Building the World

March 31, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Suez Canal

Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal. What is the future of shipping? Image: wikimedia.

One ship 1,300 feet long (400 meters); 14 tug boats; 30,000 cubic meters of mud and sand cleared; 369 ships waiting in line behind the behemoth vessel: these are the elements that marked the reopening of the Suez Canal this week. When the Ever Given stopped traffic on 23 March, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) estimated a $14 million revenue loss for each day of the blockage. Moreover, trade along the waterway that contributes 2% to Egypt’s GDP also stopped – costing $6.7 million per minute. (Russon 2021) Alianz insurer reported the Suez Canal March 2021 blockage cost between $6 billion and $10 billion.

Ever Given earlier in March in the port of Rotterdam. Image: wikimedia.

Almost everything we touch has reached us, at some stage in the supply chain, via ship. Suez averages 106 container vessels and cruise ships per day. Trends in the container shipping industry reveal continuous pressure for size increase: since 1968, container ship capacity has increased 1,200%. (World Shipping Council, 2021) Why the pressure for bigger? One reason is because shipping is twice as energy efficient as rail and seven times more than vehicle. Shipping emits 3.1% of global CO2, but that percentage could rise as other industries decarbonize. The Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) is a globally-binding design standard established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to reduce climate damage caused by shipping: ships built from 2020-2024 will be required to improve energy efficiency by 15-20%, and by 30% after 2025. Many of those ships will transit the Suez Canal.

Suez Canal, southern part, as viewed by Hodoyoshi satellite, 2015. Image: Axelspace Corporation, via wikimedia commons.

As container ships get bigger, canals will too. In 2015, Suez built a parallel waterway deepened by dredging one million cubic meters of sludge daily. Six companies did the work: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company (USA), Jan de Nul Group and Deme Group (Belgium), National Marine Dredging (UAE), Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord (Netherlands). The Panama Canal, begun by Ferdinand de Lesseps but completed by the US, recently installed new locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides that are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than the originals. American ports like Baltimore, Charleston, Miami, Philadelphia, and Virginia have seen increased container traffic from the Panama expansion, according to the Supply Chain Management Program at MIT. The current US proposal “American Jobs Plan” allocates $42 billion for ports (air and sea) that may spur improvements.

Aida performed in the Arena di Verona, Italy, 2006. How can we celebrate great infrastructure in our times? Photographer: Christian Abend. Image: wikimedia commons.

Egypt’s famous waterway opened in 1869; 1.5 million people worked on the canal’s construction, evidence that infrastructure building creates jobs. Ferdinand de Lesseps, retired diplomat, visited his childhood friend now the khedive and viceroy of Egypt, in 1854 and gained concession to build the canal. Diplomacy remained a central value: the Suez contract Article VI states “tariffs of dues for passage…shall be always equal for all nations.” (Building the World, p. 193) To mark the inaugural opening of the Suez Canal, Giuseppe Verdi composed the opera Aida.  Should the “American Jobs Plan,” aimed at rebuilding infrastructure, include funding for art?

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. Building the World: Great Engineering Projects in History. Volume 1, Chapter 16, “The Suez Canal,” pages 187-204. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO, 2006. ISBN: 9780313333736

DC Velocity. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?” 20 December 2018.  https://www.dcvelocity.com/articles/30335-has-the-panama-canal-expansion-changed-anything.

Edwards-May, David, and Li Denan. China’s Grand Canal: Mirror of Civilisation. Xanadu Publishing 2020. ISBN: 9781784591830.

Gooley, Toby. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?”

Inland Waterways International (IWI).  https://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/

Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership and World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. “Mitigation: Moving towards low carbon navigation infrastructure.” @NavClimate.  https://navclimate.pianc.org

Russon, Mary-Ann. “The cost of the Suez Canal blockage.” 29 March 2021. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56559073

Street, Francesca. “What’s it’s really like steering the world’s biggest ships.” 29 March 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/steering-worlds-biggest-ships-suez-canal-cmd/index.html

Tankersley, Jim. “Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan to Rebuild Infrastructure and Reshape the Economy.” 31 March 2021. The New York Times.

Transport & Environment. “Shipping and Climate Change.” https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do-/shipping-and-environment-shipping-and-climate-change

Verdi, Giuseppe. Aida. Performance by Pavarotti. LISTEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8rsOzPzYr8

World Shipping Council. “Container Ship Design.” https://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/liner-ships/container-ship-design.

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December 15, 2019
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Hearing (and Listening to) the Voices of the Future

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It is the world’s youth who must face consequences of decisions made now. Youth4Nature sent a COP25 delegation, and sailing across the Atlantic to get there, the world heard the message of Greta Thunberg, founder of Fridays for Future. Voices of youth may be louder than dicta of governments. UN Secretary General Guterres states: “The technologies that are necessary to make this possible are already available. Signals of hope are multiplying. Public option is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilization. We need political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, and start taxing pollution instead of people.”

Youth Climate Strike, San Francisco, March 2019. Image: wikimedia

Many macro achievements, throughout history, can be traced to the genius and innovation of youth. A 12-year old conceived of a canal joining the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal des Deux Mers of France. Even younger, 10 year-old Ferdinand de Lesseps formed a friendship that would later turn into the Suez Canal. At COP25, it was the youth who insisted and persisted until a draft agreement on responses to climate change could be strengthened by contracts fulfilling promises made in Paris 2015. There is much to be agreed and achieved, including carbon contracts; now that debate awaits Glasgow. Meanwhile, it is hoped the world is not only hearing, but also listening to, the Voices of the Future, Greta Thunberg is TIME Person of the Year.

Irfan, Umair. “‘We are desperate for any signs of hope,’ Greta Thunberg tells UN climate negotiators.” 11 December 2019, Vox. com. https://www.vox.com/2019/12/11/21010673/cop25-greta-thunberg-climate-change-un-meeting-madrid

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Longest talks end with compromise deal.” 15 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment.

Time. “Greta Thunberg: TIME Person of the Year 2019.”https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/

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April 22, 2019
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Earth (Day) Song

“Earth.” Image: NASA.gov.

Lil Dicky didn’t set out to make history, or even a song about the earth. At first, it was just an idea about animals with creatures voiced by a friends. But with friends like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa, and Leonardo DiCaprio, a song for Earth Day was born. Honoring an occasion with music is not a new idea: the Suez Canal’s opening was celebrated with Verdi’s Aida. Philip Glass composed Itaipú to honor the hydroelectric facility that brings power to Brazil and Paraguay. Glass was inspired for the commission by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to write a work based on the original Guaraní name for the river’s sound: “Singing Stone.” Paul Winter attended a lecture by Roger Payne at Rockefeller University, hearing recorded songs of whales; with then-governor of California Jerry Brown, Winter helped found “Whale Day” and began making music with the troubadours of the deep. Carl Sagan included cetic songs in the compendium of music sent into space. On this Earth Day, what will you do to honor, celebrate, and save the Earth? Give a listen: Earth.

Burd, David Andrew, aka Lil Dicky or LD, and friends. “Earth” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvuN_WvF1to

Glass, Philip. “Itaipú.” Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with thanks to William Keene. https://philipglass.com/compositions/itaipu/

Verdi, Giuseppe. “Aïda.” Hear the rendition by Luciano Pavarotti with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8rsOzPzYr8

Sagan, Carl. Murmurs of Earth. NY: Random House, 1978. https://books.google.com/books/about/Murmurs_of_Earth.html?id=oD90-PBNyr8C and, for your listening pleasure and inspiration: “Sounds of the Earth”: https://soundcloud.com/user-482195982/voyager-golden-record-sampler-1

Winter, Paul. http://www.paulwinter.com/paul-winter/musical-vision/, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdv9QJPVPIY.

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January 30, 2019
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Building Peace

Can peace be built? International Peace Day Logo: wikimedia.

 

Are ports the future of peace? There is precedent. An 1854 firman, signed by Pasha al-Said and Ferdinand de Lesseps, stated that a canal, to be built in Egypt, would be open to “all nations”  and “no particular advantage can ever be stipulated for the exclusive benefit of one country” with tariffs equal for all nations. The Suez Canal opened in November 1869 with much fanfare including commissioning of Verdi’s opera “Aida.” In over 200 years, the canal was closed 6 times: the shortest was 3 days; the longest, 8 years. Despite such closures, the canal endeavored to follow the chartered guideline. How successful was the project that included openness and peace in its authorization and financing?  On November 15, 2018, 33 vessels traversed from the North and 23 from the South. The building of the waterway employed 1.5 million people.

Canal des Deux Mers linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. Image: wikimedia.

Almost two hundred years earlier, in 1666, the Canal des Deux Mers, or Canal Between the Seas, by the Edict of October 1666 for the Canal of Languedoc, was decreed and authorized to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean sea, in a waterway open to “all nations of the world as a great work of peace.”

Some call it Silk Road 2.0, but by any name, the Belt and Road Initiative, a system of canals, roads, trains, shipping routes and ports, when built, will be the world’s largest engineering project in history. This transport and connection system will include 1/3 of the world’s trade and GDP and 60% of the world’s population in 65 countries, using 75% of the world’s known energy reserves. Like Suez, or the Canal between the Seas, with open access essential to strategy and purpose, initiatives of such macro scope might include peace in their charter.

Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life suggests four stages of mobilization: Purpose, Structure, Guidance, Resourcing. Guiding the Belt and Road Initiative will be eight International Centers of Excellence, focusing on climate change, environmental research, and disaster risk reduction.

Bangkok’s Wat Pho Temple. Photographer, Ninara, 2016. 4Y1A0213. Image: wikimedia commons.

Bangkok may lead the way. The first International Centre of Excellence on Integrated Climate Change, Disaster Risk and Environmental Research and Capacity Building opened in Thailand on 27 February 2018. It’s in partnership with Asian Institute of Technology, Geo-Information and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), and Ramkhamhaeng University Center of Regional Climate Change and Renewable Energy (RU-CORE). When Professor GUO Huadong, Chair of DBAR (Digital Belt and Road) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NRCT Secretary-General Sirirung Songsivilai, the agreement chartered the Center in Bangkok (ICoE-Bangkok) to create a satellite database for “environmental protection, risk reduction, food stability, urban development, and the preservation of coastal resources and world heritage sites.” The Suez Canal linked banking and peace; recent studies have suggested that banking may be one of the keys to chartering and maintaining peace. Guiding factors regarding resources – financial, natural, and human – Thailand might help to build the future, opening a portal of peace.

Asian Institute of Technology. “Earth Data Analytics to be AIT focus in Digital Belt and Road (DBAR).” 4 April 2018. https://www.ait.ac.th/2018/04/earth-data-analytics-ait-focus-digital-belt-road-dbar/

DBAR. “Digital Belt and Road Programme Opens its First Centre of Excellence in Bangkok.” 28 February 2018. http://www.dbeltroad.org/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid-85&id=629.

Edwards-May, David. “Decline and Renaissance: 1975-1994,” From Sea to Sea: An Illustrated History of the Canal du Midi. by L.T.C. Rolt with postscript by David Edwards- May. Euromapping. ISBN: 2910185028.

Kunaka, Charles. “Six Corridors of Integration: Connectivity Along the Overland Corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 October 2018. The Trade Post Blog; The World Bank. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/six-corridors-integraion-connectivity-along-overland-corridors-belt-and-road-initiative.

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

Suez Canal Authority. https://www.suezcanal.gov.eg

The Nation. 28 February 2018. “Thailand sets up technological center for B&R Initiative. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/breakingnews/30339848.

World Bank. “Belt and Road Initiative.” 29 March 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/regional-integration/brief/belt-and-road-initiative.

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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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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March 22, 2018
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Water Day: Wear Blue

World Water Day: Wear Blue. Indigo, popular 5,000 years ago in the Indus Vally where the color gets its name, was called nila. The color dye was popular on the Silk Road. Image: wikimedia

World Water Day: March 22, 2018. We’re an increasingly thirsty world: by 2050, one-third of the planet will suffer water scarcity. Climate change intensifies problems: floods and drought are worse. More than 3 billion people suffer diminished access to water for at least one month each year due to drought: that number is set to increase by 2050 to 5 billion. Mitigating influences of forests and wetlands are vanishing: two-thirds have been cut or built upon since 1900, according to a study released by the United Nations. Rivers are polluted, with ten rivers identified as the major source of marine plastic debris. Think those problems are “elsewhere” and you may be alarmed to find 80% of tap water contains microplastics. What can you do, as an individual? Social scientists observe the original days of the week had a dedicatory purpose, still detectable in the names. For example, the Japanese day Suiyōbi is Wednesday, meaning Water Day. Should we rededicate the days of the week to raise awareness of our shared resources, including water? One fashion leader suggests wearing blue as a way to honor water. Would you consider dedicating one day each week to water?

Schlanger, Zoë. “We can’t engineer our way out of an impending water scarcity epidemic.” 21 March 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1234012/we-cant-engineer-our-way-out-of-an-impending-water-scarcity-epidemic/

World Water Day. http://worldwaterday.org

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September 30, 2017
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Canals: building the future

Caño Martín Peña  may offer a vision for the future. Help Puerto Rico now. Image: wikipedia.

Caño Martín Peña stretches 3.75 miles linking wetlands and canals to rivers meeting the sea of San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico. In 2004, eight communities along the canal incorporated to protect the canal, and dredge the channel; in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership issued a nueva vida – new life- vision for the canal. Rebuilding Puerto Rico, after recent hurricane destruction, may increase awareness of canals in flood mitigation. According to Inland Waterways International, canals create economic and environmental benefits, as well as locally-generated electric power. The World Canal Cities Organization recently met in Shaobo, China to explore the Grand Canal, busiest in the world, and building block of the Belt and Road InitiativePanama and Suez are also notable. The Erie Canal opened the United States to a new era of development; the New York Canal Corporation worked with the World Canals Conference to host the 2017 conference on the Erie Canal in Syracuse, New York. What should the future hold for the world’s canals? How might Puerto Rico lead the way? Enlace and the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project aim to improve 6,600 acres of the San Juan Bay, and the lives of those near its waters. In the future, canals may help coastal cities weather rising seas, allowing the water in as in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico looks for help now, and leadership in the future, perhaps including a new vision of canals.

To help Puerto Rico:https://www.consumerreports.org/charitable-donations/how-you-can-help-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico/ and http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/can-help-hurricane-victims-puerto-rico/

Urban Waters Federal Partnership, “New Life for the Martín Peña Channel.”https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/martinpenabackgrounder_0.pdf

Building the World, “A River Runs Through It.” https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

Kimmelman, Michael. “Going With the Flow.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/arts/design/flood-control-in-the-netherlands-now-allows-sea-water-in.html?mcubz=3

Inland Waterways International, “World Wide Waterways.” http://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/blog/

New York Canal Corporation, http://www.canals.ny.gov

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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June 8, 2017
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The Deep Frontier

Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, Coral reef, Guam, Mariana islands. NOAA Coral Kingdom Collection: Photographer, David Burdock. Wikimedia commons.

World oceans may be the deep frontier; we have explored just 5% of the seas that give name to the water planet. Great cities were built for ocean access: Amsterdam, port of the Netherlands; Singapore, hub of the trade winds; New York, joined inland by the Erie Canal, celebrating its 200th anniversary. Other ocean to inland waterways include the Grand Canal of China, the world’s longest; Suez and Panama, both led by Ferdinand de Lessups. Will the Channel Tunnel inspire a TransAtlantic HyperloopOcean Portal, by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, offers educational resources for teachers and students. June 8 marks World Oceans Day, when over 100 countries honor, and protect, our oceans.

For the 5% of the oceans we have explored, and the future of our oceans: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html

For World Oceans Day: http://www.worldoceansday.org

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April 22, 2017
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It’s Earth Day: Look Up!

Ra, Egyptian sun god. Artist: Jeff Dahl. Image: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day. Could the answer to our planet’s energy problems and resultant climate change be found by looking up? Every culture on earth has myths about the sun. For example, Egypt worshipped Ra, the sun god whose falcon head was crowned with a solar disk. In 1973, building upon the success of COMSAT and the Apollo Moon Landing, Peter Glaser was awarded the United States patent for solar power from space, via satellite. Honored in the spring, as the sky glows with a stronger light, Earth Day might call us to look up.

Thanks to Jacques Horvilleur, and Lucien Deschamps, and Sociéte de électricité et des électronique et des technologies de l’information et de la communication (SEE), Société des Ingénieurs et Scientifiques de France (ISF).

For solar power from space: http://archive.org/details/sps91powerfromsp00unse/

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April 14, 2017
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Why is an Orange like a Light Bulb?

The water-energy-food nexus may influence the growing of oranges, in competition for lightbulbs and drinking water. Image: wikimedia commons.

Did you know that growing one orange requires 13.8 gallons of water? Next time you crunch into an almond, you’ll consume the result of one gallon. California grows both: a result, in part, of the Colorado River Compact. Edward Spang of the University of California Davis, as well as colleagues including David H. Marks of MIT, predict competition for water use will increase in the water-energy-food nexus. Spang developed a water consumption for energy production (WCEP) indicator, comparing the use of water for different forms of energy in over 150 countries. Fossil fuels and biofuels require the most water; wind is less thirsty. The United Nations cites the World Water Development Report: “If water, energy, and food security are to be simultaneously achieved, decision-makers, including those responsible for only a single sector, need to consider broader influences and cross-sectoral impacts. A nexus approach is needed.”

For more: Spang, Edward. “A Thirst for Power: A Global Analysis of Water Consumption for Energy Production.” GWF Discussion Paper 1246. Global Water Forum, Canberra, Australia. http://www.globalwaterforum.org/2012/10/23/a-thirst-for-power-a-global-analysis-of-water-consmption-for-energy-production/and also see: http://cwee.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10-25-2013-ThirstforPower_Final.pdf

“Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” E.S. Spang, W.R. Moomaw, K.S. Gallagher, P. H. Kirshen, and D.H. Marks. 8 October 2014. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, Number 10. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/meta

Ahuja, Satinder, Editor. Food, Energy, and Water. Elsevier 2015. https://www.elsevier.com/books/food-energy-and-water/ahuja/978-0-12-800211-7

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