The Other 1.5 Million Tenants
OK. First off, there is quite a bit of pet design going on. That's not exactly what we're talking about, but it deserves a mention, and it's pretty incredible to see. So, if you're in the market for a designer doggy bed or a haute house, take a look at these beauties. First off, The Bowhaus is a shiny little number that reminds us a little of a washing machine drum... but, to each his own. Then, there's the Magis plastic uber-modern business. If 18th century Russian Glamour is more your thing, the Fab Imperial Bed will let your little puppy look like a gift for a czar. Believe it or not, this is just the beginning of the list -- if you want to see just how crazy owners are about getting the newest fashions for their pets just take a look at Postmodernpets.com. Our apartments don't look this good.
But we promised that this wasn't going to be a puppy-love-fest, and we intend to make good. In fact, design has had a pretty significant impact on animal habitat all around the world, and new concepts are popping up every day.
Case One: Picture yourself as mayor of a good sized city in the south. You've got bugs. Not you personally, but as a southern city, there are all kinds of flies, gnats, and mosquitoes that are loving the warm weather, high moisture, and large human food population. Ewww. You want to control all these bugs, but dang it, DDT is illegal, and there is some kind of public outcry against massive pesticide spraying in the city (what are these citizens of yours thinking!). Plus, now with this West Nile Virus business, people are starting to call you on the phone, and that's the last thing you want. Luckily, there's an easily accessible pool of super cheap labor who will work for free, as long as you give them housing.
Bats. Bats are one of the most efficient insect controls ever devised (a couple hundred million years of evolution really works out the kinks). Installing and maintaining inexpensive bat shelters underneath bridges can be a powerful solution to insect woes. Just ask the people at Bats in American Bridges, a national advocacy group working for better understanding and implementation of bat populations for insect control. They are actively working on making cheaper and better bat habitats, so if you're interested, why not give it a shot.
Case Two: Now, you're a Coral Reef. You're mostly calcium carbonate with a little sprinkling of animals making you grow. And you're totally covered with animals. You've got more species per square meter than anywhere on earth but a tropical rainforest. But you're a slow grower; compared to you, paint drying is a drag race. And in the last hundred years, people have really been beating up on you. To the point where you're starting to get really damaged, and you can't grow fast enough to repair yourself. Luckily, there are all kinds of designer on the case.
Alabama and Florida have started programs which allow the creation and ownership of your own coral reef, which encourages private businesses to do the work of planting stuff on the sea bed. This has created all kinds of interesting businesses, like Eternal Reef, the world's first coral reef burial ground. Cremated remains are mixed with concrete and used to make blocks on which coral grows. The finished reef stands as a living monument to your loved ones. Artificial Reefs off the Keys intentionally sinks and catalogues ships and other craft as foundations for new reefs. Their latest project is a 520 foot, 13,000 ton air force radar ship which will be the largest intentionally sunk ship to date. If you're interested in giving reef-creation a shot, check out Reefball. They manufacture a concrete hemisphere which can be used to start a reef anywhere you want.
Case Three: For our final bit, you're now a hermit crab. You live in a shell that somebody else made and you took when they died. Sure, you've always got your house with you, but as you grow, you're constantly on the lookout for new ones. Except lately, there just aren't any shells your size. And this tiny little thing you've been living in for the past two years is beginning to feel like a pair of tight jeans after Christmas dinner. All you want is a new home.
It's unbelievable, but true. Apparently, 30% of land hermit crabs (the big guys) are unable to find adequate housing. And, when molting(skin shedding) time comes, up to 60% can be without sufficiently sized shells. This may seem trivial, but lack of a shell interferes with mating, safety from predators, and even egg laying. Some larger crabs are so hard up, they've been seen using aluminum cans, glass jars, and other beach combings as hobo-huts. Scientists are unsure whether pollution, environmental change, or human collecting is responsible for the lack of large shells.
But once again, design comes to the rescue. Artist Elizabeth Demaray has begun the Hand Up project, which builds and distributes tiny SLA plastic houses to homeless hermit crabs. The "Shells" are designed to match the hermit crab's desires: High internal volume, light weight, and durability. And, since the shells do not biodegrade, they can house multiple crabs over their lifetimes. Hokey? Maybe so, but the problem is real, and the solution is well reasoned. Publicizing the problem is perhaps more important than the small impact the shells will have physically.
We hope maybe this shook up your noodle a bit. Humans are great, and fun to design for. And they pay you rather well. But with over 1.5 million known and probably 10-50 million other animals co-habitating with us, it's probably a fair, and healthy idea to look around at some other users once in a while. And who knows, it might even help humans out in the end.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team