Building the World

September 4, 2018
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Preserving World Heritage: Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel, World Heritage Site. Image: wikimedia

Abu Simbel, site of the great temple built by Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, in 13th century bce, crowned the Nubian valley bordering Egypt and Sudan. Nearby, the Nile River flows through Aswan to Cairo. It was just a few decades ago that engineers and archeologists saved Abu Simbel from a watery grave, somewhere at the bottom of Lake Nasser, reservoir formed by the 1960 construction of the High Dam at Aswan. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) rushed to save Abu Simbel: the temple was taken apart piece by piece, and moved to a site where it was reassembled like a giant Lego construction. February 22 (day Ramses took the throne) and 22 October (Ramses’ birthday) were highlighted by the alignment of the temple so that dawn’s light would illuminate Ramses’ statue, enshrined within. In September 1968, fifty years ago, the project stood completed as one of the premier World Heritage Sites. Success bred success: World Heritage sites followed including Cyrene, Angkor Wat, Lake Baikal, Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal, and the Statue of Liberty.

Kiniry, Laura. “Egypt’s exquisite temples that had to be moved.” 10 April 2018. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180409-egypts-exquisite-temples-that-had-t0-be-moved.

UNESCO. World Heritage Centre. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

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 18, 2018
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Volcanology and the Future

“Kilauea at Dusk,” photographed in 1983 by G.E. Ulrich, USGS. Image: wikimedia.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has been erupting, dangerously. But it is always in some form of activity, as one of the world’s most active volcanos, and is therefore heavily instrumented. Volcanic prediction is feasible, according to Paul Segall, professor of geophysics at Stanford University; whereas earthquakes, caused by similar disturbances below Earth’s surface, are less predictable. Volcanos may become an important factor in mitigating climate change. Here’s why:

Iceland is the site of CarbFix, exploring the future of carbon capture. When CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere, at a plant near Reykjavik’s Hellisheidi power station, it is pumped underground to combine with basalt. As a result, the combination becomes rock. In fact, the ancient Romans used volcanic ash to form a particular building material. Basalt contains calcium, magnesium, and iron – elements that bind easily with CO2; basalt is like a sponge for CO2. Could this be answer to Earth’s carbon crisis? Maybe – basalt is the most common rock type on the planet; it’s even found on the ocean floors. India, Saudi Arabia, and Siberia are particularly well-endowed. Problem? CarbFix is water-intensive, not ideal for the already thirsty water planet. It takes 25 tons of water to transform one ton of CO2. Humans cause the emission of 35 gigatons of CO2 (a gigaton is a billion tons) per year. But the potential encourages research by CarbFix partners including Columbia University in New York, National Center for Scientific Research in France, and Reykjavik Energy in Iceland. Theoretically, the amount of world basalt could store all the CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, since Prometheus.

Kilauea is a basaltic shield volcano, producing an eruptive form of basalt called Tholeiite, according to Ken Rubin, professor of geology and geophysics, University of Hawaii.  It’s the dominant basalt type on Earth. In the future, we may learn to work with volcanic basalt to combat CO2 emissions and build a better climate. Meanwhile, if you would like to give support to those in need, due to Kilauea’s recent eruption, here are some ways to help.

For more:

Ancheta, Dillon. “Here’s how to help those affected by the Big Island eruptions.” 5 May, updated 22 May, 2018. Hawaii News Now. http://www.hawaiinewsnowcom/story/38119223/heres-how-you-can-donate-to-those-impacted-by-the-kilauea-eruption/.

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Philosopher’s Stone?” 17 June 2018, Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2016/06/17/philosophers-stone/

CarbFix. https://www.or.is/carbfix

Perasso, Valeria. “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever.” 18 May 2018. BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-43789527/.

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, 2018
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Evolution of Rights: Environment

Should Trees Have Legal Standing? Image: virgin forest, wikimedia.

New Zealand declared personhood of the Whanganui River, sacred to the Maori and to the environment. Then India followed, establishing rights of two rivers: Ganges, and Yamuna, site of the Taj Mahal. Next, Colombia mandated the rights of the Atrato River, setting precedent for the Supreme Court of Colombia to assure an “intergenerational pact for the life of the Colombian Amazon.” It was the passion of children, 25 young citizens rising up to prevent further deforestation that had shown an increase of 44% between 2015-2016. Working with Dejusticia, the children petitioned the Colombian government and won, obtaining a tutela (legal regulation regarding rights). Bolivia has established perhaps the broadest environmental rights declaration: Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. How has climate change intensified the evolution of environmental rights?

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

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoe G. Quinn, “Rivers are People Too.” 24 March 2017. Building the World Bloghttp://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/03/24/rivers-are-people-too/

Cano, Lidia Pecharroman. “Rights of Nature: Rivers That Can Stand in Court.” 14 February 2018. Earth Institute, Columbia University. mdpi.com/2079-9276/7/1/13/pdf.

Colombia: Law STC 4360-2018, number 11001-22-03-000-2018-00319-01, approved 4 April 2018. https://www.dejusticia.org/en/climate-change-and-future-generations-lawsuit-in-colombia-key-excerpts-from-the-supreme-courts-decision/

India:https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-given-rights-people-india-180962639/

New Zealand:  Te Awa Tupua Claims Settlement Bill 129-2, 2016. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2016/0129/latest/DLM6830851.html

Stone, Christoper. “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” Southern California Law Review, 1972, No. 45, pp 450-501.https://iseethics.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/stone-christopher-d-should-trees-have-standing.pdf

Appreciation to Evan T. Litwin for suggestion of Colombian 2018 law.

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 26, 2017
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Fountain of Hope

Water is the hope of the MOF-801. Here, the largest floating fountain in Europe, Multimedia Fountain Roshen, Ukraine. Image: wikimedia.

Two-thirds of the earth’s population may soon need more water, especially in arid regions. Australia, India, North Africa, and areas of the United States and Mexico, to name but a few, are rich in sun but poor in water. Using the sun to power a metal-organic framework (MOF) that acts like a sponge to soak up humidity, Omar Yaghi of the University of California Berkeley and Evelyn Wang of MIT, and team, have developed MOF-801 that could be carried in a suitcase, set up in a solar view, and immediately produce enough water for a family of four.

Hyunjo Kim, Sungwoo Yang, Sameer R. Rao, Shankar Narayanan, Eugene A. Kapustin, Hiroyasu Furukawa, Ari S. Umans, Omar M. Yaghi, Evelyn N. Wang. “Water harvesting from air with metal-organic frameworks powered by natural sunlight.” Science, 13 April 2017: eaam8743. DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8743. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2017/04/12/science.aam8743/tab-figures-data/

Urieff, Kaya. “New solar-powered device makes water out of desert air.” 19 April 2017, CNN.com. http://cnnmon.ie/2pg50FR/

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 24, 2017
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Rivers are people, too

“Reflection of the Taj Mahal on the Yamuna River.” Image: wikimedia.

The first country in the world to give rights to a river was New Zealand: the Whanganui, the country’s longest, has received the environmental protection long sought by the Maori. Now, India has given human status and rights to two sacred rivers. The Ganges is protected, as is the river of the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan acquired the land near the Yamuna to use the river as a ‘keel’ to balance the massive iconic monument. How are the rights of a river represented? New Zealand’s river will be represented in legal matters by one of the Maori people and one representative of the crown government. India anticipates environmental rights will now be protected, having declared the Ganges and Yamuna are “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities.” Bolivia decreed the rights of Earth in Ley 071 de Derechos de la Madre Tierra.

For New Zealand’s Whanganui River’s legal status:  www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-zealand-river-just-got-legal-rights-person-180962579/ and To hear the Maori chant: “Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au.”: https://vimeo.com/76390994

For India’s Ganges and Yamuna Rivers and rights: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/court-gives-2-indian-rivers-same-rights-as-a-human/2017/03/21/fccb440

For Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, Law 071 of Bolivia: comunicacion.presidencia.gob.bo/docprensa/pdf/20121015-11/53-28.pdf.

For Pope Francis and environmental ethics: http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/07/09/environmental-wholiness/

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 7, 2016
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India and the Climate of Peace

Be the change you want to see: Gandhi. Image: wikimedia commons.

India has ratified the Paris Climate Agreement.  The land of the Taj Mahal has a sense of ceremony; the historic decision was taken on October 2, Gandhi’s birthday. Joining other carbon giants, China and United States who both ratified the agreement in September, India declared its intention to pursue “development without destruction.” India, accounting for 4.5 percent of carbon emissions becomes the 62nd nation to deliver a legal instrument of ratification. To date, enough countries have now joined and ratified that only 3 percent point more are needed to reach the 55 percent required; the 55-nation aspect has already been met and surpassed. It is predicted that the Climate Agreement will come into effect on 4 November 2016. Mahatma Gandhi’s message of humanism, environmentalism, and pacifism” is celebrated by the way and date of India’s ratification of the agreement to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. India set the goal of producing 40% of its electricity with non-fossil fuels by 2030. October 2 is also the International Day of Nonviolence.

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 2, 2016
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Let there be (f)light

“Icarus” by Blondel, Rotunda of Apollo, Louvre Museum. Image: wikimedia commons.

Icarus would be impressed. The Greek hero is famous for flying too close to the sun, but light and flight may now combine to improve the environment. Airports and runways are, by definition, open fields that prove ideal for solar power. Chochin, India is the site of the world’s first solar-powered airport. Welcoming 1,000 flights per day, the facility cost $9.5m to build, and benefits the environment as much as planting 3m trees. Prime Minister Narenda Modi announced a national goal of generating 100,000 megawatts by 2022; most parts of the land of the Taj Mahal receive 300 days of sunshine per year. The “Cochin” model is the first, but not the last: Africa has opened a solar-powered airport. Space solar power, pioneered by Peter Glaser, along with breakthrough technologies including nuclear fusion, may be on the agenda of energy change, advocated by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition announced in Paris at COP21 by Bill Gates. As NASA designs the new supersonic airplane to replace the Concorde, will new airfields be solar?

Menon, Supriya. “How is the world’s first solar powered airport faring?” 9 October 2015. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34421419

“George Airport in South Africa is Africa’s First and Only Regional Solar-Powered Airport.” 29 February 2016. HowAfrica.com. http://howafrica.com/a-first-for-africa-solar-powered-airport/

Breakthrough Energy Coalition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKIEXeS824o

Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston: https://www.umb.edu/news/detail/umass_boston_cop21_discuss_paris_at_sustainable_solutions_lab_event

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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December 11, 2015
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River from the Sky

Puja, ceremony of honoring the sacred, as seen in “Durga Puja” by Sevak Ram, 1809. Image: British Library Add.Or. 29

Jalwa Puja is a water ceremony, sacred to India, in which mothers welcome a new child with blessings at the village well. Baghwati Argrawal incorporated this and other customs, including naming reservoirs after community leaders, in the Rajastan project that collects and distributes rainwater. Argrawal calls the program, administered by Sustainable Innovations,  Aakash Ganga or River from the Sky. The system collects monsoon rains, channeling potential floods into treasured reservoirs. A rain collection system also irrigates gardens of the Taj Mahal. But what of areas where there is scarce percipitation? Will Graciela Schneier-Madanes and the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment, as presented at Fulbright Water Act 2015, guide the world’s dry regions? Can the University of Massachusetts Boston’s School for the Environment open a new vision? Most arid country on earth, Australia changed agriculture and irrigation while providing electricity via Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric. As UN Climate Change conference COP21 concludes, how can we sustain shared resources including water?

Kathleen Toner, CNN. “‘River from the Sky’ brings life-changing water.” 7 December 2015.

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 14, 2015
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Failure to Success: Roskilde

Architect Erick van Egeraat has designed a waste-to-energy plant to echo the iconic 13th century cathedral in Roskilde, Denmark. Image: wikimedia commons.

Europe’s inspirational great cathedrals, or Asia’s impressive Buddhist stupas, might be considered among the first skyscrapers. Like France’s Eiffel Tower, or India’s Taj Mahal, a new edifice in Denmark will define the landscape. Giving new meaning to spiritual fire by echoing the shape of the famous Roskilde Cathedral, Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat has designed a power plant transforming residential and industrial waste into electricity. Similar achievements may emerge from a new Harvard degree program combining engineering and design. Can art and architecture improve public acceptance of using waste to power the future, turning failure into success?

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 10, 2014
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Taj Mahal’s Beauty Treatment

Taj Mahal. Photo: wikimedia commons.

Monument to love and beauty, India’s Taj Mahal is getting a mud-pack: 2mm’s of thick clay, rich in lime, will be applied to the surface, and left overnight to dry; upon removal, a process involving gentle friction, stains or impurities will “exfoliate,” resulting in a brightening. India’s white marble icon has shown yellow stains recently, as nearby urban Agra generates increasing pollution, perhaps intensified by emissions from a nearby oil refinery. According to B M Bhatnagar of the Archeological Survey of India, the Taj Mahal’s treatment is derived from a facial mud-pack, developed by traditional local beauties perhaps descended from Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the Taj Mahal was built in 1653.

For more about the Taj Mahal’s treatment: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-27753788

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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