Taking the Cake

I’ve been inactive on this blog for quite a while, with the usual excuses of looming deadlines, social obligations, and projects demanding attention. I was going to write about our Christmas plans, which have been in the works for some time, but then I decided to leave that until after the event. So in lieu of anything more interesting, here some some successful baking endeavours of the last few months.

1. Orange Almond Syrup Cake


I made this cake for my dad’s birthday. The recipe uses almond flour instead of wheat flour and is therefore gluten free. It is a very moist and sweet cake, with all the orange juice and orange syrup, but it’s light rather than rich.


2. Carrot Cake with Orange & Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

This recipe was actually for cupcakes, but put it all in a cake tin. *shrugs* It turned out quite well, if a little burnt on the outside. The inside was perfect. The icing did not go quite as it was supposed to, which is to say that it was sloppy rather than creamy. But it tasted delicious!


3. Victorian Lavender Biscuits


I made these with fresh lavender from our own garden! I probably could have put some more in as the taste was fainter than I expected. They were very good though. I made the icing too runny (again) and didn’t get the colour quite right (although it was nicer than it looks in the photo) but I don’t think that detracted too much. I’m still not quite sure why these biscuits are Victorian but it refers to the time period, not the state.


4. Banana Bread


I know it looks like a cake but I swear it was banana bread. I just didn’t have a bread-loaf-shaped baking tin. I also forgot to take a photo of a sliced piece, which would have shown how bananary and breadish (and perfectly baked) it was. It’s a shame because this is the one I’m most proud of. Firstly because I made it while my parents were away and there was no one to prevent me from burning the house down burning the bread. Secondly because I had no baking powder and I had to do complicated mathematics to work out how much bi-carb soda and citric acid to use instead. Thirdly because I substituted brown sugar with coconut sugar and I think it actually improved the result.


Winter Solstice — Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

The earliest people on Earth knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments such as Newgrange in Ireland, Stonehenge in England – or, for example, at Machu Picchu in Peru – […]

via Winter Solstice — Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Dublin’s Potential: The Emerald City

It’s been another long while since I last posted anything. I have been primarily devoted to my studies, with everything else in a descending order of priority. Given that, I am pleased to say that at least some of my hard work has paid off.
I present here one of my most successful efforts. I received an excellent mark for this assignment, and for the unit in general, and so I felt that it was worth publishing.
Anyone is welcome to read my work, however I ask that it not be reblogged or republished in any form, and that none of the content is used in any way without my permission.

The broad instructions for the assignment were as follows:

The Project gives you an opportunity to explore the relevance and possible application of the unit themes within an urban area that is of particular personal interest. It does this by asking you to critically examine an urban area and explain how you would redesign/redevelop it achieve a higher degree of sustainability. The area can be a whole city, or a suburb, town or urban precinct, a whole transport corridor, or some other well-defined area such as a Local Government Area (LGA), which has potential for reshaping according to the principles taught in this unit. It is expected that students will utilise and show a thorough knowledge of the different urban planning approaches taught in the unit which, together, can be used to help build more sustainable urban communities.

The word limit was 3000.
There were roughly a dozen images included in my assignment but I have not yet been able to transfer them from the original document.


Cities & Sustainability Project ~ June 2017

Choosing Dublin City

Dublin City is the capital of Ireland. It resides on the eastern coast at the head of Dublin Bay, the mouth of the River Liffey. The city occupies 115 square km. and was built on both sides of the river plain and surrounded by the Wicklow and Dublin

Mountains. It experiences a maritime temperate climate. It is the political, commercial and financial heart of Ireland. It is also Ireland’s largest population centre.

Capital cities traditionally have a sense of grandeur, where the country’s finest assets are on display. They are often a hub for air, water and rail transport, and thereby serve as a gateway to the rest of the country. A capital is seen as representative of a nation’s identity and character.

Although it well known as the capital of Ireland, there is an incongruity between the attributes most associated with Ireland and the attributes of Dublin itself. Ireland is referred to as the “Emerald Isle” for it’s rich green appearance, and is known for a close connection with nature, and the unique cultural identity of its people. In Dublin city however, concrete, bricks and pavement predominate. It is a major thoroughfare for vehicle traffic. There is also little to visually differentiate it from any other modern cities. Dublin is by no means lacking in cultural identity, but it is not immediately apparent in the landscape.

Dublin is an interesting city to research at it has a rich history and it is possible to see how the past has influenced the present. In addition it has in recent years has become engaged with sustainability. So although in many ways it is a very old city it is also very modern. Given that Ireland has only had its independence for just under century, it is relatively young as a sovereign nation. This century is the first time they have had the opportunity to define themselves without external influence. It’s a story of rebirth.


Brief History of Dublin

The original city of Dublin was a Viking settlement founded c. 841 AD. However the Viking settlement was likely preceded by an ecclesiastical settlement known as Dyflin (Ryan, 1949). This name was derived from the Irish “Duiblinn” which translates to “black pool”, in reference to the black-silted pool where the River Poddle enters the River Liffey. The Vikings ruled Dublin for almost three centuries before it was retaken by the Irish king in 902 AD. Prior to the Norman invasion in 1169-1171 AD, Dublin was the unofficial capital of Leinster but held no special prominence in Ireland as a whole. When the Normans seized control of Munster and Leinster they made Dublin their effective capital. Initially the settlement was on the south side of the Liffey. Following the Norman invasion, the ancestrally Viking inhabitants created a new settlement on the north side. Medieval Dublin was home to between 5000 and 10 000 citizens. The walled town covered an area of roughly 3 square kilometres, however there were suburbs beyond the walls where native Irish and assimilated Norse had settled.

Very little remains of the old city of Dublin, as many buildings were destroyed in periods of war and civil unrest. Temple Bar remains the last area of the city with a medieval street plan. By the 1700’s Dublin was the official capital of English-ruled Ireland. The population was in excess of 60 000 people, making it the second largest city in the British Empire. At this time the Lord Deputy decreed that the River Liffey should no longer be a place of waste disposal. He demanded that buildings were modernised and that houses should face the river and display high quality frontages (Beckett, 1966). During this century the Georgian streets, squares and terraces were built.

In 1798 Dublin lost its status as a political capital and the city began to decline through lack of funds. The Georgian neighbourhoods became Victorian slums. Overcrowding and poor accommodation was exacerbated by the influx of unskilled labourers during the industrial revolution (O’Brien, 1982). From the late 1800’s there were many attempts to improve housing but minimal progress was made until the 1960’s. During this period tenements were demolished and the working class residents were rehoused in suburbs around the periphery of the city. Poor planning resulted in lack of shops, public transport or employment opportunities in these areas.

During the economic boom of the 1990’s many office buildings and apartments were constructed. A new financial district at the North Quay was developed. Victorian tramlines were removed and replaced by buses but in 2004 the Luas tram service was reinstated.


Modern Dublin


Dublin is characterised by a midrise and low-built cityscape, where buildings are no higher than 5-6 stories. Buildings are predominantly modern (i.e. 20 and 21st century constructions), although there are some areas and key buildings from earlier times. A section of Georgian terrace houses have remained, along with wide Georgian streets.


Transport systems

Public and private bus services operate in and around Dublin city. A train service known as Dart runs down the coast from Malahide & Howth in the north to Greystones in the south. Irish Rail connects Dublin City with suburbs to the west, north and south. The Luas tram service also connects the city centre with suburbs to the south and southwest. The Leap Card allows Dubliners to quickly tag-on and tag-off buses, trams and trains without the hassle of buying a ticket. (Dublin City Council)


Water management

Dublin’s water supply is collected from fivers in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, and treated to make drinkable (Dublin City Council). Water is delivered through pipe network, which is predominantly gravity-fed.

Dublin is at risk of water scarcity. Influencing factors include population growth, increase in industrial demands and climate change (Kelly-Quinn et al., 2014). A water works project is underway to draw additional water from the Shannon Basin to provide for Dublin. There are also efforts to reduce demand on the water supply.

In addition to scarcity Dublin has a problem associated with the age and ad hoc extensions to Victorian era, copper and terracotta pipes network (Kelly-Quinn et al., 2014). The city council is considering a restructuring and updating of the gravity-fed water distribution to modernise, and improve efficiency by introduce water pumps.

Record low temperatures in the winters of 2010 and 2011 highlighted yet another significant problem for the aging water system. During the cold spell the frost level dropped sufficiently to freeze the water in some sections (Kelly-Quinn et al., 2014).

When demand for water is high there can be difficulty in supply as the water treatment facility has insufficient capacity to deal with this increased demand (Dublin City Council). Currently the treatment facility is working at slightly over capacity.

It is clear that Dublin’s water supply is at risk and that there is currently no clear renewal plan. Rather at this stage, the problems are addressed on an ad hoc basis.


Waste management

Dublin City Council is one of the local authorities that produce an annual update on waste management in the region. The Dublin Waste Plan was produced in 2005 and it requires the production of annual reports (Dublin City Council). In the last report it was noted that overall, the Dublin Region continues to perform well in line with the targets and objectives of the Dublin Waste Management Plan. The household recycling rate is up 3% to 44%, municipal waste recovery is up 1% to 47% and landfilling has decreased by 1% to 53%. The region remains overly reliant on landfill with 56% of household waste and 49% of commercial waste sent for disposal. There remains a need to develop recovery alternatives for residual waste.

Multiple strategies have been developed to improve waste management. These include websites (Dublinwaste.ie), green schools education programs, green business, promotion of home composting, local area funding of community projects that aim to facilitate sustainable development within communities, development of a free trade website to encourage reuse of waste.


Energy management

Dublin is currently working on a transition to sustainable energy targets set by the European Union. It recognises that sustainability, energy security and competitiveness are interrelated challenges. In a clearly articulated white paper they are have set out a framework that recognises that a radical transformation of the energy system is required (Ireland 2040 Our Plan: Issues and choices., 2017).

Solar panels are being installed in some existing government buildings and are standard for new developments. Methane produced by a wastewater treatment plant is converted to electricity. High efficiency light sources are used for public lighting and traffic lights. A water turbine provides the energy for Roundwood Waterworks.



Phoenix Park is an expansive public park that includes areas of grassland, woodland and wetland. It is home to 50% of native mammal species (including a free roaming herd of fallow deer) and 40% of native bird species (Phoenix Park). Phoenix park is however located on the outskirts of the city.

Within the city there is a distinct lack of green spaces, resulting in a lack of plant diversity and lack of habitat for birds, insects and small animals. Because the green spaces are sparse and disconnected Dublin is non– traversable for many wildlife species.


Climate change adaptation

Dublin is vulnerable to flooding, as it sits mouth of the Liffey, and on the plain beneath the Wicklow and Dublin Mountains. It is also in close proximity to the River’s Poddle and Shannon.

Flooding can arise from two causes associated with global warming. Firstly, a rise in sea level, secondly an increase in rainfall. It is predicted that it will become drier during the summer and wetter during the winter. High tide and storm surges will put the city at risk from the Liffey overcoming its banks. One of the areas that is most prone to flooding, the Dublin Docklands, has in recent times has become an important business district. The council has recognised the risks for flooding in this area and have taken measures to mitigate the floodwaters. They have created terraced and vegetated esplanades are between the buildings and the river. This development reduces the likelihood of the water seeping into the buildings and laneways and in addition it provides a pleasant green space for people to enjoy.


Vision for Dublin- the Emerald City

To develop Dublin City into a capital that is representative of Ireland’s beauty and charm, and to make Dublin one of the most sustainable and attractive cities within the European Union, and a first choice for international investment.

The following principles will guide the transformation of Dublin city and in doing so make it a more enjoyable place to live, work and play.


Goals for Dublin


Reeve et al. report that, with growing scale and density, urban areas are becoming increasingly abstracted from nature and disengaged from the natural world. Research shows that humans have a psychological, physiological and emotional need for regular experiences with nature manifest in a series of neurological and physical responses (Reeve, Hargroves, Desha, Newman, & el Baghdadi, 2013). They assert the need to create biophilic cities, where nature is fully integrated.

Beatley (2015) defines a biophilic city as “a biodiverse city; a city full of nature; a place where in the normal course of work and play and life, residents feel, see and experience rich nature – plants, trees, animals”. He asserts the need to value the nature that is already part of cities, as to use this as a basis for integrating more. Reeves et al. suggest that biophilic urbanism should be designed on multiple levels: building, neighbourhood, and city level with natural design features integrated across all three (Reeve et al., 2013). Biophilic urbanism has the potential to provide significant benefits in cities. In addition to those improvements for wellbeing, the transformation into a biophilic city has many functional benefits.

Creating Dublin as a biophilic city:

  1. Creation of more public parks of varying sizes, particularly around transport routes. These parks will include grassed open areas for sport and other activities, as well as more vegetated spaces where people can peacefully appreciate nature.
  2. Planting of large street trees for canopy shelter and aesthetic benefit.
  3. Selection and creation of green alleyways, particularly where markets are held.
  4. Create green permeable sidewalks and a green corridor along the river.
  5. Integrate rain gardens into storm-water management
  6. Creation of green roofs where possible on existing buildings
  7. Creation of interior or exterior, green walls, atriums, or other major plant installations for all city buildings.
  8. Creation of building regulations for apartments that mandates the inclusion of balconies or areas where residents can cultivate plants

These modifications will allow people to have more connection with nature in their daily life. Additionally, if the greening of parks, alleys and other natural features are thoughtfully planned, they can link up to create a network of green spaces for wildlife, making the city more conducive to biodiversity.


Peñalosa illustrates the inequalities associated with car-dependant cities, as well as the negative effect on people’s health and wellbeing. He asserts that people need the freedom to walk and run in order to be happy (Peñalosa, 2002). In his book, The Happy City, Montogomery describes changes that Penalosa made during his term as mayor of Bogotá. Plans for new highways were scrapped and money was diverted to a network of cycle and pedestrian paths, parks and pedestrian plazas, and a rapid transit system of buses (Montgomery, 2013).

Improving a city’s walkability involves two main issues. The first involves a comprehensive network of pedestrian and cycle paths so that the city is easily navigable by foot or pedal. The other concerns the proximity of basic services so that people are not required to travel long distances on a daily basis. This requires that residential areas and retail services are integrated. This may be achieved by using the ground floor of apartment buildings for shops, cafes, etc., while the upper floors are residential. Having shops and small business in the same place as apartments allows people to access their everyday needs within easy walking distance.

An increase in urban density and walkability of a city also requires that public transport system that is affordable, reliable and accessible. This entails an extensive transportation network, which Dublin is committed to achieving. It includes involve bus, rail, tram and facilities for people travelling by bicycle. It is also important that all public transport is accessible for people with all levels of mobility.

An important consideration for a more accessible public transport includes the provision of adequate shelter at stations and bus stops. This is particularly importance for Dublin given its propensity for inclement weather.

Creating Dublin as a walkable city

  1. Extend the no car zone from Temple Bar to the edges of the river in the city square, and restrict private vehicle access down the main street.
  2. Extend bus routes and increase their frequency.
  3. Provide a free electric green-roof bus around the no- car zone, and to main car parks outside the city centre.
  4. Ensure adequate parking at peripheral train stations to allow commuters from nearby villages to enter the city by bus or train.
  5. Provide secure green-top bike parking at stations and bus stops and various locations around the city.
  6. Provide more bike hire stations.
  7. Extend the usage of the Leap Card to the bike hire facilities.
  8. Increase residential density in inner city areas by replacing light industrial use with residential via warehouse conversions and new apartment buildings. These buildings should be designed for integrated use, with retail and other services on the ground floor. They should be 5-6 stories high to maximise the use of the land whilst maintaining the mid-rise cityscape.



The Dublin City Council plans already include significant commitment toward generating energy sustainably and reducing carbon emissions. As a capital city it is important for Dublin to show leadership in sustainable energy use. One of the suggestions in the plan includes creating strategic energy zones as high priority areas to act as test beds for new technologies and developing solutions for carbon storage and capture (Ireland 2040 Our Plan: Issues and choices., 2017). In addition to new solutions Ireland is considering solutions for retrofitting existing infrastructure.

Making Dublin City Efficient

  1. Make Dublin city a test environment for sustainable energy solutions
  2. Transition public services to sustainable energy sources.
  3. Ensure the regulation that in new builds all appliances must meet a specified level of energy and/or water efficiency
  4. Utilise grey water collection within the city for maintenance of green spaces and other functions that do not require potable water such as public toilets, street cleaning etc.


Prepared for climate change

Newman and Kenworthy (1998) report that modern, automobile-dependent cities struggle with storm water management due to the large amount of hard flat surfaces such as asphalt, pavement and bricks. Dublin City is no exception. This necessitates removal of storm water via drainage systems, which can be insufficient at times and have negative impacts on the environment. According to Newman and Kenworthy, these problems can be reduced by decreasing the amount of hard surface in favour of soft surfaces such as grass, turf or other vegetated areas. In addition, they recommend the reintroduction of pre-industrial forms of storm water management. These include the restoration or creation urban creeks. These facilitate biodiversity, slow down the flow of storm water and direct it back into wetland or aquifers, instead of into the river or the ocean. Wetlands and aquifers purify the contaminated city storm water before returning it to the natural water cycle, instead of allowing polluted water to enter the river and ocean.

Suzuki et al. (2010) discuss the enhancement of green areas in cities. They explain how green areas for recreation such as parks, gardens, and paths lined with greenery can also function as floodwater management, as the vegetated earth absorbs water.

Making Dublin City prepared for Climate change

  1. The planned action to create more green spaces will also serve as flood mitigation because areas of grass and vegetation will absorb water. This is especially important on the riverbanks and low-lying areas in the city. Reducing the roads and car parks in the vicinity of the riverbanks will also assist in storm water management.
  2. Green roofs will also provide an additional soft surface area and remove the need for costly draining systems on buildings.
  3. Planting of large trees will provide additional shade for the predicted increase in temperature during spring and summer.
  4. Green spaces will also reduce the temperature in the city as they absorb rather than reflect heat.

Enhancing Character

The planned changes in addition to their practicality will improve the aesthetic sensibilities of the city. They will create a more unique and recognisable location.

Ireland is known for its lush green landscape and the connection that is felt to land, sea and sky. The proposed changes will make Ireland’s capital city a place that is more representative of its nation as well as place that its inhabitants are proud to call home.

While these changes are creating a city of the future they are also incorporating elements of Ireland’s history. This plan focuses on creating an identity for Dublin that creates an optimistic future on the foundations of a historic past.



Beatley, T. (2015). Imagining Biophilic Cities. In S. Lehmann (Ed.), Low Carbon Cities; Transofrming Urban Systems: Routledge.

Beckett, J C. (1966). The Making of Modern Ireland 1603-1923. London: Faber & Faber.

City of Stuttgart, Office for Environmental Protection. (2013). Stuttgart green roofs.

Dublin City Council.). How is water treated? Water, Waste and Environment.

Dublin City Council.). Public Transport in Dublin. Roads and Traffic. from http://www.dublincity.ie/main-menu-services-roads-and-traffic-traffic-dublin/public-transport-dublin

Dublin City Council.). Waste Management Plan. Water, Waste and Environment.

Dublin City Council.). Your Drinking Water. Water, Waste and Environment.

Government, Seoul Metropolitan. (2005). The restored Cheonggyecheon Stream after construction was complete in 2005.

. Ireland 2040 Our Plan: Issues and choices. (2017).

Kelly-Quinn, M, Blacklocke, S, Bruen, M, Earle, R, O’Neill, E, O’Sullivan, J, & Purcell, P. (2014). Dublin Ireland: a city addressing challenging water supply, management, and governance issues. Ecology and Society, 19(4).

Montgomery, C. (2013). The Mayor of Happy Happy city: transforming our lives through urban design (pp. 1-8).

Newman, P W G, & Kenworthy, J R. (1998). Sustainability and the Urban Water System Sustainability and Cities; Overcoming Automobile Dependence (pp. 241-248): Island Press.

O’Brien, J. (1982). Dear Dirty Dublin Dear Dirty Dublin: A city in distress, 1899-1916. Berkeley: University California Press.

Peñalosa, E. (2002). Urban Transport and Urban Development. Paper presented at the World Bank Urban Forum, Washington DC.

Phoenix Park.). Nature & Biodiversity. About. from http://www.phoenixpark.ie/about/naturebiodiversity/

Reeve, A, Hargroves, K, Desha, C, Newman, P W G, & el Baghdadi, O. (2013). Biophilic Urbanism: Harnessing natural elements to enhance the performance of constructed assets. Paper presented at the CIB World Building Congress: COnstruction and Society, Brisbane.

Ryan, J. (1949). Pre-Norman Dublin.

Suzuki, H, Dastur, A, Moffat, S, Yabuki, N, & Maruyama, H. (2010). Eco2 Cities; Ecological Cities as Economic Cities: World Bank.




Anzac Day Salute

I salute the Australian and New Zealand soldiers of the past, present and future.

I salute the British, French, Russian, Italian, “colonial” and many other soldiers who fought bravely beside the Anzacs.

I salute the Turkish, German, Austrian, Hungarian, Bulgarian and many other soldiers who were honourable opponents of the Anzacs.

Jellyfish Blooms: A Disruptive Overabundance of Water-Balloon Animals

Jellyfish: we can’t predict where and when they’ll appear, we can’t anticipate where they’ll go, and they can shut down an aircraft carrier. Tamar Stelling looks at these amazingly resilient sacks of goo.

via Science vs. the Jellyfish! (Hint: the Jellyfish Are Winning) — Longreads

My reading of the situation is that we need to step up our game on preventing over-fishing, and replenish the ocean’s population of creatures that actually eat these floating bits of fruit pith. I would bet serious money that global warming also has something to do with it.