Building the World

January 1, 2018
by buildingtheworld

2018: Celebrate the 8’s

“Green 8 in a Sea of Blue.” Earth Observatory Image:

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

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

November 17, 2017
by buildingtheworld

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.

Powering Past Coal Alliance.

United Nations. COP23.

We Are Still In.

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
by buildingtheworld

First Migration: Next Mission

Image: United Nations University.

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:

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 Magazine

Kalin Anev Janse. “How to Manage the Top Five Global Economic Challenges.” 1 November 2017.

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 14, 2017
by buildingtheworld

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

ALENA – Accord de libre-échange nord américain

NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement

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

October 7, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Sign of Peace

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). It was the nuclear threat that resulted in the design, by Gerald Holtom, of the peace symbol; in 1958, the artist was commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), led by Bertrand Russell. Holtom recalled: “I was in despair. I drew myself, an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards. I formalized the drawing into a line, and put a circle round it.” The elements spelled out ND for nuclear disarmament.

Peace symbol, designed by Gerald Holtom. In 2017, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Image: wikimedia commons.

During World War II, science and technology had advanced to a level of power that threatened not just the present but the future. After the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 developed a safeguard for control of fissionable materials with international scope for “all forms of energy released in the course of or as a result of nuclear fission or nuclear transformation.” In 2017, the peace symbol drew 15,000 people together, at the Glastonbury music festival, to set the world record for the greatest number of participants forming the peace sign. The symbol was never copyrighted; instead the iconic symbol was offered to the world, in the spirit of peace.


Nobel Peace Prize:

Atomic Energy Act:

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 14, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Eye on the Sky

Jupiter’s “Red Eye in the Sky” image by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the Juno NASA mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS/Jason Major.

Juno met Jupiter this week. NASA‘s Juno mission flew over the planet’s 10,000-mile-wide (16,000 kilometers) storm, so big that three earths could fit inside of the Great Red Spot. Since 1830, sky-watchers have kept an eye on this mysterious spot marking a storm that has raged for eons. When the Juno mission launched in 2011, the spacecraft did not arrive in orbit around Jupiter until July 4, 2016. Since then, it’s been photographing Jupiter, and will continue operations until 2018. Knowledge gained by Juno may serve useful in updating the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space that entered into force in 1967. Principles include:

“Exploration of space for the benefit of all countries and all humankind;

Outer space not subject to national appropriation or occupation;

Outer space to be free of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction;

Countries and states shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects;

The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

At the start of the Space Race, only governments were thought to be financially and technologically capable of Space missions. But now private enterprise has taken impressive steps; Weinzierl and Acocella recently introduced a Harvard Business School case on the ownership of space with a close up of Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin. Planetary Resources, Inc, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic are also prominent, joined now by an enterprise hoping to win Google’s $20million Lunar X Prize, Moon Express.

COMSAT might be an organizational model to follow. On 31 August, 1962 the Communications Satellite Act became law and set a new tone of inclusiveness that transformed the space race with greater multinational, public/private cooperation. New agreements about the future of space may foretell a mixed-economy organization to promote world-wide distribution of solar power.

Outer Space Treaty:

Google Lunar X Prize:


Space Solar Power:

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 12, 2017
by buildingtheworld

Mothers Walk for Peace

Image: Photographer, Rebecca Eschler, 2008. Wikimedia commons.

A higher purpose, above ground; a safer world, below. Why not send cars and trucks underground, where new roads for autonomous vehicles might be easier to build? Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame, envisions cars positioned on platforms that descend to traverse networks below ground. A similar design was earlier suggested by David Gordon Wilson of MIT whose palleted highways would increase speed and decrease accidents. Tunnels have changed transport around the world: the Channel Tunnel and the Mount Blanc Tunnel are recent examples. Boston depressed the Central Artery, resulting in a Greenway atop with a special park called the Mothers’ Walk. Nearby, walk towards a better world with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute for the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. Will Elon Musk’s underground highways promote a cleaner, safer environment with more parks above where people can walk and nature flourish? It’s an exciting idea with a name that belies the innovation: The Boring Company.

For more:

For Elon Musk, watch the YouTube 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 License.

January 20, 2017
by buildingtheworld

The Big Picture

The big picture – “Montagem dos corpos do Sistema Solar, seus tamanhos e distânces relatives.” Image:

Visions of the Future” might reveal the world is smaller, and larger, than any one moment in time, or space. NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) shared a wider perspective, with posters downloadable for free, for all to see the big picture.

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 2, 2016
by buildingtheworld

Diplomacy on Ice

Flag of the Antarctic Treaty. Image: wikimedia commons.

December 1, 1959: the world came together not in cold war but in cold peace. The previous year, International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957-1958, inspired peaceful treaties in two different spheres, both new to human endeavors. Space opened up with landmark IGY achievements including Sputnik, then Vanguard, leading to the Outer Space Treaty. Antartica, earth’s only continent without native human population, became active with 50 IGY scientific stations. Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United States called their cooperative IGY initiative “Diplomacy on the Ice.” Antartica is defined as the land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees latitude; it was formerly called Gondwana. On December 1, 1959, the twelve nations opened for signature the Antarctic Treaty; by 2016, the treaty included 53 parties. A treaty system developed including the Protocol on Environmental Protection, Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, expanding the original treaty’s statement: “Recognizing that it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes” for this continent, never home to humans, to honor and protect the abundant other forms of Nature. In this era of climate change, how should signatories safeguard this treasure of earth and environment?

For more: Diplomacy on Ice: Energy and the Environment in the Arctic and Antarctic. Rebecca H. Pincus and Salem H. Ali, editors. Yale University Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780300205169.

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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