Building the World

October 25, 2021
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WATER, ENERGY, CITIES: Earthshot Prize

One of the winners of the inaugural Earthshot Prize, The Bahamas, for a program of coral reef restoration. “Coral Reef” by Photographer Jerry Reid, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013. Public Domain. Wikimedia.

October is a time of prizes. Earlier this month, Nobel Prize winners received momentous telephone calls. Now, inaugural winners of the Earthshot Prize received recognition for innovative solutions to the world’s climate crisis. Named after the “Moonshot” launched by President John F. Kennedy to land people on the moon within a decade, the Earthshot campaign will run from 2021 to 2030. Initiated by Prince William, Sir David Attenborough, and The Royal Foundation, the timeframe was described by Prince William as “A decade doesn’t seem long, but humankind has an outstanding record of being able to solve the unsolvable. Many of the answers are already out there,  but we need everyone – from all parts of society – to raise their ambition and unite in repairing our planet.” ((Ryan and Foster 2021)

Image: Earthshot Prize.org

Bahamas: Growing coral on land and then replant in damaged coral reefs;

Costa Rica: Paying residents to protect and restore rainforests, reversing deforestation;

“Costa Rica forest,” by Nakashi, 2007. Wikimedia.

India: Takachar attaches to tractors, reducing emissions by 98%, turning waste into new products. The enterprise started at MIT and creates biochar and other products.

Italy: city of Milan as a food hub to share restaurant and supermarket food with the needy;

Milan, Italy won as a Food Hub City. “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan,” 2017 by C. Messier. Image: wikimedia commons.

Thailand/Italy/Germany: AEM Electrolyser turns water into carbon-free hydrogen.

Earthshot’s five goals for 2030. “Greetings from the Year 2030” by Riesenspatz. Public Domain, wikimedia.

Earthshot’s five goals by 2030: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean our Air, Revive our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix our Climate. In honor of the Earthshot Prize, Buckingham Palace turned green. The Earthshot prize announcement precedes another event designed to bring green to the UK, and the world. COP26 will soon convene in Glasgow, Scotland to decide the future of climate, energy, and Earth.

AEM Electrolyser. https://www.enapter.com/

Attenborough, Sir David and Prince William of Cambridge, “Announcing the Earthshot Prize.” VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFbwTRMwBAc

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoë Quinn. “ENERGY: The Physics of Climate Change.” Building the World Blog, University of Massachusetts Boston. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2021/10/05/energy-physics-of-climate-change/

Earthshot Prize. https://earthshotprize.org/

Ryan, Hannah and Max Foster, “Winners of Prince Williams Earthshot environmental prize announced.” 18 October 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/16/uk/prince-william-earthshot-prize-intl-gbr/index.html

Takachar. https://www.takachar.com/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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October 15, 2021
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TRANSPORT: supply chain reaction

The Silk Road was an early transport and supply chain network. Image: “Seidenstrasse GMT” 2005 by Captain Blood, GNU free license, wikimedia commons.

From the Silk Road to the Suez Canal, transporting goods has shaped civilization, stimulated cultural exchange, and truly united the world. Presently, the global supply chain is in the news. Cargo tankers are stalled in ports, dock unloading is stalled by COVID restrictions, trucks are waiting for drivers, warehouses are stuffed with unshipped goods, local stores are limiting purchases and warning shoppers to buy early. All this costs both time and money: McKinsey reports shipping costs are six times higher than in 2019. (Hall 2021)

“Where is shipping heading?” Photo: Fleet 5. by U.S> Navy/PH3 Alta I. Cutler. ID: 020418-N-1587 C-030. Source: United States Navy. Image: wikimedia commons.

While government has stepped in, opening certain ports 24/7; and private enterprise has stepped up, chartering their own ships and diverting them to less congested ports; what will happen after the holiday buying season? Some say it is an opportunity for autonomous transport. Maritime shipping is exploring options. Experiments on inland waterways by the Collaborative Autonomous Shipping Experiment (CASE) in cooperation with Belgium, China, Italy, and the Netherlands, noted that control algorithms should be coordinated. Vessels are usually owned and operated by different parties, and use proprietary systems for control and navigation. Results produced simulation models that may help develop shared systems.

“Will autonomous trucks change the supply chain reaction?” Photo by epsos.de, https://www.flickr.com/photos/36495803@NO5/5591761716. Image: wikimedia commons. CC2.0

When ships are unloaded, trains and trucks take over: autonomous trucking is advancing rapidly. Embark Trucks, and Locomation, join TuSimple, Plus, and Aurora in the race for innovation and investment in autonomous trucking. Advances in trucking will change the supply chain: 68% of all freight comes to you on a truck.

“Supply Chain Network” graphic by David Pogrebeshsky, 2015. Image: wikimedia commons cc4.0

Analysts predict the supply chain will recover by 2022, but will it ever be the same? We hear a lot about self-driving cars, but there is also significant innovation in shipping and trucking. Autonomous transport may cause a supply chain reaction.

Aurora. https://aurora.tech

Efrati, Amir. “Two More Self-Driving-Truck Developers Consider Public Offerings.” 9 June 2021. The Information. https://www.theinformation.com/articles/two-more-self-driving-truck-developers-consider-public-offerings

Embark Trucks. https://embarktrucks.com

Farooque, Faizan. “4 Self-Driving Truck Stocks You Need to Keep an Eye on.”  9 September 2021. NASDAQ.com. https://investorplacecom/2021/09/4-self-driving-truck-stocks-you-need-to-keep-an-eye-on/

Hall, Claire. “Supply Chain Disruptions Create Shortages of Goods Just in Time for the Holidays.” University of Connecticut interview with Professor Tao Lu, Operations and Information Management Systems. 12 October 2021. https://today.uconn.edu/2021/10/supply-chain-disruptions-create-shortages-of-goods-just-in-tme-for-the-holidays/

Haseltalab, Ali, et al., “The Collaborative Autonomous Shipping Experiment (CASE): Motivations, Theory, Infrastructure, and Experimental Challenges. International Ship Control Systems Symposium (ISCSS) 2020, Delft, The Netherlands. For Project: Navigation and Path Planning of Marine Vehicles. DOI:10.24868/issn.2631-8741.2020.014

Inland Waterways International. https://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org

Locomation. https://locomation.ai

Metzger, Joe, Executive Vice President, Supply Chain Operations, Walmart US, “How Walmart is Navigating the Supply Chain to Deliver this Holiday Season.” 8 October 2021. https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2021/10/08/how-walmart-is-navigating-the-supply-chain-to-deliver-this-holiday-season

Plus. https://www.plus.ai

TuSimple. https://www.tusimple.com

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

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October 5, 2021
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ENERGY: Physics of Climate Change

“Nobel Prize Medal.” Photographer, Jonathunder. Wikimedia commons.

Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” stated the Nobel Prize Committee, when awarding the Nobel Prize for Physics 2021. Half of the prize went to Parisi for discovery of the “interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atoms to planetary scales,” while Manabe and Hasselmann split the other half. Manabe created one of the first climate models that revealed how carbon emissions warmed the planet, while Hasselmann showed that Manabe’s computer simulations could accurately predict the trends of climate change, even while weekly weather fluctuations were still variable. Parisi won for studies of the results produced when metals like iron or copper are mixed, revealing patterns. Parisi commented, when winning the Nobel Prize, that perhaps the Nobel Committee wanted to send the world a message about climate change: “I think it’s urgent. It’s clear that for the future generations we have to act now in a very fast way.” (Brumfiel 2021). Stefan Rahmstorg, climate modeler, stated “Physics-based climate models made it possible to predict the amount and pace of global warming, including some of the consequences like rising seas, increased extreme rainfall events and stronger hurricanes, decades before they could be observed.” (Keyton and Borenstein, 2021)

“Global warming” NASA 2016. Image: public domain, nasa.gov.

Recent weather proves the scientists right: in 2021, 36% of Americans, and many more worldwide, suffered severe effects of climate change through drought and fires, storms and floods. In a few weeks, the world will convene in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, sequel to the Paris Agreement (COP21). Now it is time for action. What do you think are the highest priorities for climate?

Brumfiel, Geoff. “The Nobel Prize in physics honors work on climate change and complex systems.” 5 October 2021, NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2021/10/05/1043278925/nobel-prize-physics-climate-change-winner

Hasselmann, Klaus. “Interview with Klaus Hasselmann” 2009. Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Climate Change. VIDEO https://youtu.be/uSfmKx2ylSc

Keyton, David and Seth Borenstein. “Physics Nobel rewards work on complex systems, like climate.” 5 October 2021. AP.com

Nobel Prize. https://www.nobelprize.org

Manabe, Syukuro and Richard T. Wetherald. “On the Distribution of Climate Change Resulting from an Increase in CO2 Content of the Atmosphere.” January 1980, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, Volume 37, pages 99 – 118.

Manabe, Syukuro. “Why this is happening” Interview upon receiving Nobel Prize in Physics 2021.” AUDIO. Telephone call interview with Manabe explaining the work. https://youtu.be/yt246IKVhr4

Parisi, Giorgio. “Statement on receiving Nobel Prize.” 5 October 2021. AUDIO interview. https://youtu.be/GE-qX8mwvuA

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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September 24, 2021
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WATER: Vertical Migration

“Every night, the largest biological migration takes place.” Image animation: “Diel Vertical Migration” by NASA, 2018. Public Domain.

Did you know the largest biological migration on Earth takes place – every night? It is called Diel Vertical Migration (DVM). This week, as the United Nations 76th General Assembly convened, leaders of over 100 nations attended in person. Speakers included presidents and policy-makers who addressed 12 commitments. But this year, there was additional representation: Nature. The message is one of growing awareness of the Rights of Nature. From the 1962 General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII) on “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources” and the 1982 “World Charter for Nature” to the recognition of personhood rights of the Whanganui River of New Zealand in 2017, the rights of nature will grow in importance during climate change.

“Components of the Biological Pump” by Ducklow, Hugh W. et al., 2015. Image: wikimedia commons.

DVM acts as a biological pump, renewing oceans and lakes, in ways essential to the marine environment. Organisms move up to the top at night, and return to the bottom by day. Crustaceans commute; so do trout. In the process, conversion of C02, and inorganic nutrients, transfer zones. This cleansing and renewing system is one of the treasures of the marine cycle. By bringing attention to vertical migration, the United Nations may set the stage for COP 26 in Glasgow, November 2021, where environmental issues will be decided. Displayed on the night-cloaked facade of the United Nations iconic building, the film “Vertical Migration” brought awareness to the largest migration our world knows, and the importance of marine life in a sustainable, balanced future. View “Vertical Migration.”

Cavan, E.L., et al., “The importance of Antarctic krill in biogeochemical cycles.” 18 October 2019. Nature Communications 10, article number 4742 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12668-7.

Ducklow, Hugh W., et al., “Components of the Biological Pump.” https:tos.org/oceanography/article/upper-ocean-carbon-export-and-the-biological-pump.

Hill, M.N. Physical Oceanography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

United Nations. “Policy Brief.” September 2021. http://sdg.iisd.org/commentary/policy-briefs/what-well-be-listening-for-at-unga-76/

United Nations. “Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources.” General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII) https://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ha/ga_1803_ph_e.pdf

United Nations. “World Charter for Nature.” 1982. UN Document A/37/L.4, and ADD.2. https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/39295?LN=EN

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September 16, 2021
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ENERGY: Jobs of the Future

Jobs of the Future will focus on renewable energy. Image: “Energy on the Grid,” by photographer Kenueone, 2016. Public Domain CC0 1.0. Original image: https://pixabay.com/electricity-sun-wind-1330214.

Born after 1996? Or 1981? You are 70% more likely to rate climate change as the top priority for your future (Pew Research Center 2021). Universities are responding, integrating climate and environmental studies into the curriculum. University of Massachusetts Boston founded the School for the Environment, as well as the Sustainable Solutions Lab and Stone Living Lab. MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) founded in 2014 involves design, engineering, humanities, policy, science, social science, and technology. Harvard’s Center for the Environment (HUCE) offers research, policy, science, climate leaders program, and special events like “Literature for a Changing Planet.” University of Southern California inaugurated “Sustainability Across the Curriculum” weaving the environment into majors of  20,000 undergraduates.

“Shift Change at Clinton Engineering Works, Oak Ridge, TN, August 1945,” by Ed Westcott, US Army photographer. Public Domain. Over 82,000 people were employed. Energy jobs will dominate the future.

Upon graduation, a new generation will find the jobs of the future. Throughout history, great undertakings, like the Manhattan Project, Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, attracted those seeking careers in new energy. Now, a similar surge in energy employment means you can do well by doing good: average pay for climate scientists is $73,230; environmental lawyers earn median salary of $122,960. Not all jobs require traditional degrees: urban farmers earn $71,160. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics/Guardian 2021).

“New Crops: Chicago Urban Farm,” by Linda N. Creative Commons CC 2.0. Wikimedia.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the transition to a global net zero energy system will see renewables like solar and wind power dominate, while bioenergy and carbon capture will develop innovative approaches. There are 400 milestones to guide development, with total annual energy investment of $5 trillion by 2030.

Education + Jobs = Health of the Planet. Graphic by Nevit Dilmen, 2011. Image: creative comons, public domain.

Climate change will cause an era of innovation more comprehensive than we have seen in the history of the world. Every field will be impacted; every field will see innovation. Rachel Larrivee, 23, Boston-based environmental consultant, says it well: “I’m in the first generation who knows the extent to which climate change poses an existential threat to life on Earth, and also the last generation who may be able to do anything about it.” (Lashbrook, 2021.)

International Energy Agency (IEA). “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.” Report May 2021. https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050

Lashbrook, Angela. “‘No point in anything else:’ Gen Z members flock to climate careers. Colleges offer support as young people aim to devote their lives to battling the crisis.” 6 September 2021. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/06/gen-z-climate-chnage-careers-jobs

Pew Research Center, by Alec Tyson, Brian Kennedy, Cary Funk. “Gen Z, Millennials Stand Out for Climate Change Activism, Social Media Engagement With Issue.” May 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2021/05/PS_2021.05.26_climate-and-generations_REPORT.pdf

Thanks to Yujin Asai of dotmeta.com for sharing this research.

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September 9, 2021
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WATER: Foreseeing the Future

New Orleans in 1803. Image: “Under My Wings Everything Prospers” by J. L. Bouqueto de Woiseri. 1 January 1803. Public Domain. Image: wikimedia commons.

Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, in August 2021, bringing severe wind and water. New Orleans was watching. After Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, the city built a flood-prevention system of gates, levees, pumps, and walls. Sixteen years later, almost to the day, Ida tested Katrina’s resilient infrastructure. The city emerged relatively unscathed( Hughes, 2021). But just 60 miles away, storm surge toppled the Lafourche Parish levee. Overwhelmed by floods, damaged sanitation and sewage systems threatened public health. The discrepancy between a prepared city and an unprotected town foretells the future of coastal communities in climate change.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused damage that resulted in the building of a storm protection system, tested by Hurricane Ida in 2021. Image: “Hurricane Katrina, 28 August, 2005” from NOAA. Public Domain.

It’s not just flooding. Even though New Orleans avoided Katrina’s flooding in Ida, there were other dire effects. Like power outages. Hundreds of thousands of people remained without electricity a week after the storm. Refrigerators were off, so were air-conditioners: in the 90 degree (F) heat, the situation was dangerous. Those who could escaped to nearby places with electricity for an “evacuation vacation.” Many were not so fortunate.

“Hurricane Ida at Landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, 29 August 2021. Image: weather.gov. Public Domain.

Coastal communities face an uncertain yet certain future. By 2040, providing storm-surge systems like sea walls for American cities with populations greater than 25,000 is estimated to cost $42 billion – that would include New Orleans. But what about Lafourche Parish? Protecting smaller communities and towns would raise the cost to $400 billion. (Flavelle 2021). Protecting against flooding is only part of the problem, however: wind damage to above-ground electrical poles, wires, and transformers is cause for alarm. During Hurricane Ida, 902,000 customers lost power when 22,000 power poles; 26,000 spans of wire, and 5,261 transformers were damaged or lost – more than Katrina, Zeta, and Delta combined (Hauck 2021).

“Map illustrating areas of the Netherlands below sea level.” By Jan Arkestejin. Pubic Domain Image: wikimedia.

Even with abundant funding, infrastructure takes time to build. Storms, however, will not stop. While rebuilding more resilient storm barrier and electrical systems, communities may look to the Protective Dikes and Land Reclamation practices of The Netherlands as a case example of immediate resilient response. The Dike Army (Dycken Waren), composed of residents responding together in times of need, was part of the system. As Louisiana, and other areas significantly damaged by Hurricane Ida, consider how to rebuild, it may be time to call to arms a new kind of Dike Army, perhaps a regional Civilian Climate Conservation Corps (4C), to serve and protect coastal communities and habitats: both terrestrial and marine. Disaster response would be in addition to the goals of the Civilian Climate Corps proposal of the US in January 2021. The 4C’s motto is up for a vote: some want “For Sea” and some like “Foresee.” What’s your vote?

“CCC” pillow from CCC museum in Michigan, USA. Image: public domain.

Flavelle, Christopher. “With More Storms and Rising Seas, Which U.S. Cities Should Be Saved First?” 19 June 2019. The New York Times.

Hauck, Grace. “Week after Hurricane Ida’s landfall, hundreds of thousands still without power.” 5 September 2021. USA TODAY. https://wwwusatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/09/05/hurricane-ida-louisiana-residents-without-power-families-homeless/5740682001/

White House, Biden-Harris. “Civilian Climate Corps.” 27 January 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/27/fact-sheet-president-biden-takes-executive-actions-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad-create-jobs-and-restore-scientific-integrity-across-federal-government/

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August 27, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Caring Cars

Could cars be taught to care? “Ford Argo AI,” 2019. Photo by Tony Webster. Creative Commons, Wikimedia.

“Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are never drunk or tired or inattentive,” states Julian De Freitas, of the Harvard Business School and Ethical Intelligence Lab. Over 90% of traffic accidents and deaths (1.35 million fatalities globally) are due to driver error. Smarter vehicles could save lives to an extent equal to the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics, but will consumers trust these cars? Can vehicles evaluate, think, and drive with “common sense?” Ethical dilemmas such as whether an AV should save pedestrians or passengers is one of the pressing issues facing car manufacturers giving brains and hearts to their products. Will highway systems, like the Germany’s Bundesautobahn System of 13, 183 km (8. 192 mi), or US Federal Highway System, develop dedicated lanes for AVs? Insurance and legal concerns will set new regulations. Does technology carry the liability, or human operators? Many people feel they identify with their cars: will cars become more like people? Want to take a drive?

Argo AAI. www.argo.ai

Associated Press. “Ford, Argo AI to Deploy Autonomous Vehicles on Lyft Network.” 21 July 2021. US News. https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2021-07-21/ford-argo-ai-to-deply-autonomous-vehicles-on-lyft-network

Blanding, Michael. “Can Autonomous Vehicles Drive with Common Sense?” 17 August 2021. Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/can-autonomous-vehicles-drive-with-common-sense

De Freitas, Julian, et al., edited by Susan T. Fiske. “From driverless dilemmas to more practical commonsense tests for automated vehicles.” 16 March 2021.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 118 (11) e2010202118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010202118.

Maurer, M. et al., editors. Autonomous Driving. Berlin: Springer, 2016.

Nader, R. Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. New York: Grossman, 1965.

Pogue, David. “Self-Driving Cars.” 17 May 2019. CBS Sunday Morning. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugNJJf2QW0E

Schmelzer, Ron. “What Happens When Self-Driving Cars Kill People?” 26 September 2019. Forbes. AUDIO and print article. https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2019/09/26/what-happens-with-self-driving-cars-kill-people/

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August 20, 2021
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SPACE: Keeping an Eye on Climate Change

“Animation showing changes in Iris,” by Sagyxil, 6 February 2010. GNU open license. Image: wikimedia.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed our worst fears: the world may be losing the battle of climate. Some effects of global warming are permanent and irreversible, like sea-level rise. When the Greenland ice sheet melts, it will not refreeze. There are other effects that may ultimately reverse, but will take centuries to do so: oceanic acidification and deoxygenation, melting of permafrost, air pollution.

“Earth seen from Space,” by DLR: German Aerospace Center, 23 July 2012. Image: wikimedia.

It’s not all totally bad news: there may still be a window. The question is how to use our limited remaining time most wisely? According to Peter Huybers, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard: “There are notable opportunities to increase our rate of learning about the climate system by developing a constellation of satellites to monitor the flow of energy in and out of the Earth system. Another constellation of satellites could monitor greenhouse gas fluxes for purposes of better holding nations accountable for their emissions.” (Huybers and Mulcahy, 2021)

“Earth’s seasons, seen by satellite.” NASA.gov.

When Sputnik launched in 1957 and COMSAT followed in 1962 , we developed capability to see Earth as a whole, dynamic system.  Science fiction always depicted space as a place to explore, maybe to inhabit, perhaps even an exit strategy from a failing Earth. But space may turn out to be the place from which T.S. Eliot’s words might come true in a new way:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

T. S. Eliot

Eliot, T. S. “Little Gidding,” from Four Quartets. Originally published in 1943.

Huybers, Peter and Christopher Mayer. “The Near-Term Impacts of Climate Change on Investors.” Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, Columbia University Business School. VIDEO: https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/video/videos/near-term-impacts-climate-change-investors-peter-huybers-and-christopher-mayer

Mulcahy, Ryan. “Climate scientist on UN report: Just as bad as we expected.” Interview with Peter Huybers. 12 August 2021. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/08/climate-scientist-on-un-report-just-as-bad-as-we-expected/

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August 9, 2021
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ENERGY: HOT(TER)

“SUN” by NASA, STEREO Science Center, 2010. Image: public domain.

The long, hot summer – but it’s not August, it’s not even 2021. It’s the whole 21st century. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released findings today. Here is a summary:

  • Climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying
  • Warming is speeding up
  • Every region of the world is facing climate change
  • Human influence is a major cause – and could be the cure (IPCC 9 August 2021)

Do we have the power to respond? Image: TVA Sign at Franklin D Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY, USA. By Photographer Billy Hathorn, 2015. Image: CC0 1.0 Public Domain. Wikimedia.

It’s (almost) not too late. Can we meet the challenges? Some changes, like rising seas, may be permanent. Other results may last a century but could be eased or even reversed. There is still time to determine the future we choose (Figueres and Rivett-Carnac, 2020). Throughout history, people have responded to crisis with innovation. Energy transitions have been turning points in civilization: Tennessee Valley Authority hydroelectric power gave the world the first homes with refrigerators when the TVA opened the town of Norris. Danger led to the Manhattan Project and development of atomic energy. Geothermal, solar, wind, and wave power offer options in every region.

“Spinning Globe Map.” by Anonymous101, 2007. Image: public domain, wikimedia commons.

Regions all share climate change but conditions will vary. “For the first time, the Sixth Assessment Report provides a more detailed regional assessment of climate change, including a focus on useful information that can inform risk assessment, adaptation, and other decision-making, and a new framework that helps translate physical changes in the climate – heat, cold, rain, drought, snow, wind, coastal flooding and more – into what they mean for society and ecosystem.” (IPCC 2021)  Regional information and options can be explored in detail in the newly developed Interactive Atlas here.

Climate Nexus. “IPCC: Human-Caused Climate Change Impacts Severe, Widespread.” 9 August 2021. https://climatenexus.org/climate-change-news/ipcc-climate-change-2021-report/

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. The Future We Choose. 2020. ISBN: ;9780593080931.

International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Sixth Assessment: Summary.” https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2021/08/IPCC_WGI-AR6-Press-Release_en.pdf

IPCC “What Matters?” 2018. VIDEO: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/mulitimedia/video/

Plumer, Brad and Henry Fountain. “A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us.” 9 August 2021. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/09/climate/climate-change-report-picc-un.html?referringSource=articleShare

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August 2, 2021
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WATER: Microplastic Filter Innovations

Microplastics in four rivers – Image. “Microplastics in freshwater ecosystems: what we know and what we need to know.” by Martin Wagner, et al., Environmental Sciences Europe. 26, 2014. doi: 10:1186/s12302-014-0012.7

Did you know that 35% of the plastic in our water is microfibers? Those microfibers come from our clothing, released into the water supply during laundering. Microfibers are too small (0.5mm) to be captured by traditional filters. Currently, 2/3rds of clothing contains some percentage of synthetic materials. A typical washload of polyester clothing may shed 9,000,000 microfibres with every wash. Now there is something we can do to stop this problem: attaching a filter to washing machines to catch the microfibers. While the origin of microfibers in clothing is the garment industry, a major source of plastic microfibers is the effluence of laundry water. PlanetCare is expanding their product to a larger version for commercial laundries. 

“SEM picture of a bend in a high-surface area polyester fiber with a seven-lobed cross section” by Pschemp, 2000. Image Wikimedia.

Other companies are developing microfiber filters for washing machines. Environmental Enhancements offers the Lint LUV-R. Xeros Technologies produces the XFiltra. Filtrol makes a similar product. Cora Ball and Guppyfriend use a different technology: devices that collect microfibers inside the washing machine during the laundry cycle. While attached filters catch more fibers (87%), these tend to be the longest ones; Cora Ball inserts and Guppyfriend washing bags capture 26%, mainly the smallest fibers. Using both approaches would increase success.

Fast Company “G-Star Raw x Planetcare collab to flight microfibre pollution.” 8 October 2019. https://www.fastcompany.co.za/business/g-star-raw-x-planetcare-collab-to-fight-microfibre-pollution

Kart, Jeff. “Science says laundry balls and filters are effective in keeping microfibers out of waterways.” 2019. Forbes.https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/02/01/science-says-laundry-balls-and-filters-are-effective-in-removing-microfibers/?sh=208899e6e07a

Rabinovich, Ben. “World Oceans Day: Check out these amazing inventions currently cleaning our oceans.” 4 June 2019. Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-7104173/World-Oceans-Day-Check-amazing-inventions-currently-cleaning-oceans.html

Tuttan, Mark and Katie Pisa. “Washing your clothes is causing plastic pollution, but a simple filter could help.” 14 November 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/14/world/microfiber-filter-plastic-pollution-int/index.html

Zupan, Mojca.  2019 YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD7iTYhAC_U

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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