Building the World

June 7, 2021
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ENERGY: Arctic Refuge

“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Photograph by Steven Chase, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: wikimedia commons.

US Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will keep its mission as a refuge, at least for now. Leases to drill for gas and oil have been suspended, pending review. This follows cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, on 20 January 2021. When the Alaska Highway was built, and later the Trans-Alaska pipeline, it was a matter of war and then of preservation of another kind. But the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) covers 19.6 million acres including the Mollie Beattie Wilderness. It is the second largest wilderness area in the US, and contains 1 million acres of coastal plains. Coasts are attractive as access points for ships and drilling operations. But coasts are also critical for habitat, and already of concern for rising seas.

“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Image: wikimedia commons.

Mollie Beattie, conservationist and former director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the first woman to head the agency), once said: In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it’s un-environmental, it is un-economical. That is the rule of nature.

Alaska Wilderness League. “Arctic Refuge.” https://www.alaskawild.org/places-we-protect/arctic-refuge/

Gup, Ted. “Woman of the Woods – Mollie Beattie, a Natural as Fish and Wildlife Chief,” Washington Post. https://web.archive/org/web/20050306030214/http://www.esew.org/mollieb.htm

Harwood, John and Liz Stark. “Biden administration to suspend oil and gas drilling leases in Arctic refuge, undoing a Trump-era decision.” 1 June 2021. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/01/politics/oil-and-gas-arctic-leaders/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 Unp

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May 17, 2021
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SPACE: Red Traffic

“Riding dragon gods” illustration from Myths and Legends of China by E.T.C. Werner, 1922. Image Project Gutenberg.

Not only is the sky getting crowded with satellites, some working and others defunct but still orbiting, the planets are seeing traffic. This weekend, China landed on Mars, after arriving in orbit on 10 February. China’s Tianwen-1 mission features an orbiter, lander, and rover named Zhurong (Chinese god of fire). Watch the landing here.

“Diagrama of the Perseverance Rover with Instruments.” NASA. 17 June 2020. Image: nasa.gov/wikimedia.

Red Planet traffic includes: NASA’s rovers Curiosity and Perseverance. (Preceded by Spirit and Opportunity in 2004). Decades ago, NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down on Utopia Planitia, a basin thousands of miles wide in the northern area of Mars. That’s the same place China landed this weekend. Scientists hypothesize that Utopia Planitia may have once been an ocean, so it’s a good site to look for signs of life. In fact, water may still be there – under the surface. NASA’s Reconnaissance orbiter detected ice there in 2016; there may be as much ice as Lake Superior. That’s good news for a number of reasons including potential for agriculture, habitation, and power. Besides China and the USA, other contributors to the study of Mars include Argentina, Austria, the European Space Agency (ESA), and France. Also in the Martian traffic pattern: Hope, an orbiter sent by the United Arab Emirates, arrived in the neighborhood on 8 May and is observing atmosphere and weather, recently releasing images of hydrogen atoms around Mars on 24 and 25 April 2021.

“Animation of Emirates’ Mission around Mars.” Image: wikimedia.

Will traffic on Mars continue to increase? Only every two years. There is a timing window when Earth and Mars are closest, and that is why there is so much activity now. While most traffic is on land, NASA’s Ingenuity, a helicopter, has been logging flight time in the Martian atmosphere – the first time (that we know of…) anyone has flown on the Red Planet.

Goswami, Namrata and Peter A. Garretson. Scramble for the Skies: The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space. 2020: Lexington Books. ISBN: 978498583114 and 9781498583121.

Hope Mars Mission. @HopeMarsMission. https://mobile.twitter.com/hopemarsmission/status/1392063293649424386

Myers, Steven Lee and Kenneth Chang. “China’s Mars Rover Mission Lands on the Red Planet.” 14 May 2021, updated 16 May 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/14/science/china-mars.html?referringSource=articleShare

NASA. Ingenuity. WATCH the flight in 3-D. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/seeing-nasa-s-ingenuity-mars-helicopter-fly-in-3d

NASA. “Where is Perseverance?” Track the Rover. https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/where-is-the-rover/

NASA. “NASA confirms evidence that liquid water flows on today’s Mars.” 28 September 2015. Release 15-195. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-confirms-evidence-that-liquid-water-flows-on-today-s-mars

Tianwen-1. VIDEO of Mars landing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVKGDitCtXU

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May 11, 2021
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SPACE: What goes up, must come down. But how?

Long March 5b just missed the Maldives. Image: “Diamonds Thudufushi Beach and Water Villas, May 2017, Ari Atoll, Maldives.” by Martin Falbisoner, 2017. Wikimedia commons.

It was a long march and a splash entry. On 8 May, the Long March B5 fell from space into the Indian Ocean, thankfully missing the nearby 1, 192 islands of the Maldives. Long March 5B launched on 29 April 2021, conveying into orbit the hefty main module of the new space station that China is building, to open in 2022. Some questioned the decision not to fire the Long March 5B rocket engine after releasing its payload, therefore sending it into “uncontrolled reentry.”

“Long March 3B Launch,” by Aaxanderr, 2008, public domain creative commons.

Even if the odds were good, since 70% Earth happens to be water, dumping space debris in the ocean whether in controlled or uncontrolled reentry, may not the best practice. Just ask the marine life at 72.47 degrees East and 2.65 degrees North.

“It starts right here – in Maldives.” by Nattu, Male, Maldives, 2008. Image: Creative Commons 2.0, wikimedia.

Controlled reentry aims at a watery grave. Coordinates 48 degrees 52.6 minutes south latitude and 123 degrees 23.6 minutes west longitude mark Point Nemo, or the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility. It’s 1,450 nautical miles from anywhere, which is why it is the chosen splash-down spot for space detritus. Between 1971 and 2016, space agencies worldwide crashed 260 spacecraft into Point Nemo: there’s part of the MIR space station, a SpaceX rocket, and over 100 resupply vehicles. Over time we may regret that ditching strategy, no matter how much we believe Point Nemo or the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility poses no problems. As water rights develop, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) may rule on Point Nemo.

“Point Nemo or the Oceanic Pole of Inacessibility,” by Timwi 2007. Creative Commons Public Domain. Image: wikimedia.

But most space debris never gets to Point Nemo. There are an estimated 9,000 tones of material circling Earth. Many pieces like old satellites drop out of orbit and burn up before they hit the surface (that’s what happened to Sputnik, the first object in space in October 1957). But even such burning is cause for concern. Little has been done to assess effects on the upper atmosphere, especially consequences of alumina particles that remain trapped and can deplete the ozone layer. The protective layer that keeps Earth from ultraviolet radiation was the subject of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and 2016 Kigali Amendment.

“Image of Depleted Ozone Layer on South Pole Antarctica 2006.” Image credit: NASA. http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/ozone_record.html

Space business is increasing faster than we can keep up in laws and treaties. For example, early laws and conventions spoke only of governments, on the assumption that space was just too expensive for private enterprise. Today, companies like SpaceX are rewriting that text. Space law’s founding documents include the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1972 Space Liability Convention. The first regulates what people can do in space; the second considers how to assign responsibility for activities or objects that cause damage. With satellite constellations like SpaceX and OneWeb launching rapidly, the sky is suffering from traffic, some of it from dead satellites taking of space while waiting to drop, burn, or splash. And we’re putting more up there. As of August 2020, there were 2,787 satellites in orbit (1,364 of those are communication satellites used by business and government). In addition, there are 3,000 dead satellites (and 34,000 pieces of space junk bigger than 10 centimeters and who knows how many particles) still up there, and causing not only traffic but danger.

“Image of Space Debris and Human Spacecraft.” NASA.gov.

We’re only getting started. Since COMSAT began, we’ve sent more satellites, and spacecraft, each year. Estimates now predict 9,000 units by 2025. Some of those will burn, some will splash, and eventually some of them will be retrieved. It’s a new industry. Watch for more laws about what goes up and how it comes down, along with innovations in space sanitation.

Gorman, Alice. “The growing problem of space junk.” 8 May 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/08/opinions/long-march-5b-space-junk-growing-problem-gorman/index.html

Gorman, Alice. Dr. Space Junk Vs The Universe: Archaeology and the Future. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2019. ISBN-13: 9780262043434; ISBN-10: 0262043432.

Hunt, Katie. “Mission to clean up space junk with magnets set for launch.” 1 April 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/19/business/space-junk-mission-astroscale-scn/index.html

Jones, Andrew. “Huge rocket looks set for uncontrolled reentry following Chinese space station launch.” 30 April 2021. Space News. https://spacenews.com/huge-rocket-looks-set-for-uncontrolled-reentry-following-chinese-space-station-launch/

Mosher, Dave. “A spacecraft graveyard exists in the middle of the ocean – here’s what’s down there.” 22 October 2017. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/spacecraft-cemetery-point-nemo-google-maps-2017.10

Myers, Steven Lee and Kenneth Chang. “China Says Debris From Its Rocket Landed Near Maldives.” 8 May 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/08/science/china-rocket-reentry-falling-long-march-5b.html?referringSource=articleShare

O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “What is space junk and why is it a problem?” Natural History Museum, London. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-is-space-junk-and-why-is-it-a-problem.html

Paoletta, Rae. “This Is What Legally Happens If An Uncontrolled Rocket Damages Something.” 5 May 2021. The Planetary Society. https://www.planetary.org/articles/uncontrolled-reentry-rocket-damage-space-lawyers-explain

Thompson, Helen. “There’s a Spacecraft Cemetery in the Pacific.” 21 May 2015. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/theres-spacecraft-cemetery-pacific-180955338

United Nations, Environment Programme, Ozone Secretariat. “The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.” https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol-substances-depleete-ozone-layer/text

United Nations, Environment Programme, Ozone Secretariat. “The Kigali Amendment.” https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol/amendments/kigali-amendment-2016-amendment-montreal-protocol-agreed

United Nations. Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html

United Nations, Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.” https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introliability-convention.html

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April 30, 2021
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CITIES: Leafing Out

“Chestnut trees in blossom, Boulevard Arago, Paris, France.” 2012. Image: wikimedia commons

Today is Arbor Day; it began in 1872 when the newly settled state of Nebraska noted the need for trees and instituted a tree-planting holiday. But this year, there will be less greenery, because American cities are losing 36 million trees – per year.  Increased development is the main reason for urban tree loss, but arboreal disease, insects, fires, hurricanes, and storms also bring loss. When city trees are replaced by buildings or parking lots, the ground that formerly absorbed rain is now impervious.  Paris, France announced a goal of making 50% of the city’s surfaces permeable. Gardens and lawns near the Eiffel Tower will also be extended in preparation for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

TEN BENEFITS OF TREES

Heat reduction – when tree canopy covers 40% of an area, there is a 10 degree (F) cooling

Air quality – trees absorb carbon emissions and pollution

Energy reduction – trees reduce energy costs by $4 billion per year

Water quality – trees cleanse surface water, returning it to groundwater

Flood reduction – trees absorb water and reduce runoff to rivers and streams

Noise reduction – trees muffle traffic noise and add natural sounds of birds and wind

UV radiation protection – trees absorb 96% of ultraviolet radiation

Aesthetics – trees improve property appearance, and value

Health – tree-lined areas have statistically lower human sickness and death rates

Habitat – trees house birds; forests promote wildlife diversity

If you’d like to help maintain and nurture urban tress, consider helping organizations such as the Arbor Day Foundation, and Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition.

Block, India. “Paris plans to go green by planting “urban forest” around architectural landmarks.” 26 June 2019. Dezeen.com. https://www.dezeen.com/2019/06/26/paris-urban-forest-plant-trees-landmarks/

Chillag, Amy. “US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here’s why it matters and how you can stop it.” 18 September 2019. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/health/iyw-cities-losing-36-million-trees-how-to-help-trnd/index.html

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April 22, 2021
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Earth Day 2021

“Earth Spinning.” Image animation: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day 2021 brings some good news: we may be on target to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement (COP21). When nations convened in the city of the Eiffel Tower in 2015, the world set a new course. It was not a minute too soon. Climate Action Tracker (CAT) predicted, in 2009, that global warming would rise to 3.5 C by 2100, bringing disastrous conditions for life on Earth. Now, in 2021, things have improved and we may hold global warming to 2.1 C, if we continue to take action. Every year, on Earth Day, we celebrate our planet and also take stock of the state of our climate.

China’s pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2060, with a peak expected well before 2030, is an important part of recent progress. Japan and South Korea pledged to get to net zero by 2050. The European Union has taken it to the next level, not only pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions 55% by 2030, and reaching net-zero by 2050, but making that goal legally binding. The United States, recently rejoined the Paris agreement and set new goals for climate improvement domestically, including mandating the federal government vehicle fleet to be all electric and allocating funds for 500,000 charging stations across the US Federal Highway system. Today, the United States has convened a global summit for Earth Day 2021 to bring world leaders together to address climate.

What can you do? Every action you choose has some climate impact: you can act to reduce plastic, contribute to green spaces in cities, become a citizen scientist, make art to raise awareness, make a pledge for climate action – click here.

Abnett, Kate. “EU clinches deal on climate law, tougher 2030 emissions goal.” 21 April 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-eu-idUSKBN2C80NZ

Climate Action Tracker (CAT). “Phasing out fossil fuel vehicle sales by 2030 will help to make US transport sector policy 1.5 C compatible.” https://climateactiontracker.org

Earth Day. https://www.earthday.org

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Temperature analysis shows UN goals ‘within reach.'” BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-55073169

United Nations. United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC). “Earth Day 2021 Is Set to Galvanize Climate Action,” 20 April 2021. https://unfccc.int/news/earth-day-2021-is-set-to-galvanize-climate-action

White House. “FACT SHEET: Executive Actions to Take Climate Change at Home and Abroad.” 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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April 16, 2021
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WATER: Self-healing systems

Self-healing water systems: rebuilding water. Image: water pipes, wikimedia commona.

Houston is rebuilding. A severe winter storm knocked out power, in February, leaving families and businesses huddled for elusive warmth. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), supplier to 26 million people, proved not as reliable as its name. Collateral damage from the power outage: water problems. In the cold snap, water pipes cracked, causing water contamination and outages. Houston’s mayor admitted pipes were not insulated, also the case with power plants: disaster was foreseeable: “Our system in Texas is designed primarily for the summer heat, and not necessarily for a winter event. The reality is climate change is real, it is real, and these major storms can happen at any time.” (Turner 2021) Houston will have to rebuild its water system. United States’ declaration of disaster released federal funds. Rebuilding offers a chance not just to restore but to rethink. Could new technologies for self-healing systems offer options?

“Platelets.” Tieroardi 2005. wikimedia.

Self-healing pipes are inspired by human biology. When we experience a cut on the body’s skin, blood comes to the surface and then clots. It’s the work of platelets. That is what inspired engineer Ian McEwan of the University of Aberdeen, and now Scotland’s Brinker Technology to develop “artificial platelets” made from elastomeric material that can be injected into pipelines. When a leak occurs, the pressure change conveys the platelets to the leak, and they clog it. developed for pipelines carrying fuel and tested by British Petroleum and Shell, be adapted for municipal water systems? The method is currently being adapted to use in water pipes in the United Kingdom (UK) where 3,600 million liters of water leak out of pipes every day, causing water companies to repair by digging and replacing water pipes.

“Eielson Air Force Base, Aurora Borealis over Bear Lake.” Image: wikimedia

The Alaska Pipeline, completed in 1977, carries a different liquid; pipes are half buried underground and half above on elevated supports: a design innovation due to permafrost. Through the pipes are “smart pigs,”a playful name for serious devices housed in pipe interiors. If corrosion or leaks occur, smart pigs send a signal warning of disaster before it happens.

Water Use Map of USA. Image wikimedia

America is rebuilding. The United States has over a million miles of water supply mains – equal to 26 miles of water mains for every mile in the US federal highway system. It’s an old system: US pipes leak a full day’s water for every seven days, losing one of every seven gallons of drinking water. (Fishman 2014) Worldwide, 600 million people lack access to safe drinking water sources and systems. United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation urges safe access for all by 2030. As we address water access for all, installing new plumbing for some areas and rebuilding older systems in others, can we utilize smarter, self-diagnosing, self-healing water delivery systems?

Al Jazeera. Interview with Houston, Texas Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Texas disaster ‘foreseeable and preventable,’ Houston Mayor says.” 21 February 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/21/texas-disaster-foreseeable-and-preventage-houston-major-says

American Society of Civil Engineers. “Drinking Water: Infrastructure Report Card, 2017.” https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/drinking_water/

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. “The Trans-Alaska Pipeline: United States and Canada.” Building the World, Volume II, pages 681-709. ISBN: 0313333742.

Fishman, Charles. “13 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the U.S. Water System (But Should)” 14 August 2014. National Geographic. https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/08/12/13-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-the-u-s-water-system-but-should/

Graham-Rowe, Duncan. “Self-Healing Pipelines.” 21 December 2006. Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2006/12/21/130692/self-healing-pipelines/

Fluence. “Aging Water Infrastructure in the US.” 31 May 2018. Fluence News. https://www.fluencecorp.com/aging-water-infrastructure-in-the-us/

Hares, Sophie. “The cost of clean water: $150 billion a year, says World Bank.” 28 August 2017. Thomas Reuters Foundation. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-water-health-idUSKCN1B812E

Homer, Michelle. “City of Houston issues boil water notice.” 17 February 2021. KHOU-11. https://www.khou.com/article/news/local/city-of-houston-issues-boil-water-notice/285-1610aabc-1d48-4040-833c-45aaf572c721

White House. “President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Texas Disaster Declaration.” 20 February 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/02/20/president-joseph-r-biden-jr-approves-texas-disaster-declaration/

World Bank Group. “Water Supply.” 23 June 2017. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/watersupply

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April 7, 2021
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WATER: Fashion Forward

“Miami Fashion Week 2019” showing designs of Claudia Bertolero. Image: wikimedia.

Fashion designers and producers are leading a revolution in the garment industry, currently responsible for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions (Briggs 2021) and 20% of global untreated wastewater resulting from dyeing fabrics. Ralph Lauren Corporation announced “Color on Demand” in its adoption of ECOFAST ™, a sustainable  textile method developed by Dow, to be used in 80% of Ralph Lauren wear by 2025. ECOFAST uses 40% less water, 85% fewer chemical, 90% less energy. Leather jackets made from mushrooms, garments produced in safe and just factories, fibers that are sustainable, shoes that biodegrade, and plastic shopping bags transformed into fabrics, are some of the circularity trends transforming fashion.  The Circular Fibres Initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation brings together industry leaders to change the life cycle and supply chain of fashion fibres and textiles. Stella McCartney placed sustainability fact sheets on seats of the Palais Garnier for the 2020 spring collection show. Will garments of the future have sustainability ratings, and ingredient tags along with laundering instructions?

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “New Circular Fibres Initiative brings industry together to build a circular economy for textiles.” 11 Ma7 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/new-circular-fibres-initiative-brings-industry-together-to-build-a-circular-economy-for-textiles

McCartney, Stella. “Circular Fashion/Circular Economy.” StellaMcCartney.com. https://www.stellamccartney.com/experience/en/sustainability/circularity-2/

Newbold, Alice. “Stella McCartney: Sustainability is the future of fashion, not just a trend.” 30 September 2019. Vogue. https://www.vogue.co.uk/tags/stella-mccartney

Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL). “Ralph Lauren Revolutionizes How the Fashion Industry Dyes Cotton.” 22 March 2021. https://corporate.ralphlauren.com/pr_210322_ColorOnDemand.html

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March 31, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Suez Canal

Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal. What is the future of shipping? Image: wikimedia.

One ship 1,300 feet long (400 meters); 14 tug boats; 30,000 cubic meters of mud and sand cleared; 369 ships waiting in line behind the behemoth vessel: these are the elements that marked the reopening of the Suez Canal this week. When the Ever Given stopped traffic on 23 March, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) estimated a $14 million revenue loss for each day of the blockage. Moreover, trade along the waterway that contributes 2% to Egypt’s GDP also stopped – costing $6.7 million per minute. (Russon 2021) Alianz insurer reported the Suez Canal March 2021 blockage cost between $6 billion and $10 billion.

Ever Given earlier in March in the port of Rotterdam. Image: wikimedia.

Almost everything we touch has reached us, at some stage in the supply chain, via ship. Suez averages 106 container vessels and cruise ships per day. Trends in the container shipping industry reveal continuous pressure for size increase: since 1968, container ship capacity has increased 1,200%. (World Shipping Council, 2021) Why the pressure for bigger? One reason is because shipping is twice as energy efficient as rail and seven times more than vehicle. Shipping emits 3.1% of global CO2, but that percentage could rise as other industries decarbonize. The Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) is a globally-binding design standard established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to reduce climate damage caused by shipping: ships built from 2020-2024 will be required to improve energy efficiency by 15-20%, and by 30% after 2025. Many of those ships will transit the Suez Canal.

Suez Canal, southern part, as viewed by Hodoyoshi satellite, 2015. Image: Axelspace Corporation, via wikimedia commons.

As container ships get bigger, canals will too. In 2015, Suez built a parallel waterway deepened by dredging one million cubic meters of sludge daily. Six companies did the work: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company (USA), Jan de Nul Group and Deme Group (Belgium), National Marine Dredging (UAE), Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord (Netherlands). The Panama Canal, begun by Ferdinand de Lesseps but completed by the US, recently installed new locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides that are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than the originals. American ports like Baltimore, Charleston, Miami, Philadelphia, and Virginia have seen increased container traffic from the Panama expansion, according to the Supply Chain Management Program at MIT. The current US proposal “American Jobs Plan” allocates $42 billion for ports (air and sea) that may spur improvements.

Aida performed in the Arena di Verona, Italy, 2006. How can we celebrate great infrastructure in our times? Photographer: Christian Abend. Image: wikimedia commons.

Egypt’s famous waterway opened in 1869; 1.5 million people worked on the canal’s construction, evidence that infrastructure building creates jobs. Ferdinand de Lesseps, retired diplomat, visited his childhood friend now the khedive and viceroy of Egypt, in 1854 and gained concession to build the canal. Diplomacy remained a central value: the Suez contract Article VI states “tariffs of dues for passage…shall be always equal for all nations.” (Building the World, p. 193) To mark the inaugural opening of the Suez Canal, Giuseppe Verdi composed the opera Aida.  Should the “American Jobs Plan,” aimed at rebuilding infrastructure, include funding for art?

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. Building the World: Great Engineering Projects in History. Volume 1, Chapter 16, “The Suez Canal,” pages 187-204. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO, 2006. ISBN: 9780313333736

DC Velocity. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?” 20 December 2018.  https://www.dcvelocity.com/articles/30335-has-the-panama-canal-expansion-changed-anything.

Edwards-May, David, and Li Denan. China’s Grand Canal: Mirror of Civilisation. Xanadu Publishing 2020. ISBN: 9781784591830.

Gooley, Toby. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?”

Inland Waterways International (IWI).  https://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/

Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership and World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. “Mitigation: Moving towards low carbon navigation infrastructure.” @NavClimate.  https://navclimate.pianc.org

Russon, Mary-Ann. “The cost of the Suez Canal blockage.” 29 March 2021. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56559073

Street, Francesca. “What’s it’s really like steering the world’s biggest ships.” 29 March 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/steering-worlds-biggest-ships-suez-canal-cmd/index.html

Tankersley, Jim. “Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan to Rebuild Infrastructure and Reshape the Economy.” 31 March 2021. The New York Times.

Transport & Environment. “Shipping and Climate Change.” https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do-/shipping-and-environment-shipping-and-climate-change

Verdi, Giuseppe. Aida. Performance by Pavarotti. LISTEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8rsOzPzYr8

World Shipping Council. “Container Ship Design.” https://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/liner-ships/container-ship-design.

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March 22, 2021
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WATER: World Water Day 2021

“Water Drop” by José Manuel Suárez, photographer, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

World Water Day, begun in 1993, calls us to honor and preserve the world’s freshwater supply. Water, in the form of drinking water and safe sanitation, is the #6 Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations.  Environmental historians observe that human history can be traced by innovations in water systems. Aqueducts built by the Romans brought fresh spring water to a growing city when the Tiber river became threatened. In England, the New River was one of the world’s first built watercourses, bringing potable water to the burgeoning city of London. The Colorado River Compact defined the rights and use of water for the American states of the Upper Basin (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico) and Lower Basin (California, Arizona, Nevada); sovereign peoples of the Navajo, Havasupai, Walapai, and several others; and México.  Rights of the Whanganui River of New Zealand established legal personhood in 2017, confirming a growing awareness of the rights of nature. Today’s World Water Day 2021 is dedicated to our personal use of water. While 71% of the world has access to safe drinking water, only 45% have use of safe sanitation. To access the country data where you live, the United Nations invites you to explore the world water database here. To tell your own story about how you experience water, record your views here.

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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March 12, 2021
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CITIES: Higher Ground

“Seattle, Washington, as seen from Bainbridge Island ferry 2016.” Photo by Dicklyon. Image: wikimedia commons.

Waterfront property is causing real estate prices to rise – but not in the usual places. Miami’s 2017 Hurricane Irma caused billions of dollars in damage to beachfront properties. Just after that storm, real estate further inland saw price increases. A new term, coined by Professor Jesse Keenan of Tulane University, has entered the lexicon: “climate gentrification.” Three forms of climate gentrification may be considered:

HIGHER GROUND, RISING VALUES – neighborhoods that suffer less damage in storms are becoming desirable, even if such areas were formerly not considered elite;

WATERFRONT PROTECTIONS – property owners of waterfront real estate are investing in weather-proofing measures, spurring rebuilding innovations;

COMMUNITY ACTION – areas with resilience improvements such as elevated infrastructure, flood barriers, and storm drains, are increasing in value.

Miami is one of the cities seeking higher ground. Image: wikimedia commons.

While home-owners may take action, so can government. Galveston, Texas, raised the city up 16 feet with sand and ground development. The city also built a 10-mile-long seawall. Miami drew $200 million from the Miami Forever Bond to improve flood-mitigation infrastructure. New Jersey increased insurance premiums for coastal neighborhoods. Rebuilding coastal cities will cause redesign of canals, harbors, and ports. Boston may experience sea-level rise from a conservative estimate of two feet by 2050, to over six feet by 2100. As coastal cities like Boston, Jakarta, New Orleans and others pump drinking water from reservoirs and aquifers, subsidence of land intensifies the effects of sea rise.

“Panoramic Boston” by photographer Henry Han, 2011. Image: wikimedia commons.

The Sustainable Solutions Lab of the University of Massachusetts Boston suggests state and local government could help with new zoning laws. According to David W. Cash, Dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, “As we watched hurricanes and extreme weather events hit various parts of the United States, it became really clear that Boston was very vulnerable to both flooding and sea level rise.” (Moran 2018). Another important initiative, from the School for the Environment, recommends strengthening and updating the state’s Wetlands Protection Act.

“Aerial View of Great Marsh in Massachusetts.” Image: wikimedia commons.

The future may be safeguarded by a Regional Coastal Flood Protection Agency for Massachusetts. Perhaps broader regional efforts may include Canada and México: rising seas will not stop at national borders. Might there be a regional CCC – Climate Conservation Corps? Could cooperation, and funding, be found with USMCA? How can the world’s regions protect shared coasts through environmental justice and preservation, seeking higher ground?

Are regions the new nations? Image: “North America from Space, based on NASA satellite views.” Artist: Przemek Pietrak, 2015. Image: Nasa/wikimedia commons.

Aune, Kyle T. et. al., “A spatial analysis of climate gentrification in Orleans Parish, Louisiana post-Hurricane Katrina. Environ. Re. 2020 Jun; 185:109384. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32240840/

Boston Harbor Association, lead author Ellen Douglas, University of Massachusetts Boston. “Preparing for the Rising Tide.” 6 February 2013. https://www.umb.edu/news/detail/umass_boston_professor_is_lead_author_of_report_identifying_risks_of_sea_le

Caldwell, Erin D. “UMass Boston report shows that climate change views vary by race.” 28 October 2020. Dorchester Reporter. https://www.dotnews.com/2020/umass-boston-report-shows-climate-change-views-vary-race

Dill, Jackson and Brandon Miller. “Sea level rise is increasing fastest in populous coastal areas, study says.” 9 March 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/09/world/sea-level-rise-increasing-with-sinking-land/index.html

Keenan, Jesse. “Climate gentrification.” https://architecture.tulane.edu/content/jesse-m-keenan

Kreul, Stephanie, et.al., “Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding.” September 2018. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston https://www.umb.edu/editor_uploads/images/centers_institutes/sustainable_solutions_lab/Governance-for-a-Changing-Climate-Full-Report-UMB-SSL.pdf

Miami Riverside Center (MRC). “Miami Forever Bond Project to Mitigate Effects of Sea Level Rise.” 1 March 2019. https://www.miamigov.com/Notices/News-Media/Miami-Forever-Bond-Project-to-Mitigate-Effects-of-Sea-Level-Rise

Moran, Barbara. “New Zoning Codes Would Help Mitigate Boston Flood Risk, Report Says.” 28 September 2018. WBUR. https://www.wbur.org/news/2018/09/28/zoning-boston-flooding-concerns

Nathan, Aparna. “Climate is the Newest Gentrifying Force, and its Effects are Already Re-Shaping Cities.” 15 July 2019. Harvard University Science Policy Blog. https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/climate-newest-gentrifying-force-effects-already-re-shaping-cities/

Newkirk, Vann R. II. “How to Build Hurricane-Proof Cities: In the age of climate change, the only way to protect the American coastal metropolis is to rethink it entirely.” 12 September 2017, The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/how-to-build-hurricane-proof-cities/539319/

O’Connell, Annie. “Impacts of Sea Level Rise.” February 2018. Neponset River Watershed Association. https://www.neponset.org/happenings/impacts-of-sea-level-rise/

Tolan, Casey. “High ground, high prices.” 3 March 2021. CNN.com. With Charts and Illustrations. https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2021/03/us/climate-gentrification-cnnphotos-invs/

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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