Building the World

March 10, 2017
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Bridge to the Future

Bridges to the future: in the next 15 years, the world will build more infrastructure than is currently on the planet. Photo: “Gaoliang Bridge: The Summer Palace” by Hennessey, wikimedia commons.

Rebuilding may characterize the next era. Bridges, roads, rail, energy, and water systems are in need of an upgrade. There is so much backlog in the United States, costs are estimated at $4.6 trillion by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon states it’s not just the United States, or even North America. Global infrastructure needs an upgrade. History suggests a few guidelines. Focus on projects; jobs will follow. Target both macro and micro: on the grand scale, choose iconic projects of national (or regional) impact; on a micro scale, concentrate on towns and local improvements that can be seen in four years. Government allocations should not focus on profit (certain infrastructure pays for itself in tolls, as Charlemagne proved, and such ventures can be public/private), but on rights and commons. Consider creation of a national clearinghouse where states and cities can learn from each other (such as the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership program). Some of these suggestions are offered by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, and others by Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust in their recent announcement: “Helping mayors do their job.”

Felipe Calderon adds: “There’s evidence that 1% of GDP spent on infrastructure can lead to a 1.5% increase in GDP within 4 years. But, given the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are accumulating, the type of infrastructure we build matters more than ever. Building a solar plant is better than building a coal plant. Building light rail is better than expanding a highway. Solid flood defense systems can hold back rising seas. We will be building over the next fifteen years more infrastructure than currently exists on the planet.

Global infrastructure investment, over the next 15 years, is expected to reach $90 trillion. It’s an opportunity for structural sustainability perhaps unprecedented in history. Can we build the bridge to a better future?

For more: “America’s Infrastructure Scores a D+” American Society of Civil Engineers, Infrastructure Report Card. http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

Bloomberg, Michael R. and Drew Gilpin Faust, “Helping mayors do their job.” The Boston Globe, 25 August 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/08/25/helping-mayors-their-job/1HblR7a4hKsQMJEbXmnAgP/story.html

Calderon, Felipe. “Global infrastructure needs an upgrade.” 7 October 2016. CNN. http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/07/news/economy/felipe-calderon-oped-us-infrastructure/index.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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June 3, 2016
by buildingtheworld
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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 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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October 12, 2014
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Way of Rights

Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, present at 1215 signing of Magna Carta. Image: wikimedia commons.

800 years ago, rights took a leap forward. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, champion of human rights,  is credited with an influential role in the Magna Carta, or Great Charter. The agreement, accepted by “manus” (Latin for hand but meaning legal power, similar to handshaking on a deal) by King John at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, gave birth to rule of constitutional law in England, and later the world, including the United States’ Constitution. Magna Carta, the Great Charter, along with other landmark documents including the Emancipation Proclamation, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, visits Massachusetts in October. What are the evolving rights of the future? Will Bolivia lead the way?

About Magna Carta: http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation

Magna Carta in Massachusetts: http://www.clarkart.edu/Exhibition/Magna-Carta.aspx

Bolivia and the Rights of the Earth:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights

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, 2014
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Common Ground

Landscape in Scotland by Gustave Dore. Courtesy of Walters Art Museum.

Scotland’s decision of September 2014 probes connection. Whether for or against independence, one might find common wealth in Charlemagne‘s interconnected centers of learning that may have led to establishment of universities. Erasmus, a modern European educational exchange network, follows the tradition. Another example of the power of connection might be the Hanseatic League of medieval Europe, now known as Hanse. At the time of the guilds, industries traded specialized goods such as wax, cloth, on a regional basis; Hanse was formed for this purpose. When the 14th century league decided to require annual convention, Tagfahrt delegates from 50 cities met in an intricate, and inclusive, system of governance and agreement. New leagues, for new times, may be emerging: whether united or independent, regions of the world are interconnected through shared benefit and responsibility for water, energy. Hanse’s annual meeting was often convened by Lübeck; might Glasgow, Scotland, host Common Ground 2015?

For more:

On Scotland’s September 2014 decision: http://www.bbc.uk/news/magazine-29276463

On Hanse: http://www.hanse.org/en/international-hanse-days/the-traditional-hanseatic-days/

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 1, 2014
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2014: Tlcan-Alena-Nafta

 

North America. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons.

January 1, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the North American free trade agreement, joining Canada, Mexico and the United States in partnership. While the original accord focused on economics, now it may be time to expand the focus to shared resources including, but not limited to: water, energy, transport, public health, communications, employment and education. Charlemagne has been called by some the father of the European Union because of early efforts to draw people together through shared systems respecting the richness of diverse languages. Who is the Charlemagne of the North American continent?

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 29, 2013
by zoequinn001
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Charlemagne in WWII?

If he weren’t so well known as a warrior and leader, Charlemagne’s would perhaps have been recognized by history for innovation in engineering. His troops may have been the first to invent the temporary bridge.  In 792 he commanded the design of a pontoon bridge suitable for crossing the Danube River. This method proved handy to an army on the move, and provided excellent security when the soldiers assembled the bridge, stormed across and then pulled it back over with them, not unlike the concept of a moat of a castle. Years later, the Bailey Bridge  — same concept – helped to win World War II.

A modern Bailey Bridge, from New Zealand Transport Agency, at nzta.gov.nz.

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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 15, 2012
by zoequinn001
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The Charlemagne Scholarship

University of Aachen, from young-germany.de.

On June 1, 2000, the Rheinisch-Westfalische Technische Hochschule Aachen, of Aachen University, awarded the Charlemagne Prize to the President of the United States. To continue the association, the university instituted the Charlemagne Scholarship, awarded annually to a U.S. student of engineering who is placed in an industry-oriented research unit with the option of attending advanced courses. Tuition is free, and there is also a period of German language training customized for the winner’s needs. The goal of the program is to continue to bridge and share the highest technological standards for both the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany to develop “young scientists and engineers with a strong international orientation.”

The spirit of learning exchange is also reflected in the ERASMUS program that invites EU students to take a year of study at another university within the Eurozone, promoting shared understanding among a fresh cadre of multi-lingual young professionals. The program fosters expanding the vision of a new generation who will think of themselves first as Europeans and second as nationals of a particular country.

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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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