Building the World

May 12, 2017
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Mothers Walk for Peace

Image: Photographer, Rebecca Eschler, 2008. Wikimedia commons.

A higher purpose, above ground; a safer world, below. Why not send cars and trucks underground, where new roads for autonomous vehicles might be easier to build? Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame, envisions cars positioned on platforms that descend to traverse networks below ground. A similar design was earlier suggested by David Gordon Wilson of MIT whose palleted highways would increase speed and decrease accidents. Tunnels have changed transport around the world: the Channel Tunnel and the Mount Blanc Tunnel are recent examples. Boston depressed the Central Artery, resulting in a Greenway atop with a special park called the Mothers’ Walk. Nearby, walk towards a better world with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute for the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. Will Elon Musk’s underground highways promote a cleaner, safer environment with more parks above where people can walk and nature flourish? It’s an exciting idea with a name that belies the innovation: The Boring Company.

For more: mothersdaywalk4peace.org

For Elon Musk, watch the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpDHwfXbpfg

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 12, 2017
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The New Atlantis

Visage au dessus de l’ocean” by photographer, Rukaeru. Image: wikimedia commons.

Studies by Princeton’s Climate Central and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Physics Institute of Potsdam University, reveal how sea level rise might affect coastal cities. Inundations will change the lives and livelihoods of people from Bangkok to Boston, San Diego to Singapore. Predicted loss of the Antarctic iceberg and Larsen C ice shelf may lead to a rise in sea levels. Might a new era of coastal cities emerge, combining ancient responses by areas like the Netherlands, with futuristic floating cities envisioned by Kiyonori Kikutake? Will New York become the New Atlantis?

For more, “Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level.” by Benjamin H. Strauss, Scott Kulp, and Anders Levermann, edited by James Hansen. PNAS, 3 November 2015, vol. 112, no. 44. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/44/13508.full.pdf.

Potsdam-Institut Für Klimafolgenforschunghttps://www.pik-potsdam.de/institut/mission

VIDEO: “Larsen C iceberg about to break off Antartic shelf.” The Guardian. 6 January 2017, NASA: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2015/may/15/antarctic-larsen-b-ice-shelf-nasa-video

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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September 17, 2016
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Auto-Mobile

What will soon be missing, in Uber cars? The Driver. Image of an Uber car (and driver) in Bogota, Colombia: wikimedia.

When driving your car, how many times do you look at the distance between your vehicle and others on the road? How about 1.4 million times — per second? That’s what Uber’s driverless cars do, and that’s why many believe autonomous vehicles will ultimately be safer. Uber made history this week, becoming the first commercial service to offer driverless cars. The chosen location? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Fourteen cars are at the ready, each with two professional drivers, just in case, to serve 2,000 Uber customers who have signed up for the beta test drive. When the United States Federal Highway System was built, the goals were the same: seamless and safer roads and fewer accidents. The autonomous vehicle market is estimated to reach $42 billion by 2025.

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 25, 2016
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Happy 100th, National Parks

 

Jason Lusk, photographer. "Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island."

“Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island.” Jason W. Lusk, Photographer, with permission and appreciation.

Happy 100th birthday to the United States National Park Service. Celebrations included illuminating the New York City skyline, inviting the public to gather at Brooklyn Bridge Park to change the color of One World Trade Center’s Spire as an iconic birthday candle. The 1916 Organic Act authorized the preservation of green space; the Second Century Commission recommended future approaches. One of the earliest green spaces created for public enjoyment might be the walking path of the New River of England, 1613; still in use, the route is recommended by the Ramblers Association. Boston’s Central Artery Project created a greenway through the heart of the city. Costa Rica, world leader in environmental protection, set precedent with Law 7788 on Biodiversity. Perhaps Benton MacKaye launched the Appalachian Trail, authorized after the architect’s essay in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects described the salutary effects of nature as “one of the admitted needs of modern times.”

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 14, 2016
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Antique Road Show: Paris bans Past to save Future

Deux Chevaux or 2CV. Cars made before 1987 banned in Paris to improve environment. Image: wikimedia commons.

Known for fine vintage fashion and cognac, for museums enshrining glories of centuries past, city of connoisseurs of aged fromage et vin, Paris will no longer welcome antique automobiles. July, month of the revolution, marked the change: no cars made before 1997 will be allowed on the boulevards on weekdays, between 8am – 8pm. Regulations will tighten soon: in 2020, cars built before 2010 will be restricted. In 2014, after smog veiled the Eiffel Tower, Paris banned half its autos on the road, alternating days by license plates, a practice followed in Mexico City and elsewhere. Effects were so dramatic that the city cancelled the plan after 24 hours after pollution cleared, perhaps in part responding to complaints of 3,859 drivers fined for driving on the wrong day. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, co-chaired a meeting of mayors in parallel with COP21. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, now brings together 7100 cities from 119 countries. Cities may be able to change policy faster than nations; St. Petersburg once demanded one stone as price of admission to the city. If cities can accelerate environmental improvement, ‘Banned in Boston’ could take on new meaning.

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 9, 2016
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Tunnel (En)Vision

World’s longest tunnel, Gotthard. Image: wikimedia commons.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel, world’s longest, opened to fanfare and diplomacy, and a ballet corps of 600, in June 2016. The Gotthard massif has long challenged transport efforts; Gotthard now joins the Mont Blanc Tunnel in traversing mountainous terrain. Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project also features a tunnel to bring vehicular traffic underground while a new greenway park graces the urban landscape above. Tunnels are an ancient instinct: moles know the routes underground, while human endeavors appear to have been early home-improvement projects by cave dwellers adding a second room. Land tunnels preceded water transit ways such as the Channel Tunnel. But all tunnels have one aspect in common: emissions trapped in a contained environment. Research contrasting on-road carbonyl emission factors in two highway tunnels, Caldecott Tunnel near San Francisco, California and Tuscarora Mountain Tunnel in Pennsylvania, was conducted 2002. WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff recommended jet fans to move fumes through long road tunnels. But could there be a better solution? Will the EPA‘s capture and sequestration research apply to tunnels? Might ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy‘s innovation to cleanse carbon dioxide from the exhaust of natural gas- and coal-fired plants be applied to other situations? Carbon capture could take on a new meaning if tomorrow’s tunnels might become channels for environmental improvement.

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 24, 2016
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City as Art

Singing’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelly. Will Boston’s “Raining Poetry” set a new style for the City as Art? Image: wikimedia commons.

Baghdad was designed in three concentric circles drawn in the sand by founder Caliph al-Mansur, who named the new capital “Madinat as-Salam” or “City of Peace.” As Toynbee observed in Cities of Destiny, urban centers possess cultural magnetism. Boston is showering the city in art: poetry appears in the rain. A collaboration of Boston City Hall, the Mayor’s Mural Crew, and Mass Poetry, the project echoes public art along the Greenway. Chicago’s Millennium Park brings public art to a new gathering green downtown. Beijing also uses urban life to uplift: riders on the metro’s Line 4 can access Chinese poetry and philosophy through barcodes posted in passenger cars. China’s Grand Canal standardized written language, facilitating government, and cultural, exchange. Boston’s poems, however, are ephemeral; disappearing ink lasts just a few weeks. But words are, as Roman poet Horace stated, “monumentum aere perennius” – “a monument more lasting than bronze” or as Langston Hughes, whose poem graces Dudley Square, might observe: “Still Here.”

Thanks to Chak Ngamtippan for suggesting featuring Boston’s “Raining Poetry.”

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 20, 2016
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The Earth is Breathing

Blue marble: see the earth breathing. Image: Blue Marble.nasa.gov

The month of May is a time of blossoming, in the northern part of the globe. People emerge from buildings, strolling on greenways to breathe the fresh air. And it would seem that the earth does too. NASA has published a video depicting the alternation of bloom cycles; as the months cause changes in the biosphere, the earth itself is breathing.

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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July 9, 2015
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Environmental (W)holiness

Pope Francis stated that protecting the environment is a moral and ethical obligation. Image: wikimedia commons.

Pope Francis has updated the list of sins; harming the environment is now of ethical, and moral, import. Environmental provisions were part of building Solomon’s Temple; Hebrew and Phoenician work teams alternated crews so that agriculture could be sustained. More recently, Boston’s Central Artery Project, known familiarly as the ‘Big Dig,’ hinged on provisions for environmental protection to qualify in part for some aspects of federal funding. When the road was placed underground (it was first called the Depressed Artery), a Greenway replaced cars with gardens, enhancing city aesthetics and oxygen. Environmental requirements and protections are increasingly part of public/private initiatives. Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, Law 071, passed by Bolivia, and presented at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference, defines earth as a collective subject of public interest with inherent rights. As the world prepares for the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris, what influence might the pope’s encyclical Laudato Si have on environmental governance and guidance? In the United States, will the address to Congress on September 24, 2015 encourage progress?

For the complete text of Laudato Sihttp://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

For the complete text of Pope Francis’ address to the United States Congress on September 24, 2015:

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/24/text-of-pope-francis-address-to-congress

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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