Building the World

May 25, 2018
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If Cars Could Fly: Innovation Cities

Popular Science, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

France invited the world’s innovators to “make our planet great again.” Now, the city that hosted the world Climate Agreement will welcome a new R&D center with a budget of $23 million and a goal of developing an electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle – a flying car. Actually, a taxi. It’s an Uber endeavor, joining the company’s network of R&D hubs in Pittsburgh, PA and San Francisco, CA, USA, as well as Toronto, Canada. In France, the project will include an educational five-year research partnership with École Polytechnique. Charlemagne might approve: combining innovation with education was in part responsible for the earliest development of universities. Another model linking education with R&D: medieval craft guilds. Like Charlemagne’s hubs, Paris, home of the Eiffel Tower, looks upward. Name of the flying car program? Elevate.

Kottasová, Ivana. “Uber invests millions to build flying taxis in France.” 24 May, 2018. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/24/technology/uber-flying-taxi-france/index.html.

Macron, Emmanuel. “Make our planet great again.” 2 June 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03NMa4X0dyQ.

McFarland, Matt. “Uber unveils plans to demo flying cars by 2020.” 25 April 2017, CNN, http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/24/technology/uber-flying-car/index.html.

Uber. “Uber Elevate: The Future of Urban Air Transport.” https://www.uber.com/info/elevate/.

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May 18, 2018
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Volcanology and the Future

“Kilauea at Dusk,” photographed in 1983 by G.E. Ulrich, USGS. Image: wikimedia.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has been erupting, dangerously. But it is always in some form of activity, as one of the world’s most active volcanos, and is therefore heavily instrumented. Volcanic prediction is feasible, according to Paul Segall, professor of geophysics at Stanford University; whereas earthquakes, caused by similar disturbances below Earth’s surface, are less predictable. Volcanos may become an important factor in mitigating climate change. Here’s why:

Iceland is the site of CarbFix, exploring the future of carbon capture. When CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere, at a plant near Reykjavik’s Hellisheidi power station, it is pumped underground to combine with basalt. As a result, the combination becomes rock. In fact, the ancient Romans used volcanic ash to form a particular building material. Basalt contains calcium, magnesium, and iron – elements that bind easily with CO2; basalt is like a sponge for CO2. Could this be answer to Earth’s carbon crisis? Maybe – basalt is the most common rock type on the planet; it’s even found on the ocean floors. India, Saudi Arabia, and Siberia are particularly well-endowed. Problem? CarbFix is water-intensive, not ideal for the already thirsty water planet. It takes 25 tons of water to transform one ton of CO2. Humans cause the emission of 35 gigatons of CO2 (a gigaton is a billion tons) per year. But the potential encourages research by CarbFix partners including Columbia University in New York, National Center for Scientific Research in France, and Reykjavik Energy in Iceland. Theoretically, the amount of world basalt could store all the CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, since Prometheus.

Kilauea is a basaltic shield volcano, producing an eruptive form of basalt called Tholeiite, according to Ken Rubin, professor of geology and geophysics, University of Hawaii.  It’s the dominant basalt type on Earth. In the future, we may learn to work with volcanic basalt to combat CO2 emissions and build a better climate. Meanwhile, if you would like to give support to those in need, due to Kilauea’s recent eruption, here are some ways to help.

For more:

Ancheta, Dillon. “Here’s how to help those affected by the Big Island eruptions.” 5 May, updated 22 May, 2018. Hawaii News Now. http://www.hawaiinewsnowcom/story/38119223/heres-how-you-can-donate-to-those-impacted-by-the-kilauea-eruption/.

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Philosopher’s Stone?” 17 June 2018, Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2016/06/17/philosophers-stone/

CarbFix. https://www.or.is/carbfix

Perasso, Valeria. “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever.” 18 May 2018. BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-43789527/.

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 10, 2018
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Hail to the Ride

Didi’s app logo. Image: wikimedia.

Next time you hail a ride, consider this: China’s ride-hailing market is already greater than the entire world’s combined, at $30 billion. The United States ride-hailing market is $12 billion. A report by Bain & Company predicts China’s market will soon double. China’s equivalent of Uber and Lyft is Didi Chuxing. In fact, Didi bought out Uber’s China operations in 2016, giving the company instead a 18% stake in Didi. But only 40% of ride requests arrive via the Didi app; equally powerful are Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Allpay. Order movie tickets and dinner along with your ride? Do it in one click with Meituan Dianping, with 320 million users. Bain’s Raymond Tsang estimates China’s ride-hailing market will reach $72 billion by 2020. The advent of self-driving vehicles may be part of the strategy: Didi is an AI and autonomous conglomerate. When the United States Transcontinental Railroad was built, telegraph communications infrastructure was laid under the tracks. Will ride-hailing vehicle and communications infrastructure be planned as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, bringing the New Silk Road into the future?

Pham, Sherisse. “China’s $30 billion ride-hailing market could double by 2020.” 15 May 2018. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/15/technology/china-ride-hailing-market/index.html. Includes link to a video on Didi’s expansion into Brazil.

Alibaba Holding Group: stock symbol: BABA

Didi Chuxing: http://ww.didichuxing.com

Tencent: stock symbol: TCEHY

For telegraph infrastructure combined with transport building, see sections 18 and 19 of “An Act to aid in the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line,” 1 July, 1862. Building the World, pages 237-238.

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 3, 2018
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Evolution of Rights: Environment

Should Trees Have Legal Standing? Image: virgin forest, wikimedia.

New Zealand declared personhood of the Whanganui River, sacred to the Maori and to the environment. Then India followed, establishing rights of two rivers: Ganges, and Yamuna, site of the Taj Mahal. Next, Colombia mandated the rights of the Atrato River, setting precedent for the Supreme Court of Colombia to assure an “intergenerational pact for the life of the Colombian Amazon.” It was the passion of children, 25 young citizens rising up to prevent further deforestation that had shown an increase of 44% between 2015-2016. Working with Dejusticia, the children petitioned the Colombian government and won, obtaining a tutela (legal regulation regarding rights). Bolivia has established perhaps the broadest environmental rights declaration: Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. How has climate change intensified the evolution of environmental rights?

Bolivia: Ley De Derechos De La Madre Tierrahttps://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoe G. Quinn, “Rivers are People Too.” 24 March 2017. Building the World Bloghttp://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/03/24/rivers-are-people-too/

Cano, Lidia Pecharroman. “Rights of Nature: Rivers That Can Stand in Court.” 14 February 2018. Earth Institute, Columbia University. mdpi.com/2079-9276/7/1/13/pdf.

Colombia: Law STC 4360-2018, number 11001-22-03-000-2018-00319-01, approved 4 April 2018. https://www.dejusticia.org/en/climate-change-and-future-generations-lawsuit-in-colombia-key-excerpts-from-the-supreme-courts-decision/

India:https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-given-rights-people-india-180962639/

New Zealand:  Te Awa Tupua Claims Settlement Bill 129-2, 2016. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2016/0129/latest/DLM6830851.html

Stone, Christoper. “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” Southern California Law Review, 1972, No. 45, pp 450-501.https://iseethics.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/stone-christopher-d-should-trees-have-standing.pdf

Appreciation to Evan T. Litwin for suggestion of Colombian 2018 law.

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, 2018
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Bridges to the Future

“London Bridge Illuminated at Dusk,” by photographer burge500, 2006. Image: wikimedia commons.

The land of London Bridge just announced a span to a better environment, banning single-use plastics. The UK government states the measure will help eliminate any increase in what is estimated as over 150 million tons of plastic in our oceans. As a result, one million birds and 100, 000 sea mammals die from ingesting or getting trapped in plastic waste. Particularly concerning are smaller pieces of plastic like Q-tips and plastic straws that slip through filters into rivers and oceans. Scotland earlier led the ban on single-use plastics; the new law will be introduced across the Commonwealth.

In the United States, such environmental considerations are up to states and cities, banning or taxing single-use plastics: California was the first state in 2014; Boston recently joined the increasing group of cities with an urban plastic bag tax.

Corley, McKinley. “Another Big US City is Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags.” 18 December 2017. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/another-big-us-city-banning-single-use-plastic-bags/

Nace, Trevor. “UK To Ban All Plastic Straws, Q-tips, and Single-Use Plastics.” 25 April 2018. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/04/25/uk-to-ban-all-plastic-straws-q-tips-and-single-use-plastics/#cb4a4ff11383

Thanks to Cherie E. Potts for suggesting this topic.

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, 2018
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Earth Day : End Plastic Pollution

Earth Day. Image: wikimedia commons.

It’s Earth Day – the largest secular observance in the world. Inaugurated as a national “teach-in” on the environment, the 1970’s movement launched the United States Environmental Protection Agency; Clean Air, Clean Water Act; and Endangered Species Act. Why is Earth Day celebrated on April 22? Founder Senator Gaylord Nelson, with CongressPerson Pete McCloskey and Professor Denis Hayes who picked the April date as “falling between Spring Break and Final Exams,” drew 20 million people on the first Earth Day in 1970; the first Global Earth Day in 1990 engaged 200 million participants. The year 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day: that’s just over 100 weeks away – what will you do to participate? Meanwhile, each Earth Day has a theme: this year: End Plastic Pollution.  It’s timely: 80% of tap water contains plastic. There are solutions: 90% of ocean plastic comes from just 10 rivers; banning plastic straws can help. Sign the pledge to end plastic pollution here.

“End Plastic Pollution: Earth Day 2018 Campaign.” Earth Day NetWork. https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/plastics-campaign/

“It’s Earth Day: Look Up!” 22 April 2017. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/04/22/its-earth-day-look-up.

“(Re)New Earth Day.” 22 April 2016. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2016/04/22/renew-earth-day/

“Year of the Tree.” 27 April 2016. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingheworld/2016/04/27/year-of-the-tree/

“Earth Day: Social Power.” 22 April 2015. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/04/22/earth-day-social-power/

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 13, 2018
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Tale of Three Cities: Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House. Photographer: Steve Collis. Image: wikimedia.

Already the most populous city in Australia, Sydney’s headcount will double in the next four decades. Solution? Divide Sydney into three separate metropoles: Eastern Harbour City, Central River City, and Western Parkland City. Eastern has the Sydney Opera House and airport. Western will get its own airport, with the new city built as an “aerotropolis.” In-between, Central River will attract the best of both sides, it is hoped. New transport infrastructure, road and rail, will fulfill the strategic goal of “30-minute cities” offering travel from home to work in a reasonable commute. How will the new urban plan honor the First Nations? Australia has experience in city development: the town of Cooma expanded rapidly when chosen as headquarters for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, bringing water and electricity to rapidly growing Australia. Megacities, urban centers with more than 10 million people, are on the rise: in 1960, there were just two – New York and Tokyo; more than 40 megacities are expected by 2030. Will Sydney set a precedent?

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoë G. Quinn. “Badu Gili: Water Light.” 30 June 2017. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/30/badu-fili-water-light.

Lo, Andrea. “Why is Sydney being split into three cities?” 12 April 2018. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/12/asia/sydney-three-cities/index.html.

United Nations. “The world’s cities are growing in both size and number.” http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/urbanization/the_world’s_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.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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April 6, 2018
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Haute Cuisine

Will city skyscrapers grow food, for a new twist on haute cuisine – high cooking? Here, Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy. Image: wikimedia.

By 2050, 75% of us will live in cities, likely in high rise towers. Gustav Eiffel’s innovation of building up, supported by the force of curves and wind, demonstrated to the world that the future was in the sky. The Eiffel Tower of Paris is progenitor of today’s skyscrapers. In the United States, Chicago is said by some architects to have invented the skyscraper as a response to the city’s sudden population growth. When it opened in 1885, the Home Insurance Building reached 138 feet (42-meters) skyward, using steel in its structure: it was the first tall building to do so. 1892 saw the erection of the Monadnock Building, largest commercial edifice in the world, at the time. Fast-forward, and upward, Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, China reached a milestone: 1,955 feet (599 meters). By 2025, Asia will be home to more than 30 megacities: Tokyo, Shangai, Jakarta, Delhi, Seoul, Guangzhou, Beijing, Manila, Mumbai, Shenzhen top the list. According to Jorgen Randers, 2052, “The future will be urban, dense, and crowded.”

PingAn IFC, Shenzhen, China. Photographer: Posasihumvioa. Image: wikimedia.

Where will all those people live, and what will they eat? Some designers envision towers alive with bloom, absorbing rain, shielding sun, providing insulation, cleaning air, and perhaps even growing food. Examples include residential towers: Bosco Verticale, in Milan, Italy. In 2015, France’s capital passed a law mandating all new roofs be solar or green. Now, a further development: all Parisians may grow food on their premises. By 2020, the city known for haute cuisine may give another meaning to that adjective: more than 100 hectares (about 40% of a mile) of rooftops gardens and planted walls will grace the city, yielding 425 tons of vegetable, 24 tons of mushrooms. Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a pan-Parisian “license to vegetate.” Metro operator RATP hosts a commercial garden; the French Post Office farms its roof, and even breeds chickens amid the aubergines.

Jacob, Sam. “Sky-rise living: Palace or prison? 11 January 2018. CNN Style. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/skyrise-living-sam-jacob/index.html.

Randers, Jorgen. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (2012) and The Limits to Growth (1972). http://www.2052.info/

Ye, Sonia and Cloture Achi, Sybille de La Hamaide, Louise Heavens. “Post office workers grow vegetables, breed chickens on Paris rooftop ‘farm.'” 26 September 2017. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france/agriculture-urban-roofstop/post-office-workers-grow-vegetables-breed-chickens-on-paris-rooftop-farm-idUSKCN1C11UX. 

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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March 29, 2018
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The Lab that Fell to Earth

“Hypervelocity Impact Demonstration” image: Nasa

It’s the size of a bus and it’s coming towards you, from space. European Space Agency (ESA) predicts China’s Tiangong-1 space station will return to earth in the next few days, as confirmed by China’s Manned Space Engineering Office. Tiangong-1, weighing 8.5 tons, is not expected to cause significant danger upon landing, but there is concern. Uncontrolled re-entry of space debris has seen increasingly large objects since COMSAT began to fill the sky: examples include STS-107 (106 tons) in 2010; Skylab (75 tons) in 1979. The most crowded area of space is between 700km and 1,000 km (435 miles to 621 miles), low enough feel gravity’s drag. The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects has seen little compliance with the rule that non-functioning space objects must be removed in 25 years. Problems: attempts at removal create more debris, and few launches have a de-orbit plan. A 2009 collision of Motorola’s Iridium 33 and Russia’s Cosmos 2251 destroyed both: resultant debris wiped out decades of effort to clean up space junk. How much is “up there?” Over 20,000 objects are in orbit, and an estimated 500,000 pieces of space debris. To witness Tiangong-1’s return to earth, click here.

Amos, Jonathan. “Space debris collisions expected to rise.” BBC News, 22 April 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22253966.

Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/Conv_International_Liab_Damage.pdf

Hunt, Katie with contributions by Serenitie Wang.”Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 to fall to Earth within days.” CNNhttps://www.cnn.com/2018/03/26/asia/china-tiangong-1-intl/index.html

Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee. “IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines.” Report 22.4, 2007. http://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/spacelaw/sd/IADC-2002-01-IADC-Space_Debris-Guidelines-Revision1.pdf

Moskowitz, Clara. “How much junk is in space?” 3 May 2010. Space.com. https://www.space.com/8334-junk-space.html

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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March 24, 2018
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Earth Hour

Sky Tower goes dark (red lights remaining for aircraft) in recognition of Earth Hour. Image: Kaihsu Tai, wikimedia

Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, joined other iconic structures in observation of Earth Hour on 24 March 2018. Usually illuminated, the monuments went dark for 60 minutes to raise awareness of preserving the earth’s environment. What did you do to honor your hour of darkness?

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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