THE PARK SPARK PROJECT
Dog owners everywhere are collecting pet waste in plastic bags and then sending it to landfills. The waste contained in these plastic bags release small amounts of methane that over time is a substantial quantity. The Park Spark Project is based on substituting the common trashcan and plastic bag with a public methane digester and biodegradable bag, so that the dog waste collected is converted into a usable form of energy (methane). This methane will burn constantly in the form of an 'eternal flame' monument until someone proposes an idea for the use of the flame.
The energy of the digester manifested as an eternal flame is evidence of the redundant and unquestioned nature of our behaviors. Once in place, as long as people own pets in the city and throw away dog waste, the production of energy will be continuous and unlimited.
What lies beneath the circumstances that have driven us to develop green technologies is the fact that we are disconnected from our environment. When we start to unveil how we are connected to our surroundings we are immediately shown a much more dynamic and interconnected picture of what we are part of. Although, in our current push to develop green technologies that promise to save us, we learn to only interface with these green technologies, and not fully understand how they are directly related to the issues they alleviate. This type of strategy keeps us the same distance from how we conceive of our environment. Only when we develop systems that restore a sense of connection to our surroundings and the impact our lives have on the environment will we illuminate a more holistic view of how our existence is connected to the world we live in.
One branch of designing for a green world focuses on creating technologies that enable us to live the same way we have been living, but reduce the impact we have on our environment -solar energy, wind power, alternative fuels, etc. Another branch asks us to change the way we live -riding bicycles, cloth grocery bags, composting, growing our own food, carpooling, etc.
To rely directly on scientists and engineers to produce solutions for us to buy, is missing the much larger point of what has brought us to this situation. When developing these new technologies - art, culture, and community involvement has to be employed as part of a more holistic solution to broaden our relationship with earth, or we will just follow in our same consummeristic models that have kept us from a deepening in our understanding of what is happening.
The idea of living green goes beyond keeping us comfortable, and opens our eyes to the relationship we have with the surroundings, by questioning the role of technology in our lives. Since we live in a world that is so infused with technology, considering these new green ideas becomes a moment to change the way we interact with our surroundings and inevitably with each other. These new technologies can open up new social layers for us to interact within.
The Park Spark project proposes these new green technologies have as a design criteria, a community-building aspect that addresses social, environmental, economic and aesthetic issues, as well as exposes the individuals relationship with their immediate surroundings to make visible the presence of nature within the fabric of urban life.
This intervention uses conventional forms of urban infrastructure to create new possibilities for social interactions, while questioning existing ones.
The flame of the Park Spark project will burn in a lamppost as a monument until the energy is redirected into another project. This is where you come in. This unique multi-user transdisciplinary project is a direct challenge to anyone who thinks they have a good idea of what to use the flame for. Along with the ecological benefits of burning methane (see below) also comes heat and light from the flame which becomes an opportunity for others (facilitated by the Park Spark Project) to appropriate the gas in exceptional ways by building a use for this constant source of energy and participate in the events that are spurred by the projects.
This is a chance to be good to the planet, and to also start to think how we could relate to each other in new unexplored ways, such as using the flame made from dog waste to boil water for coffee, focusing the light to create a projector, baking bread, power a street light on a dark corner, or whatever else comes to mind.
This public urban intervention questions both global and local issues, and at the same time creates local responses to issues of sustainability and lifestyle choices. Feeding dog waste into the public digester turns these actions into something much more critical, visual, and participatory.
The Park Spark Project is about bringing people together to brainstorm, build, and explore solutions and dialogue around the issues brought to light by the project involving science, public involvement, ecological issues, community building, artists sensibilities, and bringing criticality to a space.
Note: Methane is known to be 30-70 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a harmful greenhouse gas. Burning Methane CH4, a potent greenhouse gas, separates it into Carbon Dioxide CO2 and Water H20. Although CO2 is another greenhouse gas it is not actually as potent as methane, so by burning methane you can actually earn carbon credits.