Building the World

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

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April 14, 2022
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WATER: Noah’s Ark for Marine Life

“Noah’s Ark,” by Edward Hicks. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Public Domain, USA. Image: wikimedia

Coral reefs cover just 1% of the ocean floor but support 25% of all marine life. According to The Ocean Agency’s founder Richard Vevers, even if we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, we may lose 90% of our coral reefs by mid-century due to ocean warming and acidification that causing coral reef bleaching. Working with the Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland, The Ocean Agency and a team of scientists selected 50 coral reefs that are most likely to survive climate change with a little help. The reefs chosen are a sample “large enough to allow protection of reefs in all major regions” (UQ 2017).

“Coral planting and reef restoration,” by Profmauri, 2011. Creative Commons 3.0, wikimedia.

Given this ‘Noah’s Ark’ for coral and marine life, how can this precious resource be preserved? Much like the examples of humans helping Nature as in the National Trails System, Roman Aqueducts or the New River, natural coral reefs may get a boost from engineering innovations. Coral can be grown in a lab, where growth that could take 100 years in the ocean can be accomplished in two years under laboratory conditions. Once the tiny corals are ready for transplanting, they can be placed on reefs that are suffering but still able to recover; it’s a process known as “reskinning.”

“The Silent Evolution” by James deCaires Taylor. Photographer, allenran 917, 2014. Creative Commons 2.0.

Another option: forming new coral reefs using underwater sculptures like those created by James deCaires Taylor for the Australia’s Museum of Underwater Art on Great Barrier Reef, and Mexico’s Mesoamerican Reef, largest in the Western Hemisphere, for the Museo Subacuático de Arte. Some debate whether such sculptures are helping or harming marine life. Similar underwater sculpture gardens created by Angeline Chen and Kyle Block, founders of Global Coralition, are located in Koh Tao, Thailand, and in the Dominican Republic, where art honors the traditional water deities of the Arawak/Taino cultures of the Caribbean.

“Blue Spotted Stingray in Koh Tao, Thailand coral reef,” photographer Jan Derk, 2004. Generously dedicated to the public domain by Jan Derk. Creative Commons. With appreciation to Jan Derk.

Vevers worried that coral is an emergency that is invisible to all but divers and the denizens of the ocean. To make the invisible visible (coincidentally the theme for World Water Day 2022 referencing groundwater), The Ocean Agency reached out to Jeff Orlowski and Larissa Rhodes to collaborate on a Netflix film: “Chasing Coral.” During filming, the most dangerous coral bleaching event in history occurred. The film debuted at Sundance and has helped to make coral’s plight more accessible. Watch the film here.

“Coral reef locations,” by NASA, 2006, from Millennium Coral Reef Landsat Archive. Public Domain. 50 are chosen for “Noah’s Ark” preservation. For information on each reef, visit http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/landsat.pl

Art may help to raise awareness, and respect, for the world’s coral reefs. In addition to nurturing 25% of marine life, coral provides 1 billion people with food, jobs, and income that generates $375 billion in economic benefits. Coral reels are not visible to most of us, so they may be out of mind. But there is much each of us can do. Recycling plastic that can harm reels and marine life, being cautious about the use of some sunscreens when enjoying the beach, or by supporting ocean sustainability and coral reef regeneration, we have an opportunity to build a modern-day Noah’s Ark for coral.

Beyer, Hawthorne L, et al., “Risk-sensitive planning for conserving coral reefs under rapid climate change.” 27 June 2018. Conservation Letters, Volume 11, Issue 6, e12587. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12587

DeCaires, Jason Taylor. “An underwater art museum, teeming with life.” TED talk. December 2015. https://www.ted.com/talks/jason_decaires_taylor_an_underwater_art_museum_teeming_with_life?language-en

Drury, Madeleine. “Are giant underwater sculptures helping or harming marine life?” 07/09/2021. Euronews.com. https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/o7/13/are-giant-underwater-sculptures-helping-or-harming-marine-life

Global Coralition. https://www.globalcoralition.org

Netflix and Exposure Labs: “Chasing Coral,” Film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGGBGcjdjXA

The Ocean Agency, “50 Reefs.” Video: https://youtu.be/pFfVpO_q4sg

University of Queensland, Global Change Institute. “Which reefs are the most important to save?” 24 February 217. https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2017/02/which-reefs-are-most-important-save

Vevers, Richard. “Interview,” https://youtu.be/8hMAgr4p7Sg

Wilson, Amy. “Microfragmentation: a breakthrough for coral reef restoration.” 18 September 2018. Medium.com. https://medium.com/@amykwilson/microfragmentation-a-breakthrough-for-coral-reef-restoration-6a2e86c4e2

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June 26, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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Regreening the Sahel: Water, Land, and Renewal

Sahara Desert. Image: wikimedia.

Sahara, sea of sand, desert of legend, is ever-advancing. Over time, the Sahara Desert has expanded into the Sahel, a transnational ‘shore’ of African countries. Population in the Sahel has increased 120% in the last three decades: now, 64% of the population is under 25%. The encroaching Sahara, along with climate change induced heat and drought, is choking crops; 3.7 million people suffering the effects of crop loss, with shortages of millet and sorghum, staples. Famine, conflict, migration threaten the area. The Sahel reaches 3,360 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, all across the southern belt of the Sahara Desert. What can be done? Two answers may be emerging.

The Sahara Desert, seen from space by satellite. The Sahel is just south of the desert. Image: wikimedia.

The Sahel has some of the largest aquifers in the continent, as much as 100 times annual rainfall and other renewable sources. But the Law of Transboundary Aquifers is still in draft. Sahel countries need to decide the use of shared water for drinking, agriculture, and industry. Agreements should also monitor extraction; some of the aquifers are sizable but slow to refill and replenish. Precedent for water sharing might include the Colorado River Compact, especially amendments. A future exploration of the Sahara itself may tap water resources under the sands, and a proposal by Frank P. Davidson for Lake Hope (2012).

Stopping Saharan desert expansion is important. The possibility of planting a green wall across the boundary of the Sahara to stem desert invasion of fertile lands adjacent is said to have been pondered by Richard St. Barbe Baker OBE during a study expedition to the Sahara in the mid 20th century. There was talk of building a test model of 30 miles at that time. But the present vision of green wall across Africa of 4,722 miles (7,600 kilometers) didn’t take root until 2002, when the Green Wall was re-introduced at the summit in Chad of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. Support grew. Three years later, the concept was approved by the Community of Sahel-Saharan States; two years after that, in 2007, the African Union endorsed the “Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative.” The Great Green Wall hopes to restore and renew 100 million hectares by 2030, reduce CO2, absorbing 250 million tons, and create 10 million green jobs. Ethiopia has already restored 15 million hectares.

Great Green Wall of Africa. Image: wikimedia commons.

But results are still to be judged. Some point out that desertification is not just the fault of the Sahara, but instead may be due to deforestation and denuding of land. Observing success in applying traditional water conservation and harvesting methods, and nurturing of trees that appear naturally, the project is evolving into something that is working, in a different way. There are some who warn against some methods of afforestation, and choice of plantings is critical to success. Recent progress in Burkina Faso with building zaï, a grid planting method promoting water retention is one example. Another: increased respect for Faidherbia albida, an indigenous tree that defoliates during the rainy season, dropping leaves that fertilize soil, and also permit full sun during the subsequent early growing season. Other factors might be considered like walking paths, as envisioned by architect Benton MacKaye, resulting in the Appalachian Trail. Some suggest the Green Green Wall of Africa could become a model for a new CCC. The work of John D. Liu combines regreening with camps. Other green walls of afforestation include China’s Three-North Shelter Forest Program, China began the project in 1978 to stop the Gobi desert from advancing; while monoculture and some tree loss are problems, forest size has increased from 5% to 13.% with 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of trees planted (an area the size of western Europe). China will complete the afforestation project in 2050. India’s Green Wall of Aravalli, proposed by Vijaypal Baghel at COP 14 would build 1,6000 km of green; and Great Hedge of India, originally related to customs control line for 1870’s salt tax, and later grown into a living hedge. Progress of green walls can now be tracked through Earth Observation Satellites. ESA’s Prova-V monitors the Sahel.

Gobi Desert and Three-North Shelter Forest of China. Image: wikimedia.

Macroengineering endeavors involving transboundary resources may require an organizational form that allows for coordination of many different and interacting systems. As climate change affects regions, not just nations, will we see more macro solutions? The advancing Sahara desert does not stop at the Mali border but threatens the whole southern edge of the desert. The rising Atlantic ocean does not stop at Maine in the United States but continues to lap the coast of Canada. Africa’s Great Green Wall may set an example.

When completed, the Great Green Wall of the Sahel would be the largest living structure on Earth – three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.  The 7,600 km (4,000 plus miles) natural wonder of the world may be visible from space. As the Great Green Wall evolves to benefit from traditional water conservation measures, countries of the Sahel may work together to rebuild and strengthen the fertility of the land and its treasured water resources, the Sahel may build more than a wall, but also a foundation.

Re-greening the world. Image: “Nursery stock of spruce for afforestation.” Wikimedia commons.

“Building the Great Green Wall,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v-cphSne_HIPA. Accessed 24 June 2020.

Davidson, Frank P., Kathleen Lusk Brooke, with Cherie E. Potts. Building the Future. pages 35-59. Cambridge: 2012.

Gallo, Alexandro. “China: the Green Wall which will stop the desert advancing.” 10 July 2019. ecobnb https://ecobnb.com/blog/2019/07/china-the-new-green-wall-which-will-stop-the-desert-advancing/

Great Green Wall. “The Great Green Wall: Growing a World Wonder.” https://www.greatgreenwall.org/abot-great-green-wall

International Tree Foundation. Oxford, UK. https://internationaltreefoundation.org/

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

Liu, John D. “Green Gold.” FILM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBLZmwlPa8A

Liu, John D. Ecosystem Restoration Camps. https://ecosystemrestorationcamps.org/update-from-john-d-liu-founder-of-ecosystem-restoration-camps/

Meirelles, Fernando. “Great Green Wall.” Film from creator of City of God and The Constant Gardner, Oscar Nominee, and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, with Inna Modja and music collaborators Didier Awadi, Songhoy Blues, Waje, and Betty G. FILM LINK: https://www.greatgreenwall.org/film

Morrison, Jim. “The ‘Great Green Wall’ Didn’t Stop Desertification, But It Evolved Into Something That Might.” 23 August 2016. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertfication-not-so-much-180960171/

Moxam, Roy. The Great Hedge of India. London: Constable & Robinson, 2001. ISBN: 1841194670.

Saeed, Khalid. “The Sahel and System Dynamics,” correspondence discussion, June 2020.

St. Barbe Baker, Richard. My Life, My Trees (2nd edition, 1985) Forres: Findform. ISBN: 0-905249-63-1,

The Stream. “Why is Africa building a Great Green Wall?” 17 September 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK6FUv4fhmo

United Nations. United Nations Convention To Combat Desertification: In Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa. See especially Article 3: “Principles” and Article 10: “Organizational framework of subregional action programs.” https://www.unccd.int/sites/default/files/relevant-links/2017-01/UNCCD_Convention_ENG_0.pdf

United Nations, Convention to Combat Desertification. “The Great Green Wall Initiative.” https://www.unccd.int/actions/great-green-wall-initiative/

United Nations. Law of Transboundary Aquifers. https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/brief/enhancing-knowledge-of-groundwater-usage-in-the-Sahel.  and for the draft articles: https://www.un.org/en/ga/sixth/71/transboundary_aquifers.shtml

Wang, X.M., and Cicheng Zhang, Eerdun Hasi, Z.B. Dong. “Has the Three-North Shelterbelt Program solved the desertification and dust storm problems in arid and semiarid China?” January 2010. Journal of Arid Environments. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2009.08.001. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248568946_Has_the_Three_North_Forest_Shelterbelt_Program_solved_the_desertificatino_and_dust_storm_problems_in_arid_and_semiarid_China.

World Bank Group. “Burkina Faso: The Zaï Technique and Enhanced Agricultural Productivity.” 2005. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/10754

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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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August 26, 2019
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Does Nature Have Rights?

“Forest Fire” Image: wikimedia.

So many trees burned in the Amazon forest that the fire could be seen from space. Brazilian satellite data from National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows an 85% increase in fires, and double that in 2013. While the dry season from July to October sees fires caused by natural events such as lightning strike, other year-round causes may be clearing land for agriculture, grazing, or logging. Forests are damaged; wildlife decimated, and the air choking with smog; carbon emissions have spread as far as Bolivia. As a result, the Amazon basin, critical in regulating global warming because of its carbon-absorbing forests, may change the world environment. The G7 pledged millions in aid and planned to address vulnerable rainforests in Africa, calling these among the ‘lungs’ of the world. Brazil deployed army troops to combat the fire, quelling flames and perhaps some doubt.  But a question remains.

“Bloedel Reserve, Willow Tree” Image: wikimedia commons.

In 1972, Christopher Stone published the seminal work “Should Trees Have Standing?” regarding arboreal rights. Some say “Should Trees Have Standing?” began the environmental movement). There is emerging precedent: some rivers now have legal rights. The Whanganui River was granted rights of personhood in New Zealand; in India, the Yamuna River by the Taj Mahal joined the sacred Ganges in personhood. Bolivia established “LEY DE DERECHOS DE LA MADRE TIERRA: Law of Rights of Mother Earth.” Is this something new, or remembered? Granting personhood to Nature may be a return to the ancient myths, present in every culture, of water and nature spirits. Is it something we once knew?

Arboreal dryad. Image: wikimedia

Determining how to protect and sustain forests, restore burned or hacked ones, plant new ones, will surely be a critical part of the future. The Amazon forest, and the great forests of Africa, may look to many possible approaches. One path may be found in Benton MacKaye’s article “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.” Brazil might consider neighbor Colombia where established rights for the Atrato River also granted rights for the surrounding Amazon forest; it is an intergenerational pact. Will Bolivia’s “Law of Rights of Mother Earth” lead the way ? Are these the voices of the future?

Las actividades humanas, en el marco de la pluralidad y la diversidad, deben lugar equilibrios dinámicos con los ciclos y procesos inherentes a la Madre Tierra.

Athens, A. K. “An Indivisible and Living Whole: Do We Value Nature Enough to Grant it Personhood?” 45 Ecology Law Quarterly. 187 (2018). http://dx.doi.org/https://doi.org/10.15779/Z38251FK44. and https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2185&context=elq.

Climate Interactive. “C-ROADS” – a downloadable (and free) computer simulator that helps recognize long-term climate impacts of actions regarding greenhouse gases, including the importance of forests. By John Sterman, Todd Fincannon, Elizabeth Sawin, Andrew Jones, and Climate Interactive team. https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra. https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

MacKaye, B. “An Appalachian Trail: A project in regional planning.” Journal of American Institute of Architects, 9 (October 1921) pages 325-30.

MacKaye, B. The New Exploration: A Philosophy of Regional Planning. 1928

Rogers, L., and N. Stylianou, C. Guibourg, and M. Hills. “The Amazon in Brazil is on fire – how bad is it?” 23 August 2019. BBC, News, Latin America. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767.

Stone, C.D. “Should trees have standing? – Toward legal rights for natural objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972), pp. 450-501.

Stone, C.D. Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment. 3rd edition, 2010 (originally published in 1973). Oxford University Press. ISBN-13: 978199736072; ISBN-10: 0199736073.

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March 1, 2019
by buildingtheworld
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Should Trees Have Standing?

Trees, Rivers, and the Evolution of Inclusive Rights. Image: “Willow in Japanese Garden, Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge, WA, USA” by Photographer Geaugagrri, 2007. Wikimedia.

Legal rights, including recent developments regarding “personhood” of rivers like New Zealand’s Whanganui, India’s Ganges and Yamuna, and others soon to follow, may be seen as milestones in history, of the most inclusive definition of civilization. Human rights are still evolving; but what about animal and planetary rights, like water, or the rights of earth itself? Some credit Benton MacKaye, forester and originator of the Appalachian Trail proposed in a 1921 article. Others point to the work of Christoper B. Stone whose article and book, Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights For Natural Objects, launched an awareness of Nature’s legal rights that eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. Many date the birth of the environmental movement to Stone’s seminal paper published during a time when deforestation began to trouble the erudite reader of Darwin, Service, and Marshall. As a lawyer, Stone noted that many entities other than humans have been granted rights: Corporations, Church, State, for example. In our present era of climate change, forestation is one of the key determinants of the future, and a central feedback driver in climate systems including C-ROADS, a simulator guiding the COP21 Paris Agreement. As we continue to improve climate and rights, we may find inspiration in the work of Christoper Stone that traces “history through each successive extension of rights.”

Climate Interactive. “C-ROADS” – a downloadable free computer simulator that helps us recognize the long-term climate impacts of actions that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By John Sterman, Todd Fincannon, Elizabeth Sawin, Andrew Jones, and team. https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

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

MacKaye, Benton. The New Exploration: A Philosophy of Regional Planning. 1928

Stone, Christopher D. “Should Trees Have Standing? – Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” Southern California Law Review 45 (1972) pp. 450-501. https://iseethics.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/stone-christopher-d-should-trees-have-standing,pdf

Stone, Christoper D. Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment. 3rd edition, 2010 (originally published 1973). Oxford University Press (ISBN-13: 9780199736072; ISBN-10:0199736073.

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November 9, 2018
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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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October 28, 2016
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World’s Largest Marine Reserve

Penguins on iceberg in Antarctic. Image: wikimedia commons.

In a watermark of history, 1.57m sq km (600,000 sq miles) of the Southern Ocean, considered to be perhaps the Earth’s most pristine marine environment, have become the world’s largest marine reserve. Nations gathered to approve the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources‘ protection of the Ross Sea. It’s only 2% of the vast Southern Ocean, but home to 38% of the world’s Adélie penguins, and other marine life. Some of the deepest areas send nutrients into the currents circling the globe. Lewis Pugh was there. United Nations Patron for the Oceans, the activist athlete undertook a series of swims termed “speedo diplomacy.” Pugh is also the first person to swim the seven seas. The Ross Sea is a time-limited agreement, however: some nations wanted just 20 years, but the parties agreed to 35. Designating nature reserves has been accomplished by individual countries: the National Trails System of the United States is but one example. However, the world’s waters require regional and global agreements.

Innis, Michelle. “Coast of Antarctica Will Host World’s Largest Marine Reserve.” 27 October 2016. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/28/world/australia/antarctica-ross-sea-marine-park.html?_r=0

McGrath, Matt. “World’s largest marine protected area declared in Antarctica. 28 October 2016. BBC.com. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37789594.

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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August 25, 2016
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Happy 100th, National Parks

 

Jason Lusk, photographer. "Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island."

“Crater Lake National Park, Wizard Island.” Jason W. Lusk, Photographer, with permission and appreciation.

Happy 100th birthday to the United States National Park Service. Celebrations included illuminating the New York City skyline, inviting the public to gather at Brooklyn Bridge Park to change the color of One World Trade Center’s Spire as an iconic birthday candle. The 1916 Organic Act authorized the preservation of green space; the Second Century Commission recommended future approaches. One of the earliest green spaces created for public enjoyment might be the walking path of the New River of England, 1613; still in use, the route is recommended by the Ramblers Association. Boston’s Central Artery Project created a greenway through the heart of the city. Costa Rica, world leader in environmental protection, set precedent with Law 7788 on Biodiversity. Perhaps Benton MacKaye launched the Appalachian Trail, authorized after the architect’s essay in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects described the salutary effects of nature as “one of the admitted needs of modern times.”

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April 27, 2016
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Year of the Tree

Earth Day 2016 dedicates the year to planting more trees; 7.8 billion in the next five years. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, having grown from “a national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, sponsored by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, in partnership with Pete McCloskey from Congress, and Denis Hayes of Harvard University: 20 million took to the streets to protest the abuse of, and protect the future of, the environment. Soon, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded; the Clean Air, Clean Water (amended in 1972 from an earlier version) and Endangered Species Acts were made law. In 1990, Nelson and Hayes took Earth Day global: 200 million in 141 countries united around the planet. Environmental provisions were part of the New River, built in England in 1609; the Canal des Deux Mers in France begun in 1666; and Boston’s Central Artery depressed underground while a Greenway graces the former traffic surface. Nature is an increasingly precious resource; 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service of the United States, including the Appalachian Trail. The theme for Earth Day 2016? Trees: 7.8 billion to be planted in the next five years. New England universities including Roger Williams may lead the way. Earth Day April 22 2016 also made history: the largest number of nations ever to sign an international agreement on the same day gathered for the Climate Signing Ceremony at the United Nations.

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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