Building the World

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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May 12, 2015
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Frackin’ Bakken

Photographer: Alfred T. Palmer. Image: Library of Congress.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” pierces land to access oil and gas in rock formations by injecting chemicals mixed with water, drawn from underground aquifers. To fracture rock, water must gush: a virtual firehose spitting harsh chemicals, propelled by as many as 10,000,000 gallons before the well is even operational. Aquifers are already challenged, in an increasingly thirsty world.  In North Dakota, Bakken may be the test case for what works (and doesn’t). Drinking and agricultural water have, in some locations, become contaminated, even radioactive.

Artists led by Yoko Ono successfully protested New York State’s possible participation, but, despite such victories, the war might heading in fracking’s favor. Proponents of the propellant technology claim shale energy is cleaner than coal, and large deposits, like Bakken, Marcellus or Eagle Ford, could make the United States energy independent for the next 100 years. But then what?

Michael McElroy and Xi Lu propose a strategy of natural gas as a transition to renewable energy (with CO2 emissions reduced 80% ) by 2050. What can we learn from water energy agreements, such as the Colorado River Compact or Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, regarding the future of fracking? Will 2015, culminating year of the United Nations Decade of Water, occasion progress?

For more:

Chester Dawson, “Leak of Oil-Well Wastewater Taints River in North Dakota.” The Wall Street Journal, Jan 22, 2015.http://www.wsj.com/articles/bakken-shale-oil-well-wastewater-leak-taints-river-in-north-dakota-1421977006

http://artistsagainstfracking.com/

Joseph Stromberg, “Radioactive Wastewater From Fracking Is Found in a Pennsylvania Stream.” Oct 2, 2013, Smithsonian.com.http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/radioactive-wastewater-from-fracking-is-found-in-a-pennsylvania-stream-351641/?no-ist

Michael McElroy and Xi Lu, “Fracking’s Future: Natural gas, the economy, and America’s energy prospects.” Harvard Magazine, Jan-Feb 2013.http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/frackings-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.

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January 1, 2015
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2015: Water for Life

 

Water. Image: wikimedia commons.

Will 2015, culmination of United Nations’ Water for Life, fulfill its mission? Global demand for potable water will increase two-thirds by 2025. Singapore began design of a new water system in 1960; today, 30% comes from desalination, recycling of wastewater, and rain collection. But success rates can change. Las Vegas had plenty of water before the Hoover Dam brought bright lights to what became a big city; now drought is a problem. Worldwide, potable water underground may be threatened by hydraulic fracturing. Will the “sleeping giant” of what may be the most ancient water on earth, perhaps 2.5 billion years old, recently discovered in Canada, yield hope? According to Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar, University of  Toronto, the source contains more water than all the world’s rivers, swamps, and lakes combined.

For more: http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/index.shtml

“The contribution of the Precambrian continental lithosphere to global H2 production,” Barbara Sherwood Lollar, T.C. Onstott, G. Lacrampe-Couloume, and C.J. Ballentine. Nature 516, 379-382 (18 December 2014) doi:10.1038/nature14017.

“Volume of world’s oldest water estimated,” Rebecca Morelle, BBC News, Science and Environment. December 17, 2014.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30527357

“Drought: A Creeping Disaster,” Alex Prud’homme. The New York Times, July 16, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/opinion/sunday/17drought.html?_r=0

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 20, 2014
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Water

 

A drop of water. Image: wikimedia commons.

 

Ancient Rome had more water per person than most of today’s cities. And there was enough for fountains, celebrated in Ottorino Respighi’s “Fontane di Roma.” Water is a limit to growth: Tiber threatened, Rome sent expeditions to the hills to find new sources, and built aqueducts to bring water to the city. Waters had brands: one spring was named “Aqua Virgo” after a little girl, with a particularly clear complexion (this was thought to be an indication of abundant clean water), who guided experts to a hidden spring. There is still a cafe, near the Vatican, where cappuccino is made with this special exilir. Water is recognized as a critical need for the world’s future. Actor Matt Damon‘s vision, and film “Running the Sahara,” may see Africa lead.

For more:

Hargreaves, Steve. “Greatest urban projects of all time,” Oct 7, 2014, CNN. http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2014/10/07/greatest-urban-projects/4.html

Running the Sahara: http://www.runningthesahara.com/

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 14, 2014
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Summertime Blues: Lake Mead

Lake Mead Marina. Image: wikimedia commons.

Once a fabled boating mecca, the oasis formed by the Hoover Dam’s intervention in the Colorado River is drying up. Lake Mead‘s shoreline is changing; areas formerly underwater now battle dust. Drought that challenges California can be traced in part to Lake Mead’s shrinking. A similar problem exists in Africa due to changes in Lake Chad. How can lakes supplying water to an increasingly thirsty world be better preserved and protected?

For more: http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2014/08/12/southwest-braces-lake-mead-water-levels-drop/wnQ6rWqEYmDYMwuQsdoEFP/story.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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