Building the World

July 4, 2020
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Sand Castles: rebuilding the desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 29, 2020
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CITIES/TRANSPORT: Carbon Neutral Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 20, 2020
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ENERGY: Funding the Future

How should we spend the money of hope? Image: wikimedia.

THE MONEY OF HOPE

In the early part of 2020, the entire globe went into lockdown, suffered a plague of sickness and death that took lives and livelihoods of those in every corner of the world. In an urgent response, money on an unprecedented scale has entered the global economy.

Economic stimulus, large deposits of cash and loans, initiated to save national and global economies, present opportunity. How countries direct their bailouts may determine the future. Never again will so much money be readily available to rebuild the world. Let’s take a look at some examples:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$700 billion pledged in asset purchases or quantitative easing (QE)

Federal funds rate: 0-0.25%

Discount window rate: cut by 150 basis points

Unlimited QE, including purchase of corporate and municipal bonds

Six months of allowing foreign central banks to access U.S. dollars for overnight dollar loans

$2.3 trillion to support local governments, small-mid businesses, with 4-year loans to enterprise with up to 10,000 staff

$2.2 trillion aid package (27 March 2020) with $500 billion for suffering industries and direct payments to individuals ($1200) and families (up to $3,000)

EUROPEAN UNION

120 billion euros ($130 billion) added to asset-purchase program of 20 billion euros per month

750 billion euros in QE, adding to existing with total of 1.1 trillion euros

Eliminated cap on number of bonds EU could buy from any Eurozone country

Cut interest on Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) by 25 basis points to -0.75% (12 March 2020)

Suspended limits of EU government borrowing

Allowed credit line equal to 2% of national GDP from European Stability Mechanism (ESM) fund

European Investment Bank lending 200 billion euros to businesses

ESM freeing up 240 billion Europe of credit to governments

Total of 3.2 trillion euros: including provisions to cut company working hours rather than jobs

Berlin, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

GERMANY

750 billion euros total: with 100 billion for economic stability fund with direct stake in businesses

100 billion euros for public-sector development bank

400 billion euros to secure corporate debt vulnerable to default

FRANCE

300 billion euros guaranteed for corporate borrowing from commercial banks

45 billion euros to shore up businesses and employees

ITALY

400 billion euros of liquidity and bank loans to businesses

25 billion euros to suspend mortgage and loan repayments for families and companies, and funds for firms to pay workers on furlough or layoff.

SPAIN

200 billion euros divided in half with 50% government-backed credit for businesses/50% to help vulnerable people

700 million euros program to suspend evictions for six months after emergency is lifted

UNITED KINGDOM

200 billion pounds ($248 billion) of bond purchases

interest rate cut to 0.10% Bank of England

Bank of England doubled corporate bond purchase program to 20 billion pounds

Bank of England pledge to buy commercial paper with maturity of up to 1 year for businesses with pre-crisis investment grade credit

330 billion pounds in loan guarantees to business including paying 80% of staff salaries

Allowing businesses to temporarily retain 30 billion pounds of VAT (value added tax)

CANADA

Reduced overnight interest rates to 0.25%

Pledged purchase of Government of Canada securities – C$5 billion per week

C$50 billion credit for insured mortgages

C$10 billion for business support

C$150 billion for morgtages

C$55 billion for tax deferrals for businesses and families

C$27 billion aid for workers and low-income households

Government payment of up to 75% of salaries for workers in small and mid-sized businesses

Japan. Image: wikimedia.

JAPAN

Bank of Japan one-year zero-rate program to financial insitutions

Y430 billion for small and mid-sized businesses

Funding upgrades of medical facilities

Pay working parents forced to take leave due to school closures

Stimulus package of Y108 trillion ($993 billion) with cash payouts to households, small businesses; total package is equal to 20% of Japan’s economic output

CHINA

Yuan 2.8 trillion for infrastructure investment, backed by local bonds (19 March).

People’s Bank of China cut reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for small banks by 100 basis points. Worth about 400 billion yuan; cut will be in two phases, 15 April then 15 May 2020.

500 billion yuan ($71 billion) for re-lending and re-discount quotas

350 billion yuan for increased loan quota for businesses

Cut cash reserve requirements for banks, releasing 550 billion yuan

Also ruled: expand budget deficit, issue more bonds, drop interest rates, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks, and encourage renewed consumption

INDIA

1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) for food security and direct cash transfers. (26 March)

Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.40%

SOUTH KOREA

100 trillion won economic rescue package (7 April) including 29 trillion won in loans to small and mid-sized businesses, and 20 trillion won to buy corporate bonds and commercial paper

36 trillion won in loans to exporters hurt by virus shutdown

9.1 trillion won ($7.5 billion) cash payments to most families

17.7 trillion won to boost consumption

INDONESIA

$24.9 billion for social welfare to 10 million household for food and energy discounts, and 3 percentage point cut in corporate tax rate (to 22%)

Bank Indonesia cut seven-day reverse repurchase rate to 25 basis points to 4.50%

Central bank cut reserve requirement ratio by 200 bps for banks (and 50 bps for Islamic banks)

AUSTRALIA

A$90 billion ($56 billion) funding for banks at rate of 0.25%

A$15 billion program for residential mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities

Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates in two steps for total to 0.25%, and introduced QE with a target of 0.25% for bond yields

A$66 billion for companies and welfare

A$17 billion for apprentices, small business, retirees

A$130 billion for wage support for 6 million workers

A$715 million support for airlines

Sydney Opera House, Australia. Image: wikimedia.

BRAZIL

1.2 trillion reals ($231 billion) for central bank purchase of bank loan portfolios, repurchases of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds

150 billion reals for most vulnerable people and jobs

51 billion reals to allow companies affected by virus to reduce worker pay and hours, with a goal of preserving jobs (1 April)

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) cut rate by 100 basis points to 5.25%, and then reduced again (14 April 2020) to 4.25%

1.2 billion rand ($66 million) for small farms to keep up food production

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

$50 billion to help low-income and emerging market countries

“The Great Lockdown Economic Retraction: A global map of the outlook of retraction and growth of nations across the world for 2020.” From IMF Outlook. Image: Foxterria, Wikimedia.

FUNDING THE FUTURE

Add up all those stimulus packages, monetary funds, loans, and that’s a lot of money, much of it supporting business interest rates and workers’ jobs. Yet, with the exception of instances where the industry is targeted (agriculture, transport, finance), there are few stipulations on how the money should be directed. For example, there could be payments and supportive programs for innovations in energy or water, decarbonizing transport, or reducing air pollution.

While the 2020 coronavirus is an acute crisis, and climate change is a chronic crisis, both require response. Over the past decades, we have talked about climate change, but taken too little action. Part of the reason is funding. Without the urgent public health crisis and resultant shutdown, the world would never have allocated so much money to rebuild economic life. Yet, there it is. Now.

Yes, there has been disaster response to unfortunate hot-spots suffering tsunami or hurricane damage, earthquake or fire devastation. But that was in a region. Yes, there has been systemic change, world-wide, in some industries due to disaster; after 9/11, airports and security changed permanently, but that was just one sector.

In 2020, the whole world changed at once. With everyone hit by the corona virus, new ways of communicating and working evolved. Cities rethought transport. Fossil fuel loss dropped and cities saw cleaner air. Sadly, it was all due to death and sickness. But as a result, to rebuild after the virus, every country on earth has raised new money, and new hope.

Where money goes to an industry, how can that sector direct renewal to the future we know is coming: de-carbonized and sustainable? Of course, some of the funds must support present production lines and supply-chains, but surely a percentage could be directed forward to future goals.

What would you do with this one-time funding to rebuild the world?

Sources:

Cash, David and Rebecca Herst, “Covid-19 and Climate: Policy and Practice.” 22 April 2020. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/news_events_media/events/covid_19_and_climate_policy_and_practice

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. A Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 978052658351

International Monetary Fund. “IMF makes available $50 billion to help address the coronavirus.” 4 March 2020. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/04/sp030420-imf-makes-available-50-billion-to-help-address-coronavirus?mod=article_inline.

Ivanova, Maria. “Coasts and Communities.” Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, National Science Foundation. University of Massachusetts Boston, Center for Global Governance and Sustainability, Global Environmental Governance Project. https://www.umb.edu/igert/about.

Reuters, “Factbox: Global economic policy response to coronavirus crisis.”  14 April 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-economy-factbox/factbox-global-economic-policy-response-to-coronavirus-crisis-idUSKCN21W2AJ

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691149097

Appreciation to the University of Massachusetts Boston, especially Dean David Cash, Professor Maria  Ivanova, and Director Rebecca Herst.

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

March 17, 2020
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CITIES: Rebuilding the city-state

Cities may lead the way to a healthier future. Image: “Eiffel tower at dawn,” by Nitot. Image: wikimedia.

In a crisis, cities and states can react faster than countries. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle closed cinemas, gyms, bars and clubs; states like Massachusetts and California closed schools long before federal advisories. Closures to doors opened generous hearts: cafes near La Tour Eiffel gave away delicacies like foie gras and freshly baked bread, when Prime Minister Phillippe announced mandated a shutdown in Paris. Throughout history, city-states demonstrated a notably nimble organizational power: ancient Greek city-states like Cyrene, founded by climate migrants, created a new educational, scientific, and cultural center.  By 2050, 70% of the world’s people will live in cities. With the rise of megacities, with populations of 10 million plus, is it time for a new era of the city-state?

“Coronavirus: US cities put into lockdown.” 17 March 2020. Sky News. https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-new-york-and-la-on-lockdown-as-world-as-world-reacts-to-spread-of-covid-19-11958145.

“France to close all restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and clubs due to coronavirus.” Barbara Wojazer. 14 March 2020. CNN/World. https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-03-14-20-intl-hnk/index.html.

Toynbee, Arnold, editor. Cities of Destiny. Thames & Hudson, 1967.

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

March 1, 2020
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CITIES: Reuse and redesign

1.5 billion chopsticks are discarded every week. Could these elegant materials be repurposed? Japanese chopsticks. Image: wikimedia

Vancouver, Canada is taking reuse and redesign to an artistic new level. The many excellent restaurants serving cuisine with chopsticks cannot re-use these wooden implements. But ChopValue can. Collecting 350,000 chopsticks – every week – from Vancouver restaurants, the company cleans and repurposes the bamboo utensils to make tabletops and wooden kitchenware. It’s an idea that has potential far beyond Vancouver: worldwide 1.5 billion chopsticks are discarded every week. How it works: chopsticks are collected from restaurants and taken to local micro-factories where they are fashioned into home products. ChopValue was conceived over a sushi dinner when friends discussed the problem, and opportunity, of construction waste. Suddenly one said: what about chopsticks? Four years later, there are ChopValue programs in Canada and the United States. Will the land of Shinkansen, hosting the Tokyo Olympics, take up the torch during the 2020 Games?

BBC.com. “Making chopsticks into house furnishings.” 28 February 2020.

ChopValue. https:chopvalue.com

I, Florence. “CHOPVALUE: A Movement to Extend the Life Cycle of Chopsticks.” 13 January 2019. Pendulum Magazine. https://pendulummag.com/business/2019/1/13/chop-value-creating-multiple-cycles-of-value/

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

February 24, 2020
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WATER: Time and Tide in BOSTON

Boston, a port city, is threatened by rising seas. Map of Boston Harbor, wikimedia commons.

Coastal communities around the world are preparing for rising seas. Boston, a port city built on landfill, with a harbor renowned for freedom and liberty, is fighting a war. Last century, the Atlantic shore of Boston saw a persistent nine inch rise, with predictions that sea-rise may triple by 2030. By 2070? Look for three more feet of water. Boston ranks as the world’s eighth most vulnerable city, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of more than 100 coastal cities.

UMass Boston, waterfront campus, leads research on how to respond to coastal sea-rise. Image: wikimedia.

According to the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the Woods Hole Group, options to prevent the damage of flooding include spending $11.8 billion for a macro harbor barrier such as that built in the Netherlands. New York City is also studying the potential for a barrier that might cost $119 billion. In the short-term, Boston will budget $30 million per year to combat sea rise, with new ideas including:

TRANSPORT: New watertight doors on the rail tunnel near Fenway Park; redoing blockage of underground rail ventilation systems near Aquarium MBTA station.

PARKS: Protective berm of 10 feet along shore of Joe Moakley Park, a 60-acre oasis in South Boston near the beach. The park itself will be raised, and chambers installed beneath playing fields that will be capable of holding 5 million cubic feet of storm surge water. Other parks undergoing similar change: Ryan in Charleston on the Mystic River.

BUILDINGS: New condo high-rise housing on Boston Harbor comes with an “aqua fence” or portable flood barrier. General Electric (GE) leased two historic brick buildings, elevating the first floors and moving all electrical equipment to higher levels than the traditional basement.

MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL ICONS: Boston’s Children’s Museum redesigned a lawn into a hill, with a playground surrounded by dense plantings.

FOOD SUPPLY: Most large supermarkets build loading docks below ground; if food supply is to remain available when a city suffers flooding, relocating loading docks could improve public health.

MUNICIPAL PERMITS AND REGULATIONS: New buildings must meet increasing strict environmental standards. A similar approach governs new construction in Paris, France.

INVITING INNOVATIVE IDEAS: Boston’s Museum of Science, with the support of General Motors and Greentown Labs, is holding a $3,000 competition for ideas in transportation to help achieve carbon neutrality.

Museum of Science, Boston, sponsoring Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge, 22 April 2020. Image: wikimedia.

Boston’s Museum of Science is one of many educational design competitions; students worldwide may soon deposit capstones, and theses in an Idea Bank, and join Climate Conservation Corps service teams. Is your home community or school in a location vulnerable to sea-rise? What are you doing?  The best ideas are those that are shared.

Mufson, Steven. “Boston harbor brings ashore a new enemy: Rising Seas: Facing climate change, Boston must gird itself for an era of rising water – or be inundated.” 18 February 2020. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/02/19/boston-prepares-rising-seas-climate-change/.

Museum of Science, Boston. “Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge.” https://www.mos.org/go-carbon-neutral/

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities.” 2013. http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/future-flood-losses-in-major-coastal-cities.htm

OECD. “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes.” https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/ranking-port-cities-with-high-exposure-and-vulnerability-to-climate-extremes_011766488208

Spang, Edward. “Food-Energy-Water Nexus.” Center for Water-Energy Efficiency. 4 May 2017. https://ie.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/05/spang-o3MAY17.pdf.

Spang, Edward., and William Moomaw, Kelly Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, and David Marks. “Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 9 (10), 8 October 2018.

Appreciation to Charles E. Litwin, David H. Marks, and Cherie E. Potts for research suggestions.

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

 

February 14, 2020
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WATER: Time and Tide

“Sunset on Manila Bay,” by photographer Bobbe21. Image: wikimedia.

Rising seas may seem far off in time. Although global oceans may rise 4 feet, some say it is tomorrow’s problem. But in Manila, Philippines and Jakarta, Indonesia – tomorrow is today. It’s also tomorrow in Miami and San Francisco.

Manila and Jakarta are both capitals of their countries; both were built as ports. Both have become mega cities: Manila with a population of 14 million, and Jakarta, 10 million. Both cities have been tapping underground water aquifers to quench the thirst of a growing populace, thereby draining the land to trigger subsidence. Jakarta is the fast-sinking city on earth. The government has decided relocate Indonesia’s capital to Borneo, a solution similar to that taken by Brazil when Brasilia became the new capital, or when Nigeria moved its capital from Lagos inland to Abuja. In those cases, sea rise was not the reason; rather, crowded ports, security, and a wish to represent the whole nation, especially the indigenous peoples residing in the country’s interior, were paramount. Now, rising seas may become the leading cause of coastal city rebuilding and relocation. Manila is already requiring people move from some sections so constantly flooded that children go to school via boat.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Photographer: D. Ramey Logan. Image: wikimedia commons.

In the United States, 5 million people live within 4 feet of high tide levels. Factor in storm surges and flooding, and you can foresee where this is going. Miami, Florida and San Francisco, California are two cases in point. The choices facing both cities include building barriers to keep the sea out, such as the surge protectors of the Netherlands; restoring wetlands in seas and rivers such as those planted by Thames21, or even making people move, as in Manila. But pricey waterfront property near the Golden Gate Bridge is getting protection rather than relocation. The Bay Area approved a sea wall along the Embarcadero for $425 million. SFO airport is raising its sea wall at a cost of $587 million. In Miami, there are already frequent floods. More are coming: the Southwest Florida Climate Leadership Summit  of 2019 reported there will be 17 – 31 inches of sea rise by 2060. What will happen to all those waterfront condos? There’s new terms in developer’s lingo: “armoring” and “SLR” – sea level rise.

NASA developed space-based tools that measure the environmental impact of glacial melt to 293 port cities worldwide. Image: nasa.gov

Why are seas rising? Oceans absorb 90% of increased heat that is caused by emissions linked to human activity. Water expands as it heats, so the levels rise. Another climate-related cause, melting glaciers and icebergs. Coastal locations are set to generate $14 trillion in rebuilding by 2050. Innovations in city design, waterfront land and habitat, storm barriers, and new canal development will become leading fields in the next years. Tide is coming: do we have time?

Brennan, Pat “NASA links port-city sea levels to regional ice melt.” 21 November 2017. Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2658/nasa-links-port-city-sea-levels-to-regional-ice-melt/

Harris, Alex. “New projections show that South Florida is in for even more sea level rise.” 4 December 2019. The Miami Herald. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article237997454.html.

Sengupta, Somini and Chang W. Lee, with contributions by Jason Gutierrez. “A Crisis Right Now: San Francisco and Manila Face Rising Seas.” 13 February 2020. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/13/cilmate/manila-san-francisco-sea-level-rise.html.

Walsh, John and Donald Wuebbles, Convening Lead Authors, with Katharine Hayhoe, James Kossin, Kenneth Kunkel, Graeme Stephens, Peter Thorne, Russel Vose, Michael Weher, Josh, Willis. “Sea Level Rise: Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100.” National Climate Assessment, GlobalChange.gov. https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/our-changing-climate/sea-level-rise.

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

January 13, 2020
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CITIES: Trees

Boston’s Greenway. Image: Greenway Conservancy.

American cities lost 36 million trees in the last five years. Without trees, cities will get hotter and suffer more periods of air pollution. Why are we losing trees? Hurricanes and tornadoes tear them from the earth, fires burn them to the ground, insects and diseases weaken and kill trees. Those are some of the reasons we can’t easily control.

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Image: wikimedia.

But there is one factor we can influence: city development. Cities are on the rise, rapidly growing into megacities with populations of 10 million or more. The United States, with 80% of the US population living in urban areas, especially in forested coastal regions along the West and East coasts, has a unique opportunity to preserve and enhance urban forests. It’s well worth it. Trees bring environmental and economic benefits.

URBAN TREES:

Provide shade for homes, schools, office buildings, cooling surface temperatures;

Reduce pollution through absorbing carbon and filtering pollutants from the air;

Reduce energy costs by reducing air-conditioning use – economics of $4 billion per year;

Improve water quality by filtering rainwater, absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus in to the ground;

Protect against urban flooding, absorbing surface water;

Reduce noise pollution by absorbing urban sound;

Enhance city soundscape by adding birdsong, and the whisper of wind through leaves;

Protect against UV radiation, absorbing 96% of ultraviolet radiation;

Improve health, physical through cleaner air and shade to exercise outdoors, mental health of being in nature;

Increase tourism and real estate values.

The New River passes through Bowes Park. Image: wikimedia.

Case studies of successful historic urban forestation reveal strategies. In the year 1600, so many people crossed London Bridge to live in the burgeoning London town that water supply became strained. One of the world’s first artificial or built rivers combined two elements: drinking water and trees. Constructed from 1605 to 1639, the New River stretches over 20 miles from Hertfordshire to Islington, just uphill from London, terminating in a water reservoir ready as needed. All along the route, tree-lined walking paths add protection and shade. Today, the New River is run by Thames Water PLC, managing water supply, and maintaining the walking paths traversed by urban hikers including the Ramblers Association. It is interesting to note that Hugh Myddleton, who partnered with King James I to build the New River, was the regent’s former jeweler and may be related to a member of the present House of Windsor.

Boston had a similar idea with Olmstead’s “Emerald Necklace” with recent Rose Fitzgerald Greenway extension of the urban breathing ribbon of green. The Greenway replaced what was formerly the Central Artery that ran traffic anthrough town; the road was placed underneath in a tunnel and the surface became a park. For an even earlier urban greening, some would point to the City of the Eiffel Tower where Haussmann widened tree-lined boulevards to breathe air and design into Paris. Presently, the city of light requires new commercial construction to have either solar or living green roofs.

“Terrasse panoramique @ Le Printemps Haussmann @ Paris.” by Guilhem Vellut, 2017. Image: wikimedia commons.

By 2050, 70% of the world’s people will live in cities. As cities grow, rebuilding better water systems, developing flood prevention plans, redesigning roads to accommodate electric and autonomous vehicles, how can trees become part of the plan? Will the proposed Climate Conservation Corps (CCC) plant trees in cities? A pilot project at Roger Williams University, or an initiative by World War Zero, might lead the way. There may be considerations of legal import: should trees have standing?

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoe G. Quinn. “Should trees have standing?” Building the World Blog. University of Massachusetts Boston. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/03/01/should-trees-have-standing/

Chillag, Amy. “US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here’s why it matters and how you can stop it.” 18 September 2019. CNN.https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/health/iyw-cities-losing-36-million-trees-how-to-help-trnd/index.html

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition. https://sufc.org/

New River, http://www.thames-water.com

Ramblers Walking Paths of the New River, http://www.ramblers. org.uk/info/paths/newriver.html.

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

November 22, 2019
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ENERGY: Building with the Sun

“August 31, 2012 Solar Corona CME.” Image: NASA Goddard Flight Center, wikimedia.

Heliogen: using solar to build the future. Solar roofs are not new: houses and office buildings often top with photovoltaic panels. Paris has decreed that new construction must have either a solar or green roof. Solar panels also are common in space. But until recently, it has not been possible to use solar technology to generate the extreme heat needed to produce building materials – cement, steel, glass. Heliogen, founded by CEO Bill Gross, backed by Patrick Soon-Shiong (physician and owner of the Los Angeles Times) and Bill Gates (Microsoft), uses artificial intelligence and mirrors to capture sunlight in such concentrations that high heat needed for industrial processes can now be generated by the sun. It’s clean, and the sun’s energy is free: both factors far outshine using fossil fuels for industrial construction that requires extremely high heat. In fact, Heliogen’s technology will be equivalent o 25% of the heat found on the surface of the sun itself. Building houses, schools, hospitals, and offices generates 20% of global emissions. Heliogen may soon go public, and is now seeking customers like cement companies who want what the company calls “green heat.”

Egan, Matt. “Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough,” 19 November 2019. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/19/business/heliogen-solar-energy-bill-gates/index.html.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data.

Glaser, Peter E. “Solar Power from Space: US3781647A – Method and apparatus for converting solar radiation to electrical power.” https://patents.google.com/patent/US3781647/en.

Heliogen. “Replacing Fuel with Sunlight.” https://heliogen.com

Rodgers, Lucy. “Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about.” 17 December 2018, BBC.com https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844

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

November 17, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES Underwater – Venice

St. Mark’s, Venice, underwater again. “Aqua Alta Venise,” Image: wikimedia

Venice, UNESCO World Heritage Site, has suffered the worst flood in 50 years, attributed in its severity to climate change. Inside the city’s venerable buildings are paintings by Francesco Guardi, J.M.W.Turner, and many other priceless treasures. St. Mark’s Basilica, flooded just six times in nine centuries, shows inundation-damaged marble floors; there is fear the iconic columns may also be weakened. Modern art is also affected: Banksy’s “Shipwrecked Girl” mural on the Rio di Ca’Foscari canal is now underwater.

What can be done to prevent the loss of life, property, and infrastructure that cities like Venice must anticipate in the future? Coastal cities may soon have more accurate information about sea-rise. As Venice flooded in November 2019, Sentinel-6a entered testing in the final stage before expected launch in November 2020. Sea-rise is accelerating: five-year span 2014 – 2019 revealed a 4.8mm/year increase.  Copernicus Sentinel’s Jason-2 Poseidon Altimeters will map ocean floor peaks and valleys, reading temperature, salinity, gravity, currents and speed.

Coperniicus Sentinel-2A Satellite, 8 August 2017. “Greenland, wildfire.” Image: wikimedia commons.

A global system like COMSAT, Sentinel coordinates orbiting devices. Sentinel-6 moves between 66 degrees North and South; Sentinel-3 goes to 82 degrees. Sentinel-6 repeats its cycle every 10 days, monitoring big areas like the Gulf Stream or the Kuroshio Current; Sentinel-3 repeats every 27 days, focusing on smaller ocean eddies that move more slowly. Earth Science Division of NASA may link Landsat to Sentinel-2, completing the circle.

Meanwhile, Venice’s regional council may be having second thoughts about their recent veto to fund a proposal to combat climate change. Just minutes later, their Ferro Fini Palace offices flooded, sending the fleeing officials into the flooded streets, with  70% of Venice engulfed. From St. Mark’s Square, Venice’s mayor Brugnaro expressed hopes that the Mose system, a series of barriers consisting of mobile gates located at inlets, will soon protect the city from inundations. Venice is not alone: Boston and other cities may build harbor barrier systems. Worldwide, hundreds of cities  face the same fate: what are some of the ways cities can respond, from Amsterdam to Jakarta to Yangon?

The once and future Venice: “Piazza San Marco with the Basilica,” 1720. Image: wikimedia.

Amos, Jonathan. “Sentinel for sea-level rise enters testing.” 15 November 2019. BBC Science & Environment.

Cerini, Marianna. “Venice is flooding — what lies ahead for its cultural and historical sites?” 16 November 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/venice-flooding-st-mark-damages/index.html.

Giuffrida, Angela. “Venice council flooded moments after rejecting climate crisis plan: proposals rejected as lagoon city faces worst flooding in 53 years.” 15 November 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/15/venice-council-flooded-moments-after-rejecting-climate-crisis-plan/.

Kirshen, Paul, et. al. “Feasibility of Harbor-wide Barrier Systems: Preliminary Analysis for Boston Harbor.”   2018. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Lemperiere, Francois and Luc DeRoo. “Peut-on éviter les inondations a Paris?” Symposium du CFBR, 25 janvier 2018 a Chambery. Thanks to David Edwards-May.

Mazzel, Patricia. “82 Days Underwater: The Tide Is High, but They’re Holding On.” 24 November 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/us/florida-keys-flooding-king-tide.html?smid=nytcore.ios.share.

MOSE SYSTEM: The mobile barriers for the protection of Venice from high tides.” https://www.mosevenezia.eu/project/?lang-en

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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