Building the World

September 4, 2020
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WATER: Beach Weekend? Biodegradable Flip Flops

“Pristine Beach on the Soline Peninsula,” 2011. Photographer Alex Proimos. Image: wikimedia.

Labor Day 2020: for many it’s a beach weekend in flip flops. Too often, beaches are strewn with broken or discarded flip flops that litter the sand and pollute the water. Enter an innovation: biodegradable flip flops from the University of California San Diego and the California Center for Algae Biotechnology.

“Algae in pond, North Carolina.” Photographer: Ildar Sagdejev, 2008. Wikimedia.

Formula: take pond algae, dehydrate to a paste, extract lipids, run through series of chemical changes to produce polymers, pour resulting material into a mold. Present product, manufactured in partnership with Algenesis Materials, is 52% biodegradable and 48% petroleum; by 2025, the flip flops will be 100% made from renewables. If you do leave your flip flops at the beach, they’ll biodegrade and compost in 18 weeks.

Biodegradable flip flops will go on sale in 2021. Image: wikimedia.

It’s the world’s most popular shoe. Over three billion people wear only flip flops, but the footwear lasts only for about two years and is then discarded, eventually entering the world’s waters. East African beaches see 90 tons of discarded flip flops each year. Three billion flip flops end up in waterways and oceans every year. UniqueEco recycles old flip flops into toys; Terracycle shreds them to use for manufacturing picnic benches.  DIY Dreaming uses old flips to make dog beds. Okabashi makes recyclable sandals, and Splaff and Sanuk use natural materials for footwear. But Algenesis may be the first to make flip flops from algae. The footwear industry generates $215 billion annually, and the plastic industry is worth $1.2 trillion. Algensis biodegradable flip flops will go on sale in January 2021.

California Center for Algae Biotechnology. https://algae.ucsd.edu/about/index.html

Elassar, Alaa. “Researchers create eco-friendly, biodegradable flip flops made of algae,” 23 August 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/23/us/uc-san-diego-algae-flip-flops-trnd-scn/index.html

Frerck, Robert. “Flip Flop Factos: Find Out.” Blue Ocean Network. https://blueocean.net/flip-flop-facts-find-out

Segran, Elizabeth. “How one lab is turning algae into flip-flops – and taking on Big Plastic in the process.” 8 August 2020. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90543908/how-one-lab-is-turning-algae-into-flip-flops-and-taking-on-big-plastic-in-the-process/

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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December 15, 2019
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Hearing (and Listening to) the Voices of the Future

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It is the world’s youth who must face consequences of decisions made now. Youth4Nature sent a COP25 delegation, and sailing across the Atlantic to get there, the world heard the message of Greta Thunberg, founder of Fridays for Future. Voices of youth may be louder than dicta of governments. UN Secretary General Guterres states: “The technologies that are necessary to make this possible are already available. Signals of hope are multiplying. Public option is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilization. We need political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, and start taxing pollution instead of people.”

Youth Climate Strike, San Francisco, March 2019. Image: wikimedia

Many macro achievements, throughout history, can be traced to the genius and innovation of youth. A 12-year old conceived of a canal joining the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal des Deux Mers of France. Even younger, 10 year-old Ferdinand de Lesseps formed a friendship that would later turn into the Suez Canal. At COP25, it was the youth who insisted and persisted until a draft agreement on responses to climate change could be strengthened by contracts fulfilling promises made in Paris 2015. There is much to be agreed and achieved, including carbon contracts; now that debate awaits Glasgow. Meanwhile, it is hoped the world is not only hearing, but also listening to, the Voices of the Future, Greta Thunberg is TIME Person of the Year.

Irfan, Umair. “‘We are desperate for any signs of hope,’ Greta Thunberg tells UN climate negotiators.” 11 December 2019, Vox. com. https://www.vox.com/2019/12/11/21010673/cop25-greta-thunberg-climate-change-un-meeting-madrid

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Longest talks end with compromise deal.” 15 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment.

Time. “Greta Thunberg: TIME Person of the Year 2019.”https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/

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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June 8, 2019
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WATER: World Oceans Day

“Large Breaking Wave.” Image: noaa.gov, wikimedia

World Oceans Day, celebrated June 8, reminds us of the beauty, importance, and critical sustainability of our water. By 2050, there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Unless we take action.  Should new agreements involving Canada, Mexico, and the United States include the oceans that border our land? Might the Canal des Deux Mers in France champion ways to protect the Atlantic Ocean? Will Shinkansen, Japan’s Shinkansen train system now being upgraded for the 2020 Olympics, engage athletes in preservation of the Pacific Ocean? In 2019, you are invited to take a photo of yourself or your friends at the ocean, pictured with arms in the air; photo cropped so hands touch the upper corners of the frame: post using the hashtag: #TogetherWeCan. This year’s theme: Gender and the Ocean.

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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February 20, 2019
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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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January 30, 2019
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Building Peace

Can peace be built? International Peace Day Logo: wikimedia.

 

Are ports the future of peace? There is precedent. An 1854 firman, signed by Pasha al-Said and Ferdinand de Lesseps, stated that a canal, to be built in Egypt, would be open to “all nations”  and “no particular advantage can ever be stipulated for the exclusive benefit of one country” with tariffs equal for all nations. The Suez Canal opened in November 1869 with much fanfare including commissioning of Verdi’s opera “Aida.” In over 200 years, the canal was closed 6 times: the shortest was 3 days; the longest, 8 years. Despite such closures, the canal endeavored to follow the chartered guideline. How successful was the project that included openness and peace in its authorization and financing?  On November 15, 2018, 33 vessels traversed from the North and 23 from the South. The building of the waterway employed 1.5 million people.

Canal des Deux Mers linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. Image: wikimedia.

Almost two hundred years earlier, in 1666, the Canal des Deux Mers, or Canal Between the Seas, by the Edict of October 1666 for the Canal of Languedoc, was decreed and authorized to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean sea, in a waterway open to “all nations of the world as a great work of peace.”

Some call it Silk Road 2.0, but by any name, the Belt and Road Initiative, a system of canals, roads, trains, shipping routes and ports, when built, will be the world’s largest engineering project in history. This transport and connection system will include 1/3 of the world’s trade and GDP and 60% of the world’s population in 65 countries, using 75% of the world’s known energy reserves. Like Suez, or the Canal between the Seas, with open access essential to strategy and purpose, initiatives of such macro scope might include peace in their charter.

Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life suggests four stages of mobilization: Purpose, Structure, Guidance, Resourcing. Guiding the Belt and Road Initiative will be eight International Centers of Excellence, focusing on climate change, environmental research, and disaster risk reduction.

Bangkok’s Wat Pho Temple. Photographer, Ninara, 2016. 4Y1A0213. Image: wikimedia commons.

Bangkok may lead the way. The first International Centre of Excellence on Integrated Climate Change, Disaster Risk and Environmental Research and Capacity Building opened in Thailand on 27 February 2018. It’s in partnership with Asian Institute of Technology, Geo-Information and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), and Ramkhamhaeng University Center of Regional Climate Change and Renewable Energy (RU-CORE). When Professor GUO Huadong, Chair of DBAR (Digital Belt and Road) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NRCT Secretary-General Sirirung Songsivilai, the agreement chartered the Center in Bangkok (ICoE-Bangkok) to create a satellite database for “environmental protection, risk reduction, food stability, urban development, and the preservation of coastal resources and world heritage sites.” The Suez Canal linked banking and peace; recent studies have suggested that banking may be one of the keys to chartering and maintaining peace. Guiding factors regarding resources – financial, natural, and human – Thailand might help to build the future, opening a portal of peace.

Asian Institute of Technology. “Earth Data Analytics to be AIT focus in Digital Belt and Road (DBAR).” 4 April 2018. https://www.ait.ac.th/2018/04/earth-data-analytics-ait-focus-digital-belt-road-dbar/

DBAR. “Digital Belt and Road Programme Opens its First Centre of Excellence in Bangkok.” 28 February 2018. http://www.dbeltroad.org/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid-85&id=629.

Edwards-May, David. “Decline and Renaissance: 1975-1994,” From Sea to Sea: An Illustrated History of the Canal du Midi. by L.T.C. Rolt with postscript by David Edwards- May. Euromapping. ISBN: 2910185028.

Kunaka, Charles. “Six Corridors of Integration: Connectivity Along the Overland Corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 October 2018. The Trade Post Blog; The World Bank. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/six-corridors-integraion-connectivity-along-overland-corridors-belt-and-road-initiative.

Litwin, George H., John J. Bray, and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life. London: Prentice Hall, 1996.

Suez Canal Authority. https://www.suezcanal.gov.eg

The Nation. 28 February 2018. “Thailand sets up technological center for B&R Initiative. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/breakingnews/30339848.

World Bank. “Belt and Road Initiative.” 29 March 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/regional-integration/brief/belt-and-road-initiative.

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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January 26, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Make Your Next Straw, The Last Straw

Make your next straw, the last straw. Image: wikimedia commons.

Americans use 500 million plastic straws – every day. Just to get the picture: that’s enough to fill 127 school buses. Every day. Each person in the United States will statistically use 38,000 plastic straws between the ages of 5 to 64. Most straws end up in the oceans. Why? Even when recycled, most plastic straws are too light, dropping undetected through recycling sorting filters. All waters, even with straws and microbeads, flow to the oceans where 70% of seabirds now have plastic in their stomachs. Plastic bags have been the subject of concern for decades, but plastic straws are among the top ten items found in marine debris. It’s easy to say NO. Mention your preference during your order: “And, no straw, please.” If a straw is required (there are many important medical and special needs), compostable plastic straws may offer a sustainable choice.  Individually, many people carry a personal water bottle or coffee cup; why not consider BYO straw choices like bamboo or stainless steel? A personal straw could address the safety of sips. Here are some straw styles suggested by Strawless Ocean.

Grenier, Adrian. “The Strawless Ocean Initiative.” Interview with Project Earth correspondent Nicholas Ibarguen on how individuals and restaurants could stop using plastic straws. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvGL89HDKE.

Schmidt, Christian, Tobias Kraut, S. Wagner. “Export of plastic debris by rivers into the sea.” Environmental Science & Technology 2017, 51 (21), 12246-12253. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b02368

“Strawless in Seattle” demonstrates how a city can go strawless. Enter your town in the competition https://www.strawlessocean.org/seattle/

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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July 6, 2017
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Wedding of the Waters (Engagement Announcement)

Erie Canal in Lockport, NY. Image: W.H. Bartlett, 1839, wikimedia commons.

The waters announced their engagement in 1817 but would not be wedded until 1825. Upon the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, concert tours by water will ring celebratory along the route credited with shaping the economic and political destiny of the United States. Historians say the Erie Canal may have been inspired by Robert Fulton, of steamboat fame, who admired the Canal des Deux Mers in France. Once the engagement’s union was fulfilled, in the “wedding of the waters,” the Erie Canal was an instant success. Shipping goods from Buffalo to New York City before, required two weeks; via the canal, three days. Similarly, the cost of transporting goods by land, formerly $100 per ton, was now reduced to $10 per ton. What are the waterways of the future? Such considerations will be explored at the World Canals Conference, convening this year in Syracuse, New York, on the Erie Canal.

More:

New York State Museum http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/exhibitions/enterprising-waters-erie-canal

Erie Canal Museum: http://eriecanalmuseum.org

Bike the canal route: https://www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal/trail-map

See the art: https://www.albanyinstitute.org/spotlight-erie-canal.html

Hear the music: http://www.albanysymphony.com/journeybegins/

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 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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April 27, 2016
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Year of the Tree

Earth Day 2016 dedicates the year to planting more trees; 7.8 billion in the next five years. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, having grown from “a national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, sponsored by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, in partnership with Pete McCloskey from Congress, and Denis Hayes of Harvard University: 20 million took to the streets to protest the abuse of, and protect the future of, the environment. Soon, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded; the Clean Air, Clean Water (amended in 1972 from an earlier version) and Endangered Species Acts were made law. In 1990, Nelson and Hayes took Earth Day global: 200 million in 141 countries united around the planet. Environmental provisions were part of the New River, built in England in 1609; the Canal des Deux Mers in France begun in 1666; and Boston’s Central Artery depressed underground while a Greenway graces the former traffic surface. Nature is an increasingly precious resource; 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service of the United States, including the Appalachian Trail. The theme for Earth Day 2016? Trees: 7.8 billion to be planted in the next five years. New England universities including Roger Williams may lead the way. Earth Day April 22 2016 also made history: the largest number of nations ever to sign an international agreement on the same day gathered for the Climate Signing Ceremony at the United Nations.

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 4, 2015
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Solving Brazil’s Water Crisis

Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil: official photo, 2011. Image: wikimedia commons.

Cantareira reservoir, supplying water to 6.5 million Brazilians, is running on empty: 7% capacity in 2014, down from 50% capacity in 2013. Could building canals, like China’s Grand Canal, or France’s Canal des Deux Mers, be the answer? If drought is not solved, there will be energy problems as well: 80% of Brazil’s electricity is hydropower from plants including Itaipu. What actions should president Dilma Rousseff take to solve Brazil’s water crisis?

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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