Building the World

April 1, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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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
by buildingtheworld
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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
by buildingtheworld
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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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November 19, 2014
by buildingtheworld
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Voice of the Future, 2014: Erik Andrus

 

“An about-face on the subject of transportation and infrastructure,” Erik Andrus, founder of Vermont Sail Freight Project. Photo above: vessel “Ceres.” Image: courtesy of www.vermontsailfreightproject.com.

Infrastructure. The word implies awesomeness, technical complexity, hard hats, and the oversight of engineers. For those not involved in its planning or creation, our built environment can seem largely the individual’s ability to participate or comprehend. The Vermont Sail Freight Project was conceived as an about-face on the subject of transportation and infrastructure, an attempt to borrow heavily on historical patterns and to utilize public commons to perform a service of contemporary economic relevance, and in so doing to set a mold for an alternate way of transporting and doing business that is more in tune with the limitations of our planet.

~ Erik Andrus, Founder, Vermont Sail Freight Project

Voice of the Future, 2014

Voice of the Future

 

 

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April 2, 2014
by buildingtheworld
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45.3N x 34.4E: Power of Ports

The Crimea. Image courtesy of wikimedia.

Popular with the ancient Greeks, who called its main river Borysthenes, favored by the Romans, Bulgars, Goths and Huns, the Crimea offers port access on the northern border of the Black Sea, with the advantage of also being on the western shores of the Sea of Azov. In medieval times, the Crimean Khanate united the area, but later it became the Taurida Oblast in 1783, and still later the Soviet Crimean Oblast, transferred to Ukraine in 1954. Finally, in 1991, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was born, only to be challenged in 2014. Why so many changes ? Advantageous port territory, milder winters, access to the Dnieper River (fourth largest in Europe). Today operating more than 12 seaports, the Crimea demonstrates the power of ports. The importance of waterways and ports can also be seen in the Canal des Deux Mers and the Erie Canal. Another famous port,  St. Petersburg, once the capital and Russia’s largest seaport, still carries the cultural imprint of its founder, Czar Peter the Great, in 1703. Can present day Crimea take inspiration from aspects of St. Petersburg’s success, including business monopolies? Perhaps in partial explanation of why the game’s greats are often Russian, St. Petersburg was once the only source of chessboards. What strategies for economic and cultural success should the Crimea envision for coordinates 45.3N by 34.4E?

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 20, 2014
by buildingtheworld
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Special Economic Zones – SEZ

Canal des Deux Mers. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Historians might trace the first SEZ to 1666, citing the Canal des Deux Mers or Canal between the Two Seas. Connecting the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, the Canal was an economic success; using a medieval model, Pierre-Paul Riquet worked with the French government to make the route an independent fief. Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in more recent times must include Puerto Rico in 1942, and economists point to Shenzhen as the very important first SEZ in China; once a village, Shenzhen grew rapidly when advantageous business and tax laws were granted in the 1980’s to promote commerce. Recent research by the World Bank explores SEZ success factors. It must be noted that many Special Economic Zones involve water locations. The Canal des Deux Mers is not just an economic but also an environmental achievement, preserving and enhancing a waterway that today is a World Heritage Site. Can France’s Canal des Deux Mers inspire new forms of environmentally wise SEZ development? Might the Dutch success of protective dikes and land reclamation be emulated in coastal environments?  Will Frank Davidson and Ernst Frankel prove visionary in proposing a free-trade zone enhanced by artificial islands or reclaimed land from the sea offshore Israel and Jordan?

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 26, 2013
by zoequinn001
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Cycling in France

Cyclists along the Canal du Midi, from The Daily Mail, at dailymail.com.

Think of Paris and the image of a young man or woman riding a bicycle through the streets with a baguette in the front basket almost immediately comes to mind. Cycling is also associated with France through the famed Tour de France annual cycling race. It is no surprise then, that cycling is also a popular form of sight-seeing for French people and visitors. The Canal du Midi of the Canal des Deux Mers offers wonderful scenery to the cycling tourist, be it a casual ride along the banks, or a more intense trip from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. There are many guides available, from  Lonely Planet to personal blogs. Find one today and get pedalling!

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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 29, 2012
by zoequinn001
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It’s All in the Timing

The Canal des Deux Mers was not a new idea by Riquet’s time, although he perfected it. The Archbishop of Toulouse headed a special commission chartered by King Henry IV (1553-1610) to study feasibility of a canal linking the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Henry IV was following a line of similar visionaries. Even Charlemagne wanted to build the canal. There is evidence of ancient Roman emperors trying to engineer the route. Charlemagne, to be fair, didn’t have the technology. But Riquet was able to conquer a rocky patch near Beziers by blasting a tunnel – measuring 157 meters (515 feet) long, 6.7 meters (22 feet) wide and 8 meters (27 feet) high – with black powder. It was one of the earliest uses of explosives in subterranean construction.

The tunnel as it exists today, from canaldumidi.org

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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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