Building the World

June 28, 2018
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Life on Enceladus?

The global ocean of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, may contain organic molecules that are the birth of life. Image: NASA.

Water is one of the foundations of life: on Earth and perhaps elsewhere. NASA‘s Cassini spacecraft has discovered “complex organic molecules” in the plumes of spray from the ocean of Saturn’s moon. In 2015, Cassini found a global ocean beneath the crust of Enceladus. The mission collected data that will drive research for decades to come, even though Cassini immolated itself in September 2017, merging and disintegrating into the atmosphere of the planet it had come to explore, to court, and finally to become. Is there life on Enceladus?

Postberg, F, et al. “Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus.” 28 June 2018. Nature, Volume 558, p. 564 ff. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0246-4.

Strickland, Ashley. “Could life exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus?” 27 June 2018. CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2018/06/27/us/enceladus-saturn-search-for-life/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 9, 2018
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The Deep Future of Blue

Sea turtle, photo by Ukanda. Image: wikimedia.

Deep – from 650 to 3,200 feet; vast – composing 71% of Earth’s surface; unknown – only 15% of it is mapped; alive – 10 billion metric tons of marine life; treasure-filled: with troves of diamonds (De Beers is already there, with a $157 million dollar vessel sweeping the Atlantic seafloor off the coast of Namibia, and minerals (the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, in the Pacific from Mexico to Hawaii, contains cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, zinc), what was once called the Twilight Ocean, now termed the Mesopelagic Ocean, may be the most important area of exploration of the future. Opportunities are significant and perhaps dangerous; environmental agreements are essential and increasingly urgent. Precedent, and lessons learned, might be seen in the Treaty of Tordesillas, the founding of Singapore, or even the Outer Space Treaty. Who owns what might be found in the deep blue? How are the rights of the original denizens protected?

The future of blue, considered in the G7 Summit (or perhaps termed the G6+1), may advance foundational policy regarding Oceans, Seas, and Coastal Communities. The Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas, and Resilient Coastal Communities Communique includes a statement on IUU fishing with a vessel certification and identification program. The Communique also includes an Annex: for the first time in history, there is an Ocean Plastics Charter: “We, the Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union taking a “lifecycle approach to plastics stewardship on land and at sea.

Interested in the strategic future of the blue? The International Seabed Authority, established by United Nations 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, offers educational opportunities for polymetalic exploration with two Offshore Internships in the first quarter of 2019. Focus? Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Application deadline: 28 June 2018. Get involved now.

For More:

Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas, and Resilient Coastal Communitieshttps://g7.gc.ca/en/official-documents/charlevoix-blueprint-healthy-oceans-seas-resilient-coastal-communities/

International Seabed Authority. “Global Sea Mineral Resources Internship 2019” https://www.isa.org/jm/formación/gsr-contractor-training-program/

Packard, Julie and Chris Scholin. “The Deep Sea May Soon Be Up for Grabs.” 8 June, 2018. New York Times.

Pew Trusts. “The Clarion-Clipperton Zone: Valuable minerals and many unusual species.” Fact sheet: 15 December 2017. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2017/12/the-clarion-clipperton-zone/.

Thomson, Peter. United Nations Special Envoy for the Ocean. “The G7 should take the lea on ocean targets for 2020.” World Economic Forum, 8 June 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/the-g7-should-take-the-lead-on-ocean-targets-for-2020/.

Trudeau, Justin. Prime Minister of Canada. “World leaders coming together at the G7 Summit to protect our oceans, seas, and coastal communities.” 1 June 2018. https://pm.gc.ca/news/2018/06/01/world-leaders-coming-together-g7-summit-protect-our-oceans-seas-and-coastal/.

United Nations. Convention on the Law of the Sea. http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_overview_convention_htm/

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 18, 2018
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Volcanology and the Future

“Kilauea at Dusk,” photographed in 1983 by G.E. Ulrich, USGS. Image: wikimedia.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has been erupting, dangerously. But it is always in some form of activity, as one of the world’s most active volcanos, and is therefore heavily instrumented. Volcanic prediction is feasible, according to Paul Segall, professor of geophysics at Stanford University; whereas earthquakes, caused by similar disturbances below Earth’s surface, are less predictable. Volcanos may become an important factor in mitigating climate change. Here’s why:

Iceland is the site of CarbFix, exploring the future of carbon capture. When CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere, at a plant near Reykjavik’s Hellisheidi power station, it is pumped underground to combine with basalt. As a result, the combination becomes rock. In fact, the ancient Romans used volcanic ash to form a particular building material. Basalt contains calcium, magnesium, and iron – elements that bind easily with CO2; basalt is like a sponge for CO2. Could this be answer to Earth’s carbon crisis? Maybe – basalt is the most common rock type on the planet; it’s even found on the ocean floors. India, Saudi Arabia, and Siberia are particularly well-endowed. Problem? CarbFix is water-intensive, not ideal for the already thirsty water planet. It takes 25 tons of water to transform one ton of CO2. Humans cause the emission of 35 gigatons of CO2 (a gigaton is a billion tons) per year. But the potential encourages research by CarbFix partners including Columbia University in New York, National Center for Scientific Research in France, and Reykjavik Energy in Iceland. Theoretically, the amount of world basalt could store all the CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, since Prometheus.

Kilauea is a basaltic shield volcano, producing an eruptive form of basalt called Tholeiite, according to Ken Rubin, professor of geology and geophysics, University of Hawaii.  It’s the dominant basalt type on Earth. In the future, we may learn to work with volcanic basalt to combat CO2 emissions and build a better climate. Meanwhile, if you would like to give support to those in need, due to Kilauea’s recent eruption, here are some ways to help.

For more:

Ancheta, Dillon. “Here’s how to help those affected by the Big Island eruptions.” 5 May, updated 22 May, 2018. Hawaii News Now. http://www.hawaiinewsnowcom/story/38119223/heres-how-you-can-donate-to-those-impacted-by-the-kilauea-eruption/.

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Philosopher’s Stone?” 17 June 2018, Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2016/06/17/philosophers-stone/

CarbFix. https://www.or.is/carbfix

Perasso, Valeria. “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever.” 18 May 2018. BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-43789527/.

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, 2018
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Bridges to the Future

“London Bridge Illuminated at Dusk,” by photographer burge500, 2006. Image: wikimedia commons.

The land of London Bridge just announced a span to a better environment, banning single-use plastics. The UK government states the measure will help eliminate any increase in what is estimated as over 150 million tons of plastic in our oceans. As a result, one million birds and 100, 000 sea mammals die from ingesting or getting trapped in plastic waste. Particularly concerning are smaller pieces of plastic like Q-tips and plastic straws that slip through filters into rivers and oceans. Scotland earlier led the ban on single-use plastics; the new law will be introduced across the Commonwealth.

In the United States, such environmental considerations are up to states and cities, banning or taxing single-use plastics: California was the first state in 2014; Boston recently joined the increasing group of cities with an urban plastic bag tax.

Corley, McKinley. “Another Big US City is Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags.” 18 December 2017. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/another-big-us-city-banning-single-use-plastic-bags/

Nace, Trevor. “UK To Ban All Plastic Straws, Q-tips, and Single-Use Plastics.” 25 April 2018. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/04/25/uk-to-ban-all-plastic-straws-q-tips-and-single-use-plastics/#cb4a4ff11383

Thanks to Cherie E. Potts for suggesting this topic.

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

 

March 22, 2018
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Water Day: Wear Blue

World Water Day: Wear Blue. Indigo, popular 5,000 years ago in the Indus Vally where the color gets its name, was called nila. The color dye was popular on the Silk Road. Image: wikimedia

World Water Day: March 22, 2018. We’re an increasingly thirsty world: by 2050, one-third of the planet will suffer water scarcity. Climate change intensifies problems: floods and drought are worse. More than 3 billion people suffer diminished access to water for at least one month each year due to drought: that number is set to increase by 2050 to 5 billion. Mitigating influences of forests and wetlands are vanishing: two-thirds have been cut or built upon since 1900, according to a study released by the United Nations. Rivers are polluted, with ten rivers identified as the major source of marine plastic debris. Think those problems are “elsewhere” and you may be alarmed to find 80% of tap water contains microplastics. What can you do, as an individual? Social scientists observe the original days of the week had a dedicatory purpose, still detectable in the names. For example, the Japanese day Suiyōbi is Wednesday, meaning Water Day. Should we rededicate the days of the week to raise awareness of our shared resources, including water? One fashion leader suggests wearing blue as a way to honor water. Would you consider dedicating one day each week to water?

Schlanger, Zoë. “We can’t engineer our way out of an impending water scarcity epidemic.” 21 March 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1234012/we-cant-engineer-our-way-out-of-an-impending-water-scarcity-epidemic/

World Water Day. http://worldwaterday.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 License

March 17, 2018
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Green Toasts need to be Greener

Green beverages need to be greener: microplastics found in soda, beer, and bottled water. Image: wikimedia.

It’s a day when you may toast with a green beverage. Or perhaps you might drink bottled water, as a convenience or maybe to avoid polluted tap water? Bad news: tests on branded water drinks found 10 plastic particles per liter. SUNY Fredonia’s Professor Sherri “Sam” Mason evaluated major brands, finding plastic in virtually all the samples. Bottlers and processors responded with assurances that their factories use the best filters. Mason commented “It’s not about pointing fingers at particular brands; it is really showing that this is everywhere. Plastic is pervasive and it is pervading water.” The New River of England addressed Thames water in a public/private venture: will new cooperative initiatives remedy the findings of the Natural Environment Research Council? The SUNY-Fredonia study evaluated waters marketed by Coca-Cola, Gerolsteiner, Nestle, Pepsi.  Types of plastic found: polypropylene, nylon, and polyester. Over 500 billion beverages in plastic bottles were sold in 2016: one million bottles per minute. There are, as yet, no regulations on microplastics. Previous studies revealed plastic in tap water, soda, even beer. So if you are one who raises a glass of green today, take note.

Mason, Sherri. “Beads of destruction.” TED Talk on micro plastics in the Great Lakes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0NikCMZCFE

Shukman, David. “Plastic particles found in bottled water.” 15 March 2018. BBChttp://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43388870

Tyree, Chris and Dan Morrison. “INVISIBLES: The plastic inside us.” Orb Mediahttps://orbmedia.org/stories/Invisibles_plastics

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

February 20, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Straws that Filter Bacteria and Parasites

“Bunch of drinking straws.” Photographer: Nina Matthews. Image: wikimedia commons.

Over two billion people in the world don’t have safe drinking water. Death from water-borne diseases takes more lives than violence and war. The answer may be in the humble straw, fitted with a filter. LifeStraw, for example, looks like a regular drinking straw, but inside are filters that can catch anything larger than  two microns, enough to block 99% of parasites, and bacteria that cause cholera, typhoid fever. LifeStraw was started by Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen who inherited his grandfather’s uniform manufacturing factory; instead, Fransen rebuilt the machines to make a straw with the steel mesh filter that was successful in wiping out guinea worm disease, which went from 3.5 million in 1986 to 25 in 2017. Partners include the Carter Center. The New River of England delivered clean water to London when the Thames needed help; Rome’s aqueducts saved the future of Rome when the Tiber became threatened by poison. LifeStraw has been used in disaster relief in Ecuador, Haiti, Pakistan, and Thailand. Present projects include an initiative to bring clean drinking water to students in locations including Kenya. LifeStraw won a design award at MoMA.

Carter Center. “Eradicating Guinea Worm Disease.” March 2014. https://www.cartercenter.org/donate/corporate-government-foundation-partners/archives/vestergaard-frandsen.html

CFEG. “Mikkel Westergaard Frandsen: 17 Next Generation Family Enterprise Leaders to Watch in ’17” Cambridge Family Enterprise Grouphttps://cfeg.com/nextgenleaders2017/bio/mikkel-vestergaard-frandsen.html.

Garvett, Zaria. “The miraculous straw that lets you drink dirty water.” 5 March 2018. BBC Future. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180305-the-miraculous-straw-that-lets-you-drink-dirty-water/.

Katayama, Lisa. “Fighting Water-Borne Disease in Africa, and Making Millions in the Process.” 25 March 2011. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/1749253/fighting-water-borne-disease-africa-and-making-millions-process/.

lifestraw.com. 

 

February 16, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Do you sing in the shower?

Take the 2 Minute Shower Challenge. Image: “Animated waterdrops,” wikimedia.

Do you sing in the shower? Studies indicate 80% of us do. That quirk of human hum might help to save Cape Town, and maybe other places, too. South Africa’s famous city is suffering from three years of scant rainfall, coupled with rapid urban expansion. While solutions to the water crisis such as desalination of sea water, improved ground water collection, and other water engineering innovations are in development, residents have been asked to limit water use to 50 liters (13 gallons) per day. Cyrene, ancient Greek city-state, was founded in response to persistent drought on Thera (Santorini). Climate migrants fled the parched land to build a new city abundant of water and replete with potent silphium, a magic plant that appeared to foster science, arts, and even amatory expressions. Rome, when suffering a water crisis, built aqueducts to bring water to the city, enough for drinking, bathing, and water sculptures, honored by composer Resphigi in The Fountains of Rome. Music now inspires South Africa’s vision for honoring and saving water. “People like to sing in the shower,” observed Mariska Oosthuizen, head of brand at Sanlam, South African investment firm, that invited musical artists to create two-minute songs, free for download:

TWO-MINUTE SHOWER SONGS:

  • Kwesta, “Boom Shaka Laka
  • Mi Casa, “Nana
  • GoodLuck, “Taking It Easy
  • Fifi Cooper, “Power of Gold
  • Francois Van Coke, “Dit raak Beter
  • Jimmy Nevis, “Day Dream
  • Rouge, “Deja Vu
  • Desmond & the Tutus, “Teenagers
  • Youngster, “Wes Kaap
  • Springbok Nude Girls, “Bubblegum On My Boots

80% of residential water use happens in the bathroom. Showers use 10 liters (2.6 gallons) per minute.  Do you sing in the shower? Take the 2 Minute Shower Challenge and join the chorus in praise of water.

2minuteshowersongs.com

Kammies, Kieno  “MiCasa releases 2 minute shower song to save water.” 17 November 2017. KFMwww.kfm.co.za/articles/2017/11/17/musicians-step-in-to-entice-capetonians-into-saving-water.

Sanlam.”SA’s biggest artists are singing to save water. Are you?”  https://2minuteshowersongs.com.

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

February 2, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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90% of Ocean Plastic comes from 10 Rivers

Plastic is a relatively recent innovation but disastrously successful. In 1950, 2.5 billion people on the planet generated 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, 7 billion of us produced 300 trillion tons. Five trillion is now in the oceans, with toxic effects. But there is hopeful news. The United Nations will soon meet to empower Communities of Ocean Action, furthering Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14. On the agenda may be a recent study finding that improving ten rivers could reduce ocean plastic by half. Here are the rivers, please see map:

Rivers near cities carry the most plastic. Will Los Angeles lead an effort to reduce microbead pollution? Image: wikimedia.

Yangtze

Indus

Yellow

Hai

Nile

Ganges

Pearl River

Amur

Niger

Mekong

Inland rivers near cities are the major delivery systems of plastic to the oceans. If the trend continues, by 2050 the oceans will have more plastic than fish. Will the Yangtze River, part of the Grand Canal of China, develop a pioneering model to address the 727 million pounds of plastic carried by its water, perhaps creating a program in honor of the Grand Canal? The Yangtze is home to half a billion people: would a school-based program raise awareness and offer ways to reduce plastic? Also part of the Grand Canal: Hai and Yellow rivers. China may include the issue in the Maritime Silk Road. The United States is also a contender: it won the dubious honor of being the only industrialized western country to make the top twenty plastic polluters list.

Best, Shivali. “Shocking report reveals that 95% of plastic polluting the world’s oceans comes from just TEN rivers including the Ganges and Niger.” Daily Mail. 11 October 2017.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4970214/95-plastic-oceans-comes-just-TEN-rivers.html

Sahagun, Louis. “Microbes a major problem in L.A. River.” Los Angeles Times. 25 January 2014. www.latimes.com/science/la-me-0126-microbeads-20140126-story.html.

Schmidt, Christian, Tobias Krauth, Stephen Wagner. “Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea Helmholtz-Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), Leipzig, Germany. 11 October 2017. Environmental Science & Technology, Volume 51, Issue 21, Pages 12246-12253. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est7b02368. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.est.7b02368.

United Nations. “UN’s mission to keep plastics out of oceans and marine life.” 27 April 2017. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56638#.WnR75GaZPvw

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 26, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Make Your Next Straw, The Last Straw

Make your next straw, the last straw. Image: wikimedia commons.

Americans use 500 million plastic straws – every day. Just to get the picture: that’s enough to fill 127 school buses. Every day. Each person in the United States will statistically use 38,000 plastic straws between the ages of 5 to 64. Most straws end up in the oceans. Why? Even when recycled, most plastic straws are too light, dropping undetected through recycling sorting filters. All waters, even with straws and microbeads, flow to the oceans where 70% of seabirds now have plastic in their stomachs. Plastic bags have been the subject of concern for decades, but plastic straws are among the top ten items found in marine debris. It’s easy to say NO. Mention your preference during your order: “And, no straw, please.” If a straw is required (there are many important medical and special needs), compostable plastic straws may offer a sustainable choice.  Individually, many people carry a personal water bottle or coffee cup; why not consider BYO straw choices like bamboo or stainless steel? A personal straw could address the safety of sips. Here are some straw styles suggested by Strawless Ocean.

Grenier, Adrian. “The Strawless Ocean Initiative.” Interview with Project Earth correspondent Nicholas Ibarguen on how individuals and restaurants could stop using plastic straws. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvGL89HDKE.

Schmidt, Christian, Tobias Kraut, S. Wagner. “Export of plastic debris by rivers into the sea.” Environmental Science & Technology 2017, 51 (21), 12246-12253. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b02368

“Strawless in Seattle” demonstrates how a city can go strawless. Enter your town in the competition https://www.strawlessocean.org/seattle/

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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