Building the World

September 21, 2023
by Building The World

ENERGY: Climate Conservation Corps

“Many Hands,” by Sharon and Nikki McCutcheon, 2015. Dedicated by the photographers to the public domain. Included with appreciation.

During UN climate week, the U.S. announced creation of an “American Climate Corps” that will combine public service with training for environmentally beneficial professions and technologies. Ali Zaidi, White House point person, may lead the effort to recruit 20,000 young people for the inaugural year. Some Corps areas will also include age-diverse cohorts. Collaborators joining the training and development will feature experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and AmeriCorps, as well as departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, and Labor. If we need an energy revolution, this could be it.

“CCC camps in Michigan, USA” circa 1930s. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

There are historic precedents. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pulled American youth out of Depression-era joblessness by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). While initially aimed at those suffering poverty. CCC expanded, through the creative leadership of Frank P. Davidson, to include Camp William James in Tunbridge, Vermont, welcoming college recruits.

Without dikes, the Netherlands would be flooded to this extent. Image by Jan Arksteijn, 2004. Dedicated by the graphic artist to the public domain, CC 0.1. Included with appreciation.

But the earliest organization of service work might be the Dike Armies of the medieval Netherlands. In 1319, this edict described the corps: “Ende alman sal ten menen werke comen op den dijc, daers hem ie Baeiliu, of die Dijcgrave vermaent” – “Everybody shall come to work at the dike on instruction of the bailiff or dike reeve.” It should be noted that today, with social media like Instagram, X, TikTok, calling up volunteer teams to respond to a climate disaster would have instant effectiveness. 

Look at Earth from space. There are no lines on a map showing states or nations. Our planet is land surrounded by water. Climate is regional and global – so must be our response. “The Blue Marble” by NASA Apollo 17, enhanced by Degir6328. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

The newly planned American Climate Corps might be the beginning of a new era of job and skills development to respond to climate change. But a broader vision could expand the scope. Climate change will not stop at national borders: San Diego in the USA and Tijuana in Mexico share the same coast and the same need for response to sea level rise. Vermont, site of CCC Camp William James, shared smoke from Canada’s recent wildfires. Look at Earth from space; you see not countries and nations, but land and water. Climate change must be addressed by regional, and global, response. The American Climate Corps could become a regional organization inviting Canada, Mexico, and the USA, together with the original Tribes of the Americas, to share language training, technology development, and regional capability to respond to climate change.

The new CCC can build wind turbines, delivering green electricity. It’s a fast-growing industry with great jobs. Image: “Dual Rotor Wind Turbine” by Deas1. Creative commons. Included with appreciation.

Those trained by the new Climate Corps can serve a dual role of training for climate-ready jobs, and also be ready to respond to climate disasters that affect the region. In the last decade, 85% of natural disasters like drought and fires, storms and floods, were attributed to, and intensified by, global warming. Climate change calls us to work together in ways that can strengthen education, technology, and shared vision through climate justice. As Climate Corps members build green energy technology and plant drought-resistant agricultural grains, perhaps they may also sow the seeds of peace.

Can we plant drought-resistant agriculture as a way to sow the seeds of peace? Image: Logo “Plant for the Planet,” 2015. Public Domain Fair Use. Included with appreciation.

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke. “Protective Dikes and Land Reclamation: The Netherlands,” Volume 1, page 57. Building the World (Greenwood, 2006). ISBN: 0313333734.

Friedman, Lisa. “Wanted: 20,000 Young Americans to Fight Climate Change.” 20 September 2023. The New York Times.

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

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September 12, 2023
by Building The World

TRANSPORT: Cargo Ships with Wings

Will winged ships be the future of cargo transport? Image: “Pigeons Flying” by Eadweard Muybridge, 1893. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Transportation contributes to global warming by use of fossil fuels. Electric vehicles are increasing in use while decreasing emissions; batteries needed to store and dispense electric power are easier to develop for smaller vehicles like cars or vans, even trucks. Airplanes are improving. Short-haul passenger travel has made some progress with electric aircraft, and United Airlines recently flew from Chicago, Illinois to Washington, D.C. on biofuel. Train travel is clocking faster speeds with lower emissions from innovations like Mag-lev and Hyperloop. But what about shipping?

Container ship “Ever Given” stuck in the Suez Canal on 21 March 2021, by Copernicus Sentinel Satellite. Adapted as photo by Pierre Markuse, 2021. Creative commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Maritime shipping moves 80% of all the goods manufactured and produced in the world economy. The industry emits one billion tons of CO2 every year – 3% of human-generated emissions. The industry grows every year: in  2021, 1.95 billion metric tons of cargo were shipped via container fleets. The biggest shipping companies include APM-Maersk, CMA CGM, COSCO, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, and MSC; each receiving loads of TEUs (acronym for twenty-food equivalent unit, a standard of measure in the shipping industry). When a particularly large container freighter became stuck in the Suez Canal, attention was called to the shipping industry and its role in global transport, and emissions. Behemoth container ships are too large run on batteries, and solar panels are not the answer, either. What about wind?

Cargill chartered the Physix Ocean retroftted with WindWings. Image: Cargill Logo, public domain. Included with appreciation.

Enter Pyxis Ocean. It’s a cargo transport ship, chartered by Cargill, that has been fitted with wings. Two sails made of steel, each 123 feet (37.5 meters) tall, set sail recently. The wing/sails are foldable, allowing passage under bridges. The vessel was retrofitted by BAR Technologies, Yara Marine Technologies, and Mitsubishi. While the ship still uses fossil fuel, wings use wind to reduce fuel consumption by 30%. Launched in China and sailing toward Brazil, Pyxis Ocean is an innovation worth watching. Cargill is an agricultural firm, transporting 225 million tons annually. Could this be the beginning of a new era in shipping?

The earliest global trade was through ships with sails. Image: “Two Danish Ships entering Portsmouth Harbour” by J.M.W. Turner, circa 1807-1809. Tate acquisition number N00481. Creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

The earliest global transport ‘supply chain’ was through ships with sails. Historic great fleets with complex arrays of sails are the stuff of legend, and art. Is past now prologue? Cargill/BAR/Mitsubishi/Yara received support from the European Union’s WindWings project. The aim is to retrofit existing shipping vessels with wings to reduce fuel use and therefore emissions. BAR’s Head of Engineering Lauren Eatwell, a lifelong sailor with Olympic experience as well as education in composite structural engineering, helped to pioneer the WindWing design. Cargill aims to save 1.5 metric tons of fuels per wing per day. With advanced fuels (think methanol), more cost and emission savings are full speed ahead. We are the water planet, and we will continue to traverse the globe with ships. Can the shipping industry take wing?

Shipping will continue to be a mainstay of global supply chain routes. Can the shipping industry take wing? Image: “Spinning Globe with one frame/sec = one hour/sec” adapated from public domain images by Wikidao. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

WATCH: Video of Pysix Ocean and WindWings.

BAR Technologies. “WindWings.”

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Supply Chain Reaction.” Building the World Blog 2021

Cargill. “Cargill and BAR Technologies’ ground-breaking wind technology sets sail, chartering a lower-carbon path for the maritime industry.”  21 August 2023. Cargill.

Lewis, Neil. “Wind-powered cargo ship sets sail in a move to make shipping greener.” 21 August 2023. CNN.

Placek, Martin. “Container shipping statistics & facts,” 31 August 2023. Statista.

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

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September 4, 2023
by Building The World
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CITIES: Labor and Workers’ Rights

Los Angeles, with the Hollywood sign overlooking the city, is the home of many striking actors of SAG-AFTRA seeking better rights. Image: “Hollywood Sign” by photographer Thomas Wolf. Creative Commons 3.0 Included with appreciation.

Human history may be traced in the move from field to city, from local farm to industrial agriculture, and with that – from indentured field serf to urban worker. Some sociologists say that human history is the history of cities. Cities may also be the birthplace of human, and worker, rights. An example: Wolfsburg, Germany, began as the Duchy of Magdeburg, then became the Stadt des KdF-Wagnes bei Fallersleben (“City of Strength Through Joy at Fallersleben”) as a planned town built to house workers for a factory producing the Volkswagen Beetle car. Volkswagen workers organized labor unions through collective agreements ensuring rights of more than 120,000 workers through the Volkswagen Group Global Works Council (GWC).

VW factory, Wolfsburg, Germany” by photographer HasBS, 2011. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

From the days of Charlemagne and into medieval times, as workers began to move into cities, they organized crafts and trades into guilds. The word “guild” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “gild” and is related to “geld” meaning money. We still have an echo in today’s word for money in German: Das Geld. In medieval times, each guild member paid a set amount of money into a common fund to support worker training (apprentice, journeyworker, mastercraftsperson) and family benefits for the wellbeing of workers’ health and family support in the case of injury or death. Guilds morphed into trade unions when the owners of businesses changed to outside investors who were not craftpersons themselves. Labor rights were born in the city and have continued to find their growth in urban environments.

Medieval cities were effectively run by guilds representing all the crafts and trades of the local and regional economy. Guilds set worker rights, wages, and benefits. Image: “Coats of arms displaying the tools of the trades in a medieval town of the Czech Republic,” Photo by VitVit, 2008. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation,

Workers and Rights. Some credit present day labor rights activist Robert Owen, a manufacturer from Wales, with the concept of the eight-hour workday. In 1817, Welsh advocated 8/8/8/ (eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest). Fifty years later, workers in Chicago demanded the Illinois Legislature to pass a law limiting work to eight hours per day. Although the law passed, a loop hole remained and many factory laborers were still overworked and underpaid.  On May 1, 1867, they went on strike. The movement shut down Chicago, and soon other cities across the United States and Europe joined the strike. That event in 1867 led to what is now known as May Day or International Workers’ Day.

International Workers’ Day, May 1, 2013, Austria. Image by photographer Johannes Zinner, 2013. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Labor. Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners first voiced in 1882 the call for a holiday for “the laboring classes who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” McGuire’s message echoed that of the medieval guilds: labor and work are forms of art and should be treasured and honored by a holiday. A leader of a similar surname, Matthew Maguire, secretary of Local 344 of the International Machinists, proposed the same holiday. Their messages were heard.

First American Labor Day parade in New York City on 5 September 1882. Image: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper issue dated 16 September 1882. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, 10,000 city workers gathered in New York City on 5 September 1882 to rally for improvement in labor conditions. When the American government even began tracking work hours in 1890, the average factory workers clocked in 100 hours per week. Ensuing years strengthened the movement for better working hours and recognition of the major role workers play in business and economics. Oregon was the first state to recognize Labor day but Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York soon joined. In 1894, the Pullman strike in Chicago, Illinois jammed rail traffic throughout the country. During the strike and crisis, President Grover Cleveland signed Labor Day into law, as Congress passed an act declaring a national holiday to honor labor on the first Monday in September. Finally, in 1894, Labor Day became an official national holiday. Canada also celebrates Labor Day, but most of the world honors workers on May 1.

“Fête du Travail” or “Labour Day” Parade in Toronto, Canada. on 5 September 2011. CAW Media. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Worker rights continue to be an important issue around the world. In some places, children labor. In other places, women cannot work outside the home. Factory workers are often subject to unhealthy and even lethal conditions: 1500 workers died in preventable factory disasters in the garment industry in fires one decade ago. The 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh made progress in setting new standards; a 2018 Transition Key Accord strengthened the standards to legally binding agreements between trade unions and brands; signatories include an oversight chair from the International Labour Organization (ILO)

“Garment Factory Worker in Bangladesh, 2015.” by Solidarity Center. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Women’s working rights are a special issue. Women make up 70% of the labor force in some export processing zones (EPZs) in Asia, the Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa where some bans on unionization still exist. The ILO Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100), Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (No. 111), and Maternity Protection Convention (No. 183) have helped protect some rights but more is needed. In 1969, the International Labour Organization (ILO) received the Nobel Peace Prize; fifty years later, the ILO issued a new vision when convening the Global Commission on the Future of Work.

Every era brings new challenges for labor, work, and rights. In 2023, the union of Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) declared a strike approved by 98% of the members.  One concern of the striking union members is the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and the expansion of streaming  services.These artists joined the 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America who are also on strike. Again, the theme of the guild – and its blend of artistry and rights – finds a place in history.

Meryl Streep is one of the active supporters of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Image: “Meryl Street at Berlin Berlinale International Film Festival 2016.” by photographer Glyn Lowe Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

If you are reading this post in Canada or in the United States, you may be enjoying a day of rest or even a traditional cook-out. But there is more to Labor Day than a long weekend. How will you celebrate and honor worker equality, justice, rights, and the fruits of our individual, and collective, labors?

Bangladesh Accord Foundation. “Accord on Fire and Building Safety,”

. International Labor Rights Forum. “Women’s Rights and Global Labor Justice.”’s-rights

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

International Labour Organization (ILO). “Global Commission on the Future of Work,”–en/index.htm

Kaunonen, Gary and Aaron Goings. Community in Conflict. Michigan State Press, 2013.

Langley, Winston E. and Vivian C. Fox. Women’s Rights in the United States: A Documentary History. Praeger, 1994. ISBN: 978-0313287558.

Loomis, Erik. A History of America in Ten Strikes. The New Press, 2018.

Smith, Toulmin, Editor, with essay on history and development of the gilds by Lujo Brentano. “English Gilds: The Original Ordinances of more than One Hundred Early English Guilds,” Oxford University Press. Digital facsimile by University of Michigan.;view=fulltext


Seabrook, Jeremy, “The language of labouring reveals its tortured roots.” The Guardian.

Terkel, Studs. Working.  Pantheon Books, 1974.

Toynbee, Arnold. Editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967.

Zraick, Karen. “What is Labor Day? A History of the Workers’ Holiday.” 4 September 2023. The New York Times.



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August 22, 2023
by Building The World

ENERGY/WATER – Congratulations! Pause on Deep Seabed Mining

CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for voicing your support for pausing deep seabed mining, might be the words of this ‘Dumbo’ Octopus, more formally known as Opisthoteuthis agassizzi. Image: “Dumbo Octopus” by NOAA, 2019. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

If you voted “yes” to pause decisions on deep seabed mining, your voice has been heard. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) agreed to extend discussions on guidelines for deep sea mining, and to develop clearer policy to protect the marine environment, until 2024, or maybe even 2025.

Logo of International Seabed Authority by Anna Elaise, ISA, 2009. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

A proposal by Chile, Costa Rica, France, Palau, and Vanuatu, supported by other member States, overrode the “two-year rule” enacted by Nauru and The Metals Company to begin mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ). The matter will advance to further discussion at the twenty-ninth session of the Assembly in 2024; some say debate could extend to 2025. There is time; you can become better informed and more involved.

Palau is one of the signatories of the measure to pause deep sea mining advancement until further discussion. Image: “Palau archipelago” by Lux Tonnerre, 2008. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

ISA revealed the decision in an August 2 report entitled “Just and Equitable Management of the Common Heritage of Humankind.” Part 04 of the report reveals the “Status of Contracts for Exploration in The Area.”  These areas are the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), the Indian Ocean, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and the Northwest Pacific Ocean. The areas are the focus for:

19 contracts for mining of polymetallic nodules (PMN)

7 contracts for mining polymetallic sulphides (PMS)

4 contracts for cobalt-rich ferromaganese crusts (CFC)

Source: International Seabed Authority (ISA) 2023

Deep sea bed mining may involve the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Image: “Location of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone” by United States Geological Survey (USGS), 2008. Creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

There are two kinds of ISA contracts: exploration and exploitation. Exploration contracts assess minerals present in the area and may include sampling, as well as testing mining technologies and ways to process mined minerals. Advancing to exploitation contracts would commence deep seabed mining.  Contracts are sponsored by member states, and may include private enterprise partners. States currently sponsoring contracts include Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Cook Islands, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Nauru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak Republic, and Tonga (ISA Figure 12). While exploration may be carried out by presence and probing, as done by Alexander Dalrymple and James Cook using lead lines and sextants on voyages of the “Endeavor;” since the time of COMSAT, the deep seabed may also be mapped by remote sensors and satellites.

“First voyage of James Cook – HMS Endeavor leaving Whitby Harbour” by Thomas Luny, 1768. It should be noted that Cook’s final voyage resulted in actions that may have been better avoided. Creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

Don’t rest on your votive laurels. The deep sea, and its treasures, are shared possessions of all the world and its many inhabitants including fauna and flora of the deep. You help the world decide what will determine the “Just and Equitable Management of the Common Heritage of Humankind.” (ISA 2023) What are your views? What actions can you take this year, and next? 

Brooke, K. Lusk. “WATER/ENERGY: Deep Seabed Mining” 13 July 2023. Building the World Blog.

Greenpeace International. “Petition on Deep Sea Mining.”…/act/stop-deep-sea-mining/

International Seabed Authority (ISA). 2 August 2023. “Press Release 2 August 2023.”

International Seabed Authority (ISA). Annual Report 2023 (In English and French). Chapter 4: Status of Contracts for Exploration.”

Panayotov, Kristiyan. “Mapping the seafloor with remote sensing and satellite imagery.” 19 June 2018. Hydro-International.

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

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August 15, 2023
by Building The World

WATER: Lahaina – Help and Hope

“Lahaina Beach – West Maui” by D. Howard Hitchcock, 1932. Hawaii State Art Museum. Creative Commons 0: public domain. Included with appreciation.

Hawai’i may often be depicted in colors of blue water and green tropical plants. But now, Lahaina, on Maui, is charred brown. Lahaina lost lives: the total of fatalities in the worst fire in US history is still rising, already surpassing deaths in California’s Camp Fire of 2018 that killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.

“Fire hydrant flushing,” by photographer Lldar Sagdejev, 2011. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

While heat, drought, and wind created conditions for fire, Lahaina’s municipal systems might have made it worse. Hydrants, placed along city streets for emergency water access, produced little to help firefighters. Lahaina’s water infrastructure draws water from a creek and from wells underground. But when the ravaging fire melted delivery pipes, causing them to burst, losing precious water, those leaks, in turn, affected the pressure of the whole water system, including the delivery of water to hydrants.

Fire damage and lost acreage in the U.S. has tripled in the last three decades. Image: “Wildfires burned in the United States” by Our World In Data, 2020. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

As the climate warms, and droughts increase, wildfires may be more frequent. In 2022, seven countries’ capitals surpassed 40-year high temperatures In South Korea, 42,000 acres burned in a fire in Uljin. In Algeria, a fire in the region of Al Taref consumed 14,000 acres. In Argentina, Corrientes province suffered a fire that charred 2, 223, 948 acres.In the USA, the named McKinney Fire burned  60,000 acres. That same year, in the European Union, over 2 million acres burned.

“Burnout on Mangum Fire” by photographer Mike McMillan/USFS, 2020. Creative Commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

Fire also damages essential infrastructure. Lahaina’s water system suffered damage; that’s not an unusual effect of fire. In Australia, when heat rose to 151 degrees Fahrenheit (66.3 Celsius) and winds gusted to 79 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour), Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric lost some power when NSW grid links went down; 14,000 people lost electric power. Fire damaging water – the very element needed to quell flames – is not a new phenomenon.  In 1633, famous landmark London Bridge suffered a fire that damaged its waterwheels, thereby preventing pumping water to stop the flames. In Lahaina, Hawaiian Electric equipment and infrastructure of Hawaiian Electric, serving 95% of the state’s residents, suffered damage to power lines. With electric and water system affected by the fire, Lahaina’s infrastructure proved to be a factor in the scope of the disaster. An early assessment of the cost of Lahaina fire damage: $6 billion. Lahaina is both a tragedy and a warning.

How can we protect buildings and essential infrastructure? Image: “Fire in Massueville, Quebec, Canada” by photographer Sylvain Pedneault, 2006. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

How can we protect people and property from fires developing from heat, drought, and winds? Here are a few ways:

Assess water systems to protect hydrants and pipes

Climate-proof power grids and essential infrastructure

Limit plants (avoid non-native) and vegetation near buildings

Strengthen regulations for construction materials, emphasizing cement, stone, or stucco

Require tempered glass in windows to reduce window blow-out that fans flames

Test signal systems and err on the side of caution when issuing warnings

It is true that preventive protective measures are costly. But post-fire rebuilding costs are 10 to 50 times suppression costs. Global predictions for climate-related wildfires may reach $50 billion – $100 billion annually by 2050. While the world surely needs to quell warming; meanwhile, directing funds and attention to prevention of future fire damage is important. This will be an area of significant innovation, applicable globally.

“Maui, Hawai’i: seen by Landsat.” Image, public domain. Included with appreciation.

Lahaina’s fire was ultimately stopped by water. Flames expired when they had consumed vegetation (some non-native that burned faster) and buildings, until the blaze reached the ocean. People fleeing burning homes endangered their lives to save them by jumping into the Pacific waters. The water system of Lahaina must now be rebuilt. Can the waters of the Pacific help? Maybe. Seawater contains salt, corroding the very means of its conveyance. Moreover, salt water damages vegetation, buildings, and even fire equipment. In the future, desalination innovations may make it possible for coastal areas to use sea water for many purposes, including fire response.

“A Helping Hand” by photographer Damian Gadal, 2008. Creative commons. Included with appreciation.


Contact: Hawaii Community Foundation or Maui United Way, Maui Food Bank.

Visit or text HAWAII to 90999 to make a donation.

For those who lost pets, Maui Fires Pets Help Group may provide help.

Baker, Mike, Kellen Browning, and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs. “As Inferno Grew, Lahaina’s Water System Collapsed.” 13 August 2023. The New York Times.

Howard, Peter. “Flammable Planet.” September 2014.

Kartit, Dina et al .”Wildfires breaking out across the world.” 24 August 2022. Reuters.

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

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August 7, 2023
by Building The World


As above, so (much more) below! Cities can be 18F/10C hotter (0r as high as 20C) below, creating underground climate change. Image: “Morning sunrise above Suwon Gwanggyo Lake with City in Background” by photographer Matthew Schwartz, 2016. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

As above, so below,” goes the saying. Just one look at a large city’s skyscrapers and buildings will hint at the massive infrastructure below. But did you know that climate change, experienced by the occupants of those buildings, is also lurking beneath their urban landscape? Our cities are suffering under heat domes, but it is even hotter below.

Machinery under buildings is related to “underground climate change,” a growing urban concern. Image: “Underfall Yard Pumps” by photographer Blythe Varney, 2017. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Problem: The technical term is subsurface heat islands, but it’s easier to think of it as underground climate change. Equipment below skyscrapers generates heat; subways and tunnels create conditions that increase warmth. Pipelines under the ground, even sewers, are sources of subsurface heat. Land around and below large structures changes when heated, triggering slight shifts in topography. Foundations begin to erode; tunnels weaken; train rails warp; retaining walls may show cracks, then collapse.

Subway systems under major cities are one source of underground climate change. Image: “Washington, DC – Farragut West Station, 2018” by photographer Tdorante10. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Example: A study by Professor Alessandro F. Rotta Loria of Northwestern University placed sensors under buildings and transport infrastructure in Chicago, Illinois, noting that the ground below was measurably hotter than surface land (a difference of 18F/10C). Professor Rotta Loria studies subsurface urban heat islands, warning that “underground climate change can represent a silent hazard for civil infrastructure…but also an opportunity to reutilize or minimize waste heat in the ground.” (Rotta Loria, 2023).

Underground climate change can weaken retaining walls. Image: “Wallstones Breaking” drawing by Dimitry Borshch, 2008. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Difficulty: Because it is out of sight, underground climate change is difficult to recognize – until a retaining wall breaks. Think of it as similar to the gradual change in an iceberg below the water: slow, relentless, and then tragic. Or a slow earthquake: not sudden – until it is.

Chicago’s buildings are hotter underground by as much as 18F/10C. Image: “Chicago Skyline” by photographer Jesse Collins. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Scale Counts: The bigger the city, the more likely underground climate change is happening. The study cited above was conducted in Chicago: population 2.6 million (2022). The study performed simulations over 100 years: from 1951 when subway tunnels were built under Chicago’s downtown “Loop” to projections until 2051. It is not unique to Chicago. Some of the world’s megacities, with populations over 10 million, could suffer significant damage. Megacities are dense, encouraging high rise construction that may exacerbate underground climate change. Cities that are growing quickly may be particularly vulnerable. For example, the most populous city of Nigeria, and its former capital before the new capital of Abuja was built in 1991, Lagos is among the world’s top ten fastest-growing cities. Another city vulnerable to underground climate change? Tokyo, Japan: population 37 million.

Dense, populous megacities may be the most vulnerable to underground climate change. Image: “Oloosa Market in Lagos, Nigeria,” by Omoeko Media, 2018. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Emerging Answers: There are two approaches – prevent waste heat underground, or use it. In the area of prevention: new urban building codes, especially for dense cities, will need to place more emphasis insulation and energy efficient design. But secondly, waste heat could be used as an energy resource. Geothermal innovations that capture waste heat from the subsurface can find a use for that energy. Innovations for use of waste energy will become an area of significant potential.

“Climate Change Icon” by Tommaso.sansone91. Created in 2019 and dedicated by the designer to the public domain. Included with appreciation.

Above/Below: We tend to focus on mitigating climate change by addressing what we can see and feel. Noticeable effects are mainly above the ground. But there will also be great need – and opportunity for innovation – below. Is your city likely to experience underground climate change? What are some of the ways your city can measure, assess, plan to address, and even harness for beneficial use, underground climate change? 

Brooke, K. Lusk. “CITIES and HEAT – Above,” 27 July 2023.

Khan, Sarah S. “Rising underground heat causes unbearable MTA commutes.” 24 July 2023. The Ticker.

Prisco, Jacopo. “Underground climate change is deforming the ground beneath buildings, study finds.” 17 July 2023. CNN

Rotta Loria, Alessandro F. “The silent impact of underground climate change on civil infrastructure.” 11 July 2023. Communications Engineering 2, 44 (2023)

Zhong, Raymond with photographs by Jamie Kelter Davis. “Rising Heat Underground Is Sinking Chicago Ever So Slightly.” 11 (updated 14) July 2023. The New York Times.

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




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July 27, 2023
by Building The World


The sun is baking Earth, especially cities. Image: “Sun spots on surface of sun” by telescope photographer David Dayag. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

HEAT – So far, July 2023 has been the hottest on Earth in history. Sadly, that breaks the record just set in June 2023. The heat has set new records equally in Canada, United States, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and eastern Australia. If 2022 is any indication, the heat will be deadly: 11,000 people died from heat that year – every week. It was not just heat stroke; high temperatures and humidity are dangerous for people coping with heart and pulmonary conditions. The heat is coming both from the sun and from the very ground on which we stand. In this post, we’ll explore heat coming from above, as it affects cities.

Urban heat island. Image drawn from data of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2008, and refined by graphic artist The New Phobia. Image is based on public information and therefore in the public domain, creative commons. Included with appreciation,

Cities are especially prone to heat retention. A study based on satellite land surface temperatures from 2002-2021 revealed cities are 29% hotter than rural locations. In the United States, over 100 million people are presently under a “heat dome.”

How does a “heat dome” form? It’s a phenomenon we may see more often, as the climate warms. Image: “Heat Dome during Heat Wave” from U.S. National Weather Service, 2011. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Southern Europe is suffering, and heat is now reaching central states like Germany and Poland. The metal of the Eiffel Tower expands in temperatures over 40C, growing as much as 6 inches (0.152 meter). Paris, France reached 109F (42.7C) this summer, affecting the Tower, as well as those sweltering beneath in the nearby cafes.

The Eiffel Tower’s iron expands in high heat, causing the iconic structure to grow taller. “Tour Eiffel” by photographer Nitot, 2005. Included with appreciation.

Asia is also affected. In April 2023, a heat wave began in Asia that caused 179 deaths and 460 hospitalizations in India. Schools were closed in Odisha; blackouts in power stations affected Lucknow. Singapore had the warmest month of May on record in 2023. China recorded a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52.2C) recently.

“Heat Wave Sign” from Guangdong, China. Image: People’s Republic of China, 2005. Image is public domain in China and included with appreciation.

Cities are not only the hottest places on the planet, they are becoming the future. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. In 1960, there were only two mega-cities (with populations over 10 million: New York and Tokyo. In 1990, there were ten; in 2014, 28. By 2040, there will be 40 cities with over 10 million people. In our era of global warming, heat is and will continue to be an urban problem. Where can solutions be found?

Phoenix, Arizona, USA has experienced temperatures at or above 110F (43.3C) during the entire month of July 2023. Image: “Phoenix, Arizona skyline, facing west, 2004” by photographer Bravo1. Dedicated to the public domain by the photographer. Included with appreciation.

SOLUTIONS – Immediate

Create a Heat Risk Map for your city – Durban, South Africa; New York, USA; and Toronto, Canada have already posted heat vulnerable areas online, using Landsat data.

Install sensors to measure surface temperature and humidity – Madrid, Spain has launched a sensor network system.

Develop a Heat Action Plan for your city, working with local communities and councils. Ahmedabad, India saved over 1,000 lives since the city launched its Heat Action Plan in 2013, the first South Asian city to do so. A new version is updated yearly.

Open Cooling Centers and a finder map via an app: Washington DC, USA,; Paris, France; Athens, Greece, and Rotterdam, Netherlands have created apps that indicate the closest cooling center.

Athens, Greece, has opened cooling centers. In July 2023, wildfires caused evacuations on the Greek island of Rhodes in heat reaching 113F/45C. Image: “Athens at Sunset” by photographer Panos Zoulakis, 2019. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

SOLUTIONS – Longer Term

Plant trees, bushes, heat-absorbing vegetation to relieve urban heat.

Encourage green roofs and green walls in which a layer of vegetation grows upon a building’s surface to absorb sun and heat.

Upgrade building codes to specify cooling materials for construction, especially roofs.

Paint roofs with white paint, including one developed by Professor Xiulin Ruan and team from Purdue University that reflects sun and heat away from buildings, reducing heat by 98%.

Repave city streets and sidewalks – these surfaces cover 40% of a city’s land. Innovations in pavements include higher permeability to cool surfaces by evaporation.

Support research and development for new kinds of fans and air-conditioning. As the world warms, demand for air-conditioning will increase, especially in dense cities.

Thermal map of Atlanta, Georgia, USA based on NASA satellite data, May 11-12, 2009. Blue=cooler; red=warm; white=hot. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Summary: we are only now beginning to experience the heat of global warming. Large cities will become dangerous due to urban density, construction, and paved surfaces. But cities are also most able to respond quickly and to test innovations. What are conditions in your area? What are your ideas for responding to urban heat? 

Brooke, K . Lusk. “Mega-Cities from 1960 to 2020 – growth and predictions.” Pages 110-120, Five Foundations for Building a Better World, 2018.

C40. “How to Adapt your City to Extreme Heat.”

Cappucci, Matthew, with contributions by Jason Samenow,  “Coast-to-coast heat home sends temperatures soaring, threatens all-time records.” 13 July 2023. The Washington Post.

Gallego, Mayor Kate. “Phoenix mayor on how the city is coping with heat above 110 degrees every day of July.” 25 July 2023. All Things Considered. National Public Radio interview with Juana Summers. AUDIO:

Li, Xiangyu, et al., “Full Daytime Sub-ambient Radiative Cooling in Commercial-like Paints with High Figure of Merit.” 21 October 2020. Cell Reports Physical Science, Volume 1, Issue 10.

Liu, Zihan, et al., “Surface warming in global cities is substantially more rapid than in rural background areas.” 29 September 2022, Communications Earth & Environment 3, 219 (2022).

Madrid, Spain. “Sistema de Vigilancia de la Calidad del Aire del Ayuntamiento de Madrid.”

Purdue University. “The whitest paint is here – and it’s the coolest. Literally.” 15 April 2021. Purdue University News.

Sherriff, Lucy, “The simple ways cities can adapt to heatwaves: Satellite images reveal how green spaces, white roads, and water features are helping keep cities cool during deadly heatwaves.” 6 July 2023. BBC Future Planet.

Great appreciation to Rachael M. Rusting for sharing research.

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




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July 22, 2023
by Building The World

ENERGY: Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer. Portrait from student days in Göttingen, Germany. Image: Public Domain. Included with recognition.

Summer blockbuster movies are meant to entertain, but the film Oppenheimer presents more than an opportunity for three hours in an air-conditioned theatre to escape the record-breaking summer heatwave. The film, about a scientist who for many is the face of the Manhattan Project, is a lesson in hindsight. And maybe a hope for future foresight.

Roosevelt and Churchill could have made a very different decision. Image: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, 18 January 1943. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Public Domain. Included with recognition.

There was a moment in time when, after learning from Albert Einstein and other scientists, that nuclear power as a new form of energy was not only possible but could also be used to destroy the world, a different decision could have been made. In the midst of a troubling war, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met. Churchill sent a team to work with the Americans. General Leslie Groves, military head of the Manhattan Project, selected J. Robert Oppenheimer as scientific director to develop nuclear energy – in the form of a weapon. This was only part of Einstein’s communication, but it was the first on which action was taken. The Manhattan Project was launched. But the key decision still had not been made.

Manhattan Project’s Trinity test of “Gadget” 16 July 1945. Image from USDE, public domain. Included with recognition.

Roosevelt worried about the decision. He considered informing a war enemy country, perhaps Japan, that there would be a bombing and that all citizens should be evacuated. Then, the bomb would have been dropped, demonstrating the horror and power, and the shock would be sufficient to stop the war. Why was this course of action not followed? After considering the decision, Roosevelt feared the bomb might indeed fall but not detonate, thereby leaving on the field of war a full-scale model to reverse-engineer, improve, and return fire against its creators. Tragically, the decision to move forward was taken by successor President Truman, and terrible injustice rained upon unsuspecting residents of Japan. Oppenheimer, who developed the bomb and witnessed its power when tested, quoted the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Tragic atomic bombing of Japan, 1945. Image: “Bombs detonating over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right),” by photographer Sergeant George R. Caron, 1945. Caron was the first person to see the bomb from the air upon detonation. A military officer on the mission, Caron also happened to be a photographer. Public Domain. Included with recognition.

While its purpose was military, the Manhattan Project also demonstrated that people can come together to work on something of great importance, coordinated across geography and through sectors of society, with remarkable speed and efficacy. Tragically, the Manhattan Project, and Oppenheimer’s team, achieved a level of terror and destruction never before seen. But it also developed a new form of energy. What are we to do with this, now?

In 1946, the Atomic Energy Act introduced guidelines for the safe and beneficial use of this potent new form of energy. In Section I, a, the Atomic Energy Act states “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the people of the United States that…the development and utilization of atomic energy shall…be directed toward improving the public welfare, increasing the standard of living, strengthening free competition in private enterprise, and promoting world peace.” The Peace Symbol, created by Gerald Holtom in 1958 by combining semaphore letters (Semaphore is signal system using visuals that can be read at a distance. In the 19th century, ships began to communicate via semaphore flags – it this system that Holtom used.) “N” and “D” to signal nuclear disarmament, remains an important and inspirational icon, reaching beyond the original meaning to a broader call to peace. But its source and heart developed from the very issue that the Oppenheimer film explores.

The Peace Symbol created by Gerald Holtom combines the semaphore letters “N” (Nuclear) and “D” (Disarmament). Image: Gerald Holtom. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

What should the future of nuclear energy be? Oppenheimer’s last words on the subject remain controversial but include “the peacetime applications of atomic energy will have in them all that we think, and more.” The original atomic energy was achieved through fission – dangerous then and still troubling now. Small modular reactors (SMR) are bringing fission energy to a new and less dangerous scale. Reuse and recycling of nuclear waste is similarly changing energy practice. Many energy experts state that we may need nuclear power as a supplement to other forms of renewable energy like solar, wave, and wind. But it is also true that nuclear plants, even SMRs, are still vulnerable, as recent military history in Ukraine warns. Recently, fusion energy may soon offer a capability that could achieve the dual goals of carbon-free energy and world cooperation. Fusion energy advances in ITER in France and in the United States, among others, may produce options in the near future.

Nuclear power is a major energy source in France. Image: “Nuclear plants map of France” by Eric Gaba, based on NASA satellite data, public domain. Included with recognition,

Nuclear capability remains with us, but the stain of nuclear tragedy also remains, as the Oppenheimer movie reminds us. Oppenheimer is often called the “American Prometheus,” after the fire-stealing Greek Titan, whose brother was Epimetheus. Prometheus means “forethought;” Epimetheus means “hindsight.” What is your view of nuclear energy? How can we use what we know, through hindsight, to lead a future informed by foresight? 

Prometheus means “foresight.” Epimetheus means “hindsight.” Image: Nevit Dilmon. Creative commons 3.0. Included with recognition.

Bird, Kai and Martin J. Sherwin. American Prometheus. 2006. ISBN: 0375726268

Bobin, Jean Louis. Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion. 2014. ISBN: 9789814590686

Davidson Frank. P, and K. Lusk Brooke. “The Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Act,” pages 477-514, Building the World. Volume 2. ISBN: 0313333742.

Gates, Bill. “Interview with Bill Gates on Nuclear Energy and Reaching Net Zero.” 21 October 2022. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). VIDEO.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) National Ignition Facility. “Fusion ignition breakthrough hailed as ‘one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century'” 5 December 2022.

Nolan, Christopher interviewed by Dennis Overbye. “Christopher Nolan and the Contradictions of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” 20 July 2023. The New York Times.

Oppenheimer, J. Robert. “Now I am become Death,” speaking of the bomb. VIDEO. Atomic Archive.

Oppenheimer, J. Robert. “Farewell Speech,” 2 November 1945, Association of Los Alamos Scientists. Atomic Heritage Foundation. Nuclear Museum.

Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb. 1986. ISBN: 9780671657192

United States Congress “Atomic Energy Act of 1946” Public Law 585, 79th Congress, Chapter 724, Second Session S. 1717.

Great appreciation to Jean-Louis Bobin and Lucien Deschamps for sharing research.

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


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July 13, 2023
by Building The World

WATER/ENERGY: Deep Seabed Mining – Part 2

Deep Sea Mining will affect marine life in the largest continuous marine habitat on Earth. What do you think? Make your voice heard now Image: “Fluorescent Coral” by Erin Rod, 2019. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

In July 2023, the Legal and Technical Commission of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) will discuss a possible mining code framework. While autonomous bulldozers would not begin to scrape the deep until 2026, it is not too soon to take steps – before it is too late. Which should we value: energy or water? Part 1 of this discussion focused on energy: minerals like copper, cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel, platinum, and rare earths are needed for batteries to store renewable energy. These minerals are present, in abundance, in the seabed. Part 2 of this topic brings the focus to the water environment in which these minerals are found. It is the largest continuous marine habitat on Earth. Many feel we should not undertake seabed mining too quickly, if at all. Mining disasters on land are evidence of potential damage: what would happen underwater, where currents could expand the problem?

Dr. Sylvia Earle, marine scientist, and founder of “Mission Blue” to preserve ocean life. Image: NOAA, 1970. Public domain. Included with appreciation.

Champions bring issues to life. Enter “Her Deepness”: Sylvia Earle. Earle’ organization Mission Blue has proposed Hope Spots to preserve the ocean environment. Enter Lewis William Gordon Pugh, often called “Sir Edmund Hillary in a Swim Suit,” the first person to swim every ocean including Antarctic waters to promote awareness of the Ross Sea –  now largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the world. Enter Rena Lee: leader of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity, who chaired 36 hours of nonstop negotiation that produced the agreement for the High Seas Treaty to protect 30% of Earth’s water and land by 2030. Marine Protected Areas offer a chance to save enough to sustain the ocean environment. Related to that concept is the campaign of 50 Reefs to protect some of the world’s most sustainable coral reefs with the hope of regenerating neighboring reefs over time.

Global Marine Protected Areas (as of November 2022). Image from Marine Protection Atlas, Marine Conservation Institute; graphic by Yo. Russmo. CC 4.0. Included with appreciation.

ISA has initiated a few marine protected areas of their own. They call these “Areas of Particular Environmental Interest” or APEI. Recently, ISA approved four new ones in the CCZ totaling 200,000 square miles (518,000 square kilometers). Just as a comparison, the CCZ is 1.7 million square miles (4.5 million sq km). Next to be determined: how will exploited versus protected areas be compared to track environmental changes if or when mining begins?

Deep Sea Mining may soon begin in the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico. Image: “Polymetallic Nodules Exploration Area in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone” by International Seabed Authority (ISA), 2016. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

ISA “DeepData” began in 2002 as a way to collect and centralize all data on marine mineral resources. Will the APEIs be included? Comparing and measuring an initial mined area with a protected area could monitor effects before opening permits to other projects.

Some companies, and countries, have called for a moratorium on deep sea mining. Once it begins, there may be consequences we have not anticipated. Image: “Mid-ocean ridge topography” graphic by United States Geological Survey, 2011. Public domain. Included with appreciation.

Some business users of minerals like cobalt have declared they will not purchase or use any materials obtained by deep sea mining. Some countries have signed a moratorium including Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Federation States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Germany, New Zealand, Palau, Panama, Samoa, and Spain, among others. More than 700 scientists joined with the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) to warn about potential damage. Sir David Attenborough advised a moratorium and the UK offered a opportunity to sign a petition (if you are a UK citizen or resident). Some experts state we can reduce mineral demand by 58%,  thereby avoiding a need for deep sea mining. When all ISA members (the USA is not among them) meet in July 2023, a precautionary pause discussion is on the agenda. But there are states, including Nauru, that want to proceed.

Climate disasters closer to home take our immediate attention. The Cerberus heatwave of 2023 may be even hotter than that of 2022, shown here from Copernicus Sentinel satellite data. Image: “Surface Air Temperature Anomaly July 2022” by ESA/Copernicus Sentinel. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Why don’t we hear more about sea bed mining on the news? Present climate disasters are closer to home. The Cerberus heatwave scorching southern Europe made headlines. Copernicus Sentinel satellite data showed land temperatures in Spain’s Extremadura region climbed to 60C (140F) this week. Across the southern United States, a “heat dome” blanketed states from Texas to Florida. Torrential rains (warmer water retains more moisture) engulfed Vermont. New York State closed sections of the Erie Canal due to severe flooding. Japan’s Shinkansen train system came to a halt as the country coped with a once-in-a-millennium rainfall. Environmental disasters where we live understandably deflect focus from what is out of sight, like the deep sea.

The ocean is the largest continuous marine habitat on Earth. Image: “Dumbo Octopus, Opisthoteuthis agassizii” by NOAA, 2019. CC 3.0. Included with appreciation.

The issue of deep sea mining is critical to the future. But, importantly, it has not yet begun. Some say it may be inevitable, but it should not be unnoticed, and certainly must be carefully undertaken. There is time for you to become involved, to offer your ideas and your suggestions. You can find out more, and sign a petition to vote on this issue here.

Let your voice be heard on deep sea mining as ISA gathers to decide. Image: “Your Vote Counts” by NAACP, Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Nauru and Deep Sea Mining” 30 June 2023.

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “The Race to Defend the Deep Heats Up in Kingston.” 10 July 2023.

Greenpeace International. “Petition on Deep Sea Mining.”…/act/stop-deep-sea-mining/

Greenpeace International. “Governments leave door open to deep sea mining starting this year.” 31 March 2023.

Heffernan, Olive. “Seabed mining is coming – bringing minerals, riches, and fears of epic extinctions.” 24 July 2019 Nature.

Humphreys, John and Robert W.E. Clark. “A  Critical History of Marine Protected Areas.” 2020. Marine Protected Areas: Science, Policy, and Management, pp. 1-12.

International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Khan, Yusuf. “Deep-Sea Mining Is Close to Reality Despite Environmental Concerns” 22 August 2022. The Wall Street Journal.

Mission Blue. VIDEO. Netflix.

MIT. “Deep Sea Mining.”

Rabone, M., et al., “A review of the International Seabed Authority database DeepData from a biological perspective,” 30 March 2023. DATABASE: The Journal of Biological Databases and Curation, Volume 2023.

Simas, Moana, Fabian Aponte, Kirsten Wiebe. “The Future is Circular: Circular Economy and Critical Minerals for the Green Transition.” 15 November 2022. Project number 102027433. SINTEF.

United Nations. “High Seas Treaty.”

World Wildlife Fund. “Future mineral demand can be met without deep seabed mining as innovative technology can cut mineral use by 58%.” 28 November 2022.

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








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July 4, 2023
by Building The World

CITIES: Wildfires, Fireworks, and A New Sky

Will drones replace fireworks? Image: Nagaoka Festival 2006 by ZorroIII. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Many cities light up the sky during festive occasions. In the United States, today marks a holiday often celebrated with fireworks. But with drought plaguing some areas, the risk of igniting wildfires is causing an innovation: sky art with drones. Instead of traditional fireworks, the city of Boulder, Colorado will feature a drone show (the Marshall Fire of 2021/22 killed two people and devastated 6000 acres/2,428 hectares). Galveston, Texas will also illumine the holiday with a drone display. California towns of La Jolla and Ocean Beach will flash the night sky with animations. It’s a new idea for La Jolla: the city has forgone any fireworks for five years.

Drone aerial display during coronation of King Charles III. Image: Department for Culture, Media and Sport, by SkyMagic Drone Shows, May 2023. Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Drones replacing fireworks on this holiday will not be a first. Tokyo used drones during their most recent Olympics; during their first Olympian experience, the city launched the innovation of Shinkansen. And, in 2023, the coronation of King Charles III featured an artistic drone light display.

Drones are an innovation that has grown to a $1 billion market in the past decade. Image: Drone Flying Eye, 2011 by Drone Flying Eye. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

For sky art, drones have advantages over fireworks: no smoke, no falling particles, and a quieter display. Drones are an innovation that has grown impressively over the past ten years from almost nothing to a $1 billion market in 2021.

Has your city used drones instead of fireworks? What do you think of this new trend? For a sample of drone light shows, click here.

Hirsch, Lauren and Michael J. de la Merced. “Fireworks Have a New Competitor: Drones.”1 July 2023. The New York Times.

O’Connell, Brian. “7 Best Drone Stocks to Watch in 2023.” U.S. News & World Report.

Williams, Ashley R. “Some US cities are replacing 4th of July fireworks with environmentally friendly drones.” 2 July 2023. CNN.

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

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