Building the World

April 28, 2020
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ENERGY: Petersberg Climate Dialogue

Petersberg, near Bonn, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

High upon a virtual mountaintop, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue gathered 35 countries to steer the course for achieving Paris Agreement goals. Alok Sharma, UK Secretary of State for Business and Energy and President of COP26, and Svenja Schulze, Federal Environment Minister of Germany, co-chaired ‘International Climate Action after the Coronavirus Pandemic.” While there is good news, including the cost of solar energy now 85% lower than in 2010, it is not enough: 840 million people lack access to electricity. As world governments allocate funding to rebuild economies after Covid-19, there is an unprecedented opportunity forfinance to support a green economic recovery and foster ambitious climate action.” We have not acted fast enough to reach climate goals, in part due to funding. The world might now have A UNIQUE opportunity to rebuild. Petersberg Climate Dialogue is digital: participate here.

Petersberg Climate Dialogue Digital Conference. https://www.bmu.de/press/live-broadcast/

Petersberg Climate Dialogue Digital Conference. “Financing Climate Ambition in the context of COVID-19.” Video Conference, 29 April 2020. https://www.bmu.de/en/event/financing-climate-ambition-in-the-context-of-covid-19/

Sharma, Alok. “Reaching Climate Goals.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cop26-president-remarks-at-first-day-of-petersberg-climate-dialogue.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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January 13, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES: Trees

Boston’s Greenway. Image: Greenway Conservancy.

American cities lost 36 million trees in the last five years. Without trees, cities will get hotter and suffer more periods of air pollution. Why are we losing trees? Hurricanes and tornadoes tear them from the earth, fires burn them to the ground, insects and diseases weaken and kill trees. Those are some of the reasons we can’t easily control.

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Image: wikimedia.

But there is one factor we can influence: city development. Cities are on the rise, rapidly growing into megacities with populations of 10 million or more. The United States, with 80% of the US population living in urban areas, especially in forested coastal regions along the West and East coasts, has a unique opportunity to preserve and enhance urban forests. It’s well worth it. Trees bring environmental and economic benefits.

URBAN TREES:

Provide shade for homes, schools, office buildings, cooling surface temperatures;

Reduce pollution through absorbing carbon and filtering pollutants from the air;

Reduce energy costs by reducing air-conditioning use – economics of $4 billion per year;

Improve water quality by filtering rainwater, absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus in to the ground;

Protect against urban flooding, absorbing surface water;

Reduce noise pollution by absorbing urban sound;

Enhance city soundscape by adding birdsong, and the whisper of wind through leaves;

Protect against UV radiation, absorbing 96% of ultraviolet radiation;

Improve health, physical through cleaner air and shade to exercise outdoors, mental health of being in nature;

Increase tourism and real estate values.

The New River passes through Bowes Park. Image: wikimedia.

Case studies of successful historic urban forestation reveal strategies. In the year 1600, so many people crossed London Bridge to live in the burgeoning London town that water supply became strained. One of the world’s first artificial or built rivers combined two elements: drinking water and trees. Constructed from 1605 to 1639, the New River stretches over 20 miles from Hertfordshire to Islington, just uphill from London, terminating in a water reservoir ready as needed. All along the route, tree-lined walking paths add protection and shade. Today, the New River is run by Thames Water PLC, managing water supply, and maintaining the walking paths traversed by urban hikers including the Ramblers Association. It is interesting to note that Hugh Myddleton, who partnered with King James I to build the New River, was the regent’s former jeweler and may be related to a member of the present House of Windsor.

Boston had a similar idea with Olmstead’s “Emerald Necklace” with recent Rose Fitzgerald Greenway extension of the urban breathing ribbon of green. The Greenway replaced what was formerly the Central Artery that ran traffic anthrough town; the road was placed underneath in a tunnel and the surface became a park. For an even earlier urban greening, some would point to the City of the Eiffel Tower where Haussmann widened tree-lined boulevards to breathe air and design into Paris. Presently, the city of light requires new commercial construction to have either solar or living green roofs.

“Terrasse panoramique @ Le Printemps Haussmann @ Paris.” by Guilhem Vellut, 2017. Image: wikimedia commons.

By 2050, 70% of the world’s people will live in cities. As cities grow, rebuilding better water systems, developing flood prevention plans, redesigning roads to accommodate electric and autonomous vehicles, how can trees become part of the plan? Will the proposed Climate Conservation Corps (CCC) plant trees in cities? A pilot project at Roger Williams University, or an initiative by World War Zero, might lead the way. There may be considerations of legal import: should trees have standing?

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoe G. Quinn. “Should trees have standing?” Building the World Blog. University of Massachusetts Boston. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/03/01/should-trees-have-standing/

Chillag, Amy. “US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here’s why it matters and how you can stop it.” 18 September 2019. CNN.https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/health/iyw-cities-losing-36-million-trees-how-to-help-trnd/index.html

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition. https://sufc.org/

New River, http://www.thames-water.com

Ramblers Walking Paths of the New River, http://www.ramblers. org.uk/info/paths/newriver.html.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

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February 20, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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Building Better Coasts

Climate change is causing sea rise resulting in coastal erosion, flooding, and threatening ports and cities. Jakarta is in extreme danger: thirteen rivers run through the city, causing frequent flooding. The mega-city of 10 billion is doubly endangered: urban land is suffering subsidence, parts of Indonesia’s capital  (some predict 95%) could be deluged by 2050.

Reed beds revitalize polluted waters. Image: wikimedia

Even rivers like the Thames and Lea in London are not immune. But the city of London Bridge is responding. Thames21 is planting reeds that oxygenate rivers, restoring the habitat marred by pollution; reeds convert toxic ammonia to nitrate. Reed beds also provide habitat for aquatic life. In an echo of the Canal des Deux Mers, the canalized section of the River Lea will receive new reed beds every 300 meters over the length of the river coursing through London.

Indonesia, image: wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Jakarta is exploring response including artificial recharge, a method used a half-century ago by Tokyo in a time of subsidence; to support the program, groundwater extraction was halted and businesses were required to utilize reclaimed water. Jakarta would need to use only rainwater; could catchment systems help? The Dutch, formerly involved in the region, have returned: Institute Deltares reported on the efficacy of the current plan to build the Great Garuda Sea Wall (32 km) along with 17 artificial islands at the cost of (US$) 40 billion. Included in the plan is a new lagoon waterway that can be lowered during floods allowing water to drain. Another method: biopori – digging a hole of 100cm depth to allow rainwater to more easily absorbed into the land, replenishing groundwater. Indonesia may offer an example to many places in the world surrounded by water; how can we build better coasts?

“Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world.” 12 August 2018. By Tom de Souza, with interactive elements by Arvin Surpriyadi, Davies Surya, and Leben Asa.

“Project Reed Beds.” Thames 21. https://www.thames21.org.uk/project-reedbed-2/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

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October 27, 2018
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Bridging the Future

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, China. Take a test drive. Image: wikimedia.

World’s longest span, China’s Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, stretches 34 miles  (55 km) across the Pearl River Delta. An artificial island supporting Zhuhai’s port joins the financial centers of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (Special Economic Zone), and manufacturing areas like Dongguan. The bridge cuts travel time between Zhuhai and Hong Kong, formerly taking 4 hours, to 40 minutes. One unique aspect revealing cultural history: traffic patterns change from left-lane driving (in once-British Hong Kong) to right-lane vehicular traffic (the rule of the road in China).

Brooklyn Bridge. Image: wikimedia commons.

Bridges have long encouraged economic activity. London Bridge was perhaps the first shopping mall: spaces along the span were leased to stores whose taxes paid for bridge maintenance. The Brooklyn Bridge cost $15 million to build. Tolls varied: it cost one penny to walk across but double that if you brought a horse or cow, and ten times more with a one-horse wagon. Fifteen years after the bridge joined Manhattan and Brooklyn, the latter’s population doubled and both economies grew rapidly.

China’s new bridge may promise economic development but also drew headlines for costs: $7 billion for the 14 mile main span; $13 billion for tunnels. The project used enough steel (400,000 tons) to build 60 Eiffel Towers. There were also costs in lives lost: 10 people perished during construction; another 500 were injured. There were costly delays (the project was two years late) and troubling scandals: 19 people were indicted on criminal charges for fake concrete. Another cost: the number of rare white dolphins (sometimes called China’s marine panda)  swimming in Hong Kong waters dropped by half, even though $68 million was devoted to their protection.

Rare white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) sometimes called China’s marine panda. Image: wikimedia commons.

How can the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge assure environmental stability? Will the University Alliance of the Silk Road and the Confucius Institute help to bring sustainable and inclusive values that are perhaps the most important bridges?

Confucius Institute. http://chinesecio.com

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Test Drive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9VOhEH4te0

Ramsey, Austin. “China opens giant bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland,” 23 October 2018, The New York Times.

University Alliance of the Silk Road. http://uasr.xjtu.edu.cn/About_UASR/UASR_Introduction.htm

Zhou, Christina, and Bang Xiao. “China’s massive sea bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai slashes rare white dolphin population.” 25 October 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-25/white-dolphin-numbers-drop-worlds-longest-sea-bridge-opens-china/10428038.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

 

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April 27, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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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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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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May 6, 2016
by buildingtheworld
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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 23, 2015
by buildingtheworld
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Dancing (and Walking) in the Light

 

Dancing and walking in the light. Image: Kalka, “Prosty znak graficny ilustrujacy taniec Break Dance” 2008, wikimedia commons.

Scene: crowded dance floor, London, where dancing was electric, in many ways. Scene: West Ham station of the London “tube” leading to the 2012 Olympics venue. More than one million people walked through the underground station, generating enough electricity to light the station. Similarly, the original London Bridge drew foot traffic and brought prosperity to the growing city. Both dance floor and subway station are bright ideas of Laurence Kemball-Cook, a 27-year-old entrepreneur who envisions permanent installations in high foot-traffic areas like office buildings, or universities. Pavegen produces floor tiles that combine a person’s weight with a 5mm movement in the tile, producing electrical current. While a student at Loughborough University, Kemball-Cook devised the idea, and started a company on just 50 British pounds; today, there are projects on every continent. A related MIT development derives energy from small bending motion. Should UMB’s “catwalk” pave the way to a new era for universities, giving added meaning to paths of learning and enlightenment?

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 30, 2014
by buildingtheworld
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Frost Fairs and the Future

Thames Frost Fair by Thomas Wyke. Image: wikimedia commons.

February 1, 1814, marked the most recent “frost fair” on the Thames in London. Pop-up pubs serving gingerbread and gin appeared on the frozen river; skating and dancing occupied idle merchants, whose businesses were closed due to the icing of the river, and festive townsfolk. In 1814, even an elephant ambled along the stretch between London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, demonstrating the thickness of the ice. What happened to this winter carnival? One factor is London Bridge itself. In 1831, a new bridge whose arches encouraged more sea water to pass under the span made for a saltier Thames, less prone to freezing. Another reason is climate change. What is the future of frost? How will climate change affect cities and bridges?

For more, http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands/whats-on/exhibitions-displays/frozen-thames/

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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February 5, 2013
by zoequinn001
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London Bridge not the Only One Worth Noticing

View of the Forth Rail Bridge under construction, photograph by Evelyn Carey, in the records of the British Railways Board, from nas.gov.uk.

The Thames is not the only river in Britain with bridges that amaze the observer in style and design. The Fourth Rail Bridge in Scotland is to be considered as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2015. For more information on the construction of the bridge and its application to UNESCO, please see:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-18237211

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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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