Fashion designers and producers are leading a revolution in the garment industry, currently responsible for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions (Briggs 2021) and 20% of global untreated wastewater resulting from dyeing fabrics. Ralph Lauren Corporation announced “Color on Demand” in its adoption of ECOFAST ™, a sustainable textile method developed by Dow, to be used in 80% of Ralph Lauren wear by 2025. ECOFAST uses 40% less water, 85% fewer chemical, 90% less energy. Leather jackets made from mushrooms, garments produced in safe and just factories, fibers that are sustainable, shoes that biodegrade, and plastic shopping bags transformed into fabrics, are some of the circularity trends transforming fashion. The Circular Fibres Initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation brings together industry leaders to change the life cycle and supply chain of fashion fibres and textiles. Stella McCartney placed sustainability fact sheets on seats of the Palais Garnier for the 2020 spring collection show. Will garments of the future have sustainability ratings, and ingredient tags along with laundering instructions?
“Presidential Inauguration 1905.” Library of Congress, image.
Washington, D.C., setting of two distinctly disparate 2021 events on 6 January and 20 January, was designed for public gatherings in wide open spaces. Major Pierre L’Enfant, born in France but an ardent supporter of the American Revolutionary War who volunteered to serve in the Corps of Engineering of the Continental Army, met George Washington and proposed himself as the designer of the country’s new capital. In L’Enfant’s vision, wide avenues would radiate from the house of Congress and the house of the President. L’Enfant sketched 15 open spaces for gatherings and monuments: L’Enfant stated that open spaces were as important as buildings.
Washington Mall, site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of 1963, and of 200,000 flags heralding the Biden-Harris Inauguration of 2021. Image: “National Mall, Washington, D.C.” wikimedia.
L’Enfant may have been influenced by the design of a renovated Paris, France, by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who enlarged the boulevards for two reasons: better air circulation to lessen the spread of viral disease, and large public gathering spaces. Paris still benefits from these two reasons, as does Washington.
“L’Enfant’s Plan of Washington, D.C., 1887.” National Register of Historic Places: 97000332. Image: Library of Congress.
L’Enfant ‘s grand vision was almost lost. Apparently there was a dispute, and L’Enfant fled the city with the detailed plans. Enter Benjamin Banneker. Bannekar, who had attended a one-room school while studying independently with his grandmother, was known for mathematical brilliance when he came to work with Major Andrew Ellicott as a surveyor to establish the District of Columbia’s official capital borders.
Benjamin Banneker, from Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Wikimedia.
Among Banneker’s considerable talents was a photo-perfect memory. L’Enfant’s design was imprinted on the surveyor’s mind and, according to some reports, soon reproduced for completion by Benjamin Banneker.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture site, in Washington, D.C., is within an area now named Benjamin Banneker Park. Banneker also wrote an almanac, with an inaugural publication entitled: Benjamin Banneker’s Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of Our Lord 1792. Banneker corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, and published abolitionist material advocating a vision in part realized, in the capital he helped design, with the inauguration of Barack Obama on 20 January 2009, and 20 January 2021, the inauguration day of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Washington, D.C., joins a small group of designed cities in history. Baghdad was created from a drawing of three concentric circles etched by sword in the sand. Abuja, Nigeria’s new capital, was influenced by Haussman’s Paris, as well as Washington, D.C., and Brasília was the first city designed to be seen from the air, and shaped like an airplane when seen from that vantage point. Capital cities are an iconic kind of urban center, embodying ideals of government and national values. In The New Science of Cities (2013), Michael Batty proposed that we see cities as systems of networks and flows. Arnold Toynbee, in Cities of Destiny, stated that cities, led with vision, may become incubators of art, culture, and science.
As Washington, D.C., takes on a new character in 2021, encouraged by inaugural address values of respect and unity, and led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, how might L’Enfant’s and Banneker’s design give what Lawrence Durrell called the “spirit of place” to a new spirit of nation?
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris. inaugurated in Washington, D.C., on 20 January 2021.
Batty, Michael. The New Science of Cities. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780262019521
Bedini, Silvio A. The Life of Benjamin Banneker. Rancho Cordova, CA: Landmark Enterprises, 1984.
Durrell, Lawrence. Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel. edited by Alan G. Thomas. Open Road: Integrated Media.
Keene, Louis. “Benjamin Banneker: The Black Tobacco Farmer Who Presidents Couldn’t Ignore.” White House Historical Association.
National Museum of African American History & Culture. “The NMAAHC Museum Site,” https://nmaahc.si.edu/nmaahc-museum-site.
“Vestas V90-3MW Wind Turbine of Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Fram, Thames Estuary, UK” by Phil Hollman, 2006. Wikimedia Commons.Wind Power innovator BladeBUG may aid maintenance of marine turbines, now 40% of the cost of these energy generators. If offshore wind were more affordable and reliable, it could increase its energy contribution by 18 times. BladeBug, a drone-based innovation founded by Chris Cieslak, won recognition from ORE Catapult (Offshore Renewable Energy in Blyth, UK) and will now integrate with MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments). Both are part of a consortium led by Plant Integrity.
“CLT-plate with three layers of spruce” by Pañh, 2018. Wikimedia Commons.
Will COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland herald a new era for climate and cooperation? Image: “University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1900” Library of Congress image ppmsc.07600
Brilliant medical and scientific researchers created Covid vaccine innovations through rapid cooperative response to a world crisis that some likened to the Manhattan Project. Climate change is another world crisis. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that has championed causes of public health, sees hope for 2021, noting the November United Nations COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, as catalyst for nations to pledge responses to climate change. With new administrations in the United States, new political definitions of the United Kingdom and European Union, increased commitments to energy neutrality by China and others, there is reason for hope. What do you think will be the most important advances in 2021?
Souza, Eduardo, translated by José Tomás Franco. ArchDaily. 20 May 2018. “Cross Laminated Timber (CLT): What It Is and How To Use It.” https://www.archdaily.com/893442/cross-laminated-timber-clt-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it
Eyes in the sky, Earth Observation Satellites monitor environmental conditions by reporting hot spots and testing efforts to mitigate climate change. OHB-System has just signed a contract to build a new satellite network to monitor carbon dioxide, helping countries achieve goals of the COP 21 Paris Agreement. Part of the Copernicus System, the first OHB spacecraft will launch in 2025; it will be called CO2M.
“Scenographia Systematis Copernicani” engraving circa 1660. Image: wikimedia.
Looking for employment or investment opportunities? Check out satellite enterprises: OHB, TAS, OIP.
Since COMSAT launched the first communication satellites, space has become the place that allows us to transmit video, communication, and weather information about Earth. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are leaders. Here’s a look at NASA’s program:
ESA’s Sentinel satellite system is comprehensive, and will expand when CO2M joins the initiative. For now, here’s the Sentinel array and specific capabilities:
Sentinel-1: monitor Earth’s surface in all weather conditions
Sentinel-2: monitor land changes
Sentinel-3: observe oceans
Sentinel-4: measure atmospheric gases
Sentinel-5: monitor air quality
Sentinel-6: measure rising seas
When CO2M becomes operational, joining the Sentinel series, it will track CO2 around the whole globe every five days. CO2M’s data, along with other Sentinel reporting, and NASA’s initiatives as well as others, will help meet the climate goals established by COP21 also known as the Paris Agreement. The Eiffel Tower displayed the message: now we must meet the goals. Space, looking at Earth, can help.
“#1Heart1Tree” image on the Eiffel Tower, Paris, during COP21 where climate goals were agreed by most nations of the world. Earth Observation Satellites will help meet those environmental goals. Photo by Yann Caradec, image: wikimedia.
Cities may lead the way to a healthier future. Image: “Eiffel tower at dawn,” by Nitot. Image: wikimedia.
In a crisis, cities and states can react faster than countries. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle closed cinemas, gyms, bars and clubs; states like Massachusetts and California closed schools long before federal advisories. Closures to doors opened generous hearts: cafes nearLa Tour Eiffel gave away delicacies like foie gras and freshly baked bread, when Prime Minister Phillippe announced mandated a shutdown in Paris. Throughout history, city-states demonstrated a notably nimble organizational power: ancient Greek city-states like Cyrene, founded by climate migrants, created a new educational, scientific, and cultural center. By 2050, 70% of the world’s people will live in cities. With the rise of megacities, with populations of 10 million plus, is it time for a new era of the city-state?
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.
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;
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.
Mont Blanc, highest peak of the Alps. Will the name change with the climate? Image: wikimedia.
Switzerland sent the world a postcard. A collage of 125,000 drawings by children across the world, assembled for aerial display on Switzerland’s Aletsch glacier, receding at 12 meters (13 yards) per year. Organized by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the campaign is part publicity stunt to establish a Guinness world record, and part educational campaign to engage the next generation in climate action. While individual children’s messages on the segments include pledges and pleas (Save the Future for Us), the aerial overview spells out the message “#1.5C” reminding the world of the Paris Agreement where 195 nations pledged to reduce emissions, holding global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“1 Heart 1 Tree” by Naziha Mestaoui. image on Eiffel Tower, 2015, by Yann Caradoc. Wikimedia commons.
France’s Eiffel Tower turned into a banner proclaiming the message to stop climate change in 2015. Artist Naziha Mestaoui designed “1 Heart 1 Tree” for people to add, via a mobile app, a virtual tree to a green installation on the Tower while actual trees were planted in Australia, Brazil, India, Kenya, Peru, and Senegal. Mestaoui was inspired by the “trees of peace” program in Kenya, designed by Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai.
Many cities around the world have iconic monuments: Sydney’s Opera House, New York’s Empire State Building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa are among the possible “billboards” that may invite us to look up into a better future.
World’s longest span, China’s Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, stretches 34 miles (55 km) across the Pearl River Delta. An artificial island supporting Zhuhai’s port joins the financial centers of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (Special Economic Zone), and manufacturing areas like Dongguan. The bridge cuts travel time between Zhuhai and Hong Kong, formerly taking 4 hours, to 40 minutes. One unique aspect revealing cultural history: traffic patterns change from left-lane driving (in once-British Hong Kong) to right-lane vehicular traffic (the rule of the road in China).
Brooklyn Bridge. Image: wikimedia commons.
Bridges have long encouraged economic activity. London Bridge was perhaps the first shopping mall: spaces along the span were leased to stores whose taxes paid for bridge maintenance. The Brooklyn Bridge cost $15 million to build. Tolls varied: it cost one penny to walk across but double that if you brought a horse or cow, and ten times more with a one-horse wagon. Fifteen years after the bridge joined Manhattan and Brooklyn, the latter’s population doubled and both economies grew rapidly.
China’s new bridge may promise economic development but also drew headlines for costs: $7 billion for the 14 mile main span; $13 billion for tunnels. The project used enough steel (400,000 tons) to build 60 Eiffel Towers. There were also costs in lives lost: 10 people perished during construction; another 500 were injured. There were costly delays (the project was two years late) and troubling scandals: 19 people were indicted on criminal charges for fake concrete. Another cost: the number of rare white dolphins (sometimes called China’s marine panda) swimming in Hong Kong waters dropped by half, even though $68 million was devoted to their protection.
Rare white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) sometimes called China’s marine panda. Image: wikimedia commons.
Abu Simbel, site of the great temple built by Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, in 13th century bce, crowned the Nubian valley bordering Egypt and Sudan. Nearby, the Nile River flows through Aswan to Cairo. It was just a few decades ago that engineers and archeologists saved Abu Simbel from a watery grave, somewhere at the bottom of Lake Nasser, reservoir formed by the 1960 construction of the High Dam at Aswan. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) rushed to save Abu Simbel: the temple was taken apart piece by piece, and moved to a site where it was reassembled like a giant Lego construction. February 22 (day Ramses took the throne) and 22 October (Ramses’ birthday) were highlighted by the alignment of the temple so that dawn’s light would illuminate Ramses’ statue, enshrined within. In September 1968, fifty years ago, the project stood completed as one of the premier World Heritage Sites. Success bred success: World Heritage sites followed including Cyrene, Angkor Wat, Lake Baikal, Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal, and the Statue of Liberty.