Building the World

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

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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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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April 13, 2020
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TRANSPORT: Trains as Mobile Medical System

India is rebuilding trains as rolling hospital wards, refitting coaches into care facilities with 16 beds. Indian Railways is modifying 20,000 carriage coaches, for a total of 320,000 new isolation pods, announcing the program on the same week COVID-19 cases increased by 1,637 infections and 38 deaths. Sports stadiums are also being deployed: Assam’s Sarusajai stadium will hold 1,000 patients, while Chandigarth’s complex will become a temporary jail to impound those who violate lockdown policy. (Singh 2020).

India’s rail system. Image: wikimedia.

Using trains for public health and education is not a new idea. When the Canadian Pacific Railway opened, special purpose carriages were a regular part of the route. Trains brought health care and education to previously unreachable places. Children saw a teacher once-a-week in a classroom car, then homeschooled until the next whistle stop. The Trans-Siberian railway and Russia’s rail system offered options like mobile therapy.

FIVE REASONS FOR USING TRAINS AS MOBILE MEDICAL SYSTEM

Trains, with their flexible number of carriages, can be configured to custom purposes.

Another factor? Speed and access. Amtrak is the only railroad in North America that holds right-of-way service speed: many stretches of track are certified and maintained for speeds up to 100+ miles per hour (160+ kph) on routes with no other traffic.

A third factor? Idle. With the advent of air travel and the building of the United States Federal Highway System, trains were already second class. Add stay-at-home lockdowns and social distancing for those few who must travel, and you’ve got a lot of idle equipment.

A fourth factor? Expensive to maintain idle. Planes, buses, and trains are all idle. Planes can be parked, buses can use roads already serviced for general vehicles. But trains require tracks and that means specialized maintenance.

A fifth factor? Subsidized, anyway.

“Red Cross Train, France” by Harold Septimus Power, 1918. Imperial War Museum, Art.IWM.ART 1031 Wikimedia

Proposal: use Amtrak train network as a mobile medical system. India shows that trains can easily be retrofitted as hospital wards, isolation units. And why not rolling ventilator-ready beds with the respiratory equipment already installed? Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York will send medical equipment to the next peak place. The virus is a rolling phenomenon: a rolling response is a good option.

Amtrak system map. Image: wikimedia

The United States Transcontinental Railroad once transformed and united a country. Now, can rails help address the virus crisis? Afterwards, American rail needs rebuilding, anyway; repurposing medical cars will offer a chance to rethink Amtrak. Will Japan’s Shinkansen, upgraded with maglev trains reaching 374 mph for the Tokyo Olympics, be an inspiration? One hopeful step is Amtrak’s strategic agreement with Alstom (2016) to produce 28 next-gen equipment to replace the Acela Express now entering 20 years of service. The new transit format is due to roll out in 2022, a timeframe parallel with virus response needed now. Many countries have train systems; this idea is scalable. But at the moment, the United States is experiencing an urgent medical crisis. We need every idea and every option. Let’s use sections of Amtrak as a mobile medical system.

Alstom. “Alstom to provide Amtrak with its new generation of high-speed train.” 26 August 2016. https://www.alstom.com/press-releases-news/2016/8/alstom-to-provide-amtrak-with-its-new-generation-of-high-speed-train/

Amtrak.https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/corporate/nationalfactsheets/National-Fact-Sheet-FY2016-0717.pdf

Congressional Budget Office. “Federal Subsidies for Rail Passenger Service: An Assessment of Amtrak.” https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2018-10/41955-Amtrak.pdf

Japan Rail. “New Maglev Trains for Debut at Tokyo Olympics” Tokyo Summer Olympics Guide. https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/tokyo-2020-olympics.

Singh, Charanjit. “India turns trains into isolation wards as COVID-19 cases rise.” Charanjit Singh, quoted in the article, explains that Chandigarh’s temporary jail is a day’s sentence to education on sanitation and public health, before being released that evening to go home and stay there. 2 April 2020. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/india-turns-trains-isolation-wards-covid-19-cases-rise-200402071515155.html

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April 3, 2020
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WATER: Rebuilding Oceans

Rebuilding the oceans. Image: wikimedia.

Bridges can be rebuilt, but what about the water they span? There may be good news: oceans could return to vitality if we rebuild supportive habitats and conditions, according to a new study citing Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the United Nations. To save oceans, we will need to rebuild marine life support systems. Nature article authors include Carlos Duarte of King Abdullah University, Gregory Britten of MIT, and Robinson Fulweiler of Boston University, as well as worldwide team. Here are the key components:

Rebuilding oceans by restoring or preserving:

coral reefs

deep ocean environment and seabed

fisheries

kelp

mangroves

megafauna

oyster reefs

salt marshes

sea grasses

and – stopping and removing plastic pollution.

Finances will play a part: it will cost $10-20 billion per year to rebuild our marine environment by 2050. But there is a return on investment: for every $1.00 spent, there will be a return of $10.

International Seabed. It’s 54% of earth’s land, under the oceans. What is the future of that environment? Image: noaa.gov.

An area of concern that receives less attention than merited is the International Seabed. While waters up to 200 nautical miles (a nautical mile is 1.1508 statute (or land-based) miles) are the territory of  individual coastal nations, the waters and seabed beyond belong to everyone, even land-locked nations. Present explorations measuring valuable ore deposits like cobalt, copper, and manganese may soon lead to mining licensing by the International Seabed Authority. Recently, some rivers like New Zealand’s Whanganui River have been granted legal personhood rights: will similar rulings affect and protect oceans?

Some of Europe’s port cities. Image: wikimedia.

Oceans are transit ways of civilization; ports like Boston, Hamburg, Jakarta, Lagos, New York, Rotterdam, Singapore, Yangon, became centers of exchange and urban life. Coastal cities may lead the way in rebuilding urban architecture for sea-rise, and also take special interest in rebuilding the sea itself.

Duarte, Carlos M. et al. “Rebuilding marine life.” 1 April 2020. Nature, 580, 39-61 (2020). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2146-7 and https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586=020=2146-7. Includes videos.

International Seabed Authority. Kingston, Jamaica. https://www.isa.org.jm

McGrath, Matt. “Oceans can be successfully restored by 2050, say scientists.” 2 April 2020. BBC.com/Environment

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March 22, 2020
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ENERGY: A Sabbath for Earth?

Image: Manhattan Bridge, New York, without traffic. Image:wikimedia

Does it take a crisis to cause change? Since the coronavirus pandemic pushed the global pause button, emissions of CO2 have fallen by 50% compared with the same time last year. A drop in methane has also been noted. “This is the cleanest I have ever seen New York City,” noted Professor Roisin Commane of Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It’s not just clearer skies over the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. Cities across the USA including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle are notably improved. Benton MacKaye, proposer of the Appalachian Trail, and Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of Central Park in New York and the “Emerald Necklace” series of linked parks in Boston, shared the vision of a city that can breathe. Parks help but may not be enough. Can we learn from the global pause to create new options to aid the environment?

Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” view of the Fens. Image: wikimedia.

European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite shows atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide, due in large part to car and truck emissions, were lower over Los Angeles, a city with some of the highest smog levels. Descartes Labs, a geospatial analysis firm, reports that quantifying effects of the global shutdown on pollution will encourage more study. INRIX, a research firm monitoring traffic data from vehicle and telephone navigation systems, reported that roads were seeing a 70% improvement in congestion and on-time arrivals. Far from an escape, space is proving to be a viewing window to see Earth as a system.

ESA Sentinel-5P. Space gives us an eye on the Earth. Image: wikimedia.

While any environmental improvement, even if short-term, is beneficial, this shut-down is not the answer to climate change. Traffic will rebound eventually, and the devastation of public health, the suffering of the afflicted, and the economic wounds of the shut-down will be serious. But meanwhile, can we use the period of the coronavirus to find ways to reemerge from this time with a new plan? What aspects of telework will prove viable? Some experts are calling for periodic pauses to give the Earth a Sabbath.

Ball, Sam. “Cleaner Water, Cleaner Air: The environmental effects of coronavirus.” Includes video. 20 March 2020, France24.com. https://www.france24.com/en/20200320-clearer-water-cleaner-air-the-environmental-effects-of-coronavirus

Commane Atmospheric Composition Group. https://atmoscomp.ldeo.columbia.edu/

European Space Agency (ESA). “Coronavirus: nitrogen dioxide emissions drop over Italy.” https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-5P

McGrath, Matt. “Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads.” 20 March 2020. BBC.com/Science & Environment.

Plumer, Brad and Nadja Popovich. 22 March 2020. “Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronoavirus.” 22 March 2020. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/22/climate/coronavirus-use-traffic.html?referringSource=articleShare

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March 17, 2020
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CITIES: Rebuilding the city-state

Cities may lead the way to a healthier future. Image: “Eiffel tower at dawn,” by Nitot. Image: wikimedia.

In a crisis, cities and states can react faster than countries. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle closed cinemas, gyms, bars and clubs; states like Massachusetts and California closed schools long before federal advisories. Closures to doors opened generous hearts: cafes near La Tour Eiffel gave away delicacies like foie gras and freshly baked bread, when Prime Minister Phillippe announced mandated a shutdown in Paris. Throughout history, city-states demonstrated a notably nimble organizational power: ancient Greek city-states like Cyrene, founded by climate migrants, created a new educational, scientific, and cultural center.  By 2050, 70% of the world’s people will live in cities. With the rise of megacities, with populations of 10 million plus, is it time for a new era of the city-state?

“Coronavirus: US cities put into lockdown.” 17 March 2020. Sky News. https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-new-york-and-la-on-lockdown-as-world-as-world-reacts-to-spread-of-covid-19-11958145.

“France to close all restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and clubs due to coronavirus.” Barbara Wojazer. 14 March 2020. CNN/World. https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-03-14-20-intl-hnk/index.html.

Toynbee, Arnold, editor. Cities of Destiny. Thames & Hudson, 1967.

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March 9, 2020
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ENERGY: Shaping the Future

Image: photographer Andrew MacMillan. wikimedia.

Electric vehicles are dependent upon batteries both for power and for design. That’s why General Motors’ recent announcement was a double break-through. A $20 billion investment in electric cars comes from a new kind of battery. Traditional EV batteries are a certain shape, determining the contours of a car. But GM’s new batteries can be stacked sideways, or even around curves, because the powerhouses are “soft, flat pouches.” (Valdes-Dapena, 2020). Tesla, by contrast, uses a hard cylinder. GM’s Ultium power cells may lead to curvy designs. Another advantage: Ultium uses far less cobalt that traditional EV batteries, significant because cobalt is becoming increasingly scarce. Finally, Ultium hits the desired metric: below $100 per kilowatt hour, the price point where electric cards are competitive with gasoline engines. According to estimates, electric vehicle sales in the USA will grow to 3 million units by 2030. Next-gen batteries enable driving ranges of 400  (and soon 600) miles. Longer range electric power means more highway trips, perhaps causing a redesign of the U.S. Federal Highway System, the Canada/USA Alaska Highway or the Pan-American Highway for a regional vision that could include a sportsway, maglev or hyper loop, in addition to vehicular paths. General Motors is partnering with LG Chem. With flexible batteries, look for different shapes to come.

Beresford, Colin. “GM Unveils Battery with Capacity Twice as Big as Tesla’s.” 4 March 2020. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a31226611/gm-ultium-electric-vehicle-battery-revealed/.

Beresford, Colin. “GM, LG Teaming Up to Build Batteries for GM’s Future EVs in Ohio.” 5 December 2019. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a30141005/gm-ev-battery-factory-ohio-lg/.

Valdes-Dapena, Peter. “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s.” 5 March 2020. CNN.Business. http://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range.html/ 

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March 1, 2020
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CITIES: Reuse and redesign

1.5 billion chopsticks are discarded every week. Could these elegant materials be repurposed? Japanese chopsticks. Image: wikimedia

Vancouver, Canada is taking reuse and redesign to an artistic new level. The many excellent restaurants serving cuisine with chopsticks cannot re-use these wooden implements. But ChopValue can. Collecting 350,000 chopsticks – every week – from Vancouver restaurants, the company cleans and repurposes the bamboo utensils to make tabletops and wooden kitchenware. It’s an idea that has potential far beyond Vancouver: worldwide 1.5 billion chopsticks are discarded every week. How it works: chopsticks are collected from restaurants and taken to local micro-factories where they are fashioned into home products. ChopValue was conceived over a sushi dinner when friends discussed the problem, and opportunity, of construction waste. Suddenly one said: what about chopsticks? Four years later, there are ChopValue programs in Canada and the United States. Will the land of Shinkansen, hosting the Tokyo Olympics, take up the torch during the 2020 Games?

BBC.com. “Making chopsticks into house furnishings.” 28 February 2020.

ChopValue. https:chopvalue.com

I, Florence. “CHOPVALUE: A Movement to Extend the Life Cycle of Chopsticks.” 13 January 2019. Pendulum Magazine. https://pendulummag.com/business/2019/1/13/chop-value-creating-multiple-cycles-of-value/

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February 24, 2020
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WATER: Time and Tide in BOSTON

Boston, a port city, is threatened by rising seas. Map of Boston Harbor, wikimedia commons.

Coastal communities around the world are preparing for rising seas. Boston, a port city built on landfill, with a harbor renowned for freedom and liberty, is fighting a war. Last century, the Atlantic shore of Boston saw a persistent nine inch rise, with predictions that sea-rise may triple by 2030. By 2070? Look for three more feet of water. Boston ranks as the world’s eighth most vulnerable city, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of more than 100 coastal cities.

UMass Boston, waterfront campus, leads research on how to respond to coastal sea-rise. Image: wikimedia.

According to the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the Woods Hole Group, options to prevent the damage of flooding include spending $11.8 billion for a macro harbor barrier such as that built in the Netherlands. New York City is also studying the potential for a barrier that might cost $119 billion. In the short-term, Boston will budget $30 million per year to combat sea rise, with new ideas including:

TRANSPORT: New watertight doors on the rail tunnel near Fenway Park; redoing blockage of underground rail ventilation systems near Aquarium MBTA station.

PARKS: Protective berm of 10 feet along shore of Joe Moakley Park, a 60-acre oasis in South Boston near the beach. The park itself will be raised, and chambers installed beneath playing fields that will be capable of holding 5 million cubic feet of storm surge water. Other parks undergoing similar change: Ryan in Charleston on the Mystic River.

BUILDINGS: New condo high-rise housing on Boston Harbor comes with an “aqua fence” or portable flood barrier. General Electric (GE) leased two historic brick buildings, elevating the first floors and moving all electrical equipment to higher levels than the traditional basement.

MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL ICONS: Boston’s Children’s Museum redesigned a lawn into a hill, with a playground surrounded by dense plantings.

FOOD SUPPLY: Most large supermarkets build loading docks below ground; if food supply is to remain available when a city suffers flooding, relocating loading docks could improve public health.

MUNICIPAL PERMITS AND REGULATIONS: New buildings must meet increasing strict environmental standards. A similar approach governs new construction in Paris, France.

INVITING INNOVATIVE IDEAS: Boston’s Museum of Science, with the support of General Motors and Greentown Labs, is holding a $3,000 competition for ideas in transportation to help achieve carbon neutrality.

Museum of Science, Boston, sponsoring Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge, 22 April 2020. Image: wikimedia.

Boston’s Museum of Science is one of many educational design competitions; students worldwide may soon deposit capstones, and theses in an Idea Bank, and join Climate Conservation Corps service teams. Is your home community or school in a location vulnerable to sea-rise? What are you doing?  The best ideas are those that are shared.

Mufson, Steven. “Boston harbor brings ashore a new enemy: Rising Seas: Facing climate change, Boston must gird itself for an era of rising water – or be inundated.” 18 February 2020. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/02/19/boston-prepares-rising-seas-climate-change/.

Museum of Science, Boston. “Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge.” https://www.mos.org/go-carbon-neutral/

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities.” 2013. http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/future-flood-losses-in-major-coastal-cities.htm

OECD. “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes.” https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/ranking-port-cities-with-high-exposure-and-vulnerability-to-climate-extremes_011766488208

Spang, Edward. “Food-Energy-Water Nexus.” Center for Water-Energy Efficiency. 4 May 2017. https://ie.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/05/spang-o3MAY17.pdf.

Spang, Edward., and William Moomaw, Kelly Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, and David Marks. “Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 9 (10), 8 October 2018.

Appreciation to Charles E. Litwin, David H. Marks, and Cherie E. Potts for research suggestions.

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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February 14, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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WATER: Time and Tide

“Sunset on Manila Bay,” by photographer Bobbe21. Image: wikimedia.

Rising seas may seem far off in time. Although global oceans may rise 4 feet, some say it is tomorrow’s problem. But in Manila, Philippines and Jakarta, Indonesia – tomorrow is today. It’s also tomorrow in Miami and San Francisco.

Manila and Jakarta are both capitals of their countries; both were built as ports. Both have become mega cities: Manila with a population of 14 million, and Jakarta, 10 million. Both cities have been tapping underground water aquifers to quench the thirst of a growing populace, thereby draining the land to trigger subsidence. Jakarta is the fast-sinking city on earth. The government has decided relocate Indonesia’s capital to Borneo, a solution similar to that taken by Brazil when Brasilia became the new capital, or when Nigeria moved its capital from Lagos inland to Abuja. In those cases, sea rise was not the reason; rather, crowded ports, security, and a wish to represent the whole nation, especially the indigenous peoples residing in the country’s interior, were paramount. Now, rising seas may become the leading cause of coastal city rebuilding and relocation. Manila is already requiring people move from some sections so constantly flooded that children go to school via boat.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Photographer: D. Ramey Logan. Image: wikimedia commons.

In the United States, 5 million people live within 4 feet of high tide levels. Factor in storm surges and flooding, and you can foresee where this is going. Miami, Florida and San Francisco, California are two cases in point. The choices facing both cities include building barriers to keep the sea out, such as the surge protectors of the Netherlands; restoring wetlands in seas and rivers such as those planted by Thames21, or even making people move, as in Manila. But pricey waterfront property near the Golden Gate Bridge is getting protection rather than relocation. The Bay Area approved a sea wall along the Embarcadero for $425 million. SFO airport is raising its sea wall at a cost of $587 million. In Miami, there are already frequent floods. More are coming: the Southwest Florida Climate Leadership Summit  of 2019 reported there will be 17 – 31 inches of sea rise by 2060. What will happen to all those waterfront condos? There’s new terms in developer’s lingo: “armoring” and “SLR” – sea level rise.

NASA developed space-based tools that measure the environmental impact of glacial melt to 293 port cities worldwide. Image: nasa.gov

Why are seas rising? Oceans absorb 90% of increased heat that is caused by emissions linked to human activity. Water expands as it heats, so the levels rise. Another climate-related cause, melting glaciers and icebergs. Coastal locations are set to generate $14 trillion in rebuilding by 2050. Innovations in city design, waterfront land and habitat, storm barriers, and new canal development will become leading fields in the next years. Tide is coming: do we have time?

Brennan, Pat “NASA links port-city sea levels to regional ice melt.” 21 November 2017. Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2658/nasa-links-port-city-sea-levels-to-regional-ice-melt/

Harris, Alex. “New projections show that South Florida is in for even more sea level rise.” 4 December 2019. The Miami Herald. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article237997454.html.

Sengupta, Somini and Chang W. Lee, with contributions by Jason Gutierrez. “A Crisis Right Now: San Francisco and Manila Face Rising Seas.” 13 February 2020. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/13/cilmate/manila-san-francisco-sea-level-rise.html.

Walsh, John and Donald Wuebbles, Convening Lead Authors, with Katharine Hayhoe, James Kossin, Kenneth Kunkel, Graeme Stephens, Peter Thorne, Russel Vose, Michael Weher, Josh, Willis. “Sea Level Rise: Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100.” National Climate Assessment, GlobalChange.gov. https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/our-changing-climate/sea-level-rise.

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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