Building the World

March 26, 2019
by buildingtheworld

Cities: Singapore’s 3 Core Values

“Singapore Skyline at Night with Blue Sky.” Photographer: Merlion444. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore will mark its bicentennial this year, 2019, after celebrating its golden anniversary of independence in 2015. It was 200 years ago that two visitors rowed ashore to visit with a certain Sultan; Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles may not be enshrined by all, but still made a mark, including founding the Singapore Institution, one of the first global educational institutes. But many would say that Singapore’s core values were present long before either foundational event, and relate to openness as shaped by its extraordinary geography. Some historians cite Singapore’s three core values as:




Not everyone would agree: for example, rights regarding sexual and gender orientation are still under trial, with relation and adoption key. Other concerns: water quality and deforestation threaten inclusion of the environment in future plans, but green building has been mandatory since 2008, influenced by Cheong Koon Hean, architect and urban planner.

Masjid Sultan, Singapore. Photographer: Terence Ong, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

Singapore’s recognition of many languages (Cantonese, English, Hokkien, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil) and faiths (observed in houses of worship such as the Buddhist Kuan Yin Temple, the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, the Sultan Mosque, and the Taoist Wak Hai Cheng Temple) may raise hope of an evolving culture of inclusion. If you are in Singapore during March 2019, you may participate in the Festival featuring heritage trails, and performances, and installations. Or, take a virtual trip, here.

“From Singapore to Singaporean.”

Cheong Koon Hean, “How we design and build a smart city and nation.” 17 December 2015. TEDx Talk.

Galloway, Lindsey. “The three values that shaped Singapore.” 18 March 2019. BBC.

Kolczak, Amy. “This City Aims to Be the World’s Greatest: As Singapore expands, a novel approach preserves green space.” 28 February 2017. National Geographic.

Koutsoukis, Jason. “Singapore Elite Backs Push to Overturn Anti-Gay Laws.” 2 October 2018, Bloomberg.

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

December 15, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Words and Swords

Word balloon types. Image: wikimedia commons.

Code talk and authorizations. What is the not-so-hidden code in a government directive that certain words or phrasing not be used in budget proposals, lest those words become swords killing the possibility of funding. Forbidden phrases: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Word prohibitions include “diversity” and “vulnerable.” Authorizations throughout history have varied: some were a notes scrawled from parent to child, as in the Trans-Siberian Railway. Others were private handshakes made public, as in the New River. A few espoused values for the future of humanity: the Atomic Energy Act set the guiding purpose of peace. But de-authorizing certain code words by directive may be one of the few instances where values are so explicitly defined, and demanded. Summing up the reaction of many, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, tweeted: “Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous.”

What do you think about “science-based” and “evidence-based?” What about the other directives? Can language ever be changed, or is it beyond directive? Abram de Swaan, of the Amsterdam School for Social Research, University of Amsterdam, observed that military conquests cause the spread of new wordings and even languages, but as soon as the newcomers are ousted, language returns to its natural evolution.

De Swaan, Abram. Words of the World: The Global Language System. Wiley 2013. ISBN: 9780745676982. Originally published, Polity Books, 2001.

Sun, Lena H. and Juliet Eilperin. “CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity.” 15 December 2017. The Washington Post

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
by buildingtheworld


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.

April 27, 2016
by buildingtheworld

Year of the Tree

Earth Day 2016 dedicates the year to planting more trees; 7.8 billion in the next five years. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, having grown from “a national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, sponsored by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, in partnership with Pete McCloskey from Congress, and Denis Hayes of Harvard University: 20 million took to the streets to protest the abuse of, and protect the future of, the environment. Soon, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded; the Clean Air, Clean Water (amended in 1972 from an earlier version) and Endangered Species Acts were made law. In 1990, Nelson and Hayes took Earth Day global: 200 million in 141 countries united around the planet. Environmental provisions were part of the New River, built in England in 1609; the Canal des Deux Mers in France begun in 1666; and Boston’s Central Artery depressed underground while a Greenway graces the former traffic surface. Nature is an increasingly precious resource; 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service of the United States, including the Appalachian Trail. The theme for Earth Day 2016? Trees: 7.8 billion to be planted in the next five years. New England universities including Roger Williams may lead the way. Earth Day April 22 2016 also made history: the largest number of nations ever to sign an international agreement on the same day gathered for the Climate Signing Ceremony at the United Nations.

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

August 19, 2015
by buildingtheworld

Singapore at 50


Singapore at 50: does diversity contribute to innovation and prosperity? Image: wikimedia commons.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore‘s independence. Rapid growth may be traced to its founding, as a colony, but more importantly, as a special economic zone. With per capita GDP of $56,000, and 90% home ownership, an achievement aided by the development of Housing Development Board (HDB) homes, the 277 sq. miles are marked by prosperity. HDB helped to eliminate poverty and also promoted diversity: the goal was for Chinese and Malay families alike to think of themselves first as Singaporean. With four official languages, and multiple recognized religions, can Singapore claim the power of diversity in prosperity?

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
by buildingtheworld

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:

Magna Carta in Massachusetts:

Bolivia and the Rights of the Earth:

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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