Building the World

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/.

University of Massachusetts Boston, “Governance for a Changing Climate” 28 September 2018. https://www.umb.edu/news/detail/umass_boston_report_laws_revamp_for_good_governance_in_climate_change_era.

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
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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

June 22, 2018
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Migrants and the Renewal of Culture

“Detail of Cyrene bronze head, circa 300 bce.” Image: British Museum and wikimedia.

Migrants have been a source of change, and renewal, throughout history. Cyrene, founded in 630 bce, several miles south of the Mediterranean Sea in Libya, became the first of five flourishing cities called the Pentapolis of Cyrenaica. Cyrene’s migrants brought fertile minds to a new land: it was here that Earth’s circumference was first determined by Eratosthenes. Fresh thinking, fostered in an atmosphere promoting science, technology, and art, produced an early map of the stars, the mechanics of doubling a cube, and research that developed prime numbers. The poet Apollonia was also a resident of Cyrene. What policies and cultural practices fostered such innovation? In today’s world, with migrants on the move and in the news, can we draw inspiration from Cyrene to build a better future?

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

April 27, 2018
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Bridges to the Future

“London Bridge Illuminated at Dusk,” by photographer burge500, 2006. Image: wikimedia commons.

The land of London Bridge just announced a span to a better environment, banning single-use plastics. The UK government states the measure will help eliminate any increase in what is estimated as over 150 million tons of plastic in our oceans. As a result, one million birds and 100, 000 sea mammals die from ingesting or getting trapped in plastic waste. Particularly concerning are smaller pieces of plastic like Q-tips and plastic straws that slip through filters into rivers and oceans. Scotland earlier led the ban on single-use plastics; the new law will be introduced across the Commonwealth.

In the United States, such environmental considerations are up to states and cities, banning or taxing single-use plastics: California was the first state in 2014; Boston recently joined the increasing group of cities with an urban plastic bag tax.

Corley, McKinley. “Another Big US City is Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags.” 18 December 2017. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/another-big-us-city-banning-single-use-plastic-bags/

Nace, Trevor. “UK To Ban All Plastic Straws, Q-tips, and Single-Use Plastics.” 25 April 2018. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/04/25/uk-to-ban-all-plastic-straws-q-tips-and-single-use-plastics/#cb4a4ff11383

Thanks to Cherie E. Potts for suggesting this topic.

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

 

April 13, 2018
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Tale of Three Cities: Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House. Photographer: Steve Collis. Image: wikimedia.

Already the most populous city in Australia, Sydney’s headcount will double in the next four decades. Solution? Divide Sydney into three separate metropoles: Eastern Harbour City, Central River City, and Western Parkland City. Eastern has the Sydney Opera House and airport. Western will get its own airport, with the new city built as an “aerotropolis.” In-between, Central River will attract the best of both sides, it is hoped. New transport infrastructure, road and rail, will fulfill the strategic goal of “30-minute cities” offering travel from home to work in a reasonable commute. How will the new urban plan honor the First Nations? Australia has experience in city development: the town of Cooma expanded rapidly when chosen as headquarters for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, bringing water and electricity to rapidly growing Australia. Megacities, urban centers with more than 10 million people, are on the rise: in 1960, there were just two – New York and Tokyo; more than 40 megacities are expected by 2030. Will Sydney set a precedent?

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoë G. Quinn. “Badu Gili: Water Light.” 30 June 2017. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/30/badu-fili-water-light.

Lo, Andrea. “Why is Sydney being split into three cities?” 12 April 2018. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/12/asia/sydney-three-cities/index.html.

United Nations. “The world’s cities are growing in both size and number.” http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/urbanization/the_world’s_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.pdf.

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

April 6, 2018
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Haute Cuisine

Will city skyscrapers grow food, for a new twist on haute cuisine – high cooking? Here, Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy. Image: wikimedia.

By 2050, 75% of us will live in cities, likely in high rise towers. Gustav Eiffel’s innovation of building up, supported by the force of curves and wind, demonstrated to the world that the future was in the sky. The Eiffel Tower of Paris is progenitor of today’s skyscrapers. In the United States, Chicago is said by some architects to have invented the skyscraper as a response to the city’s sudden population growth. When it opened in 1885, the Home Insurance Building reached 138 feet (42-meters) skyward, using steel in its structure: it was the first tall building to do so. 1892 saw the erection of the Monadnock Building, largest commercial edifice in the world, at the time. Fast-forward, and upward, Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, China reached a milestone: 1,955 feet (599 meters). By 2025, Asia will be home to more than 30 megacities: Tokyo, Shangai, Jakarta, Delhi, Seoul, Guangzhou, Beijing, Manila, Mumbai, Shenzhen top the list. According to Jorgen Randers, 2052, “The future will be urban, dense, and crowded.”

PingAn IFC, Shenzhen, China. Photographer: Posasihumvioa. Image: wikimedia.

Where will all those people live, and what will they eat? Some designers envision towers alive with bloom, absorbing rain, shielding sun, providing insulation, cleaning air, and perhaps even growing food. Examples include residential towers: Bosco Verticale, in Milan, Italy. In 2015, France’s capital passed a law mandating all new roofs be solar or green. Now, a further development: all Parisians may grow food on their premises. By 2020, the city known for haute cuisine may give another meaning to that adjective: more than 100 hectares (about 40% of a mile) of rooftops gardens and planted walls will grace the city, yielding 425 tons of vegetable, 24 tons of mushrooms. Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a pan-Parisian “license to vegetate.” Metro operator RATP hosts a commercial garden; the French Post Office farms its roof, and even breeds chickens amid the aubergines.

Jacob, Sam. “Sky-rise living: Palace or prison? 11 January 2018. CNN Style. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/skyrise-living-sam-jacob/index.html.

Randers, Jorgen. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (2012) and The Limits to Growth (1972). http://www.2052.info/

Ye, Sonia and Cloture Achi, Sybille de La Hamaide, Louise Heavens. “Post office workers grow vegetables, breed chickens on Paris rooftop ‘farm.'” 26 September 2017. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france/agriculture-urban-roofstop/post-office-workers-grow-vegetables-breed-chickens-on-paris-rooftop-farm-idUSKCN1C11UX. 

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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