Building the World

November 18, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Day of Two Noons

18 November – Day of Two Noons.

Image: Anakin101. Donated to public domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation

Transport has advanced civilization in many ways, but did you know that trains gave us standard time zones? When railroads began to connect the world, there were no established time zones. Each city had a town clock, sometimes a sun dial: when the device displayed “noon,” all the businesses and homes in that city would set their own clocks accordingly. As a result, noon was slightly different in Albany and in New York City: this was acceptable for cities but not for the trains that connected them. Accidents plagued the new mode of transport, and became a serious hazard with the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, approved in 1862 and completed in 1869.

“East and West Shaking Hands,” photograph of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad by Andrew J. Russell, public domain. Included with appreciation.

It was railroad engineers who introduced the idea of standard time zones. In the United States, Charles F. Dowd proposed the concept in 1863, but it would be twenty years until a five-zone system designed by William F. Allen, editor of a railway guide, became law. On 18 November, 1883, at noon, every railroad clock was reset. Some towns and stations had already passed noon on their sundial, so November 18, in 1883, became known as the Day of Two Noons.

“TIme Zones (2012)” showing the zones in reference to the Prime Meridian or Greenwich Meridian. Image by NASA. Public domain. Included with appreciation.

International time zones soon followed. Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway, proposed standardizing time zones across the world. In 1884, the International Prime Meridian Conference, meeting in Washington, DC and chaired by Count Lewenhaupt, Delegate for Sweden, adopted the system of AM and PM (Ante Meridiem and Post Meridiem) based on Greenwich Mean Time and coordinated globally, on 22 October 1884.

Today, 18 November, when your time-keeping device (be it digital, analogue, or solar – phone, clock, or sundial), take a minute to celebrate the Day of Two Noons.

Davidson, Frank P and K. Lusk Brooke,  “The Transcontinental Railroad,” pages 205 – 218; “The Canadian Pacific Railway,” pages 253-287. Building the World. Westport: Greenwood, 2006.

International Prime Meridian Conference. http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/info/conference-finalact.htm.

New York Times. “Turning Back the Hands: A Quiet Change to the Standard Time.” 18 November 1883. Digital reproduction of text: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5748

Terrell, Ellen. “The Day of Two Noons.” January 2021. Library of Congress. https://guides.loc.gov/this-month-in-business-history/november/day-of-two-noons

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November 11, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER: Armies, Veterans, and Peace

Veterans Day, a Call to Peace. “Veterans Day Poster, 1987.” Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Today is Veterans Day, observed in the United States on November 11 since 1919, and founded to commemorate the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (in 1918) when an Armistice ended World War I. Soon thereafter, the Paris Peace Conference resulted in the Treaty of Versailles. In 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day. While today honors those who serve in readiness for war, the origin of the holiday is peace.

Peacetime Roman Army built roads and aqueducts. Image: “Praetorian Guard, circa 50 CE.” Louvre, France. Photograph by Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick. Gnu license, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

What is the role of armies in peace? During times of peace, the Roman Army built roads that connected Italy and beyond, and deployed military squadrons to explore and then build the Roman Aqueducts to bring fresh water to the central city. The Netherlands instituted Dike Armies in 1319 to respond to water emergencies.

“Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend,” by photographer Paul Hermans, 2012. CC3.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Water emergencies are still with us today, perhaps more than ever. The Colorado River, bringing water and electricity to 1 in 10 Americans, as well as agriculture and industry, is 19% smaller than in 2000; reservoirs Lake Mead and Lake Powell are severely depleted. Hydroelectricity, produced by Hoover Dam’s harnessing of the Colorado River, is threatened by drought. The Mississippi River suffers concerning depletion. The same is true for many rivers around the world.  Rights of Rivers deserve protection. Who will defend them?

“Hurricane Ian making landfall, 28 September 2022,” by National Hurricane Center, U.S. National Weather Service. Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Water problems are causing drought and also inundation. Recent torrents from Hurricane Ian devastated Florida, caused loss of life and property damage totaling in the billions. Areas hit by increasingly powerful floods and storms need rebuilding. Who will do this? How can we best respond to climate damage, or build protection?

History offers an inspiration to uphold military expertise, service, and tradition. We might save our coasts by a modern day equivalent of the Dike Army. We can follow the productive example of the Roman army in sustaining the Colorado River and other threatened water sources.  Armies, and veterans, might serve in what William James called the “Moral Equivalent of War” – defending Nature and Peace.

“Pace” – Italian for Peace. Can we find inspiration in the Roman Army’s works of peace? Image: “Pace” by Fibonacci, CCC3.0. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

James, William. “The Moral Equivalent of War.” Lecture 11, pages  267-296, in Memories and Studies. NY: Longman Green and Company, 1911 and presented at Stanford University in 1910 followed by publication in McClure’s Magazine, pages 463-468, August 1910. LINK to text: http://www.public-library.uk/ebooks/65/5.pdf

Nilsen, Ella. “Feds begin ‘expedited’ process to help save drought-stricken Colorado River.” 28 October 2022. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/28/us/colorado-river-lake-mead-powell-drought-plan-climate/index.html

Paris Peace Conference. https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/the-ministry-and-its-network/the-diplomatic-archives/documents-from-the-diplomatic-archives/article/diplomatic-archives-the-peace-conference-paris-18-01-1919

Rights of Rivers. “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Rivers.” www.RightsOfRivers.org

Rojas, Rick. “As Drought Drops Water Level in the Mississippi, Shipwrecks Surface and Worries Rise.” 3 November 2022. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/03/us/mississippi-river-drought.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare

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November 4, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: the buzz on how bees generate electricity

The electrical charge from a bee’s flight can help identify a flower with ample pollen. Image: “Bee-Apis” by Maciej A. Czyzewski, CC 4.0. Included with appreciation.

In an era when we seek to electrify many aspects of modern life, some of the most ancient life forms may teach us a thing or two. Bees, and other aerial insects, create an electrical charge. When a bee flutters its wings, the movement generates a positive electrical charge; you might compare this to the spark that can be raised by rubbing your stockinged feet across a carpet or a balloon on your arm. For bees, that electrical charge stays on their body and helps to pull pollen from a visited flower. An “echo” of the electrical signal is left behind, so the next bee hovering nearby can sense whether the flower has been recently visited and savored, or may offer a fresh serving of pollen.

What is the electrical effect of a swarm? Image: “Optical illusion disc with birds, butterflies, and person jumping.” 1833. Library of Congress: 00651165. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

If one bee or butterfly can generate electricity, what’s the effect of a swarm or a group migration? Scientists have discovered that Earth’s atmosphere holds several kinds of electrical charges; these energy fields influence things like aerosols and dust. Recent studies have confirmed that insect swarms contribute to atmospheric electricity; the more dense a swarm, the more electricity enters the atmosphere. There’s a measurement protocol ranging from picocoulombs to nanocoulombs (one coulomb equals the quantity of electrical charge that passes a point in an electric circuit in one second by a steady current of one ampere. The term is named after Charles Augustin de Coulomb (1736-1806), physicist credited with discoveries in electricity and magnetism).

“A plague of locusts.” by SCIRO, Science Image 2007. CC3.0. wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Honeybees, butterflies, and locusts are among aerial insects that produce significant atmospheric electrical charges. If a swarm is large enough (think Biblical descriptions of plagues of locusts), the insects’ electrical charge can equal that from weather events like storms. In current climate models, and observations by weather satellites by NASA and ESA, insect swarms are rarely included when assessing atmospheric dust, or interaction of radiation and particulate matter. Should we count insect swarms along with thunderstorms?

“Lightening Storm” by Jan Bambach, 2015. Wikimedia 3.0. Included with appreciation.

‘Save the honey bee’ campaigns rightly champion preserving pollinators on the ground; now there is evidence of influence a bit higher up. It’s one more way we are realizing that Earth’s climate is an interconnected system.

Hunting, E.R. et al., “Observed electric charge of insect swarms and their contribution to atmospheric electricity.” 24 October 222. Cell. iScience. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.1052

Savitsky, Zack. “Swarming bees stir up their own electric fields: Insect swarms can generate more volts per meter than thunderstorms.” 25 October 2022. Science. https://www.science.org/content/article/swarming-bees-stir-their-own-electric-fields

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October 26, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: If cars could fly

Flying cars have long been a dream: this one’s from 1947. But new models are coming to a sky near you, soon, Image: “Convair Model 118” from 1947. Wikimedia, public domain, Included with appreciation.

If the car changed history, even more so: the airplane. Now these common modes of transport must, themselves, change. Transport contributes 25% to CO2 emissions, from the burning of fossil fuels. We are seeing adoption of electric vehicles, encouraged by automobile manufacturers’ new vehicles and installation of charging networks. Air travel has not made the transition to zero-carbon as easily: aircraft are simply too heavy to run on batteries. But what if cars could fly? And do so on electricity?

“Back to the Future” starring Michael J. Fox featured a flying car. Image: wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Alef, in California, has invented a flying car that drives on regular roads, and then transforms into a biplane. For the sum of $300,000 you can go “Back to the Future.” And, it’s electric. Pal-V, made in the Netherlands, will cost $599,000; or $399,000 for a sports edition: both models include training in the price. AirCar is a hybrid car/plane that runs on a BMW engine using gasoline: it can fly 600 miles once it morphs from car to aircraft.

“Cormorant” from Israel Defense Forces, built by Tactical Robotics LTD, Image by Timus Saban, 2016. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

What’s the market for flying cars? Morgan Stanley estimates it will be worth $1.5 trillion in 2040. Some Tesla investors have expressed support, and technologies like AirCar, Pal-V gyrocopter, and Alef might interest the military, like the above Cormorant flying vehicle used by the Israel Defense Forces, or NASA where vehicles roaming planets need to travel by land and by air. Since Daedalus, innovative humans have found inspiration from Nature where birds strut the ground, then fly through the sky. Will we soon join them?

“Seagull in flight,” by Mark Buckawiki, 2017. Wikimedia Creative Commons 1.0 Donated into the public domain by the author, and included with appreciation.

Kleinman, Zoe “Flying car completes test flight between airports.” 29 June 2021. BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-57651843

Vallance, Chris. “The flying car that could turn into a biplane.” 21 October 2022. BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-63325341

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October 21, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Cutting down on Flare ups

“North Dakota Flaring of Gas, Bakken Formation,” by Joshua Doubek, 2012. Creative Commons 3.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Shooting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – as a matter of convenience? Drilling for oil releases gas, a side effect. In many drilling locations, gas is just burnt off to get rid of it quickly; this practice is so common that it is called “routine flaring.” In a few instances, gas build-up is sudden and severe, so it must be flared to avert explosion; this is called “safety flaring.”

Flaring is such a common practice that there are more than 10,000 gas flares active at any time. Flaring is harmful – in 2021, it sent 144 billion cubic meters into the atmosphere with a carbon dioxide input of 400 million tons – this is the same as 9 trillion miles of automobile rides.

Flaring causes emissions equivalent to 9 trillion miles of automobile rides. Image: “Driving cars n a traffic jam,” by epSOs.de, 2011. Creative commons 2.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Flaring sends more than carbon dioxide into the air; it also yields soot, or technically black carbon. According to the European Geoscience Union, 40% of the black carbon in the Arctic comes from gas flaring. Arctic ice cap melting increased because someone in a far-away oil field flared rather than saved gas. Flaring also sends other substances into the air: benzene – known to cause cancer; naphthalene, linked to eye and liver damage.

Who’s to blame? Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, the USA, and Venezuela flared the most gas over the last decade, but now China, Libya, and Mexico have started flaring. Gas flared and lost in 2021 could have powered all of sub-Saharan Africa.

“Sub-Saharan Africa, as defined by United Nations.” Design by Jcherlet, 2010. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Why not just stop flaring, as the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring Scheme (ZRF) proposes? The Scheme, introduced in 2015, now has 54 energy companies, and 32 national governments as supporters. There has been some progress. Norway taxes gas flaring; as a result, it has the lowest flaring rate. Kazakhstan introduced incentives in the local gas market that encouraged drillers to capture and sell gas, reducing flaring in the process.

Cost remains a factor: stopping routine flaring would cost an aggregate $100 billion. Why not just capture it and reuse it, or sell it? There are processing costs to remove some chemicals before the gas can be used. But the gas would be suitable for powering drilling sites, or perhaps useful for mobile electricity generation in the field. In the field, unwanted gas could be returned to the land rather than flared into the air. In fact, injecting the gas into the ground would raise pressure and in turn allow better flow of oil. Finally, gas might be treated to deliver to energy pipelines.

Pipelines circle the Earth: could gas, not flared but collected and treated, join the flow? Image: “West Coast Pipeline,” by DarrenBaker, 2005. Creative Commons, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Pipelines, like the Alaska Pipeline or West Coast Energy Pipeline, are ubiquitous: in December 2020, there were 2,381 oil and gas pipelines in 162 countries – the combined pipelines’ total length is enough to circle the globe 30 times. On drilling sites where gas is now flared, could ancillary supply lines conveying gas collected and treated, instead of flared, join that circle?

BBC, Science & Environment. “Gas flaring: What is it and why is it a problem?” 29 September 2022. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63051458

Hussein, Mohammed. “Mapping the World’s Oil and Gas Pipelines.” 15 December 2021. Aljazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/16/mapping-world-oil-gas-pipelines-interactive

Puliti, Riccardo. “Boost energy security and cut methane emissions by reducing gas flaring and venting.” 6 October 2022. World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/boost-energy-security-and-cut-methane-emissions-reducing-gas-flaring-and-venting

World Bank. “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 (ZRF)” https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/zero-routine-flaring-by-2030

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October 13, 2022
by Building The World
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SPACE: Hit and a Miss

“DART’s Trajectory” animation based on NASA’s HORIZONS System by Phoenix7777. CC4.0. Included with appreciation.

Because there was a hit, there will be a miss, In baseball, that’s bad: in asteroid defense, that’s good. In a historic success, NASA, sent the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to asteroid Dimorphos. It’s a small target: the relatively tiny asteroid is just 530 feet (180 meters) in diameter. And it’s a distance achievement: Dimorphos is 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) away. And it’s a fast shot: DART crashed into the asteroid at 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometers) per hour.

“Asteroid Dimorphos seconds before DART impact.” by Doug Ellison and NASA, 26 September 2022. Public Domain. Included with appreciation to Doug Ellison and NASA.

An asteroid that might someday impact the Earth could destroy life on our shared planet, as it did with dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The impact of a six-mile-wide asteroid, called Chicxulub by today’s scientists, hit just off Mexico and killed 75% of Earth’s species.

“Depiction of Spinosaurus” from exhibit at Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technological Museum, Bangalore, India, by VITM 2018. CC 4.0. Included with appreciation.

While a similar disaster is not imminent, preparation is. In an illustration of cooperation in our orbital commons, NASA worked in partnership with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube. In four years, the European Space Agency (ESA) Hera mission will conduct surveys of Dimorphos to examine the crater left by DART’s direct hit. Both are part of the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) collaboration.

There are between 1.1 to 1.9 million asteroids within the asteroid belt, pictured here as the white “donut” ring. Illustration by Mdf, Wikimedia/creative commons, public domain donation. Included with appreciation.

Meanwhile, the hit was deemed a success, knocking Dimorphos into a different orbit. The test proves we have capability to deflect an oncoming asteroid or comet, such as that depicted in the recent film “Don’t Look Up.” Want to see a video of the final moments before DART crashed into Dimorphos? Click here.

If our civilization is able to cooperate, and succeed, in something so distant, is there hope for similar cooperation and success a bit closer to home?

Can space cooperation bring the dawn of peace? “Pink Sky Peace,” by Pink Sherbet Photography, Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation, and hope.

Greshko, Michael. “Dinosaur-killing asteroid most likely struck in spring.” 22 February 2022. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/dinosaur-killing-asteroid-most-likely-struck-in-spring

McKay, Adam, director, producer, writer. With Leonardo DeCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, and Meryl Streep. “Don’t Look Up.” 2021. Hyperobject Industries. Trailer video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL9aJcqrtnw

NASA. “NASA’S DART Mission Hits Asteroid in First-Ever Planetary Defense Test.” 26 September 2022. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-dart-mission-hits-asteroid-in-first-ever-planetary-defense-test

Strickland, Ashley. “The DART mission successfully changed the motion of an asteroid.” 11 October 2022. CNN. with Video. https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/11/world/nasa-dart-success-update-scn/index.html

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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October 7, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES AND LAND: Rights of those who were here first

“Indigenous Peoples Day,” image courtesy of National Indian Council on Aging – NICOA.org. Included with honor and appreciation.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day, recognized in 2021 by U.S. President Biden, and honored as a holiday this weekend in the United States, reminds us that new worlds are not discovered, just met. Leif Erikson associated by some with Greenland, is thought to have sailed off course en route to that location, instead reaching what he called Vinland and what we now call North America. Erickson spent the winter, and in spring returned to Greenland. This was four hundred years before Columbus. But even before Columbus, and before Erikson, the first humans arrived 26,000 years ago, before the Last Glacial Maximum in the Pleistocene epoch. From those earliest humans are descended those whom we call our original people, those who were here first. One group is the Cherokee Nation.

“Trail of Tears” by Ocmulgee National Mounds Park, nps.gov, by photographer TradingCardsNPS, 2012. Creative Commons 2.0, wikimedia. Included with honor and appreciation.

By 1830, the Cherokee Nation had established significant land in what became known as Georgia (state established in 1788): until the Treaty of New Echota. On 29 December 1835, 500 representatives of the Cherokee Nation, at that time numbering 16,000, met with representatives of the United States government at New Echota, Georgia, to accept terms of $5 million and land in Oklahoma in exchange for their 7 million acres of homeland. Sadly, the forced move 1,200 miles west proved so tragic as to give name to the Trail of Tears. But the Treaty remains unfulfilled: Article 7 of the Treaty of New Echota states: “Cherokee Nation shall be entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States whenever Congress shall make provision for the same.”

“Map of George showing Cherokee Nation, 1830.” Original by Anthony Finley Co. of Philadelphia, 1830. Creative Commons Public Domain. Included with honor and appreciation.

Two centuries later, it is time to fulfill the treaty, make that provision, and recognize rights of those who were here first. Cherokee Nation’s Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. has nominated Kimberly Teehee to serve as inaugural Cherokee Delegate to Congress. If you support this nomination, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a good time to take action here.

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” 11 October 2015. Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/10/12/indigenous-peoples-day/

Cherokee Nation. https://www.cherokee.org/about-the-nation/citizen-action/

Cherokee Nation and United States. “Treaty of New Echota.” text.https://dlg.usg.edu/record/dlg_zlna_tcc221?canvas=0&x=1133&y=1870&w=18337

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke, “The National Trails System.” Building the World. Volume Two, pages 641-668. Greenwood: 2006. ISBN: 9780313333743.

Kaur, Harmeet. “The Cherokee Nation is again calling on Congress to deliver on a 200-year-old-promise.” 27 September 2022. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/27/us/cherokee-nation-push-for-congress-delegate-cec/index.html

Smithsonian. “Cherokee and Other Original American Music.” https://music.si.edu/feature/american-indian-music

Zimmerman, Kim Ann, and Patrick Pester. “Pleistocene epoch, The last ice age.” 28 February 2022. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/40311-pleistocene-epoch.html

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September 30, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER: Floods and Helping Hands

“Helping hands, working together.” by AlphaZeta, 2014. Donated to the public domain by the designer. Creative Commons 1.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Recent floods in Florida in the United States, and in the Sindh province of Pakistan, caused loss of life, property, and long-term displacement. Because we are the water planet, climate change will first be felt through water. This is true of the past summer’s droughts, reductions in the Colorado River and Lake Mead, heatwaves, and wildfires; now it is true of autumnal seasonal storms intensified by melting glaciers in Pakistan and warming oceans near Florida. If you are reading this post, it is because you are fortunate to have power and electricity. Many do not. If you would like to extend a helping hand, here are some suggestions:

“Sindh Province Divisions, Pakistan” by Nomi887, 2022. Creative commons, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Pakistan  – flood relief and rebuilding efforts may be helped by outreach, including sources like the Edhi Foundation, headquartered in Karachi, that provides emergency assistance across Pakistan and internationally. Edhi Foundation’s Flood Relief Campaign may be reached via: https://edhi.org. Another option is Islamic Relief USA: https://irusa.org.

“Hurricane Ian reaches Florida, USA” NASA, Earth Observatory, 2022. Image in the public domain, included with appreciation.

USA – inundations from Hurricane Ian, a category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph, damaged areas of Florida including Captiva and Sanibel, Naples and Fort Meyers. Two million residents are without electricity and running water. The storm is now moving towards South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina.  You can volunteer or donate to the American Red Cross via https://www.redcross.org. Another option is Caring for Others at https://caring4others.org.

As climate change continues to cause damage, we may need to respond in two ways: disaster response and proactive renewal. Is it time to consider a Climate Conservation Corps, combining active service and education? Some have suggested an organizational name, and membership term, of CliMates. What do you think of this idea?

“Earth” by NASA, with graphic enhancement by Tdadamemd, 2016. Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

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

Thanks to those who kindly suggested organizations for helping those affected by recent floods.

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September 22, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Tunnels – Environmental Option

“Hamburg-Mitte-Elbe Tunnel” by Anita Janda, 2019. CC4.0 wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Ten years to plan, nine years to build, seven billion to budget: the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link Tunnel will offer an alternative to a 45-minute ferry between Germany’s Fehmarn island and Denmark’s Lolland isle. The new tunnel will clock travel time to ten minutes by car and seven minutes by train. Not just a faster trip between islands, Fehmarnbelt will reduce passage duration between Copenhagen and Hamburg.

Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link Tunnel will shorten the travel time between Copenhagen and Hamburg. Image: “Fehmarn bridge” by Bowzer. CC by SA 3.0, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

It will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel, although at 11.1 miles long (18 kilometers) shorter than the Channel Tunnel stretching 31 miles (50 kilometers). Other differences include construction methods. The Channel Tunnel was built using a traditional boring machine. Fehmarnbelt will be pre-fab: tunnel sections completed on land will be submerged and then connected. Each section is 711 feet long (217 meters) – about half the size of a large container ship. All that length is heavy – each section weighs as much as 13,000 elephants.

One section of the tunnel’s pre-fab building blocks weighs as much as 13 elephants. Image: “Elephant,” by Felix Andrew, 2005. Public domain gnu. Included with appreciation.

In a world where the environment is part of every decision, Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link will include newly established stone reefs on both Danish and German sides, similar in some ways to the natural paths fashioned along the New River of England. Tunnels offer other environmental advantages, bringing automobiles, trains, and trucks below the surface where emissions be captured, if the tunnels are so equipped.

SMART Tunnel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, combines transport and flood control. Image: “SMART tunnel entrance,” by David Boey, 2018. Wikimedia CC4.0. Included with appreciation.

Another environmental advantage of tunnels is response to flash floods. The Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is designed to divert rainwater into a lower section, allowing the upper section to remain open to vehicular traffic. Floodwater diversion, storage, and reuse options are certain to present problems (and opportunities) in our future: can tunnels be part of the solution?

Thanks to Cherie E. Potts for suggesting this post, and to Frank P. Davidson for proposing and achieving the success of the Channel Tunnel.

Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. “Why we’re building the Fehmarnbelt fixed link.” Femern. https://femern.com

Prisco, Jacopo. “Denmark and Germany now building the world’s longest immersed tunnel.” September 2022, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/fehmarnbelt-longest-immersed-tunnel-cmd/index.html

SMART. https://smarttunnel.com.my/smart/what-is-smart/

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September 16, 2022
by Building The World
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SPACE: Life on Mars?

Mars appears to have had significant volcanic and seismic activity. Magma rising during eruptions could have melted ice near the surface, providing conditions for microbial life. Image: “Mars Seismic Wave Simulation,” NASA. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Perseverance rover has collected some samples that may reveal if life on Mars is speculation, fantasy, or history. Jezero Crater once held a lake whose delta may have harbored lifeforms yet unknown to us. Jezero Crator is sizable: 28 miles (45 kilometers).

Jezero Crater seen from Perseverance. NASA.gov, public domain. Included with appreciation.

Recently, Perseverance explored a delta mount nicknamed “Wildcat Ridge” by NASA scientists. The rover found and scooped up high concentrations of organic matter. We know the organic nature of the rocks because samples are pre-scanned by a rover instrument called SHERLOC, or Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals.

Mars Sample Return Mission. Illustration by NASA. Public domain. Included with appreciation.

The Mars Sample Return Mission will bring the ultimate rock collection back to Earth’s awaiting laboratories in the next decade. While life forms did not greet the rover, discovery of the their possible past may reveal not just history but organic components that may help to determine our future – there, and here.

NASA. “Mars Sample Return Mission.” https://mars.nasa.gov/msr/

NASA. “Spacecraft Instuments, SHERLOC.” https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/instruments/sherloc/

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