Building the World

July 21, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Forest Cities

We emerged from the forest; will forest cities return us to our natural state? Image: Shennongjia Forest, Hubei, China. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s plans for a “Forest City” may establish a vision for a better urban future. New cities have often marked turning points in history. In the year 145 (or A.D. 762), the new Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty decided to move the capital to create a fresh vision. Setting off on horseback, Al-Mansur saw an auspicious spot, leapt from his steed, drew his sword, and carved three concentric circles upon the land. The new city? The Caliph named it Medinat as-Salam, “City of Peace.” Today, it is called Baghdad.

Liuzhou Forest City will not only be attractively leafy, it will literally eat smog. Commissioned by Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning, Stefano Boeri Architetti designed the green vision:

Hosting 40,000 trees;

Growing 1 million plants of 100 species;

Absorbing 10,000 tons of CO2;

Eating 57 tons of fine dust and pollutants;

Producing 900 tons of fresh Oxygen.

Liuzhou, famous place on the Silk Road, builds upon the vision of Vertical Forests, as seen in Milan, Italy, or the Meir Lobaton & Kristjan Donaldson Torre Cuajimalpa in Mexico. Comparisons might also be made to Rhode Island’s tree-planting project designed by the School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation of Roger Williams University.

No room to plant trees? Answer: CityTree, a green “wall” of plants with as much air-purifying power as 275 trees. Co-founder Zhengliang Wu of Green City Solutions recommends moss cultures because of their larger leaf surface areas.

Green Wall at Caixa Forum, Paseo del Prado, Madrid. Photographer: Mike Dixon. Image: wikimedia.

Cities around the world are seeking resilient responses to climate change. Energy, water, and transport systems are among the areas experiencing innovation. Sea level rise threatens many coastal cities including San Francisco and Silicon Valley, studied by system dynamics experts Christiansen and Libby. And it is not a moment too soon: by 2050, 75% of all the people in the world will live in cities. Will Liuzhou Forest City mark a point in history turning toward sustainability?

For Liuzhou Forest City video:

“Changing Cities in a Changing Climate,” Alexander F. Christiansen and Bradd Libby, DNV GL Group Technology and Research, Climate Action Programme.

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

June 23, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Shining a New Light

“Sunrise on the Grand Canal of China.” William Havell, 1817. Image: wikimedia commons.

Infrastructure has been termed the foundation of civilization. Rome built roads, and water systems; the aqueducts made possible the expansion of the city and the empire. China built the Grand Canal, stimulating commerce, culture, and communication: the written language was first standardized because of the Canal. Throughout history, infrastructure has spurred civilization. The world currently spends $2.5 trillion on water, energy, transport, and telecommunications – each year. But, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, $3.3 trillion is needed just to keep up. What’s more worrying? Emerging and developing areas will require more of everything: electricity, roads, rail, airports, shipping ports.  Aggregate investment from now until 2030 will be significant: 49 trillion. Initiatives like China’s New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) may globalize infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable and beneficial. Bringing new infrastructure to areas in need is a chance, perhaps unprecedented in history, to rebuild the world.

“Bridging global infrastructure gaps.” Jonathan Woetzel, Nicklas Garemo, Jan Mischke, Martin Hjerpe, Robert Palter. McKinsey Global Institute, June 2016.

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

May 26, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Golden Opportunity? Coal to Wind

“Green River of Wyoming.” Artist, Thomas Moran, 1878. Image: wikimedia commons

A golden opportunity may be dawning, not only for energy but for employment, from coal to wind. There’s precedent: many workers on the Transcontinental Railroad were “navvies” – a term coined to describe those who built navigable waterways including the Erie Canal. Skills in technologies, combined with the ability to work in remote locations: these are the same valuable traits that may now transform the coal industry. Carbon County, Wyoming, is launching a job training program for coal miners to become wind farm technicians. Wyoming produces more coal than any other American state; but geography makes it ideal for wind, with 850 turbines planned, perhaps leading to a change in tax policy.  Job training is free, offered by Goldwind, a leading wind turbine manufacturer in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China, famous hub of the Silk Road. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal: will the celebration include the training and development of workers who changed the American economy? Might the future feature transformation from coal to wind, as skilled workers take on new industries to rebuild energy and environment?

Baeumier, Axel, Ede Ijjasa-Vasque, Shomik Mehndirrata, eds. Sustainable Low-Carbon City Development in China. The World Bank, 2012. ISBN: 9780821389881 (ebook).

Cardwell, Diane. “Wind Project in Wyoming Envisions Coal Miners as Trainees.” 21 May 2017. The New York Times.

Goldwind. In Chinese:; in English:

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

May 17, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Silk Road 2.0

Yo-yo Ma, founder of Silkroad, playing the cello at the World Economic Forum, 2008. Photographer: Andy Mettler. Image: wikimedia commons.

Yo-yo Ma, cellist and founder of Silkroad, might write new music for what is being referred to as the “new silk road.” The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation 2017 concluded this week in Beijing, with 1,000 international government representatives; 68 countries signed on to jointly develop infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road. It’s a big route, linking China, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Historians might add North America: the Canadian Pacific Railway customized railcars to transport silk worm cocoons from Vancouver’s docks to the mills of New Jersey and New York. The so-called “Silk Trains” carried armed guards, so valuable was the cargo. One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a land and maritime vision including Railway to London, Railway to Iran, Gwadar Port, Asian Gas Pipeline, and Khorgos Gateway for the biggest dry port in the world. Asian Development Bank estimates the need for $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure to respond to growth and climate change. Macro by any definition, the New Silk Road (One Belt One Road or perhaps to be called BRI) may open an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the world for inclusion and environment, a topic worthy of the future 2019 Summit. The Grand Canal of China may be an inspiration. Will the Confucius Institute lead the way?

Confucius Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston: and

National Development and Reform Commission. “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. 2015/03/28. People’s Republic of China.

Liu Qin. “China needs to pave ‘One Belt One Road’ with green finance, say experts.” 07.01.2016,

Quinn, Zoë G. “Silk” 17 July 2012.

Tweed, David. “China’s Silk Road.” 15 May 2017.

For a map:

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

March 6, 2017
by buildingtheworld


St. Petersburg: price of admission to the new city was one large stone, by order of the tsar. Image: wikimedia commons.

March! It’s a month that begins with a command. In fact, some opine that the fourth day may be pronounced as an imperative. Many great achievements thus began: Cyrene was discovered and built in response to a command of the Oracle at Delphi; the Grand Canal was dug by orders of successive emperors. St. Petersburg was built in stone, by directive of Tsar Peter who set, as price of admission to the new city, one large stone. What commands your attention, and action, to march forth?

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

January 27, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Wake Up Call

Year of the Rooster. Image: Jianzhi, wikimedia commons.

Enter the Rooster, herald of the wake up call. Each Spring Festival opens a new year, inspired by the characteristics of a new animal. The tradition of the new year, spiraled in 60-year cycles, began in 2637 bce. Emperor Huangdi’s minister Ta Nao is said to have suggested the Chia-Tzu or Kan-chih cyclical system. China added the Gregorian calendar in 1912, generally used from 1949. China understands long time frame. The Great Wall was built over the course of dynasties. The Grand Canal, longest continuous building project in history, broke ground in 600 bce; latest phase of improvement, to be completed in 2050, will feature design projects by students. Each new year is an invitation to a new generation to rebuild the world in an improved version; this Spring Festival, it’s the Rooster’s turn,a wake up call. Make it your ringtone.

For More: “Rooster Crowing Compilation” by YANG Edwin:

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

January 6, 2017
by buildingtheworld


China built the equivalent of 10,000 football fields in solar panels in 2015, a rate of one gridiron per hour. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s produced solar panels equal 10,000 football fields, the average of one football field per hour, every day of 2015. Builders of the Grand Canal, and the Great Wall, may soon set another record. Pledging $360 billion to building of renewable energy systems, China set course for leadership in the field by 2020. The announcement comes at a time Beijing woke up repeatedly to smog. Several of China’s large cities are coastal, vulnerable to sea rise. Environmental woes might be addressed by the strategic focus. Progress is swift; China installs one wind turbine every hour. Half of all wind power and one-third of all solar panels globally built in 2015: China. It’s good economics: the number of new jobs created by funding innovation in renewable clean energy? 13 million. The worldwide market for clean energy technologies will expand through commitments of the Paris Agreement. Gridiron may soon take on a new meaning.

Video: “China Investing Billions in Renewable Energy” by Neeti Upadhye, The New York Times, 5 January 2017:

Myllyvirta, Lauri. “China: Six little known facts about the country’s solar and wind boom.” 8 September 2016. Greenpeace, Energy Desk.

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

August 5, 2016
by buildingtheworld

Thank you and Good Night, Jade Rabbit

Chang’e, moon goddess, reaching for her pet Jade Rabbit. Image: wikimedia commons

“The Moon has prepared a long dream for me,” messaged the mythic messenger. Chang’e space mission landed Jade Rabbit on the lunar surface in December 2013. Nick-named ‘Yutu,’ mascot of the moon goddess of Chinese legend, Jade Rabbit’s Weibo account shared thousands of messages and cartoons during 31 months’ exploration of the lunarscape. The view was good: “I’m the rabbit that has seen the most stars,” tweeted the rover with a personal following of 600, 000 fans. Jade Rabbit Yutu is not lonely up there; 60 American and Russian space rovers are parked. And somewhere are two golf balls (Alan Shepard, American Apollo astronaut, teed the lunar green). And China will be back, Yutu, returning in 2017.

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

February 8, 2016
by buildingtheworld

Channels of China

First Qin Emperor of China. Image: wikimedia commons.

Can a channel cause communication? It might be so with the Grand Canal of China. First Qin Emperor improved the canal and initiated a standard script for communication along the internal waterway, making possible governance and security, as well as agriculture, commerce, culture, and education. Some historians opine that the Grand Canal was the Internet of its time. The Grand Canal is not only the longest canal or engineered-waterway in the world, it is also the longest in time. Begun in 486 BCE, it is still under use and improvement, the latest phase to be completed in 2050. Another long-standing accomplishment of China is the concept of time cycles; may the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year of the Monkey bring special gifts to our world.

For more on Chinese time cycles and other aspects of Chinese culture and tradition, please visit the Confucius Institute at UMass Boston:

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

February 19, 2015
by buildingtheworld

Scale of Success: China


Great Wall of China. Image: wikimedia commons.

While Frank P. Davidson is considered by historians to be the founder of the field of macroengineering in 1984, today China is advancing large scale infrastructure. The nation that built the Great Wall must think big, because it is so big; large scale endeavors are now appearing with velocity as well as capacity. For example, the Dalian to Yantai Tunnel spanning the Bohai Strait, twice the length of the Channel Tunnel, planned as a rail link between China’s northern ports, would be the world’s longest underwater tunnel. And, the Grand Canal may soon become even grander: the $80 billion plan to bring water over 1,000 miles from the abundant south to the arid north may reach fruition in 2025, making that waterway, begun in 600 BCE, the longest continuous construction project in history. Should China celebrate this Spring Festival with an announcement of the Center for the Study of Macro?

David Baroza, “In China, Projects to make Great Wall Feel Small,” The New York Times, January 12, 2015.

Minnie Chan, “Plan to build world’s longest undersea tunnel from Dalian to Yantai,” South China Morning Post, July 11, 2013.

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

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