Building the World

September 30, 2017
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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

July 6, 2017
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Wedding of the Waters (Engagement Announcement)

Erie Canal in Lockport, NY. Image: W.H. Bartlett, 1839, wikimedia commons.

The waters announced their engagement in 1817 but would not be wedded until 1825. Upon the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, concert tours by water will ring celebratory along the route credited with shaping the economic and political destiny of the United States. Historians say the Erie Canal may have been inspired by Robert Fulton, of steamboat fame, who admired the Canal des Deux Mers in France. Once the engagement’s union was fulfilled, in the “wedding of the waters,” the Erie Canal was an instant success. Shipping goods from Buffalo to New York City before, required two weeks; via the canal, three days. Similarly, the cost of transporting goods by land, formerly $100 per ton, was now reduced to $10 per ton. What are the waterways of the future? Such considerations will be explored at the World Canals Conference, convening this year in Syracuse, New York, on the Erie Canal.

More:

New York State Museum http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/exhibitions/enterprising-waters-erie-canal

Erie Canal Museum: http://eriecanalmuseum.org

Bike the canal route: https://www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal/trail-map

See the art: https://www.albanyinstitute.org/spotlight-erie-canal.html

Hear the music: http://www.albanysymphony.com/journeybegins/

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 16, 2017
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A River Runs Through It

Rebuilding cities to let the water in may result in innovations, including rowing commuters. Image: Wikimedia.

Coastal cities combating sea rise often respond by building barriers. But the Dutch, experts on inundation since the earliest days, have a different idea: letting the water in. Rotterdam, once the world’s largest port, is a city 90% below sea level. The city’s solution to sea rise includes creation of the Eendragtspolder, with water sports featuring the World Rowing Championships. Giving water more places to flow has rebuilt the Netherlands: a systems approach includes new views of space, rebuilding gates and bridges, redesigning sewers, linking social media, and incorporating climate response in primary education (children learn to swim wearing clothing and shoes). After Hurricane Sandy, the Dutch helped New York rethink lower Manhattan; Bangladesh benefited from advice that reduced fatalities during floods. It’s about anticipating, rather than avoiding, crises. To be sure, flood gates have their place, proven by Maeslantkering, a storm barrier bigger than two Eiffel Towers. But the Dutch are more about going with the flow: rebuilding land on water means dikes with shopping malls, even floating dairy farms. China’s Grand Canal might provide inspiration on the benefits of letting water shape strategy. Boston to Bangladesh, Rhode Island to Rotterdam, coastal areas might find innovation and opportunity in going Dutch.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Climate Change Isn’t Just a Fact for the Dutch. It’s an Opportunity” in the Changing Climate, Changing Cities series. 15 June 2017, The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/15/world/europe/climate-change-rotterdam.html?_r=0

Peirce, Neal R., Curtis W. Johnson, with Farley M. Peters. Century of the City: No Time to Lose. The Rockefeller Foundation, 2008. ISBN: 0891840729.

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

July 2, 2016
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Wider Water

Wider Water: the new Panama Canal. Image: wikimedia commons.

Nicaragua almost won; it was preferred until Phillipe Bunau-Varilla and William Nelson Cromwell delivered to the U.S. Congress 50 postage stamps issued by Managua proudly featuring the natural wonder of a volcano. Persuaded by apparent danger, Senator John Spooner proposed an amendment that authorized the purchase of the canal lease but switched location to an isthmus just south. Colombia owned the site: a down payment of $100 million for lease of the desirable strip, followed by $250, 000 per year thereafter, was offered, enhanced by the U.S. battleship Nashville. Colombia agreed: the Hay-Buneau-Varilla Treaty was signed, producing not just the canal agreement but also a new government for a new nation, named Panama. A flag was sewn overnight; a constitution was conveniently ready; $10 million went straight into the new treasury. On 3 November, 1903, Panama was born, a nation conceived by a canal. In 1914, the Panama Canal opened.

But in 100 years, shipping changed: some container ships grew too big to transit the waterway. In 2007, a new lane, stretching 77 km (48 miles) was dug, missing the centennial by two years, but opening on 26 June 2016. The first ship to float thru was the Andronikos, flying the flag of the Marshall Islands but owned by China Cosco Shipping Corporation: it won the honor by lottery. Wider locks, deeper channels, $6 billion dollars, labor disputes, construction delays: all these challenges were overcome. Ships with 14,000 containers can transit; before 5,000 was the limit. But nature may present a more serious issue, one that the canal cannot do without: water. A new draft limit was revised down from 12.2 meters to 11.89 (39 feet), due to drought. If the water levels rise, the draft allowance will return to the planned 15.2.

Bigger problems lurk. Ships are still growing; the latest models carry 18,000 containers — too large even for the new Panama. Will China again win the lottery? Builders of the world’s oldest, and longest, Grand Canal of China, are busy not far from Panama. Wider, deeper and longer than new Panama, a new waterway may open soon, with concern of environmentalists, and development by Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group, headed by Wang Jing, granted concession in 2013 for the Grand Canal of Nicaragua.

Thanks to Ernst G. Frankel, Cherie E. Potts, and Sheila M. Turney for suggestions.

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 8, 2016
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Channels of China

First Qin Emperor of China. Image: wikimedia commons.

Can a channel cause communication? It might be so with the Grand Canal of China. First Qin Emperor improved the canal and initiated a standard script for communication along the internal waterway, making possible governance and security, as well as agriculture, commerce, culture, and education. Some historians opine that the Grand Canal was the Internet of its time. The Grand Canal is not only the longest canal or engineered-waterway in the world, it is also the longest in time. Begun in 486 BCE, it is still under use and improvement, the latest phase to be completed in 2050. Another long-standing accomplishment of China is the concept of time cycles; may the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year of the Monkey bring special gifts to our world.

For more on Chinese time cycles and other aspects of Chinese culture and tradition, please visit the Confucius Institute at UMass Boston: https://www.umb.edu/confucius

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 6, 2015
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Suez Canal: Encore!

 

Amneris, in “Aida” by Verdi. Photographer: Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera, www.thirteen.org.

“Aida,” the opera by Guiseppi Verdi, was written in honor of the opening of the Suez Canal. Now there may be an encore. Egypt is widening the canal with a second lane. Before, 49 ships transited per day; the improved waterway will accommodate 97. Wider and longer, the new Suez Canal will also be faster, cutting southbound transit from 18 hours to 11. Building the improved canal, at a cost of $8.5bn, is expected to generate revenue of $13.5bn by 2023. Suez commands 7% of all global water-transport business; this expansion caused the Suez Canal Authority to term the achievement a “rebirth.” Built by diplomat-developer Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1869, the Suez Canal was dedicated, by firman Article VI, for “tariffs of dues for passage…always equal for all nations, no particular advantage ever stipulated for exclusive benefit of any one country.” Should projects of connectivity, such as canals and tunnels, be chartered channels of inclusiveness and peace? On August 6, one year after construction began, the new Suez Canal opening is planned. Will there be a new opera? “Aida” had a sister; Elton John wrote a second version. What artists of today might celebrate the current widening of Egypt’s gateway waters? Verdi, and John, might advise such gateways include a budget for the arts.

“Egypt holds trial run on second Suez Canal,” BBC News, 25 July 2015: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33666314

“Egypt opens new Suez Canal,” BBC video, August 6, 2015:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33698736

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, 2015
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Iconic Arch

Gateway Arch St. Louis Photographer Jason Lusk on blog Building the World

“St. Louis Gateway Arch” Photographer: Jason Lusk.

 

St. Louis, Gateway City, is known by its iconic arch. Designed by Eero Saarinen, the 192 meter (630 feet) is the world’s tallest arch. St. Louis is the gateway to the western United states, opened by explorers Lewis and Clark, who traveled the Mississippi River on which St. Louis stands. On March 28, 1934, Congress proposed a federal commission to develop the iconic memorial, the design chosen by competition. An unusual process, subject to legal challenges, was instituted to acquire the 82-acre site. Similarly, the Eiffel Tower, iconic monument of Paris, was the result of a competition won by Gustave Eiffel. What is the role of iconic monuments, and public art, in the world’s great cities?

www.gatewayarch.com

http://www.toureiffel.paris/

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 19, 2015
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Scale of Success: China

 

Great Wall of China. Image: wikimedia commons.

While Frank P. Davidson is considered by historians to be the founder of the field of macroengineering in 1984, today China is advancing large scale infrastructure. The nation that built the Great Wall must think big, because it is so big; large scale endeavors are now appearing with velocity as well as capacity. For example, the Dalian to Yantai Tunnel spanning the Bohai Strait, twice the length of the Channel Tunnel, planned as a rail link between China’s northern ports, would be the world’s longest underwater tunnel. And, the Grand Canal may soon become even grander: the $80 billion plan to bring water over 1,000 miles from the abundant south to the arid north may reach fruition in 2025, making that waterway, begun in 600 BCE, the longest continuous construction project in history. Should China celebrate this Spring Festival with an announcement of the Center for the Study of Macro?

David Baroza, “In China, Projects to make Great Wall Feel Small,” The New York Times, January 12, 2015.

Minnie Chan, “Plan to build world’s longest undersea tunnel from Dalian to Yantai,” South China Morning Post, July 11, 2013. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1280386/china-plans-worlds-longest-undersea-tunnel

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 16, 2014
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Voice of the Future: River Communities

083_VSFP_Bridge_Photo

“Ceres,” vessel of Vermont Sail Freight Project, found resonance in many river communities and in New York City. Image: Vermont Sail Freight Project.

While the tiny nature of this initiative was evident to us as we passed under the huge Hudson River bridges like the George Washington and Tappan Zee, each of which was carrying thousands of times our cargo capacity per minute over the river in trucks, we still found it meaningful, and discovered that our initiative had surprising resonance in many river communities and in New York City. The river and harbor were once the preeminent conduit of life and trade, yet are now almost entirely overlooked for everything except recreation. With the addition of fairly modest docks and warehouses suited to this type of trade, we can envision not so much a re-enactment of our past, but more a carrying forward to meet contemporary challenges. The Vermont Sail Freight Project is now exploring avenues for the continuation and expansion of this work in the 2015 season, with some exciting new partnerships.

– Eric Andrus, founder of Vermont Sail Freight Project

Voice of the Future, 2014

November 26, 2014
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Voice of the Future: Sustainable Agriculture and Transport

 

"Our goal is to transport durable food goods from Vermont and upstate New York down the Hudson to New York City," Erik Andrus, Voice of the Future 2014. Image courtesy of Vermont Sail Freight Project.

Image courtesy of Vermont Sail Freight Project.

At the core of the project is the idea that individuals within a small community can pool their skills and labor to pull off a project of surprising scope and complexity. As project director, it was very inspiring to be at the center of this, and helped to dispel my fear that we have become a nation of passive consumers of products and answers. Together our team built and launched the “Ceres,” a commercial sail-powered vessel with 15 tons cargo capacity in a handful of months on a tiny budget. Our goal was to transport durable food goods from Vermont and upstate New York down the Hudson to the lower valley and New York City, and in so doing tie together the concepts of sustainable agriculture and sustainable transportation.

Erik Andrus, Founder, Vermont Sail Freight Project

Voice of the Future, 2014

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