure it will worth it the wait.

The journey of music and knowledge

Since I started my progressive rock project I’ve been receiving great support. Thank you all. It’s been an amazing journey.  In this small post i will try to describe how’s been.

It’s been a pleasure to record the album for two reasons. First finally i have the opportunity to play my favourite musical genre, of course progressive rock. I am using crazy effects, creating different atmospheres with easy and hard parts, expressing myself as an artist, and creating an amazing story. Second, because of the readings I am doing, I’ve been learning so much about the world, climate, climate change and consequences. Oh boy, so many books and papers. So much to learn about how the world is interconnected.

The project is beautiful but it is not easy. There are lot of difficulties. As a musician, the first challenge after the songs are ready is the recording process, and it is not an easy task. Why? Mainly because of money. Recordings demand time and money. To do any recording, even the simplest one (with good quality), some minimal equipments are necessary. Also it is a lot of work. These are the two main reasons why professional musicians (and studio engineers) don’t like to play (work) for free. However, this is another topic lets get back to my process.

I’ve done some sessions before, so I have good equipment to record my bass. Therefore, almost all the recordings can be done in a home studio. In addition, it is cheaper than any professional studio, right? True, but the home studio won’t simply appear in my desk out of nowhere. That was my first hit. Even if I am able to record everything by myself (which mostly i can do anyway but some musicians friends will contribute), I still don’t have the whole equipment necessary to record the whole album. This is slowing the process a bit because I don’t have all the money necessary to buy everything at once. Therefore, I am not only recording the songs by parts but also buying the necessary equipment by parts (used and new).

This is only the first bump. It is certain that I will have more bumps during my journey which is part of the job. So far the songs are (in my rumble opinion) becoming awesome! My plan is to release the first song by December. Lets see if i can keep this deadline.

Does ‘Being Green’ Mean ‘Saving Money’? Well, Not always….

It is not new that plants help the environment, but I’ve been trying to read more news on the internet about helping the environment in general and I must confess that I am bored. If you google any site talking about environment you will find someone talking about climate change and CO2 and another one saying that CO2 is not causing climate change. It is like have your own soccer team or political party, it is not science any more. Look this article talking about green roofs. This article talks about the advantages and disadvantages (including costs and maintenance) of the roofs (which are not cheap by the way). However, there is one last part in the last line where it says something about “cooling the planet”. Damn it! You go to the commentaries and global warming this, CO2 that. Sometimes you can find even more radical ideas as we should not eat meat because the carbon footprint. Ok, yeah, we should also breath less to release less CO2 and we also should hold our farts because of the releasing of methane (another and even more powerful greenhouse gas). So, are we missing the point? Could we please focus on the benefits versus disadvantages of green roofs? Are we saving the planet using a green roof? I doubt it. However it is an interesting idea, and could be applicable considering the costs/maintenance. They need to be adapted to each place and situation  and of course for some places they can’t be economically viable because they probably need more maintenance than traditional roofs. So a balance must exist.

Credit: Arild Vågen – Own work

Another interesting idea is the use of rain gardens to help the runoff problem. Runoff is the portion of rainfall, snowmelt, and/or irrigation water that runs over the soil surface toward the stream rather than infiltrating into the soil. Each soil type has an infiltration rate (the amount of water able to enter the soil in a specified time period) and infiltration capacity (the upper limit of infiltration rate). However in urban areas the infiltration rate could be close to zero because of the impervious areas (roofs, driveways, parking lots, pavements, compacted soils). Consequently the runoff in urban areas is large and it is a major component of flash floods. In addition runoff flows can pick up soil contaminants such as petroleum, pesticides, fertilizers, trace metals, etc.

The rain gardens capture the initial flow of storm water and reduce the accumulation of toxins flowing directly into natural waterways. Thus the stormwater soaks into the ground instead of flow directly to storm drains.  In addition, they help to control erosions due the excessive runoff. Similarly to green roofs, rain gardens have to be adapted to place and situation. For example, native plants are recommended (for both) because they are more tolerant of one’s local climate, soil, and water conditions.

A place which has a rain garden and a green roof is more environmental friendly and it is also helping to save the world, right? Well, it is important to remember the costs and maintenance of these products. Be green does not mean cheap or easy. However the advantages of green roof and rain garden such as energy savings, runoff and pollution reduction, temperature control should also be considered. Maybe you won’t save the world but you can save a few bucks and have a better lifestyle. Besides, it is St. Patrick’s day, so green is the official color.

More about:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain_garden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surface_runoff

http://www.riversides.org/rainguide/riversides_hgr.php?cat=2&page=39&subpage=92&subpage2=45

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_roof

Living Architecture Backgrounders

http://www.greenroofs.com/TV.htm

Changes in the Water Cycle Expected with Climate Change. Are We Doomed?

Everybody know we are evolving as human beings. Is this true? When I see how clean water has being handled I have some questions. More than a billion people across the globe don’t have access to safe water. Every day 3900 children die as a result of insufficient or unclean water supplies. The situation can only get worse as water gets ever more scarce. The world without clean water. How many times I’ve heard that. The humankind is polluting, wasting, diverting, pumping, and degrading the clean water that we have. On top of that, water has being privatized. Why? Because is becoming rare and only what is rare is valuable! The rampant over-development of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth. There are companies now saying why don’t we bottle it, mine it, divert it, sell it, commodify it. Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geopolitical map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars. The following two documentaries show how the problem is affecting countries in the world. It is interesting how two documentaries show the same topic. They complement each other.


So, why can we be friends with nature? Is there any hope? According with this recent paper from nature climate:

Adaptation of water resources management will help communities adjust to changes in the water cycle expected with climate change, but it can’t be fixed by innovations alone.

The paper talks about the Pangani River, where the Tanzania Electric Supply Company has three hydropower plants. There, climate change is affecting the water cycle, changing precipitation amounts and droughts duration which is altering the way farmers, pastoralists and Tanzania’s energy company are managing water. All over the world new techniques and planning have been developed. The urban and rural development plans (sometimes) are moving away from large, static projects by combining sustainable approaches of engineering and ecology.

For the Pangani River, leaders adjusted water allocation policies with the changing needs of the communities. Still, they made water availability for ecosystems a main priority by maintaining at least a minimum flow of water to wetlands, riparian forests and mangroves to provide water for wildlife including fish, plants for medicinal use, timber and fruits, for example. Then, as the region’s population swelled, water uses for urban city centres were balanced with the needs of subsistence farmers, pastoralists and the Tanzanian energy company. That same kind of flexibility is the hallmark of the new thinking on water management. Rather than relying on large, long-lived concrete infrastructure, often built all at once and designed based on historical climatic conditions.

It makes sense. Rather than isolating water management issues within a single field, such as engineering or hydrology, the team to solve these problems should include economists, hydrologists, policymakers and engineers. Solutions have been proposed such as the redesigning of water treatment plants that can accommodate extreme rainfall, and the adding of city orchards and grassed bio-swales (which resemble marshy depressions in the land) to slow the flow of storm water from sidewalks. They will act as green sponges all over the city. Thus the water gets soaked up avoiding pumping every time it rains.

Another good example comes from Japan where it is possible to be sustainable (of course I am not talking about the Japanese nuclear power stations). Over centuries they reshaped the land where people and nature could remain in harmony. For the Japanese, it is important that they have a special word for it, satoyama, villages where mountains give way to plains. The satoyama landscape is a system in which agricultural practices and natural resource management techniques are used to optimize the benefits derived from local ecosystems. In the Satoyama villages, each home has a built in pool or water tank that lies partly inside, partly outside its’ walls… A continuous stream of spring water is piped right into a basin, so freshwater is always available. People rinse out pots in the tank and clean their freshly picked vegetables. If they simply pour the food scraps back in the water, they risk polluting the whole village supply. However, carps do the washing up there scouring out even the greasy or burnt pans. Cleaned up by the carp, the tank water eventually rejoins the channel. This documentary talks about the Satoyama villages:

In the Satoyama villages the products obtained (including food and fuel) help safeguard the community against poverty, but without degrading the land, water or other resources. Of course documentaries have a bias towards the ideas which they want to show but can you spot the difference? Also, is water public or private? Am I saying no more bottled water? Am I saying everybody should live in a Satoyama village? No. However I balance must exist between extraction and use. We need to reinvent ourselves.

Do you have anything to say? I’d like to hear your opinion.

More information:

http://satoyama-initiative.org/

http://onlinelearning.unu.edu/en/the-satoyama-initiative/

Click to access e_satoyama_pamph.pdf

Journal References:
Palmer, L. (2014). The next water cycle Nature Climate Change, 4 (11), 949-950 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2420

Dr. Agr. Kazuhiko Takeuchi,Robert D. Brown Ph.D., Dr. Sci. Izumi Washitani, Dr. Agr. Atsushi Tsunekawa, Dr. Agr. Makoto Yokohari (2003). Satoyama, The Traditional Rural Landscape of Japan Springer Japan DOI: 10.1007/978-4-431-67861-8

Nuclear Power: a Possible Solution for Global Warming. Really???

That’s what I first heard. It is clean because it does not release CO2. Indeed, nuclear power plants produce energy without the releasing of large CO2 amount but is it really clean? I tried to learn a bit more about the topic. I won’t get into the details about how nuclear power is generated, I think this wikipedia text does a good job explaining how it works:

Just as many conventional thermal power stations generate electricity by harnessing the thermal energy released from burning fossil fuels, nuclear power plants convert the energy released from the nucleus of an atom via nuclear fission that takes place in a nuclear reactor. The heat is removed from the reactor core by a cooling system that uses the heat to generate steam, which drives a steam turbine connected to a generator producing electricity.

So the key factor is basically the nuclear fission:

nuclear fission is a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts. The fission process often produces free neutrons and photons (in the form of gamma rays), and releases a very large amount of energy even by the energetic standards of radioactive decay.

An induced fission reaction.

 

The products of nuclear fission are on average far more radioactive than the heavy elements which are normally fissioned as fuel (for example Uranium), and remain so for significant amounts of time. Thus, is it nuclear energy safe? The world had 434 operable reactors with 66 others currently under construction. Statistically, considering the number of reactors and number of accidents, nuclear power plants are not really unsafe. Well, statistics is powerful and should be used carefully. Each nuclear accident could  represent environmental concerns of  hundreds of years (maybe thousands depending of the element and nuclear decay process). Therefore, only one accident can lead to catastrophic environmental consequences.

I started watching a movie about the Chernobyl accident and then I found more documentaries including nuclear power accidents, nuclear footprints and nuclear waste. It was an amazing journey. I hope these movies help you to understand more about this technology which is amazing but at the same time scary. Personally, after all these movies I though: “Wow, coal energy is kind of cleaner when compared to nuclear energy.”. It is important to mention there is a debate about the use of Thorium instead of Uranium or Plutonium in the nuclear power plants.  The claim is that Thorium is cheaper, safer and also abundant. Well, soon we will see the reality of these claims.

Into Eternity

This wasn’t the first movie that I saw about the topic but it was the most impressive for me. It was for me the scariest because of the time-dimension of the problem and the solution. 100,000 years. Wow, 100,000 years!

Every day, the world over, large amounts of high-level radioactive waste created by nuclear power plants is placed in interim storages, which are vulnerable to natural disasters, man-made disasters, and to societal changes.

In Finland the world’s first permanent repository is being hewn out of solid rock – a huge system of underground tunnels – that must last 100,000 years as this is how long the waste remains hazardous.

Once the waste has been deposited and the repository is full, the facility is to be sealed off and never opened again. Or so we hope, but can we ensure that?

And how is it possible to warn our descendants of the deadly waste we left behind? How do we prevent them from thinking they have found the pyramids of our time, mystical burial grounds, hidden treasures? Which languages and signs will they understand? And if they understand, will they respect our instructions?

While gigantic monster machines dig deeper and deeper into the dark, experts above ground strive to find solutions to this crucially important radioactive waste issue to secure mankind and all species on planet Earth now and in the near and very distant future.

Is Nuclear Energy Safe? Nuclear Energy Risks and Consequences

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima: This original Earth Focus investigative report looks at the untold stories behind three of the world’s largest nuclear disasters.

Discovery Channel – The Battle of Chernobyl (2006)

This documentary analyzes the Thursday 26th April 1986 when one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine, exploded. The plant, just 20 km away from the town centre, was made up of four reactor units each generating an output of 1,000 megawatts. The reactor in question exploded due to operational errors and inadequate safety measures and the meltdown was directly linked to routine testing on the reactor unit’s turbine generators.

More than 200 people died or were seriously injured by radiation exposure immediately after the explosion. 161,000 people had to be evacuated from a 30 kilometer radius of the reactor and 25,000 square km of land were contaminated. As time went on millions of people suffered radiation related health problems such as leukemia and thyroid cancer and around 4,000 people have died as a result of the long-term effects of the accident.

Nobody was prepared for such a crisis. For the next seven months, 500,000 men will wage hand-to-hand combat with an invisible enemy – a ruthless battle that has gone unsung, which claimed thousands of unnamed and now almost forgotten heroes. Yet, it is thanks to these men that the worst was avoided; a second explosion, ten times more powerful than Hiroshima which would have wiped out more than half of Europe. This was kept secret for twenty years by the Soviets and the West alike.

Uranium – Is It A Country? Tracking the Origins of Nuclear Power

This is a documentary that takes a look at the footprints of nuclear energy. In Europe nuclear energy is more and more often celebrated as saving the climate. Clearly, nuclear power plants need uranium.

The aim is to comprehensively illustrate the opportunities and risks posed by nuclear energy, whilst paying particular attention to uranium mining. Australia has the world’s largest deposits of this resource. They go to the “land down under” to exemplify where uranium comes from, where it goes to and what is leftover from it.

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident

Examines the incident, aftermath and implications for the adoption of Nuclear energy in other countries. From ‘Four Corners’, an Australian investigative program on the ABC.

 

 

 

Can We Really Count on Plants to Slow Down Global Warming?

The idea is simple. Fact 1:Plants reduce CO2 in the atmosphere trough photosynthesis. Fact 2: Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere stimulates plants growth. Thus fact 1 + fact 2 is the perfect scenario. If there is more CO2 in the atmosphere and plants are growing more because of that, the solution to global warming is to plant more trees right? Well not really. There is a missing piece called Carbon cycle.

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