Building the World

December 8, 2017
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Electricentric MWay

Monterrey to Memphis to Montreal: Electricentric MWay? Image: Khaled, Wikimedia Commons.

Ford Motor Company is taking a right turn. The Michigan automotive manufacturer reversed a decision: instead of closing a plant in Mexico, they’ll dedicate an assembly line to build electric vehicles in Cuautitlán, near Mexico City. The EVs were originally slated to be built in Michigan, but now the Flat Rock plant in Detroit will build driverless vehicles, for sale in 2021. Nafta explorations are in progress: should a macro plan for a North American network of charging stations from Monterrey to Memphis to Montreal be sketched, and inked? Call it the MWay? Ionity set an example in Europe. What would the charging stations look like? When the United States Federal Highway was built, gas stations were planned. In fact, a Bostonian named Howard Deering Johnson made a fortune selling ice-cream at service stops and plazas on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes. Would McDonalds be the sponsor of the MWay? Nafta now has a singular opportunity for a strategic system of electric and autonomous vehicles, using regional advantage to rebuild a continent.

Boudette, Neal E. “Ford Will Build Electric Cars in Mexico, Shifting Its Plan.” 7 December 2017. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/business/ford-plant-electric.html

Colias, Mike and Tim Higgins. “Production to Mexico, Tags U.S. Plant for Driverless Car. 6 December 2017. Wall Street Journal.

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 1, 2017
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100 Days to Power

Stone sculpture, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: wikimedia commons.

A promise, a bet, a race: Tesla founder Elon Musk made a deal. In 100 days, Tesla would build a 100-megawatt battery or turn it over to South Australian state if the deadline were missed even by a day. The battery, world’s biggest to date, is due to be on time for December 1. Why that date? It’s the start of Australia’s summer, the season of air-conditioning and power outages. French partner Neoen helped build the powerhouse that will store energy generated by its Hornsdale Wind Farm. Expected power? Enough to bring electricity to 30,000 homes. Australia, location of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, experienced an energy crisis earlier this year, as a result of exporting so much liquefied natural gas (LNG) that a heat wave challenged air conditioners. After Qatar, Australia is the largest exporter of LNG. Australia just closed a major coal power plant in Victoria.  Australia’s race to the future with partners Neoen and Tesla may mark a milestone for renewable power, especially energy storage.

Mcguire, Rod. “World’s biggest battery to be ready this week in Australia.” 28 November 2017. Associated Presshttps://apnews.com/a6cd45c5b5f141cf80f2bad43755295c

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

November 24, 2017
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Water Park

Marine life will be protected in Mexico’s new ocean preserve. Image: wikimedia commons.

Mexico created a macro water park; the Revillagigedo Archipelago will be the largest ocean marine reserve in North America. It’s a ban on all fishing in a protected zone of 57,000 square miles (150,000 square kilometers). Another prohibition? Extraction of natural resources. The grouping of volcanic islands is located on the crossing of two ocean currents, making the reserve a meeting and breeding site for marine life including whales. Mexico’s preserve avoids further hotel building. Another approach, in Singapore, is a marine life park within a resort, preserving 800 species. Marine reserves in the Pacific include a preserve of 193,000 square miles in Palau. As the oceans become increasingly challenged by many factors including overfishing, acidification, and plastic pollution, Mexico’s marine reserve is a gift to the future.

BBC. “Mexico creates huge national park to protect marine life.” 25 November 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42120610

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

November 17, 2017
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Bonn Voyage

Sunrise in Bonn, Germany. Image wikimedia.

The Conference of the Parties (COP23) met in Bonn, Germany to put the walk in the talk. COP23’s purpose? Make actionable those agreements, formed in Paris at COP21, addressing climate change. Among developments in Bonn, the Ocean Pathway will include waters not contained within specific countries. Other notable achievements: Powering Past Coal Alliance. World agreements, such as that achieved in Paris and followed up in Bonn, are relatively rare in history. Global time zones were agreed at the International Prime Meridian Conference of 1884, as a result of the work of Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway. COMSAT invited companies around the world to join governments to build a new “railway” in the sky: communications satellite systems later resulted in the Internet. Bonn’s achievements at COP23 will determine the future, as participating nations (with a notable exception) work together to rebuild a sustainable world. Even where a country might not participate, states and cities continue the effort: We Are Still In.

Ellis, Jonathan. “The Bonn Climate Conference: All Our Coverage in One Place.” 13 November 2017. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/climate/bonn-climate-change-conference.html

Powering Past Coal Alliance. http://www.ym.fi/download/noname/%7B2ECC2AA5-F5D9-4551-BEC1-63C29DDB57A4%7D/132328

United Nations. COP23. https://cop23.unfccc.int

We Are Still In. https://www.wearestillin.com/cop23-press-release

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

November 10, 2017
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Charging the future

Image: Devin sportscar, 1962. Will 2062 see a new model at one of Ionity’s charging stations? Image: wikimedia.org

Automakers BMW, Daimler, Ford, and Volkswagen will share equity in a new venture, building a network of charging stations for electric cars. Ionity, the joint venture, plans to install 400 units across Europe by 2020. Why? Most drivers charge their electric vehicles at home, using a 7-kilowatt-hour plug suitable for overnight charging. Ionity’s network, located along highways, will be faster: 350 kilowatts per hour. When cars catch up (presently, 50 kilowatts per hour is max capability), Ionity’s network will power up autos in ten minutes, while drivers stop for coffee. Another benefit? One plug fits all vehicles. When the U. S. Federal Highway was built, gas stations and related services expanded the economic value of the route. Similarly, Ionity will install their equipment in existing gasoline stations. Headquartered in Munich, and building the first stations in Austria, Germany, and Norway, Ionity opens for business in 2018. Electric cars are still a small segment of the vehicle sector: improving energy infrastructure will expand market share, charging the future.

McHugh, David and Geir Moulson. “Carmakers join forces in Europe to make electrics widespread.” Associated Press/Chicago Tribune, 5 November 2017. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-bc-eu–germany-electric-cars-20171103-story.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 License

November 3, 2017
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First Migration: Next Mission

Image: United Nations University. www.merit.unu.edu

Humans fanned out to encircle the world; now, we hold its destiny in our hands. Originating in Africa, traversing the planet by waterways, roads, trains, and air, human builders created the Grand Canal of China, the Roman roads and aqueducts, united lands by the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Channel Tunnel, ultimately following Daedalus to take wing above and beyond the world. See the path of human migration in this animation map. Migration is still one of the top five challenges of civilization. Now that we have put our collective arms around the planet, what work must we do with hand, mind, and heart? Will the next migration include a fuller definition of nature, and the role we now take in shaping destiny?

Thanks to George H. Litwin, Isabel Rimanoczy, and Laurie Smith Weisberg for suggestions.

American Museum of Natural History. Video showing human migration over 200,000 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmA3Q0_OE

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation Series. Gnome Press, 1951 ff.

Gugliotta, Guy. “The Great Human Migration: Why humans left their African homeland 80,000 years ago to colonize the world.” July 2008, Smithsonian Magazinehttps://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-great-human-migration-13561/

Kalin Anev Janse. “How to Manage the Top Five Global Economic Challenges.” 1 November 2017. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/what-are-the-top-five-challenges-for-international-organizations/.

Rimanoczy, Isabel. Big Bang Being: Developing the Sustainability Mindset. Greenleaf Publishing: 2013.

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

October 27, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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Microbeads

Microbeads: image, wikimedia commons

Tiny formulations of plastic, microbeads can be found in household cleaners, toothpaste, and cosmetics. After using such products, one might rinse the mop, expel the toothpaste, or simply wash one’s hands after applying makeup. But that is not the end; rather, it is the beginning of a journey made by a microbead into the water supply, perhaps culminating in an extra addition to your cup of tea. Microbeads have been found in every kind of water: lakes, rivers, oceans. Microbeads are part of advances in plastics, a substance just over 60 years old that has seen an increase of 560% since its inception. Cosmetic manufacturers like L’Oreal and and Colgate-Palmolive have taken steps to phase out the practice, using instead natural exfoliants such as apricot seeds and walnut shells. Legislation such as the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 helped. In the same year, Canada presented the Microbead Elimination and Monitoring Act.

The Thames River has come back to life, thanks to laws promoting clean water and plastic prevention. Image: wikimedia.

Can emerging and refining legislation on public water supply benefit from historic laws such as the Statutory Foundation of the New River, bringing fresh running water to the city of London, enacted in 1605? Recent efforts to clear the Thames River of plastic are promising: in 1957, the waterway was declared “biologically dead” in part due to lack of repair to Victorian sewers that were damaged by World War II bombing. As repairs began, awareness of other problems such as pesticides and fertilizers improved. There are now 125 species of fish in the Thames. But as one problem was cured, another began to emerge: plastic. In 2015, 70% of the flounder in the Thames had bits of plastic in their systems. Cleaner Thames, a campaign initiated in 2015, battles the plastic waste.

Great Lakes of the United States recently measured 446,000 micro plastic particles/km2 in locations near cities. Image: “Great Lakes from Space,” wikimedia

North American waters are in peril. Recent testing of the waters in the Great Lakes found that, while the average sample contained 43,000 micro plastic particles/km2, some areas near large cities measured more than 466,000 particles/km2. It’s not just drinking water that is polluted by microplastics, it is fish and marine animals. Aquatic life ingests not only large pieces of plastic but also microscopic bits. Next time you enjoy tea with sushi, will you also contribute to community efforts and organizations that may help to prevent microbead pollution?

Baldwin, Austin K., et al. “Plastic debris in 29 Great Lakes Tributaries: Relations to Watershed Attributes and Hydrology.” Environmental Science and Technology, 2016, 50 (19), pp. 103-77-10385. http://pub.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.6b02917.

Hardach, Sophie. “How the River Thames was brought back from the dead.” 12 November 2015. British Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20151111-how-the-river-thames-was-brought-back-from-the-dead/

Sierra Club. “How to handle microbeads.” http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2014-4-july-august/green-life/how-handle-microbeads

United States Congress. “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.” H.R. 1321. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1321.

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 30, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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Canals: building the future

Caño Martín Peña  may offer a vision for the future. Help Puerto Rico now. Image: wikipedia.

Caño Martín Peña stretches 3.75 miles linking wetlands and canals to rivers meeting the sea of San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico. In 2004, eight communities along the canal incorporated to protect the canal, and dredge the channel; in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership issued a nueva vida – new life- vision for the canal. Rebuilding Puerto Rico, after recent hurricane destruction, may increase awareness of canals in flood mitigation. According to Inland Waterways International, canals create economic and environmental benefits, as well as locally-generated electric power. The World Canal Cities Organization recently met in Shaobo, China to explore the Grand Canal, busiest in the world, and building block of the Belt and Road InitiativePanama and Suez are also notable. The Erie Canal opened the United States to a new era of development; the New York Canal Corporation worked with the World Canals Conference to host the 2017 conference on the Erie Canal in Syracuse, New York. What should the future hold for the world’s canals? How might Puerto Rico lead the way? Enlace and the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project aim to improve 6,600 acres of the San Juan Bay, and the lives of those near its waters. In the future, canals may help coastal cities weather rising seas, allowing the water in as in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico looks for help now, and leadership in the future, perhaps including a new vision of canals.

To help Puerto Rico:https://www.consumerreports.org/charitable-donations/how-you-can-help-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico/ and http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/can-help-hurricane-victims-puerto-rico/

Urban Waters Federal Partnership, “New Life for the Martín Peña Channel.”https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/martinpenabackgrounder_0.pdf

Building the World, “A River Runs Through It.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

Kimmelman, Michael. “Going With the Flow.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/arts/design/flood-control-in-the-netherlands-now-allows-sea-water-in.html?mcubz=3

Inland Waterways International, “World Wide Waterways.” http://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/blog/

New York Canal Corporation, http://www.canals.ny.gov

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

July 21, 2017
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Forest Cities

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

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

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

Hosting 40,000 trees;

Growing 1 million plants of 100 species;

Absorbing 10,000 tons of CO2;

Eating 57 tons of fine dust and pollutants;

Producing 900 tons of fresh Oxygen.

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

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

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

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

For Liuzhou Forest City video: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-40502622/welcome-to-liuzhou-forest-city

“Changing Cities in a Changing Climate,” Alexander F. Christiansen and Bradd Libby, DNV GL Group Technology and Research, Climate Action Programme. https://www.dnvgl.com/technology-innovation/city-resilience/index.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 License

June 23, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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Shining a New Light

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

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

“Bridging global infrastructure gaps.” Jonathan Woetzel, Nicklas Garemo, Jan Mischke, Martin Hjerpe, Robert Palter. McKinsey Global Institute, June 2016. http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/bridging-global-infrastructure-gaps

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

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