Building the World

June 25, 2016
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TransAtlantic Flight — without a drop of fuel

Solar Impulse. Wikimedia commons.

Solar Impulse 2 crossed the Atlantic ocean without a drop of fuel, making history and opening a wing to the future. New York to Seville in 71 hours, Betrand Piccard landed escorted by an honor guard. Some might say you’d have to be crazy to fly across an ocean without fuel; but Piccard is a psychiatrist, a balloonist, and a pioneer. Tweets aloft included a photo of an oil tanker, contrasting fossil fuels with solar tech. Picard and partner Andre Borschberg share the adventure of flying SI2 around the world: “You can now fly longer without fuel than with fuel, and you fly with the force of nature, you fly with the sun. It’s the new era now for energy.” Flight history was made by Nasa when the Apollo team traversed space to land on the moon. Solar flight may be next the “giant leap.” While floating above, Piccard read Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing, poems written in reflection in meditation, and set to music by Philip Glass, who also composed Itaipu. An excerpt?

I know she is coming

I know she will look

And that is the longing

And this is the book.

  • Leonard Cohen, Book of Longing, read by Piccard on historic solar flight over Atlantic.

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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June 17, 2016
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Philosopher’s Stone?

Lapis philosophorum? Image of limestone, Missouri Department of Natural Resources: https://dnr.mo.gov/

Iceland: scientists pumped CO2 and water under the craggy ground of this island beloved by Vikings. Why Iceland? Same reason Romans made such good roads — volcanic rock. The experiment bet on the hunch that CO2 + Water + Minerals = Building Materials.  “Of 220 tones of injected CO2, 95% was converted to limestone in less than two years,”  reported Southampton University’s Juerg Matter. Iceland’s Hellisheidi geothermal power plant near Reykjavik helped to tag the CO2 used with carbon-14, leaving a radioactive trace as a check when testing to see if any escaped to the surface or leaked into nearby water sources: not a trace was found. Study co-author Martin Shute of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, comments it is possible to find “basalts on every continent.” From Harry Potter to Jabir ibn Hayyan, 8th century alchemist, and Albertus Magnus who wrote of the lapis philosophorum, the means of turning base metals to gold has long been a quest. Are we now witnessing an energy miracle of transmutation?

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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June 9, 2016
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Tunnel (En)Vision

World’s longest tunnel, Gotthard. Image: wikimedia commons.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel, world’s longest, opened to fanfare and diplomacy, and a ballet corps of 600, in June 2016. The Gotthard massif has long challenged transport efforts; Gotthard now joins the Mont Blanc Tunnel in traversing mountainous terrain. Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project also features a tunnel to bring vehicular traffic underground while a new greenway park graces the urban landscape above. Tunnels are an ancient instinct: moles know the routes underground, while human endeavors appear to have been early home-improvement projects by cave dwellers adding a second room. Land tunnels preceded water transit ways such as the Channel Tunnel. But all tunnels have one aspect in common: emissions trapped in a contained environment. Research contrasting on-road carbonyl emission factors in two highway tunnels, Caldecott Tunnel near San Francisco, California and Tuscarora Mountain Tunnel in Pennsylvania, was conducted 2002. WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff recommended jet fans to move fumes through long road tunnels. But could there be a better solution? Will the EPA‘s capture and sequestration research apply to tunnels? Might ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy‘s innovation to cleanse carbon dioxide from the exhaust of natural gas- and coal-fired plants be applied to other situations? Carbon capture could take on a new meaning if tomorrow’s tunnels might become channels for environmental improvement.

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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June 3, 2016
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Flood Gates of Hope

“The Louvre Museum with its Glass Pyramid.” Photographer: Hteink.min, 2012. Image: wikimedia commons.

The Louvre Museum, situated on the banks of the River Seine, closed its doors today in the height of the visitor season. Reason? the river is flooding, six meters above normal, endangering artworks in the path of possible impending inundation. On Friday, 3 June 2016, the venerable Louvre barred entrance while staff moved art. France declared a state of natural disaster. More than 25,000 people are without electricity; in Nemours, 3,000 evacuated their homes. Europe’s rains affected Germany, where at least 10 people perished; Romania, where 2 lost their lives; France, where 2 others succumbed; and Belgium, where a beekeeper trying to save hives was swept away.  In the future, can seasonal rains be addressed by systems such as that pioneered by Baghwati Argrawal and Sustainable Innovations? Or perhaps following the example of the Dutch coastlines protected by water defense? Is there a need for a version of the dike army apart of the European Erasmus program? Could the Charlemagne Prize, bestowed upon Pope Francis in 2016, be awarded to the most promising innovation for catching and keeping flood water, to use in alternating times of drought, for a continent united by its rivers? Will other areas of the world, suffering from less or excess of water, find ways to open the flood gates of hope?

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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May 24, 2016
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City as Art

Singing’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelly. Will Boston’s “Raining Poetry” set a new style for the City as Art? Image: wikimedia commons.

Baghdad was designed in three concentric circles drawn in the sand by founder Caliph al-Mansur, who named the new capital “Madinat as-Salam” or “City of Peace.” As Toynbee observed in Cities of Destiny, urban centers possess cultural magnetism. Boston is showering the city in art: poetry appears in the rain. A collaboration of Boston City Hall, the Mayor’s Mural Crew, and Mass Poetry, the project echoes public art along the Greenway. Chicago’s Millennium Park brings public art to a new gathering green downtown. Beijing also uses urban life to uplift: riders on the metro’s Line 4 can access Chinese poetry and philosophy through barcodes posted in passenger cars. China’s Grand Canal standardized written language, facilitating government, and cultural, exchange. Boston’s poems, however, are ephemeral; disappearing ink lasts just a few weeks. But words are, as Roman poet Horace stated, “monumentum aere perennius” – “a monument more lasting than bronze” or as Langston Hughes, whose poem graces Dudley Square, might observe: “Still Here.”

Thanks to Chak Ngamtippan for suggesting featuring Boston’s “Raining Poetry.”

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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May 20, 2016
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The Earth is Breathing

Blue marble: see the earth breathing. Image: Blue Marble.nasa.gov

The month of May is a time of blossoming, in the northern part of the globe. People emerge from buildings, strolling on greenways to breathe the fresh air. And it would seem that the earth does too. NASA has published a video depicting the alternation of bloom cycles; as the months cause changes in the biosphere, the earth itself is breathing.

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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May 13, 2016
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Water and Power

Gateway of India at night; will electric power continue during India’s drought? Image: wikimedia commons.

Climate change threatens the world’s water, not only for drinking and sanitation, not only for agriculture and industry, but for power. Tehri hydroelectric dam, tallest in India, is running dry, and Maharastra’s 1,130MW Parli had to be shut down due to lack of water needed to operate. Australia, most arid country on earth, addressed rapid population growth through Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, providing over 100, 000 jobs. India has responded to the water crisis by truck and train; 10 of India’s 29 states are suffering severe drought. In 1951, India’s population was 350 million, and each person had access to 5,200 cubic meters of water per annum; in 2016, water availability dropped to 1,400 cubic meters, as the population rose to 1.3 billion. Water may be one of the most severe results of climate change. Safe drinking water and sanitation are offered to 11 states in India through grant and WaterCredit programs by Water.org. How can the world pursue further improvements and access, for all, to water?

Mallet, Victor. “India’s power stations are hit as big dams run dry.” 5 May 2016. The Financial Times.

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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May 6, 2016
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Mine the Gap

A year might make a lifetime of difference. Image: peacecorps.gov.

When a first daughter decided upon a gap year, the world voiced opinion. Some worried that a year off assumed privilege; others expressed admiration for benefits of time in the ‘real world’ of work, experience, travel, service, or specialized training. Balancing gown and town, in 1209, King John hired a French engineer and cleric who “in a short time hath wrought in regard to the Bridges of Xainctes and Rochelle, by the great care and pains of our faithful, learned and worthy Clerk, Isenbert, Master of the Schools of Xainctes” to build London Bridge. Charlemagne’s engagement with Alcuin, or the Netherland’s institution of the Dike Army (“ende alman sal ten menen werke comen op den dijc“), are examples of study and service. The medieval guilds combined learning, doing, and regional travel; Erasmus today is reminiscent. City Year Americorps offers options with college scholarships; Tufts 4+1 includes a Bridge Year. Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, discovered a new idea when hiking in Bamberg on a student vacation. The University of Massachusetts Boston offers support for travel and scholarship to nations and locations featured in Building the World, through the Building a Better World Fund. Many ‘gap’ programs involve travel: Frank P. Davidson, whose early experience in Mexico has been cited as forerunner to the Peace Corps, suggested an interplanetary year. To fulfill the global vision of the Paris Agreement COP21, environment, governance, and industry may transform through engaged education.

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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April 27, 2016
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Year of the Tree

Earth Day 2016 dedicates the year to planting more trees; 7.8 billion in the next five years. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, having grown from “a national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, sponsored by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, in partnership with Pete McCloskey from Congress, and Denis Hayes of Harvard University: 20 million took to the streets to protest the abuse of, and protect the future of, the environment. Soon, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded; the Clean Air, Clean Water (amended in 1972 from an earlier version) and Endangered Species Acts were made law. In 1990, Nelson and Hayes took Earth Day global: 200 million in 141 countries united around the planet. Environmental provisions were part of the New River, built in England in 1609; the Canal des Deux Mers in France begun in 1666; and Boston’s Central Artery depressed underground while a Greenway graces the former traffic surface. Nature is an increasingly precious resource; 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service of the United States, including the Appalachian Trail. The theme for Earth Day 2016? Trees: 7.8 billion to be planted in the next five years. New England universities including Roger Williams may lead the way. Earth Day April 22 2016 also made history: the largest number of nations ever to sign an international agreement on the same day gathered for the Climate Signing Ceremony at the United Nations.

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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April 22, 2016
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(Re)New Earth Day

First view of the entire sunlit side of earth, 6 July 2015. Image: Nasa.

Earth Day: 2016. The largest number of nations ever in history to sign an international agreement in a single day, 175 countries from around the globe pledged to follow the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Other world-wide agreements that changed history include the International Prime Meridian Conference of 1884 where nations agreed upon time zones based upon a meridian to be the common tuning fork “for time-reckoning throughout the whole world.” Adopting policies for renewable energy, reduced global warming, and a sustainable environment, Earth Day 2016 may be a turning point in the history of hope.

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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