Building the World

March 22, 2018
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Water Day: Wear Blue

World Water Day: Wear Blue. Indigo, popular 5,000 years ago in the Indus Vally where the color gets its name, was called nila. The color dye was popular on the Silk Road. Image: wikimedia

World Water Day: March 22, 2018. We’re an increasingly thirsty world: by 2050, one-third of the planet will suffer water scarcity. Climate change intensifies problems: floods and drought are worse. More than 3 billion people suffer diminished access to water for at least one month each year due to drought: that number is set to increase by 2050 to 5 billion. Mitigating influences of forests and wetlands are vanishing: two-thirds have been cut or built upon since 1900, according to a study released by the United Nations. Rivers are polluted, with ten rivers identified as the major source of marine plastic debris. Think those problems are “elsewhere” and you may be alarmed to find 80% of tap water contains microplastics. What can you do, as an individual? Social scientists observe the original days of the week had a dedicatory purpose, still detectable in the names. For example, the Japanese day Suiyōbi is Wednesday, meaning Water Day. Should we rededicate the days of the week to raise awareness of our shared resources, including water? One fashion leader suggests wearing blue as a way to honor water. Would you consider dedicating one day each week to water?

Schlanger, Zoë. “We can’t engineer our way out of an impending water scarcity epidemic.” 21 March 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1234012/we-cant-engineer-our-way-out-of-an-impending-water-scarcity-epidemic/

World Water Day. http://worldwaterday.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 License

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January 13, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Statues as Exchanges

“William Whitner extends a hand.” Image: hmdb.org

Need a winter coat? Hat? Check the statue. Anderson, South Carolina, residents hang a spare coat or hat upon the extended arm of a statue of William Whitner. The South Carolinian is known to energy historians: after conferring with Nicola Tesla, Whitner harnessed power in nearby Rocky River shoals, soon expanding to the Portman Shoals of the Seneca River. The Portman Shoals Power Plant became Duke Energy. Whitner sided with alternating current champions Tesla and Westinghouse (and against direct current advocate Edison) in the “current war.” As a result, Anderson, SC, became known as “The Electric City” becoming the first urban center in the United States with a continuous supply of power. Later, the TVA would do so on a broader basis. Whitner is immortalized with a statue in the center of Anderson (other monuments in town could also serve). When Carey Jones, Main Street Program, saw homeless people lacking winter gear, he extended a hand by hanging a coat on Whitner’s bronze arm. Soon, town residents emulated the practice, making warm clothing readily available to all. Cities have an opportunity to combine public art with sharing outreach. Is there an extra coat in your closet? Maybe a statue near you might extend a hand? In Boston, could sculptor Nancy Shön’s “Make Way for Ducklings” serve as an exchange for children’s clothing?

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 23, 2015
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Let there be (a Liter of) Light

Isang Litrong Liwanag (Liter of Light) is an innovative program in the Philippines using discarded plastic beverage bottles, filled with a mixture of water and bleach, to produce illumination equivalent to 50-watts. Image: wikimedia commons.

Discarded liter bottles have sparked a revolution, bringing light to areas in need of illumination. In the Philippines, a national program called Isang Litrong Liwanag (Liter of Light) utilizes plastic bottles filled with a mixture of water and bleach to produce solar lights, yielding the equivalent of 50-watts of electricity. When typhoon Haiyan (Pagasa name, Yolanda) stormed Tacloban, capital of Leyte, leaving more than 6,000 people dead, the airport closed, and the city plunged into darkness, citizens illuminated homes and streets with the ingenious solar lights. When the Tennessee Valley Authority, whose motto was “Power to the People” made electricity widely available, a new town was built to demonstrate its uses. From toasters and refrigerators, to reading lamps, and porch lights, the town of Norris was built as employee housing for the workers of the TVA. Liter bottles also bring power to people in rural areas where access to the grid is nonexistent or intermittent; it is estimated that 40% of the people in some areas of the world are in such need. Credited with the invention is Brazilian innovator, Alfredo Moser. As solar energy becomes an increasingly important source of electricity for our world, should there be “demo” cities showcasing the power of the sun?

For Alfredo Moser, Brazilian innovator: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23536914

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 17, 2015
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Smart Grids, Smarter Cities

 

“City Lights.” Photographer: RadRafe. Image: wikimedia commons.

Thomas Edison opened the world’s first commercial electric grid in 1882, on Pearl Street, in New York City. Edison was a collaborative genius: he shared ideas, and a winter location, with Henry Ford; according to Edison & Ford Winter Estates Museum Curator, Mike Cosden, the friendship fostered many advances and achievements. Conveying use of a new technology is something George Norris pioneered: the “Father of the TVA” designed a new town to showcase household appliances powered by electricity provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 2015, Mannheim, Germany, has advanced electricity and technology, balancing supply with demand. Will Mannheim’s smart grid inspire smarter cities? Edison would be pleased.

http://ethw.org/Milestones:Pearl_Street_Station 

http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/

http://edison.rutgers.edu/digital.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/19/tech/smart-grid-mannheim/index.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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September 5, 2014
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City as Demo-graphic

Norris, Tennessee was built for TVA worker housing as a way to showcase uses of electricity. Image: Library of Congress.

Build it and they will come, perhaps thought Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska, United States, a proponent of public energy. Known as “father of the TVA,” Norris championed use of a new source of energy: hydroelectricity.Taking advantage of the necessity for Tennessee Valley Authority worker housing, Norris built a new town, designed around electricity. It was a success: people liked refrigerators, especially in the summer. The vision of “city as demo” may have been part of a swerve to an electricity-centered culture that created new industries, such as entertainment and home appliances, computers and smart phones, all things plug-in. Another example of city as demo might be Cyrene, where silphium silphium grew so popular the government put the plant’s image on currency; coins circulated, drawing people to the region. Does the city as demo still hold promise? Currently, many urban centers face expensive upgrading of aging infrastructure: why not take a leap into the future? Another opportunity might be building new capitals (with advanced systems including transport, energy, water) in areas vulnerable to earthquake. As urban landscapes are upgraded, or built anew, might some cities choose to be centers of smarter technologies, for a better environment?

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 28, 2014
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Water and Leadership

University of Massachusetts Boston. Image courtesy of www.umb.edu.

Should coastal universities, cities, and communities take the lead regarding the future of water? A breakthrough almost achieved by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) might be realized. Archives of Senator Morris K. Udall reveal issues considered by the United States’ Interior Committee during the 1930s’: scientists and engineers envisioned a way to desalinate water at cost of one cent per kilowatt-hour; this prediction has yet to achieved, although Singapore/Siemens may soon succeed. Another consideration: power and environment. Yet another – urban portals. Massachusetts’ great universities might consult the plan by Richard Williams, completed in 1775, now at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, for Boston‘s leadership.

For Senator Udall’s archives: http://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/collections/papers-morris-k-udall

For “A Plan of the city of Boston” by Richard Williams, 1775: Building the World, p. 824.

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 12, 2013
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Bright Idea – TVA

http://www.publicdomainfiles.com/images_view/51/13525742419998.png

Did the United States become a society driven by electricity because of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)? Tesla proved water could produce electricity;  the Hoover Dam, followed closely by the Tennessee Valley Authority, supplied it. But it took Norris town to show people how to use this new energy. Designed as housing for the women, men and families who came to the Knoxville area to work on the TVA, Norris was a showcase for electricity. At a time when few homes had wired power, the town offered refrigerators in every kitchen, and overhead lights on the porches of every house (porches were a hallmark of Tennessee life and remain popular today, evidenced by Porch Rocker and Parton songs). Well-lighted public schools invited new environments for learning. Peak/off-peak and low rate/high use policies were another innovation, encouraging development of all things electric. Can Norris and the TVA reveal ways to demonstrate products and power from new energy sources, such as solar? What is the next bright idea?

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 18, 2012
by zoequinn001
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The Civilian Conservation Corps

CCC boys constructing a fence, from Library of Congress at loc.gov.

Big Ridge State Park in Tennessee is a 3,687 acre wooded vacation spot with cycling, hiking trails, boating, camp grounds, and historic sites. Its creation (completed in 1937) was a collaboration amongst the Tennessee Valley Authority, the National Parks Service, and the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one of FDR’s New Deal programs in which young men from around the country were recruited in order to help create what is now the National Trail and Park systems of the United States, as well as help to recover and restore land that had been over farmed. In exchange for their work these young men received a few dollars a month, three square meals, clothing, and housing, which at the time of the Great Depression was quite an appealing way of life. The CCC had far-reaching implications for the United States, not only in the form of the still beloved National Parks, but in the generation it helped to foster and the impact these men had.

To learn more about the CCC and its relevance to today, watch PBS’s “American Experience: The Civilian Conservation Corps”:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/ccc/

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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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