Building the World

July 2, 2016
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Wider Water

Wider Water: the new Panama Canal. Image: wikimedia commons.

Nicaragua almost won; it was preferred until Phillipe Bunau-Varilla and William Nelson Cromwell delivered to the U.S. Congress 50 postage stamps issued by Managua proudly featuring the natural wonder of a volcano. Persuaded by apparent danger, Senator John Spooner proposed an amendment that authorized the purchase of the canal lease but switched location to an isthmus just south. Colombia owned the site: a down payment of $100 million for lease of the desirable strip, followed by $250, 000 per year thereafter, was offered, enhanced by the U.S. battleship Nashville. Colombia agreed: the Hay-Buneau-Varilla Treaty was signed, producing not just the canal agreement but also a new government for a new nation, named Panama. A flag was sewn overnight; a constitution was conveniently ready; $10 million went straight into the new treasury. On 3 November, 1903, Panama was born, a nation conceived by a canal. In 1914, the Panama Canal opened.

But in 100 years, shipping changed: some container ships grew too big to transit the waterway. In 2007, a new lane, stretching 77 km (48 miles) was dug, missing the centennial by two years, but opening on 26 June 2016. The first ship to float thru was the Andronikos, flying the flag of the Marshall Islands but owned by China Cosco Shipping Corporation: it won the honor by lottery. Wider locks, deeper channels, $6 billion dollars, labor disputes, construction delays: all these challenges were overcome. Ships with 14,000 containers can transit; before 5,000 was the limit. But nature may present a more serious issue, one that the canal cannot do without: water. A new draft limit was revised down from 12.2 meters to 11.89 (39 feet), due to drought. If the water levels rise, the draft allowance will return to the planned 15.2.

Bigger problems lurk. Ships are still growing; the latest models carry 18,000 containers — too large even for the new Panama. Will China again win the lottery? Builders of the world’s oldest, and longest, Grand Canal of China, are busy not far from Panama. Wider, deeper and longer than new Panama, a new waterway may open soon, with concern of environmentalists, and development by Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group, headed by Wang Jing, granted concession in 2013 for the Grand Canal of Nicaragua.

Thanks to Ernst G. Frankel, Cherie E. Potts, and Sheila M. Turney for suggestions.

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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May 24, 2016
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City as Art

Singing’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelly. Will Boston’s “Raining Poetry” set a new style for the City as Art? Image: wikimedia commons.

Baghdad was designed in three concentric circles drawn in the sand by founder Caliph al-Mansur, who named the new capital “Madinat as-Salam” or “City of Peace.” As Toynbee observed in Cities of Destiny, urban centers possess cultural magnetism. Boston is showering the city in art: poetry appears in the rain. A collaboration of Boston City Hall, the Mayor’s Mural Crew, and Mass Poetry, the project echoes public art along the Greenway. Chicago’s Millennium Park brings public art to a new gathering green downtown. Beijing also uses urban life to uplift: riders on the metro’s Line 4 can access Chinese poetry and philosophy through barcodes posted in passenger cars. China’s Grand Canal standardized written language, facilitating government, and cultural, exchange. Boston’s poems, however, are ephemeral; disappearing ink lasts just a few weeks. But words are, as Roman poet Horace stated, “monumentum aere perennius” – “a monument more lasting than bronze” or as Langston Hughes, whose poem graces Dudley Square, might observe: “Still Here.”

Thanks to Chak Ngamtippan for suggesting featuring Boston’s “Raining Poetry.”

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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February 8, 2016
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Channels of China

First Qin Emperor of China. Image: wikimedia commons.

Can a channel cause communication? It might be so with the Grand Canal of China. First Qin Emperor improved the canal and initiated a standard script for communication along the internal waterway, making possible governance and security, as well as agriculture, commerce, culture, and education. Some historians opine that the Grand Canal was the Internet of its time. The Grand Canal is not only the longest canal or engineered-waterway in the world, it is also the longest in time. Begun in 486 BCE, it is still under use and improvement, the latest phase to be completed in 2050. Another long-standing accomplishment of China is the concept of time cycles; may the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year of the Monkey bring special gifts to our world.

For more on Chinese time cycles and other aspects of Chinese culture and tradition, please visit the Confucius Institute at UMass Boston: https://www.umb.edu/confucius

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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March 4, 2015
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Solving Brazil’s Water Crisis

Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil: official photo, 2011. Image: wikimedia commons.

Cantareira reservoir, supplying water to 6.5 million Brazilians, is running on empty: 7% capacity in 2014, down from 50% capacity in 2013. Could building canals, like China’s Grand Canal, or France’s Canal des Deux Mers, be the answer? If drought is not solved, there will be energy problems as well: 80% of Brazil’s electricity is hydropower from plants including Itaipu. What actions should president Dilma Rousseff take to solve Brazil’s water crisis?

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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February 19, 2015
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Scale of Success: China

 

Great Wall of China. Image: wikimedia commons.

While Frank P. Davidson is considered by historians to be the founder of the field of macroengineering in 1984, today China is advancing large scale infrastructure. The nation that built the Great Wall must think big, because it is so big; large scale endeavors are now appearing with velocity as well as capacity. For example, the Dalian to Yantai Tunnel spanning the Bohai Strait, twice the length of the Channel Tunnel, planned as a rail link between China’s northern ports, would be the world’s longest underwater tunnel. And, the Grand Canal may soon become even grander: the $80 billion plan to bring water over 1,000 miles from the abundant south to the arid north may reach fruition in 2025, making that waterway, begun in 600 BCE, the longest continuous construction project in history. Should China celebrate this Spring Festival with an announcement of the Center for the Study of Macro?

David Baroza, “In China, Projects to make Great Wall Feel Small,” The New York Times, January 12, 2015.

Minnie Chan, “Plan to build world’s longest undersea tunnel from Dalian to Yantai,” South China Morning Post, July 11, 2013. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1280386/china-plans-worlds-longest-undersea-tunnel

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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February 10, 2015
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Open Bar(code)

Could transport link to transporting poetry? Image: wikimedia commons.

Take Line 4, when riding the Beijing metro; then, scan a barcode to access Chinese literature and philosophy. China’s National Library, cooperating with Beijing’s municipal government, will change the ten-tome selection monthly. Of course, barcode can transport to music, dance, drama, and other cultural expressions. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Channel Tunnel recently added wifi; might there be a special channel within? Shinkansen will soon upgrade to new efficiency; what may Japan create? What opportunities are inherent in public transportation to make readers of riders?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-30830472

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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November 26, 2014
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Voice of the Future: Sustainable Agriculture and Transport

 

"Our goal is to transport durable food goods from Vermont and upstate New York down the Hudson to New York City," Erik Andrus, Voice of the Future 2014. Image courtesy of Vermont Sail Freight Project.

Image courtesy of Vermont Sail Freight Project.

At the core of the project is the idea that individuals within a small community can pool their skills and labor to pull off a project of surprising scope and complexity. As project director, it was very inspiring to be at the center of this, and helped to dispel my fear that we have become a nation of passive consumers of products and answers. Together our team built and launched the “Ceres,” a commercial sail-powered vessel with 15 tons cargo capacity in a handful of months on a tiny budget. Our goal was to transport durable food goods from Vermont and upstate New York down the Hudson to the lower valley and New York City, and in so doing tie together the concepts of sustainable agriculture and sustainable transportation.

Erik Andrus, Founder, Vermont Sail Freight Project

Voice of the Future, 2014

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September 12, 2014
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Treasure Hunt: Grand Canal

 

King Wen, Zhou Dynasty. Image: wikimedia commons.


Yang Junxi, aged eleven, was just washing his hands, but he touched history. When the lad dipped digits into China’s Laozhoulin River, he felt an object, pulled it out and brought home a 3,000-year-old bronze sword of 10-inches (26cm) length. It was probably never used for fighting, but instead is judged by the Gaoyou Cultural Relics Bureau to be an artistic rendering, perhaps belonging to an official of the Shang or Zhou dynasties. Junxi’s father, Jinhai, and his son who donated the precious relic, have been heralded. Perhaps more treasures will be found as China plans an archeological exploration in this river that formed part of the Grand Canal. In Egypt, a similar expedition might discover Nubian art hidden beneath the High Dam at Aswan. In the future, should Lares be placed in significant infrastructure?

For more: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-29108764

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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February 3, 2014
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Year of the Horse

“The Eight Horses” by Xu Beihong (1895-1953). Image: Wikimedia.

 

Year of the Horse (year 4712) celebrates qualities of the steed, known by western scientific name of equus ferus. In China’s central Henan Province, Luoyang was critical to the Grand Canal. Here grains, loaded in the south, were brought via a system of canals including the Luo River, to be stored and distributed. Luoyang was the capital of China for many dynasties including the Tang; in the 13th century (C.E.), the Yuan Dynasty moved the capital to Beijing. But Louyang remains home to the White Horse Temple, which some believe may have been important to the foundation of Buddhism in China.

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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December 2, 2013
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China’s Waterway of Destiny

Emperor Wen of Sui, by artist Yan Liben. Image, Wikimedia.

Longest artificial river in the world, China’s Grand Canal may also be the longest construction project in history. Begun by Emperor Wen of Sui (pictured above) and improved by Kublai Khan, the waterway stretches 1,1118 miles (1,800 kilometers). A new program announced in 2002, to reverse the flow of water with a south-to-north diversion to bring hydration from the moist, agricultural south to the drier north, will be completed in 2050. Scholars believe the Grand Canal may have transformed a region into a nation: the inland waterway encouraged communication among diverse groups, leading to standardization of the written form of a language that came to be called Chinese; encouraged trade and exchange; and created a common culture. The destiny of a nation, or a region, may be found in the value, and use, of its water. For more on China, visit http://www.umb.edu/confucius/.

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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