Building the World

July 22, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Heat melts airport runway

“Aircraft landing at Zurich International Airport” by Kuhnmi_DSC-3711.2, 2014. Creative Commons license 2.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciaiton.

Airline woes have lately taken a toll on passengers, crew, aircraft maintenance, and profits. But during this week’s heat wave, an airport runway melted. When London, England, UK suffered a temperature rise to 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), Luton airport had to suspend flights to repair a runway damaged by intense heat. Transport infrastructure is made of materials susceptible to heat. Roads buckle, and airport runways are specialized roads.

“Hammersmith Bridge, 1827.” Original drawing scanned by Project Gutenberg. Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Bridges are also vulnerable. City of famed London Bridge saw some structures falling down. Hammersmith Bridge was wrapped, Cristo style, in a cooling material designed to reflect sunlight away. The temperature control system, costing about half-million dollars (420,000 Pounds), is designed to keep the 135-year-old bridge from melting and placing an untenable load on its support pedestals that are made of cast-iron, also vulnerable to heat.

“Three Rail Tracks” by photographer G-Man, 2003. Dedicated to the public domain. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Railways become hot grids when sunlight sears the rails. With the high ambient temperatures combining with sun rays on the rails, the heat reaches 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit). The solution? Painting the rails white.

Wildfires cause damage to people, animals, plants, and also to the atmosphere. “Carbon Monoxide from Amazon Wildfires in 2019.” NASA/JPL-Caltech. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

In Europe and the UK, heat is causing wildfires: 27,000 acres scorched in southwestern France, causing 32,000 people to leave their homes. Spain’s wildfires caused the state railway to suspend service; in Portugal, one person died every 40 minutes between July 7-13. In the United States, over 100 million people are sweltering in record-breaking heat. In China, heat melted the roof of the museum housing cultural treasures of the ancient Forbidden City. Sadly, each season brings the same dangers and the same warning: according to World Weather Attribution (WWA), the 2021 heat wave was “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” In addition to human and natural resources suffering, heat waves damage economies: projected economic impacts in Europe by 2060 are expected to increase five-fold (García-León 2021).

“How a heat wave forms.” by U.S. weather.gov. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. With appreciation.

Bad as that news is, it is also an indication of the potential savings – in human, natural, and economic resources – of innovations that can halt and reverse climate change – and also innovations in materials more suitable to a warming world. Even with climate goals met, warming will continue for some decades. Aging transport infrastructure is due for rebuilding: bridges, roads, and runways need an upgrade. What kinds of materials can be developed for a changing climate?

García-León, David, et al., “Current and projected regional economic impacts of heatwaves in Europe.” Nat Commun 12, 5807 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26050-z

Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Keeping Hammersmith Bridge cool- and open – in the heatwave.” 13 July 2022. https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/articles/news/2022/07/keeping-hammersmith-bridge-cool-and-open-heatwave

National Weather Service, NOAA. “WetBulb Globe Temperature.” https://www.weather.gov/tsa/wbgt

Vera, Amir. “It’s so hot, roads are buckling, they’re putting foil on a bridge, and roofs are melting around the world.” 22 July 2022. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/21/weather/global-infrastructure-its-so-hot-extreme-heat/index.html

World Weather Attribution (WWA). “Western North American extreme heat virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” 7 July 2021. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/western-north-american-extreme-heat-virtually-impossible-without-human-caused-climate-change/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

 

 

 

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June 17, 2021
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Linking the World

“Ancient Silk Road,” image: wikimedia commons.

The history of civilization may be measured by connection. First it was the Silk Road that connected cities; then it was the age of ships that created ports from Singapore to Suez.  Canals threaded connection through waterways, making one route from inland to sea: the Grand Canal, Canal des Deux Mers, Erie, Panama. Rail linked continents: the Trans-Continental, Canadian Pacific, and the Trans-Siberian united people across vast spans. But each of these achievements was a separate project.

“Belt and Road Initiative.” graphic design by Mathildem 16, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

BRI or B3W? Now, there are two plans to connect the world in a more comprehensive way: the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) announced and begun in 2013 by China, and the “Build Back Better for the World” (B3W) proposed by the G7 in 2021. China is ahead: more than 100 countries have signed BRI agreements. Some comment that the BRI is able to move quickly from plan to construction of new ports linked to rail and road routes, and also express concern regarding resourcing: financial, human, and natural. But some say that the G7 could take inspiration from Charlemagne who united disparate groups through links of education, as well as land and sea. The G7’s B3W may include capital to fund areas like climate, digital technology, health security, as well as transport.

Will B3W make waves of change? “47th G7 2021 Waves Logo,” wikimedia commons.

Climate change will cause a new vision. It is certain that the world needs rebuilding: old bridges, ports, rail, and roads are in dire need of replacement, while new infrastructure could transform many places not yet linked. Some have cited the Marshall Plan as precedent to rebuilding and linking a new vision of the world. Others may see different possibilities that include contemporary concerns. As BRI and B3W consider terms of engagement and goals of success, is there an opportunity to link the world through the values of inclusion, peace, and sustainable resilience?  What is your vision of an interconnected world?

Ruta, Michele. “Three Opportunities and Three Risks of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 May 2018. World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/three-opportunities-and-three-risks-belt-and-road-initiative

Sanger, Davi. E. and Mark Landler. “Biden Tries to Rally G7 Nations to Counter China’s Influence.” 12 June 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/world/europe/biden-china-g7html?referringSource=articleShare

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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September 4, 2018
by Building The World
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Preserving World Heritage: Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel, World Heritage Site. Image: wikimedia

Abu Simbel, site of the great temple built by Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, in 13th century bce, crowned the Nubian valley bordering Egypt and Sudan. Nearby, the Nile River flows through Aswan to Cairo. It was just a few decades ago that engineers and archeologists saved Abu Simbel from a watery grave, somewhere at the bottom of Lake Nasser, reservoir formed by the 1960 construction of the High Dam at Aswan. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) rushed to save Abu Simbel: the temple was taken apart piece by piece, and moved to a site where it was reassembled like a giant Lego construction. February 22 (day Ramses took the throne) and 22 October (Ramses’ birthday) were highlighted by the alignment of the temple so that dawn’s light would illuminate Ramses’ statue, enshrined within. In September 1968, fifty years ago, the project stood completed as one of the premier World Heritage Sites. Success bred success: World Heritage sites followed including Cyrene, Angkor Wat, Lake Baikal, Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal, and the Statue of Liberty.

Kiniry, Laura. “Egypt’s exquisite temples that had to be moved.” 10 April 2018. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180409-egypts-exquisite-temples-that-had-t0-be-moved.

UNESCO. World Heritage Centre. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

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 18, 2018
by Building The World
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Volcanology and the Future

“Kilauea at Dusk,” photographed in 1983 by G.E. Ulrich, USGS. Image: wikimedia.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano has been erupting, dangerously. But it is always in some form of activity, as one of the world’s most active volcanos, and is therefore heavily instrumented. Volcanic prediction is feasible, according to Paul Segall, professor of geophysics at Stanford University; whereas earthquakes, caused by similar disturbances below Earth’s surface, are less predictable. Volcanos may become an important factor in mitigating climate change. Here’s why:

Iceland is the site of CarbFix, exploring the future of carbon capture. When CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere, at a plant near Reykjavik’s Hellisheidi power station, it is pumped underground to combine with basalt. As a result, the combination becomes rock. In fact, the ancient Romans used volcanic ash to form a particular building material. Basalt contains calcium, magnesium, and iron – elements that bind easily with CO2; basalt is like a sponge for CO2. Could this be answer to Earth’s carbon crisis? Maybe – basalt is the most common rock type on the planet; it’s even found on the ocean floors. India, Saudi Arabia, and Siberia are particularly well-endowed. Problem? CarbFix is water-intensive, not ideal for the already thirsty water planet. It takes 25 tons of water to transform one ton of CO2. Humans cause the emission of 35 gigatons of CO2 (a gigaton is a billion tons) per year. But the potential encourages research by CarbFix partners including Columbia University in New York, National Center for Scientific Research in France, and Reykjavik Energy in Iceland. Theoretically, the amount of world basalt could store all the CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, since Prometheus.

Kilauea is a basaltic shield volcano, producing an eruptive form of basalt called Tholeiite, according to Ken Rubin, professor of geology and geophysics, University of Hawaii.  It’s the dominant basalt type on Earth. In the future, we may learn to work with volcanic basalt to combat CO2 emissions and build a better climate. Meanwhile, if you would like to give support to those in need, due to Kilauea’s recent eruption, here are some ways to help.

For more:

Ancheta, Dillon. “Here’s how to help those affected by the Big Island eruptions.” 5 May, updated 22 May, 2018. Hawaii News Now. http://www.hawaiinewsnowcom/story/38119223/heres-how-you-can-donate-to-those-impacted-by-the-kilauea-eruption/.

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Philosopher’s Stone?” 17 June 2018, Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2016/06/17/philosophers-stone/

CarbFix. https://www.or.is/carbfix

Perasso, Valeria. “Turning carbon dioxide into rock – forever.” 18 May 2018. BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/world-43789527/.

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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January 1, 2018
by Building The World
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2018: Celebrate the 8’s

“Green 8 in a Sea of Blue.” Earth Observatory Image: https://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov.

Seen from space, the Americas look a bit like a green 8 in a sea of blue. One glance reveals our planet is made of regions, not nations. Rivers do not stop at lines arbitrarily drawn on a map: transboundary waters are shared resources. Another interconnection: land use, including transport. Great rail systems of history such as the Trans-Siberian or Canadian Pacific railways redefined connection through rapidly advancing transit technologies. Now, electric highways, autonomous vehicles, and hyperloop transit could link continents in innovation.

In 2018, Canada, Mexico, and the United States debate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Negotiations should include transboundary water resources; legal precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations. Nafta truckers could pioneer automated highways that might steer negotiations. But Nafta may be too small to address macro issues.

Is it now time to extend the north american discussion, to a broader regional scope? Afta Nafta. Decisions about water quality in one nation may impact another; transit links continents, not countries. Oceans may ultimately determine the fate of cities: from Natal to New York, many are coastal. What if everyone in the Americas learned at least one of the languages of their neighbors? Language-based education and cultural exchange might stir innovation in areas such as shared water resources, intelligent highways, public health, and rights. Could there be a regional tour of beauty, instead of a tour of duty? Xchange students and volunteers could form corps maintaining readiness for disaster response (by definition, regional) while practicing environmental service, in an updated CCC of the Americas. Potential logo? Green 8 in a Circle of Blue.

It might be noted that 8, viewed on the horizontal plane, is the infinity symbol. System scientists may suggest that two interconnecting loops could form a renewing system. The infinity symbol was the creation, in 1655, of John Wallis (he also served as chief cryptographer for Parliament). Whether it remains infinite or not, our shared environment depends upon our actions. Perhaps it is time to dedicate at least one year, per decade, to improvement of our shared resources: celebrate the 8’s by honoring interconnection.

“Infinity Symbol” Image: wikimedia commons

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 15, 2017
by Building The World
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Words and Swords

Word balloon types. Image: wikimedia commons.

Code talk and authorizations. What is the not-so-hidden code in a government directive that certain words or phrasing not be used in budget proposals, lest those words become swords killing the possibility of funding. Forbidden phrases: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Word prohibitions include “diversity” and “vulnerable.” Authorizations throughout history have varied: some were a notes scrawled from parent to child, as in the Trans-Siberian Railway. Others were private handshakes made public, as in the New River. A few espoused values for the future of humanity: the Atomic Energy Act set the guiding purpose of peace. But de-authorizing certain code words by directive may be one of the few instances where values are so explicitly defined, and demanded. Summing up the reaction of many, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, tweeted: “Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous.”

What do you think about “science-based” and “evidence-based?” What about the other directives? Can language ever be changed, or is it beyond directive? Abram de Swaan, of the Amsterdam School for Social Research, University of Amsterdam, observed that military conquests cause the spread of new wordings and even languages, but as soon as the newcomers are ousted, language returns to its natural evolution.

De Swaan, Abram. Words of the World: The Global Language System. Wiley 2013. ISBN: 9780745676982. Originally published, Polity Books, 2001.

Sun, Lena H. and Juliet Eilperin. “CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity.” 15 December 2017. The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html?utm_term=.08926eab4d6a

https://www.cdc.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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November 3, 2017
by Building The World
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First Migration: Next Mission

Image: United Nations University. www.merit.unu.edu

Humans fanned out to encircle the world; now, we hold its destiny in our hands. Originating in Africa, traversing the planet by waterways, roads, trains, and air, human builders created the Grand Canal of China, the Roman roads and aqueducts, united lands by the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Channel Tunnel, ultimately following Daedalus to take wing above and beyond the world. See the path of human migration in this animation map. Migration is still one of the top five challenges of civilization. Now that we have put our collective arms around the planet, what work must we do with hand, mind, and heart? Will the next migration include a fuller definition of nature, and the role we now take in shaping destiny?

Thanks to George H. Litwin, Isabel Rimanoczy, and Laurie Smith Weisberg for suggestions.

American Museum of Natural History. Video showing human migration over 200,000 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmA3Q0_OE

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation Series. Gnome Press, 1951 ff.

Gugliotta, Guy. “The Great Human Migration: Why humans left their African homeland 80,000 years ago to colonize the world.” July 2008, Smithsonian Magazinehttps://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-great-human-migration-13561/

Kalin Anev Janse. “How to Manage the Top Five Global Economic Challenges.” 1 November 2017. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/what-are-the-top-five-challenges-for-international-organizations/.

Rimanoczy, Isabel. Big Bang Being: Developing the Sustainability Mindset. Greenleaf Publishing: 2013.

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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July 2, 2014
by Building The World
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23% Solution

Lake Baikal, southern shore. Image: wikimedia commons.

Lake Baikal, world’s deepest lake, contains 23% of the world’s freshwater reserves. The size of Switzerland, Lake Baikal posed an almost insurmountable challenge to builders of Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. At first, travelers traversed the 250-meter (400-mile) lake by boat; during winter, traditional sleighs were used. Finally, 200 bridges and 33 tunnels completed the rail route, hugging the Baikal’s southern shore. The Trans-Siberian Railway inspired Wallace Hickel, twice governor of Alaska, and Mead Treadwell, current lieutenant governor, to visit Russia to consider development of a link across the Bering Strait. In 2012, Ernst Frankel described the potential of such a route. How can the environmental integrity of lakes, rivers, and oceans be preserved while exploring transport options?

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 3, 2014
by Building The World
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Linking North America by Train

 

Why not build a train route linking Canada, United States, and Mexico? Image: wikimedia commons.

When the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, Montreal suddenly became married to Vancouver. The Canadian Pacific Railway employed 3.5 million workers, another benefit. Should Nafta encourage a vac-train line linking Canada, United States, and Mexico? Might the route include a Sportsway? North America could found a Center for the Study of Trains, patterned after the Russian Railway Service Corps, via universities of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Education and employment might combine in a rethink of the medieval guilds, helping to achieve what Christopher Wilson of the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars terms “globally literate workforces.”

For more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/world/americas/as-ties-with-china-unravel-us-companies-head-to-mexico.html

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/mexico-institute-the-news-arizona-manufacturer-sees-mexico-key-to-growth

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 16, 2013
by Building The World
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International Railway Corps

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/BalticRailTerminal008.jpg

What is the destiny of train transport? The Trans-Siberian Railway set a model not only for rail, but also social, engineering. When the Russian line, completed in 1904, needed upgrading in 1917, Russia and the United States entered into a cooperative agreement. George Emerson, an executive in the American rail industry, was called to Washington with an urgent mission: recruit a corps of 300 Americans from leading U.S.  railway companies to join the Russian Railway Service Corps. Executives left Chicago and New York, moving to Russia for eight years to work side-by-side with their engineering colleagues. One might imagine there was toasting, as well as technology transfer. For more on the Russian Railway Service Corps, visit http://www.indianahistory.org/our-collections/collection-guides/warren-f-hockaday-collection-ca-1899-ca-1934.pdf. Should today’s transport engineers found an International Railway Corps to design regional and global systems? Will Mead Treadwell’s proposal for rail across the Bering Strait be built via Nafta/Alena/Tlcan? Might Svetlana Kuzmichenko’s report on extending the Trans-Siberian to Japan for a Tokyo-Moscow-London line or to South Korea via North Korea for a Seoul-Moscow-London line become reality, perhaps studied at a station/university like the venerable Baltic Rail Terminal?

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