Building the World

October 13, 2018
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Eyes on the Prize

Nobel Prize in Economics 2018 goes to carbon tax advocates: William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Image: wikimedia.

The Nobel Prize in Economics, awarded to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer, followed a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of urgent and dire effects if the world does not limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Nordhaus advocated carbon pricing and taxation, stating: When I talk to people about how to design a carbon price, I think the model is British Columbia. You raise electricity prizes by $100 a year, but then the government gives back a dividend that lowers internet prices by $100 a year. You’re raising the price of carbon goods but lowering the prices of non-carbon-intensive goods.

Co-laureate Paul Romer stated at a press conference following the announcement: It’s entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon. There will be some tradeoffs, but once we begin to produce fewer carbon emissions we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it was anticipated. Romer advocated supporting and encouraging innovation, while at the same time starting with a very low tax on emissions that will rise over time, if required. Outcome? “Innovators will start investing now in ways for people to get what they want without paying the tax. They will stop investing in ways to extract more fossil fuels that will be subject to the tax. Recent pessimistic environmental warnings might be true, but bad news is not always motivating, and can even cause avoidance and apathy. Romer continued: Optimism is part of what helps motivate people attack a hard problem, hoping that the Nobel award “will help everyone see that humans are capable of amazing accomplishments when we set about trying to do something.”

Davenport, Coral. “After Nobel in Economics, William Nordhaus Talks About Who’s Getting Pollution-Tax Ideas Right: A few governments – notably parts of Canada and South Korea – have adapted the the ideas in ways that frame them as a financial windfall for taxpayers.” 13 October 2018. The New York Times.

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7620.pdf

Nordhaus, William. https://economics.yale.edu/people/william-d-nordhaus

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets.” 18 September 2018. http://www.oecd.org/tax/few-countries-are-pricing-carbon-high-enough-to-meet-climate-targets.htm.

Rathi, Akshat. “Why the newest Nobel laureate is optimistic about beating climate change.” 8 October 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1417222/why-new-nobel-laureate-paul-romer-is-optimistic-about-beating-climate-change/.

Romer, Paul. https://paulromer.net/about-paul-romer/

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 11, 2018
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Spring Forward!

“Daylight Saving Time.” Transparency by Daniel FR. Wikimedia.

Did you spring forward, overnight? Daylight Saving Time(DST) refers to advancing clocks in the springtime. The first national practice of adjusting timepieces to lengthen summer evenings began on 30 April 1916, in Europe. It was not long after the very notion of time zones had been adopted by the world. Transport led to temporal coordination. Noting accidents when trains from opposite directions tried to coordinate during the early days of the United States Transcontinental Railroad, using runners carrying little slips called “flimsies,” Sandford Fleming, chief engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway, suggested a world time zone system, described in “Terrestrial Time.” The idea was adopted at the 1884 International Prime Meridian Conference. Daylight Saving Time (DST) was proposed in 1895 by New Zealander George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist who wanted more time in the evening to observe insects. What will you do with your extra hour?

International Prime Meridian Conference text: https://archive.org/details/cihm_03131

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, 2018
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2018: Celebrate the 8’s

“Green 8 in a Sea of Blue.” Earth Observatory Image: https://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Seen from space, the Americas look a bit like a green 8 in a sea of blue. One glance reveals our planet is made of regions, not nations. Rivers do not stop at lines arbitrarily drawn on a map: transboundary waters are shared resources. Another interconnection: land use, including transport. Great rail systems of history such as the Trans-Siberian or Canadian Pacific railways redefined connection through rapidly advancing transit technologies. Now, electric highways, autonomous vehicles, and hyperloop transit could link continents in innovation.

In 2018, Canada, Mexico, and the United States debate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Negotiations should include transboundary water resources; legal precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations. Nafta truckers could pioneer automated highways that might steer negotiations. But Nafta may be too small to address macro issues.

Is it now time to extend the north american discussion, to a broader regional scope? Afta Nafta. Decisions about water quality in one nation may impact another; transit links continents, not countries. Oceans may ultimately determine the fate of cities: from Natal to New York, many are coastal. What if everyone in the Americas learned at least one of the languages of their neighbors? Language-based education and cultural exchange might stir innovation in areas such as shared water resources, intelligent highways, public health, and rights. Could there be a regional tour of beauty, instead of a tour of duty? Xchange students and volunteers could form corps maintaining readiness for disaster response (by definition, regional) while practicing environmental service, in an updated CCC of the Americas. Potential logo? Green 8 in a Circle of Blue.

It might be noted that 8, viewed on the horizontal plane, is the infinity symbol. System scientists may suggest that two interconnecting loops could form a renewing system. The infinity symbol was the creation, in 1655, of John Wallis (he also served as chief cryptographer for Parliament). Whether it remains infinite or not, our shared environment depends upon our actions. Perhaps it is time to dedicate at least one year, per decade, to improvement of our shared resources: celebrate the 8’s by honoring interconnection.

“Infinity Symbol” Image: wikimedia commons

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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November 17, 2017
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Bonn Voyage

Sunrise in Bonn, Germany. Image wikimedia.

The Conference of the Parties (COP23) met in Bonn, Germany to put the walk in the talk. COP23’s purpose? Make actionable those agreements, formed in Paris at COP21, addressing climate change. Among developments in Bonn, the Ocean Pathway will include waters not contained within specific countries. Other notable achievements: Powering Past Coal Alliance. World agreements, such as that achieved in Paris and followed up in Bonn, are relatively rare in history. Global time zones were agreed at the International Prime Meridian Conference of 1884, as a result of the work of Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway. COMSAT invited companies around the world to join governments to build a new “railway” in the sky: communications satellite systems later resulted in the Internet. Bonn’s achievements at COP23 will determine the future, as participating nations (with a notable exception) work together to rebuild a sustainable world. Even where a country might not participate, states and cities continue the effort: We Are Still In.

Ellis, Jonathan. “The Bonn Climate Conference: All Our Coverage in One Place.” 13 November 2017. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/climate/bonn-climate-change-conference.html

Powering Past Coal Alliance. http://www.ym.fi/download/noname/%7B2ECC2AA5-F5D9-4551-BEC1-63C29DDB57A4%7D/132328

United Nations. COP23. https://cop23.unfccc.int

We Are Still In. https://www.wearestillin.com/cop23-press-release

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 17, 2017
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Silk Road 2.0

Yo-yo Ma, founder of Silkroad, playing the cello at the World Economic Forum, 2008. Photographer: Andy Mettler. Image: wikimedia commons.

Yo-yo Ma, cellist and founder of Silkroad, might write new music for what is being referred to as the “new silk road.” The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation 2017 concluded this week in Beijing, with 1,000 international government representatives; 68 countries signed on to jointly develop infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road. It’s a big route, linking China, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Historians might add North America: the Canadian Pacific Railway customized railcars to transport silk worm cocoons from Vancouver’s docks to the mills of New Jersey and New York. The so-called “Silk Trains” carried armed guards, so valuable was the cargo. One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a land and maritime vision including Railway to London, Railway to Iran, Gwadar Port, Asian Gas Pipeline, and Khorgos Gateway for the biggest dry port in the world. Asian Development Bank estimates the need for $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure to respond to growth and climate change. Macro by any definition, the New Silk Road (One Belt One Road or perhaps to be called BRI) may open an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the world for inclusion and environment, a topic worthy of the future 2019 Summit. The Grand Canal of China may be an inspiration. Will the Confucius Institute lead the way?

Confucius Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston: https://www.umb.edu/confucius and https://m.facebook.com/The-Confucius-Institute-at-UMass-Boston-187408381366993/

National Development and Reform Commission. “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. 2015/03/28. People’s Republic of China. en.ndrc.gov.cn/news/release/201503/t20150330_669367.html.

Liu Qin. “China needs to pave ‘One Belt One Road’ with green finance, say experts.” 07.01.2016, chinadialogue.net. https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/8532-China-needs-to-pave-One-Belt-One-Road-with-green-finance-say-experts-

Quinn, Zoë G. “Silk” 17 July 2012. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2012/07/17/silk/

Tweed, David. “China’s Silk Road.” 15 May 2017. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/china-s-silk-road/

For a map: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21701505-chinas-foreign-policy-could-reshape-good-part-world-economy-our-bulldozers-our-rules

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 1, 2017
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April 1st: Poisson d’Avril

April 1 is known in France as Poisson d’Avril. Image: “Clown Fish” by Adrian Pingstone, 2004, wikimedia commons.

Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway, first suggested coordinated time zones, an idea adopted at the 1884 International Meridian Conference. But some claim we owe the merriment of April Fools or All Fools’ Day to rebellion and renewal. When Pope Gregory shifted the new year from spring to January 1, in 1582, local folk continued to follow the practice of all things new in the first full month of spring. For example, the French placed paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting people: the prank led to April 1 having its own name of Poisson d’Avril. Some note that on April 1, in Languedoc of the Canal des Deux Mers, an uprising gave birth to the French Revolution.

More? Museum of Hoaxes details some of the best April 1st spoofs:http://hoaxes.org/aprilfool/

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 31, 2016
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New Year’s Bonus

“Happy New Year” by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, photographer. Image: wikimedia commons, 1 January 2013, Copacabana, Rio de Janiero.

The traditional New Year’s Eve kiss might linger a little longer, this year. The world will add one second tonight as 11:59:59 flutters a new beat, according to the International Earth Rotation Reference System Service (IERS). Global time was the idea of Sandford Fleming, surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railway: new train systems across the continent required precise coordination. Google, however, is handling the extra second in an extra-long fashion: the tech giant is running computer clocks slower by 0.0014% for ten hours before, and after, the midnight hour. Osculatory results may be observed.

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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November 18, 2016
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In A Timely Fashion

Minutensprunguhr: by Hk kng. Wikimedia commons.

Today is the birthday of time, it might be said. On 18 November, 1883, the General Railroad Time Convention agreed that a new time standard would take effect. It was just in time. Cities and towns used to set their clocks at noon: noon being one moment in Chicago and quite another in Los Angeles. Such a system proved imperfect when railroads began to stream across the continent: how could train times be coordinated? Public safety demanded a solution; it came from Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway route. The Canadian Pacific and the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad came together (even before the Canadian Pacific was completed) and agreed jointly on a system of time zones. Eventually the idea gathered such force that the entire world became galvanized by this innovation. In 1884, the International Prime Meridian Conference, held in Washington, DC, endorsed and inaugurated a worldwide system of time zones. Ever wonder why we say “9am” or “9pm?” The suffix stands for ante-meridiem or post-meridiem. How many other whole world agreements have been universal?

For more:

McNamara, Robert. “Why We Have Time Zones.” http://history1800s.about.com/od/railroadbuilding/fl/Why-We-Have-Time-Zones.htm?

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, 2016
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(Re)New Earth Day

First view of the entire sunlit side of earth, 6 July 2015. Image: Nasa.

Earth Day: 2016. The largest number of nations ever in history to sign an international agreement in a single day, 175 countries from around the globe pledged to follow the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Other world-wide agreements that changed history include the International Prime Meridian Conference of 1884 where nations agreed upon time zones based upon a meridian to be the common tuning fork “for time-reckoning throughout the whole world.” Adopting policies for renewable energy, reduced global warming, and a sustainable environment, Earth Day 2016 may be a turning point in the history 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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December 14, 2015
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Building a Better World: Climate

“Looking up from the center of the Eiffel Tower.” Photographer: Jebulon, 2011. Image: wikimedia

World-inclusive agreements, such as the International Meridian Conference, or the UN Paris Climate Accord, are historic. In such accords, the world agrees upon its future. Recently, the world came together to pledge improve to earth’s climate. Throughout the Paris negotiations, the Eiffel Tower served as signpost. While some might complain the Paris agreement could have been more demanding, and some nations advocated 1.5 as a goal, many hope that COP 21 will spur actions to build a better world. What other kinds of world-inclusive agreements are needed? And, in the light of Paris, what can you do to improve climate? Here is a link to Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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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