Building the World

August 2, 2021
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WATER: Microplastic Filter Innovations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 17, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Linking the World

“Ancient Silk Road,” image: wikimedia commons.

The history of civilization may be measured by connection. First it was the Silk Road that connected cities; then it was the age of ships that created ports from Singapore to Suez.  Canals threaded connection through waterways, making one route from inland to sea: the Grand Canal, Canal des Deux Mers, Erie, Panama. Rail linked continents: the Trans-Continental, Canadian Pacific, and the Trans-Siberian united people across vast spans. But each of these achievements was a separate project.

“Belt and Road Initiative.” graphic design by Mathildem 16, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

BRI or B3W? Now, there are two plans to connect the world in a more comprehensive way: the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) announced and begun in 2013 by China, and the “Build Back Better for the World” (B3W) proposed by the G7 in 2021. China is ahead: more than 100 countries have signed BRI agreements. Some comment that the BRI is able to move quickly from plan to construction of new ports linked to rail and road routes, and also express concern regarding resourcing: financial, human, and natural. But some say that the G7 could take inspiration from Charlemagne who united disparate groups through links of education, as well as land and sea. The G7’s B3W may include capital to fund areas like climate, digital technology, health security, as well as transport.

Will B3W make waves of change? “47th G7 2021 Waves Logo,” wikimedia commons.

Climate change will cause a new vision. It is certain that the world needs rebuilding: old bridges, ports, rail, and roads are in dire need of replacement, while new infrastructure could transform many places not yet linked. Some have cited the Marshall Plan as precedent to rebuilding and linking a new vision of the world. Others may see different possibilities that include contemporary concerns. As BRI and B3W consider terms of engagement and goals of success, is there an opportunity to link the world through the values of inclusion, peace, and sustainable resilience?  What is your vision of an interconnected world?

Ruta, Michele. “Three Opportunities and Three Risks of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 May 2018. World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/three-opportunities-and-three-risks-belt-and-road-initiative

Sanger, Davi. E. and Mark Landler. “Biden Tries to Rally G7 Nations to Counter China’s Influence.” 12 June 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/world/europe/biden-china-g7html?referringSource=articleShare

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September 4, 2020
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WATER: Beach Weekend? Biodegradable Flip Flops

“Pristine Beach on the Soline Peninsula,” 2011. Photographer Alex Proimos. Image: wikimedia.

Labor Day 2020: for many it’s a beach weekend in flip flops. Too often, beaches are strewn with broken or discarded flip flops that litter the sand and pollute the water. Enter an innovation: biodegradable flip flops from the University of California San Diego and the California Center for Algae Biotechnology.

“Algae in pond, North Carolina.” Photographer: Ildar Sagdejev, 2008. Wikimedia.

Formula: take pond algae, dehydrate to a paste, extract lipids, run through series of chemical changes to produce polymers, pour resulting material into a mold. Present product, manufactured in partnership with Algenesis Materials, is 52% biodegradable and 48% petroleum; by 2025, the flip flops will be 100% made from renewables. If you do leave your flip flops at the beach, they’ll biodegrade and compost in 18 weeks.

Biodegradable flip flops will go on sale in 2021. Image: wikimedia.

It’s the world’s most popular shoe. Over three billion people wear only flip flops, but the footwear lasts only for about two years and is then discarded, eventually entering the world’s waters. East African beaches see 90 tons of discarded flip flops each year. Three billion flip flops end up in waterways and oceans every year. UniqueEco recycles old flip flops into toys; Terracycle shreds them to use for manufacturing picnic benches.  DIY Dreaming uses old flips to make dog beds. Okabashi makes recyclable sandals, and Splaff and Sanuk use natural materials for footwear. But Algenesis may be the first to make flip flops from algae. The footwear industry generates $215 billion annually, and the plastic industry is worth $1.2 trillion. Algensis biodegradable flip flops will go on sale in January 2021.

California Center for Algae Biotechnology. https://algae.ucsd.edu/about/index.html

Elassar, Alaa. “Researchers create eco-friendly, biodegradable flip flops made of algae,” 23 August 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/23/us/uc-san-diego-algae-flip-flops-trnd-scn/index.html

Frerck, Robert. “Flip Flop Factos: Find Out.” Blue Ocean Network. https://blueocean.net/flip-flop-facts-find-out

Segran, Elizabeth. “How one lab is turning algae into flip-flops – and taking on Big Plastic in the process.” 8 August 2020. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90543908/how-one-lab-is-turning-algae-into-flip-flops-and-taking-on-big-plastic-in-the-process/

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December 15, 2019
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Hearing (and Listening to) the Voices of the Future

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It is the world’s youth who must face consequences of decisions made now. Youth4Nature sent a COP25 delegation, and sailing across the Atlantic to get there, the world heard the message of Greta Thunberg, founder of Fridays for Future. Voices of youth may be louder than dicta of governments. UN Secretary General Guterres states: “The technologies that are necessary to make this possible are already available. Signals of hope are multiplying. Public option is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilization. We need political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, and start taxing pollution instead of people.”

Youth Climate Strike, San Francisco, March 2019. Image: wikimedia

Many macro achievements, throughout history, can be traced to the genius and innovation of youth. A 12-year old conceived of a canal joining the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal des Deux Mers of France. Even younger, 10 year-old Ferdinand de Lesseps formed a friendship that would later turn into the Suez Canal. At COP25, it was the youth who insisted and persisted until a draft agreement on responses to climate change could be strengthened by contracts fulfilling promises made in Paris 2015. There is much to be agreed and achieved, including carbon contracts; now that debate awaits Glasgow. Meanwhile, it is hoped the world is not only hearing, but also listening to, the Voices of the Future, Greta Thunberg is TIME Person of the Year.

Irfan, Umair. “‘We are desperate for any signs of hope,’ Greta Thunberg tells UN climate negotiators.” 11 December 2019, Vox. com. https://www.vox.com/2019/12/11/21010673/cop25-greta-thunberg-climate-change-un-meeting-madrid

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Longest talks end with compromise deal.” 15 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment.

Time. “Greta Thunberg: TIME Person of the Year 2019.”https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/

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June 8, 2019
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WATER: World Oceans Day

“Large Breaking Wave.” Image: noaa.gov, wikimedia

World Oceans Day, celebrated June 8, reminds us of the beauty, importance, and critical sustainability of our water. By 2050, there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Unless we take action.  Should new agreements involving Canada, Mexico, and the United States include the oceans that border our land? Might the Canal des Deux Mers in France champion ways to protect the Atlantic Ocean? Will Shinkansen, Japan’s Shinkansen train system now being upgraded for the 2020 Olympics, engage athletes in preservation of the Pacific Ocean? In 2019, you are invited to take a photo of yourself or your friends at the ocean, pictured with arms in the air; photo cropped so hands touch the upper corners of the frame: post using the hashtag: #TogetherWeCan. This year’s theme: Gender and the Ocean.

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

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February 20, 2019
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Building Better Coasts

Climate change is causing sea rise resulting in coastal erosion, flooding, and threatening ports and cities. Jakarta is in extreme danger: thirteen rivers run through the city, causing frequent flooding. The mega-city of 10 billion is doubly endangered: urban land is suffering subsidence, parts of Indonesia’s capital  (some predict 95%) could be deluged by 2050.

Reed beds revitalize polluted waters. Image: wikimedia

Even rivers like the Thames and Lea in London are not immune. But the city of London Bridge is responding. Thames21 is planting reeds that oxygenate rivers, restoring the habitat marred by pollution; reeds convert toxic ammonia to nitrate. Reed beds also provide habitat for aquatic life. In an echo of the Canal des Deux Mers, the canalized section of the River Lea will receive new reed beds every 300 meters over the length of the river coursing through London.

Indonesia, image: wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Jakarta is exploring response including artificial recharge, a method used a half-century ago by Tokyo in a time of subsidence; to support the program, groundwater extraction was halted and businesses were required to utilize reclaimed water. Jakarta would need to use only rainwater; could catchment systems help? The Dutch, formerly involved in the region, have returned: Institute Deltares reported on the efficacy of the current plan to build the Great Garuda Sea Wall (32 km) along with 17 artificial islands at the cost of (US$) 40 billion. Included in the plan is a new lagoon waterway that can be lowered during floods allowing water to drain. Another method: biopori – digging a hole of 100cm depth to allow rainwater to more easily absorbed into the land, replenishing groundwater. Indonesia may offer an example to many places in the world surrounded by water; how can we build better coasts?

“Jakarta, the fastest-sinking city in the world.” 12 August 2018. By Tom de Souza, with interactive elements by Arvin Surpriyadi, Davies Surya, and Leben Asa.

“Project Reed Beds.” Thames 21. https://www.thames21.org.uk/project-reedbed-2/

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

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January 30, 2019
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Building Peace

Can peace be built? International Peace Day Logo: wikimedia.

 

Are ports the future of peace? There is precedent. An 1854 firman, signed by Pasha al-Said and Ferdinand de Lesseps, stated that a canal, to be built in Egypt, would be open to “all nations”  and “no particular advantage can ever be stipulated for the exclusive benefit of one country” with tariffs equal for all nations. The Suez Canal opened in November 1869 with much fanfare including commissioning of Verdi’s opera “Aida.” In over 200 years, the canal was closed 6 times: the shortest was 3 days; the longest, 8 years. Despite such closures, the canal endeavored to follow the chartered guideline. How successful was the project that included openness and peace in its authorization and financing?  On November 15, 2018, 33 vessels traversed from the North and 23 from the South. The building of the waterway employed 1.5 million people.

Canal des Deux Mers linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. Image: wikimedia.

Almost two hundred years earlier, in 1666, the Canal des Deux Mers, or Canal Between the Seas, by the Edict of October 1666 for the Canal of Languedoc, was decreed and authorized to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean sea, in a waterway open to “all nations of the world as a great work of peace.”

Some call it Silk Road 2.0, but by any name, the Belt and Road Initiative, a system of canals, roads, trains, shipping routes and ports, when built, will be the world’s largest engineering project in history. This transport and connection system will include 1/3 of the world’s trade and GDP and 60% of the world’s population in 65 countries, using 75% of the world’s known energy reserves. Like Suez, or the Canal between the Seas, with open access essential to strategy and purpose, initiatives of such macro scope might include peace in their charter.

Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life suggests four stages of mobilization: Purpose, Structure, Guidance, Resourcing. Guiding the Belt and Road Initiative will be eight International Centers of Excellence, focusing on climate change, environmental research, and disaster risk reduction.

Bangkok’s Wat Pho Temple. Photographer, Ninara, 2016. 4Y1A0213. Image: wikimedia commons.

Bangkok may lead the way. The first International Centre of Excellence on Integrated Climate Change, Disaster Risk and Environmental Research and Capacity Building opened in Thailand on 27 February 2018. It’s in partnership with Asian Institute of Technology, Geo-Information and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), and Ramkhamhaeng University Center of Regional Climate Change and Renewable Energy (RU-CORE). When Professor GUO Huadong, Chair of DBAR (Digital Belt and Road) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NRCT Secretary-General Sirirung Songsivilai, the agreement chartered the Center in Bangkok (ICoE-Bangkok) to create a satellite database for “environmental protection, risk reduction, food stability, urban development, and the preservation of coastal resources and world heritage sites.” The Suez Canal linked banking and peace; recent studies have suggested that banking may be one of the keys to chartering and maintaining peace. Guiding factors regarding resources – financial, natural, and human – Thailand might help to build the future, opening a portal of peace.

Asian Institute of Technology. “Earth Data Analytics to be AIT focus in Digital Belt and Road (DBAR).” 4 April 2018. https://www.ait.ac.th/2018/04/earth-data-analytics-ait-focus-digital-belt-road-dbar/

DBAR. “Digital Belt and Road Programme Opens its First Centre of Excellence in Bangkok.” 28 February 2018. http://www.dbeltroad.org/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid-85&id=629.

Edwards-May, David. “Decline and Renaissance: 1975-1994,” From Sea to Sea: An Illustrated History of the Canal du Midi. by L.T.C. Rolt with postscript by David Edwards- May. Euromapping. ISBN: 2910185028.

Kunaka, Charles. “Six Corridors of Integration: Connectivity Along the Overland Corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 October 2018. The Trade Post Blog; The World Bank. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/six-corridors-integraion-connectivity-along-overland-corridors-belt-and-road-initiative.

Litwin, George H., John J. Bray, and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life. London: Prentice Hall, 1996.

Suez Canal Authority. https://www.suezcanal.gov.eg

The Nation. 28 February 2018. “Thailand sets up technological center for B&R Initiative. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/breakingnews/30339848.

World Bank. “Belt and Road Initiative.” 29 March 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/regional-integration/brief/belt-and-road-initiative.

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

 

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January 26, 2018
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Make Your Next Straw, The Last Straw

Make your next straw, the last straw. Image: wikimedia commons.

Americans use 500 million plastic straws – every day. Just to get the picture: that’s enough to fill 127 school buses. Every day. Each person in the United States will statistically use 38,000 plastic straws between the ages of 5 to 64. Most straws end up in the oceans. Why? Even when recycled, most plastic straws are too light, dropping undetected through recycling sorting filters. All waters, even with straws and microbeads, flow to the oceans where 70% of seabirds now have plastic in their stomachs. Plastic bags have been the subject of concern for decades, but plastic straws are among the top ten items found in marine debris. It’s easy to say NO. Mention your preference during your order: “And, no straw, please.” If a straw is required (there are many important medical and special needs), compostable plastic straws may offer a sustainable choice.  Individually, many people carry a personal water bottle or coffee cup; why not consider BYO straw choices like bamboo or stainless steel? A personal straw could address the safety of sips. Here are some straw styles suggested by Strawless Ocean.

Grenier, Adrian. “The Strawless Ocean Initiative.” Interview with Project Earth correspondent Nicholas Ibarguen on how individuals and restaurants could stop using plastic straws. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvGL89HDKE.

Schmidt, Christian, Tobias Kraut, S. Wagner. “Export of plastic debris by rivers into the sea.” Environmental Science & Technology 2017, 51 (21), 12246-12253. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b02368

“Strawless in Seattle” demonstrates how a city can go strawless. Enter your town in the competition https://www.strawlessocean.org/seattle/

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

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

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

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

More:

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

Erie Canal Museum: http://eriecanalmuseum.org

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

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

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

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

 

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April 1, 2017
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April 1st: Poisson d’Avril

April 1 is known in France as Poisson d’Avril. Image: “Clown Fish” by Adrian Pingstone, 2004, wikimedia commons.

Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway, first suggested coordinated time zones, an idea adopted at the 1884 International Meridian Conference. But some claim we owe the merriment of April Fools or All Fools’ Day to rebellion and renewal. When Pope Gregory shifted the new year from spring to January 1, in 1582, local folk continued to follow the practice of all things new in the first full month of spring. For example, the French placed paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting people: the prank led to April 1 having its own name of Poisson d’Avril. Some note that on April 1, in Languedoc of the Canal des Deux Mers, an uprising gave birth to the French Revolution.

More? Museum of Hoaxes details some of the best April 1st spoofs:http://hoaxes.org/aprilfool/

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

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