Building the World

January 1, 2018
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2018: Celebrate the 8’s

“Green 8 in a Sea of Blue.” Earth Observatory Image: https://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Seen from space, the Americas look a bit like a green 8 in a sea of blue. One glance reveals our planet is made of regions, not nations. Rivers do not stop at lines arbitrarily drawn on a map: transboundary waters are shared resources. Another interconnection: land use, including transport. Great rail systems of history such as the Trans-Siberian or Canadian Pacific railways redefined connection through rapidly advancing transit technologies. Now, electric highways, autonomous vehicles, and hyperloop transit could link continents in innovation.

In 2018, Canada, Mexico, and the United States debate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Negotiations should include transboundary water resources; legal precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations. Nafta truckers could pioneer automated highways that might steer negotiations. But Nafta may be too small to address macro issues.

Is it now time to extend the north american discussion, to a broader regional scope? Afta Nafta. Decisions about water quality in one nation may impact another; transit links continents, not countries. Oceans may ultimately determine the fate of cities: from Natal to New York, many are coastal. What if everyone in the Americas learned at least one of the languages of their neighbors? Language-based education and cultural exchange might stir innovation in areas such as shared water resources, intelligent highways, public health, and rights. Could there be a regional tour of beauty, instead of a tour of duty? Xchange students and volunteers could form corps maintaining readiness for disaster response (by definition, regional) while practicing environmental service, in an updated CCC of the Americas. Potential logo? Green 8 in a Circle of Blue.

It might be noted that 8, viewed on the horizontal plane, is the infinity symbol. System scientists may suggest that two interconnecting loops could form a renewing system. The infinity symbol was the creation, in 1655, of John Wallis (he also served as chief cryptographer for Parliament). Whether it remains infinite or not, our shared environment depends upon our actions. Perhaps it is time to dedicate at least one year, per decade, to improvement of our shared resources: celebrate the 8’s by honoring interconnection.

“Infinity Symbol” Image: wikimedia commons

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

October 14, 2017
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Capital Idea: New Nafta

Seeing earth from space, individual countries fade in the reality that regions may be the true nations. Image: wikimedia.

NAFTA is in the news, but it may soon be history. Now is the time for developing visions for a better, stronger, more sustainable, and kinder, regional alliance. One look from space shows not a troika of nations but a connected region. One aspect that should be added to current negotiations among Canada, Mexico, and the United States: water. The precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations of shared water, especially transboundary aquifers? Another eau de vie, education: might scholarly and cultural exchange mingle the waters?

A new capital could signal the vision. It is timely. Recent earthquakes affecting Mexico City reopened conversation about the current capital built on a lakebed, not far from volcanoes. Should Mexico consider moving the DF? A federal district, such as Mexico’s capital or Washington, DC, is by definition its own moveable feast. If Mexico were to move the DF, could the new capital symbolize a regional vision embracing Canada, Mexico and the United States, in honor of shared resources? What architects should design the new city?

What’s in a name? Could TLCAN-ALENA-NAFTA become TAN? Image: wikimedia.

Finally, if Nafta emerges from current talks, it is time to unite nomenclature. How can there be a common vision when, at present, there are three acronyms for the same entity:

TLCAN – Tratado de libre comercia de america del norte https://www.sec-tlcan-mex.org/

ALENA – Accord de libre-échange nord américain http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/N-23.8.pdf

NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement http://www.worldtradelaw.net/fta/agreements/nafta.pdf

The new name might honor a letter from each treaty, resulting in a shared word with meaning in all three languages – TAN. Or initial the countries: cam or mac. But perhaps the alliance that really matters is bigger, representing the land as seen from space. Will these and other issues be debated at the XVII Congressional NAFTA & Border Issues Conference at the Library of Congress in Washington on 26 October 2017?

For more:

Eckstein, Gabriel. “Buried Treasure or Buried Hope? The Status of Mexico-U.S. Transboundary Aquifers under International Law.” International Community Law Review 13 (2011), Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

McHugh, James T., editor. Toward a North American Legal System. (2012), Palgrave Macmillan.

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

September 23, 2016
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Welcome

How can the world welcome 65 million people in new settings? Image: wikimedia commons.

The United Nations reports that 65.3 million people are refugees, asylum seekers or displaced: 1 in 113 of all the people on the planet. In the year 2015, every minute saw 24 people forced to flee; half under 18 years old. Conditions for millions are perilous. The first-ever United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants this week produced a Declaration, building upon the 1951 Refugee Convention that defines ‘refugee’ and the rights of the displaced. Education and employment are urgently needed. Can macro-scale infrastructure projects offer an opportunity? After World War II, Australia invited displaced skilled people to join the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Project; over 100,000 moved to a new land. Housing for families included schools where children learned together, adding diversity to the curriculum. How can the world welcome 65 million new arrivals today? Will Alex set an example of welcome?

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.

May 6, 2016
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Mine the Gap

A year might make a lifetime of difference. Image: peacecorps.gov.

When a first daughter decided upon a gap year, the world voiced opinion. Some worried that a year off assumed privilege; others expressed admiration for benefits of time in the ‘real world’ of work, experience, travel, service, or specialized training. Balancing gown and town, in 1209, King John hired a French engineer and cleric who “in a short time hath wrought in regard to the Bridges of Xainctes and Rochelle, by the great care and pains of our faithful, learned and worthy Clerk, Isenbert, Master of the Schools of Xainctes” to build London Bridge. Charlemagne’s engagement with Alcuin, or the Netherland’s institution of the Dike Army (“ende alman sal ten menen werke comen op den dijc“), are examples of study and service. The medieval guilds combined learning, doing, and regional travel; Erasmus today is reminiscent. City Year Americorps offers options with college scholarships; Tufts 4+1 includes a Bridge Year. Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, discovered a new idea when hiking in Bamberg on a student vacation. The University of Massachusetts Boston offers support for travel and scholarship to nations and locations featured in Building the World, through the Building a Better World Fund. Many ‘gap’ programs involve travel: Frank P. Davidson, whose early experience in Mexico has been cited as forerunner to the Peace Corps, suggested an interplanetary year. To fulfill the global vision of the Paris Agreement COP21, environment, governance, and industry may transform through engaged education.

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

February 22, 2016
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Water (+) Sports

Can sports raise awareness of the future of water? Image: wikimediacommons.

Sports are associated with water. Many sports are performed on, in or through water; other sports like running races build up a powerful thirst, often slaked at water stations. Because of their natural link, can sports help to raise awareness of water sustainability? México’s CONAGUA invites participation in an annual running event. In a different endeavor, sports teams representing water’s many forms – oceans, rivers, urban water, agriculture and irrigation – are exemplified by Ultimate Frisbee Oaxaca, UFO, to raise awareness of how to sustain and improve these vital resources. Rome’s aqueducts provided water for urban growth as well as competitive games including naumachia. Sporting events often include water stations; will innovations such as the Fontus by Kristof Retezár be a game changer?

For more:

Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA), “Carrera del Agua” http://www.comunidadvialmx.org/eventos/2016-02-15-corre-una-vez-mas-por-el-agua

Ultimate Frisbee Oaxaca (UFO): https://www.facebook.com/UltimateOaxaca/

Palacios-Vélez, Óscar Luis and Felipe J.A. Pedraza-Oropeza. “Drainage and Salinity Problems in the Mexican Irrigation Districts: An Overview 1962-2013.” Tecnología y Ciencias del Agua, vol. VI, núm. 6, noviembre-diciembre de 2015, pp. 113-123. ISSN 0187.8336.

Fessenden, Marissa. “This Water Bottle Refills Itself.” Smithsonian.com. 3 February 2016. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/water-bottle-refills-itself-from-moisture-air-180957986/?no-ist

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

September 24, 2015
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Heroes, Inspiration, and Change

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963, delivering his “I Have a Dream” Speech.

On September 24, 2015, Pope Francis addressed the United States Congress; it was an historic occasion, as the Pontiff was the first to do so, although predecessors had also received invitations. Pope Francis referenced the message of Moses, and highlighted four American heroes: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. In these leaders, the pontiff called forth the hope and action of the United States, and the world, to the qualities of peace, freedom, dreams, responsibility, and dialogue. What is the role of heroes as an inspiration to those ready to build a better future?

For the text and audio of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech of 28 August, 1963: http://www.mlkonline.net/dream.html

For the text of Pope Francis’ address to the United States Congress of 24 September, 2015: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/24/text-of-pope-francis-address-to-congress

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.

September 8, 2015
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Migration

LE Eithne Operation Triton, June 2015. Image: Irish Naval Service.

Our world faces a refugee and migration crisis. What solutions can be found? Greece, now a center of activity, pioneered a new vision when people boarded boats from Thera to found ancient Cyrene. In Australia, from 1947-55, over 75,000 industrious, innovative individuals and families left two dozen European countries to relocate and build the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Project, a multi-reservoir hydroelectric system of 16 dams, seven power stations, and 140 miles of interconnected tunnels, pipelines, and aqueducts in the most arid country on earth. Australia remembers: #LighttheDark gathered support for the world’s current migration crisis. Europe has also opened doors to freedom and opportunity. Major infrastructure projects to combat drought are still needed today. Can our world find inspiration in the examples of Greece and Australia to offer opportunity to the industrious, innovative, pioneering migrants and refugees of our 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.

December 30, 2014
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Winter Innovation

 

Basketball. Image: wikimedia commons.

December is the birthday month of one of America’s most popular sports. Stormy New England winters confined college athletes in Springfield, Massachusetts, indoors. Using two peach baskets affixed to the railing of a balcony, Dr. James Naismith invented, and named, the game of basketball to keep athletes in shape throughout the winter of 1891. The game of hoops proved to be a rapid success. The first international match was played in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1909 (the American team lost); by 1936, basketball entered the Olympics (the American team won).

For more: www.hoophall.com.

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.

October 12, 2014
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Way of Rights

Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, present at 1215 signing of Magna Carta. Image: wikimedia commons.

800 years ago, rights took a leap forward. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, champion of human rights,  is credited with an influential role in the Magna Carta, or Great Charter. The agreement, accepted by “manus” (Latin for hand but meaning legal power, similar to handshaking on a deal) by King John at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, gave birth to rule of constitutional law in England, and later the world, including the United States’ Constitution. Magna Carta, the Great Charter, along with other landmark documents including the Emancipation Proclamation, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, visits Massachusetts in October. What are the evolving rights of the future? Will Bolivia lead the way?

About Magna Carta: http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation

Magna Carta in Massachusetts: http://www.clarkart.edu/Exhibition/Magna-Carta.aspx

Bolivia and the Rights of the Earth:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/10/bolivia-enshrines-natural-worlds-rights

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.

September 22, 2014
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Common Ground

Landscape in Scotland by Gustave Dore. Courtesy of Walters Art Museum.

Scotland’s decision of September 2014 probes connection. Whether for or against independence, one might find common wealth in Charlemagne‘s interconnected centers of learning that may have led to establishment of universities. Erasmus, a modern European educational exchange network, follows the tradition. Another example of the power of connection might be the Hanseatic League of medieval Europe, now known as Hanse. At the time of the guilds, industries traded specialized goods such as wax, cloth, on a regional basis; Hanse was formed for this purpose. When the 14th century league decided to require annual convention, Tagfahrt delegates from 50 cities met in an intricate, and inclusive, system of governance and agreement. New leagues, for new times, may be emerging: whether united or independent, regions of the world are interconnected through shared benefit and responsibility for water, energy. Hanse’s annual meeting was often convened by Lübeck; might Glasgow, Scotland, host Common Ground 2015?

For more:

On Scotland’s September 2014 decision: http://www.bbc.uk/news/magazine-29276463

On Hanse: http://www.hanse.org/en/international-hanse-days/the-traditional-hanseatic-days/

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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