Building the World

May 4, 2022
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CITIES: No Mow May

NO MOW MAY. This month, let your lawn grow with wildflowers to feed seasonal pollinators like bees. Photo: “Wildflowers” by Richard Croft, 2007. Wikimedia CC 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Public parks like Boston’s Greenway or New York City’s Central Park might be the lungs of the city, but urban and suburban yards may be the pop-up restaurants for seasonal pollinators like bees that will help the world through climate change. American lawns occupy 40 million acres, and may be the largest irrigated “crop” in the United States – three times more than irrigated corn. (Milesi, University of Montana and NOAA National Geophysical Data Center)

“Automaton Lawn Mower by Ransomes, Sims & Jeffries of Ipswich, England,” advertisement circa 1867. Public Domain.

No Mow May is an organization in the United Kingdom advocating the absence of lawn mowing, letting lawns grow wild, for this month, offering a spring habitat and feeding ground of wildflowers and clover critical for emerging bees and early pollinators. In addition to homes, colleges are included: Lawrence University recently joined the organization Bee City, USA, and its affiliate: Bee Campus USA.

Fewer lawns, more bees. “Abeille” by Jean-Raphaël Guillaumin, 2010. Wikimedia, CC 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Yards, and campuses, participating in No Mow May noted three times more bee species abundance and five times more bee attendance than in lawn areas.

Another benefit of No Mow May? Water retention. People water lawns. In an era of drought and water scarcity, lawns may be phased out. That what happened in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lake Mead, water reservoir of the Colorado River, supplies Las Vegas with water. A new law by the Southern Nevada Water Authority prohibits lawns, and watering of nonfunctional turf, in response to drought conditions on the Colorado River. Image: “Lake Mead” by Kjkolb, public domain. Included with appreciation.

A new law, related to water shortages in the Colorado River, enacted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, decreed first-ever permanent prohibition of non-functional turf (soccer fields are functional, household lawns are not). Residents are digging up grass and replacing it with rocks and cactus, creating xeriscapes, a kind of landscaping reducing or eliminating need for irrigation.

Do you have grass in your yard or on your campus? Participate in No Mow May: for a printable yard sign, click here

Bee City USA. https://beecityusa.org

Bee Campus USA. https://beecityusa.org/current-bee-campus-use-affiliates

Del Toro, Israel and Relena R. Ribbons. “No Mow May lawns have higher pollinator richness and abundances: An engaged community provides floral resources for pollinators” 22 September 2020. National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information. doi: 10.7717/peerj.10021

Milesi, Cristina. “More Lawns than Irrigated Corn.” 8 November 2005. Earth Observatory, NASA.gov. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Law/lawn2.php

No Mow May. Plantlife.  https://www.plantlife.org.uk

Osann, Ed. “Toward Sustainable Landscapes: Restoring the Right NOT to Mow.” 6 May 2016. Natural Resources Defense Council. https://www.nrdc.org/resources/toward-sustainable-landscapes-restoring-right-not-mow

Southern Nevada Water Authority. “An Act relating to water; prohibiting, with certain exceptions, the use of water from the Colorado River to irrigate nonfunctional turf on certain properties.” Assembly Bill No. 356, 22 March 2021. https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/Bills/AB/AB356_R1.pdf

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

 

 

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April 29, 2022
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CITIES: Parks – Lungs of the City

Olmsted’s “Emerald Necklace” in Boston. “Boston Public Garden panorama.” by Rick Harris, 30 April 2006. Creative Commons CC2.0. With appreciation.

Boston’s Emerald Necklace, Chicago’s Jackson Park, the U.S. Capitol Grounds in Washington, D.C., and New York’s Central Park: these were some of the public parks and landscapes that Frederick Law Olmsted (born 200 years ago this week) created. One of Olmsted’s seven principles of a successful public landscape was sanitation: below the surface and woven into the soil are drainage and engineering innovations that serve to enhance health and well-being of the environment, and those who visit it for refreshment and renewal. Olmsted believed public parks could give a city ‘lungs,’ and those who visited a place to breathe. In fact, this year’s bicentennial events include “Lungs of the City: Olmsted’s Parks in Music” with the American Wild Ensemble performing works inspired by outdoor spaces and parks. Before practicing landscape architecture full-time, Olmsted had been director of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, an organization that later became the Red Cross. Public health was a life-long passion for Olmsted, along with a belief that clean air, plants, and a beneficial environment were essential to human, and natural, health.

Parks are Lungs for Cities. “An aerial view of Central Park, Central Park Conservancy: Aerial Summer 2,” by Centralparknyc, 2008. Creative Commons 3.0, wikimedia. With appreciation.

Olmsted’s vision of a city’s need for green space developed at a time when urban areas were becoming unhealthily crowded. Central Park, in New York City, result of a design competition won by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, was the first landscaped public park in the United States. For its time, it was a macro project: 20,000 workers carved a new landscape enhancing existing terrain (and sadly relocating some groups dwelling there). Over 270,000 shrubs and trees were planted, along with sculpting of a new reservoir from what had formerly been a swamp. Built in 1858, a time before air-conditioning, Central Park provided urban denizens with a literal breath of fresh air. Olmsted stressed the value of “the feeling of relief experienced by those entering them, on escaping from the cramped, confined and controlling circumstances of the streets of the town. In other word, a sense of enlarged freedom is to all, at all times, the most certain and the most valuable gratification afforded by a park.”(Wilson 2020).

“Hiking on Appalachian Trail,” by Chewonki Semester School, 2009. Creative Commons 2.0. With appreciation.

Similarly, the Appalachian Trail, suggested by architect Benton MacKaye in a 1921 article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, for the purpose of preserving original land, in the form of a protected trail of great length (it can take five-to-seven months to hike the whole Appalachian Trail), so that people could experience true wilderness. The earlier 1911 Weeks Act granted the United States government authority to buy private land to establish national forests (Hanson 2022). Later, the Wilderness Act encouraged acquisition of land in original nature: since its founding, mover than 100 million acres have been so dedicated. MacKaye suggested, in the seminal article, “new approach to the problem of living.” (MacKaye 1921)

“Street Restaurant during COVID-19 Emergency Rules,” by Eden, Janine and Jim, 1 September 2020. Creative Commons 2.0. With appreciation.

The importance of outdoor space was re-experienced during the recent pandemic. Families held outdoor reunions; restaurants opened up sidewalk cafes, parks welcomed those who needed a break from home isolation. Central Park, 153 years after its opening, proved Olmsted right.

Buenos Aires, world megacity with a population of 16 million (megacities are 10 million+): the name of the city means “Good Airs.” This photo features the Puerto Madero section of Buenos Aires. Image: “High-Rises of Puerto Madero” by Deensel 2018. Creative Commons 2.0, wikimedia. With appreciation.

Cities are home to over half of the world’s population; by 2050, that percentage will grow to 68%. As cities grow, so can parks. Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, a circle of parks surrounding Boston, gained a new jewel when the Central Artery Project rebuilt the highway underground and replaced surface land with the Greenway, including a carousel.

Ride a carousel in the middle of the city – Boston’s latest jewel in Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace. “Greenway Carousel, Rose Kennedy Greenway,” by Daderot 2014. Dedicated to the public domain (CC0) by the photographer. With appreciation.

To participate in one of the many events celebrating the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, click here.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy. https://appalachiantrail.org

Henson, Alex. “The Founder of the Appalachian Trail Imagined Something Even Grander: Utopian vision of a Harvard forestry grad.” November/December 2014, Volume 35, Number 6.  Humanities Magazine, National Endowment for the Humanities. https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2014/novemberdecember/statement/the-founder-the-appalachian-trail-imagined-something-even

MacKaye, Benton. “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning,” 9 October 1921, pages 325-30, Journal of the American Institute of Architects.

Blackmar, Elizabeth and Roy Rosensweig. “Central Park History.” https://centralpark.org/hiistory-of-central-park/

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke, “National Trails System,” Building the World. Greenwood: 2006.

National Association for Olmsted Parks.” https://olmsted200.org

Weeks Act of 1911. https://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/Documents/Weeks%20Law.pdf

Wilderness Act of 1964. https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/Environ-Cultural/wilderness_act.pdf

Wilson, Michael. ” ‘It Sort of Gives You Hope,’ One Place New Yorkers Go to Escape Their Homes. New Yorkers have headed outdoors to the parks to enjoy sunshine and nature – as long as they are 6 feet away from each other.” 19 March 2020. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/nyregion/nyc-parks-coronavirus.html?referringSource-articleShare

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

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November 9, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Rebuilding Back Better

“Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge” by Eric Vance, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2011. Image: Public Domain, Wikimedia.

Transportation infrastructure is one of the paths to a better future. From electric vehicle charging stations, to bridge repair or replacement, American roads will soon experience the biggest rebuilding project since the US Federal Highway System of 1956. Here’s a summary of what to expect over the next five years (Lobosco and Luhby, 2021):

Roads – $110 billion for road repair and upgrades. It is estimated that 173, 000 miles of US roads are in bad condition;

Trains -$66 billion for passenger and freight trail, modernizing the Northeast corridor, and upgrading intercity rail to high-speed capability, with additional funds of $12 billion;

Broadband – $65 billion to improve reach and signal strength of Internet;

Bridges – $40 billion to repair or replace the 45,000 bridges in poor shape;

Public Transit – $39 billion to modernize and upgrade subways and buses;

Airports – $25 billion to repair aging airports and upgrade to low-carbon tech;

Marine Ports – $17 billion for improving marine ports, a major part of the supply chain;

Safety – $11 billion for better protection for cyclists and pedestrians;

Buses and Ferries – $7.5 billion for zero or low-emission ferries and school bus transport;

Electric Vehicles – $7.5 billion for a national network of electric charging stations;

Communities – $1 billion to reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways. This was one of the goals of the Central Artery Project in Boston.

In addition to the transport upgrades, the American Infrastructure Bill will begin rebuilding the electric grid ($65 billion) and correct water infrastructure problems from Flint to Benton Harbor and beyond, replacing lead service lines and old pipes. Finally, uncapped gas wells and abandoned mines will be remedied with a $21 billion fund. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684) passed on 6 November 2021, as nations gather in Glasgow to address response to climate change at COP26. It is now time to rebuild the world.

Lobosco, Katie and Tami Luhby. “Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.” 5 November 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/28/politics/infrastructure-bill-explained/index.html

United States Congress. “H.R. 3684: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr3684/text

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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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April 29, 2020
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CITIES/TRANSPORT: Carbon Neutral Boston

Boston is going carbon neutral. You can help. Image: “Traffic streaming through downtown Boston” by photographer Robbie Shade. Wikimedia commons.

Boston suffers some of the worst traffic in the United States. City of the ‘Big Dig’ or Central Artery Project, Boston has set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Innovative ideas for that achievement can be discovered at the Museum of Science where students from around New England are presenting proposals and videos in Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge. Winners will be announced on April 30. Take a look at these ideas for building a better Boston, and vote for your favorite here.

“Go Carbon Neutral.” Museum of Science. April 27-30, 2020. https://mos.org/go-carbon-neutral-2020.

Van Allen, Fox. “Cities with the worst traffic in the world.” 26 January 2020. CBSNews.com. https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/worst-traffice-cities-in-the-world.

Appreciation to the Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

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 22, 2020
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ENERGY: A Sabbath for Earth?

Image: Manhattan Bridge, New York, without traffic. Image:wikimedia

Does it take a crisis to cause change? Since the coronavirus pandemic pushed the global pause button, emissions of CO2 have fallen by 50% compared with the same time last year. A drop in methane has also been noted. “This is the cleanest I have ever seen New York City,” noted Professor Roisin Commane of Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It’s not just clearer skies over the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. Cities across the USA including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle are notably improved. Benton MacKaye, proposer of the Appalachian Trail, and Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of Central Park in New York and the “Emerald Necklace” series of linked parks in Boston, shared the vision of a city that can breathe. Parks help but may not be enough. Can we learn from the global pause to create new options to aid the environment?

Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” view of the Fens. Image: wikimedia.

European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite shows atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide, due in large part to car and truck emissions, were lower over Los Angeles, a city with some of the highest smog levels. Descartes Labs, a geospatial analysis firm, reports that quantifying effects of the global shutdown on pollution will encourage more study. INRIX, a research firm monitoring traffic data from vehicle and telephone navigation systems, reported that roads were seeing a 70% improvement in congestion and on-time arrivals. Far from an escape, space is proving to be a viewing window to see Earth as a system.

ESA Sentinel-5P. Space gives us an eye on the Earth. Image: wikimedia.

While any environmental improvement, even if short-term, is beneficial, this shut-down is not the answer to climate change. Traffic will rebound eventually, and the devastation of public health, the suffering of the afflicted, and the economic wounds of the shut-down will be serious. But meanwhile, can we use the period of the coronavirus to find ways to reemerge from this time with a new plan? What aspects of telework will prove viable? Some experts are calling for periodic pauses to give the Earth a Sabbath.

Ball, Sam. “Cleaner Water, Cleaner Air: The environmental effects of coronavirus.” Includes video. 20 March 2020, France24.com. https://www.france24.com/en/20200320-clearer-water-cleaner-air-the-environmental-effects-of-coronavirus

Commane Atmospheric Composition Group. https://atmoscomp.ldeo.columbia.edu/

European Space Agency (ESA). “Coronavirus: nitrogen dioxide emissions drop over Italy.” https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-5P

McGrath, Matt. “Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads.” 20 March 2020. BBC.com/Science & Environment.

Plumer, Brad and Nadja Popovich. 22 March 2020. “Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronoavirus.” 22 March 2020. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/22/climate/coronavirus-use-traffic.html?referringSource=articleShare

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March 9, 2020
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ENERGY: Shaping the Future

Image: photographer Andrew MacMillan. wikimedia.

Electric vehicles are dependent upon batteries both for power and for design. That’s why General Motors’ recent announcement was a double break-through. A $20 billion investment in electric cars comes from a new kind of battery. Traditional EV batteries are a certain shape, determining the contours of a car. But GM’s new batteries can be stacked sideways, or even around curves, because the powerhouses are “soft, flat pouches.” (Valdes-Dapena, 2020). Tesla, by contrast, uses a hard cylinder. GM’s Ultium power cells may lead to curvy designs. Another advantage: Ultium uses far less cobalt that traditional EV batteries, significant because cobalt is becoming increasingly scarce. Finally, Ultium hits the desired metric: below $100 per kilowatt hour, the price point where electric cards are competitive with gasoline engines. According to estimates, electric vehicle sales in the USA will grow to 3 million units by 2030. Next-gen batteries enable driving ranges of 400  (and soon 600) miles. Longer range electric power means more highway trips, perhaps causing a redesign of the U.S. Federal Highway System, the Canada/USA Alaska Highway or the Pan-American Highway for a regional vision that could include a sportsway, maglev or hyper loop, in addition to vehicular paths. General Motors is partnering with LG Chem. With flexible batteries, look for different shapes to come.

Beresford, Colin. “GM Unveils Battery with Capacity Twice as Big as Tesla’s.” 4 March 2020. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a31226611/gm-ultium-electric-vehicle-battery-revealed/.

Beresford, Colin. “GM, LG Teaming Up to Build Batteries for GM’s Future EVs in Ohio.” 5 December 2019. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a30141005/gm-ev-battery-factory-ohio-lg/.

Valdes-Dapena, Peter. “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s.” 5 March 2020. CNN.Business. http://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range.html/ 

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February 24, 2020
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WATER: Time and Tide in BOSTON

Boston, a port city, is threatened by rising seas. Map of Boston Harbor, wikimedia commons.

Coastal communities around the world are preparing for rising seas. Boston, a port city built on landfill, with a harbor renowned for freedom and liberty, is fighting a war. Last century, the Atlantic shore of Boston saw a persistent nine inch rise, with predictions that sea-rise may triple by 2030. By 2070? Look for three more feet of water. Boston ranks as the world’s eighth most vulnerable city, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of more than 100 coastal cities.

UMass Boston, waterfront campus, leads research on how to respond to coastal sea-rise. Image: wikimedia.

According to the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the Woods Hole Group, options to prevent the damage of flooding include spending $11.8 billion for a macro harbor barrier such as that built in the Netherlands. New York City is also studying the potential for a barrier that might cost $119 billion. In the short-term, Boston will budget $30 million per year to combat sea rise, with new ideas including:

TRANSPORT: New watertight doors on the rail tunnel near Fenway Park; redoing blockage of underground rail ventilation systems near Aquarium MBTA station.

PARKS: Protective berm of 10 feet along shore of Joe Moakley Park, a 60-acre oasis in South Boston near the beach. The park itself will be raised, and chambers installed beneath playing fields that will be capable of holding 5 million cubic feet of storm surge water. Other parks undergoing similar change: Ryan in Charleston on the Mystic River.

BUILDINGS: New condo high-rise housing on Boston Harbor comes with an “aqua fence” or portable flood barrier. General Electric (GE) leased two historic brick buildings, elevating the first floors and moving all electrical equipment to higher levels than the traditional basement.

MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL ICONS: Boston’s Children’s Museum redesigned a lawn into a hill, with a playground surrounded by dense plantings.

FOOD SUPPLY: Most large supermarkets build loading docks below ground; if food supply is to remain available when a city suffers flooding, relocating loading docks could improve public health.

MUNICIPAL PERMITS AND REGULATIONS: New buildings must meet increasing strict environmental standards. A similar approach governs new construction in Paris, France.

INVITING INNOVATIVE IDEAS: Boston’s Museum of Science, with the support of General Motors and Greentown Labs, is holding a $3,000 competition for ideas in transportation to help achieve carbon neutrality.

Museum of Science, Boston, sponsoring Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge, 22 April 2020. Image: wikimedia.

Boston’s Museum of Science is one of many educational design competitions; students worldwide may soon deposit capstones, and theses in an Idea Bank, and join Climate Conservation Corps service teams. Is your home community or school in a location vulnerable to sea-rise? What are you doing?  The best ideas are those that are shared.

Mufson, Steven. “Boston harbor brings ashore a new enemy: Rising Seas: Facing climate change, Boston must gird itself for an era of rising water – or be inundated.” 18 February 2020. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/02/19/boston-prepares-rising-seas-climate-change/.

Museum of Science, Boston. “Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge.” https://www.mos.org/go-carbon-neutral/

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities.” 2013. http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/future-flood-losses-in-major-coastal-cities.htm

OECD. “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes.” https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/ranking-port-cities-with-high-exposure-and-vulnerability-to-climate-extremes_011766488208

Spang, Edward. “Food-Energy-Water Nexus.” Center for Water-Energy Efficiency. 4 May 2017. https://ie.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/05/spang-o3MAY17.pdf.

Spang, Edward., and William Moomaw, Kelly Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, and David Marks. “Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 9 (10), 8 October 2018.

Appreciation to Charles E. Litwin, David H. Marks, and Cherie E. Potts for research suggestions.

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

 

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January 13, 2020
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CITIES: Trees

Boston’s Greenway. Image: Greenway Conservancy.

American cities lost 36 million trees in the last five years. Without trees, cities will get hotter and suffer more periods of air pollution. Why are we losing trees? Hurricanes and tornadoes tear them from the earth, fires burn them to the ground, insects and diseases weaken and kill trees. Those are some of the reasons we can’t easily control.

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Image: wikimedia.

But there is one factor we can influence: city development. Cities are on the rise, rapidly growing into megacities with populations of 10 million or more. The United States, with 80% of the US population living in urban areas, especially in forested coastal regions along the West and East coasts, has a unique opportunity to preserve and enhance urban forests. It’s well worth it. Trees bring environmental and economic benefits.

URBAN TREES:

Provide shade for homes, schools, office buildings, cooling surface temperatures;

Reduce pollution through absorbing carbon and filtering pollutants from the air;

Reduce energy costs by reducing air-conditioning use – economics of $4 billion per year;

Improve water quality by filtering rainwater, absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus in to the ground;

Protect against urban flooding, absorbing surface water;

Reduce noise pollution by absorbing urban sound;

Enhance city soundscape by adding birdsong, and the whisper of wind through leaves;

Protect against UV radiation, absorbing 96% of ultraviolet radiation;

Improve health, physical through cleaner air and shade to exercise outdoors, mental health of being in nature;

Increase tourism and real estate values.

The New River passes through Bowes Park. Image: wikimedia.

Case studies of successful historic urban forestation reveal strategies. In the year 1600, so many people crossed London Bridge to live in the burgeoning London town that water supply became strained. One of the world’s first artificial or built rivers combined two elements: drinking water and trees. Constructed from 1605 to 1639, the New River stretches over 20 miles from Hertfordshire to Islington, just uphill from London, terminating in a water reservoir ready as needed. All along the route, tree-lined walking paths add protection and shade. Today, the New River is run by Thames Water PLC, managing water supply, and maintaining the walking paths traversed by urban hikers including the Ramblers Association. It is interesting to note that Hugh Myddleton, who partnered with King James I to build the New River, was the regent’s former jeweler and may be related to a member of the present House of Windsor.

Boston had a similar idea with Olmstead’s “Emerald Necklace” with recent Rose Fitzgerald Greenway extension of the urban breathing ribbon of green. The Greenway replaced what was formerly the Central Artery that ran traffic anthrough town; the road was placed underneath in a tunnel and the surface became a park. For an even earlier urban greening, some would point to the City of the Eiffel Tower where Haussmann widened tree-lined boulevards to breathe air and design into Paris. Presently, the city of light requires new commercial construction to have either solar or living green roofs.

“Terrasse panoramique @ Le Printemps Haussmann @ Paris.” by Guilhem Vellut, 2017. Image: wikimedia commons.

By 2050, 70% of the world’s people will live in cities. As cities grow, rebuilding better water systems, developing flood prevention plans, redesigning roads to accommodate electric and autonomous vehicles, how can trees become part of the plan? Will the proposed Climate Conservation Corps (CCC) plant trees in cities? A pilot project at Roger Williams University, or an initiative by World War Zero, might lead the way. There may be considerations of legal import: should trees have standing?

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoe G. Quinn. “Should trees have standing?” Building the World Blog. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/03/01/should-trees-have-standing/

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.https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/health/iyw-cities-losing-36-million-trees-how-to-help-trnd/index.html

Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition. https://sufc.org/

New River, http://www.thames-water.com

Ramblers Walking Paths of the New River, http://www.ramblers. org.uk/info/paths/newriver.html.

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

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November 9, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Decade of Decision

Biodiversity: the decade of decision. “Mushrooms and diverse fungi of Saskatchewan.” Image: wikimedia.

Decisions made in the next decade may shape the future. In 2020, the United States will hold an important election; Japan will host the Olympics. All eyes on the future. Species, both animal and plant, are disappearing 1,000 times faster than before humans appeared. Earth is threatened by climate change; water is becoming more scarce; and, as Hansjorg Wyss states: “extractive industries chew further into the wild.” Wyss believes there may be an answer: conserve remaining wild lands as public reserves. The world’s first national park (Yellowstone in 1872) opened a new idea of preservation: now, 15% of earth’s land and 7% of the oceans is protected. Wilderness tamed and framed like the National Trails System; greenways like that on Boston’s Central Artery as nature ribboning through cities; rivers granted personhood rights are among the regulatory and legal measures of protection. Edward O Wilson, founder of Half-Earth Day, warns we must preserve half the earth to save the whole. Timing may be urgent: 77% of land on earth has been modified by humans. Wyss pledged $1 billion over the next decade with the goal of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030.When the United Nations Biodiversity Conference convenes in land of the Suez Canal on November 13, 190 countries will seek agreement to preserve the natural systems that support the earth. Here’s a link to include your voice.

Albeck-Ripka, Livia. “Scientists Warn That World’s Wilderness Areas Are Disappearing: ‘Wild areas provide a lot of life support systems for the planet,’ said the author of a study that found 77 percent of earth’s land had been modified by humans.”31 October 2018, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/world/australia-wilderness-environment-gone.html.

Half-Earth Project. https://www.half-earthproject.org

Jackson, Michael, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, and USA for Africa Chorus: “We Are the World.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9BNoNFKCBI

Watson, James E.M., Oscar Venter, Jasmine Lee, Kendall R. Jones, John G. Robinson, Hugh P. Possingham, James R. Allen. “Protect the last of the wild.” 31 October 2018, Naturehttps://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07183-6

Wilson, Edward O. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. 2016. ISBN: 9781631490828.

Wyss, Hansjorg. “We Have to Save the Planet. So I’m Donating $1 Billion.” 31 October 2018. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/opinion/earth-biodiversity-conservation-billion-dollars.html.

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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