Building the World

October 29, 2019
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Happy Birthday, Internet

Internet’s 50th birthday. Image: wikimedia

October 29, 1969. Neil Armstrong had recently stepped onto another world: the moon. That same year, another new world was born. UCLA, Stanford, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah were working on ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). Graduate student Charley Kline sent a computer message from UCLA to Bill Duvall at Stanford, typing the word “Login.” The system crashed; but the letters ‘L’ and ‘O’ transmitted. Leonard Kleinrock, professor of computer science at UCLA, helped to complete the message about an hour later

Now, we’re moving into 5G. 1G was analog cellular; 2G was CDMA and GSM digital. 3G technologies like EVDO were faster; 4G LTE was even faster. 5G will deliver three changes: faster speed (moving more data); lower latency (optimizing response); ability to connect multiple devices. 5G might help autonomous vehicles become more accurate; smart roads will become more responsive, too. 5G will enable Virtual Reality (VR) and instant transmission.

The internet was born fifty years ago today.  Since then, complex transmissions have spread science around the world, and a few chats, too. But some might opine that the first two letters ever sent best expressed the wonder: “‘Lo,’ and Behold.”

Novak, Matt. “Here’s the Internet’s ‘Birth Certificate’ From 50 Years Ago Today.” 29 October 2019. https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/heres-the-internets-birth-certificate-from-50-years-ago-1839436583.

Segan, Sascha. “What is 5G?” 28 August 2019. PC Magazine. https://www.pcmag.com/article/345387/what-is-5g.

Appreciation to Dr. George H. Litwin for suggesting this post topic.

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

 

 

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October 25, 2019
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TRANSPORT: frequent flier programs

“Red Arrows at the Royal Air Show” August 2011 Image: wikimedia. Will frequent flier programs change with the climate?

First, it was Greta Thunberg who traveled throughout Europe to speak to, among others, the French National Assembly; the teen climate activist, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, declared the transport decision as a preference for lower-emissions travel. A new word came into common parlance: Flygskam (Swedish) or “Flight Shame.”

Greta Thunberg who traveled by train in Europe and by sailboat to the United Nations in New York, USA, in 2019. Image: wikimedia

Next, Imperial College London and Richard Carmichael reported to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent advisory agency of the UK government, that the nation’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, to meet the Paris Agreement of COP21, must address air travel: “Flying is a uniquely high-impact activity and is the quickest and cheapest way for a consumer to increase their carbon footprint.”

As a result, frequent flier programs, both of airlines and of credit cards, might have to go. Citing data that just 15% of the UK population takes 70% of the flights, CCC report states: “Given the scope for frequent fliers to have carbon footprints many times that of the average UK household, a lack of policy in this area is likely to be increasingly seen as inconsistent and unjust and risks damaging engagement with climate action.” (Carmichael 2019)

In the United States, 12% of Americans fly more than six round-trips per year; mainly business travelers, these frequent fliers are responsible for two-thirds of air travel, and therefore participating in aviation emissions. That’s 3 tons of carbon dioxide per year, per flier. Some policy specialists differentiate between business and pleasure air travel. But 83% of Americans drive cars, and most heat or cool their homes – activities that also cause considerable carbon emissions.

Concerned about aviation’s future, some airlines are staying ahead of the trend: British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia (art of IAG, International Airlines Group) announced a strategic sustainability plan to 1)replace older aircraft, 2)invest in sustainable jet fuel, and 3) develop new technologies that take carbon out of the atmosphere. (Guy, 2019) Businesses and universities are starting to allow longer travel time for staff who travel for work, so that they may avoid flying; train travel, including the Channel Tunnel, is recommended. Japan is updating Shinkansen (high speed rail originally built for the 1956 Olympics) in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Saying “bye” to frequent flier programs? Image: wikimedia

Do you have frequent flier miles? What is your opinion on how incentives in transport may change?

Carmichael, Richard. “Behavior change, public engagement, and Net Zero.” 10 October 2019. Committee on Climate Change, Centre for Energy Policy and Technology and Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/behaviour-change-public-engagement-and-net-zero-imperial-college-london/behaviour-change-public-engagement-and-net-zero-richard-carmichael/

Guy, Jack. “Ban air miles to combat climate crisis, recommends UK research.” 15 October 2019. CNN/Travel. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/air-miles-ban-report-scli-intl/index.html.

International Airlines Group (IAG). “Sustainability.” https://www.iairgroup.com/en/sustainability

Tabuchi, Hiroko and Nadja Popovich. “How Guilty Should You Feel About Flying?” 17 October 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/17/climate/flying-shame-emissions.html.

Thunberg, Greta. “Address to the National Assembly” July 23, 2019. France. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESDpzwWrmGg

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

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October 19, 2019
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SPACE: Milestones of Inclusion

Koch and Meir made history, October 2019. Image:nasa.gov.

Working together outside the International Space Station, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history on October 18, 2019 in the first all-female spacewalk. As they switched to extravehicular mobility units (spacesuits or EMUs),one noted the suit had a part with the exact same serial number as the gear famously worn 35 years ago by the first American woman, Kathryn Sullivan, on October 11, 1984. The very first woman to walk in space, on July 25, 1984, was Svetlana Savitskaya. Other women spacewalkers include: Kathryn Thornton, Linda Godwin, Tammy Jernigan, Susan Helms, Peggy Whitson, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, Sunita William, Nicole Stott, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Kate Rubins, and Ann McClain. (Pearlman 2019) The first American woman in space was Sally Ride: there is a spot on the moon named after this pioneer.

The year 2019 saw another space milestone, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first human step onto the moon as a pinnacle achievement of the NASA Apollo Program. According to present-day NASA, “We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman. I think that could very well be a milestone,” commented NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. (Weitering 2019)

In 2016, NASA created the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Special Emphasis Program to foster an inclusive environment. Astronaut Sally Ride, and the first American woman to go into space in 1983, might be an inspiration. Sam Long, science teacher at Standley Lake High School, Westminster, Colorado, has entered the “Out Astronaut” campaign competition; the winner will receive training in the Advanced PoSSUM Academy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (Goodland 2019) PoSSUM – Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere – is the only crewed suborbital research program; citizen scientists will study noctilucent (night-shining) clouds in space, especially observing ties to climate change.

Noctilucent (“night shining” clouds, Estonia. Image: wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Koch and Meir, upon the historic successful completion their spacewalk achievement will offer a news conference from orbit.  Tune in on Monday 21 October 2019 at noon EDT for their live news conference.

For more:

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “Immersive science education for tomorrow’s astronautics professionals.” ADVANCED PoSSUM SPACE ACADEMY, held each spring and fall. Application: https:/form.jotform.us/50905749649166.

Goodland, Marianne. “Colorado man hopes to be first transgender astronaut in space.” 15 July 2019. Colorado Politics. https://www.coloradopolitics.com/news/colorado-man-hopes-to-be-first-transgender-astronaut-in-space/article_025a5a60-a729-11e9-b6c8-b3781502e5f4.

NASA.gov. “In-Space News Conference to Review First All-Woman Spacewalk.” Christina Koch and Jessica Meir,, news conference from obit, Noon, EDT, Monday, 21 October 2019. Tune in at: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

NASA. gov. “LGBTQ Special Emphasis. https://www.nasa.gov/offices/odeo/LGBTQ-special-emphasis.

Out Astronaut: Empowering the LGBTQ Community in Science and Space. “Out Astronaut Contest.” https://outastronaut.org/contest/

Pearlman, Robert Z. “First All-Female Spacewalk Has Link to First US Woman to Walk in Space.” 18 October 2019. Space.com. http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-101819a-first-all-female-spacewalk.html.

Project PoSSUM. https://projectpossum.org/science-programs/possum-space-academy/

Weitering, Hanneke. “The 1st Human on Mars May Be a Woman, NASA Chief Says.” 19 October, 2019. Space.com. https://www.space.com/1st-human-on-mars-woman.html

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October 1, 2019
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ENERGY: Traveling Wave of the Future

“Prometheus bringt der Menschheit das Feuer,” by Heinrich Fuger, 1817. Image: Wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus gave fire to humankind, energy has changed civilization. But energy has now become what some believe the critical challenge of the future, growing increasingly critical due to climate change. We must solve energy in this century; some say in the next decade. What if there were a form of energy that was cleaner, safer, with very low carbon emissions, and used – to power itself – some of the most toxic, undisposable waste on earth? Sounds good, but will it happen? Traveling Wave is the term given to this form of nuclear reactor, or TRW for short. It’s a fission reactor that, theoretically, could run decades, self-sustained by its own internal processes, because it uses spent fuel. Traveling wave reactors were once called “breed and burn” dating back to Saveli Feinberg in 1958, followed by advances by Michael Driscoll, Lev Feoktistov, Edward Teller and Lowell Wood, Hugo van Dam, and Hiroshi Sekimoto, among others. It was the world of Teller and Wood that attracted notice by Bill Gates, Intellectual Ventures, and TerraPower. TerraPower’s scientists applied for patent EP 2324480 A1, following WO201009199A1 “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” Plans for TerraPower to partner with CNNC, in a 2015 MoU, are perhaps in development after being on hold due to international trade issues recently in the news. While some may say nuclear energy is too dangerous to develop, others state that the world may not be able to make a climate-driven energy transition to renewables and non-carbon-emitting sources unless nuclear stays in the energy mix. ITER, in France, is working on fusion energy; TerraPower, in the USA, is working on better ways to do fission.

Alert Einstein, 1921. Image: wikimedia

Powerful enough to light and heat the world, yet yielding very few carbon emissions, a form of energy that is 70 years old this year may be due for a remake. It was in August of 1939 that physicist Albert Einstein wrote a letter to then United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the work of Fermi and Szilard proving “the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy.” What followed was the development of atomic power through the Manhattan Project, revealing the danger and destruction that led Los Alamos Lab Director J. Robert Oppenheimer to quote the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become death,/ The destroyer of worlds.” While the Atomic Energy Act go 1946 reversed the purpose of developing nuclear power, turning the energy into productive and peaceful uses, there still remained dangers.

Nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl, Russia and Fukushima, Japan are among tragic occurrences that have plagued the use of fission energy.

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Image, wikimedia.

Another problem has grown to considerable proportion: toxic radioactive waste. Presently, the United States has 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that needs disposal; the substance is often called “spent” fuel. Disposal is controversial, and unwanted: case in point: Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Worldwide, the picture is even more troubling. With nuclear waste building up, and old power plants breaking down, the nuclear energy question looms: where should we head in the future? Four problems are often cited: 1) danger of radioactivity from a reactor accident like Chernobyl or Fukushima; 2) limited supply of fuels U-235 and Pu-239, as presently obtained; nuclear energy is expensive; threat of misuse for military purposes. And then there is all that spent fuel.

Bill Gates. “Climate change solutions.” Image: wikimedia

But what if all that spent fuel could power future nuclear reactors capable of transforming and eliminating the world’s toxic nuclear waste, while providing enough clean energy to power the future AND stop climate change? Should we rethink nuclear energy? At 70 years of age, nuclear power may be ready for a makeover. Want to know more? Hear some ideas in Bill Gates’ TED Talk.

Ahlheld, Charles E, John Rogers Gilleland, Roderick A. Hyde, Muriel Y. Isikawa, David G. Mcalees, Nathan P. Myhrvold, Thomas Allan Weaver, Charles Whitmer, Lowell L. Wood Jr. “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” https://patents.google.com/patent/EP2324480A4/en.

Bobin, Jean Louis. Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion. World Scientific Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 9789814590686.

Gates, Bill. “Innovating to Zero.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates

Gates, Bill. “Inside Bill’s Brain.” Episode Three: “The Search for Climate Change Solutions.” Netflix.com, 2019.

Einstein, Albert. “Letter of August 2nd 1939 from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box5/a64a01.html/ and Building the World (2006), pages 488-490.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Waste and Environment Safety Section, Vienna, Austria. “Estimation of Global Inventories of Radioactive Waste and Other Radioactive Materials. June 2007. IAEA-TECDOC-1591. ISBN: 9789201056085.https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications?PDF/te_1591_web.pdf.

Oppenheimer, Robert. On the Manhattan Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb13ynu3Iac

Teller, Edward. “Nuclear energy for the third millennium.” Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Department of Energy, United States of America, 1 October 1997.

Transatomic Power. http://www.transatomicpower.com

United States Congress. “Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.” https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheet/radwaste.html and https://www.congress.gov/bill/97th-congress/house-bill/3809.

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

 

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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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September 6, 2019
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SPACE: Chandra/Moon Mission

“Chandra, Moon God.” Folio from Book of Dreams. India, Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur: circa 1700. Image: wikimedia.

Chandra, Hindi and Sanskrit word for moon, gave name to Chandrayaan 2; on 6 September 2019, its lander Vikram will do the same thing Neil Armstrong did 50 years ago: decide where to land on the moon. Apollo 11‘s Neil Armstrong switched controls to manual at the last minute to avoid a programmed drop, turning history from disaster to success as NASA’s Eagle landed and humans stepped onto the moon in 1969. Vikram will have to think just as fast: when the lander reaches 100m (328 feet) above the surface, Vikram will select the exact site, landing 78 seconds later. The plan is to touch down between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, just north of the lunar south pole. A perfect lunar landing (only 37% of attempts in history have been successful) would make India the fourth nation to land on the moon, following achievements of the United States, Russia, and China. Witness history, here.

Bartels, Meghan. “Here’s where India’s Chandrayaan-2 will land near the Moon’s south pole (and why).” 5 September 2019. Space.com. https://www.space.com/india-chandrayaan-2-moon-south-pole-landing-site.html

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). https://www.isro.gov.in/chandrayaan2-home-0

Kumar, Chethan. “Chandrayaan 2: 100m above Moon, Vikram will pick final landing spot.” Times of India. 6 September 2019. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/100m-above-moon-vikram-will-pick-final-landing-spot/articleshow/7100912.cms.

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August 26, 2019
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Does Nature Have Rights?

“Forest Fire” Image: wikimedia.

So many trees burned in the Amazon forest that the fire could be seen from space. Brazilian satellite data from National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows an 85% increase in fires, and double that in 2013. While the dry season from July to October sees fires caused by natural events such as lightning strike, other year-round causes may be clearing land for agriculture, grazing, or logging. Forests are damaged; wildlife decimated, and the air choking with smog; carbon emissions have spread as far as Bolivia. As a result, the Amazon basin, critical in regulating global warming because of its carbon-absorbing forests, may change the world environment. The G7 pledged millions in aid and planned to address vulnerable rainforests in Africa, calling these among the ‘lungs’ of the world. Brazil deployed army troops to combat the fire, quelling flames and perhaps some doubt.  But a question remains.

“Bloedel Reserve, Willow Tree” Image: wikimedia commons.

In 1972, Christopher Stone published the seminal work “Should Trees Have Standing?” regarding arboreal rights. Some say “Should Trees Have Standing?” began the environmental movement). There is emerging precedent: some rivers now have legal rights. The Whanganui River was granted rights of personhood in New Zealand; in India, the Yamuna River by the Taj Mahal joined the sacred Ganges in personhood. Bolivia established “LEY DE DERECHOS DE LA MADRE TIERRA: Law of Rights of Mother Earth.” Is this something new, or remembered? Granting personhood to Nature may be a return to the ancient myths, present in every culture, of water and nature spirits. Is it something we once knew?

Arboreal dryad. Image: wikimedia

Determining how to protect and sustain forests, restore burned or hacked ones, plant new ones, will surely be a critical part of the future. The Amazon forest, and the great forests of Africa, may look to many possible approaches. One path may be found in Benton MacKaye’s article “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” Brazil might consider neighbor Colombia where established rights for the Atrato River also granted rights for the surrounding Amazon forest; it is an intergenerational pact. Will Bolivia’s “Law of Rights of Mother Earth” lead the way ? Are these the voices of the future?

Las actividades humanas, en el marco de la pluralidad y la diversidad, deben lugar equilibrios dinámicos con los ciclos y procesos inherentes a la Madre Tierra.

Athens, A. K. “An Indivisible and Living Whole: Do We Value Nature Enough to Grant it Personhood?” 45 Ecology Law Quarterly. 187 (2018). http://dx.doi.org/https://doi.org/10.15779/Z38251FK44. and https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2185&context=elq.

Climate Interactive. “C-ROADS” – a downloadable (and free) computer simulator that helps recognize long-term climate impacts of actions regarding greenhouse gases, including the importance of forests. By John Sterman, Todd Fincannon, Elizabeth Sawin, Andrew Jones, and Climate Interactive team. https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

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.

MacKaye, B. “An Appalachian Trail: A project in regional planning.” Journal of American Institute of Architects, 9 (October 1921) pages 325-30.

MacKaye, B. The New Exploration: A Philosophy of Regional Planning. 1928

Rogers, L., and N. Stylianou, C. Guibourg, and M. Hills. “The Amazon in Brazil is on fire – how bad is it?” 23 August 2019. BBC, News, Latin America. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767.

Stone, C.D. “Should trees have standing? – Toward legal rights for natural objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972), pp. 450-501.

Stone, C.D. 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.

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August 19, 2019
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CITIES: Forecasting the Future

“Canton Tower,” Guanzhou, China, one of the world’s cities most vulnerable to climate change. Image: wikimedia commons.

Cities are getting hotter, bigger, and more densely populated; it may be difficult for policy makers, and families, to keep pace with the environmental consequences of climate change, especially in urban areas that will house more than 70% of the world’s population by 2050. Like anything gradual, today doesn’t quite yet feel like tomorrow. Because the bicameral human brain works by comparison, a new app, using a method of climate-analog mapping, by Fitzlab shows what your city will feel like in the future:

Boston, Massachusetts = Rosedale, Maryland (Boston will be 7 degrees (F) warmer and 17% wetter;

Houston, Texas – Ciudad Mante, Mexico (Houston will be 4 degrees (F) warmer and 27% wetter.

“Boston: Back Bay.” Photographer: R. Shade, 2013. Image: wikimedia.

In general, most cities in North America will feel like areas 500 miles to their south. Globally, results of climate change on cities and surrounding regions will force more migrations, and cause a $54 trillion economic loss. Weather will wreak havoc; in 2017, 16 severe weather events in the USA caused  $306 billion in damage.

Rebuilding cities for resiliency in climate change will affect every country on earth, and perhaps seeing new capitals, and even new countries. Cities and capitals throughout history have been founded to inaugurate new visions: Abuja, new capital of Nigeria; Brasilia, new capital of Brazil; and Washington, D.C.,  founding capital of the USA. In the era of climate change, Indonesia may be considering moving the capital from Jakarta: like Abuja and Brasilia, the new capital will be more and less: more representative of the total population and less subject to rising seas. Rising seas may cause whole countries to move; Pacific Island nations are among those considering options. Every 1.5 degrees of Centigrade warming might cause 0.26 meters (0.85 feet) of sea rise. Every tenth of a degree exposes 10 million more people to possible migration due to flooding. Cities in most danger: Guangzhou, China; New Orleans, USA; New York City, USA; Mumbai, India; Osaka, Japan. Check your city on Resource Watch’s site.

Bendix, A. “We asked 11 climate scientists where they’d live in the US to avoid future natural disasters – here’s what they said.” 9 October, 2018. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/where-to-live-to-avoid-natural-disaster-climatologists-2018-8.

Brooke, K. “Jakarta – first capital to move due to sea rise.” 1 May, 2019. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/05/01/jakarta-first-capital-to-move-due-to-sea-rise/

Fitzpatrick, M.C. and Dunn, R.R. “Contemporary climate analogs for 540 North American urban areas in the late 21st century.” 12 February 2019. Nature Communications 10, Article number 614. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08540-3/.

Fitzlab. “What will climate feel like in 60 years? Check your city.” https://fitzlab.shinyapps.io/cityapp/

Litwin, E. “The Climate Diaspora: Indo-Pacific Emigration from Small Island Developing States.” 2011. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://papers.ssm.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1912859

Resource Watch. “Explore Data Sets.” https://resourcewatch.org/data/explore.

Woodward, A. “A troubling new map shows what your city’s climate may look like in 60 years. San Francisco may feel like Los Angeles, and New York may be more like Arkansas.” 15 February 2019. Business Insider. https://amp.businessinsider.com/climate-change-map-what-cities-will-feel-like-60-years-2019-2.

World Bank. “Cities and Climate Change: An Urgent Agenda.” December 2010, Volume 10. https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTUWM/Resources/340232-1205330656272/CitiesandClimateChange.pdf.

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August 10, 2019
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Calculate Your Climate Diet: Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Bad for your health and disastrous for the planet. “Cheeseburger.” Photographer: Renee Comet. Image: National Institutes for Health, USA.

Should labels on food, commonly listing salt, fat, calories, now include water, energy, and land? Recent findings by the United Nations IPCC reveal world land use is not sustainable for growing the food we need. Agricultural practices including raising of animals meant for food, deforestation, erosion and renewal of topsoil, population expansion, and the energy and water required to produce food are all factors. Scientists term this the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus.” But what can you do, as an individual? Moving towards a plant-based diet can help.

Sir Paul McCartney, 2009. Image: wikimedia.

Sir Paul McCartney is among those who advocate a plant-oriented diet; to help the cause, Sir Paul challenges you to write a song to promote “Meat-Free Mondays.” A promising development: the plant-based Impossible Burger, offering a carbon footprint 89% smaller than beef. But even plant choices have better and worse consequences for climate change. Will farmers who vie for water to irrigate crops in agricultural areas of the Colorado River now be awarded water rights based on their produce: some food uses more water? Rice farmers may switch to millet or maize, grains that use less water but still provide nutritional benefits.

 

Potatoes Lyonnaise” Image: wikimedia.

Want to know whether to choose rice, fries, or pasta – rice uses the most energy, land, and water; pasta is second;  potatoes use the least (and are the most nutritious). Enjoy avocado toast, but note: eating one avocado per week uses 3,519 liters of water annually. Order from the sandwich menu, deciding between a beef-burger or an omelette – beef is the worst, chicken is better, eggs are the best. Wine or beer, coffee or tea – beer uses the most resources, followed by coffee, wine, and tea. Here’s a way to calculate your diet in the era of climate change. What’s your climate diet? – calculate here.

Johnson, Scott K. “New IPCC report shows land use is part of solution to climate change.” 8 August 2019. Ars Technica. https://apple.news/AEOL8nw6OWSEM4XD3elBig/

McCartney, Paul (Sir). “Meat-Free Mondays.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E1NDjltMvk

Peters, Adele. “Here’s how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef.” Fast Company, 20 March 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90322572/heres-how-the-footprint-of-the-plant-based-impossible-burger-compares-to-beef.

Spang, E. W. Moomaw, K. Gallagher, P. Kirshen, David H. Marks (2014) “Multiple Metrics for Quantifying the Intensity of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” Environmental Research Letters. 9-105003. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Stylianou, Nassos, Clara Guibourg, Helen Briggs. 9 August 2019. BBC, Science & Environment. “Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint? Check the environmental impact of what you eat and drink.” https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714

Thin Lei Win. “Swap rice for maize, millet and sorghum to save water and boost nutrition: experts tell India.” 5 July 2018. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/articles-india-rice-hunger/swap-rice-for-maize-millet-and-sorghum-to-save-water-and-boost-nutrition-experts-tell-india-idUSKBN1JV16P

United Nations. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Special Report on Climate Change and Land: desertification, land degradation, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” 2 August 2019. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/

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

 

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