Building the World

January 19, 2018
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Cities as Destiny

Cities may rebuild the world. Image: “Cirrus sky panorama.” Image: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos.

We started talking about all these things that we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge,” said Eric Schmidt, CEO of Alphabet. Sidewalk Labs, subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, won a public competition to design a part of Toronto’s waterfront. Some of the proposed winning ideas:

Sidewalk Toronto:

  • heated pedestrian lanes to melt snow;
  • self-driving bus system;
  • taxi-bots and van-bots for shuttles;
  • transit and bike-shares;
  • street side parks and public spaces;
  • tunnels for utilities, making grids easier to reach and repair.

Throughout history, cities have espoused new visions. Baghdad was drawn in three concentric circles during a vision. Singapore was the spontaneous agreement for an economic and cultural nexus, celebrating diversity. Brasilia was the first urban design built to be seen from the air. Will Toronto take the next step to realizing a new vision, if chosen as Amazon’s HQ2? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau termed the project an “innovation hub.” Some question sensors and data collection, also planned, challenging Sidewalk Labs’ claim: “privacy can be baked into the design.”

Which 20 cities made the short-list for Amazon’s HQ?. Image: München Tram 20. Wikimedia commons.

Toronto, along with Boston, made the short-list for Amazon’s second headquarters. Boston’s note: “We would like to move Boston forward in the process so we can continue to learn more about your community, your talent, and potential real estate options.”  Holly Sullivan, Amazon. While 19 cities in the United States made the list, one Canadian city joined the elite twenty: Toronto. Toynbee, in Cities of Destiny, explored cities that shaped history. What are your ideas for the future of the city?

Wingfield, Nick. “Amazon Chooses 20 Finalists for Second Headquarters.” 18 January 2018. The New York 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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November 24, 2017
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Water Park

Marine life will be protected in Mexico’s new ocean preserve. Image: wikimedia commons.

Mexico created a macro water park; the Revillagigedo Archipelago will be the largest ocean marine reserve in North America. It’s a ban on all fishing in a protected zone of 57,000 square miles (150,000 square kilometers). Another prohibition? Extraction of natural resources. The grouping of volcanic islands is located on the crossing of two ocean currents, making the reserve a meeting and breeding site for marine life including whales. Mexico’s preserve avoids further hotel building. Another approach, in Singapore, is a marine life park within a resort, preserving 800 species. Marine reserves in the Pacific include a preserve of 193,000 square miles in Palau. As the oceans become increasingly challenged by many factors including overfishing, acidification, and plastic pollution, Mexico’s marine reserve is a gift to the future.

BBC. “Mexico creates huge national park to protect marine life.” 25 November 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42120610

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 8, 2017
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The Deep Frontier

Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, Coral reef, Guam, Mariana islands. NOAA Coral Kingdom Collection: Photographer, David Burdock. Wikimedia commons.

World oceans may be the deep frontier; we have explored just 5% of the seas that give name to the water planet. Great cities were built for ocean access: Amsterdam, port of the Netherlands; Singapore, hub of the trade winds; New York, joined inland by the Erie Canal, celebrating its 200th anniversary. Other ocean to inland waterways include the Grand Canal of China, the world’s longest; Suez and Panama, both led by Ferdinand de Lessups. Will the Channel Tunnel inspire a TransAtlantic HyperloopOcean Portal, by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, offers educational resources for teachers and students. June 8 marks World Oceans Day, when over 100 countries honor, and protect, our oceans.

For the 5% of the oceans we have explored, and the future of our oceans: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html

For World Oceans Day: http://www.worldoceansday.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 Licen

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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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November 18, 2015
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Water of Life

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. Water Act! may lead the way. Image: www.komendenver.org.

Water is life, some would state. Water resources determined success of some of the world’s greatest cities: Baghdad, London, Rome, Singapore.  Environmental consequences of climate change can be observed in water resources: floods devastate; drought strangles. Earth, the water planet, may be running out of water. Will “Water Act!” convened in Paris by the Fulbright Association produce consensus and action regarding world water?

As water becomes more scarce on earth, the element begins to be discovered in space. Earth’s solar system contains 23 oceans. Europa, Jupiter’s moon, may house a sub-surface ocean “vigorously convecting” with Hadley cells and ice plumes 124 miles high. Water movement on Europa may mean life; circulating from equator to poles, as evidenced by plumes, moving water may create the fertile environment for life. Findings of Krista Soderlund of University of Texas Institute for Geophysics and colleagues may indicate it is more likely to find life in Europa’s ocean than its land surface: water is a life-giving medium. Planetary Resources is aiming to harvest minerals, and water, from asteroids. Finding water in space may bode well for building a better future; perhaps Gerard K. O’Neill’s vision will be realized, guided in part by the United Nations Outer Space Treaty and Unispace.

Meanwhile, on earth, the world seeks to protect and preserve what water we still have. California continues to address change; citizens successfully met Governor Edmund G. Brown’s challenge to reduce water usage 25%. Differentiating water utilization for people, agriculture, building, industry, and technology might be the way of the future, as suggested by Régine Engström, Executive Director of Eau de Paris, proposing “non-potable water systems may help build tomorrow’s sustainable city.” The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference convening in France will seek goals of ambition, fairness, post-2020 financing, and pre-2020 actions regarding climate change and environment. What should COP21 recommend regarding water?

Special appreciation to Cherie E. Potts for Solar System Water references and suggestions.

On Europa:

Wenz, John. “Jupiter’s Moon Europa is Bursting with Icy Geysers.” Popular Mechanics, 12 December 2013. deep-space/a9830/jupiters-moon-europa-is-bursting-with-icy-geysers-16260205/

On Water in 23 Places in our Solar System:

Wenz, John. “23 Places We’ve Found Water in Our Solar System.” Popular Mechanics, 16 March 2015. http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a14555/water-worlds-in-our-solar-system/.

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 12, 2015
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Indigenous Peoples Day: We were here first

The Atlantic Rim. Image: Voyages of Columbus from wikimedia commons.

Indigenous Peoples Day reminds us that no new worlds are discovered, just met. Although Leif Erikson, celebrated on 9 October, may have been the first European to “discover” America, Columbus had a contract. The history of those agreements is telling. Once word traveled, Spain and Portugal (to the detriment of established residents of lands visited by Columbus) claimed “rights” in the 7 June, 1497 Treaty of Tordesillas, to divide the world via an imaginary line in Atlantic ocean (in 1529, the Treaty of Zaragoza would similarly claim Pacific rights). The founding of Singapore, and creation of Panama, are more recent proclamations of new territories. World views of yore seem shockingly xenophobic today, but contracts between Columbus and the Castile court of 17 and 30 April, 1492, as well as papal bulls of Alexander VI of May 3 and 4, 1493, may provide some of the few precedents for laws, treaties and declarations that might be anticipated as mineral rights in the oceans are debated, for example in the Atlantic. Should the matter be decided by the peoples of the Atlantic Rim? We will soon see agreements regarding new worlds discovered in space. Standing on the shoulders of history, can we build a better world?

On Indigenous Peoples Day:

United Nations, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9: http://www.un.org/en/events/indigenousday/

Holley, Peter. “More cities celebrating ‘Indigenous People’s Day’ amid effort to abolish Columbus Day.” 11, October 2015. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/10/11/more-cities-celebrating-indigenous-peoples-day-as-effort-to-abolish-columbus-day-grows/

On Leif Erikson:

Anderson, Rasmus Bjorn (1874). “America Not Discovered by Columbus: an historical sketch of the discovery of America by the Norsemen in the Tenth Century.” Chicago: S.C. Griggs.

For oceans:

Robert F. Pietrowski Jr., “Hard Minerals on the Deep Ocean Floor: Implications for American Law and Policy,” 19 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 43 (1977), http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/wmlr/vol19/iss1/5

On the Atlantic Rim:

The New Urban Atlantic series, Palgrave Macmillan. https://www.umb.edu/chcs/bookseries

Barron, James and Marjorie Arons-Barron, The Atlantic Rim, Boston, MA and research archive, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Kresl, Peter Karl. “The Atlantic Rim: A New Conceptualization of Pan-Atlantic Relationships,” Bucknell University and The Atlantic Rim. www.departments.bucknell.edu/…/The_Atlantic_Rim/. pdf.

Raymond Lloyd, “An atlantic rim partnership,” International NGO Journal Vol. 4 (7), pp. 337-339, July, 2009. http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1381499376_Lloyd.pdf

On space:

Ali, Yasmin. “Who owns outer space?” 25 September 2015, Science & Environment, BBC.com. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34324443

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 19, 2015
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Singapore at 50

 

Singapore at 50: does diversity contribute to innovation and prosperity? Image: wikimedia commons.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore‘s independence. Rapid growth may be traced to its founding, as a colony, but more importantly, as a special economic zone. With per capita GDP of $56,000, and 90% home ownership, an achievement aided by the development of Housing Development Board (HDB) homes, the 277 sq. miles are marked by prosperity. HDB helped to eliminate poverty and also promoted diversity: the goal was for Chinese and Malay families alike to think of themselves first as Singaporean. With four official languages, and multiple recognized religions, can Singapore claim the power of diversity in prosperity?

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 28, 2015
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Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize

“The view from Marine One, en route to Firebaugh, California, 2014” Peter Souza, photographer. Image: www.whitehouse.gov.

Singapore recently awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, named after the founding Minister who passed into history on March 23, to the Orange County Water District, California, for success in groundwater management and water reuse, highlighted in International Water Week, to promote contributions towards solving global water problems for the benefit of humanity. Minister Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015) co-founded the city state during independence in 1965. California continues to be challenged by drought; NASA’s Jay Famiglietti predicts reservoirs may run out of water in 2016. How can California lead the way with methods that may help other areas of the world suffering water scarcity?

Gies, Erica. “Who Owns Groundwater?” http://ensia.com/features/outlawing-water-conflict/

Schiavenza, Matt. “The Economics of California’s Drought,” March 21, 2015. The Atlantic Magazine. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/03/the-economics-of-californias-drought/388375/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/lee-kuan-yew-singapores-founding-father-dies-at-91-1427056223

http://www.siww.com.sg/laureates

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 4, 2014
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Cities as Destiny

Calgary by night. Photograph by Gorgo, 2006. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons.

October, 1967: Arnold Toynbee published “Cities of Destiny” exploring elements that, when blended in an urban environment, may foster innovation and greatness. Cyrene set a trend: the ancient Greek city-state created a new culture where sciences, arts, education flourished. Singapore illustrates the power of a city to make its own laws, taxes, policies. Cities use – and therefore can save – significant energy; C40, an organization of the world’s mega-cities, may show the way forward to a better environment. Will the proposed Global Parliament of Mayors, convening 600 city leaders around the globe, forge a new direction for progress? Over half of our world lives in cities. Cooperative leagues of cities may shape the world’s destiny.

For more:

Hargreaves, Steve. “Greatest urban projects of all time,” CNNMoney, October 7, 2014. http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2014/10/07/greatest-urban-projects/3.html

C40 Cities, Climate Leadership Group: www.c40.org

Global Parliament of Mayors:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29352004

http://www.globalparliamentofmayors.org/

Barber, Benjamin R. “If Mayors Ruled the World.” (Yale University Press, 2014). www.ifmayorsruledtheworld.com

Toynbee, Arnold. “Cities of Destiny.” (Thames & Hudson, 1967)

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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