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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August 28, 2020
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ENERGY: Promethean Problem

“Prometeo trayendo el fuego,” Jan Cossiers, 1637. Museo del Prado. wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus stole fire and gave it to humans, we’ve been the only species that can start and stop a fire. Darwin believed human capability to control fire was the greatest evolutionary achievement, second only to language. Now, that capability may be changing.

Wildfire Map of California, seen by NASA satellites. Image: nasa.gov.

Increase temperatures by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, decrease rainfall by 30%: it’s a formula for fire risk. Add occurrence of lightning strikes, like those in California recently, and there is a predictable crisis. According to Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center, the area’s temperatures are 3.5 degrees higher than a century ago. Lightning strikes have also increased: up by 12% across the United States. According to California governor Gavin Newsom, California experienced 10,849 lightning strikes in 72 hours in August 2020, amid record temperatures. In 2020, California has battled 40 percent more fires than in 2019. It’s not just a California problem. In Alaska, temperatures are increasing faster than anywhere else in the USA, with four of the ten largest fire years on record occurring in the past fifteen years, with 2 million acres lost in each major fire year. In Colorado, over 1 million people receive drinking water from the Upper South Platte Watershed, northwest of Denver: in the past two decades, fires have threatened the water utility. In Colorado this week, wildfires burned across 135,423 acres, causing the state to warn residents about air quality and banning campfires: the Grizzly Creek Fire closed Interstate 70 for more than one week. Some warned that after the fires, landslides may increase. Water levees across the Colorado River Basin have decreased, including reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell. In South America, wildfires also pose dangers. It’s a global problem that will increase with climate change. What can we do?

“Trees Torching: High Park Wildfire” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017. Image: wikimedia.

World Weather Attribution (WWA), an international collaborative organization including the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford (ECI), Laboratories des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environment (LSCE), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), uses satellite data and other sources to monitor atmospheric pressure patterns and levels of water vapor to predict heatwaves, fires, droughts, among other weather threats. Study data on every global region from 2014 – 2020 can be found here. These studies provide both warnings, and the basis for sustainability litigation.

Wildfire Propagation Model. Image: wikimedia.

Like sea-rise that will continue to some extent after we solve the climate crisis, temperature increases, with resultant drought and fires, can also be expected. There are some options: limit building and development in fire-prone areas, manage forests, combat insect-borne disease, improve our power grid, strengthen data analysis on climate change, and develop early warning systems for wildfire smoke that can pose air pollution and health risk. Future environmental decisions will need collaboration among biologists, fire scientists, and landscape ecologists, according to Professor Van Butsic of UCBerkeley, who states “land sits at the nexus of ecological conditions and human decisions.”

“Eden Reforestation Projects Logo,” www.edenprojects.org.

Wildfire protection innovations include Elevated Rain Induced Solution (ERIS) developed by Wildfire Innovations with targeted, moveable, suppression systems. Early detection innovations like SmokeD by IT for Nature can detect fires and alert nearby businesses and residents, via a phone app. Verisk Analytics Inc. developed a fire risk management tool to evaluate fuel, slope, and access, generating a hazard score. Will reforestation help? According to studies, the cost of replanting may bring promising returns: one reforested acre will be worth $191, 110; 30 acres, $5,733.300. Eden Projects and MillionTrees help restore land and lives. Private investment may see an opportunity, with investor capital innovations like Blue Forest Resilience Bond (FRB) and  Encourage Capital. 

Butsic, Van, A.D. Syphard, J.E. Keeley, and A. Bar-Massada. (2017). “Can private land conservation reduce wildfire risk to homes? A case study in San Diego County, California, USA.” Landsc. Urban Plan, 157, 161-169. LUC LAB: Researching Land Use and Land Use Change, University of California Berkeley.

Darwin, C. The Descent of Man. London: 1871.

Doer, Stefan H. and Cristina Santin. “Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world. 5 June 2016. Philos Trans R Soc Lon B Biol Sci. 2016 Jun 5: 371 (1696): 20150345. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015. 0345 PMCID: PMC4874420.

Finley, Bruce. “Climate change hits home in Colorado with raging wildfires, shrinking water flows and record heat: State faces continued increases in average temperatures for decades due to past burning of fossil fuels.” 25 August 2020. The Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2020/08/19/colorado-climate-change-wildfire-drought/

Gowlett, J.A.J. “The discovery of fire by humans: a long and convoluted process.” 5 June 2016. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0164. Article ID: 20150164. Special issue on The Interaction of Fire and Mankind. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0149

Lenihan, Rob. “Innovation at the forefront of wildfire prevention.” 24 July 2018. Business Insurance. https://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20180724/NEWS06/912322839/Disaster-management-innovations-at-the-forefront-of-wildfire-prevention#.

Lightning Maps. https://www.lightingmaps.org.

Mulkern, Anne C. “Climate Change Has Doubled Riskiest Fire Days in California.” 3 April 2020, Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-has-doubled-riskiest-fire-days-in-california/

NASA. Forecasting Fires in South America. VIDEO: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File%3AForecasting_South_American_Fires.ogv

Newsom, Gavin. “CA has experienced 10,849 lightning strikes in the last 72 hours.” 19 August 2020. Twitter: @GavinNewsom.

Temple, James. “Yes, climate change is almost certainly fueling California’s massive fires.” 20 August 2020, Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/08/20/1007478/california-wildfires-climate-change-heatwaves/

Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Connection between Climate Change and Wildfires” published 9 September 2011; updated 11 March 2020. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/climate-change-and-wildfires

U.S. Global Change Research Program. “National Climate Assessment”. https://nca2018.globalchange.gov

World Weather Attribution. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/analysis/projects/

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July 28, 2020
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WATER: How much do you use?

How much water do you use? Image: “Blue question mark,” wikimedia commons.

Only 1% of water on Earth is drinkable (actually, it’s 2.5% but only 1% is readily accessible). The rest of the water on the planet rests in the sea, but it is salty and therefore requires desalination to use for drinking or agriculture.

New River, a fresh water supply and a fresh idea. Image: wikimedia.

Ever since the most ancient times, humans have invented ways to find, distribute, use, and power with water. From the Roman Aqueducts and the New River of England that brought fresh water to the growing cities of Rome and London, respectively, to the water use agreements of the Colorado River of the USA and Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric of Australia, the story of civilization is the story of water.

With populations growing and climate changing, water will become more scarce and more important for uses for drinking, agriculture, industry, and energy. While macro systems that deliver water to our taps are large in scale, each of us can do something to protect and conserve water.

 

Take this quiz to calculate your WATER USE.

Attenborough, Sir David. “Fresh Water.” Episode 3. Our Planet. BBC One/Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2DU85qLfJQ/

Jacobsen, Rowan. “Israel Proves the Desalination Era is Here,” 29 July 2016. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/israel-proves-the-desalination-era-is-here/

Spang, E., E. R, K.S. Gallagher, P.H. Kirshen, D.H. Marks. 2014 “The Water Consumption of Energy Production: An International Comparison.” Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, 105002. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105002/meta/

Water Calculator. https://www.watercalculator.org/wfc2/q/household/

Water Footprint Calculator. “Water Websites for Kids.” 13 November 2019. https://www.watercalculator.org/resource/water-websites-for-kids/.

Thanks to Sierra C. Lusk for research and inspiration.

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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June 26, 2020
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Regreening the Sahel: Water, Land, and Renewal

Sahara Desert. Image: wikimedia.

Sahara, sea of sand, desert of legend, is ever-advancing. Over time, the Sahara Desert has expanded into the Sahel, a transnational ‘shore’ of African countries. Population in the Sahel has increased 120% in the last three decades: now, 64% of the population is under 25%. The encroaching Sahara, along with climate change induced heat and drought, is choking crops; 3.7 million people suffering the effects of crop loss, with shortages of millet and sorghum, staples. Famine, conflict, migration threaten the area. The Sahel reaches 3,360 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, all across the southern belt of the Sahara Desert. What can be done? Two answers may be emerging.

The Sahara Desert, seen from space by satellite. The Sahel is just south of the desert. Image: wikimedia.

The Sahel has some of the largest aquifers in the continent, as much as 100 times annual rainfall and other renewable sources. But the Law of Transboundary Aquifers is still in draft. Sahel countries need to decide the use of shared water for drinking, agriculture, and industry. Agreements should also monitor extraction; some of the aquifers are sizable but slow to refill and replenish. Precedent for water sharing might include the Colorado River Compact, especially amendments. A future exploration of the Sahara itself may tap water resources under the sands, and a proposal by Frank P. Davidson for Lake Hope (2012).

Stopping Saharan desert expansion is important. The possibility of planting a green wall across the boundary of the Sahara to stem desert invasion of fertile lands adjacent is said to have been pondered by Richard St. Barbe Baker OBE during a study expedition to the Sahara in the mid 20th century. There was talk of building a test model of 30 miles at that time. But the present vision of green wall across Africa of 4,722 miles (7,600 kilometers) didn’t take root until 2002, when the Green Wall was re-introduced at the summit in Chad of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. Support grew. Three years later, the concept was approved by the Community of Sahel-Saharan States; two years after that, in 2007, the African Union endorsed the “Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative.” The Great Green Wall hopes to restore and renew 100 million hectares by 2030, reduce CO2, absorbing 250 million tons, and create 10 million green jobs. Ethiopia has already restored 15 million hectares.

Great Green Wall of Africa. Image: wikimedia commons.

But results are still to be judged. Some point out that desertification is not just the fault of the Sahara, but instead may be due to deforestation and denuding of land. Observing success in applying traditional water conservation and harvesting methods, and nurturing of trees that appear naturally, the project is evolving into something that is working, in a different way. There are some who warn against some methods of afforestation, and choice of plantings is critical to success. Recent progress in Burkina Faso with building zaï, a grid planting method promoting water retention is one example. Another: increased respect for Faidherbia albida, an indigenous tree that defoliates during the rainy season, dropping leaves that fertilize soil, and also permit full sun during the subsequent early growing season. Other factors might be considered like walking paths, as envisioned by architect Benton MacKaye, resulting in the Appalachian Trail. Some suggest the Green Green Wall of Africa could become a model for a new CCC. The work of John D. Liu combines regreening with camps. Other green walls of afforestation include China’s Three-North Shelter Forest Program, China began the project in 1978 to stop the Gobi desert from advancing; while monoculture and some tree loss are problems, forest size has increased from 5% to 13.% with 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of trees planted (an area the size of western Europe). China will complete the afforestation project in 2050. India’s Green Wall of Aravalli, proposed by Vijaypal Baghel at COP 14 would build 1,6000 km of green; and Great Hedge of India, originally related to customs control line for 1870’s salt tax, and later grown into a living hedge. Progress of green walls can now be tracked through Earth Observation Satellites. ESA’s Prova-V monitors the Sahel.

Gobi Desert and Three-North Shelter Forest of China. Image: wikimedia.

Macroengineering endeavors involving transboundary resources may require an organizational form that allows for coordination of many different and interacting systems. As climate change affects regions, not just nations, will we see more macro solutions? The advancing Sahara desert does not stop at the Mali border but threatens the whole southern edge of the desert. The rising Atlantic ocean does not stop at Maine in the United States but continues to lap the coast of Canada. Africa’s Great Green Wall may set an example.

When completed, the Great Green Wall of the Sahel would be the largest living structure on Earth – three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.  The 7,600 km (4,000 plus miles) natural wonder of the world may be visible from space. As the Great Green Wall evolves to benefit from traditional water conservation measures, countries of the Sahel may work together to rebuild and strengthen the fertility of the land and its treasured water resources, the Sahel may build more than a wall, but also a foundation.

Re-greening the world. Image: “Nursery stock of spruce for afforestation.” Wikimedia commons.

“Building the Great Green Wall,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v-cphSne_HIPA. Accessed 24 June 2020.

Davidson, Frank P., Kathleen Lusk Brooke, with Cherie E. Potts. Building the Future. pages 35-59. Cambridge: 2012.

Gallo, Alexandro. “China: the Green Wall which will stop the desert advancing.” 10 July 2019. ecobnb https://ecobnb.com/blog/2019/07/china-the-new-green-wall-which-will-stop-the-desert-advancing/

Great Green Wall. “The Great Green Wall: Growing a World Wonder.” https://www.greatgreenwall.org/abot-great-green-wall

International Tree Foundation. Oxford, UK. https://internationaltreefoundation.org/

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

Liu, John D. “Green Gold.” FILM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBLZmwlPa8A

Liu, John D. Ecosystem Restoration Camps. https://ecosystemrestorationcamps.org/update-from-john-d-liu-founder-of-ecosystem-restoration-camps/

Meirelles, Fernando. “Great Green Wall.” Film from creator of City of God and The Constant Gardner, Oscar Nominee, and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, with Inna Modja and music collaborators Didier Awadi, Songhoy Blues, Waje, and Betty G. FILM LINK: https://www.greatgreenwall.org/film

Morrison, Jim. “The ‘Great Green Wall’ Didn’t Stop Desertification, But It Evolved Into Something That Might.” 23 August 2016. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertfication-not-so-much-180960171/

Moxam, Roy. The Great Hedge of India. London: Constable & Robinson, 2001. ISBN: 1841194670.

Saeed, Khalid. “The Sahel and System Dynamics,” correspondence discussion, June 2020.

St. Barbe Baker, Richard. My Life, My Trees (2nd edition, 1985) Forres: Findform. ISBN: 0-905249-63-1,

The Stream. “Why is Africa building a Great Green Wall?” 17 September 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK6FUv4fhmo

United Nations. United Nations Convention To Combat Desertification: In Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa. See especially Article 3: “Principles” and Article 10: “Organizational framework of subregional action programs.” https://www.unccd.int/sites/default/files/relevant-links/2017-01/UNCCD_Convention_ENG_0.pdf

United Nations, Convention to Combat Desertification. “The Great Green Wall Initiative.” https://www.unccd.int/actions/great-green-wall-initiative/

United Nations. Law of Transboundary Aquifers. https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/brief/enhancing-knowledge-of-groundwater-usage-in-the-Sahel.  and for the draft articles: https://www.un.org/en/ga/sixth/71/transboundary_aquifers.shtml

Wang, X.M., and Cicheng Zhang, Eerdun Hasi, Z.B. Dong. “Has the Three-North Shelterbelt Program solved the desertification and dust storm problems in arid and semiarid China?” January 2010. Journal of Arid Environments. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2009.08.001. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248568946_Has_the_Three_North_Forest_Shelterbelt_Program_solved_the_desertificatino_and_dust_storm_problems_in_arid_and_semiarid_China.

World Bank Group. “Burkina Faso: The Zaï Technique and Enhanced Agricultural Productivity.” 2005. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/10754

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February 6, 2020
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T-MEC: What’s in a Name?

Naming and framing the new agreement shared by Canada, United States, and Mexico. Image: wikimedia.

Finding common ground among nations joining in regional agreements is difficult enough: policies on issues from food to energy to trade must be deliberated. And then, there’s the name. While the “New Nafta,” launched 29 January 2020, was named top-down as USMCA (US-Mexico-Canada-Agreement) in the United States, Mexico took an inclusive approach. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known popularly as AMLO, announced a naming contest on Twitter. According to Dr. Amrita Bahri, co-chair of the WTO Chair Program for Mexico and Professor of Law, ITAM University, and Guillermo Moad Valenzuela, of International Trade Law, ITAM University, the naming contest stated four criteria:

NAMING AND FRAMING:

Name similar to the English and French versions;

Name begins with the letter “T” as in Tratado;

Name is easily pronounceable in Spanish;

Name reflects the spirit of cooperation.

On Twitter, Mexico received hundreds of suggestions, selecting two finalists for adoption: TEUMECA (Tratado Estados Unidos México Canadá) or T-MEC (Tratado México Estados Unidos Canadá). The winner, T-MEC, contains a review provision in six years. Perhaps the parties learned that lesson from the Colorado River Compact, when a failure to define all parties’ water rights resulted in subsequent lawsuits. Mexico and the Navajo sued and were awarded water rights with sovereignty not granted to American states. In T-MEC, Mexico specifically reserved “Direct, inalienable, and imprescriptible ownership of hydrocarbons” (chapter 8).

Regions may be the new nations. Viewed from space, the world shows no lines as seen on maps; instead, we observe that linked land shares common resources. Recognizing dual values of inclusion and diversity, how should we frame, and name, future agreements on shared resources?

Bahri, Amrita and Guillermo Moad Valenzuela. “A new name for NAFTA: USMCA, TEUMECA or T-MEC?” 15 October 2018. El Universal. https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/english/new-name-nafta-usmca-teumeca-or-t-mec/

ACEUM text: https://www.international.gc.ca/trade-commerce/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/cusma-aceum/text-texte/toc-tdm.aspx?lang=fra

CUSMA text: https://www.international.gc.ca/trade-commerce/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/cusma-aceum/index.aspx?lang=eng

T-MEC text: https://www.gob.mx/t-mec/acciones-y-programas/textos-finales-del-tratado-entre-mexico-estados-unidos-y-canada-t-mec-202730

USMCA text: http://www.sice.oas.org/Trade/USMCA/USMCA_ToC_PDF_e.asp

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August 10, 2019
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Calculate Your Climate Diet: Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Bad for your health and disastrous for the planet. “Cheeseburger.” Photographer: Renee Comet. Image: National Institutes for Health, USA.

Should labels on food, commonly listing salt, fat, calories, now include water, energy, and land? Recent findings by the United Nations IPCC reveal world land use is not sustainable for growing the food we need. Agricultural practices including raising of animals meant for food, deforestation, erosion and renewal of topsoil, population expansion, and the energy and water required to produce food are all factors. Scientists term this the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus.” But what can you do, as an individual? Moving towards a plant-based diet can help.

Sir Paul McCartney, 2009. Image: wikimedia.

Sir Paul McCartney is among those who advocate a plant-oriented diet; to help the cause, Sir Paul challenges you to write a song to promote “Meat-Free Mondays.” A promising development: the plant-based Impossible Burger, offering a carbon footprint 89% smaller than beef. But even plant choices have better and worse consequences for climate change. Will farmers who vie for water to irrigate crops in agricultural areas of the Colorado River now be awarded water rights based on their produce: some food uses more water? Rice farmers may switch to millet or maize, grains that use less water but still provide nutritional benefits.

 

Potatoes Lyonnaise” Image: wikimedia.

Want to know whether to choose rice, fries, or pasta – rice uses the most energy, land, and water; pasta is second;  potatoes use the least (and are the most nutritious). Enjoy avocado toast, but note: eating one avocado per week uses 3,519 liters of water annually. Order from the sandwich menu, deciding between a beef-burger or an omelette – beef is the worst, chicken is better, eggs are the best. Wine or beer, coffee or tea – beer uses the most resources, followed by coffee, wine, and tea. Here’s a way to calculate your diet in the era of climate change. What’s your climate diet? – calculate here.

Johnson, Scott K. “New IPCC report shows land use is part of solution to climate change.” 8 August 2019. Ars Technica. https://apple.news/AEOL8nw6OWSEM4XD3elBig/

McCartney, Paul (Sir). “Meat-Free Mondays.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E1NDjltMvk

Peters, Adele. “Here’s how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef.” Fast Company, 20 March 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90322572/heres-how-the-footprint-of-the-plant-based-impossible-burger-compares-to-beef.

Spang, E. W. Moomaw, K. Gallagher, P. Kirshen, David H. Marks (2014) “Multiple Metrics for Quantifying the Intensity of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” Environmental Research Letters. 9-105003. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Stylianou, Nassos, Clara Guibourg, Helen Briggs. 9 August 2019. BBC, Science & Environment. “Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint? Check the environmental impact of what you eat and drink.” https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714

Thin Lei Win. “Swap rice for maize, millet and sorghum to save water and boost nutrition: experts tell India.” 5 July 2018. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/articles-india-rice-hunger/swap-rice-for-maize-millet-and-sorghum-to-save-water-and-boost-nutrition-experts-tell-india-idUSKBN1JV16P

United Nations. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Special Report on Climate Change and Land: desertification, land degradation, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” 2 August 2019. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

 

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August 2, 2019
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ENERGY: AC – Hot trends/Cool news

“Air-Conditioners are everywhere” by Peteris, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

The hotter the climate gets, the more we turn on the AC (for the privileged who may have such access). Since 16 of the 17 warmest years have been since 2000, energy consumption by air-conditioning may triple by 2050, equaling the current electricity use of the European Union, Japan, and United States – combined. Enter SkyCool: a wafer-thin reflective material that radiates infrared, thermal energy at a very precise wavelength that slips quietly through Earth’s atmosphere, into space. Normally, heat energy is trapped in the atmosphere, so that’s very good news indeed.

But there’s more, and it’s cool news. The same infrared, thermal energy can be used to cool water moving through pipes to a just noticeable difference a few degrees cooler than, say, a school or an office building. That’s like AC, but better. While New Yorkers may be interested, many of the future customers will be in China, India, and Indonesia – expected to consume half of all the demand for air-conditioning in the future. China noted a 45% increase in the air-conditioner market in 2017. The new technology could reinvent air-conditioning and cool buildings, with greatly reduced emissions.

Hoover Dam used an ice-water system to cool concrete. “Hoover Dam at Night.” wikimedia commons.

There’s historic precedent: when the Hoover Dam was built, 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete were used; so much that a bucket of concrete went through the overhead cable delivery system every 78 seconds. But that much concrete would have taken 100 years to cool. Builders (a consortium called Six Companies included J.F. Shea Co.; MacDonald & Kahn; Morrison-Knudsen; Utah Construction; and a joint venture formed by W.A. Bechtel, Henry J. Kaiser, and Warren) devised a structural system of 582 miles of steel pipes within the concrete; they filled the pipes with ice-water, causing the concrete to cool and harden, and then they emptied the pipes of water but left the supporting structure to further strengthen the edifice.

Air-conditioning is a global market of $50 billion. Will the innovation, product of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University, change the future? Inventors Aaswath Raman, Eli Goldstein, (along with earlier team members) and Shanhui Fan are optimistic. Winner of the SXSW Eco Startup Showcase, the innovation is called SkyCool Systems,  Interested? Catch Aaswath Raman’s TED talk here.

Baraniuk, Chris. “How trying to stay cool could make the world even hotter.” 18 June 2018. BBC/Business.

Temple, James. “A material that throws heat into space could soon reinvent air-conditioning.” 12 September 2017. Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608840/a-material-that-throws-heat-into-space-could-soon-reinvent-air-conditioning/

Raman, Aaswath. “How we can turn the cold of outer space into a renewable resource.” 22 June 2018 TED Talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a5NyUITbyk

SkyCool Systems. Aaswath Raman, Eli Goldstein, Shanhui Fan. https://tomkat.stanford.edu/innovation-transfer/skycool

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July 6, 2019
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WATER: Cheers (from Cheerios)

Cheers! Can pubs offer a toast to public service? Image: “Weizenbier” by photographer Trexer, 2005. Wikimedia.

Food waste: it’s a world problem; more than 350,000,000 tons of food were lost or wasted so far, this year. Food trashed by the United States + Europe could feed the world (three times over). And, it’s not just food, but water, that is lost: food waste is responsible for 25% of the USA’s water use. But what if food waste could be transformed by the alchemy of brew?

Seven Brothers, a brewery in Manchester, England, makes rejected breakfast cereal (flakes too small, too large, for standardized manufacturing and therefore considered not right for the box) into craft beer. Like Corn Flakes?  You might appreciate “Throw Away I.P.A.” or if Coco Pops were a childhood favorite, you might re-aquaint yourself with a grown-up version in a dark stout, with chocolate overtones. Working with Kellogg’s, Seven Brothers receives 5,000 tons of deselected cereal flakes per year. Prefer toast? Try Chelsea Craft Brewing Company in New Oak for “Toast” made from left-over bread served at the screening of “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” produced by Anthony Bourdain.

David Marks, Edward Spang, and other engineers and scientists who study the Water-Food-Energy Nexus report that 80% of the world’s water, 40% of the world’s land, and 10% of the world’s energy goes to food. Yet 1/3rd is wasted. Of course, brewing is just a very small response to food waste, but it’s a notable achievement. Should your next pub be chosen for its public service? Cheers!

Bourdain, Anthony, producer; Anna Chai and Nari Kye, directors. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. 2017. PMK*BNC, New York and Tribeca Film Festival, TribecaFilm.com. https://tribecafilm.com/filmguide/wasted-the-store-of-food-waste-2017?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Spang, E., W. Moomaw, K. Gallagher, P. Kirshen, and D. Marks. (2014). “Multiple Metrics for Quantifying the Intensity of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” Environmental Research Letters 9 105003.

United Nations. “Water, Food, and Energy.” UN WATER. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/water-food-and-energy/

“World food waste statistics,” The World Counts. 5 July, 2019. https://theworldcounts.com/counters/world_food_consumption_statistics/world_food_waste_statistics.

Yaffe-Bellany. “Drink a Pint, Waste Less Food.” 3 July 2019. The New York Times.

Zimberoff, Larissa. “Toast Ale, From Recycled Bread, Is Now Brewed in New York.” 24 April 2017. The New York Times. https://wwww.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/dining/toast-ale-bread-bronx.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

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 23, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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Water Rights

Yamuna River, India, now has personhood rights. Image: wikimedia

We are the water planet. Throughout history, we have determined water rights in agreements and laws like the Colorado River Compact and Itaipú. But now, perhaps we are reaching a new era of respect for water. Does water itself have rights? New Zealand granted “personhood” rights to the Whanganui River, sacred to the Maori people and to the environment. India followed that precedent, establishing personhood rights for the Ganges and Yamuna rivers; India granted rights for the rivers as a whole including regulation of construction of damsColombia mandated the rights of Amazon forest and the Atrato River, setting a law for an intergenerational pact for the Colombian Amazon. In the USA, Ohio will vote on personhood rights for Lake Erie. Bolivia may have established the broadest environmental rights with the Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra (Law of the Rights of Mother Earth). It would seem that precedent has been established. What waters will next be granted rights?

Bolivia: Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra – Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

Colombia. “Climate Change and Future Generations Lawsuit in Colombia: Key Excerpts from the Supreme Court’s Decision.” by Dejusticia. 13 April 2018. https://www.dejusticia.org/en/climate-change-and-future-generations-lawsuit-in-colombia-key-excerpts-from-the-supreme-courts-decison/

India. “India’s Ganges and Yamuna Rivers Are Given the Rights of People.” By Jason Daley, 23 March 2017. Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-given-rights-people-india-180962639/

India. “Uttarakhand HC recognizes Ganga and Yamuna rivers as ‘living entities.'” By Priyanka Mittal and Mayank Aggarwal. 21 March 2017. livemint.com. https://www.livemint.com/Politics/lwxheezmdiazU5mWtiWU2K/Uttarakhand-HC-recognizes-Ganga-and-Yamuna-rivers-as-living.html.

New Zealand. “New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being.” By Eleanor Ainge Roy, Dunedin, 16 March 2017. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/16/new-zealand-riverr-granted-same-legal-rights-as-human-being?CMP=share_btn_link

New Zealand. Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement Bill). “Innovative bill protects Whanganui River with legal personhood.” New Zealand Parliament. 28 March 2017. https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/features/innovative-bill-protects-whanganui-river-with-legal-personhood/

USA. “An Ohio city will vote on whether Lake Erie has the same rights as a person.” By Ryan Prior, 21 February 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/21/us/ohio/city/lake-erie/rights/trnd/index.html

Appreciation and recognition for this post topic to discussions with colleagues.

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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December 24, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Golden Anniversary, Golden Opportunity

Earthrise, December 24, 1968: “You don’t see . Image: wikimedia.

Fifty years ago, someone grabbed a camera and changed history. NASA Apollo 8’s crew was to orbit precisely 10 times while photographing the surface of the moon, as a field study for the Lunar Landing mission.  It was 1968: before digital photography, a crew could carry only so much film – all of it was to be used for lunar surface documentation.

For hours, only the occasional click was heard as the spacecraft hovered above the lunar surface, snapping photos of the topography of the moon. There was not much to look at: gray gravely surface cloaked by a dark sky. Then, suddenly, as Apollo 8 completed the first circle of the moon, an orb of blue and green surrounded by swirling clouds appeared in the module window. It was Earth.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets.

When Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders looked out the spaceship module’s window, three voices whispered astonishment in unison. Anders grabbed the camera. “Hey, that’s not our authorized mission; we’ve only carried designated film,” said the commander. The three stared at each other in a wild surmise. Then, all three nodded in assent. Anders, mission’s official photographer, captured the first view that humanity ever saw of our own Earth.

To call it a selfie would be to trivialize it. Earthrise, as the photo came to be called, snapped history into a new era. “It was credited with awakening the modern version of the environmental movement,” according to former American Vice President and environmental leader Al Gore; author of An Inconvenient Truth. “You don’t see cities, you don’t see boundaries, you don’t see countries,” stated mission commander Frank Borman. The first Earth Day followed. World water laws developed further; in the United States, the Colorado River Compact updated environmental provisions; new policies like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act set new standards.

But where are we now, fifty years later?  Hope for our planet’s blue and green miracle is narrow but not impossible. Many governments are setting new goals to save the climate before it is too late, bringing the Paris Agreement COP21 to shared measurement standards at COP24. Cities and states are taking matters into their own hands. Businesses and industries, including aerospace, shipping, and fashion, are setting global supply chain standards to reduce emissions. In response to changing markets, innovations are developing at a pace that some find encouraging. Clean energy jobs are growing faster, and more profitably. There could be trouble, but there is a narrow window of success possible. If we too see the vision in the photo, words of Borman and Anders might ring true: “Got it?” “Yep.” 

Watch the video. Apollo 8 took the Earthrise photo on December 24, a half century ago. So, today is a kind of Golden Anniversary. Is it time to renew our vows?

“Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act,” 1974. http://usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/pdfiles.crbsalct.pdf

NASA.”Earthrise.” https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181224.html.

Vaughan-Lee, Emmanuel, director, and Adam Loften, producer: “Earthrise.” Go Project Films. http://goprojectfilms.com

Wall, Mike. “This New ‘Earthrise’ Photo from NASA Is Simply Breathtaking.” 21 December 2015. Space.com. https:///www.space.com/31422-earthrise-photo-nasa-moon-probe.html/

Wright, Ernie. “Earthrise” – visualizations created for the 45th anniversary, released on 20 December, 2013. Includes extensive downloadable videos showing the actual cloud pattern on Earth at the moment. There is link to Wright’s presentation at SIGGRAPH Vancouver. NASA, Scientific Visualization Studio. http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-releases-new-earthrise-simulation-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 Lice

 

 

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