Building the World

August 2, 2019
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ENERGY: AC – Hot trends/Cool news

“Air-Conditioners are everywhere” by Peteris, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

The hotter the climate gets, the more we turn on the AC (for the privileged who may have such access). Since 16 of the 17 warmest years have been since 2000, energy consumption by air-conditioning may triple by 2050, equaling the current electricity use of the European Union, Japan, and United States – combined. Enter SkyCool: a wafer-thin reflective material that radiates infrared, thermal energy at a very precise wavelength that slips quietly through Earth’s atmosphere, into space. Normally, heat energy is trapped in the atmosphere, so that’s very good news indeed.

But there’s more, and it’s cool news. The same infrared, thermal energy can be used to cool water moving through pipes to a just noticeable difference a few degrees cooler than, say, a school or an office building. That’s like AC, but better. While New Yorkers may be interested, many of the future customers will be in China, India, and Indonesia – expected to consume half of all the demand for air-conditioning in the future. China noted a 45% increase in the air-conditioner market in 2017. The new technology could reinvent air-conditioning and cool buildings, with greatly reduced emissions.

Hoover Dam used an ice-water system to cool concrete. “Hoover Dam at Night.” wikimedia commons.

There’s historic precedent: when the Hoover Dam was built, 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete were used; so much that a bucket of concrete went through the overhead cable delivery system every 78 seconds. But that much concrete would have taken 100 years to cool. Builders (a consortium called Six Companies included J.F. Shea Co.; MacDonald & Kahn; Morrison-Knudsen; Utah Construction; and a joint venture formed by W.A. Bechtel, Henry J. Kaiser, and Warren) devised a structural system of 582 miles of steel pipes within the concrete; they filled the pipes with ice-water, causing the concrete to cool and harden, and then they emptied the pipes of water but left the supporting structure to further strengthen the edifice.

Air-conditioning is a global market of $50 billion. Will the innovation, product of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University, change the future? Inventors Aaswath Raman, Eli Goldstein, (along with earlier team members) and Shanhui Fan are optimistic. Winner of the SXSW Eco Startup Showcase, the innovation is called SkyCool Systems,  Interested? Catch Aaswath Raman’s TED talk here.

Baraniuk, Chris. “How trying to stay cool could make the world even hotter.” 18 June 2018. BBC/Business.

Temple, James. “A material that throws heat into space could soon reinvent air-conditioning.” 12 September 2017. Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608840/a-material-that-throws-heat-into-space-could-soon-reinvent-air-conditioning/

Raman, Aaswath. “How we can turn the cold of outer space into a renewable resource.” 22 June 2018 TED Talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a5NyUITbyk

SkyCool Systems. Aaswath Raman, Eli Goldstein, Shanhui Fan. https://tomkat.stanford.edu/innovation-transfer/skycool

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

July 14, 2019
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CITIES: Dangers in Deltas

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. “KatrinaNewOrleansFlooded” by Kyle Niemi, U.S. Coast Guard, 29 August 2005. Image: wikimedia commons.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA: it’s an unprecedented situation. New Orleans, a city on the Mississippi River Delta, is under threat. The river, normally about 7 feet high in the summertime, sits presently at 16 feet, the result of spring flooding along the waterway. Add to that a virulent storm barreling towards the city, driving a surge of 2 to 3 feet. If so, the river may crest at 17 feet. On land, there may be as much as 10-15 inches of rain from the storm, a dangerous followup to the 9 inch downpour that inundated the area the same week. Storm storage, high rivers, and rain – it’s a deadly combination. Delta cities, like New Orleans, may be in peril with climate change.

Cities, throughout history, have been built on coasts, offering access to trade through ports and waterways.  Singapore may be the quintessential city upon the waters, developed as one of the first Specialized Economic Zones. New York (and Brooklyn) became leading business centers when their place on the Atlantic Ocean became linked to inland towns, the the Great Lakes, through the Erie Canal. But now, rising seas, threaten coastal cities. In 2019, the Northeast Atlantic will experience a 140% increase in coastal flooding, compared with two decades ago. Worse still, the Southeast will suffer a 190% flood increase, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And that’s just the USA.

Maeslantkering, floodgates in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Image: wikimedia.

Worldwide, cities are sinking and seas are rising; Jakarta, Indonesia may suffer some of the the worst effects of climate change; Indonesia’s capital might need to relocate. According to the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2019, 90% of all coastal areas in the world will be affected by climate change; some cities will combat sea rise 1/3rd above mean level. The bigger the cities (more heavy buildings), deeper sinking.

Delta cities, like New Orleans, are in danger; the list includes:

DELTA CITES ENDANGERED BY SEA RISE:

Dhaka

Guangzhou

Ho Chi Minh City

Hong Kong

Manila

Melbourne

Miami

New Orleans

New York

Rotterdam

Tokyo

Venice.

Source: Muggah, 2019. World Economic Forum 2019 states “Even if we keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees centigrade by 2050, at least 570 cities will be damaged.” That means people, drinking water and sanitation, mass transit, power, roads, homes, businesses, hospitals, schools.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, a Delta City. Image: wikimedia.

It’s a sad business but a big one: coastal flooding could threaten 2 million homes in the United States, worth $882 billion. Worldwide, rebuilding or relocating coastal cities will take cause spending of $100, 000 Billion – per year. Is there any hope? Some historians observe that change and innovation  often are the result of crisis, citing examples as diverse as the Roman Aqueducts in response to a water crisis when the Tiber became not only polluted but endangered by terrorism (a threat of an enemy poisoning of the city’s water supply) to the intense research and development of the Manhattan Project resulting in the harnessing of Atomic Energy. Today, we face a similarly serious threat: will innovation save the day, or the century?

Rising seas, increasingly intense storms and hurricanes, are among forces eroding coastal cities, like New Orleans (or Jakarta). Saving sinking cities will demand significant innovations in urban harbors and cityscapes; cities with canals may lead the way to a better future. According to Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Netherlands and team leader of Rebuild by Design, “Worldwide, water is the connecting issue, the number one global risk and the opportunity for comprehensive cultural change.”

Andone, Dakin, Paul P. Murphy, Brandon Miller. “New Orleans faces a never-before-seen problem with Tropical Storm Barry. July 12, 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/11/weather/new-orleans-flooding-trnd/index.html

Brown, Justine. “Innovative Plans Help Cities Effectively Live With Water.” 9 September 2014. Recovery: Emergency Management. https://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/Innovative-Plans-Help-Cities-Live-Water.html.

Kusnetz, Nicholas. “Sea Level Rise is Creeping into Coastal Cities. Saving Them Won’t Be Cheap.” 28 December 2017. Inside Climate News. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28122017/sea-level-rise-coastal-cities-flooding-2017-year-review-miami-norfolk-seawall-cost

Lemperiere, Francois and Luc Deroo. “Peut on éviter les inondations à Paris?” January 2018. Symposium du DCBR: comité français des barrages et réservoirs.

Lou, Michelle. “High-tide flooding is only going to get worse, NOAA says.” 10 July 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/10/weather/noaa-high-tide-flooding-increasing-report-trnd/index. html.

Muggah, Robert. “The world’s coastal cities are going under. Here’s how some are fighting back.” 16 January 2019. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/the-world-s-coastal-cities-are-going-under-here-is-how-some-are-fighting-back/

NOAA, “2018 State of U.S. High Tide Flooding with a 2019 Outlook.” June 2019. https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/publications/Techrpt_090_2018_State_of_US_HighTideFlooding_with_a_2019_Outlook.Final.pdf

Radford, Tim. “Coastal flooding ‘may cost $100,000 BN a year by 2100.” 11 February 2014. Climate News Network. https://climatenewsnetwork.net/coastal-flooding-may-cost-100000-bn-a-year-by-2100/.

REBUILD BY DESIGN. http://www.rebuildbydesign.org.

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 11, 2019
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CITIES: Capitals Built in Earthquake Zones

“Kathmandu: A collage,” 2012. Image: wikimedia.

Are capitals “moveable feasts?” Yes. History is filled with examples of capitals moved for new dynasties, new visions, coastal security, and more central political representation. In the future, we may see more relocations of capitals. Here’s three reasons:

EARTHQUAKES AND CAPITAL CITIES: There are other capitals, built on seismic ground, like Kathmandu or Tokyo, that may need to move. Another option, illustrated by Tokyo, might be to build a “spare battery” capital away from shaky ground. Indonesia is also earth-quake prone, located in the volcanic Ring of Fire; choice of a new capital location may require seismic assessment before a site is chosen.

What world capitals are vulnerable to shaky ground? At the time it was built, no one knew that Mexico City was located on ground susceptible to earthquakes. With a population of 20 million, the city is dense. Skyscraper towers can become “unintended object of mass destruction,” according to Michael Floyd of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Loss of a command-and-control center that is a capital city can inhibit and delay disaster response, as seen when on 12 January 2010, Port-au-Prince, Haiti suffered the loss of records, legal documents, land, census data, tax records, and tragic loss of life, during an earthquake that damaged the government building.

RISING SEAS AND COASTAL CAPITALS: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Lagos, Nigeria are former capitals that ceded succession to Brasilia and Abuja. Both Rio and Lagos are ports. Many great capital cities were built as ports, among them Jakarta. Now, Indonesia may move its capital. Rising seas will inundate many capitals that also serve as ports.

NEW CAPITAL, NEW VISION: Moving a capital can mean a shift in demographic clout, inviting political power to more central areas of a nation. Jakarta is considering an area of Borneo. Will Mexico City plan a new Distrito Federal perhaps  also serving as a regional capital for the Americas?

NEXT STEPS FOR CAPITALS IN EARTHQUAKE ZONES: The massive urban centers that are capitals, even if the government center moves, will still remain vulnerable. Earthquakes will continue: what can be done to preserve and protect cities built on shaky ground?

CAPITAL CITIES IN EARTHQUAKE ZONES

Tokyo, Japan

Mexico City, Mexico

Jakarta, Indonesia

New Delhi, India

Manila, Philippines

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Kathmandu, Nepal

“The 20 Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities.” 4 December 2007. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/2007/12/04/earthquakes-india-japan-biz-cx_db_1203earthquakes_slide.html/.

Chu, Jennifer. “Seismic gap may be filled by an earthquake near Istanbul.” MIT News. 11 September 2014. http://news.mit.edu/2014/seismic-gap-earthquake-istanbul-0911/.

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. “Cities in Danger,” Building the Future, 2012. pages 65-97. University of Massachusetts Boston, Healey Library.

Ergintav, S, R.E. Reilinger, R. Cakmak, M. Floyd, Z. Cakir, U. Dogan, et al. “Istanbul’s earthquake hot spots: Geogetic constraints on strain accumulation along faults in the Marmara seismic gap.” Geophysical Research Letters 41, no. 16 (22 August 2014): 5783-5788.

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 1, 2019
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Jakarta: first capital to move due to sea rise

Rivers and canals of Jakarta, Indonesia. Image: wikimedia.

 

MOVING THE CAPITAL DUE TO SEA RISE: Jakarta, Indonesia is the fastest sinking city on earth. Sea rise threatens the city, located on land intersected by 13 rivers. A busy port, Jakarta is congested and dense; heavy port buildings weigh down the terrain. As the capital, Jakarta also supports government, industry, and a burgeoning population. Residential and industrial water needs result in considerable pumping from the rivers, further draining the land mass. Another burden of density: traffic – Jakarta’s is among the world’s worst. And then there’s the residential buildings: 10 million people call Jakarta home, making it one of the world’s megacities. Skyscrapers dot the skyline, adding weight. Jakarta has sunk eight feet in the past decade, and the subsidence continues. Half of the city is below sea level.

Baghdad, surrounded by the Tigris River. Image: wikimedia.

NEW CAPITAL, NEW VISION: Changing the capital of a country is not unique in history. Baghdad was founded with a new vision, drawn as three concentric circles with a stroke of the Caliph’s sword marking the new capital. As Baghdad rebuilds, will Frank Lloyd Wright‘s plans and drawings bring Al Mansur’s vision to life as Madinat as-Salam, “City of Peace?” Other times, capitals moved inland from ports: Lagos, a port city, begat Abuja, moving Nigeria’s capital to a central location designed with vision and values including Haussmann’s Paris and L’Enfant’s and Banneker’s Washington, D.C. Rio de Janeiro ceded its position as capital to Brasilia, in part because the city of Ipanema beach became too dense; coastal location also meant vulnerability. The new capital, Brasilia, was central to the diverse country, representing a wider vision. Lucio Costa designed the new capital to be built in the shape of an airplane; Brasilia was the first city built to be seen from the air.

Costa’s Plan for Brasilia, in the shape of an airplane. Image: Library of Congress.

NEW BALANCE OF POWER: Just as Brazil chose an inland location, and Nigeria selected Abuja to relate to the center of the country, so Indonesia’s possible choice of an area of Borneo might represent a wider view. Palangka Raya is in consideration, in part due to a previous proposal by first president (1945-1967) Sukarno.

FUTURE OF COASTAL LOCATIONS IN CLIMATE CHANGE: Jakarta is a case example of the future. Rising seas may inundate some of the greatest cities in the world, many built as ports. As Indonesia begins to move its capital away from Jakarta, it will rebuild the coastal metropolis to defend from sea rise: “By 2050, about 95% of North Jakarta may be submerged,” according to Heri Andreas, Bandung Institute of Technology. Can innovations such as those proposed by Lempérière and Deroo to use canals, and rivers, to combat rising seas, help Jakarta and other port cities build a safer, better future? Will the Belt and Road Initiative build very different kinds of ports, using rivers, canals, and urban harbors to address sea rise?

Afra Sapiie, Marguerite. “Jokowi wants to move capital out of Java.” 29 April 2019. The Jakarta Post. https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/04/29/jokowi-wants-to-move-capital-of-java.html/.

BBC. “Indonesia’s planning minister announces capital city move,” 29 April 2019.

Lemer, Andrew C. “Foreseeing the Problems of Developing Nigeria’s New Federal Capital.” In Macro-engineering and the Future: A Management Perspective. edited by Frank P. Davidson and C. Lawrence Meador. Boulder,  CO: Westview Press, 1982.

Lempérière, François and Luc Deroo. “Peut on éviter les inondations à Paris?” January 2018. Symposium du DCBR : comité français des barrages et réservoirs. http://www.barrages-cfbr.eu/IMG/pdf/symposium2018_10_deroo_lemperiere_peut-on_eviter_les_inondations_a_paris.pdf

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

Kennedy, Merrit. “Indonesia plans to move its capital out of Jakarta, a city that’s sinking.” 29 April 2019. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/29/718234878/indonesia-plans-to-move-its-capital-out-of-jakarta-a-city-thats-sinking.

Toppa, Sabrina. “These cities have the worst traffic in the world, says a new index.” 4 February 2016. Jakarta, Istanbul, Mexico City, Surabaya, and St. Petersburg top the world’s cities among 78 surveyed. Time Magazine. http://time.com/3695068/worst-cities-traffic-jams/

Appreciation and recognition: David Edwards-May, Inland Waterways International, Andrew C. Lemer, Evan Litwin, and Cherie Potts for contributions to this post.

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 26, 2019
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Cities: Singapore’s 3 Core Values

“Singapore Skyline at Night with Blue Sky.” Photographer: Merlion444. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore will mark its bicentennial this year, 2019, after celebrating its golden anniversary of independence in 2015. It was 200 years ago that two visitors rowed ashore to visit with a certain Sultan; Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles may not be enshrined by all, but still made a mark, including founding the Singapore Institution, one of the first global educational institutes. But many would say that Singapore’s core values were present long before either foundational event, and relate to openness as shaped by its extraordinary geography. Some historians cite Singapore’s three core values as:

Openness

Multiculturalism

Self-determination.

Not everyone would agree: for example, rights regarding sexual and gender orientation are still under trial, with relation and adoption key. Other concerns: water quality and deforestation threaten inclusion of the environment in future plans, but green building has been mandatory since 2008, influenced by Cheong Koon Hean, architect and urban planner.

Masjid Sultan, Singapore. Photographer: Terence Ong, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore’s recognition of many languages (Cantonese, English, Hokkien, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil) and faiths (observed in houses of worship such as the Buddhist Kuan Yin Temple, the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, the Sultan Mosque, and the Taoist Wak Hai Cheng Temple) may raise hope of an evolving culture of inclusion. If you are in Singapore during March 2019, you may participate in the Festival featuring heritage trails, and performances, and installations. Or, take a virtual trip, here.

“From Singapore to Singaporean.” https://www.bicentennial.sg

Cheong Koon Hean, “How we design and build a smart city and nation.” 17 December 2015. TEDx Talk. https://youtu.be/m45SshJqOP4

Galloway, Lindsey. “The three values that shaped Singapore.” 18 March 2019. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20190317-the-three-core-values-that-shaped-singapore/

Kolczak, Amy. “This City Aims to Be the World’s Greatest: As Singapore expands, a novel approach preserves green space.” 28 February 2017. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/green-buildings/green-urban-landscape-cities-Singapore/.

Koutsoukis, Jason. “Singapore Elite Backs Push to Overturn Anti-Gay Laws.” 2 October 2018, Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-02/singapore-elite-backs-push-to-overturn-country-s-anti-gay-laws.

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 8, 2019
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Cities: Green Jewel in Hong Kong

Sandpiper. Image: wikimedia.

Bird watchers in Hong Kong? Nature lovers in Shenzhen? In between these two megacities with a combined population of 20 million, rare birds fly and feed in one of the world’s most precious wetlands. Egrets, herons, sandpipers abound on the mudflats. Will the wetlands, about 4,000 acres, continue to be the green jewel of Hong Kong? Mai Po Nature Reserve is protected by the Ramsar Convention. But Nam Sang Wai, about 400 acre parcel, recently debated a proposal for 10% of the area to build apartments for 6,500 people. Henderson Land Development pledged to model the project on the London Wetland Centre where financing included provisions to preserve the natural habitat. Another precedent? The New River, bringing fresh water to London while preserving a natural walking path, albeit not residential but just recreational. Meanwhile, if you visit Hong Kong or Shenzhen, consider the sampan ride across the Shan Pui River; it’s the only human-powered ferry in Hong Kong.

Ramsar Konvention on Wetlands of International Importance. https://www.ramsar.org.

Ramzy, Austin. “A Rural Patch of Hong Kong Where Rare Birds Sing and Developers Circle.” 17 November 2018. The New York Times. https://nytimes.com/2018/11/17/world/asia/hong-kong-wetlands-mai-po-nam-sang-wai.html.

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

February 20, 2019
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Building Better Coasts

Climate change is causing sea rise resulting in coastal erosion, flooding, and threatening ports and cities. Jakarta is in extreme danger: thirteen rivers run through the city, causing frequent flooding. The mega-city of 10 billion is doubly endangered: urban land is suffering subsidence, parts of Indonesia’s capital  (some predict 95%) could be deluged by 2050.

Reed beds revitalize polluted waters. Image: wikimedia

Even rivers like the Thames and Lea in London are not immune. But the city of London Bridge is responding. Thames21 is planting reeds that oxygenate rivers, restoring the habitat marred by pollution; reeds convert toxic ammonia to nitrate. Reed beds also provide habitat for aquatic life. In an echo of the Canal des Deux Mers, the canalized section of the River Lea will receive new reed beds every 300 meters over the length of the river coursing through London.

Indonesia, image: wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Jakarta is exploring response including artificial recharge, a method used a half-century ago by Tokyo in a time of subsidence; to support the program, groundwater extraction was halted and businesses were required to utilize reclaimed water. Jakarta would need to use only rainwater; could catchment systems help? The Dutch, formerly involved in the region, have returned: Institute Deltares reported on the efficacy of the current plan to build the Great Garuda Sea Wall (32 km) along with 17 artificial islands at the cost of (US$) 40 billion. Included in the plan is a new lagoon waterway that can be lowered during floods allowing water to drain. Another method: biopori – digging a hole of 100cm depth to allow rainwater to more easily absorbed into the land, replenishing groundwater. Indonesia may offer an example to many places in the world surrounded by water; how can we build better coasts?

“Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world.” 12 August 2018. By Tom de Souza, with interactive elements by Arvin Surpriyadi, Davies Surya, and Leben Asa.

“Project Reed Beds.” Thames 21. https://www.thames21.org.uk/project-reedbed-2/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2018
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Coastal Cities, Flooding, and Climate Change

Flooding in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photographer: Gul Cratt, 2006. Image: wikimedia.

Many of the world’s great cities were built as ports, welcoming ships, trade, and opportunity. Singapore is an example. So is New York. Coastal cities must contend with typhoons, hurricanes, rains, and flooding. With climate change, so-called “thousand-year floods” are happening more frequently than such a name might indicate. During Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy, New York saw Wall Street underwater. Another problem? Sea-rise. Here are some of the cities that may suffer inundation: Shanghai, Osaka, Alexandria, Miami,  Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam. Dhaka (19 million) is especially threatened, with danger beyond the capital city: Bangladesh may see 17% of land underwater and 18 million people displaced. Jakarta (10 million) is the fastest-sinking city in the world with 13 rivers merging into Indonesia’s Java Sea on which the coastal capital is located.

Copenhagen rebuilt for climate change . Image: wikimedia

How can coastal cities defend themselves against rising seas and flooding from storms? One approach is rethinking city surfaces from hard asphalt to spongy grass. Copenhagen decided to redesign the city after receiving six inches of rain in two hours during a 2011 storm. Over 300 projects from large parks and greenways, to tiny garden plots with bioswales to absorb rainwater, began the transformation. New York followed suit, forming a partnership with Copenhagen to exchange ideas and measure results. Copenhagen and New York may be cities of different size, but the problems of sea-rise and flooding threaten all coastal cities (and, of course, island states and nations).

But it’s not just physical infrastructure that makes a city resilient. It’s also another kind of infrastructure: governance. The Sustainable Solutions Lab (SSL) in a 2018 report “Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding” recommended a joint state-municipal commission to deal with increasing climate impact. Governance suggested: 1) reform existing tools including acts and laws; 2) coordinate water/sewer, transport, energy, and telecommunications to a common standards; 3) combine scientists and government agencies in a climate advisory team; 4) establish governance and district-scale flood protection. University of Massachusetts Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab‘s previous reports on Boston included financing solutions to climate change, and a feasibility study of harbor barriers.

Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding. Sustainable Solutions Lab. Image: Boston’s Zakim Bridge.

Coastal cities might look to Boston’s approach as one model that cities can enact. Cities have a unique capability to address climate change.

According to Michael Bloomberg, three-time mayor of New York, cities can respond faster to climate change because they can pass laws quickly, decide upon structural change, fund urban design initiatives, and coordinate governance. The Global Covenant of Mayors, representing 9,149 cites housing 780,804,596 people worldwide, signed a Climate & Energy agreement to bring cities together to respond to climate change. Bloomberg and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Ṧefcovič co-chair the board; Christiana Figures, architect of the Paris Agreement and founder of Global Optimism, serves as vice-chair. The mission combines initiatives with inclusion to achieve a just, low-emission, resilient future. Cities may be the first responders to climate change.

Barron, James. “New York’s Next Nickname: The Big Sponge?” 27 September 2018. The New York Times.https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/27/nyregion/new-york-flooding.html

Glennon, Robert. “The Unfolding Tragedy of Climate Change in Bangladesh.” 21 April 2017. Scientific American. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-unfolding-tragedy-of-climate-change-in-bangladesh/.

Global Covenant of Mayors. https://www.globalcovenantofmayors.org

Holder, Josh, Niko Kommenda, Jonathan Watts, “The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming.” 3 November 2017. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2017/nov/03/three-degree-world-cities-drowned-global-warming/.

Kruel, Stephanie, VHB; Rebecca Herst, Sustainable Solutions Lab; David Cash, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston, “Governance for a Changing Climate: Adopting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding.” https://www.umb.edu/editor_uploads/images/centers_institutes/sustainable_solutions_lab/Governance-for-a-Changing-Climate-Full-Report-UMB-SSL.pdf

Lin, Mayuri Mei, and Raki Hidayat. “Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world.” 13 August 2018, BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44636934/.

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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 27, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Art of Change

Times Square, New York City. Image: wikimedia

Climate change can be difficult to picture. That may be why, in part, politicians and citizens alike find it hard to grasp, and even more challenging to take action. But what if Mel Chin‘s “Unmoored” caught your eye? Displayed in Times Square, New York City, the artist’s work addresses the prediction that by the year 2100, six feet of water may slosh the great white way. Urban denizens, and tourists, can download the app, pointing a phone camera at various structures to see which ones will be afloat, and where boats may replace taxis and other vehicles. Will lessons from the Netherlands be part of the solution?

Will Miami soon be underwater? Image: wikimedia

Or maybe you prefer winters in Florida. This December, Xavier Cortada‘s “Underwater HOA” campaign invites residents of Pinecrest to place signs on their lawns showing how many feet of water will need to rise before inundating their property. Watercolor paintings that serve as background on the signs will be made with the very melted glacier water that the campaign hopes to stop. The installation opens in December. One month later, January 9, 2019, the signs will come down but the work will start: a citizens’ organization will meet at Cortada’s house to address climate change in the area of Miami. Can the invisible be made visible? What is the art of change?

For more: “12 Artists On Climate Change: A dozen artistic responses to one of the greatest threats of our time.” By Zoë Lescaze. 22 August 2018.  T AGITPROP The New York Times.

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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