Building the World

August 10, 2020
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SPACE: Here’s looking at you, Earth

Eye of a Chameleon. Image: wikimedia.

Eyes in the sky, Earth Observation Satellites monitor environmental conditions by reporting hot spots and testing efforts to mitigate climate change. OHB-System has just signed a contract to build a new satellite network to monitor carbon dioxide, helping countries achieve goals of the COP 21 Paris Agreement. Part of the Copernicus System, the first OHB spacecraft will launch in 2025; it will be called CO2M.

Scenographia Systematis Copernicani” engraving circa 1660. Image: wikimedia.

CO2M will join the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation program, a system of satellite sensors called Sentinels that watch the Earth from space. Marco Fuchs, CEO of Germany’s OHB-System, oversees the contract with the European Space Agency. Thales Alenia Space (TAS), a French-Italian company, is a sub-contractor, designing carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide spectrometers. Belgian partner, OIP Sensors, will provide a cloud imager. CO2M will track carbon dioxide to a resolution of 2km by 2km across a span of 250 km. Satellites will carry both a CO2 detector and also secondary sensors that can differentiate between human-produced emissions and those occurring naturally.

TAS logo. Image: wikimedia.

Looking for employment or investment opportunities? Check out satellite enterprises: OHB, TAS, OIP

Since COMSAT launched the first communication satellites, space has become the place that allows us to transmit video, communication, and weather information about Earth. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are leaders. Here’s a look at NASA’s program:

NASA’s Earth Science Division Operating Missions. Image: wikimedia/nasa.gov.

ESA’s Sentinel satellite system is comprehensive, and will expand when CO2M joins the initiative. For now, here’s the Sentinel array and specific capabilities:

Sentinel-1: monitor Earth’s surface in all weather conditions

Sentinel-2: monitor land changes

Sentinel-3: observe oceans

Sentinel-4: measure atmospheric gases

Sentinel-5: monitor air quality

Sentinel-6: measure rising seas

When CO2M becomes operational, joining the Sentinel series, it will track CO2 around the whole globe every five days. CO2M’s data, along with other Sentinel reporting, and NASA’s initiatives as well as others, will help meet the climate goals established by COP21 also known as the Paris Agreement. The Eiffel Tower displayed the message: now we must meet the goals. Space, looking at Earth, can help.

“#1Heart1Tree” image on the Eiffel Tower, Paris, during COP21 where climate goals were agreed by most nations of the world. Earth Observation Satellites will help meet those environmental goals.  Photo by Yann Caradec, image: wikimedia.

If you are interested in learning more about Earth Observation Satellites, join the Copernicus Academy’s MOOC, beginning in September 2020.

Amos, Jonathan. “European Sentinel satellites to map global CO2 emissions.” 1 August 2020, BBC.com.

Copernicus Earth Observation System. https://www.copernicus.eu/en

Copernicus Academy, 160 members fromthe EU 28 plus Iceland and Norway, sharing research and providing training on Earth Observation. Join the MOOC starting in September 2020.https://www.copernicus.eu/en/opportunities/education/copernicus-mooc

OHB Magazine. https://www.ohb.de/en/magazine/

NASA, Edited by Andrew J. Butrica. “Beyond the Ionosphere: Fifty Years of Satellite Communication.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1997. https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4217/sp4217.htm

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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July 28, 2020
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WATER: How much do you use?

How much water do you use? Image: “Blue question mark,” wikimedia commons.

Only 1% of water on Earth is drinkable (actually, it’s 2.5% but only 1% is readily accessible). The rest of the water on the planet rests in the sea, but it is salty and therefore requires desalination to use for drinking or agriculture.

New River, a fresh water supply and a fresh idea. Image: wikimedia.

Ever since the most ancient times, humans have invented ways to find, distribute, use, and power with water. From the Roman Aqueducts and the New River of England that brought fresh water to the growing cities of Rome and London, respectively, to the water use agreements of the Colorado River of the USA and Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric of Australia, the story of civilization is the story of water.

With populations growing and climate changing, water will become more scarce and more important for uses for drinking, agriculture, industry, and energy. While macro systems that deliver water to our taps are large in scale, each of us can do something to protect and conserve water.

 

Take this quiz to calculate your WATER USE.

Attenborough, Sir David. “Fresh Water.” Episode 3. Our Planet. BBC One/Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2DU85qLfJQ/

Jacobsen, Rowan. “Israel Proves the Desalination Era is Here,” 29 July 2016. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/israel-proves-the-desalination-era-is-here/

Spang, E., E. R, K.S. Gallagher, P.H. Kirshen, D.H. Marks. 2014 “The Water Consumption of Energy Production: An International Comparison.” Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, 105002. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105002/meta/

Water Calculator. https://www.watercalculator.org/wfc2/q/household/

Water Footprint Calculator. “Water Websites for Kids.” 13 November 2019. https://www.watercalculator.org/resource/water-websites-for-kids/.

Thanks to Sierra C. Lusk for research and inspiration.

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July 15, 2020
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CITIES: Open windows, lower noise

The New York Times Building in New York City. Image: wikimedia.

During the virus pandemic, opening the windows of a building can help. But urban denizens often keep windows closed to block out city noise. Singapore, a city built on innovation, has developed a solution. A team of scientists including Masaharu Nishimura and Bhan Lam from Nanyang Technological University have developed a device that, when placed in an open window, lowers incoming sound by 10 decibels. Think noise-cancelling headphones for your apartment: the inventors call it the Anti-Noise Control Window. By 2030, 60% of the world’s people will live in cities. Megacities (urban centers of more than 10 million people) are increasing; in 1960, there were just two (New York and Tokyo), but now there are 33. That’s a lot of windows.

World’s Megacities by Population:

Tokyo, Japan – 37 million

Delhi, India – 28 million

Shanghai, China – 25 million

São Paulo, Brazil – 21 million

Mexico City – 21 million

Cairo, Egypt – 20 million

Mumbai, Inda – 20 million

Beijing, China – 19 million

Dhaka, Bangladesh – 19 million

Osaka, Japan – 19 million

New York-Newark, USA – 18 million

Karachi, Pakistan – 15 million

Buenos Aires, Argentina – 15 million

Chongqing, China – 14 million

Istanbul, Turkey – 14 million

Kolkata, India – 14 million

Manila, Philippines – 13 million

Lagos, Nigeria – 13 million

Rio de janeiro, Brazil – 13 million

Tianjin, China – 13 million

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo – 13 million

Guangzhou, China – 12 million

Los Angeles – Long Beach – Santa Ana, USA – 12 million

Moscow, Russia – 12 million

Shenzhen, China – 11 million

Lahore, Pakistan – 11 million

Bangalore, Inda – 11 million

Paris, France – 10 million

Bogota, Colombia- 10 million

Jakarta, Indonesia – 10 million

Chennai, India – 10 million

Lima, Peru – 10 million

Bangkok, Thailand – 10 million

Source: “The World’s Cities in 2018” United Nations.

While urban windows, when open, may still have to contend with air quality and pollution, the world’s largest cities may soon have a source of breeze and quiet with this very scalable innovation.

Lam, Bhan, Dongyan Shi, Woo-Seng Gan, Stephen J. Elliott, Masaharu Nishimura. “Active control of broadband sound through the open aperture of a full-sized domestic window.” 9 July 2020, Scientific Reports 10, Article number 10021 (2020). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-66563-z?referringSource-articleShare/

Waldstein, David. “Scientists Say You Can Cancel the Noise but Keep Your Window Open.” 11 July, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/11/science/windows-street-noise.html/

Young, Angela “The World’s 33 Megacities.” MSN. http://a.msn.com/00/en-us/BBUaR3v?ocid-se/

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July 4, 2020
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Sand Castles: rebuilding the desert

“My home is my castle,” photographer J. Triepke, 2014. Image: wikimedia.

Summer holidays, like the traditional Fourth of July, may be observed in different ways by diverse communities, but many people enjoy a refreshing visit to the beach. Some build sand castles. Now, there may be something more permanent. Architect Magnus Larsson proposes combining sand with bacterium Sporosarcina pasteurii (formerly known as Bacillus pasteurii); the process can produce biological cementation. You can build with it. Larsson wants to build a biologically-grown structure in the Sahara, perhaps in combination with the Great Green Wall of the Sahel. The architecture would support plantings, maybe even people, and won recognition from the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction.

Could generative architecture rebuild the desert? Image: “Mojave Desert Cave,” by photographer Joshua Sortino. Wikimedia.

Globally, 1/3 of all arable earth is dry, and vulnerable to drought and eventually turning to sand. The Gobi desert of China and the Sahara of Africa are especially threatened, but deserts like the Mojave in North America seek sustainable solutions. “One billion grains of sand come into being – each second,” states Larsson. Innovations related to deserts and desertification, like Jason DeJong‘s findings and Larsson’s sandstone walls and habitats, or the Great Green Walls of the Sahara and Gobi, may help to rebuild the world.

DeJong, Jason. “Geo-Technical Engineering and Innovation.” Geo-Institute of ASCE and University of California, Davis. https://youtu.be/Jvm-D9INVWs

Larsson, Magnus. “Turning dunes into architecture.” TEDGlobal 2009. https://www.ted.com/talks/magnus_larsson_turning_dunes_into_architecture/.

LafargeHolcim.  Headquartered in Switzerland, the company employs more than 70,000 people in the development of cement, aggregates, and innovation in building materials. https:/www.lafargeholcim-foundation.org.

Swayamdipta Bhaduri, Nandini Debnath, Sushanta Mitra, Yang Liu, Aloke Kumar. “Miocrobiologically Induced Precipitation Mediated by Sporosarcina pasteurii,” Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2016; (110) 53253. doi: 10.3791/53253/. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941918/

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June 26, 2020
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Regreening the Sahel: Water, Land, and Renewal

Sahara Desert. Image: wikimedia.

Sahara, sea of sand, desert of legend, is ever-advancing. Over time, the Sahara Desert has expanded into the Sahel, a transnational ‘shore’ of African countries. Population in the Sahel has increased 120% in the last three decades: now, 64% of the population is under 25%. The encroaching Sahara, along with climate change induced heat and drought, is choking crops; 3.7 million people suffering the effects of crop loss, with shortages of millet and sorghum, staples. Famine, conflict, migration threaten the area. The Sahel reaches 3,360 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, all across the southern belt of the Sahara Desert. What can be done? Two answers may be emerging.

The Sahara Desert, seen from space by satellite. The Sahel is just south of the desert. Image: wikimedia.

The Sahel has some of the largest aquifers in the continent, as much as 100 times annual rainfall and other renewable sources. But the Law of Transboundary Aquifers is still in draft. Sahel countries need to decide the use of shared water for drinking, agriculture, and industry. Agreements should also monitor extraction; some of the aquifers are sizable but slow to refill and replenish. Precedent for water sharing might include the Colorado River Compact, especially amendments. A future exploration of the Sahara itself may tap water resources under the sands, and a proposal by Frank P. Davidson for Lake Hope (2012).

Stopping Saharan desert expansion is important. The possibility of planting a green wall across the boundary of the Sahara to stem desert invasion of fertile lands adjacent is said to have been pondered by Richard St. Barbe Baker OBE during a study expedition to the Sahara in the mid 20th century. There was talk of building a test model of 30 miles at that time. But the present vision of green wall across Africa of 4,722 miles (7,600 kilometers) didn’t take root until 2002, when the Green Wall was re-introduced at the summit in Chad of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. Support grew. Three years later, the concept was approved by the Community of Sahel-Saharan States; two years after that, in 2007, the African Union endorsed the “Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative.” The Great Green Wall hopes to restore and renew 100 million hectares by 2030, reduce CO2, absorbing 250 million tons, and create 10 million green jobs. Ethiopia has already restored 15 million hectares.

Great Green Wall of Africa. Image: wikimedia commons.

But results are still to be judged. Some point out that desertification is not just the fault of the Sahara, but instead may be due to deforestation and denuding of land. Observing success in applying traditional water conservation and harvesting methods, and nurturing of trees that appear naturally, the project is evolving into something that is working, in a different way. There are some who warn against some methods of afforestation, and choice of plantings is critical to success. Recent progress in Burkina Faso with building zaï, a grid planting method promoting water retention is one example. Another: increased respect for Faidherbia albida, an indigenous tree that defoliates during the rainy season, dropping leaves that fertilize soil, and also permit full sun during the subsequent early growing season. Other factors might be considered like walking paths, as envisioned by architect Benton MacKaye, resulting in the Appalachian Trail. Some suggest the Green Green Wall of Africa could become a model for a new CCC. The work of John D. Liu combines regreening with camps. Other green walls of afforestation include China’s Three-North Shelter Forest Program, China began the project in 1978 to stop the Gobi desert from advancing; while monoculture and some tree loss are problems, forest size has increased from 5% to 13.% with 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of trees planted (an area the size of western Europe). China will complete the afforestation project in 2050. India’s Green Wall of Aravalli, proposed by Vijaypal Baghel at COP 14 would build 1,6000 km of green; and Great Hedge of India, originally related to customs control line for 1870’s salt tax, and later grown into a living hedge. Progress of green walls can now be tracked through Earth Observation Satellites. ESA’s Prova-V monitors the Sahel.

Gobi Desert and Three-North Shelter Forest of China. Image: wikimedia.

Macroengineering endeavors involving transboundary resources may require an organizational form that allows for coordination of many different and interacting systems. As climate change affects regions, not just nations, will we see more macro solutions? The advancing Sahara desert does not stop at the Mali border but threatens the whole southern edge of the desert. The rising Atlantic ocean does not stop at Maine in the United States but continues to lap the coast of Canada. Africa’s Great Green Wall may set an example.

When completed, the Great Green Wall of the Sahel would be the largest living structure on Earth – three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.  The 7,600 km (4,000 plus miles) natural wonder of the world may be visible from space. As the Great Green Wall evolves to benefit from traditional water conservation measures, countries of the Sahel may work together to rebuild and strengthen the fertility of the land and its treasured water resources, the Sahel may build more than a wall, but also a foundation.

Re-greening the world. Image: “Nursery stock of spruce for afforestation.” Wikimedia commons.

“Building the Great Green Wall,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v-cphSne_HIPA. Accessed 24 June 2020.

Davidson, Frank P., Kathleen Lusk Brooke, with Cherie E. Potts. Building the Future. pages 35-59. Cambridge: 2012.

Gallo, Alexandro. “China: the Green Wall which will stop the desert advancing.” 10 July 2019. ecobnb https://ecobnb.com/blog/2019/07/china-the-new-green-wall-which-will-stop-the-desert-advancing/

Great Green Wall. “The Great Green Wall: Growing a World Wonder.” https://www.greatgreenwall.org/abot-great-green-wall

International Tree Foundation. Oxford, UK. https://internationaltreefoundation.org/

Litwin, George H., John J. Bray, Kathleen Lusk Brooke. Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life. London: 1996.

Liu, John D. “Green Gold.” FILM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBLZmwlPa8A

Liu, John D. Ecosystem Restoration Camps. https://ecosystemrestorationcamps.org/update-from-john-d-liu-founder-of-ecosystem-restoration-camps/

Meirelles, Fernando. “Great Green Wall.” Film from creator of City of God and The Constant Gardner, Oscar Nominee, and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, with Inna Modja and music collaborators Didier Awadi, Songhoy Blues, Waje, and Betty G. FILM LINK: https://www.greatgreenwall.org/film

Morrison, Jim. “The ‘Great Green Wall’ Didn’t Stop Desertification, But It Evolved Into Something That Might.” 23 August 2016. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertfication-not-so-much-180960171/

Moxam, Roy. The Great Hedge of India. London: Constable & Robinson, 2001. ISBN: 1841194670.

Saeed, Khalid. “The Sahel and System Dynamics,” correspondence discussion, June 2020.

St. Barbe Baker, Richard. My Life, My Trees (2nd edition, 1985) Forres: Findform. ISBN: 0-905249-63-1,

The Stream. “Why is Africa building a Great Green Wall?” 17 September 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK6FUv4fhmo

United Nations. United Nations Convention To Combat Desertification: In Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa. See especially Article 3: “Principles” and Article 10: “Organizational framework of subregional action programs.” https://www.unccd.int/sites/default/files/relevant-links/2017-01/UNCCD_Convention_ENG_0.pdf

United Nations, Convention to Combat Desertification. “The Great Green Wall Initiative.” https://www.unccd.int/actions/great-green-wall-initiative/

United Nations. Law of Transboundary Aquifers. https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/brief/enhancing-knowledge-of-groundwater-usage-in-the-Sahel.  and for the draft articles: https://www.un.org/en/ga/sixth/71/transboundary_aquifers.shtml

Wang, X.M., and Cicheng Zhang, Eerdun Hasi, Z.B. Dong. “Has the Three-North Shelterbelt Program solved the desertification and dust storm problems in arid and semiarid China?” January 2010. Journal of Arid Environments. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2009.08.001. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248568946_Has_the_Three_North_Forest_Shelterbelt_Program_solved_the_desertificatino_and_dust_storm_problems_in_arid_and_semiarid_China.

World Bank Group. “Burkina Faso: The Zaï Technique and Enhanced Agricultural Productivity.” 2005. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/10754

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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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June 4, 2020
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SPACE: Dragon (and Dinosaur) in the Sky

“The dawn of a new era in human spaceflight,” by Anne McClain, astronaut, showing SpaceX Crew Dragon approaching the International Space Station. Image: wikimedia.

Space is a new field, and firsts happen regularly. But this week’s milestone marks a signifiant new era for public and private cooperative success. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and NASA achieved delivery of astronauts Behnken and Hurley to the International Space Station. It’s also the renewal of American crew launches from the original place where humans first set off for the moon. SpaceX and Nasa will now move into a new phase of the $2.6bn contract to delivery six “space-taxi” flights to ISS.  Also aboard: a sequined toy dinosaur, sent aloft to accompany by the astronauts’ children. “Tremor” will be the first dinosaur to experience zero gravity, so the Apatosaurus also sports a leash.

NASA. “NASA Astronauts Launch from America in Historic Test Flight of SpaceX Crew Dragon.” 30 May 2020. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-astronauts-launch-from-america-in-historic-test-flight-of-spacex-crew-dragon/

Pearlman, Robert Z. “SpaceX ‘stowaway’ revealed by crew.” 31 May 2020. Space.com http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-053120a-spacex-dragon-tremor-dinosaur-doll.html.

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May 20, 2020
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SPACE: Spring Cleaning

Satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Image: wikimedia

When COMSAT began a new era in communications, emphasis was on getting satellites into orbit, not how to get them down. One option: a “graveyard” orbit where old tech circles endlessly in a geriatric retirement lap; another solution, crash and burn; a third, shoot them, causing space junk to become space debris, now tallied at 50,000 pieces hurtling at 17,500 miles per hour and causing hazards to active spacecraft. The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects established some guidelines, but so far humans are better at launching satellites than retrieving or fixing them, and many satellites are getting old. But there has been a breakthrough.

Intelsat. Image: wikimedia.

In April 2020, Intelsat 901, beaming Internet to airplanes and ships, was running out of steering power but still functioning. Northrop Grumman built a spacecraft called the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) to fly to Intelsat 901, latch on and supply propulsion and steering. This is the first time in history that two commercial spacecraft have docked together in space, proving that in-orbit service is possible. Existing satellites are getting on in years, and may need servicing. Space will see more communication satellites, along with observation technology monitoring Earth’s climate. Northrup Grumman and Intelsat plan to continue in-orbit service, a new industry.

Davenport, Christian. “In historic first, an aging satellite is resurrected by another in a technology that could reduce junk in space: A Northrup Grumman spacecraft latched on to a communications satellite, extending its life.” 20 April 2020. The Washington Post. Includes video. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/04/20/new-technology-creates-fountain-youth-aging-satellites-potentially-reducing-space-junk/.

European Space Agency. 6th European Conference on Space Debris, 2013. http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Space_Debris/

Henry, Caleb. “Intel-901 satellite, with MEV-1 servicer attached, resumes service.” 17 April 2020. Space News. https://spacenews.com/intelsat-901-satellite-with-mev-1-servicer-attached-resumes-service/

Intelsat. https://intelsat.com. Ticker symbol: I

Northrop Grumman. https://www.northropgrumman.com. NYSE: NOC.

United Nations. Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.” September 1972. http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introliability-convention.html/

Thanks to David H. Marks for sharing research and suggesting this post.

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May 9, 2020
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WATER: Rising Seas

“Sea Level Rise: 1880-2013, depicted in stripe graphic,” created by Dr. Richard Selwyn Jones, Durham University. Image: wikimedia.

CLIMATE HOT SPOTS

“2 Degrees Centigrade: Beyond The Limit,” a Washington Post series of articles won the 2020 Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting.  The series looks at what the world will be like if we reach that temperature increase, as well as explores areas that have already exceeded 2 Degrees Centigrade. The Northeast Corridor, including Boston and New York, is one area. Another is the coastal curve south of Santa Barbara, California running through Los Angeles and into the arroyos along the Mexican border: the area has warmed at double the rate of the rest of the United States, seeing an increase of 2.3 degrees.

California coast. Image: wikimedia

SEA RISE IS CERTAIN

California was also the focus of Pulitzer Prize Finalist, the Los Angeles Times, presenting articles on rising seas on the Pacific coast. The LA Times series included a climate change/oceans interactive game.

Sea rise is so gradual as to be almost invisible, but that is changing. In the last 100 years, sea rise was just 9 inches; predictions estimate it may swell to 9 feet in the next half century. Even if we meet global carbon emissions goals, global seas will rise 12 inches (NOAA 2019).

“The Rising Sea Level” as measured by TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 satellites. Image: nasa.gov

 

SEA RISE: REGIONAL RESPONSE  THROUGH TRADE, EDUCATION, AND INNOVATION

Rising seas are global but response is regional. California is linked to Mexico (in fact it once was Mexico, along with parts of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). Canada is connected, too.

Canada, United States, Mexico showing Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Image: wikimedia.

Mexico, United States, and Canada already have a trade agreement, recently updated. Should the new trade agreement include a strategy for rising seas? Is there an educational mission included in the agreement? Universities and businesses along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of all three countries should work together to design solutions. Internships and apprenticeships in businesses engaged in sea rise response could seed a new generation of experts, just as they will be needed. Regional response is scalable: the Belt and Road Initiative is another example of a connected network linked by contracts and agreements.

Belt and Road Initiative. Image: wikimedia.

INVESTING IN A SURE THING

The construction industry is predicted to increase in importance in the decades to come because sea rise will be a constant business. Some of the industry’s innovators include:

AECOM: Climate change adaptation facility for Asia and the Pacific, weADAPT. https://aecom.com, and https://www.weadapt.org/knowledge-base-climate-finance/usaid-adapt-asia-pacific/

ARCADIS: design and consultancy for natural and built assets. https://twitter.com/arcadisglobal/

JACOBS/CH2M Hill: challenging today, reinventing tomorrow. https://www.jacobs.com

Flood Control America – Removable Flood Wall Barriers: floodcontrolam.com

Environmental Business International (EBI) – climate chance adaptation industry forecasts: https://ebionline.org/product/climate-change-industry-report/

Concept Storm Surge Barrier, St. Petersburg flood defense barrier and USA Concept Storm Surge Barrier 2012 – Halcrow Group and State University of New York SUNY: https://seagrant.sunysb.edu/media/sandy12/HalcrowGroup-Sandy1112.pdf

Delta Works: world’s largest storm barrier. www.deltawerken.com

Delta Works, Maeslantkering. Scale model. Image: wikimedia.

Investment in innovation and technologies to meet, solve, and improve climate may be part of the ‘stubborn optimism’ described in The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Optimism gets things done – what can we do about rising seas?

Read the Pulitzer Prize journalism on climate change here.

Ariza, Mario. “These are the companies who will get rich helping Miami adapt to rising seas.” 9 July 2017. The New Tropic. https://thenewtropic.com/these-companies-will-profit-from-helping-miami-adapt-to-rising-seas/

Attenborough, Sir David, Christiana Figueres, Paul Dickinson, Tom Rivett-Carnac. “The Power of Outrage and Optimism with David Attenborough. Podcast, 2019. outrageandoatimism.libsyn.com/episode-1-the-power-of-outrage-and-optimism-with-david-attenborough/

Cowin, Laurie. “Deal of the Year: Jacobs buys CY2M Hill,” 4 December 2017. ConstructionDive. https://www.constructiondive.com/news/deal-of-the-year-jacobs-buys-ch2m-jill/510610

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 9780525658351. https://globaloptimism.com/the-future-we-choose-book/

Fischetti, Mark. “Russian Flood Barrier Is a Model for New York City.” 10 June 2013. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/russian-flood-barrier/

Fischetti, Mark. “Sea Level Could Rise 5 Feet in New York by 2100.” 1 June 2013. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fischetti-sea-level-could-rise-five-feet-new-york-city-nyc-2100/

Franzen, Carl. “Meet the companies that are going to get rich from global warming: A warmer, wetter world won’t be bad for these industries.” US Army Corps of Engineers. 12 August 2013. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2013/8/12/4613802/cashing-in-on-climate-change-flood-wall-air-conditioning

Invenko, Chris. “Dutch Masters: The Netherlands exports flood-control expertise.” Earth Magazine. https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/dutch-masters-netherlands-expoerts-flood-control-expertise/

Lindsey, Rebecca. “Climate Change: Global Sea Level.” 19 November 2019. NOAA/Climate.gov. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level/

Ryszard, Daniel, Tim Paulus. “Selection of a Gate Type,” in Lock Gates and Other Closures in Hydraulic Projects, 2019. Butterworth-Heinemann/Elsevier, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-809264-4.09994-8 and https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/storm-surge-barrier/

United States Trade Agreement: USMCA (and links to Canada/Mexico versions). https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/united-states-mexico-canada-agreement/agreement-between

Wilson, Scott. “2 Degrees Celsius: Beyond the Limit: Fires, floods, and free parking – California’s unending fight against climate change.” 5 December 2019. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/climate-environment/climate-change-california/

Xia, Rosanna, Swetha Kannan, Terry Castleman. “The California coast is disappearing under the rising sea.” Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-sea-level-rise-california-coast/

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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April 29, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES/TRANSPORT: Carbon Neutral Boston

Boston is going carbon neutral. You can help. Image: “Traffic streaming through downtown Boston” by photographer Robbie Shade. Wikimedia commons.

Boston suffers some of the worst traffic in the United States. City of the ‘Big Dig’ or Central Artery Project, Boston has set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Innovative ideas for that achievement can be discovered at the Museum of Science where students from around New England are presenting proposals and videos in Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge. Winners will be announced on April 30. Take a look at these ideas for building a better Boston, and vote for your favorite here.

“Go Carbon Neutral.” Museum of Science. April 27-30, 2020. https://mos.org/go-carbon-neutral-2020.

Van Allen, Fox. “Cities with the worst traffic in the world.” 26 January 2020. CBSNews.com. https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/worst-traffice-cities-in-the-world.

Appreciation to the Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

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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