“Empire State Building in Rainbow Colors for Pride.” Photographer Anthony Quintano. 28 June 2015. Image: wikimedia commons
Cities have an opportunity to inspire and unite urban denizens in shared values. As Toynbee demonstrated in Cities of Destiny, the metropolis can create a unique cultural climate. Many urban centers possess iconic monuments, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, that may serve as cultural billboards. As the world gathered in Paris for COP21 in 2015, that landmark beamed the message: “1.5” – indicating a shared goal of limiting global warming to that level. Other issues like social justice have illuminated city monuments: San Francisco’s City Hall has often been displayed in rainbow colors.
“City Hall, San Francisco, California, USA.” Photographer Torrenegra. Image: wikimedia
London, England, has many landmarks including the fabled London Bridge and the recent addition to the cityscape: the London Eye. This month, the “Eye,” formally termed the Millennium Wheel when it opened in 2000, displayed rainbow colors to honor Pride, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall turning point for LGBT+ rights.
White House with LGBT+ Rainbow Colors. Image: wikimedia commons.
In June of 2015 when the United States Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) two people of same sex have the right to marry, the White House celebrated by illuminating the iconic Washington D.C. building in the colors of the rainbow. As we strive to build an equal and sustainable future – environmentally and socially – how can cities Troop the Color?
“Chestnut trees in blossom, Boulevard Arago, Paris, France.” 2012. Image: wikimedia commons
Today is Arbor Day; it began in 1872 when the newly settled state of Nebraska noted the need for trees and instituted a tree-planting holiday. But this year, there will be less greenery, because American cities are losing 36 million trees – per year. Increased development is the main reason for urban tree loss, but arboreal disease, insects, fires, hurricanes, and storms also bring loss. When city trees are replaced by buildings or parking lots, the ground that formerly absorbed rain is now impervious. Paris, France announced a goal of making 50% of the city’s surfaces permeable. Gardens and lawns near the Eiffel Tower will also be extended in preparation for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
TEN BENEFITS OF TREES
Heat reduction – when tree canopy covers 40% of an area, there is a 10 degree (F) cooling
Air quality – trees absorb carbon emissions and pollution
Energy reduction – trees reduce energy costs by $4 billion per year
Water quality – trees cleanse surface water, returning it to groundwater
Flood reduction – trees absorb water and reduce runoff to rivers and streams
Noise reduction – trees muffle traffic noise and add natural sounds of birds and wind
UV radiation protection – trees absorb 96% of ultraviolet radiation
Aesthetics – trees improve property appearance, and value
Health – tree-lined areas have statistically lower human sickness and death rates
Habitat – trees house birds; forests promote wildlife diversity
Earth Day 2021 brings some good news: we may be on target to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement (COP21). When nations convened in the city of the Eiffel Tower in 2015, the world set a new course. It was not a minute too soon. Climate Action Tracker (CAT) predicted, in 2009, that global warming would rise to 3.5 C by 2100, bringing disastrous conditions for life on Earth. Now, in 2021, things have improved and we may hold global warming to 2.1 C, if we continue to take action. Every year, on Earth Day, we celebrate our planet and also take stock of the state of our climate.
China’s pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2060, with a peak expected well before 2030, is an important part of recent progress. Japan and South Korea pledged to get to net zero by 2050. The European Union has taken it to the next level, not only pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions 55% by 2030, and reaching net-zero by 2050, but making that goal legally binding. The United States, recently rejoined the Paris agreement and set new goals for climate improvement domestically, including mandating the federal government vehicle fleet to be all electric and allocating funds for 500,000 charging stations across the US Federal Highway system. Today, the United States has convened a global summit for Earth Day 2021 to bring world leaders together to address climate.
What can you do? Every action you choose has some climate impact: you can act to reduce plastic, contribute to green spaces in cities, become a citizen scientist, make art to raise awareness, make a pledge for climate action – click here.
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?