Building the World

September 21, 2020
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Let Your Voice Be Heard

“The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism,” states the declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations (UN). Founded after the tragedy of World War II, the UN has worked to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedom for all, in the context of sovereign equality of States and the right of self-determination for all. To participate in the 75th anniversary, see videos of presentations here.

Logo of the United Nations. Image: wikimedia.

Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic will require cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sets the theme: “Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive, and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.” The UN invites your ideas for the top three priorities of the future. Where would you like to see the world in 25 years, the 100th anniversry of the UN? Let your voice be heard in setting global priorities and shaping our future together:  take the survey.

United Nations. “The United Nations is running the largest ever global conversation as it turns 75 and wants to hear from you.” https://un75.online/#s2.

United Nations. “Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations,” September 2020. https://undocs/org/A/75/L.1.

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

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June 17, 2020
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ENERGY: Old wells, new problems, emerging solutions

Could biogas drive the future? Image: wikimedia.

Could the next vehicle you drive be powered not by gas from a drilled well but by a cleaner form of energy known as biogas or biomethane? Climate improvement may be encouraged by a solving a problem.

Oil well pump, Midland, Texas. Image: wikimedia.

Oil wells – part of the 20th century landscape – are not only becoming a relic of the past, they are now a menace to the future. Old wells, once dry of oil, continue to emit pollution. More recently, other kinds of wells have been opened for hydraulic fracturing, sometimes called fracking, uses water to power invasive drilling to release oil and gas locked in rock formations. Drillers use underground water, promising to seal off the well. But what happens when the fracking site is no longer productive? Millions of older fracking wells are now starting to leak pollutants. And now, with the renewable energy becoming competitive in price and superior in environmental quality, wells are becoming antiquated. Moreover, the fossil fuel energy industry is stressed by dropping oil prices due to the 2020 viral pandemic: people are driving less; planes are parked in airports. Energy company bankruptcies are growing. Sometimes companies sell the wells to a new owner who then resells, and finally when it is no longer productive, the well is abandoned. No one is responsible for clean-up, since the original builder of the well has long since moved on.

Methane, a dangerous and long-lived pollutant in the atmosphere, is one of the greenhouse gases regulated by the Kyoto Protocol. Image: wikimedia.

According to the Groundwater Protection Council, “orphaned wells” are beginning to leak methane. Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) flagged methane from abandoned oil and gas wells as an emerging global risk, in an April 2020 report. Worldwide, there may be 29 million abandoned gas and oil wells. Canada, where oil sands mining prevails, reported 313,000 abandoned wells emitting 10 kilotons of methane. The United States has 2 million abandoned wells: most were never properly sealed. China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia (the three other large oil and gas producers, along with Canada and USA) have not revealed their methane leakage from wells. Even small amounts of methane pose dangers. The United States reports methane as the cause of 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, but methane is 84 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in the first two decades of release, and 28 times over a century’s timeframe. Methane is one of the seven greenhouse gases regulated under the Kyoto Protocol: the list includes carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (JFCs), per fluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphurhexaflouride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NFc). These gases are dangerous because they are stable, meaning they stay in the atmosphere once released. Methane has been identified as responsible for 25% of global warming.

Capturing methane in a biogas sytem. Image: wikimedia

Yet methane is a valuable energy source, when harnessed. One possible solution: biogas (biomethane). Biomethane is formed by decomposing organic substances like agricultural or animal waste, even sewage. With upgrades, biogas can achieve an energy productivity equal to natural gas. Biogas can be recovered from waste treatment plants and refined to renewable natural gas (RNG) to generate electricity or even power car. Another method: fuel cell technology using waste; there is no combustion, so no exhaust and related pollution. A sample project using biogas to power fuel cells can be found in Fountain Valley, California; Apple uses fuel cell energy from Bloom Energy.

As the world emerges from the coronona virus pandemic, countries are funding re-entry for businesses, cities, and states. Is 2020 the time to seize the opportunity to capture methane from old wells as the energy sector rebuilds?

Dlouhy Jennifer A “EPA Seeks to Abandon Regulation of Methane Leaks From Oil Wells.” 29 August 2019. Bloomberg News. TransportTopics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles/epa-seeks-abandon-regulation-methane-leaks-oil-wells.

Groom, Nichola. “Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace.” 16 June 2020. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-drilling-abandoned-specialreport/special-report-millions-of-abandoned-oil-wells-are-leaking-methane-a-climate-menace-idUSKBN23N1NL

Kyoto Pr

The World Energy Foundation. “Methane Capture and Use as a Clean Energy Source.” 16 June 2015. https://theworldenergyfoundation.org/methane-capture-and-use-as-clean-energy-source/.

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April 22, 2020
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Earth Day 2020: Golden Anniversary, Golden Opportunity

“Blue Marble.” Image: NASA.gov.

If the coronavirus crisis has shown one thing, it is that our society is not sustainable,” stated Greta Thunberg, climate activist who spoke on Earth Day 2020 with Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute and earth systems scientist. There is a correlation between the health crisis and the environmental crisis: deforestation has threatened wildlife habitat, allowing virus and disease to leap species; air pollution has weakened human respiratory systems, making people more vulnerable; air travel has promoted rapid spread of disease. According to Rockström, “We are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet.

Post-pandemic, Earth’s global community should set new goals:

  1. Create new jobs in clean, renewable energy;
  2. Invest in the future rather than the past;
  3. Incorporate climate risk into the financial system;
  4. Promote international cooperation.

Today is Earth Day’s golden anniversary, celebrated on the 50th year. The pause caused by the pandemic has given us a new view of what is possible. Energy has already changed. An unprecedented amount of money has poured into recovery and rebuilding. How can we use this golden anniversary as a golden opportunity?

Rockström, Johan. @jrockstrom.

Thunberg, Greta. @GretaThunberg.

Watts, Jonathan. “Earth Day: Greta Thunberg  2020 Calls for a New Path after Pandemic.” 22 April 2020, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/22/earth-day-greta-thunberg-calls-for-new-path-after-pandemic

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April 20, 2020
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ENERGY: Funding the Future

How should we spend the money of hope? Image: wikimedia.

THE MONEY OF HOPE

In the early part of 2020, the entire globe went into lockdown, suffered a plague of sickness and death that took lives and livelihoods of those in every corner of the world. In an urgent response, money on an unprecedented scale has entered the global economy.

Economic stimulus, large deposits of cash and loans, initiated to save national and global economies, present opportunity. How countries direct their bailouts may determine the future. Never again will so much money be readily available to rebuild the world. Let’s take a look at some examples:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$700 billion pledged in asset purchases or quantitative easing (QE)

Federal funds rate: 0-0.25%

Discount window rate: cut by 150 basis points

Unlimited QE, including purchase of corporate and municipal bonds

Six months of allowing foreign central banks to access U.S. dollars for overnight dollar loans

$2.3 trillion to support local governments, small-mid businesses, with 4-year loans to enterprise with up to 10,000 staff

$2.2 trillion aid package (27 March 2020) with $500 billion for suffering industries and direct payments to individuals ($1200) and families (up to $3,000)

EUROPEAN UNION

120 billion euros ($130 billion) added to asset-purchase program of 20 billion euros per month

750 billion euros in QE, adding to existing with total of 1.1 trillion euros

Eliminated cap on number of bonds EU could buy from any Eurozone country

Cut interest on Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) by 25 basis points to -0.75% (12 March 2020)

Suspended limits of EU government borrowing

Allowed credit line equal to 2% of national GDP from European Stability Mechanism (ESM) fund

European Investment Bank lending 200 billion euros to businesses

ESM freeing up 240 billion Europe of credit to governments

Total of 3.2 trillion euros: including provisions to cut company working hours rather than jobs

Berlin, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

GERMANY

750 billion euros total: with 100 billion for economic stability fund with direct stake in businesses

100 billion euros for public-sector development bank

400 billion euros to secure corporate debt vulnerable to default

FRANCE

300 billion euros guaranteed for corporate borrowing from commercial banks

45 billion euros to shore up businesses and employees

ITALY

400 billion euros of liquidity and bank loans to businesses

25 billion euros to suspend mortgage and loan repayments for families and companies, and funds for firms to pay workers on furlough or layoff.

SPAIN

200 billion euros divided in half with 50% government-backed credit for businesses/50% to help vulnerable people

700 million euros program to suspend evictions for six months after emergency is lifted

UNITED KINGDOM

200 billion pounds ($248 billion) of bond purchases

interest rate cut to 0.10% Bank of England

Bank of England doubled corporate bond purchase program to 20 billion pounds

Bank of England pledge to buy commercial paper with maturity of up to 1 year for businesses with pre-crisis investment grade credit

330 billion pounds in loan guarantees to business including paying 80% of staff salaries

Allowing businesses to temporarily retain 30 billion pounds of VAT (value added tax)

CANADA

Reduced overnight interest rates to 0.25%

Pledged purchase of Government of Canada securities – C$5 billion per week

C$50 billion credit for insured mortgages

C$10 billion for business support

C$150 billion for morgtages

C$55 billion for tax deferrals for businesses and families

C$27 billion aid for workers and low-income households

Government payment of up to 75% of salaries for workers in small and mid-sized businesses

Japan. Image: wikimedia.

JAPAN

Bank of Japan one-year zero-rate program to financial insitutions

Y430 billion for small and mid-sized businesses

Funding upgrades of medical facilities

Pay working parents forced to take leave due to school closures

Stimulus package of Y108 trillion ($993 billion) with cash payouts to households, small businesses; total package is equal to 20% of Japan’s economic output

CHINA

Yuan 2.8 trillion for infrastructure investment, backed by local bonds (19 March).

People’s Bank of China cut reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for small banks by 100 basis points. Worth about 400 billion yuan; cut will be in two phases, 15 April then 15 May 2020.

500 billion yuan ($71 billion) for re-lending and re-discount quotas

350 billion yuan for increased loan quota for businesses

Cut cash reserve requirements for banks, releasing 550 billion yuan

Also ruled: expand budget deficit, issue more bonds, drop interest rates, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks, and encourage renewed consumption

INDIA

1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) for food security and direct cash transfers. (26 March)

Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.40%

SOUTH KOREA

100 trillion won economic rescue package (7 April) including 29 trillion won in loans to small and mid-sized businesses, and 20 trillion won to buy corporate bonds and commercial paper

36 trillion won in loans to exporters hurt by virus shutdown

9.1 trillion won ($7.5 billion) cash payments to most families

17.7 trillion won to boost consumption

INDONESIA

$24.9 billion for social welfare to 10 million household for food and energy discounts, and 3 percentage point cut in corporate tax rate (to 22%)

Bank Indonesia cut seven-day reverse repurchase rate to 25 basis points to 4.50%

Central bank cut reserve requirement ratio by 200 bps for banks (and 50 bps for Islamic banks)

AUSTRALIA

A$90 billion ($56 billion) funding for banks at rate of 0.25%

A$15 billion program for residential mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities

Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates in two steps for total to 0.25%, and introduced QE with a target of 0.25% for bond yields

A$66 billion for companies and welfare

A$17 billion for apprentices, small business, retirees

A$130 billion for wage support for 6 million workers

A$715 million support for airlines

Sydney Opera House, Australia. Image: wikimedia.

BRAZIL

1.2 trillion reals ($231 billion) for central bank purchase of bank loan portfolios, repurchases of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds

150 billion reals for most vulnerable people and jobs

51 billion reals to allow companies affected by virus to reduce worker pay and hours, with a goal of preserving jobs (1 April)

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) cut rate by 100 basis points to 5.25%, and then reduced again (14 April 2020) to 4.25%

1.2 billion rand ($66 million) for small farms to keep up food production

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

$50 billion to help low-income and emerging market countries

“The Great Lockdown Economic Retraction: A global map of the outlook of retraction and growth of nations across the world for 2020.” From IMF Outlook. Image: Foxterria, Wikimedia.

FUNDING THE FUTURE

Add up all those stimulus packages, monetary funds, loans, and that’s a lot of money, much of it supporting business interest rates and workers’ jobs. Yet, with the exception of instances where the industry is targeted (agriculture, transport, finance), there are few stipulations on how the money should be directed. For example, there could be payments and supportive programs for innovations in energy or water, decarbonizing transport, or reducing air pollution.

While the 2020 coronavirus is an acute crisis, and climate change is a chronic crisis, both require response. Over the past decades, we have talked about climate change, but taken too little action. Part of the reason is funding. Without the urgent public health crisis and resultant shutdown, the world would never have allocated so much money to rebuild economic life. Yet, there it is. Now.

Yes, there has been disaster response to unfortunate hot-spots suffering tsunami or hurricane damage, earthquake or fire devastation. But that was in a region. Yes, there has been systemic change, world-wide, in some industries due to disaster; after 9/11, airports and security changed permanently, but that was just one sector.

In 2020, the whole world changed at once. With everyone hit by the corona virus, new ways of communicating and working evolved. Cities rethought transport. Fossil fuel loss dropped and cities saw cleaner air. Sadly, it was all due to death and sickness. But as a result, to rebuild after the virus, every country on earth has raised new money, and new hope.

Where money goes to an industry, how can that sector direct renewal to the future we know is coming: de-carbonized and sustainable? Of course, some of the funds must support present production lines and supply-chains, but surely a percentage could be directed forward to future goals.

What would you do with this one-time funding to rebuild the world?

Sources:

Cash, David and Rebecca Herst, “Covid-19 and Climate: Policy and Practice.” 22 April 2020. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/news_events_media/events/covid_19_and_climate_policy_and_practice

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. A Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 978052658351

International Monetary Fund. “IMF makes available $50 billion to help address the coronavirus.” 4 March 2020. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/04/sp030420-imf-makes-available-50-billion-to-help-address-coronavirus?mod=article_inline.

Ivanova, Maria. “Coasts and Communities.” Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, National Science Foundation. University of Massachusetts Boston, Center for Global Governance and Sustainability, Global Environmental Governance Project. https://www.umb.edu/igert/about.

Reuters, “Factbox: Global economic policy response to coronavirus crisis.”  14 April 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-economy-factbox/factbox-global-economic-policy-response-to-coronavirus-crisis-idUSKCN21W2AJ

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691149097

Appreciation to the University of Massachusetts Boston, especially Dean David Cash, Professor Maria  Ivanova, and Director Rebecca Herst.

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

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September 20, 2019
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ENERGY: Fridays for Future

Will the Global Climate Strike Turn the Tide? Image: wikimedia.

September 20, 2019: millions of young people around the world gathered to protest the lack of action in recognizing, and acting to stop, climate change. It was a Friday unlike any other. Early estimates show wide turnout of three million “and that is before counting North and South America” tweeted Greta Thunberg. Overall, there were 2,500 events in 163 countries on seven continents.

Greta Thunberg. Photo: wikimedia.

Summarized by climate activist Greta Thunberg: “Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action, then we will.” Thunberg, nominated for the Nobel Prize, began “Fridays for Future” by taking that day off from school to stand in front of the Swedish Parliament. Thus began a movement.

Flag of United Nations. wikimedia.

September 23, 2019: Will the world listen to the voices of its future leaders? What will the present world leaders, gathering for the United Nations Climate Action Summit do? Find out, here.

September 27, 2019: the next strike. Register here: Fridays for Future.

Al Jazeera. “‘No Planet B’: Millions take to streets in global climate strike.” 21 September 2019. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/planet-thousands-join-global-climate-strike-asia-190920040636503.html.

#FridaysForFuture. https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

Sengupta, Somini. “Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike.” 20 September 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/climate/global-climate-strike.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Trannell, Kendall, Scottie Andrew, Nathaniel Meyerson. “These are the companies supporting the global climate strike.” 20 September 2019. CNN.com/business.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/19/business/climate-strike-companie-trnd/index.html.

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September 12, 2019
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Voice of the Future 2019: Nature

“Under the Trees,” by Tomas Moran, 1865. Image: wikimedia.

Should trees have standing? What about rivers? Nature’s rights are being recognized and legalized. Recently, Colombia established rights of the Atrator River and surrounding basin; India tried to grant personhood to the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, citing as precedent New Zealand’s law recognizing rights of the Whanganui River. Voters in Toledo, Ohio, USA approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, giving legal status and assurance to exist, flourish, and evolve to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. In both India and USA, the laws were immediately challenged and still to be resolved. On a larger scale, Bolivia passed the Law of the Rights of Mother Nature/Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra. In climate change, Nature may be the Voice of the Future. Listen as the Māori celebrate Whanganui River rights (Te Awa Tupua); hear the Waiata, Nature’s voice of the future.

Athens, A. K. “An Indivisible and Living Whole: Do We Value Nature Enough to Grant it Personhood?” Ecology Law Quarterly; 45, 18, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.15779/Z38251FK44

Corte Constitucional, Republica de Colombia. “Acción de Tutela para la Protección de Derechos Colectivos cuando Existe Vulneración de Derechos Fundamentales.” Sentencia T-341/16. http://www.corteconstitucional.gov.co/relatoria/2016/t-341-16.htm. For English language text, https://delawarelaw.widener.edu/files/resources/riveratratodecisionenglishdrpdellaw.pdf.

Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. “Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra.” https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

Morris, J.D.K and J. Ruru. “Giving Voice to Rivers: Legal Personality as a Vehicle for Recognising Indigenous Peoples’ Relationship to Water?” Vol. 14, No. 2,2010. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AILRev/2010/22.pdf

New Zealand Legislation. “Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act.” 20 March 2017. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0007/latest/whole.html. Witness the vote and hear the Waiata, Māori song of celebration: https://youtu.be/BXOIFd-4Kpo.

Ohio, Toledo. “Ruling on Lake Erie.” https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/DrewsErie.pdf

Stone, C. “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward legal rights of natural objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972), pp. 450-501.

Stone, C. Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment.3rd edition 2010. (originally published in 1973). Oxford University Press. ISBN-13: 978199736072; ISBN-10: 0199736073.

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

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January 18, 2019
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Food for Thought (and 10 Billion People)

Menu of the future dish: celery, olives, and walnuts on a nest of zucchini noodles with fresh tomato sauce and spinach garnish. Source: Shahmai.org. wikimedia.

World population is growing: soon, we will need to feed 10 billion people. Globally, 820 million go hungry every day; 150 million children suffer from long-term hunger and nutritional deprivation. Conversely, 2 billion adults are overweight or obese; diet-related diabetes, heart diseases and and cancer are leading causes of death. How to balance the world’s food supply? Current levels and some choices of consumption (such as items popular in fast-food menus or backyard barbecues) are not sustainable. For example, the common hamburger: beef cattle use more grazing land, consume more water, and emit more methane, an environmentally damaging gas, than any other meat.

You don’t have to be a vegan to follow the PLANETARY HEALTH DIET. Red meat: one burger, per week. Chicken and fish: twice a week. Dairy: one glass of milk, per day. Nuts: 50g per day. Chickpeas, lentils, beans: 85g per day. Fruits and veggies: 250g per day.

According to nutritional and environmental scientists, this diet will improve everyone’s health and save the planet: 11 million people die each year from dietary causes. Meat and dairy use too much land: livestock emit 15% of greenhouse gases. Agriculture and food production consume 70% of global freshwater sources for irrigation. Find out more about the future of sustainable food: EAT-Lancet Commission’s Planetary Health Diet . How can cities support sustainable food? Should educational and medical dining facilities in schools and hospitals be among the first adopters of the menu of the future?

EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health. https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/

EAT-Lancet, “Brief for Cities.” https://eatforum.org/initiatives/the-eat-lancet-commission/brief-for-cities/

Gallagher, James. “A bit of meat, a lot of veg – the flexitarian diet to feed 10bn,” BBC News. 17 January 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46865204.

Willett, Walter et al. “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food system.” 16 January 2019. The Lancet. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140.

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April 22, 2018
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Earth Day : End Plastic Pollution

Earth Day. Image: wikimedia commons.

It’s Earth Day – the largest secular observance in the world. Inaugurated as a national “teach-in” on the environment, the 1970’s movement launched the United States Environmental Protection Agency; Clean Air, Clean Water Act; and Endangered Species Act. Why is Earth Day celebrated on April 22? Founder Senator Gaylord Nelson, with CongressPerson Pete McCloskey and Professor Denis Hayes who picked the April date as “falling between Spring Break and Final Exams,” drew 20 million people on the first Earth Day in 1970; the first Global Earth Day in 1990 engaged 200 million participants. The year 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day: that’s just over 100 weeks away – what will you do to participate? Meanwhile, each Earth Day has a theme: this year: End Plastic Pollution.  It’s timely: 80% of tap water contains plastic. There are solutions: 90% of ocean plastic comes from just 10 rivers; banning plastic straws can help. Sign the pledge to end plastic pollution here.

“End Plastic Pollution: Earth Day 2018 Campaign.” Earth Day NetWork. https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/plastics-campaign/

“It’s Earth Day: Look Up!” 22 April 2017. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/04/22/its-earth-day-look-up.

“(Re)New Earth Day.” 22 April 2016. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2016/04/22/renew-earth-day/

“Year of the Tree.” 27 April 2016. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingheworld/2016/04/27/year-of-the-tree/

“Earth Day: Social Power.” 22 April 2015. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/04/22/earth-day-social-power/

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June 26, 2015
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(Fore)casting upon the Waters

Lake Chad: Then and Now. Image: wikimedia commons.

The world’s 37 largest aquifers are shrinking. These waters of life support 2 billion people. Scientists and governments worry about overstress, a condition simply stated: more water goes out than comes in. Unlike aboveground water resources, such as Lake Mead or Lake Chad, whose shrinkage is more discernible, aquifers are difficult to measure. But a recent study by NASA confirms fears. According to Jerad Bales, chief scientist for water of US Geological Survey, issues of land ownership and water rights may be challenged by public need. Utrecht, Netherlands, is the location for the Rikswaterstaat, and also Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University where Marc Bierkens’ research indicates that 20% of the world’s population is sustained by crops irrigated by groundwater. What can and should we do now, to protect water resources (especially aquifers) for the 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.

For more:

“World’s aquifers draining rapidly,” by Felicity Barringer, June 26, 2015, New York Times. Suggested by Zoe G. Quinn with appreciation.

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May 12, 2015
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Frackin’ Bakken

Photographer: Alfred T. Palmer. Image: Library of Congress.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” pierces land to access oil and gas in rock formations by injecting chemicals mixed with water, drawn from underground aquifers. To fracture rock, water must gush: a virtual firehose spitting harsh chemicals, propelled by as many as 10,000,000 gallons before the well is even operational. Aquifers are already challenged, in an increasingly thirsty world.  In North Dakota, Bakken may be the test case for what works (and doesn’t). Drinking and agricultural water have, in some locations, become contaminated, even radioactive.

Artists led by Yoko Ono successfully protested New York State’s possible participation, but, despite such victories, the war might heading in fracking’s favor. Proponents of the propellant technology claim shale energy is cleaner than coal, and large deposits, like Bakken, Marcellus or Eagle Ford, could make the United States energy independent for the next 100 years. But then what?

Michael McElroy and Xi Lu propose a strategy of natural gas as a transition to renewable energy (with CO2 emissions reduced 80% ) by 2050. What can we learn from water energy agreements, such as the Colorado River Compact or Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, regarding the future of fracking? Will 2015, culminating year of the United Nations Decade of Water, occasion progress?

For more:

Chester Dawson, “Leak of Oil-Well Wastewater Taints River in North Dakota.” The Wall Street Journal, Jan 22, 2015.http://www.wsj.com/articles/bakken-shale-oil-well-wastewater-leak-taints-river-in-north-dakota-1421977006

http://artistsagainstfracking.com/

Joseph Stromberg, “Radioactive Wastewater From Fracking Is Found in a Pennsylvania Stream.” Oct 2, 2013, Smithsonian.com.http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/radioactive-wastewater-from-fracking-is-found-in-a-pennsylvania-stream-351641/?no-ist

Michael McElroy and Xi Lu, “Fracking’s Future: Natural gas, the economy, and America’s energy prospects.” Harvard Magazine, Jan-Feb 2013.http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/01/frackings-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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