Building the World

January 12, 2019
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WATER: Labeling the Future

Should we label products for water, land, and environmental facts? Image: wikimedia

Look at the fine print. Many items on grocery store shelves commonly have labels revealing the amount of carbs, sodium, or sugar in the product. Is it time to label information about environmental, land, and water use? For example, dairy milk, one glass per day for a year, requires 7,000 square feet (650 sq. m) of land – that’s the same size as two tennis courts. That year’s worth of dairy milk also requires water use: 2,588 gallons (9,800 liters) of water  – that’s the same amount as 150 bathing showers, each lasting a luxurious eight minutes. Switch to almond milk? It requires less water to produce than dairy, or soy, milk; but soy generates more greenhouse gases than almond.

Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Image: wikimedia.

There’s precedent for labeling environmental water sources. One of the features of water from the Roman Aqueducts was the taste and freshness of each particular spring flowing from the surrounding hills. Water surveyors used methods such as studying the health and complexions of village folk, determining water quality by such evidence. In the urbs, labeled and name-branded waters competed for consumer preference. Even today, there is a cafe in Rome advertising cappuccino made from the sweet, fresh waters of the Aqua Virgo.

The global food supply chain generates 13.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or 26% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to Poore and Nemecek. Agriculture covers 43% of arable land; 2/3rds of the freshwater withdrawals are for irrigation. The United Nations illustration, above, indicates systemic factors regarding water, energy, and food. Wonder what you’re consuming – in food and natural resources? Even if governments don’t require such labeling, could industry groups initiate the trend? The beverage and brewing industry recently agreed to display nutrition information on beer products, but most is in small-type or hidden at the bottom of a six-pack. Coors, Corona, Guinness, and Heineken complied, and now Bud Light will display more visible listings of the amounts of barely, hops, rice – and water. According to VP of Marketing for Bud Light, Andy Goeler, younger consumers want to know and are “really in tune to ingredients.”

Here’s a link to an environmental calculator for some commonly consumed foods.

Guibourg, Clara and Helen Briggs. Calculator design by Print Shah, development by Felix Stephenson and Becky Rush.  “Climate change: Which are the best vegan milks?” 8 January 2019. BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46654042/

Poore, Joseph and T. Nemecek.  “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers.” 1 June 2018. Science. doi: 10.1126/science.aaq0216.http://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/360/6392/987.full.pdf?ijkey=ffyeW1F0oSl6k&keytype=ref&siteid=sci

Spang, Edward J. “Food-Energy-Water Nexus.” 4 May 2017. IE GAC Presentation. https://ie.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/05/Spang-03May17.pdf.

Spang, Edward J., William Moomaw, Kelly Sims Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, David H. Marks. “The water consumption of energy products: An international comparison.” October 2014. Environmental Research Letters. 9 (10): 105002 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266620784_The_water_consumption_of_energy_production_An_international_comparison

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

December 24, 2018
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Golden Anniversary, Golden Opportunity

Earthrise, December 24, 1968: “You don’t see . Image: wikimedia.

Fifty years ago, someone grabbed a camera and changed history. NASA Apollo 8’s crew was to orbit precisely 10 times while photographing the surface of the moon, as a field study for the Lunar Landing mission.  It was 1968: before digital photography, a crew could carry only so much film – all of it was to be used for lunar surface documentation.

For hours, only the occasional click was heard as the spacecraft hovered above the lunar surface, snapping photos of the topography of the moon. There was not much to look at: gray gravely surface cloaked by a dark sky. Then, suddenly, as Apollo 8 completed the first circle of the moon, an orb of blue and green surrounded by swirling clouds appeared in the module window. It was Earth.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets.

When Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders looked out the spaceship module’s window, three voices whispered astonishment in unison. Anders grabbed the camera. “Hey, that’s not our authorized mission; we’ve only carried designated film,” said the commander. The three stared at each other in a wild surmise. Then, all three nodded in assent. Anders, mission’s official photographer, captured the first view that humanity ever saw of our own Earth.

To call it a selfie would be to trivialize it. Earthrise, as the photo came to be called, snapped history into a new era. “It was credited with awakening the modern version of the environmental movement,” according to former American Vice President and environmental leader Al Gore; author of An Inconvenient Truth. “You don’t see cities, you don’t see boundaries, you don’t see countries,” stated mission commander Frank Borman. The first Earth Day followed. World water laws developed further; in the United States, the Colorado River Compact updated environmental provisions; new policies like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act set new standards.

But where are we now, fifty years later?  Hope for our planet’s blue and green miracle is narrow but not impossible. Many governments are setting new goals to save the climate before it is too late, bringing the Paris Agreement COP21 to shared measurement standards at COP24. Cities and states are taking matters into their own hands. Businesses and industries, including aerospace, shipping, and fashion, are setting global supply chain standards to reduce emissions. In response to changing markets, innovations are developing at a pace that some find encouraging. Clean energy jobs are growing faster, and more profitably. There could be trouble, but there is a narrow window of success possible. If we too see the vision in the photo, words of Borman and Anders might ring true: “Got it?” “Yep.” 

Watch the video. Apollo 8 took the Earthrise photo on December 24, a half century ago. So, today is a kind of Golden Anniversary. Is it time to renew our vows?

“Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act,” 1974. http://usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/pdfiles.crbsalct.pdf

NASA.”Earthrise.” https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181224.html.

Vaughan-Lee, Emmanuel, director, and Adam Loften, producer: “Earthrise.” Go Project Films. http://goprojectfilms.com

Wall, Mike. “This New ‘Earthrise’ Photo from NASA Is Simply Breathtaking.” 21 December 2015. Space.com. https:///www.space.com/31422-earthrise-photo-nasa-moon-probe.html/

Wright, Ernie. “Earthrise” – visualizations created for the 45th anniversary, released on 20 December, 2013. Includes extensive downloadable videos showing the actual cloud pattern on Earth at the moment. There is link to Wright’s presentation at SIGGRAPH Vancouver. NASA, Scientific Visualization Studio. http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-releases-new-earthrise-simulation-video/.

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

 

 

June 3, 2015
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Water for the World

Water innovation may help solve the world’s water crisis: now, how to standardize and distribute Askwar Hilonga’s invention? Image: furman.edu.

World water is in crisis. For example, 70% of Tanzanian households lack clean drinking water: now Askwar Hilonga, of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, is about to change that. Growing up in rural Tanzania, the chemical engineer recalls family and friends suffering from water-borne illnesses, motivating an innovation combining one of the world’s oldest filters, sand, with one of the newest: nanotechnology. The Roman aqueducts were similarly resultant of a combination of both new and traditional technologies. Askwar Hilonga’s success may soon benefit the rest of the world: 1 in 9 people lack clean drinking water, globally. How can new technologies, supported by industry, governance and global agreements, improve water for the world?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32973591

http://environmentalgovernance.org/featured/2014/08/united-nations-watercourses-convention-enters-force/

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

April 3, 2015
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Senatus Consultum

 

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on the campus of University of Massachusetts Boston.

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston. Image: Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

This week marks the dedication and opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston. Ancient Rome’s Senate was created just after the founding of the City of Rome; the advisory body endured in power through many changes in the realm. Chosen from among leaders of the people, senators guided governance, issuing an opinion called a “senatus consultum.” Some might observe that while administrations may change, consultative representation might be the mind, and heart, of civilization.

http://www.uah.edu/student_life/organizations/SAL/texts/misc/romancon.html

 https://www.emkinstitute.org/

http://www.umb.edu/

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.

 

January 1, 2014
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2014: Tlcan-Alena-Nafta

 

North America. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons.

January 1, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the North American free trade agreement, joining Canada, Mexico and the United States in partnership. While the original accord focused on economics, now it may be time to expand the focus to shared resources including, but not limited to: water, energy, transport, public health, communications, employment and education. Charlemagne has been called by some the father of the European Union because of early efforts to draw people together through shared systems respecting the richness of diverse languages. Who is the Charlemagne of the North American continent?

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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