Building the World

October 14, 2017
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Capital Idea: New Nafta

Seeing earth from space, individual countries fade in the reality that regions may be the true nations. Image: wikimedia.

NAFTA is in the news, but it may soon be history. Now is the time for developing visions for a better, stronger, more sustainable, and kinder, regional alliance. One look from space shows not a troika of nations but a connected region. One aspect that should be added to current negotiations among Canada, Mexico, and the United States: water. The precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations of shared water, especially transboundary aquifers? Another eau de vie, education: might scholarly and cultural exchange mingle the waters?

A new capital could signal the vision. It is timely. Recent earthquakes affecting Mexico City reopened conversation about the current capital built on a lakebed, not far from volcanoes. Should Mexico consider moving the DF? A federal district, such as Mexico’s capital or Washington, DC, is by definition its own moveable feast. If Mexico were to move the DF, could the new capital symbolize a regional vision embracing Canada, Mexico and the United States, in honor of shared resources? What architects should design the new city?

What’s in a name? Could TLCAN-ALENA-NAFTA become TAN? Image: wikimedia.

Finally, if Nafta emerges from current talks, it is time to unite nomenclature. How can there be a common vision when, at present, there are three acronyms for the same entity:

TLCAN – Tratado de libre comercia de america del norte https://www.sec-tlcan-mex.org/

ALENA – Accord de libre-échange nord américain http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/N-23.8.pdf

NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement http://www.worldtradelaw.net/fta/agreements/nafta.pdf

The new name might honor a letter from each treaty, resulting in a shared word with meaning in all three languages – TAN. Or initial the countries: cam or mac. But perhaps the alliance that really matters is bigger, representing the land as seen from space. Will these and other issues be debated at the XVII Congressional NAFTA & Border Issues Conference at the Library of Congress in Washington on 26 October 2017?

For more:

Eckstein, Gabriel. “Buried Treasure or Buried Hope? The Status of Mexico-U.S. Transboundary Aquifers under International Law.” International Community Law Review 13 (2011), Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

McHugh, James T., editor. Toward a North American Legal System. (2012), Palgrave Macmillan.

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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October 7, 2017
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Sign of Peace

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). It was the nuclear threat that resulted in the design, by Gerald Holtom, of the peace symbol; in 1958, the artist was commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), led by Bertrand Russell. Holtom recalled: “I was in despair. I drew myself, an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards. I formalized the drawing into a line, and put a circle round it.” The elements spelled out ND for nuclear disarmament.

Peace symbol, designed by Gerald Holtom. In 2017, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Image: wikimedia commons.

During World War II, science and technology had advanced to a level of power that threatened not just the present but the future. After the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 developed a safeguard for control of fissionable materials with international scope for “all forms of energy released in the course of or as a result of nuclear fission or nuclear transformation.” In 2017, the peace symbol drew 15,000 people together, at the Glastonbury music festival, to set the world record for the greatest number of participants forming the peace sign. The symbol was never copyrighted; instead the iconic symbol was offered to the world, in the spirit of peace.

ICAN:http://www.icanw.org

Nobel Peace Prize: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/

Atomic Energy Act: https://science.energy.gov/~/media/bes/pdf/Atomic_Energy_Act_of_1946.pdf

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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September 30, 2017
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Canals: building the future

Caño Martín Peña  may offer a vision for the future. Help Puerto Rico now. Image: wikipedia.

Caño Martín Peña stretches 3.75 miles linking wetlands and canals to rivers meeting the sea of San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico. In 2004, eight communities along the canal incorporated to protect the canal, and dredge the channel; in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership issued a nueva vida – new life- vision for the canal. Rebuilding Puerto Rico, after recent hurricane destruction, may increase awareness of canals in flood mitigation. According to Inland Waterways International, canals create economic and environmental benefits, as well as locally-generated electric power. The World Canal Cities Organization recently met in Shaobo, China to explore the Grand Canal, busiest in the world, and building block of the Belt and Road InitiativePanama and Suez are also notable. The Erie Canal opened the United States to a new era of development; the New York Canal Corporation worked with the World Canals Conference to host the 2017 conference on the Erie Canal in Syracuse, New York. What should the future hold for the world’s canals? How might Puerto Rico lead the way? Enlace and the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project aim to improve 6,600 acres of the San Juan Bay, and the lives of those near its waters. In the future, canals may help coastal cities weather rising seas, allowing the water in as in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico looks for help now, and leadership in the future, perhaps including a new vision of canals.

To help Puerto Rico:https://www.consumerreports.org/charitable-donations/how-you-can-help-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico/ and http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/can-help-hurricane-victims-puerto-rico/

Urban Waters Federal Partnership, “New Life for the Martín Peña Channel.”https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/martinpenabackgrounder_0.pdf

Building the World, “A River Runs Through It.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

Kimmelman, Michael. “Going With the Flow.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/arts/design/flood-control-in-the-netherlands-now-allows-sea-water-in.html?mcubz=3

Inland Waterways International, “World Wide Waterways.” http://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/blog/

New York Canal Corporation, http://www.canals.ny.gov

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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September 22, 2017
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Mexico

Mexico. How to help? Image: wikimedia commons.

Mexico suffered two devastating earthquakes within weeks. A coastal temblor reached Chiapas and Oaxaca with disastrous damage. Soon thereafter, Mexico City was struck by an earthquake on 19 September 2017, anniversary of the 1985 temblor that also crushed lives, and buildings. In September 1985, 9,500 people died, 50,000 were injured, and 250,000 buildings were destroyed. In September 2017, building codes improved disaster statistics: fatalities were fewer than 1,000 but 3.8 million were without power, 27 buildings collapsed, and all schools were closed (2,000 were damaged). Rescue operations continued at the Colegio Enrique Rébsamen where children and adults perished, and hope raced the clock for those missing, some of whom messaged from within the rubble. Rescuers adopted a gesture requesting silence, saving lives as a result.

Mexico City was originally designed to float. Mexica leaders of the triple alliance that formed ancient Mexico (and gave it its name) ruled an enormous empire stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of (also named after) Mexico. Their choice for capital? An island in the middle of a lake. Lake Texcoco was the largest of five interconnected lakes. The Mexica built Tenochtitlan in the middle of Lake Texcoco, intersecting canal waterways as other cities used streets. Over 200,00 people lived there; 45 government buildings were surrounded by a main temple, ball fields for sport, and Montezuma’s palace of 100 rooms, each with its own bath.

Tenochtitlan, Mexico’s once and future capital that became Mexico City. Image: wikimedia.

In 1521, conquerors destroyed Tenochtitlan, drained Lake Texcoco, and built Mexico City. Consequences of locating the city on a drained lakebed appeared over time: during the past 100 years, Mexico City has sunk more than 30 feet. But the biggest problem may only now be realized. Since 1975, the area around Mexico City has suffered more than 50 earthquakes. The sedimentary lakebed is a dangerous foundation.

Earthquakes are particularly destructive in dense cities, especially capitals. Image: wikimedia.

Mexico City’s vulnerability is magnified by its population density coupled with its central position as capital. What other capital cities are similarly susceptible? Tokyo, Japan; Jakarta, Indonesia; New Delhi, India; Islamabad, Pakistan; Manila, Philippines; Kathmandu, Nepal; Port au Prince, Haiti. Doxiadis developed an anti-seismic plan for Pakistan’s new capital. Japan considered seismic implications when building Shinkansen. Now, Tokyo has launched an initiative to build a “spare-battery capital” to preserve essential records and services in an emergency. Mexico City may be particularly suited to such an approach: the heart of the city – the D.F. (Distrito Federal)  or CDMX – founded in 1824, has only 9 million people; the greater city population is 20.4 million, and growing. The DF is 500 square miles (1,485 square kilometers): is it movable?

Rebuilding Mexico will follow rescue and recovery. Building codes, especially for schools, hospitals, and multi-story construction, will improve. Decisions may shape destiny. How should essential systems like water, energy, transport, and city planning respond? Meanwhile, to help, here are some options: Topos México, Mexican Red Cross, Direct Relief, Global Giving, and Fondo Unido México.

For More:

Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/crscad

Rebuilding After Disasters: From Emergency to Sustainability. Edited by Gonzalo Lizarralde, Cassidy Johnson, Colin Davidson. Rutledge, 2009.

Rebuilding Urban Places After Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Edited by Eugenie L. Birch, Susan M. Yachter. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. Podcast: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/podcast/inex.html#birchwachter/

Watkins, Derek, and Jeremy White. “Mexico City Was Built on An Ancient Lake Bed. That Makes Earthquakes Much Worse.” 22 September 2017. The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/22/world/americas/mexico-city-earthquake-lake-bed-geology.html?mcubz=3

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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September 15, 2017
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Cassini: ave atque vale

Saturn. Image: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Over the course of ‘goodbye kisses’ with moon Titan, Cassini circled deeper and deeper into Saturn‘s atmosphere until, in a fiery immolation, the spacecraft became part of the planet. A collaborative macroengineering project by Nasa (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (California Institute of Technology), Esa (European Space Agency) and Asi (Italian Space Agency), Cassini-Huygens launched on 15 October 1997, explored areas including Venus, Jupiter, and Asteroid 2685 Masursky, before falling into attraction with Saturn, entering the planet’s orbit on 1 July 2004 never to return. Dancing through the rings, the spacecraft sent back data that will continue to live on for many years after Cassini merged with Saturn on 15 September 2017. Cassini-Huygens was named after Giovanni Domenico Cassini, discoverer of Saturn’s rings; and Christiaan Huygens, discoverer of Titan.

For More:

“100 Beautiful Images by Cassini,” The New York Times, 14 September 2017.  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/14/science/cassini-saturn-images.html?mcubz=3

“The Goodbye Kiss.” BBChttp://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41259524

Free E-book: “The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini.” Nasa: https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/7777/

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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September 8, 2017
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21 billion kilometer record

 

“Sounds of Earth” Golden Record, launched in 1977, plays on. Take a listen. Image: nasa.gov.

It’s a shiny gold record compiled by a team headed by Carl Sagan, honored with the NASA Apollo Achievement Award. And it’s also just set a record, as the farthest human-made object from earth. Sending our best in sound from Bach and Beethoven (String Quartet 13) to Solomon Islands’ Panpipes, from the haunting whistle of a train to the coo of a baby and the sound of a kiss, the record contains an homage to our planet. “Sounds of the Earth” also includes greetings in 55 languages including cetic (whale). “Sounds of the Earth” was launched in 1977, on two Voyager space probes. And now, along with space residents who may be receiving the message, you can hear it, too.

Pescovitz, David. “Voyager’s Golden Record still plays on.” 5 September 2017. CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/04/opinions/pescovitz-opinion/index.html

Sagan, Carl. ed. (1973). Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-19106-7. LCCN 73013999. OCLC 700752.

Sagan, Carl. Murmurs of Earth. NY: Random House, 1978. https://books.google.com/books/about/Murmurs_of_Earth.html?id=oD90-PBNyr8C

For your listening pleasure and inspiration: “Sounds of the Earth”: https://soundcloud.com/user-482195982/voyager-golden-record-sampler-1

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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September 1, 2017
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Water Crisis

September 1, 2017: Hurricane Harvey moves from Texas to Tennessee. Image: Nasa.gov. Here’s how to help.

Hurricane Harvey pelted Houston, Texas with twenty-seven trillion gallons of water. Homes, schools, hospitals, roads were damaged. But when a hurricane causes power outages, another kind of water problem occurs. Beaumont, Texas got 29 inches of rain from Harvey, knocking out the town’s water pumping station on the swollen Neches River, leaving 120,000 people without drinking water. While major beverage manufacturers switched their production lines from beer to cans of water,  to care for the thousands who had to evacuate their homes and flee to shelters, Beaumont can’t get this emergency relief: roads are flooded, making Beaumont a temporary island. Rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey might include study of post-Sandy New York, guided in part by the Netherlands. Meanwhile, here’s how to help.

Boulder, Michael. “The entire city of Beaumont, Texas, has lost access to clean water.” 31 August 2017, PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/entire-city-beaumont-texas-lost-access-clean-water/

Tillman, Claire. “Anheuser-Busch repurposes its brewery to make drinking water for Harvey victims.” 30 Augut, 2017. Fortune. http://fortune.com/2017/08/30/hurricane-harvey-houston-water-anheuser-busch/

Building the World. “A river runs through it.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

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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August 25, 2017
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Zoom…

Trains that fly? In tubes? Hyperloop has reached another milestone. Image of a Copenhagen pipe tunnel, Wikimedia.

Hyperloop has achieved another milestone: the first trial run of the passenger pod destined to carry commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco at 650 miles per hour. Transportation advances have changed the world. China’s Grand Canal transformed a region into a nation; the New Silk Road may link 40% of the world. Once united by the Golden Spike, the Transcontinental Railroad shortened the trek across the United States from six months to 10 days. The Erie Canal reduced the cost of shipping goods from Buffalo to New York City from $100 to $10. The Channel Tunnel made breakfast in London and lunch in Paris an everyday occurrence. Now, with Hyperloop, London/Paris transit time could be 25 minutes; Dubai to Abu Dhabi: 12 minutes. What advances in business, culture, and perhaps even cooperation and peace, might come from a more connected future?

For a video test ride: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/technology-40811172/hyperloop-one-passenger-pod-tested-successfully

To calculate time between any two destinations: https://hyperloop-one.com

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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August 19, 2017
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Eclipses and Innovations

Solar Eclipse: Image: NASA, 2016.

The Great American Eclipse, 21 August 2017, may lead to innovations. Thomas Edison is said to have invented the incandescent light bulb after witnessing a total eclipse in Wyoming, USA in 1878. Just the year before, at the age of 30, Edison had invented the phonograph. Friends engaged Edison’s scientific and technical curiosity with word of an impending celestial wonder; a train ride to Rawlins, Wyoming ensued. The town was tiny: there was only one hotel and only one room left; Thomas Edison, Henry Draper, and the whole expedition bunked there and waited. The night before the eclipse, Edison recalled reclining outdoors and staring at the star-lit sky; suddenly the idea for a light bulb appeared. Perhaps Edison was also influenced by recent demonstrations of Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov’s arc lighting at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878. A few years later, Gustav Eiffel would open the Paris International Exposition of 1889 with the Eiffel Tower.

Wear special sunglasses to view an eclipse. For more, see: eclipse@siu.edu. Image: wikimedia.

Yablochkov’s arc lamps were used by early movie studios for indoor scenes, but produced so much ultra-violet light that actors had to wear sunglasses. Even more protective are the special glasses viewers must don to view the Great American Eclipse of 2017. MIT’s Haystack Observatory will study the eclipse effects on space weather with radar and navigational satellites. Nasa and scientists worldwide will study the space phenomenon from every place on earth, and above. Eyes on the sky: what inventions and innovations may result?

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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August 11, 2017
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Grid Luck

Denmark, state banner from 14th century, location of world’s first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) commercial charging station. Image: wikimedia commons.

Batteries in electric cars could help to balance the grid. In 2017 electric vehicles drew 6-terawatt-hours; by 2040, draw will expand to a predicted 1,800 terawatt hours. Tokyo-based automaker Nissan is conducting trials in Denmark where car fleet operators earn $1,530 (€1300 Euro) per year via two-way charge points. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) infrastructure could be a sign of the future. Major highway systems take note.

It may be time for a systems view of electric vehicles, predicted to account for 54% of new car sales by 2040, Electric cars will transform highways like the U.S. Interstate Highway system – more than 45,000 miles, and even more dramatically the service areas nearby. Should the Pan-American Highway, 30,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, be the first to offer a network of V2G? Canada and the United States could rebuild the Alaska Highway for a new era. On a local level, commuter rail stations are adding charging stations; shopping centers are dotted with ChargePoint and Tesla pods. Every one of these installations is an opportunity for rebuilding the automotive energy system.

If the Nissan/Enel/Nuvve commercial vehicle-to-grid hub of 10 stations proves successful, Ernesto Ciorra of Enel predicts: “With V2G we can enhance grid stability, further enabling the integration of renewables. V2G is one of the sustainable innovation areas that is taking us towards a low-carbon society for the benefit of present and future generations.” As the number of electric vehicles increases is the future of gridlock, grid luck?

For more:

“Parked Electric Cars Earn $1,530 From Europe’s Power Grids.” By Jessica Shankleman, 11 August 2017, Bloomberg.https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-11/parked-electric-cars-earn-1-530-feeding-power-grids-in-europe

“Nissan, Enel and Nuvve operate world’s first fully commercial vehicle-to-grid hub in Denmark.” Nissan Newsroom Europe, 29 August 2016/ID: 149186. http://newsroom.nissan-europe.com/eu-gb/media/pressreleases/149186

“Electric Cars Will Total More Than 50% Of All New Car Sales By 2040,BNEF Forecasts.” By Steve Hanley.  CleanTechnica, 6 July 2017.https://cleantechnica.com/2017/07/06/electric-cars-will-total-half-new-car-sales-2040-bnef/

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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