Building the World

August 25, 2017
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Zoom…

Trains that fly? In tubes? Hyperloop has reached another milestone. Image of a Copenhagen pipe tunnel, Wikimedia.

Hyperloop has achieved another milestone: the first trial run of the passenger pod destined to carry commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco at 650 miles per hour. Transportation advances have changed the world. China’s Grand Canal transformed a region into a nation; the New Silk Road may link 40% of the world. Once united by the Golden Spike, the Transcontinental Railroad shortened the trek across the United States from six months to 10 days. The Erie Canal reduced the cost of shipping goods from Buffalo to New York City from $100 to $10. The Channel Tunnel made breakfast in London and lunch in Paris an everyday occurrence. Now, with Hyperloop, London/Paris transit time could be 25 minutes; Dubai to Abu Dhabi: 12 minutes. What advances in business, culture, and perhaps even cooperation and peace, might come from a more connected future?

For a video test ride: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/technology-40811172/hyperloop-one-passenger-pod-tested-successfully

To calculate time between any two destinations: https://hyperloop-one.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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June 23, 2017
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Shining a New Light

“Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China.” William Havell, 1817. Image: wikimedia commons.

Infrastructure has been termed the foundation of civilization. Rome built roads, and water systems; the aqueducts made possible the expansion of the city and the empire. China built the Grand Canal, stimulating commerce, culture, and communication: the written language was first standardized because of the Canal. Throughout history, infrastructure has spurred civilization. The world currently spends $2.5 trillion on water, energy, transport, and telecommunications – each year. But, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, $3.3 trillion is needed just to keep up. What’s more worrying? Emerging and developing areas will require more of everything: electricity, roads, rail, airports, shipping ports.  Aggregate investment from now until 2030 will be significant: 49 trillion. Initiatives like China’s New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) may globalize infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable and beneficial. Bringing new infrastructure to areas in need is a chance, perhaps unprecedented in history, to rebuild the world.

“Bridging global infrastructure gaps.” Jonathan Woetzel, Nicklas Garemo, Jan Mischke, Martin Hjerpe, Robert Palter. McKinsey Global Institute, June 2016. http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/bridging-global-infrastructure-gaps

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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December 16, 2016
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Water Weal

“Una gota de agua.” Photographer: Jose Manuel Suarez, 2008. Image with permission: wikimedia commons.

We can live three weeks without food, but only three days without water. A Texas town has closed schools, and issued a warning not to use tap water to drink, cook, wash, or irrigate. The cause? Back-flow of industrial chemicals, petroleum-based. A crisis of water pollution spurred building of the Roman aqueducts; in 1846, the world’s first water treatment plant was invented in England, due to a cholera crisis. England had long practiced water weal (as in common weal or commonwealth). When King James I of England and Hugh Myddleton, entrepreneur (and formerly jeweler to His Majesty) collaborated, in 1605, to bring fresh water to London, the New River transformed the fate, and future, of the metropolis. How can we bring safe water to over one billion people who lack access? Innovations, such as filters developed by Askwar Hilonga or the team of Annan, Kan-Dapaah, Azeko, and Soboyejo, can lift the billions who suffer from access. Will aging infrastructure, in places like Flint, Michigan, lead to responsible stewardship? Initiatives such as Jardine’s MeterSave, may help to sustain this most precious resource. Water is one of five failures facing the future. Today, what can you do to protect water?

Annan, Ebenezer, Kwabena Kan-Dapaah, Salifu T. Azeko, Wole Soboyejo. “Clay Mixtures and the Mechanical Properties of Microporous and Nonporous Ceramic Water Filters.” Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering 28 (10):04016105, May 2016. http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/(ASCE)MT.1943-5533.0001596

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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April 4, 2016
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Raising the (Green) Roof

Chicago’s City Hall. Image: wikimedia commons.

Spring downpours may evoke the expression: “raining cats and dogs.” In days of thatched roofs, domestic animals burrowed into the substrate, jumping forth during vernal storms. Green roofs (and walls) are making a comeback. Insulating, sound absorbing, green roofs soak up 70% of rainwater, reducing local flooding. Green roofs feature recycled materials. The Roman aqueducts, and roads, as reported by Vitruvius, were 1 part chalk + 2 parts sand (preferably local volcanic pozzolanic) + 20% water. Chicago, USA; Paris, France; Toronto, Canada passed laws requiring new construction include solar or green roofs. Chicago estimated energy savings of $100,000,000 annually, if all its urban roofs were green. Environmental benefits await: while a shady lawn’s summer surface temperature averages 28C, non-green urban roofs measure 52C (125.6 Farhrenheit). Green roofs, especially in cities, may help fulfill the promise of the COP21 agreement.

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 22, 2016
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World Water Day

March 22 is World Water Day. Image: wikimedia commons.

We can live three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Our world faces a water crisis. Alarmingly, every 90 seconds a child dies of a water-related disease. Both developing and developed global areas suffer water problems; Flint, Michigan shocked the United States into awareness, revealing more problems with lead in drinking water discovered in all 50 states. Marine life also suffers: more than 2,000 species are now classified as endangered or threatened. When water safety imperiled ancient Rome, the aqueducts brought fresh spring water from hills to city. The New River, an engineered waterway, similarly saved London. Half of the world’s jobs involve water. How can we respond to the goals of the Paris Agreement COP 21 to improve climate, and water?

Join the discussion:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/white-house-water-summit

https://www.facebook.com/UnitedNationsWater

http://ceowatermandate.org/

Thanks to the Comisión Nacional del Agua of México for world and regional water statistics, and to Cherie E. Potts for U.S. statistics.

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 22, 2016
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Water (+) Sports

Can sports raise awareness of the future of water? Image: wikimediacommons.

Sports are associated with water. Many sports are performed on, in or through water; other sports like running races build up a powerful thirst, often slaked at water stations. Because of their natural link, can sports help to raise awareness of water sustainability? México’s CONAGUA invites participation in an annual running event. In a different endeavor, sports teams representing water’s many forms – oceans, rivers, urban water, agriculture and irrigation – are exemplified by Ultimate Frisbee Oaxaca, UFO, to raise awareness of how to sustain and improve these vital resources. Rome’s aqueducts provided water for urban growth as well as competitive games including naumachia. Sporting events often include water stations; will innovations such as the Fontus by Kristof Retezár be a game changer?

For more:

Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA), “Carrera del Agua” http://www.comunidadvialmx.org/eventos/2016-02-15-corre-una-vez-mas-por-el-agua

Ultimate Frisbee Oaxaca (UFO): https://www.facebook.com/UltimateOaxaca/

Palacios-Vélez, Óscar Luis and Felipe J.A. Pedraza-Oropeza. “Drainage and Salinity Problems in the Mexican Irrigation Districts: An Overview 1962-2013.” Tecnología y Ciencias del Agua, vol. VI, núm. 6, noviembre-diciembre de 2015, pp. 113-123. ISSN 0187.8336.

Fessenden, Marissa. “This Water Bottle Refills Itself.” Smithsonian.com. 3 February 2016. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/water-bottle-refills-itself-from-moisture-air-180957986/?no-ist

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January 23, 2016
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Skin Flint

Can Flint rebuild water health and safety, with an new vision? Image: Flint River, pre-crisis, 1979. United States Army Corps of Engineers, wikimedia commons.

Flint, Michigan has made world news for a sad reason. In a temporary cost-cutting measure, authorities switched the city’s watersupply from Lake Huron (via Detroit) to the Flint River, known to contain corrosive minerals. Absent filters or other safeguards, river water coursed though antiquated pipes, leeching out lead. Residents noticed immediately: smell, color and taste had changed. A similar crisis, with a healthier solution, caused Rome‘s response to degradation of the Tiber River; aqueducts were built to bring safe water to the city. Flint health experts including pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha noted an increase in illness in children whose tests revealed the presence of lead. But it would be over a year until action was taken. Blame might be shared by many; response after the fact is problematic. Plumbing can be changed; water can be filtered; but what about those whose health is now threatened, perhaps for many years in the future? Medical treatment for 6,000 to 12,000 children affected is estimated at $100 million. Temporary measures: filters, bottled water? $28 million. Cost of fixing the aging pipes? $1.5 billion. Such costs, most seriously the health of a new generation, could have been avoided. As Flint rebuilds, might leaders create a regional water resource, connected to the Great Lakes, perhaps modeled upon England’s New River, to bring healthy drinking water, and greenway exercise paths, with a new vision for Michigan?

More: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/21/us/flint-lead-water-timeline.html?_r=0

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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December 29, 2015
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Groundwater Loss/Sea Rise

Depleting groundwater increases sea rise. How should we balance water resources to achieve sustainability? Image: Perhelion, wikimedia commons.

Depletion of underground aquifers accelerates global sea rise. According to a study published in Nature by a team of researchers including Yoshihido Wada of NASA Goddard Institute at Columbia University and Marc Bierkens of Utrecht University, groundwater use is rapidly increasing, with the consequence of contribution to 20% of sea rise. Aquifers and aqueducts helped support Rome; England’s New River fostered London’s growth while improving public health via walking paths. With aquifers being tapped for everything from drinking water, agriculture, industry, and hydraulic fracturing, groundwater is a stressed resource. Especially important are shared water resources: how should transnational aquifers, such as those shared by México and the United States, be sustained? What should be added to laws and policy regarding world water?

Special appreciation to Cherie E. Potts for reference and suggestion.

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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December 1, 2015
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Mega Cities, Macro Solutions

São Paolo, Brazil is among the world’s megacities. Image: wikimedia commons.

Urban centers with populations over 10 million, megacities are the greatest consumers of resources, especially water. When London reached limits to growth, the New River allowed the city to expand. At a time when the Tiber threatened health and safety, Rome built the aqueducts. Over 2000 years ago, Chengdu, China engineered the Dujiangyan irrigation system. Today, Paris is among the world’s cities utilizing non-potable water to power systems and control climate. Megacities are responsible for 70% of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. What can the megacities of the world do improve and sustain the environment? Will Africa lead the way? As world water becomes more precious, how can cities use water wisely? UNESCO considers this question in conjunction with COP21.

Special appreciation to Rachael M. Rusting for Dujiangyan references and 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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