Building the World

January 12, 2017
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The New Atlantis

Visage au dessus de l’ocean” by photographer, Rukaeru. Image: wikimedia commons.

Studies by Princeton’s Climate Central and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Physics Institute of Potsdam University, reveal how sea level rise might affect coastal cities. Inundations will change the lives and livelihoods of people from Bangkok to Boston, San Diego to Singapore. Predicted loss of the Antarctic iceberg and Larsen C ice shelf may lead to a rise in sea levels. Might a new era of coastal cities emerge, combining ancient responses by areas like the Netherlands, with futuristic floating cities envisioned by Kiyonori Kikutake? Will New York become the New Atlantis?

For more, “Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level.” by Benjamin H. Strauss, Scott Kulp, and Anders Levermann, edited by James Hansen. PNAS, 3 November 2015, vol. 112, no. 44. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/44/13508.full.pdf.

Potsdam-Institut Für Klimafolgenforschunghttps://www.pik-potsdam.de/institut/mission

VIDEO: “Larsen C iceberg about to break off Antartic shelf.” The Guardian. 6 January 2017, NASA: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2015/may/15/antarctic-larsen-b-ice-shelf-nasa-video

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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January 6, 2017
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Grid-Iron

China built the equivalent of 10,000 football fields in solar panels in 2015, a rate of one gridiron per hour. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s produced solar panels equal 10,000 football fields, the average of one football field per hour, every day of 2015. Builders of the Grand Canal, and the Great Wall, may soon set another record. Pledging $360 billion to building of renewable energy systems, China set course for leadership in the field by 2020. The announcement comes at a time Beijing woke up repeatedly to smog. Several of China’s large cities are coastal, vulnerable to sea rise. Environmental woes might be addressed by the strategic focus. Progress is swift; China installs one wind turbine every hour. Half of all wind power and one-third of all solar panels globally built in 2015: China. It’s good economics: the number of new jobs created by funding innovation in renewable clean energy? 13 million. The worldwide market for clean energy technologies will expand through commitments of the Paris Agreement. Gridiron may soon take on a new meaning.

Video: “China Investing Billions in Renewable Energy” by Neeti Upadhye, The New York Times, 5 January 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000004855712/china-investing-billions-in-renewable-energy.html

Myllyvirta, Lauri. “China: Six little known facts about the country’s solar and wind boom.” 8 September 2016. Greenpeace, Energy Desk. http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/09/08/china-six-little-known-facts-countrys-solar-wind-boom/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 31, 2016
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New Year’s Bonus

“Happy New Year” by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, photographer. Image: wikimedia commons, 1 January 2013, Copacabana, Rio de Janiero.

The traditional New Year’s Eve kiss might linger a little longer, this year. The world will add one second tonight as 11:59:59 flutters a new beat, according to the International Earth Rotation Reference System Service (IERS). Global time was the idea of Sandford Fleming, surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railway: new train systems across the continent required precise coordination. Google, however, is handling the extra second in an extra-long fashion: the tech giant is running computer clocks slower by 0.0014% for ten hours before, and after, the midnight hour. Osculatory results may be observed.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 24, 2016
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Protective Freeze on Melting Seas

Ursus Maritimus: a family of polar bears. Image: wikimedia commons.

20 December 2016: Canada and the United States moved to protect designated areas of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, making the waters off limits to leasing and oil drilling. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska, emptying quantities of crude oil into the waters and damaging 1,300 miles of coastal land. Animals in the area are still struggling to recover. More recently, Shell’s drilling ship Kulluk ran into Arctic trouble: the accident halted any further exploration for oil. The December 20, 2016 agreement, signed cooperatively between Canada and the United States, regards the Arctic Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia to New England. Canada and the United States also cooperated in the face of danger when building the Alaska Highway. Recently, the Antarctic Marine Sanctuary in the Ross Sea created the first marine protected area in international waters, during the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In shared waters, cooperative agreements can place a protective freeze on melting seas.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 16, 2016
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Water Weal

“Una gota de agua.” Photographer: Jose Manuel Suarez, 2008. Image with permission: wikimedia commons.

We can live three weeks without food, but only three days without water. A Texas town has closed schools, and issued a warning not to use tap water to drink, cook, wash, or irrigate. The cause? Back-flow of industrial chemicals, petroleum-based. A crisis of water pollution spurred building of the Roman aqueducts; in 1846, the world’s first water treatment plant was invented in England, due to a cholera crisis. England had long practiced water weal (as in common weal or commonwealth). When King James I of England and Hugh Myddleton, entrepreneur (and formerly jeweler to His Majesty) collaborated, in 1605, to bring fresh water to London, the New River transformed the fate, and future, of the metropolis. How can we bring safe water to over one billion people who lack access? Innovations, such as filters developed by Askwar Hilonga or the team of Annan, Kan-Dapaah, Azeko, and Soboyejo, can lift the billions who suffer from access. Will aging infrastructure, in places like Flint, Michigan, lead to responsible stewardship? Initiatives such as Jardine’s MeterSave, may help to sustain this most precious resource. Water is one of five failures facing the future. Today, what can you do to protect water?

Annan, Ebenezer, Kwabena Kan-Dapaah, Salifu T. Azeko, Wole Soboyejo. “Clay Mixtures and the Mechanical Properties of Microporous and Nonporous Ceramic Water Filters.” Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering 28 (10):04016105, May 2016. http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/(ASCE)MT.1943-5533.0001596

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 12, 2016
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Antarctica Drops Sea Ice the Size of India

India’s size is 1,269 million square miles. That’s how much sea ice Antartica lost. Image: www.lib.utexas.edu.

Antarctica lost 1.48 million square miles (3.84 million square kilometers): about the size of India, or two Alaskas.  Earth’s polar regions are different: the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land, but the Antarctic is land surrounded by water. That’s why Antarctica’s glaciers could disappear more quickly. Satellite observations, reported in a new long-term study, confirm Antarctic glaciers are losing 7m per year.  What actions should the Antarctic Treaty take to respond?

Comparing North and South Polar areas, http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/CLIMATECHANGE-ICE/010030W31X1/CLIMATECHANGE-ICE.jpg

Amos, Jonathan. “Ice loss spreads up Antarctic glaciers,” BBC Science & Environment, 12 December 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38256932

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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December 2, 2016
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Diplomacy on Ice

Flag of the Antarctic Treaty. Image: wikimedia commons.

December 1, 1959: the world came together not in cold war but in cold peace. The previous year, International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957-1958, inspired peaceful treaties in two different spheres, both new to human endeavors. Space opened up with landmark IGY achievements including Sputnik, then Vanguard, leading to the Outer Space Treaty. Antartica, earth’s only continent without native human population, became active with 50 IGY scientific stations. Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United States called their cooperative IGY initiative “Diplomacy on the Ice.” Antartica is defined as the land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees latitude; it was formerly called Gondwana. On December 1, 1959, the twelve nations opened for signature the Antarctic Treaty; by 2016, the treaty included 53 parties. A treaty system developed including the Protocol on Environmental Protection, Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, expanding the original treaty’s statement: “Recognizing that it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes” for this continent, never home to humans, to honor and protect the abundant other forms of Nature. In this era of climate change, how should signatories safeguard this treasure of earth and environment?

For more: Diplomacy on Ice: Energy and the Environment in the Arctic and Antarctic. Rebecca H. Pincus and Salem H. Ali, editors. Yale University Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780300205169.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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November 25, 2016
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Island in the Sun

Rose Atoll, American Samoa. Image: NASA.gov.

4,000 miles + 600 people + cost of diesel delivery = innovation. T’au traded fossil fuels for renewable energy via solar collectors combined with storage batteries. Building a microgrid generating 1.4 megawatts of energy, powered by 60 Tesla power packs and 5,328 solar panels, American Samoan island T’au can supply residents and businesses with electricity. In case clouds shroud the island in the sun, battery power runs for three days. Islands in space, like satellites launched by Comsat, Nasa, and the International Space Station, rely upon solar energy. But oceanic islands formerly waited for boats to deliver diesel to power generators. T’au’s solar innovation, funded by contributors including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and American Samoa Economic Development Authority, may set a new standard for renewable energy. Next? Tesla and partner Solar City hope to apply the model to Hawaiian island, Kaua’i.

Thanks to Jason W. Lusk for suggesting this post.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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November 18, 2016
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In A Timely Fashion

Minutensprunguhr: by Hk kng. Wikimedia commons.

Today is the birthday of time, it might be said. On 18 November, 1883, the General Railroad Time Convention agreed that a new time standard would take effect. It was just in time. Cities and towns used to set their clocks at noon: noon being one moment in Chicago and quite another in Los Angeles. Such a system proved imperfect when railroads began to stream across the continent: how could train times be coordinated? Public safety demanded a solution; it came from Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway route. The Canadian Pacific and the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad came together (even before the Canadian Pacific was completed) and agreed jointly on a system of time zones. Eventually the idea gathered such force that the entire world became galvanized by this innovation. In 1884, the International Prime Meridian Conference, held in Washington, DC, endorsed and inaugurated a worldwide system of time zones. Ever wonder why we say “9am” or “9pm?” The suffix stands for ante-meridiem or post-meridiem. How many other whole world agreements have been universal?

For more:

McNamara, Robert. “Why We Have Time Zones.” http://history1800s.about.com/od/railroadbuilding/fl/Why-We-Have-Time-Zones.htm?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 

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November 10, 2016
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A Taste of the Future

Spice market, Marrakech. Photographer, Michal Ostend, 2011. Image: wikimedia commons.

7 November 2016: the United Nations convened COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. Following the historic international consensus achieved at COP21, more than 100 countries have now ratified the Paris Agreement. “This is our moment to take the climate agreement as the central pillar of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” stated Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCC. In recognition of the Paris Agreement coming into force, the Eiffel Tower lighted the way in green. Recent developments in some areas, including the United States, may influence the success; can C-Roads help? The goals: bringing the Paris Agreement into the next stage through funding and plans for concrete implementation.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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