Building the World

October 1, 2019
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ENERGY: Traveling Wave of the Future

“Prometheus bringt der Menschheit das Feuer,” by Heinrich Fuger, 1817. Image: Wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus gave fire to humankind, energy has changed civilization. But energy has now become what some believe the critical challenge of the future, growing increasingly critical due to climate change. We must solve energy in this century; some say in the next decade. What if there were a form of energy that was cleaner, safer, with very low carbon emissions, and used – to power itself – some of the most toxic, undisposable waste on earth? Sounds good, but will it happen? Traveling Wave is the term given to this form of nuclear reactor, or TRW for short. It’s a fission reactor that, theoretically, could run decades, self-sustained by its own internal processes, because it uses spent fuel. Traveling wave reactors were once called “breed and burn” dating back to Saveli Feinberg in 1958, followed by advances by Michael Driscoll, Lev Feoktistov, Edward Teller and Lowell Wood, Hugo van Dam, and Hiroshi Sekimoto, among others. It was the world of Teller and Wood that attracted notice by Bill Gates, Intellectual Ventures, and TerraPower. TerraPower’s scientists applied for patent EP 2324480 A1, following WO201009199A1 “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” Plans for TerraPower to partner with CNNC, in a 2015 MoU, are perhaps in development after being on hold due to international trade issues recently in the news. While some may say nuclear energy is too dangerous to develop, others state that the world may not be able to make a climate-driven energy transition to renewables and non-carbon-emitting sources unless nuclear stays in the energy mix. ITER, in France, is working on fusion energy; TerraPower, in the USA, is working on better ways to do fission.

Alert Einstein, 1921. Image: wikimedia

Powerful enough to light and heat the world, yet yielding very few carbon emissions, a form of energy that is 70 years old this year may be due for a remake. It was in August of 1939 that physicist Albert Einstein wrote a letter to then United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the work of Fermi and Szilard proving “the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy.” What followed was the development of atomic power through the Manhattan Project, revealing the danger and destruction that led Los Alamos Lab Director J. Robert Oppenheimer to quote the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become death,/ The destroyer of worlds.” While the Atomic Energy Act go 1946 reversed the purpose of developing nuclear power, turning the energy into productive and peaceful uses, there still remained dangers.

Nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl, Russia and Fukushima, Japan are among tragic occurrences that have plagued the use of fission energy.

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Image, wikimedia.

Another problem has grown to considerable proportion: toxic radioactive waste. Presently, the United States has 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that needs disposal; the substance is often called “spent” fuel. Disposal is controversial, and unwanted: case in point: Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Worldwide, the picture is even more troubling. With nuclear waste building up, and old power plants breaking down, the nuclear energy question looms: where should we head in the future? Four problems are often cited: 1) danger of radioactivity from a reactor accident like Chernobyl or Fukushima; 2) limited supply of fuels U-235 and Pu-239, as presently obtained; nuclear energy is expensive; threat of misuse for military purposes. And then there is all that spent fuel.

Bill Gates. “Climate change solutions.” Image: wikimedia

But what if all that spent fuel could power future nuclear reactors capable of transforming and eliminating the world’s toxic nuclear waste, while providing enough clean energy to power the future AND stop climate change? Should we rethink nuclear energy? At 70 years of age, nuclear power may be ready for a makeover. Want to know more? Hear some ideas in Bill Gates’ TED Talk.

Ahlheld, Charles E, John Rogers Gilleland, Roderick A. Hyde, Muriel Y. Isikawa, David G. Mcalees, Nathan P. Myhrvold, Thomas Allan Weaver, Charles Whitmer, Lowell L. Wood Jr. “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” https://patents.google.com/patent/EP2324480A4/en.

Bobin, Jean Louis. Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion. World Scientific Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 9789814590686.

Gates, Bill. “Innovating to Zero.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates

Gates, Bill. “Inside Bill’s Brain.” Episode Three: “The Search for Climate Change Solutions.” Netflix.com, 2019.

Einstein, Albert. “Letter of August 2nd 1939 from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box5/a64a01.html/ and Building the World (2006), pages 488-490.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Waste and Environment Safety Section, Vienna, Austria. “Estimation of Global Inventories of Radioactive Waste and Other Radioactive Materials. June 2007. IAEA-TECDOC-1591. ISBN: 9789201056085.https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications?PDF/te_1591_web.pdf.

Oppenheimer, Robert. On the Manhattan Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb13ynu3Iac

Teller, Edward. “Nuclear energy for the third millennium.” Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Department of Energy, United States of America, 1 October 1997.

Transatomic Power. http://www.transatomicpower.com

United States Congress. “Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.” https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheet/radwaste.html and https://www.congress.gov/bill/97th-congress/house-bill/3809.

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

 

September 20, 2019
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ENERGY: Fridays for Future

Will the Global Climate Strike Turn the Tide? Image: wikimedia.

September 20, 2019: millions of young people around the world gathered to protest the lack of action in recognizing, and acting to stop, climate change. It was a Friday unlike any other. Early estimates show wide turnout of three million “and that is before counting North and South America” tweeted Greta Thunberg. Overall, there were 2,500 events in 163 countries on seven continents.

Greta Thunberg. Photo: wikimedia.

Summarized by climate activist Greta Thunberg: “Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action, then we will.” Thunberg, nominated for the Nobel Prize, began “Fridays for Future” by taking that day off from school to stand in front of the Swedish Parliament. Thus began a movement.

Flag of United Nations. wikimedia.

September 23, 2019: Will the world listen to the voices of its future leaders? What will the present world leaders, gathering for the United Nations Climate Action Summit do? Find out, here.

September 27, 2019: the next strike. Register here: Fridays for Future.

Al Jazeera. “‘No Planet B’: Millions take to streets in global climate strike.” 21 September 2019. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/planet-thousands-join-global-climate-strike-asia-190920040636503.html.

#FridaysForFuture. https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

Sengupta, Somini. “Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike.” 20 September 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/climate/global-climate-strike.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

Trannell, Kendall, Scottie Andrew, Nathaniel Meyerson. “These are the companies supporting the global climate strike.” 20 September 2019. CNN.com/business.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/19/business/climate-strike-companie-trnd/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 Unporte

September 12, 2019
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Voice of the Future 2019: Nature

“Under the Trees,” by Tomas Moran, 1865. Image: wikimedia.

Should trees have standing? What about rivers? Nature’s rights are being recognized and legalized. Recently, Colombia established rights of the Atrator River and surrounding basin; India tried to grant personhood to the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, citing as precedent New Zealand’s law recognizing rights of the Whanganui River. Voters in Toledo, Ohio, USA approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, giving legal status and assurance to exist, flourish, and evolve to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. In both India and USA, the laws were immediately challenged and still to be resolved. On a larger scale, Bolivia passed the Law of the Rights of Mother Nature/Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra. In climate change, Nature may be the Voice of the Future. Listen as the Māori celebrate Whanganui River rights (Te Awa Tupua); hear the Waiata, Nature’s voice of the future.

Athens, A. K. “An Indivisible and Living Whole: Do We Value Nature Enough to Grant it Personhood?” Ecology Law Quarterly; 45, 18, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.15779/Z38251FK44

Corte Constitucional, Republica de Colombia. “Acción de Tutela para la Protección de Derechos Colectivos cuando Existe Vulneración de Derechos Fundamentales.” Sentencia T-341/16. http://www.corteconstitucional.gov.co/relatoria/2016/t-341-16.htm. For English language text, https://delawarelaw.widener.edu/files/resources/riveratratodecisionenglishdrpdellaw.pdf.

Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. “Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra.” https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

Morris, J.D.K and J. Ruru. “Giving Voice to Rivers: Legal Personality as a Vehicle for Recognising Indigenous Peoples’ Relationship to Water?” Vol. 14, No. 2,2010. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AILRev/2010/22.pdf

New Zealand Legislation. “Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act.” 20 March 2017. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0007/latest/whole.html. Witness the vote and hear the Waiata, Māori song of celebration: https://youtu.be/BXOIFd-4Kpo.

Ohio, Toledo. “Ruling on Lake Erie.” https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/DrewsErie.pdf

Stone, C. “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward legal rights of natural objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972), pp. 450-501.

Stone, C. Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment.3rd edition 2010. (originally published in 1973). Oxford University Press. ISBN-13: 978199736072; ISBN-10: 0199736073.

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

August 26, 2019
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Does Nature Have Rights?

“Forest Fire” Image: wikimedia.

So many trees burned in the Amazon forest that the fire could be seen from space. Brazilian satellite data from National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows an 85% increase in fires, and double that in 2013. While the dry season from July to October sees fires caused by natural events such as lightning strike, other year-round causes may be clearing land for agriculture, grazing, or logging. Forests are damaged; wildlife decimated, and the air choking with smog; carbon emissions have spread as far as Bolivia. As a result, the Amazon basin, critical in regulating global warming because of its carbon-absorbing forests, may change the world environment. The G7 pledged millions in aid and planned to address vulnerable rainforests in Africa, calling these among the ‘lungs’ of the world. Brazil deployed army troops to combat the fire, quelling flames and perhaps some doubt.  But a question remains.

“Bloedel Reserve, Willow Tree” Image: wikimedia commons.

In 1972, Christopher Stone published the seminal work “Should Trees Have Standing?” regarding arboreal rights. Some say “Should Trees Have Standing?” began the environmental movement). There is emerging precedent: some rivers now have legal rights. The Whanganui River was granted rights of personhood in New Zealand; in India, the Yamuna River by the Taj Mahal joined the sacred Ganges in personhood. Bolivia established “LEY DE DERECHOS DE LA MADRE TIERRA: Law of Rights of Mother Earth.” Is this something new, or remembered? Granting personhood to Nature may be a return to the ancient myths, present in every culture, of water and nature spirits. Is it something we once knew?

Arboreal dryad. Image: wikimedia

Determining how to protect and sustain forests, restore burned or hacked ones, plant new ones, will surely be a critical part of the future. The Amazon forest, and the great forests of Africa, may look to many possible approaches. One path may be found in Benton MacKaye’s article “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” Brazil might consider neighbor Colombia where established rights for the Atrato River also granted rights for the surrounding Amazon forest; it is an intergenerational pact. Will Bolivia’s “Law of Rights of Mother Earth” lead the way ? Are these the voices of the future?

Las actividades humanas, en el marco de la pluralidad y la diversidad, deben lugar equilibrios dinámicos con los ciclos y procesos inherentes a la Madre Tierra.

Athens, A. K. “An Indivisible and Living Whole: Do We Value Nature Enough to Grant it Personhood?” 45 Ecology Law Quarterly. 187 (2018). http://dx.doi.org/https://doi.org/10.15779/Z38251FK44. and https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2185&context=elq.

Climate Interactive. “C-ROADS” – a downloadable (and free) computer simulator that helps recognize long-term climate impacts of actions regarding greenhouse gases, including the importance of forests. By John Sterman, Todd Fincannon, Elizabeth Sawin, Andrew Jones, and Climate Interactive team. https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra. https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

MacKaye, B. “An Appalachian Trail: A project in regional planning.” Journal of American Institute of Architects, 9 (October 1921) pages 325-30.

MacKaye, B. The New Exploration: A Philosophy of Regional Planning. 1928

Rogers, L., and N. Stylianou, C. Guibourg, and M. Hills. “The Amazon in Brazil is on fire – how bad is it?” 23 August 2019. BBC, News, Latin America. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767.

Stone, C.D. “Should trees have standing? – Toward legal rights for natural objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972), pp. 450-501.

Stone, C.D. Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment. 3rd edition, 2010 (originally published in 1973). Oxford University Press. ISBN-13: 978199736072; ISBN-10: 0199736073.

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

August 19, 2019
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CITIES: Forecasting the Future

“Canton Tower,” Guanzhou, China, one of the world’s cities most vulnerable to climate change. Image: wikimedia commons.

Cities are getting hotter, bigger, and more densely populated; it may be difficult for policy makers, and families, to keep pace with the environmental consequences of climate change, especially in urban areas that will house more than 70% of the world’s population by 2050. Like anything gradual, today doesn’t quite yet feel like tomorrow. Because the bicameral human brain works by comparison, a new app, using a method of climate-analog mapping, by Fitzlab shows what your city will feel like in the future:

Boston, Massachusetts = Rosedale, Maryland (Boston will be 7 degrees (F) warmer and 17% wetter;

Houston, Texas – Ciudad Mante, Mexico (Houston will be 4 degrees (F) warmer and 27% wetter.

“Boston: Back Bay.” Photographer: R. Shade, 2013. Image: wikimedia.

In general, most cities in North America will feel like areas 500 miles to their south. Globally, results of climate change on cities and surrounding regions will force more migrations, and cause a $54 trillion economic loss. Weather will wreak havoc; in 2017, 16 severe weather events in the USA caused  $306 billion in damage.

Rebuilding cities for resiliency in climate change will affect every country on earth, and perhaps seeing new capitals, and even new countries. Cities and capitals throughout history have been founded to inaugurate new visions: Abuja, new capital of Nigeria; Brasilia, new capital of Brazil; and Washington, D.C.,  founding capital of the USA. In the era of climate change, Indonesia may be considering moving the capital from Jakarta: like Abuja and Brasilia, the new capital will be more and less: more representative of the total population and less subject to rising seas. Rising seas may cause whole countries to move; Pacific Island nations are among those considering options. Every 1.5 degrees of Centigrade warming might cause 0.26 meters (0.85 feet) of sea rise. Every tenth of a degree exposes 10 million more people to possible migration due to flooding. Cities in most danger: Guangzhou, China; New Orleans, USA; New York City, USA; Mumbai, India; Osaka, Japan. Check your city on Resource Watch’s site.

Bendix, A. “We asked 11 climate scientists where they’d live in the US to avoid future natural disasters – here’s what they said.” 9 October, 2018. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/where-to-live-to-avoid-natural-disaster-climatologists-2018-8.

Brooke, K. “Jakarta – first capital to move due to sea rise.” 1 May, 2019. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/05/01/jakarta-first-capital-to-move-due-to-sea-rise/

Fitzpatrick, M.C. and Dunn, R.R. “Contemporary climate analogs for 540 North American urban areas in the late 21st century.” 12 February 2019. Nature Communications 10, Article number 614. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08540-3/.

Fitzlab. “What will climate feel like in 60 years? Check your city.” https://fitzlab.shinyapps.io/cityapp/

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

Resource Watch. “Explore Data Sets.” https://resourcewatch.org/data/explore.

Woodward, A. “A troubling new map shows what your city’s climate may look like in 60 years. San Francisco may feel like Los Angeles, and New York may be more like Arkansas.” 15 February 2019. Business Insider. https://amp.businessinsider.com/climate-change-map-what-cities-will-feel-like-60-years-2019-2.

World Bank. “Cities and Climate Change: An Urgent Agenda.” December 2010, Volume 10. https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTUWM/Resources/340232-1205330656272/CitiesandClimateChange.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 Lice

August 10, 2019
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Calculate Your Climate Diet: Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Bad for your health and disastrous for the planet. “Cheeseburger.” Photographer: Renee Comet. Image: National Institutes for Health, USA.

Should labels on food, commonly listing salt, fat, calories, now include water, energy, and land? Recent findings by the United Nations IPCC reveal world land use is not sustainable for growing the food we need. Agricultural practices including raising of animals meant for food, deforestation, erosion and renewal of topsoil, population expansion, and the energy and water required to produce food are all factors. Scientists term this the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus.” But what can you do, as an individual? Moving towards a plant-based diet can help.

Sir Paul McCartney, 2009. Image: wikimedia.

Sir Paul McCartney is among those who advocate a plant-oriented diet; to help the cause, Sir Paul challenges you to write a song to promote “Meat-Free Mondays.” A promising development: the plant-based Impossible Burger, offering a carbon footprint 89% smaller than beef. But even plant choices have better and worse consequences for climate change. Will farmers who vie for water to irrigate crops in agricultural areas of the Colorado River now be awarded water rights based on their produce: some food uses more water? Rice farmers may switch to millet or maize, grains that use less water but still provide nutritional benefits.

 

Potatoes Lyonnaise” Image: wikimedia.

Want to know whether to choose rice, fries, or pasta – rice uses the most energy, land, and water; pasta is second;  potatoes use the least (and are the most nutritious). Enjoy avocado toast, but note: eating one avocado per week uses 3,519 liters of water annually. Order from the sandwich menu, deciding between a beef-burger or an omelette – beef is the worst, chicken is better, eggs are the best. Wine or beer, coffee or tea – beer uses the most resources, followed by coffee, wine, and tea. Here’s a way to calculate your diet in the era of climate change. What’s your climate diet? – calculate here.

Johnson, Scott K. “New IPCC report shows land use is part of solution to climate change.” 8 August 2019. Ars Technica. https://apple.news/AEOL8nw6OWSEM4XD3elBig/

McCartney, Paul (Sir). “Meat-Free Mondays.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E1NDjltMvk

Peters, Adele. “Here’s how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef.” Fast Company, 20 March 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90322572/heres-how-the-footprint-of-the-plant-based-impossible-burger-compares-to-beef.

Spang, E. W. Moomaw, K. Gallagher, P. Kirshen, David H. Marks (2014) “Multiple Metrics for Quantifying the Intensity of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” Environmental Research Letters. 9-105003. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Stylianou, Nassos, Clara Guibourg, Helen Briggs. 9 August 2019. BBC, Science & Environment. “Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint? Check the environmental impact of what you eat and drink.” https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714

Thin Lei Win. “Swap rice for maize, millet and sorghum to save water and boost nutrition: experts tell India.” 5 July 2018. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/articles-india-rice-hunger/swap-rice-for-maize-millet-and-sorghum-to-save-water-and-boost-nutrition-experts-tell-india-idUSKBN1JV16P

United Nations. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Special Report on Climate Change and Land: desertification, land degradation, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” 2 August 2019. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srccl/

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

 

July 25, 2019
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TRANSPORT: Flygskam (Flight Shame)

“C-141 Starlifter over Antarctica.” Photographer Gralo. Image: wikimedia.

Flight shame, or as coined in Sweden “Flygskam,” is taking off. The movement prompted France to levy a flight tax ranging from 2-18 euros. KLM celebrated its 100th anniversary with a campaign urging passengers to fly less, stating that aviation causes 3% of human-caused carbon emissions. Recommended transport alternative for short distances: trains. Japan is upgrading fast-train system, Shinkansen, in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Channel Tunnel and EuroStar encouraged travelers to take the train. Will the United States, developer of the market-changing Transcontinental Railroad, redesign tracks for mag-lev or hyper-loop?

Greta Thunberg speaking at French Parliament 2019. Image: wikimedia.

Flygskam began when Olympic gold medalist Bjorn Ferry, and others championed the movement including climate activist Greta Thunberg; the teen nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize completed a climate-change European speaking tour mostly by train, urging travelers to forgo short-haul flying. As linguists note, every neologism might give rise to its opposite: now there is a new term:Tagskryt” or “train bragging.”

BBC. “What is flygskam? Greta speaks up about ‘flight-shaming.'” 19 July 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/49032117/

Elking, Isaac and Robert Windle. “Examining Differences in Short-Haul and Long-Haul Markets in US Commercial Airline Passenger Demand.” Transportation Journal. Vol. 53, No. 4 (Fall 2014), pp. 424-452. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/transportationj.53.4.0424.

KLM. “Fly Responsibly.” https://flyresponsibly.klm.com/en

Pennetier, Marine and Geert De Clereq. “France to tax flights from its airports, airline shares fall.” 9 July 2019. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/aticle/us-france-airlines-tax/france-plans-new-tax-on-outbound-flights-airline-shares-fall-idUSKCN1U412B.

PRI. Public Radio International. “‘Flight shame’ in Sweden prompts rail-only travel movement.” 30 April 2019. PRI’s The World. https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-04-30/flight-shame-sweden-promts-rail-only-travel-movement.

Thunberg, Greta. “Speech at French Parliament” 23 July 2019. @GretaThunberg. https://mobile.twitter.com/gretathunberg/status/1153940926517194752/ and https://www.facebook.com/gretathunbergsweden/

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

July 14, 2019
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CITIES: Dangers in Deltas

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

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

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

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

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

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

DELTA CITES ENDANGERED BY SEA RISE:

Dhaka

Guangzhou

Ho Chi Minh City

Hong Kong

Manila

Melbourne

Miami

New Orleans

New York

Rotterdam

Tokyo

Venice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 28, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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TRANSPORT: Ask Alice

Alice: electric and ready to fly. Image: Eviation and Wikimedia.

Alice is a bit unusual looking. But she may be just what the world is looking for. The name, given to a new aircraft build by Eviation, Alice is a plane powered by three rear-facing push-propellers. It’s electric, and it promises to transport nine passengers, and two crew, at 276 mph (440 km/h) for 650 miles. Eviation, located in Israel, may be soon flying between Boston and Hyanis; Cape Air has ordered a number of Alice aircraft. The market for short-range air travel is considerable, but environmentally questionable. Alice may change that: using electricity. It’s also cheaper: using conventional fuel, 100-mile flight costs $400; with electricity, $8-$12: overall cost per hour is estimated at $200. The market is developing quickly. MagniX is working with Vancouver’s Harbour Air to electrify their fleet. Rolls Royce, Airbus, Siemens, and United Technologies are all working on electric aircraft; Zunum Aero, backed by Boeing, uses a French engine from Safran; EasyJet is using Wright Electric for potential flights from London to Amsterdam.

TVA logo: Image: thanks to Social Welfare Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

When electricity first began to be used for commercial and consumer applications, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built a new town just to demonstrate the new power source for refrigerators, toasters, and porch lights. The Town of Norris was the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) of its time. Now electricity will see a new era, as battery storage improves through innovation. According to UBS, aviation will soon move to hybrid and electric aircraft. Zero emissions; cheaper; quieter – it’s an answer to the environmental and financial costs of regional travel. Electricity may be looking up: go ask Alice.

Bailey, Joanna. “Who is Alice? – An Introduction To the Bizarre Eviation Electric Aircraft.” 26 June 2019. Simple Flying. https://simpleflyingcom/eviation-alice-electric-aircraft/.

Bowler, Tim. “Why the age of electric flight is finally upon us.” 24 June 2019. BBC/Business.

Eviation. https://www.eviation.co/alice/

Take a test flight from the Paris Air Show: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8rr4q717HUrQHilER6DcaQ.

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

June 8, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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WATER: World Oceans Day

“Large Breaking Wave.” Image: noaa.gov, wikimedia

World Oceans Day, celebrated June 8, reminds us of the beauty, importance, and critical sustainability of our water. By 2050, there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Unless we take action.  Should new agreements involving Canada, Mexico, and the United States include the oceans that border our land? Might the Canal des Deux Mers in France champion ways to protect the Atlantic Ocean? Will Shinkansen, Japan’s Shinkansen train system now being upgraded for the 2020 Olympics, engage athletes in preservation of the Pacific Ocean? In 2019, you are invited to take a photo of yourself or your friends at the ocean, pictured with arms in the air; photo cropped so hands touch the upper corners of the frame: post using the hashtag: #TogetherWeCan. This year’s theme: Gender and the Ocean.

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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