Building the World

September 30, 2017
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Canals: building the future

Caño Martín Peña  may offer a vision for the future. Help Puerto Rico now. Image: wikipedia.

Caño Martín Peña stretches 3.75 miles linking wetlands and canals to rivers meeting the sea of San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico. In 2004, eight communities along the canal incorporated to protect the canal, and dredge the channel; in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership issued a nueva vida – new life- vision for the canal. Rebuilding Puerto Rico, after recent hurricane destruction, may increase awareness of canals in flood mitigation. According to Inland Waterways International, canals create economic and environmental benefits, as well as locally-generated electric power. The World Canal Cities Organization recently met in Shaobo, China to explore the Grand Canal, busiest in the world, and building block of the Belt and Road InitiativePanama and Suez are also notable. The Erie Canal opened the United States to a new era of development; the New York Canal Corporation worked with the World Canals Conference to host the 2017 conference on the Erie Canal in Syracuse, New York. What should the future hold for the world’s canals? How might Puerto Rico lead the way? Enlace and the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project aim to improve 6,600 acres of the San Juan Bay, and the lives of those near its waters. In the future, canals may help coastal cities weather rising seas, allowing the water in as in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico looks for help now, and leadership in the future, perhaps including a new vision of canals.

To help Puerto Rico:https://www.consumerreports.org/charitable-donations/how-you-can-help-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico/ and http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/can-help-hurricane-victims-puerto-rico/

Urban Waters Federal Partnership, “New Life for the Martín Peña Channel.”https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/martinpenabackgrounder_0.pdf

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

Kimmelman, Michael. “Going With the Flow.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/arts/design/flood-control-in-the-netherlands-now-allows-sea-water-in.html?mcubz=3

Inland Waterways International, “World Wide Waterways.” http://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/blog/

New York Canal Corporation, http://www.canals.ny.gov

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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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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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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April 7, 2015
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PanAmerican MagLev

“Ciudad de Panama de noche” image: wikimedia commons.

Cumbre de las Americas, 2015 Summit of the Americas, in the panel on “Infrastructure, Logistics and Connectivity: Bringing the Americas Together,” could inaugurate a new vision for the Pan American Highway. Planned as a railway, the route might realize its original vision, with designs by Ernst Frankel, Frank Davidson, and Elon Musk. Could the PanAmerican MagLev take inspiration from Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Vactrain? The 2015 Summit convenes in Panama, renowned for success of the Panama Canal. Should Panama propose an elevated mag-lev train to improve the environment, and unite the Americas in La Via Panamericana?

http://svc.summit-americas.org/?q=vii_mandates

http://www.oas.org/en/default.asp

https://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-101207-130034/unrestricted/IQP.pdf

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/69842/warren-kelchner/the-pan-american-highway

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, 2014
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Did a Postage Stamp Change History?

Nic-205var

Image: paperheritage.co.uk.

Did a postage stamp change history? When Phillipe Bunau-Varilla delivered a postal issue featuring a Nicaraguan volcano, thereby swinging the vote, Senator John Spooner immediately proposed an amendment switching the lease to create the Panama Canal. But now Nicaragua may re-emerge in the competition, as a new transitway wider, longer, and deeper has been authorized.  The Nicaraguan route will also feature a bridge to span the waterway, creating more transportation options. However, denizens of the region, where the new waterway is proposed, are raising questions regarding many aspects including effects on the environment. There still may be eruptions: of protest.

For more:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-30140244

http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2014/07/11/nicaragua-v-panama/

Thanks to Zoe G. Quinn for suggestions on this post.

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 11, 2014
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Nicaragua v. Panama

Panama and Nicaragua will both offer canals. Image: wikimedia.

Nicaragua, once intended site for a canal that changed location due in part to a postage stamp, has announced the building of a waterway that will challenge the Panama Canal. The controversial decision weighs benefits of employment and commerce with environmental and other concerns. What might Nicaragua learn from Panama and Suez?

For more on the proposed Nicaraguan canal:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-28206683

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/14/nicaragua-canal-repercuss_n_4445707.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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May 3, 2014
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Horse that Changed History

Kentucky Derby winner, 1912. Image: wikimedia.org.

When friends pitched their tent against a high wall to shelter from winds, during their reunion expedition, campfire conversation soon accelerated to boasts and dares. To prove his point, one of the group jumped upon his steed, prepared for a gallop and jumped the wall. No one else dared attempt such a feat. The party’s organizer offered the horse-rider anything in his power to grant. The answer: permission to build the Suez Canal. It was thus that Mohammed Pasha al-Said of Egypt gave authorization to Ferdinand de Lesseps to build the Suez Canal. Many years later, a very different story resulted in a very different canal, Panama. First envisioned by Sesostris, used by the Egyptians in 1380 BCE, connected to the Red Sea a millennium later by Ptolemy Philadelphus, the Suez Canal opened to great fanfare in 1869. Verdi’s opera “Aida” was commissioned to celebrate the waterway.

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 25, 2013
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Alaska Highway – Environment

Alaska — Image from Wikimedia Commons

A cooperative endeavor undertaken by Canada and the United States, the Alaska Highway was dreamt of from the days of the Yukon gold rush, sketched a half century later, and finally built during a military emergency. It was one of the earliest attempts at homeland security. The arduous road, likened in difficulty to building the Panama Canal, challenged 16,000 workers for 1400 miles through frost, mud, and bogs in the 1940s. For the fascinating story of how the road was actually built, see (www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/introduction/alaska/). Today, together with the Alaska Pipeline, the northern territory faces another emergency, climate change. The polar bear has become a symbol of the environment of Alaska and the northern treasures of our world. How should we protect and preserve Alaska in the midst of environmental change?

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, 2013
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Public Health — Panama Canal

Panama Canal public health programs reduced malaria, spread by mosquitoes. Image: World Health Organization

Do you know how malaria got its name and how the Panama Canal helped to reduce the dreaded disease? Originally thought to be caused by “bad (mal) air (aria),” the term was coined in Italy’s marshlands. Frenchman Alphonse Laveran pioneered health science on malaria. But the breakthrough came when British scientist Sir Ronald Ross, inspired by Laveran’s work, on August 20, 1897, in Secunderabad, India, determined the role of mosquitoes in transmitting the condition. Sir Ronald was so excited he wrote both a scientific article and a poem about the discovery, perhaps one of the first instances of poetry composed by a pioneering scientist. Ross’ work was followed by Americans in Havana, Cuba, to combat malaria and yellow fever; the effort was lead by Surgeon Major W.C. Gorgas, United States Army. In 1904, the Isthmian Canal Commission invited Gorgas to visit the construction site for the Panama Canal, an area prone to malaria, with a rainy season lasting nine months in a tropical environment. Gorgas reduced the percentage of malaria-infected canal workers from 9% in 1905 t0 5% in 1906, and finally to 1.6% in 1909. Working with Gorgas, Joseph Augustin LePrince, developed a larvacide mixture; Samel T. Darling introduced a daytime tent inspection program that was simple yet highly effective. The Panama Canal did not, unfortunately, eliminate malaria, but its integrated mosquito control program set a new model for public health. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (http://www.gatesfoundation.org) and Partners in Health (www.pih.org/) are among today’s leaders in conquering malaria. How can public health be improved through large-scale efforts such as public works?

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