Building the World

March 22, 2018
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Water Day: Wear Blue

World Water Day: Wear Blue. Indigo, popular 5,000 years ago in the Indus Vally where the color gets its name, was called nila. The color dye was popular on the Silk Road. Image: wikimedia

World Water Day: March 22, 2018. We’re an increasingly thirsty world: by 2050, one-third of the planet will suffer water scarcity. Climate change intensifies problems: floods and drought are worse. More than 3 billion people suffer diminished access to water for at least one month each year due to drought: that number is set to increase by 2050 to 5 billion. Mitigating influences of forests and wetlands are vanishing: two-thirds have been cut or built upon since 1900, according to a study released by the United Nations. Rivers are polluted, with ten rivers identified as the major source of marine plastic debris. Think those problems are “elsewhere” and you may be alarmed to find 80% of tap water contains microplastics. What can you do, as an individual? Social scientists observe the original days of the week had a dedicatory purpose, still detectable in the names. For example, the Japanese day Suiyōbi is Wednesday, meaning Water Day. Should we rededicate the days of the week to raise awareness of our shared resources, including water? One fashion leader suggests wearing blue as a way to honor water. Would you consider dedicating one day each week to water?

Schlanger, Zoë. “We can’t engineer our way out of an impending water scarcity epidemic.” 21 March 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1234012/we-cant-engineer-our-way-out-of-an-impending-water-scarcity-epidemic/

World Water Day. http://worldwaterday.org

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 3, 2018
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80% of Tap Water Contains Plastic – Can You Design a Solution?

Innovation challenge: design a personal straw – with filter. “Drink with Straw” by Martin Belam, 2006. Image: wikimedia.

A recent study found an alarmingly high percentage of tap water has microscopic plastic fibers. In the United States, 94% of drinking water sample contained micro plastics; worldwide, 83%. The particles are so small, most filters can’t catch them: micro plastics may even cross human digestive tracts to enter organs. Could filters lead the way? Wole Soboyejo and team designed a new microporous and nanoporous water filter. Askwar Hilonga, winner of the Africa Innovation Prize, Royal Academy of Engineering, also designed a water filter based on nanotechnology. With increasing bans on plastic straws, innovation markets may open to new kinds of straws. Now is a good time for innovation. Submit your design for a personal straw – with filter.

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. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)MT.1943-5533-0001596. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302918873_Clay_Mixtures_and_the_Mechanical_Properties_of_Microporous_and_Nanoporous_Ceramic_Water_Filters.

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Make Your Next Straw, The Last Straw.” 26 January 2018. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2018/01/26/make-your-next-straw-the-last-straw.

Hilonga, Askwar. “Africa Innovation Prize, Royal Academy of Engineering.” YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNw21Rz37vA

Shmurak, Susannah. “Are There Microplastics in Your Drinking Water?” 24 November 2017. eartheasy. http://learn.eartheasy.com/2017/11/microplastics-drinking-water/.

Timmons, Mark. “Removing micro plastics from drinking water.” March 2017. https://www.uswatersystems.com/blog/2017/12/removing-microplastics-from-your-tap-water/

Tyree, Chris and Dan Morrison, “Plastic fibers pervasive in tap water worldwide, new study shows.” 2017. Deutsche Wellehttp://www.dw.com/en/plastic-fibers-pervasive-in-tap-water-worldwide-new-study-shows/a-40370206

Victor, Daniel. “Bans on Plastic Straws in Restaurants Expand to More Cities.” 3 March 2018. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/03/climate/plastic-straw-bans.html.

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 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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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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October 14, 2017
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Capital Idea: New Nafta

Seeing earth from space, individual countries fade in the reality that regions may be the true nations. Image: wikimedia.

NAFTA is in the news, but it may soon be history. Now is the time for developing visions for a better, stronger, more sustainable, and kinder, regional alliance. One look from space shows not a troika of nations but a connected region. One aspect that should be added to current negotiations among Canada, Mexico, and the United States: water. The precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations of shared water, especially transboundary aquifers? Another eau de vie, education: might scholarly and cultural exchange mingle the waters?

A new capital could signal the vision. It is timely. Recent earthquakes affecting Mexico City reopened conversation about the current capital built on a lakebed, not far from volcanoes. Should Mexico consider moving the DF? A federal district, such as Mexico’s capital or Washington, DC, is by definition its own moveable feast. If Mexico were to move the DF, could the new capital symbolize a regional vision embracing Canada, Mexico and the United States, in honor of shared resources? What architects should design the new city?

What’s in a name? Could TLCAN-ALENA-NAFTA become TAN? Image: wikimedia.

Finally, if Nafta emerges from current talks, it is time to unite nomenclature. How can there be a common vision when, at present, there are three acronyms for the same entity:

TLCAN – Tratado de libre comercia de america del norte https://www.sec-tlcan-mex.org/

ALENA – Accord de libre-échange nord américain http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/N-23.8.pdf

NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement http://www.worldtradelaw.net/fta/agreements/nafta.pdf

The new name might honor a letter from each treaty, resulting in a shared word with meaning in all three languages – TAN. Or initial the countries: cam or mac. But perhaps the alliance that really matters is bigger, representing the land as seen from space. Will these and other issues be debated at the XVII Congressional NAFTA & Border Issues Conference at the Library of Congress in Washington on 26 October 2017?

For more:

Eckstein, Gabriel. “Buried Treasure or Buried Hope? The Status of Mexico-U.S. Transboundary Aquifers under International Law.” International Community Law Review 13 (2011), Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

McHugh, James T., editor. Toward a North American Legal System. (2012), Palgrave Macmillan.

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 1, 2017
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Water Crisis

September 1, 2017: Hurricane Harvey moves from Texas to Tennessee. Image: Nasa.gov. Here’s how to help.

Hurricane Harvey pelted Houston, Texas with twenty-seven trillion gallons of water. Homes, schools, hospitals, roads were damaged. But when a hurricane causes power outages, another kind of water problem occurs. Beaumont, Texas got 29 inches of rain from Harvey, knocking out the town’s water pumping station on the swollen Neches River, leaving 120,000 people without drinking water. While major beverage manufacturers switched their production lines from beer to cans of water,  to care for the thousands who had to evacuate their homes and flee to shelters, Beaumont can’t get this emergency relief: roads are flooded, making Beaumont a temporary island. Rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey might include study of post-Sandy New York, guided in part by the Netherlands. Meanwhile, here’s how to help.

Boulder, Michael. “The entire city of Beaumont, Texas, has lost access to clean water.” 31 August 2017, PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/entire-city-beaumont-texas-lost-access-clean-water/

Tillman, Claire. “Anheuser-Busch repurposes its brewery to make drinking water for Harvey victims.” 30 Augut, 2017. Fortune. http://fortune.com/2017/08/30/hurricane-harvey-houston-water-anheuser-busch/

Building the World. “A river runs through it.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

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 14, 2017
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Why is an Orange like a Light Bulb?

The water-energy-food nexus may influence the growing of oranges, in competition for lightbulbs and drinking water. Image: wikimedia commons.

Did you know that growing one orange requires 13.8 gallons of water? Next time you crunch into an almond, you’ll consume the result of one gallon. California grows both: a result, in part, of the Colorado River Compact. Edward Spang of the University of California Davis, as well as colleagues including David H. Marks of MIT, predict competition for water use will increase in the water-energy-food nexus. Spang developed a water consumption for energy production (WCEP) indicator, comparing the use of water for different forms of energy in over 150 countries. Fossil fuels and biofuels require the most water; wind is less thirsty. The United Nations cites the World Water Development Report: “If water, energy, and food security are to be simultaneously achieved, decision-makers, including those responsible for only a single sector, need to consider broader influences and cross-sectoral impacts. A nexus approach is needed.”

For more: Spang, Edward. “A Thirst for Power: A Global Analysis of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” GWF Discussion Paper 1246. Global Water Forum, Canberra, Australia. http://www.globalwaterforum.org/2012/10/23/a-thirst-for-power-a-global-analysis-of-water-consmption-for-energy-production/and also see: http://cwee.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10-25-2013-ThirstforPower_Final.pdf

“Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” E.S. Spang, W.R. Moomaw, K.S. Gallagher, P. H. Kirshen, and D.H. Marks. 8 October 2014. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, Number 10. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Ahuja, Satinder, Editor. Food, Energy, and Water. Elsevier 2015. https://www.elsevier.com/books/food-energy-and-water/ahuja/978-0-12-800211-7

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 26, 2015
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(Fore)casting upon the Waters

Lake Chad: Then and Now. Image: wikimedia commons.

The world’s 37 largest aquifers are shrinking. These waters of life support 2 billion people. Scientists and governments worry about overstress, a condition simply stated: more water goes out than comes in. Unlike aboveground water resources, such as Lake Mead or Lake Chad, whose shrinkage is more discernible, aquifers are difficult to measure. But a recent study by NASA confirms fears. According to Jerad Bales, chief scientist for water of US Geological Survey, issues of land ownership and water rights may be challenged by public need. Utrecht, Netherlands, is the location for the Rikswaterstaat, and also Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University where Marc Bierkens’ research indicates that 20% of the world’s population is sustained by crops irrigated by groundwater. What can and should we do now, to protect water resources (especially aquifers) for the future?

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.

For more:

“World’s aquifers draining rapidly,” by Felicity Barringer, June 26, 2015, New York Times. Suggested by Zoe G. Quinn with appreciation.

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June 3, 2015
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Water for the World

Water innovation may help solve the world’s water crisis: now, how to standardize and distribute Askwar Hilonga’s invention? Image: furman.edu.

World water is in crisis. For example, 70% of Tanzanian households lack clean drinking water: now Askwar Hilonga, of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, is about to change that. Growing up in rural Tanzania, the chemical engineer recalls family and friends suffering from water-borne illnesses, motivating an innovation combining one of the world’s oldest filters, sand, with one of the newest: nanotechnology. The Roman aqueducts were similarly resultant of a combination of both new and traditional technologies. Askwar Hilonga’s success may soon benefit the rest of the world: 1 in 9 people lack clean drinking water, globally. How can new technologies, supported by industry, governance and global agreements, improve water for the world?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32973591

http://environmentalgovernance.org/featured/2014/08/united-nations-watercourses-convention-enters-force/

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 22, 2015
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Beyond a Drought: Scarcity and Rights

Drought: Scarcity and Rights. Image: wikimedia.

California is setting precedent. Facing drought of unprecedented severity, a group of farmers in the threatened Sacramento and San Joaquin River delta have offered to reduce their water usage by 25%, or leave 25% of their fields unplanted, in exchange for unrestricted rights to the rest of their allotment, even if water scarcity parches others in the future. What should Water Resources Control Board Director Tom Howard do? Might provisions in the Colorado River Compact, or earlier New River, provide inspiration? Decisions made in California may set precedent; will 2015 mark a change in the balance of rights, and scarcity, of water?

 http://nyti.ms/1JEpTwA

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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