Building the World

August 25, 2016
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Happy 100th, National Parks

 

Jason Lusk, photographer. "Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island."

“Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island.” Jason W. Lusk, Photographer, with permission and appreciation.

Happy 100th birthday to the United States National Park Service. Celebrations included illuminating the New York City skyline, inviting the public to gather at Brooklyn Bridge Park to change the color of One World Trade Center’s Spire as an iconic birthday candle. The 1916 Organic Act authorized the preservation of green space; the Second Century Commission recommended future approaches. One of the earliest green spaces created for public enjoyment might be the walking path of the New River of England, 1613; still in use, the route is recommended by the Ramblers Association. Boston’s Central Artery Project created a greenway through the heart of the city. Costa Rica, world leader in environmental protection, set precedent with Law 7788 on Biodiversity. Perhaps Benton MacKaye launched the Appalachian Trail, authorized after the architect’s essay in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects described the salutary effects of nature as “one of the admitted needs of modern 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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August 19, 2016
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‘Teaching Cities to Fish’

“Looking east from Brooklyn Bridge at park on a hazy day before sunset,” by Jim Henderson, 6 July 2010. Image: courtesy of wikimedia commons. Will City Farm Fish transform urban centers?

“We teach cities to fish,” states the team of City Farm Fish, with a mission to transform cities through an innovative approach combining urban agriculture and aquaponics. The first project may be reached via the Brooklyn Bridge. Team members Zachary Gould, J. Alex Dalessio, Heather Pfizer, Quentin Stanton, and Adam Horwitch have launched the EBT Greenhouse, in cooperation with Energy Biosphere Food from Germany, in a building with photovoltaic louvres. Blue Nile Tilapia along with Boston Bibb Lettuce, Collards, and herbs Shiso and Thyme, raised in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will supply locals with the freshest of fare, produced in a balanced system: fish waste fertilizes the plants, while the plants help to purify the water. If, as the founders anticipate, 70% of the world’s population (predicted to reach 9 billion by 2044 according to the U.S. Census) will live in cities, City Farm Fish’s model may prove beneficial to urban centers around the world.

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 8, 2016
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Olympic Feat

Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps, Beijing 2008. Image: wikimedia commons.

Olympic Games are paved with gold (and silver, bronze, and brilliance.) In Rio, Olympic Gold was won by Michael Phelps, crowning the swimmer as the most decorated Olympian, adding to eight golds awarded in Beijing 2008, four golds and two silvers in London 2012. During the London Olympics, a parallel Olympic feat, or perhaps one should say ‘feet,’ marked a milestone in energy and environment. The West Ham Tube station near the London Olympic stadium was paved with 12 electricity pavers, activated by a million footsteps. Renewable, wireless electricity, thus generated, powered 12 LED floodlights at the subway station during the Olympic and Paralympics Games. Laurence Kemball-Cook conceived the idea as a university student, at the age of 25, and soon founded PaveGen. Generative floors power only the immediate area, only when stepped upon, but that’s enough to illuminate an LED street lamp. Or imagine a mall or hospital lobby where an average of 250,000 steps occur; that’s enough to power 10,000 mobile phones. PaveGen technology grows stronger; over 100 locations worldwide, including dance clubs, shine. Will Fitbit readouts soon include energy generated? Kemball-Cook observes that “the average person takes 150 million steps in their lifetime, just imagine the potential.” Future goals: paving areas in Mumbai, where people currently lack access to electricity. More visions: universities, schools, sporting venues, hospitals, shopping malls, grocery stores, greenways and sportsways — places where many steps are taken — could add floors to their energy system. When Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics, a milestone in transport and energy was achieved: Shinkansen. Tokyo will again host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics; Beijing, 2022. PyeongChang is next, in 2018. The Olympic path has always been paved with gold; now, also paved with light?

Lawrence Kemball-Cook, TEDtalk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_vPbhYqg2k

“Green sidewalk makes electricity — one footstep at a time.” George Webster, CNN, 13 October 2011. http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/13/tech/innovation/pavegen-kinetic-pavements/

http://www.pavegen.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 5, 2016
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Thank you and Good Night, Jade Rabbit

Chang’e, moon goddess, reaching for her pet Jade Rabbit. Image: wikimedia commons

“The Moon has prepared a long dream for me,” messaged the mythic messenger. Chang’e space mission landed Jade Rabbit on the lunar surface in December 2013. Nick-named ‘Yutu,’ mascot of the moon goddess of Chinese legend, Jade Rabbit’s Weibo account shared thousands of messages and cartoons during 31 months’ exploration of the lunarscape. The view was good: “I’m the rabbit that has seen the most stars,” tweeted the rover with a personal following of 600, 000 fans. Jade Rabbit Yutu is not lonely up there; 60 American and Russian space rovers are parked. And somewhere are two golf balls (Alan Shepard, American Apollo astronaut, teed the lunar green). And China will be back, Yutu, returning in 2017.

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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July 27, 2016
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Here Comes the Sun

Solar Impulse 2 successfully completed the first global solar flight on 26 July 2016. Will Peter Glaser’s vision of space solar power soon provide energy to earth? Image: nasa.gov.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed: successfully completing a flight circling the globe, without using a drop of fuel. Not a non-stop route, the trip required 17 legs, beginning where it ended: Abu Dhabi. Not far from the airfield, one might find another model for a solar, and energy-efficient, future: Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. Developed in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the guidance of Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh as President and a team of experts including Dr. David H. Marks, the campus uses 70% less electricity, 70% less potable water, and runs on solar and other forms of clean energy. Abu Dhabi welcomed Solar Impulse 2 partners Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard who took turns piloting the plane during historic  40,000 km (26,744 mile) achievement: the aircraft holds only one person, and that pilot sleeps only 20 minutes at a time. July might be remembered for another historic record; in 1969, the first humans piloted Nasa’s Apollo mission to the moon. Peter Glaser was project manager for the Apollo 11 Lunar Ranging Retroreflector Array. Will Glaser’s design, and current initiatives of Lucien Deschamps, for space solar power deliver the energy of the sun to the earth?

Thanks to Fred Moavenzadeh, David Marks, and Sheila Turney on Masdar; Jean Louis Bobin and Lucien Deschamps on new forms of energy.

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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July 20, 2016
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Moon: Property Rights

Lunar property rights? Image: wikimedia commons.

July 20, 1969: “A giant leap for mankind” as the first human set foot upon the moon in Nasa’s Apollo mission. Two years before, the Outer Space Treaty was signed with the provision that celestial bodies not be owned by any nation; at the time, only governments had enough resources for space exploration. Today, enterprises like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Planetary Resources, Inc. are commercializing the heavens. The Google Lunar X Prize stimulated interest in space resources. European Space Agency and Luna-Resurs plan to drill the lunar south pole where “water and other volatiles” might be discovered. China and Japan are readying moon forays. Martin Elvis of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Tony Milligan of King’s College London, and Alanna Krolikowski of Georg-August University Göttingen published, in Space Policy, a warning regarding the moon’s ‘Peaks of Eternal Light’ where a photovoltaic solar power installation could be positioned. In 2015, the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act clarified rights. Professor Matthew Weinzierl and Angela Acocella have written a Harvard Business School case, “Blue Origin, NASA, and New Space.” Could COMSAT provide a model for international cooperation? Before enterprises claim rights, how should the Outer Space Treaty be updated?

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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July 14, 2016
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Antique Road Show: Paris bans Past to save Future

Deux Chevaux or 2CV. Cars made before 1987 banned in Paris to improve environment. Image: wikimedia commons.

Known for fine vintage fashion and cognac, for museums enshrining glories of centuries past, city of connoisseurs of aged fromage et vin, Paris will no longer welcome antique automobiles. July, month of the revolution, marked the change: no cars made before 1997 will be allowed on the boulevards on weekdays, between 8am – 8pm. Regulations will tighten soon: in 2020, cars built before 2010 will be restricted. In 2014, after smog veiled the Eiffel Tower, Paris banned half its autos on the road, alternating days by license plates, a practice followed in Mexico City and elsewhere. Effects were so dramatic that the city cancelled the plan after 24 hours after pollution cleared, perhaps in part responding to complaints of 3,859 drivers fined for driving on the wrong day. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, co-chaired a meeting of mayors in parallel with COP21. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, now brings together 7100 cities from 119 countries. Cities may be able to change policy faster than nations; St. Petersburg once demanded one stone as price of admission to the city. If cities can accelerate environmental improvement, ‘Banned in Boston’ could take on new meaning.

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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July 4, 2016
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Nature’s Fireworks: Jupiter and Juno Unite

Jupiter. Image: nasa.gov

July 4 2016 may be remembered for fireworks, of a celestial kind. Nasa’s Juno uniting with Jupiter, after a five year journey, marks a milestone for the space program. It was also in July (1969) that humans first stepped onto another world, the moon, heralding a “giant leap for mankind.”

To watch: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/news/2016/7/1/a-july-4th-show-in-space-juno-arrives-at-jupiter/

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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July 2, 2016
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Wider Water

Wider Water: the new Panama Canal. Image: wikimedia commons.

Nicaragua almost won; it was preferred until Phillipe Bunau-Varilla and William Nelson Cromwell delivered to the U.S. Congress 50 postage stamps issued by Managua proudly featuring the natural wonder of a volcano. Persuaded by apparent danger, Senator John Spooner proposed an amendment that authorized the purchase of the canal lease but switched location to an isthmus just south. Colombia owned the site: a down payment of $100 million for lease of the desirable strip, followed by $250, 000 per year thereafter, was offered, enhanced by the U.S. battleship Nashville. Colombia agreed: the Hay-Buneau-Varilla Treaty was signed, producing not just the canal agreement but also a new government for a new nation, named Panama. A flag was sewn overnight; a constitution was conveniently ready; $10 million went straight into the new treasury. On 3 November, 1903, Panama was born, a nation conceived by a canal. In 1914, the Panama Canal opened.

But in 100 years, shipping changed: some container ships grew too big to transit the waterway. In 2007, a new lane, stretching 77 km (48 miles) was dug, missing the centennial by two years, but opening on 26 June 2016. The first ship to float thru was the Andronikos, flying the flag of the Marshall Islands but owned by China Cosco Shipping Corporation: it won the honor by lottery. Wider locks, deeper channels, $6 billion dollars, labor disputes, construction delays: all these challenges were overcome. Ships with 14,000 containers can transit; before 5,000 was the limit. But nature may present a more serious issue, one that the canal cannot do without: water. A new draft limit was revised down from 12.2 meters to 11.89 (39 feet), due to drought. If the water levels rise, the draft allowance will return to the planned 15.2.

Bigger problems lurk. Ships are still growing; the latest models carry 18,000 containers — too large even for the new Panama. Will China again win the lottery? Builders of the world’s oldest, and longest, Grand Canal of China, are busy not far from Panama. Wider, deeper and longer than new Panama, a new waterway may open soon, with concern of environmentalists, and development by Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group, headed by Wang Jing, granted concession in 2013 for the Grand Canal of Nicaragua.

Thanks to Ernst G. Frankel, Cherie E. Potts, and Sheila M. Turney for suggestions.

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 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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