Building the World

June 23, 2017
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Shining a New Light

“Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China.” William Havell, 1817. Image: wikimedia commons.

Infrastructure has been termed the foundation of civilization. Rome built roads, and water systems; the aqueducts made possible the expansion of the city and the empire. China built the Grand Canal, stimulating commerce, culture, and communication: the written language was first standardized because of the Canal. Throughout history, infrastructure has spurred civilization. The world currently spends $2.5 trillion on water, energy, transport, and telecommunications – each year. But, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, $3.3 trillion is needed just to keep up. What’s more worrying? Emerging and developing areas will require more of everything: electricity, roads, rail, airports, shipping ports.  Aggregate investment from now until 2030 will be significant: 49 trillion. Initiatives like China’s New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) may globalize infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable and beneficial. Bringing new infrastructure to areas in need is a chance, perhaps unprecedented in history, to rebuild the world.

“Bridging global infrastructure gaps.” Jonathan Woetzel, Nicklas Garemo, Jan Mischke, Martin Hjerpe, Robert Palter. McKinsey Global Institute, June 2016. http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/bridging-global-infrastructure-gaps

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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June 16, 2017
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A River Runs Through It

Rebuilding cities to let the water in may result in innovations, including rowing commuters. Image: Wikimedia.

Coastal cities combating sea rise often respond by building barriers. But the Dutch, experts on inundation since the earliest days, have a different idea: letting the water in. Rotterdam, once the world’s largest port, is a city 90% below sea level. The city’s solution to sea rise includes creation of the Eendragtspolder, with water sports featuring the World Rowing Championships. Giving water more places to flow has rebuilt the Netherlands: a systems approach includes new views of space, rebuilding gates and bridges, redesigning sewers, linking social media, and incorporating climate response in primary education (children learn to swim wearing clothing and shoes). After Hurricane Sandy, the Dutch helped New York rethink lower Manhattan; Bangladesh benefited from advice that reduced fatalities during floods. It’s about anticipating, rather than avoiding, crises. To be sure, flood gates have their place, proven by Maeslantkering, a storm barrier bigger than two Eiffel Towers. But the Dutch are more about going with the flow: rebuilding land on water means dikes with shopping malls, even floating dairy farms. China’s Grand Canal might provide inspiration on the benefits of letting water shape strategy. Boston to Bangladesh, Rhode Island to Rotterdam, coastal areas might find innovation and opportunity in going Dutch.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Climate Change Isn’t Just a Fact for the Dutch. It’s an Opportunity” in the Changing Climate, Changing Cities series. 15 June 2017, The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/15/world/europe/climate-change-rotterdam.html?_r=0

Peirce, Neal R., Curtis W. Johnson, with Farley M. Peters. Century of the City: No Time to Lose. The Rockefeller Foundation, 2008. ISBN: 0891840729.

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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May 17, 2017
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Silk Road 2.0

Yo-yo Ma, founder of Silkroad, playing the cello at the World Economic Forum, 2008. Photographer: Andy Mettler. Image: wikimedia commons.

Yo-yo Ma, cellist and founder of Silkroad, might write new music for what is being referred to as the “new silk road.” The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation 2017 concluded this week in Beijing, with 1,000 international government representatives; 68 countries signed on to jointly develop infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road. It’s a big route, linking China, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Historians might add North America: the Canadian Pacific Railway customized railcars to transport silk worm cocoons from Vancouver’s docks to the mills of New Jersey and New York. The so-called “Silk Trains” carried armed guards, so valuable was the cargo. One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a land and maritime vision including Railway to London, Railway to Iran, Gwadar Port, Asian Gas Pipeline, and Khorgos Gateway for the biggest dry port in the world. Asian Development Bank estimates the need for $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure to respond to growth and climate change. Macro by any definition, the New Silk Road (One Belt One Road or perhaps to be called BRI) may open an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the world for inclusion and environment, a topic worthy of the future 2019 Summit. The Grand Canal of China may be an inspiration. Will the Confucius Institute lead the way?

Confucius Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston: https://www.umb.edu/confucius and https://m.facebook.com/The-Confucius-Institute-at-UMass-Boston-187408381366993/

National Development and Reform Commission. “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. 2015/03/28. People’s Republic of China. en.ndrc.gov.cn/news/release/201503/t20150330_669367.html.

Liu Qin. “China needs to pave ‘One Belt One Road’ with green finance, say experts.” 07.01.2016, chinadialogue.net. https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/8532-China-needs-to-pave-One-Belt-One-Road-with-green-finance-say-experts-

Quinn, Zoë G. “Silk” 17 July 2012. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2012/07/17/silk/

Tweed, David. “China’s Silk Road.” 15 May 2017. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/china-s-silk-road/

For a map: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21701505-chinas-foreign-policy-could-reshape-good-part-world-economy-our-bulldozers-our-rules

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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March 6, 2017
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March!

St. Petersburg: price of admission to the new city was one large stone, by order of the tsar. Image: wikimedia commons.

March! It’s a month that begins with a command. In fact, some opine that the fourth day may be pronounced as an imperative. Many great achievements thus began: Cyrene was discovered and built in response to a command of the Oracle at Delphi; the Grand Canal was dug by orders of successive emperors. St. Petersburg was built in stone, by directive of Tsar Peter who set, as price of admission to the new city, one large stone. What commands your attention, and action, to march forth?

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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February 3, 2017
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Glass of Air

“A glass of water” by photographer Derek Jensen, Tysto, 2005. Image: wikimedia commons.

In a world where water is increasingly scarce, can the answer be in the air? In a time when streams may be endangered, where can clean water be found? Water has occasioned innovation from ancient times to present; China, Italy, England, Australia – the most arid country on earth – have all transformed their lands and economies through water innovations. Chilean innovator Hector Pino pursued a new idea when his baby daughter was born with a kidney condition requiring sodium-free water. Now, a parent’s love may change the world.

Pino and co-founders Carlos Blamey, engineer, and Alberto González, designer, are utilizing technology originally developed in Israel to draw water from air. It can run on solar, too. The 748 million people without water infrastructure could now draw clean water in amounts sustaining a household. In cities where old water systems leak lead or in streams once protected now compromised, where could consumers turn? The household FreshWater device produces 28 liters of water per day. A mochila version is in development, making air the ‘magic water bottle’ in your backpack.

For Fresh Water Solutions’ video: http://www.freshwatersolutions.org/#new-page

For more: “How to pull clean water from air.” Bloomberg, Businessweek, 12 January 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-12/pulling-clean-water-from-thin-air

For the Stream Protection Rule, protecting 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest, added as clarification to 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act:https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=OSM-2010-0018-10631

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 27, 2017
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Wake Up Call

Year of the Rooster. Image: Jianzhi, wikimedia commons.

Enter the Rooster, herald of the wake up call. Each Spring Festival opens a new year, inspired by the characteristics of a new animal. The tradition of the new year, spiraled in 60-year cycles, began in 2637 bce. Emperor Huangdi’s minister Ta Nao is said to have suggested the Chia-Tzu or Kan-chih cyclical system. China added the Gregorian calendar in 1912, generally used from 1949. China understands long time frame. The Great Wall was built over the course of dynasties. The Grand Canal, longest continuous building project in history, broke ground in 600 bce; latest phase of improvement, to be completed in 2050, will feature design projects by students. Each new year is an invitation to a new generation to rebuild the world in an improved version; this Spring Festival, it’s the Rooster’s turn,a wake up call. Make it your ringtone.

For More: “Rooster Crowing Compilation” by YANG Edwin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwnzDT56VAU/

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 6, 2017
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Grid-Iron

China built the equivalent of 10,000 football fields in solar panels in 2015, a rate of one gridiron per hour. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s produced solar panels equal 10,000 football fields, the average of one football field per hour, every day of 2015. Builders of the Grand Canal, and the Great Wall, may soon set another record. Pledging $360 billion to building of renewable energy systems, China set course for leadership in the field by 2020. The announcement comes at a time Beijing woke up repeatedly to smog. Several of China’s large cities are coastal, vulnerable to sea rise. Environmental woes might be addressed by the strategic focus. Progress is swift; China installs one wind turbine every hour. Half of all wind power and one-third of all solar panels globally built in 2015: China. It’s good economics: the number of new jobs created by funding innovation in renewable clean energy? 13 million. The worldwide market for clean energy technologies will expand through commitments of the Paris Agreement. Gridiron may soon take on a new meaning.

Video: “China Investing Billions in Renewable Energy” by Neeti Upadhye, The New York Times, 5 January 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000004855712/china-investing-billions-in-renewable-energy.html

Myllyvirta, Lauri. “China: Six little known facts about the country’s solar and wind boom.” 8 September 2016. Greenpeace, Energy Desk. http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/09/08/china-six-little-known-facts-countrys-solar-wind-boom/

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 3, 2016
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The 38% Solution

Will 38 soon become 88? Image: wikimedia.

China and the United States have both ratified the Paris climate agreement. In Hangzhou, on the eve of the G20, China greeted arriving American President Obama with the announcement. Together, the two nations account for 38% of the world’s carbon emissions. The Paris agreement’s goal is to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Will Christiana Figueres, chief architect of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and her words delivered on 6 April 2016 to the University of Massachusetts Boston at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, inspire the world to build a better 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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July 2, 2016
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Wider Water

Wider Water: the new Panama Canal. Image: wikimedia commons.

Nicaragua almost won; it was preferred until Phillipe Bunau-Varilla and William Nelson Cromwell delivered to the U.S. Congress 50 postage stamps issued by Managua proudly featuring the natural wonder of a volcano. Persuaded by apparent danger, Senator John Spooner proposed an amendment that authorized the purchase of the canal lease but switched location to an isthmus just south. Colombia owned the site: a down payment of $100 million for lease of the desirable strip, followed by $250, 000 per year thereafter, was offered, enhanced by the U.S. battleship Nashville. Colombia agreed: the Hay-Buneau-Varilla Treaty was signed, producing not just the canal agreement but also a new government for a new nation, named Panama. A flag was sewn overnight; a constitution was conveniently ready; $10 million went straight into the new treasury. On 3 November, 1903, Panama was born, a nation conceived by a canal. In 1914, the Panama Canal opened.

But in 100 years, shipping changed: some container ships grew too big to transit the waterway. In 2007, a new lane, stretching 77 km (48 miles) was dug, missing the centennial by two years, but opening on 26 June 2016. The first ship to float thru was the Andronikos, flying the flag of the Marshall Islands but owned by China Cosco Shipping Corporation: it won the honor by lottery. Wider locks, deeper channels, $6 billion dollars, labor disputes, construction delays: all these challenges were overcome. Ships with 14,000 containers can transit; before 5,000 was the limit. But nature may present a more serious issue, one that the canal cannot do without: water. A new draft limit was revised down from 12.2 meters to 11.89 (39 feet), due to drought. If the water levels rise, the draft allowance will return to the planned 15.2.

Bigger problems lurk. Ships are still growing; the latest models carry 18,000 containers — too large even for the new Panama. Will China again win the lottery? Builders of the world’s oldest, and longest, Grand Canal of China, are busy not far from Panama. Wider, deeper and longer than new Panama, a new waterway may open soon, with concern of environmentalists, and development by Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group, headed by Wang Jing, granted concession in 2013 for the Grand Canal of Nicaragua.

Thanks to Ernst G. Frankel, Cherie E. Potts, and Sheila M. Turney for suggestions.

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

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May 24, 2016
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City as Art

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

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

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

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

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