Building the World

November 24, 2017
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Water Park

Marine life will be protected in Mexico’s new ocean preserve. Image: wikimedia commons.

Mexico created a macro water park; the Revillagigedo Archipelago will be the largest ocean marine reserve in North America. It’s a ban on all fishing in a protected zone of 57,000 square miles (150,000 square kilometers). Another prohibition? Extraction of natural resources. The grouping of volcanic islands is located on the crossing of two ocean currents, making the reserve a meeting and breeding site for marine life including whales. Mexico’s preserve avoids further hotel building. Another approach, in Singapore, is a marine life park within a resort, preserving 800 species. Marine reserves in the Pacific include a preserve of 193,000 square miles in Palau. As the oceans become increasingly challenged by many factors including overfishing, acidification, and plastic pollution, Mexico’s marine reserve is a gift to the future.

BBC. “Mexico creates huge national park to protect marine life.” 25 November 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42120610

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 27, 2017
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Microbeads

Microbeads: image, wikimedia commons

Tiny formulations of plastic, microbeads can be found in household cleaners, toothpaste, and cosmetics. After using such products, one might rinse the mop, expel the toothpaste, or simply wash one’s hands after applying makeup. But that is not the end; rather, it is the beginning of a journey made by a microbead into the water supply, perhaps culminating in an extra addition to your cup of tea. Microbeads have been found in every kind of water: lakes, rivers, oceans. Microbeads are part of advances in plastics, a substance just over 60 years old that has seen an increase of 560% since its inception. Cosmetic manufacturers like L’Oreal and and Colgate-Palmolive have taken steps to phase out the practice, using instead natural exfoliants such as apricot seeds and walnut shells. Legislation such as the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 helped. In the same year, Canada presented the Microbead Elimination and Monitoring Act.

The Thames River has come back to life, thanks to laws promoting clean water and plastic prevention. Image: wikimedia.

Can emerging and refining legislation on public water supply benefit from historic laws such as the Statutory Foundation of the New River, bringing fresh running water to the city of London, enacted in 1605? Recent efforts to clear the Thames River of plastic are promising: in 1957, the waterway was declared “biologically dead” in part due to lack of repair to Victorian sewers that were damaged by World War II bombing. As repairs began, awareness of other problems such as pesticides and fertilizers improved. There are now 125 species of fish in the Thames. But as one problem was cured, another began to emerge: plastic. In 2015, 70% of the flounder in the Thames had bits of plastic in their systems. Cleaner Thames, a campaign initiated in 2015, battles the plastic waste.

Great Lakes of the United States recently measured 446,000 micro plastic particles/km2 in locations near cities. Image: “Great Lakes from Space,” wikimedia

North American waters are in peril. Recent testing of the waters in the Great Lakes found that, while the average sample contained 43,000 micro plastic particles/km2, some areas near large cities measured more than 466,000 particles/km2. It’s not just drinking water that is polluted by microplastics, it is fish and marine animals. Aquatic life ingests not only large pieces of plastic but also microscopic bits. Next time you enjoy tea with sushi, will you also contribute to community efforts and organizations that may help to prevent microbead pollution?

Baldwin, Austin K., et al. “Plastic debris in 29 Great Lakes Tributaries: Relations to Watershed Attributes and Hydrology.” Environmental Science and Technology, 2016, 50 (19), pp. 103-77-10385. http://pub.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.6b02917.

Hardach, Sophie. “How the River Thames was brought back from the dead.” 12 November 2015. British Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20151111-how-the-river-thames-was-brought-back-from-the-dead/

Sierra Club. “How to handle microbeads.” http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2014-4-july-august/green-life/how-handle-microbeads

United States Congress. “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.” H.R. 1321. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1321.

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
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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 https://www.sec-tlcan-mex.org/

ALENA – Accord de libre-échange nord américain http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/N-23.8.pdf

NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement http://www.worldtradelaw.net/fta/agreements/nafta.pdf

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

September 30, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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Canals: building the future

Caño Martín Peña  may offer a vision for the future. Help Puerto Rico now. Image: wikipedia.

Caño Martín Peña stretches 3.75 miles linking wetlands and canals to rivers meeting the sea of San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico. In 2004, eight communities along the canal incorporated to protect the canal, and dredge the channel; in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership issued a nueva vida – new life- vision for the canal. Rebuilding Puerto Rico, after recent hurricane destruction, may increase awareness of canals in flood mitigation. According to Inland Waterways International, canals create economic and environmental benefits, as well as locally-generated electric power. The World Canal Cities Organization recently met in Shaobo, China to explore the Grand Canal, busiest in the world, and building block of the Belt and Road InitiativePanama and Suez are also notable. The Erie Canal opened the United States to a new era of development; the New York Canal Corporation worked with the World Canals Conference to host the 2017 conference on the Erie Canal in Syracuse, New York. What should the future hold for the world’s canals? How might Puerto Rico lead the way? Enlace and the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project aim to improve 6,600 acres of the San Juan Bay, and the lives of those near its waters. In the future, canals may help coastal cities weather rising seas, allowing the water in as in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico looks for help now, and leadership in the future, perhaps including a new vision of canals.

To help Puerto Rico:https://www.consumerreports.org/charitable-donations/how-you-can-help-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico/ and http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/can-help-hurricane-victims-puerto-rico/

Urban Waters Federal Partnership, “New Life for the Martín Peña Channel.”https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/martinpenabackgrounder_0.pdf

Building the World, “A River Runs Through It.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

Kimmelman, Michael. “Going With the Flow.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/arts/design/flood-control-in-the-netherlands-now-allows-sea-water-in.html?mcubz=3

Inland Waterways International, “World Wide Waterways.” http://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/blog/

New York Canal Corporation, http://www.canals.ny.gov

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 1, 2017
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Water Crisis

September 1, 2017: Hurricane Harvey moves from Texas to Tennessee. Image: Nasa.gov. Here’s how to help.

Hurricane Harvey pelted Houston, Texas with twenty-seven trillion gallons of water. Homes, schools, hospitals, roads were damaged. But when a hurricane causes power outages, another kind of water problem occurs. Beaumont, Texas got 29 inches of rain from Harvey, knocking out the town’s water pumping station on the swollen Neches River, leaving 120,000 people without drinking water. While major beverage manufacturers switched their production lines from beer to cans of water,  to care for the thousands who had to evacuate their homes and flee to shelters, Beaumont can’t get this emergency relief: roads are flooded, making Beaumont a temporary island. Rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey might include study of post-Sandy New York, guided in part by the Netherlands. Meanwhile, here’s how to help.

Boulder, Michael. “The entire city of Beaumont, Texas, has lost access to clean water.” 31 August 2017, PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/entire-city-beaumont-texas-lost-access-clean-water/

Tillman, Claire. “Anheuser-Busch repurposes its brewery to make drinking water for Harvey victims.” 30 Augut, 2017. Fortune. http://fortune.com/2017/08/30/hurricane-harvey-houston-water-anheuser-busch/

Building the World. “A river runs through it.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

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 8, 2017
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The Deep Frontier

Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, Coral reef, Guam, Mariana islands. NOAA Coral Kingdom Collection: Photographer, David Burdock. Wikimedia commons.

World oceans may be the deep frontier; we have explored just 5% of the seas that give name to the water planet. Great cities were built for ocean access: Amsterdam, port of the Netherlands; Singapore, hub of the trade winds; New York, joined inland by the Erie Canal, celebrating its 200th anniversary. Other ocean to inland waterways include the Grand Canal of China, the world’s longest; Suez and Panama, both led by Ferdinand de Lessups. Will the Channel Tunnel inspire a TransAtlantic HyperloopOcean Portal, by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, offers educational resources for teachers and students. June 8 marks World Oceans Day, when over 100 countries honor, and protect, our oceans.

For the 5% of the oceans we have explored, and the future of our oceans: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html

For World Oceans Day: http://www.worldoceansday.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

April 26, 2017
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Fountain of Hope

Water is the hope of the MOF-801. Here, the largest floating fountain in Europe, Multimedia Fountain Roshen, Ukraine. Image: wikimedia.

Two-thirds of the earth’s population may soon need more water, especially in arid regions. Australia, India, North Africa, and areas of the United States and Mexico, to name but a few, are rich in sun but poor in water. Using the sun to power a metal-organic framework (MOF) that acts like a sponge to soak up humidity, Omar Yaghi of the University of California Berkeley and Evelyn Wang of MIT, and team, have developed MOF-801 that could be carried in a suitcase, set up in a solar view, and immediately produce enough water for a family of four.

Hyunjo Kim, Sungwoo Yang, Sameer R. Rao, Shankar Narayanan, Eugene A. Kapustin, Hiroyasu Furukawa, Ari S. Umans, Omar M. Yaghi, Evelyn N. Wang. “Water harvesting from air with metal-organic frameworks powered by natural sunlight.” Science, 13 April 2017: eaam8743. DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8743. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2017/04/12/science.aam8743/tab-figures-data/

Urieff, Kaya. “New solar-powered device makes water out of desert air.” 19 April 2017, CNN.com. http://cnnmon.ie/2pg50FR/

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 14, 2017
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Why is an Orange like a Light Bulb?

The water-energy-food nexus may influence the growing of oranges, in competition for lightbulbs and drinking water. Image: wikimedia commons.

Did you know that growing one orange requires 13.8 gallons of water? Next time you crunch into an almond, you’ll consume the result of one gallon. California grows both: a result, in part, of the Colorado River Compact. Edward Spang of the University of California Davis, as well as colleagues including David H. Marks of MIT, predict competition for water use will increase in the water-energy-food nexus. Spang developed a water consumption for energy production (WCEP) indicator, comparing the use of water for different forms of energy in over 150 countries. Fossil fuels and biofuels require the most water; wind is less thirsty. The United Nations cites the World Water Development Report: “If water, energy, and food security are to be simultaneously achieved, decision-makers, including those responsible for only a single sector, need to consider broader influences and cross-sectoral impacts. A nexus approach is needed.”

For more: Spang, Edward. “A Thirst for Power: A Global Analysis of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” GWF Discussion Paper 1246. Global Water Forum, Canberra, Australia. http://www.globalwaterforum.org/2012/10/23/a-thirst-for-power-a-global-analysis-of-water-consmption-for-energy-production/and also see: http://cwee.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10-25-2013-ThirstforPower_Final.pdf

“Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” E.S. Spang, W.R. Moomaw, K.S. Gallagher, P. H. Kirshen, and D.H. Marks. 8 October 2014. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, Number 10. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Ahuja, Satinder, Editor. Food, Energy, and Water. Elsevier 2015. https://www.elsevier.com/books/food-energy-and-water/ahuja/978-0-12-800211-7

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 24, 2017
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Rivers are people, too

“Reflection of the Taj Mahal on the Yamuna River.” Image: wikimedia.

The first country in the world to give rights to a river was New Zealand: the Whanganui, the country’s longest, has received the environmental protection long sought by the Maori. Now, India has given human status and rights to two sacred rivers. The Ganges is protected, as is the river of the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan acquired the land near the Yamuna to use the river as a ‘keel’ to balance the massive iconic monument. How are the rights of a river represented? New Zealand’s river will be represented in legal matters by one of the Maori people and one representative of the crown government. India anticipates environmental rights will now be protected, having declared the Ganges and Yamuna are “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties, and liabilities.” Bolivia decreed the rights of Earth in Ley 071 de Derechos de la Madre Tierra.

For New Zealand’s Whanganui River’s legal status:  www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-zealand-river-just-got-legal-rights-person-180962579/ and To hear the Maori chant: “Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au.”: https://vimeo.com/76390994

For India’s Ganges and Yamuna Rivers and rights: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/court-gives-2-indian-rivers-same-rights-as-a-human/2017/03/21/fccb440

For Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, Law 071 of Bolivia: comunicacion.presidencia.gob.bo/docprensa/pdf/20121015-11/53-28.pdf.

For Pope Francis and environmental ethics: http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/07/09/environmental-wholiness/

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 16, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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Secret of the Sphynx

Le Sphynx après les déblaiements et les deux grandes pyramids.” Bonfils. Library of Congress. Image: wikimedia commons.

Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra might grieve over the alarming change in one of the world’s most fertile deltas. As water flows north from Ethiopia, through the Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean, nutrients enrich the Nile River Delta. The Aswan Low Dam (1902) and Aswan High Dam (1965), along with the newly constructed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, to be the largest hydroelectric facility in Africa, are in part responsible for changing conditions. Now, less than 10% of the Nile’s waters reunite with the sea. Land subsidence and sea level rise are also factors threatening the Nile Delta. Studies of pollen and charcoal found preserved in delta sediment date back 7,000 years, to the time of the pyramids, may reveal ancient responses to similar conditions. Will the Sphinx reveal the secret?

For more: Stanley, Jean-Danaiel and Pablo L. Clemente. “Increased Land Subsidence and Sea-level Rise are Submerging Egypt’s Nile Delta Coastal Margin.” GSA Today, 2017. DOI: 10.1130/GSATG312A.1. www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/27/5/abstract/GSATG312A.1.htm.

United States Geological Survey. “Climate and drought lessons from ancient Egypt.” ScienceDaily, 16 August 2012. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120816110839.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.

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