Building the World

November 14, 2023
by Building The World

ENERGY/CITIES: Are You in a Circle of Danger?

If you live within 1/2 mile (0.8 kilometer) of a fossil fuel processing plant, you may be in a circle of danger. Image above shows air pollution as it circles the globe. “Air Pollution Earth” by NASA, 2001. Public Domain.

Air pollution is a serious problem worldwide. Burning of fossil fuels, excess vehicular traffic, and lack of green spaces to absorb emissions, are causing clogged skies and public health dangers. Case in point, this month: India.

“Taj Mahal” from a photograph circa 1900. Image source: U.S. Library of Congress. Creative Commons Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Those who visited India’s famed Taj Mahal may not have been able to see the iconic monument this month. Air pollution fogged India’s skies. New Delhi, home to 35 million people, closed schools and warned residents to stay indoors if possible. NASA’s satellite images showed dense smoke over the landscape. But more troubling was the cause: particulate matter toxins and pollutants so tiny they can pass into human (and animal) airways to cause illness and chronic conditions.

“Air pollution in India from burning of rice residues in SE Punjab, India, prior to wheat season.” By Neil Palmer, CIAT. Creative commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Seasonal – in November, farmers clear straw after the rice harvest: it’s known as “stubble burning.” That practice increases normal pollution levels caused by domestic fires for heating and cooking, as well as smog from industry and vehicles.

Diwali fireworks may add to air pollution. “Diwali fireworks, India” by Urbanurban_ru, 2013. Creative commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Fireworks: Added Danger – add to present air problems the joyous feast of Diwali, occasion for sky-illuminating, but also air-polluting, fireworks and air pollution becomes more serious. After Diwali, transport authorities are considering calling for an alternation of traffic days, allowing certain vehicles on the road every odd/even day. In some global locations, during seasonal festivals, many cities opt for aerial drone displays rather than traditional fireworks.

Regional – as New Delhi experiences air quality issues, Lahore, Pakistan, home to 13 million people, has also recommended schools, shopping malls, and some businesses, close temporarily. The air quality index (AQI) reached a hazardous level. Air pollution is a transboundary problem.

“Comparison of footprint and transboundary air pollution.” Nansai, Keisuke, et al., Creative commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Pollution Effects Worldwide – 1 in 5 deaths worldwide can be traced to illnesses initiated or worsened by air pollution from fossil fuel combustion. Researchers from the University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, University College, London, and Harvard University found that 8 million people died from causes linked to air pollution in 2018; since then, things have gotten worse.

If you live near a fossil fuel processing plant, you may be in the circle of danger. Image: “Jamnagar Refinery at Night” by Reliance industries, 2006, from Forbes India. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Circle of Danger – the closer you live to a fossil fuel production facility, the more pollutants you may encounter. Toxins entering the air, and your lungs, include benzene, carbon dioxide, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, methane, toluene, and xylene. The term for some of these substances is Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). In the United States, there are over 1 million active production wells, natural gas compressor stations, and processing plants, with 12 million people living within 1/2 mile (0.8 kilometer) – the circle of danger.

Do you live within a circle of danger? Image: “Red circle” by graphic designer AmericanXplorer13. Creative commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Want to find out if your business, home, or school is within the toxic zone? If you live in the United States, you can track your location on the THREAT MAP.

Atwoli, Lukoye, et al., “Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health.” September 2021. The Lancet, Volume 398, Issue 10304, p939-941, September 11, 2021.

Burrows, Leah. “Deaths from fossil fuel emissions higher than previously thought.” 9 February 2021. Harvard Gazette.

Clean Air Task Force. “Fossil Fumes.” 15 September 2022.

Mogul, Rhea. “This megacity is the latest to shut down as pollution chokes swathes of South Asia.” 10 November 2023 CNN.

Patel, Kasha. “The smog choking this Indian city is visible from space.” 9 November 2023. The Washington Post.

Vohra, Karn et al., “Global mortality from outdoor fine particle pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion: Results from GEOS-Chem.” Environmental Research, Volume 195, April 2021, 110754.

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

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October 31, 2023
by Building The World

WATER: Taking “forever” out of PFAS


Water is the fountain of life. Let’s remove PFAS forever chemicals from drinking water. Image: “Een oranje vontijn” by graphic artist Japiot, 2011. Dedicated by the artist to the universal public domain, CCO 1.0. Included with appreciation.

Water is the fountain of life: our bodies are over 60% water, and some plants are as much as 90% water. We can live three weeks without food, but only three days without water. But while our body and natural needs have not changed, water has. Industrial chemicals have washed down our drains and into our drinking water supply. These include microplastics found in household cleaning products (think “scrubbers”) and even cosmetics (think “smoothers and fillers”).

PFAS chemicals are endangering our water supply. Image: “Perfluorooctanessulfonic acid, PFAS” by graphic artist Jynto, 2011. Dedicated by the artist to the public domain, CCO 1.0. Included with appreciation.

But among the most troubling additions to our water supply are PFAS (per – and polyfluoroalkyl) compounds called “forever chemicals.”  They are ubiquitous. Have a teflon pan for cooking? You could be adding PFAS to your omelette. Grabbing take-out pizza for the family? If your pie comes in a grease-proof pizza box, that container may have PFAS substances. Serving trout for dinner? Fish from waterways that harbor PFAS may contain the chemicals. It’s a global problem. American companies DuPont and 3M may have started it, but now PFAS chemicals are present in water worldwide. Clean drinking water is one of the first quests of human history, with early achievements like the Roman aqueducts or the New River of England. But Italy now faces PFAS problems, and England’s Environment Agency reported in 2021 that PFAS is widely present in English surface water and groundwater in concentrations of disturbing magnitude. In fact, a recent UK directive goal of achieving good quality of all waterways by 2027 could now need to be revised to 2063, due to the problem of PFAS.

Many PFAS chemicals are dangerous to human health. Image: “Effects of exposure to PFASs on human health” by European Environment Agency, with image vectorization by Mrmw, 2019. Creative commons 2.5. Included with appreciation.

There are more than 8,000 different forever chemicals, many troublingly toxic and stubbornly persistent. PFAS can be damaging to human systems, resulting in hormonal problems and perhaps causing diseases such as cancer. The chemicals are especially dangerous for those who are pregnant. A legal settlement with 3M on PFAS, amounting to $10.3 billion over 13 years and the pledge to exit all PFAS manufacturing in 2025, may pave the way for more action by industry to stop the use of forever chemicals. 3M had some explaining to do to its investors. The settlement was revised and then renegotiated to $12.5 billion, spreading payments out until 2036. But you can take preventative measures now.

I. NOW: Here are two steps you may wish to take now regarding PFAS.

Test your drinking water for PFAS. Image: “Drinking water sign” by Dr. Torsten Henning, 2009 with derivative graphics by Shizhao. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

#1 Detection. If you obtain your household drinking water from a municipal source, your local water utility should have relevant data. If not, you can test your household water yourself, using a certified lab with approved testing methods. Need help finding a lab? Here’s a start. Or, if you love dipping your pole in the local lake or river for a day of fishing, in the U.S., you can contact State and Tribal experts for information on your  local water source’s PFAS measurements.

Filter your water. Image: “Biosand Water Filter” by graphic designer TripleQuest, 2010. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

#2 Filtration. 

Some households may benefit from using water filtration systems but there are so many kinds of PFAS chemicals with so many different compounds that one-filter-for-all is proving difficult. Sandia National Laboratories is working on an advanced filtration system that will collect many kinds of PFAS substances. However, once you have filtered out the PFAS, be aware that the waste material will be concentrated and highly toxic. Municipalities and cities may need to find a way for households (and organizations including hospitals and schools) to send their filled filters to a safe disposal center. For now, installing an activated carbon filter, made from organic materials with high carbon properties like wood, lignite and even coal, sometimes made with granular activated carbon (GAC), can help. GAC filters work well on longer-chain PFAS (like PFOA and PFOS) but shorter-chain formats like (PFBS and PFBA) may slip through. Resins are an option. In this category, AER filters can remove 100% of PFAS, but the need to change filters often is still a problem. Finally, high-pressure membranes, like nano-filtration or reverse osmosis, can remove PFAS. Nano-filtration membranes remove particles but retain minerals; reverse osmosis removes minerals as well. Membrane filters can remove 90% of PFAS, including the elusive short-chain kinds.

II. SOON: Emerging Innovations and Solutions for PFAS


Teflon may contain a particularly durable type of PFAS that can withstand high heat. Image: “Teflon Plan” by photographer MdeVicente, 2014. Dedicated to the public domain by the photographer. Creative commons 1.0. Included with appreciation.

That teflon pan in your kitchen hints at a problem in achieving permanent destruction of PFAS. Teflon is a kind of PFAS called PTFE, and it is specially formulated to remain intact in temperatures as hot as 500 Fahrenheit (260 Celsius). Moreover, when we burn PFAS in its longer-chain form, it merely transforms into short-chain PFAS that floats into the air, and then drifts down into groundwater and eventually pours right back out of your tap water. To combat that indestructibility, a laboratory at the University of British Columbia and a team at the University of California, Riverside, are working on methods using electrochemical and photochemical techniques. Initial results are promising: using low wavelengths of ultraviolet light, scientists are achieving PFAS breakdown. Professor Haizhou Liu, study author, commented that the by-product of this method of destroying PFAS is actually something beneficial – fluoride, the same chemical commonly added to toothpaste that can help strengthen teeth. The system is now entering a larger scale phase with the goal of designing a UV reactor that can process millions of gallons (or liters) per day and can be attached to municipal water treatment plants.

Image: “Acidimicrobium ferrooxidans.” by Manfred Rohde, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, 2009. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Another approach? Microbes. Princeton University found that Acidimicrobium bacterium A6 proved effective at removing 60% o PFOS and PFOA in the lab. A subsequent study at the University of California headed by Professor Yujie Men is exploring bacteria and enzymes that can speed up the “forever” into faster dissolution.


“Disappearing” by photographer Dirk Duckhorn, 2013. Creative commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.  Developing a timeline to achieve cessation of harmful PFAS chemical is now underway; eventually, most forever chemicals will disappear. Stopping manufacture and sales of fossil-fuel powered vehicles is a goal with dates. Achieving net-zero carbon emissions is a target with increasingly-agreed timelines. Limiting methane emissions is now a global pledge. With the 3M legal settlement, we are now seeing a proliferation of legal actions regarding forever PFAS chemicals. The very first lawsuit regarding damages from use of PFAS, then aimed at DuPont’s use of PFAS in manufacturing Teflon, (Tennant v. DuPont) was in 1999; it was settled in 2001. Right now, in 2023, thee are 25,000 claims against DuPont and 3M as well as Chemours and Corteva. In the 1990’s, so-called “Big Tobacco” lawsuits amounted to $200 billion. PFAS is on the way to meet or beat that tally. Eventually, we will phase out PFAS. But until then, you can find ways to protect yourself and your family by avoiding products containing PFAS, filtering your home water supply, supporting political and civic initiatives to keep drinking water safe and sustainable. All these approaches will help to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6, and will keep you and your family, schools, hospitals, and business organizations, healthier.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6. Image: “SDG 6” by UN. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

3M. “3M resolves claims by public water suppliers, supports drinking water solutions for vast majority of Americans.” 23 June 2023.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “PFAS explained.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “The Drinking Water Treatability Database (TDB).”

Rizzo, Pat. “3M’s revised PFAS settlement includes atypical liability terms.” 6 September 2023. Bloomberg Law.

Tennant, et al v. DuPont, et al., 11 June 1999.

TNI Lams, National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Management System, a central repository of accredited testing laboratories for PFAS.

Turns, Anna. “Can we take the ‘forever’ out of forever chemicals?” 18 October 2023. Future Planet/BBC.

United Kingdom (UK). “Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): sources, pathways, and environmental data: summary.” 26 August 2021.

United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. “Aqueous film-forming foams products liability litigation.” Master Docket Number 1:18-mn-2873-RMG, Civil Action Number 2:23-v-03147-RMG, August 28, 2023.

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



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October 20, 2023
by Building The World

TRANSPORT: Silk Road 2.0

The ancient silk road originated in China. Image: “Caravane sur la Route de la Soie” by artist and cartographer Cresques Abraham (1325-1387. Image from Gallica Digital Library. Creative commons public domain. Included with appreciaiton.

While many animals (and a few plants) move around, humans may be the only species that builds roads, ships, and aircraft to do so. Human history can be traced by modes of transport: carts and wheels, ships and sails, trains and rails, tunnels and tubes, roads and vehicles, aircraft and wings, rockets and boosters. The ancient Silk Road, emanating from China around 206 bc, running 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers), was one of the first extended paths over land. China’s Grand Canal connected to the sea via one of the world’s first inland waterways. Transport is about connection: ancient China achieved both land and sea routes that resulted in cultural and economic exchange.

In 2013, China announced the Belt and Road Initiative. Now, in 2023, here is a map of the project. “Topographic map of the Belt and Road Economic Corridor and pathway cities” by graphic artist, 18 October 2023. Creative commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

One decade ago, China announced what some call Silk Road 2.0; its formal name is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This week, representatives from nearly 150 countries met in Beijing to consider next steps. One agenda item: debt. China has reportedly financed airports, bridges, hydroelectric facilities, pipelines, ports, and roads in extensive world locations with an understanding that the receiving country would pay back loans and share user fees. There have been criticisms, as well as defaults and delays. Nepal’s new Pokhara Airport opened with a big price tag but as yet small revenue. China recently restructured debt with Argentina, Sri Lanka, and Zambia, among others. Not everyone is staying in the program; Italy had joined but is now trying to leave. But some countries and their leaders are decidedly there: Russia’s Putin was at the meeting, so was Haji Nooruddin Azizi, a minister of the Taliban. (Cash 2023)

Belt and Road Forum representatives, 17 October 2023. Image: from Creative commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Perhaps in response to concerns involving environmental and justice concerns, China launched the 2021 Global Development Initiative to promote “economic and social development” with a funding deposit of $10 billion. The total BRI extension in loans and grants is estimated at $1 trillion.

The Belt and Road Initiative has both pro and con issues. Image: “Plus, Minus, and Equality Signs” by graphic artist Sa-se. Creative Commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

While debt is a concerning issue (some say it is a con in the word’s two meanings) so is pollution: China’s overseas fossil-fuel power plants emit 245 million tons of CO2 annually. Another factor is land use change, with further environmental damage and loss of biodiversity, especially to land that is the home of original, indigenous people. However, there may also be pros. China has extended $500 billion in funding that some say could improve the infrastructure and industrial capabilities of some areas that desire growth but may have had challenges getting funding. From any angle, the Belt and Road Initiative is macro and global.

The Belt and Road Initiative may soon circle the world. It is one of the most important macro projects in history. Could the BRI be an opportunity for renewable energy, sustainable water, and perhaps even a new understanding of our interconnected world? How can you get involved to make it so? Image: “Animated Globe with Flags” by graphic artist Meclee, 2012. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

The scope and span of the BRI make it one of the most significant agents in climate. The sheer volume of concrete, for example, could influence the environment: what if the BRI instituted a policy regarding the use of concrete as a carbon capture and containment? Ditto BRI’s energy use: as a leader in solar, could China favor renewable technology in BRI projects? BRi may be the biggest and most impactful construction project in history. We need to pay more attention. How can we influence climate and justice decisions? Want to know more? Start here, or  here. 

Cash, Joe. “Leaders gather in China for smaller, greener Belt and Road summit.” 16 October 2023. Reuters.

China, Belt and Road Initiative website.

Gallagher, Kevin P., et al., “The BRI at Ten.” Global Development Policy Center, Boston University.

Pierson, David, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Tiffany May. “With Putin by His Side, Xi Outlines His Vision of a New World Order.” 18 October 2023. The New York Times.

Wakabayaski, Daisuke, Bhadra Sharma, and Claire Fu. “China Got a Big Contract. Nepal Got Debt and a Pricey Airport.” 16 October 2023. The New York Times.

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



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October 10, 2023
by Building The World

WATER: Saltwater Intrusion – Rolling into the River

Saltwater is rolling in on the Mississippi River. Image: “The waves on the water” by graphic artist Elapros, 2011. Creative commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Tina Turner famously sang about Proud Mary Rollin’ on the River. But now the mighty Mississippi River is not rolling with cruise boats. A Viking line riverboat recently set sail but was stuck for an entire day on a sandbar. The Mississippi river is suffering from drought, reducing the river’s freshwater flow and allowing salty water from the Gulf of Mexico to enter the river. Affected are plants, wildlife, and people – including those in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

“Skyline of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA” by Michael Maples, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1999. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

With the drought depleting the Mississippi’s freshwater resources, a saltwater wedge is forming that may reach the urban area by the end of October 2023. Why a wedge? The shape is formed by differences in saltwater (more dense) and freshwater: when the two kinds of water come together, they form a wedge.


Salter intrusion can affect the environment. Another concern is the water infrastructure. Image: “Saltwater intrusion” graphic by Sweetian, 2011. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

As coastal and river communities consume more water, drawing from available aquifers, seawater can encroach. That affects both farming (5% salinity makes water unsuitable for agriculture) and drinking water (2% salinity renders freshwater undrinkable). Rivers are also an important habitat for flora and fauna, estuarial environments, and wildlife: all of these are affected by salinity.

Salt can corrode. When drinking water distribution systems contain lead in the pipes, results can be disastrous. Image: “Rusted water pipe” by photographer Geographer, 2008. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

While salty water is dangerous for a number of environmental reasons, another serious concern is its corrosive effect. Some of pipes in New Orleans’ water distribution system may still have lead. This is the case for many American cities whose pipes are older than 1986, when a law was passed that prohibits using lead in water systems. One million people in southeast Louisiana are on watch and in danger. Flint, Michigan suffered a tragedy when lead from its aging system leached into drinking water: by the time pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha noticed lead poisoning among patients, a generation of children were stricken. Medical treatment was $100 million; fixing and replacing the outdated pipes: $1.5 billion. Even where lead is not present, other dangerous heavy metals can be released. Anti-corrosion products are available, and the New Orleans has called a public works meeting to plan a corrosion monitoring program.

One option? Bottled water. Image: “Lots of bottled water” by photographer Nrbelex, 2006. Creative commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

New Orleans, and the communities in southeast Louisiana, can take action now, before it is too late. But what are the options? Like the people in Flint, families can purchase bottled water. A suburb of Nola, Metaire (whose interchange of I-10/I-610 is subject to flooding) reported sales of 2,000 bottles of water daily. In New Orleans, large institutions needing water, like hospitals, were stockpiling in advance. Maybe it could be a short-term option, but it’s an environmental and health risk – over one million plastic bottles of water are sold globally – every minute! Studies reveal water from plastic bottles leaches microplastics into the human system. And then there’s the reality that very few plastic water bottles are recycled, with most ending up in landfills, river, and oceans.  Bottled water is not a long-term answer.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a sill and can improve that structure. Image: “Sill” by graphic artist Meninanatureza, 2021. Creative commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

What about macro solution? In July 2023, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers placed a “sill”  in the Mississippi River as a kind of barrier to influx of salt water from the Gulf. Now, plans are in process to raise the sill barrier by 25 feet (7.62 meters). But even at the new height, the project will only delay the inevitable by 10 or so days. Another large-scale option is building a pipe to bring fresh water from upstream. It’s like what China did with the Grand Canal – bringing water from the south to the north – but in reverse. Possible, but expensive, and not a guarantee that enough fresh water will be available in the upper river if drought conditions persist.

The MIT desalination device is the size of a suitcase. Image: “Belber Vintage Striped Suitcase,” by photographer Sandrine Z, 2014. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

One further option, especially if saltwater continues to flow from the Gulf of Mexico, is new desalination technology developing at MIT. The Device Research Laboratory’s Lenan Zhang and Yang Zhong, along with Evelyn Wang and team, working with Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the National Science Foundation of China, announced development of a system the size of a suitcase that can filter high-salinity water, delivering 1.32 gallons (5 liters) of drinking and cooking water per hour. It can be installed at households, and is free from electricity, running on solar power. The system is new design that solves the formerly-intractable problem of salt buildup that clogs many desalination devices. Overall, the cost of delivering drinking water is cheaper than tap water. In a feat of biomimicry, the device by thermohaline processes – (temperature “thermo” + salinity “haline”) – just like the waves of the ocean. (Chu 2023).

Mangrove leaves can excrete salt. Image: “Avicenna germinans  –  salt excretion” by photographer Ulf Mehlig. Creative commons 2.5. Included with appreciation.

Or where suitable, there is the mangrove. This coastal plant can thrive in salty environments and may even act as a filter; some mangrove leaves are able to excrete salt. Mangrove trees can help to regulate salinity: they thrive in the intertidal zones where salt and fresh water mix. Avicenna officinalis (see above) is one of the salt-secretors; this mangrove tree has evolved salt glands in the tissues that release salt.

There are more than 500 port cities endangered by saltwater intrusions; it is a challenge offering scalable innovation. Image: “Earth-Globespin” by NASA, 2015 Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Will New Orleans serve as a case example? Other salt water wedges can be found in the estuaries of the rivers including the Columbia River of Oregon and Washington states, or the Hudson in New York. And, saltwater intrusions are not restricted to the United States. The Po River in Italy suffered damage in the Po Plain where salt water from the Adriatic entered the freshwater river: drainage from agricultural land worsened the salinization process.  In Bangladesh, southwestern coastal regions are also threatened by saltwater intrusions causing soil damage and compromising drinking water: cyclones and storm surges exacerbate the threat. Seawater intrusion is now a major problem worldwide: it even has its own acronym (SWI). Alarmingly, 32% of world coastal cities are threatened by saltwater intrusion: 500 cities are in urgent danger.

“Tina Turner,” by photographer Les Zg, 1990. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

As you consider the Mississippi’s present problems and possible solutions, you might like to reflect upon some of the many songs written about the legendary river. For a sample, including songs about the original and first nation people who live there, explore Mississippi River music, click here. Or, listen to Russell Batiste, Jr., to Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” and Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary.”

Antonellini, Marco, et al., “Salt water intrusion in the coastal aquifer of the south Po Plain, Italy. December 2009. Hydrogeology Journal 16(8): 1541-1556.

Brewer, Keely “Burgeoning Mississippi riverboat industry grapples with increasing threats.” The Daily Memphian. 10 July 2023.

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Leaking or Lacking?” pages 5 – 14. Renewing the World: Casebook for Leadership in Water. 2023. ISBN: 9798985035933.

Chu, Jennifer. “Desalination system could produce freshwater that is cheaper than tap water.” 27 September 2023. MIT News.

Coo, Tianzheng, Dongmei Han, Xianfang Song. “Past, present, and future of global seawater intrusion research: A bibliometric analysis.” 27 August 2021. Journal of Hydrology. Volume 603, Part A, December 2021, 126844.

Fortin, Jacey, and Colbi Edmonds. “Battling a Water Crisis: Bottles, Barges, and Maybe a Quarter Billion-Dollar Pipe.” 29 September 2023. New York Times.

Klinkenberg, Dean. “Mississippi River Playlist.” Spotify.

LaPotin, Alina, et al., “Dual-stage atmospheric water harvesting device for scalable solar-driven water production.” 20 January 2021. Joule. Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 166-182.

New Orleans, City of. “Corrosion Control” Public Works Committee. 27 September 223. VIDEO.

Somssich, Marc. “How a Mangrove Tree Can Help to Improve the Salt Tolerance of Arabidopsis and Rice.” 14 December 2020. Plant Physiology 184(4): 1630-1632. PMID: 33277332.

Tulane University, School of Public Health. “5 things to know about the saltwater intrusion of the Mississippi River.”  28 September 2023.

United States, National Park Service. “Songs of the Mississippi River.”

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




Appreciation to Jason W. Lusk for sharing research.

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September 25, 2023
by Building The World

SPACE: Bienvenu, Bennu – Rock Star

“Mosaic of images showing Bennu’s rotation.” OSIRIS-REx, NASA, 2018. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

September – a good month for rock collecting. In September 1999, asteroid 101955 Bennu was first spotted by the collaborative team of NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, working together under acronym LINEAR.  In addition to Bennu, the consortium discovered 140,00 minor planets, several comets, and some asteroids. A few of these celestial orbiters are potential unwanted visitors to Earth: Bennu could crash into our planet in September 2182. But NASA did not want to wait that long.

OSIRIS-REx, mission logo. By NASA 2011. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

In 2018, the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) spacecraft launched, aiming for Bennu. It took two years to arrive, and then land on Bennu in October 2020 to collect samples. The landing was brief, called a “pogo stick:” a brief impact to plunge in and grab a sample to be returned to the spacecraft, and eventually to Earth. In September 2023, OSIRIS-REx flew near Earth to release a capsule containing Bennu samples to a landing spot in Utah, USA. The gift was promptly scooped up by a waiting NASA team and carefully loaded onto a special vehicle to bring it to a “clean room” with a continuous supply of nitrogen. Why nitrogen? It’s a gas that does not mingle or interact with most chemicals so keeping the capsule continuously bathed in nitrogen will wash away any earthly contaminants picked up en route and during the Utah landing.

Bennu, like Earth, orbits the sun. Bennu’s year is similar to Earth’s, with a year just 19 days longer than ours. “Animation of Bennu’s orbit around Earth” by graphic artist Phoenix 7777. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Today, 25 September, the capsule will continue its journey aboard an aircraft headed for the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The gift will be shared: NASA scientists will evaluate samples and distribute them globally to the space community. It should be noted that Bennu is not the first asteroid to be sampled and brought to Earth. In 2010, Japan returned asteroid particles from Itowaka (also identified by LINEAR). A sequel mission visited carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu to collect samples during the Hayabusa2 mission, bringing the collection to Earth in 2020. Ryugu’s specimens were also shared worldwide. Asteroids, now more visible with the James Webb Space Telescope, may be the next chapter in space exploration.

Asteroids, now more visible with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), may be the next chapter in space exploration. Image: “Asteroid 6481 Tenzing” by JWST, 2022. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Why are asteroids (the word means “star-like”) important? And, why Bennu? Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid with a diameter of 490 miles (788 kilometers). It’s dotted with boulders, some more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) in span. Of interest is Bennu’s probable possession of water. According to Professor Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona,  principal mission investigator and also chief scientist for the Peace Satellite Project, water would be the prize. Bennu could be a celestial “filling station” providing water for various uses including the production of hydrogen rocket fuel. While the surface water may evaporate, traces could remain, allowing NASA to assess the amount of water on and in Bennu. In addition to water, Bennu may contain valuable information about the origins of the universe.

Bennu, Egyptian deity, named after the Bennu Falcon that stands as tall as a human. Image: Egyptian papyrus, photographed by Cobrenet, 2007. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

What’s in a name? Bennu is an Egyptian deity in the form of a bird, often depicted as a heron. The name was the winner in a contest sponsored by the University of Arizona, along with LINEAR and The Planetary Society. It was a global contest, yielding 8,000 entries. The winner, and proud namer of the asteroid, was a third-grader Michael Puzio who attended school in North Carolina, USA. Following Puzio’s theme, NASA has named all of Bennu’s features after birds. The landing site was Nightingale, and a back-up location named Osprey. Interestingly, Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft was named for a falcon. And, of course, the USA’s first lunar lander of Apollo 11 was called Eagle.

Apollo 11’s Lunar Lander was named “Eagle.” Image: “Animated eagle” by Rovsen.vahabov, 2017. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

Do you think naming space – celestial bodies as well as exploration missions and vehicles – should be open to the world’s students and citizen scientists? What would you name the next asteroid to be explored?

What would you name the next asteroid to be explored? Graphic by Eviatar Bach, 2011. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Bartels, Meghan. “Touchdown! Incredible Photos Show 2nd Asteroid Landing by Japan’s Hayabusa1.” 11 July 2019.

Brooke, K. Lusk. “SPACE: Hayabusa Touchdown on Ryugu.” 21 September 2018.

Fox, Karen, Alana Johnson, Rani Gran, Rob Garner. “NASA’s First Asteroid Sample Has Landed, Now Secure in Clean Room.” 24 September 2023. NASA. https://www.nasa.gob/press-release/nasa-s-first-asteroid-sample-has-landed-now-secure-in-clean-room

Lauretta, Dante S., et al., “OSIRIS-REx: Sample Return from Asteroid (101955) Bennu.” 22 February 2017. Space Science Reviews, Volume 212, Issue 1-2, pages 925-964.

Wall, Mike. “9-Year-Old Names Asteroid ‘Bennu’ for NASA Mission.” 1 May 2013.

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



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September 21, 2023
by Building The World

ENERGY: Climate Conservation Corps

“Many Hands,” by Sharon and Nikki McCutcheon, 2015. Dedicated by the photographers to the public domain. Included with appreciation.

During UN climate week, the U.S. announced creation of an “American Climate Corps” that will combine public service with training for environmentally beneficial professions and technologies. Ali Zaidi, White House point person, may lead the effort to recruit 20,000 young people for the inaugural year. Some Corps areas will also include age-diverse cohorts. Collaborators joining the training and development will feature experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and AmeriCorps, as well as departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, and Labor. If we need an energy revolution, this could be it.

“CCC camps in Michigan, USA” circa 1930s. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

There are historic precedents. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pulled American youth out of Depression-era joblessness by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). While initially aimed at those suffering poverty. CCC expanded, through the creative leadership of Frank P. Davidson, to include Camp William James in Tunbridge, Vermont, welcoming college recruits.

Without dikes, the Netherlands would be flooded to this extent. Image by Jan Arksteijn, 2004. Dedicated by the graphic artist to the public domain, CC 0.1. Included with appreciation.

But the earliest organization of service work might be the Dike Armies of the medieval Netherlands. In 1319, this edict described the corps: “Ende alman sal ten menen werke comen op den dijc, daers hem ie Baeiliu, of die Dijcgrave vermaent” – “Everybody shall come to work at the dike on instruction of the bailiff or dike reeve.” It should be noted that today, with social media like Instagram, X, TikTok, calling up volunteer teams to respond to a climate disaster would have instant effectiveness. 

Look at Earth from space. There are no lines on a map showing states or nations. Our planet is land surrounded by water. Climate is regional and global – so must be our response. “The Blue Marble” by NASA Apollo 17, enhanced by Degir6328. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

The newly planned American Climate Corps might be the beginning of a new era of job and skills development to respond to climate change. But a broader vision could expand the scope. Climate change will not stop at national borders: San Diego in the USA and Tijuana in Mexico share the same coast and the same need for response to sea level rise. Vermont, site of CCC Camp William James, shared smoke from Canada’s recent wildfires. Look at Earth from space; you see not countries and nations, but land and water. Climate change must be addressed by regional, and global, response. The American Climate Corps could become a regional organization inviting Canada, Mexico, and the USA, together with the original Tribes of the Americas, to share language training, technology development, and regional capability to respond to climate change.

The new CCC can build wind turbines, delivering green electricity. It’s a fast-growing industry with great jobs. Image: “Dual Rotor Wind Turbine” by Deas1. Creative commons. Included with appreciation.

Those trained by the new Climate Corps can serve a dual role of training for climate-ready jobs, and also be ready to respond to climate disasters that affect the region. In the last decade, 85% of natural disasters like drought and fires, storms and floods, were attributed to, and intensified by, global warming. Climate change calls us to work together in ways that can strengthen education, technology, and shared vision through climate justice. As Climate Corps members build green energy technology and plant drought-resistant agricultural grains, perhaps they may also sow the seeds of peace.

Can we plant drought-resistant agriculture as a way to sow the seeds of peace? Image: Logo “Plant for the Planet,” 2015. Public Domain Fair Use. Included with appreciation.

Davidson, Frank P. and K. Lusk Brooke. “Protective Dikes and Land Reclamation: The Netherlands,” Volume 1, page 57. Building the World (Greenwood, 2006). ISBN: 0313333734.

Friedman, Lisa. “Wanted: 20,000 Young Americans to Fight Climate Change.” 20 September 2023. The New York Times.

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

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September 12, 2023
by Building The World

TRANSPORT: Cargo Ships with Wings

Will winged ships be the future of cargo transport? Image: “Pigeons Flying” by Eadweard Muybridge, 1893. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

Transportation contributes to global warming by use of fossil fuels. Electric vehicles are increasing in use while decreasing emissions; batteries needed to store and dispense electric power are easier to develop for smaller vehicles like cars or vans, even trucks. Airplanes are improving. Short-haul passenger travel has made some progress with electric aircraft, and United Airlines recently flew from Chicago, Illinois to Washington, D.C. on biofuel. Train travel is clocking faster speeds with lower emissions from innovations like Mag-lev and Hyperloop. But what about shipping?

Container ship “Ever Given” stuck in the Suez Canal on 21 March 2021, by Copernicus Sentinel Satellite. Adapted as photo by Pierre Markuse, 2021. Creative commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Maritime shipping moves 80% of all the goods manufactured and produced in the world economy. The industry emits one billion tons of CO2 every year – 3% of human-generated emissions. The industry grows every year: in  2021, 1.95 billion metric tons of cargo were shipped via container fleets. The biggest shipping companies include APM-Maersk, CMA CGM, COSCO, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, and MSC; each receiving loads of TEUs (acronym for twenty-food equivalent unit, a standard of measure in the shipping industry). When a particularly large container freighter became stuck in the Suez Canal, attention was called to the shipping industry and its role in global transport, and emissions. Behemoth container ships are too large run on batteries, and solar panels are not the answer, either. What about wind?

Cargill chartered the Physix Ocean retroftted with WindWings. Image: Cargill Logo, public domain. Included with appreciation.

Enter Pyxis Ocean. It’s a cargo transport ship, chartered by Cargill, that has been fitted with wings. Two sails made of steel, each 123 feet (37.5 meters) tall, set sail recently. The wing/sails are foldable, allowing passage under bridges. The vessel was retrofitted by BAR Technologies, Yara Marine Technologies, and Mitsubishi. While the ship still uses fossil fuel, wings use wind to reduce fuel consumption by 30%. Launched in China and sailing toward Brazil, Pyxis Ocean is an innovation worth watching. Cargill is an agricultural firm, transporting 225 million tons annually. Could this be the beginning of a new era in shipping?

The earliest global trade was through ships with sails. Image: “Two Danish Ships entering Portsmouth Harbour” by J.M.W. Turner, circa 1807-1809. Tate acquisition number N00481. Creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

The earliest global transport ‘supply chain’ was through ships with sails. Historic great fleets with complex arrays of sails are the stuff of legend, and art. Is past now prologue? Cargill/BAR/Mitsubishi/Yara received support from the European Union’s WindWings project. The aim is to retrofit existing shipping vessels with wings to reduce fuel use and therefore emissions. BAR’s Head of Engineering Lauren Eatwell, a lifelong sailor with Olympic experience as well as education in composite structural engineering, helped to pioneer the WindWing design. Cargill aims to save 1.5 metric tons of fuels per wing per day. With advanced fuels (think methanol), more cost and emission savings are full speed ahead. We are the water planet, and we will continue to traverse the globe with ships. Can the shipping industry take wing?

Shipping will continue to be a mainstay of global supply chain routes. Can the shipping industry take wing? Image: “Spinning Globe with one frame/sec = one hour/sec” adapated from public domain images by Wikidao. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

WATCH: Video of Pysix Ocean and WindWings.

BAR Technologies. “WindWings.”

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Supply Chain Reaction.” Building the World Blog 2021

Cargill. “Cargill and BAR Technologies’ ground-breaking wind technology sets sail, chartering a lower-carbon path for the maritime industry.”  21 August 2023. Cargill.

Lewis, Neil. “Wind-powered cargo ship sets sail in a move to make shipping greener.” 21 August 2023. CNN.

Placek, Martin. “Container shipping statistics & facts,” 31 August 2023. Statista.

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

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September 4, 2023
by Building The World
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CITIES: Labor and Workers’ Rights

Los Angeles, with the Hollywood sign overlooking the city, is the home of many striking actors of SAG-AFTRA seeking better rights. Image: “Hollywood Sign” by photographer Thomas Wolf. Creative Commons 3.0 Included with appreciation.

Human history may be traced in the move from field to city, from local farm to industrial agriculture, and with that – from indentured field serf to urban worker. Some sociologists say that human history is the history of cities. Cities may also be the birthplace of human, and worker, rights. An example: Wolfsburg, Germany, began as the Duchy of Magdeburg, then became the Stadt des KdF-Wagnes bei Fallersleben (“City of Strength Through Joy at Fallersleben”) as a planned town built to house workers for a factory producing the Volkswagen Beetle car. Volkswagen workers organized labor unions through collective agreements ensuring rights of more than 120,000 workers through the Volkswagen Group Global Works Council (GWC).

VW factory, Wolfsburg, Germany” by photographer HasBS, 2011. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

From the days of Charlemagne and into medieval times, as workers began to move into cities, they organized crafts and trades into guilds. The word “guild” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “gild” and is related to “geld” meaning money. We still have an echo in today’s word for money in German: Das Geld. In medieval times, each guild member paid a set amount of money into a common fund to support worker training (apprentice, journeyworker, mastercraftsperson) and family benefits for the wellbeing of workers’ health and family support in the case of injury or death. Guilds morphed into trade unions when the owners of businesses changed to outside investors who were not craftpersons themselves. Labor rights were born in the city and have continued to find their growth in urban environments.

Medieval cities were effectively run by guilds representing all the crafts and trades of the local and regional economy. Guilds set worker rights, wages, and benefits. Image: “Coats of arms displaying the tools of the trades in a medieval town of the Czech Republic,” Photo by VitVit, 2008. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation,

Workers and Rights. Some credit present day labor rights activist Robert Owen, a manufacturer from Wales, with the concept of the eight-hour workday. In 1817, Welsh advocated 8/8/8/ (eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest). Fifty years later, workers in Chicago demanded the Illinois Legislature to pass a law limiting work to eight hours per day. Although the law passed, a loop hole remained and many factory laborers were still overworked and underpaid.  On May 1, 1867, they went on strike. The movement shut down Chicago, and soon other cities across the United States and Europe joined the strike. That event in 1867 led to what is now known as May Day or International Workers’ Day.

International Workers’ Day, May 1, 2013, Austria. Image by photographer Johannes Zinner, 2013. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Labor. Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners first voiced in 1882 the call for a holiday for “the laboring classes who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” McGuire’s message echoed that of the medieval guilds: labor and work are forms of art and should be treasured and honored by a holiday. A leader of a similar surname, Matthew Maguire, secretary of Local 344 of the International Machinists, proposed the same holiday. Their messages were heard.

First American Labor Day parade in New York City on 5 September 1882. Image: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper issue dated 16 September 1882. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, 10,000 city workers gathered in New York City on 5 September 1882 to rally for improvement in labor conditions. When the American government even began tracking work hours in 1890, the average factory workers clocked in 100 hours per week. Ensuing years strengthened the movement for better working hours and recognition of the major role workers play in business and economics. Oregon was the first state to recognize Labor day but Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York soon joined. In 1894, the Pullman strike in Chicago, Illinois jammed rail traffic throughout the country. During the strike and crisis, President Grover Cleveland signed Labor Day into law, as Congress passed an act declaring a national holiday to honor labor on the first Monday in September. Finally, in 1894, Labor Day became an official national holiday. Canada also celebrates Labor Day, but most of the world honors workers on May 1.

“Fête du Travail” or “Labour Day” Parade in Toronto, Canada. on 5 September 2011. CAW Media. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Worker rights continue to be an important issue around the world. In some places, children labor. In other places, women cannot work outside the home. Factory workers are often subject to unhealthy and even lethal conditions: 1500 workers died in preventable factory disasters in the garment industry in fires one decade ago. The 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh made progress in setting new standards; a 2018 Transition Key Accord strengthened the standards to legally binding agreements between trade unions and brands; signatories include an oversight chair from the International Labour Organization (ILO)

“Garment Factory Worker in Bangladesh, 2015.” by Solidarity Center. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Women’s working rights are a special issue. Women make up 70% of the labor force in some export processing zones (EPZs) in Asia, the Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa where some bans on unionization still exist. The ILO Equal Remuneration Convention (No. 100), Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (No. 111), and Maternity Protection Convention (No. 183) have helped protect some rights but more is needed. In 1969, the International Labour Organization (ILO) received the Nobel Peace Prize; fifty years later, the ILO issued a new vision when convening the Global Commission on the Future of Work.

Every era brings new challenges for labor, work, and rights. In 2023, the union of Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) declared a strike approved by 98% of the members.  One concern of the striking union members is the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and the expansion of streaming  services.These artists joined the 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America who are also on strike. Again, the theme of the guild – and its blend of artistry and rights – finds a place in history.

Meryl Streep is one of the active supporters of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Image: “Meryl Street at Berlin Berlinale International Film Festival 2016.” by photographer Glyn Lowe Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

If you are reading this post in Canada or in the United States, you may be enjoying a day of rest or even a traditional cook-out. But there is more to Labor Day than a long weekend. How will you celebrate and honor worker equality, justice, rights, and the fruits of our individual, and collective, labors?

Bangladesh Accord Foundation. “Accord on Fire and Building Safety,”

. International Labor Rights Forum. “Women’s Rights and Global Labor Justice.”’s-rights

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

International Labour Organization (ILO). “Global Commission on the Future of Work,”–en/index.htm

Kaunonen, Gary and Aaron Goings. Community in Conflict. Michigan State Press, 2013.

Langley, Winston E. and Vivian C. Fox. Women’s Rights in the United States: A Documentary History. Praeger, 1994. ISBN: 978-0313287558.

Loomis, Erik. A History of America in Ten Strikes. The New Press, 2018.

Smith, Toulmin, Editor, with essay on history and development of the gilds by Lujo Brentano. “English Gilds: The Original Ordinances of more than One Hundred Early English Guilds,” Oxford University Press. Digital facsimile by University of Michigan.;view=fulltext


Seabrook, Jeremy, “The language of labouring reveals its tortured roots.” The Guardian.

Terkel, Studs. Working.  Pantheon Books, 1974.

Toynbee, Arnold. Editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967.

Zraick, Karen. “What is Labor Day? A History of the Workers’ Holiday.” 4 September 2023. The New York Times.



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August 22, 2023
by Building The World

ENERGY/WATER – Congratulations! Pause on Deep Seabed Mining

CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for voicing your support for pausing deep seabed mining, might be the words of this ‘Dumbo’ Octopus, more formally known as Opisthoteuthis agassizzi. Image: “Dumbo Octopus” by NOAA, 2019. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

If you voted “yes” to pause decisions on deep seabed mining, your voice has been heard. The International Seabed Authority (ISA) agreed to extend discussions on guidelines for deep sea mining, and to develop clearer policy to protect the marine environment, until 2024, or maybe even 2025.

Logo of International Seabed Authority by Anna Elaise, ISA, 2009. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

A proposal by Chile, Costa Rica, France, Palau, and Vanuatu, supported by other member States, overrode the “two-year rule” enacted by Nauru and The Metals Company to begin mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ). The matter will advance to further discussion at the twenty-ninth session of the Assembly in 2024; some say debate could extend to 2025. There is time; you can become better informed and more involved.

Palau is one of the signatories of the measure to pause deep sea mining advancement until further discussion. Image: “Palau archipelago” by Lux Tonnerre, 2008. Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation.

ISA revealed the decision in an August 2 report entitled “Just and Equitable Management of the Common Heritage of Humankind.” Part 04 of the report reveals the “Status of Contracts for Exploration in The Area.”  These areas are the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), the Indian Ocean, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and the Northwest Pacific Ocean. The areas are the focus for:

19 contracts for mining of polymetallic nodules (PMN)

7 contracts for mining polymetallic sulphides (PMS)

4 contracts for cobalt-rich ferromaganese crusts (CFC)

Source: International Seabed Authority (ISA) 2023

Deep sea bed mining may involve the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Image: “Location of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone” by United States Geological Survey (USGS), 2008. Creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

There are two kinds of ISA contracts: exploration and exploitation. Exploration contracts assess minerals present in the area and may include sampling, as well as testing mining technologies and ways to process mined minerals. Advancing to exploitation contracts would commence deep seabed mining.  Contracts are sponsored by member states, and may include private enterprise partners. States currently sponsoring contracts include Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Cook Islands, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Nauru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak Republic, and Tonga (ISA Figure 12). While exploration may be carried out by presence and probing, as done by Alexander Dalrymple and James Cook using lead lines and sextants on voyages of the “Endeavor;” since the time of COMSAT, the deep seabed may also be mapped by remote sensors and satellites.

“First voyage of James Cook – HMS Endeavor leaving Whitby Harbour” by Thomas Luny, 1768. It should be noted that Cook’s final voyage resulted in actions that may have been better avoided. Creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

Don’t rest on your votive laurels. The deep sea, and its treasures, are shared possessions of all the world and its many inhabitants including fauna and flora of the deep. You help the world decide what will determine the “Just and Equitable Management of the Common Heritage of Humankind.” (ISA 2023) What are your views? What actions can you take this year, and next? 

Brooke, K. Lusk. “WATER/ENERGY: Deep Seabed Mining” 13 July 2023. Building the World Blog.

Greenpeace International. “Petition on Deep Sea Mining.”…/act/stop-deep-sea-mining/

International Seabed Authority (ISA). 2 August 2023. “Press Release 2 August 2023.”

International Seabed Authority (ISA). Annual Report 2023 (In English and French). Chapter 4: Status of Contracts for Exploration.”

Panayotov, Kristiyan. “Mapping the seafloor with remote sensing and satellite imagery.” 19 June 2018. Hydro-International.

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

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August 15, 2023
by Building The World

WATER: Lahaina – Help and Hope

“Lahaina Beach – West Maui” by D. Howard Hitchcock, 1932. Hawaii State Art Museum. Creative Commons 0: public domain. Included with appreciation.

Hawai’i may often be depicted in colors of blue water and green tropical plants. But now, Lahaina, on Maui, is charred brown. Lahaina lost lives: the total of fatalities in the worst fire in US history is still rising, already surpassing deaths in California’s Camp Fire of 2018 that killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.

“Fire hydrant flushing,” by photographer Lldar Sagdejev, 2011. Creative Commons 4.0. Included with appreciation.

While heat, drought, and wind created conditions for fire, Lahaina’s municipal systems might have made it worse. Hydrants, placed along city streets for emergency water access, produced little to help firefighters. Lahaina’s water infrastructure draws water from a creek and from wells underground. But when the ravaging fire melted delivery pipes, causing them to burst, losing precious water, those leaks, in turn, affected the pressure of the whole water system, including the delivery of water to hydrants.

Fire damage and lost acreage in the U.S. has tripled in the last three decades. Image: “Wildfires burned in the United States” by Our World In Data, 2020. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

As the climate warms, and droughts increase, wildfires may be more frequent. In 2022, seven countries’ capitals surpassed 40-year high temperatures In South Korea, 42,000 acres burned in a fire in Uljin. In Algeria, a fire in the region of Al Taref consumed 14,000 acres. In Argentina, Corrientes province suffered a fire that charred 2, 223, 948 acres.In the USA, the named McKinney Fire burned  60,000 acres. That same year, in the European Union, over 2 million acres burned.

“Burnout on Mangum Fire” by photographer Mike McMillan/USFS, 2020. Creative Commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

Fire also damages essential infrastructure. Lahaina’s water system suffered damage; that’s not an unusual effect of fire. In Australia, when heat rose to 151 degrees Fahrenheit (66.3 Celsius) and winds gusted to 79 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour), Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric lost some power when NSW grid links went down; 14,000 people lost electric power. Fire damaging water – the very element needed to quell flames – is not a new phenomenon.  In 1633, famous landmark London Bridge suffered a fire that damaged its waterwheels, thereby preventing pumping water to stop the flames. In Lahaina, Hawaiian Electric equipment and infrastructure of Hawaiian Electric, serving 95% of the state’s residents, suffered damage to power lines. With electric and water system affected by the fire, Lahaina’s infrastructure proved to be a factor in the scope of the disaster. An early assessment of the cost of Lahaina fire damage: $6 billion. Lahaina is both a tragedy and a warning.

How can we protect buildings and essential infrastructure? Image: “Fire in Massueville, Quebec, Canada” by photographer Sylvain Pedneault, 2006. Creative Commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

How can we protect people and property from fires developing from heat, drought, and winds? Here are a few ways:

Assess water systems to protect hydrants and pipes

Climate-proof power grids and essential infrastructure

Limit plants (avoid non-native) and vegetation near buildings

Strengthen regulations for construction materials, emphasizing cement, stone, or stucco

Require tempered glass in windows to reduce window blow-out that fans flames

Test signal systems and err on the side of caution when issuing warnings

It is true that preventive protective measures are costly. But post-fire rebuilding costs are 10 to 50 times suppression costs. Global predictions for climate-related wildfires may reach $50 billion – $100 billion annually by 2050. While the world surely needs to quell warming; meanwhile, directing funds and attention to prevention of future fire damage is important. This will be an area of significant innovation, applicable globally.

“Maui, Hawai’i: seen by Landsat.” Image, public domain. Included with appreciation.

Lahaina’s fire was ultimately stopped by water. Flames expired when they had consumed vegetation (some non-native that burned faster) and buildings, until the blaze reached the ocean. People fleeing burning homes endangered their lives to save them by jumping into the Pacific waters. The water system of Lahaina must now be rebuilt. Can the waters of the Pacific help? Maybe. Seawater contains salt, corroding the very means of its conveyance. Moreover, salt water damages vegetation, buildings, and even fire equipment. In the future, desalination innovations may make it possible for coastal areas to use sea water for many purposes, including fire response.

“A Helping Hand” by photographer Damian Gadal, 2008. Creative commons. Included with appreciation.


Contact: Hawaii Community Foundation or Maui United Way, Maui Food Bank.

Visit or text HAWAII to 90999 to make a donation.

For those who lost pets, Maui Fires Pets Help Group may provide help.

Baker, Mike, Kellen Browning, and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs. “As Inferno Grew, Lahaina’s Water System Collapsed.” 13 August 2023. The New York Times.

Howard, Peter. “Flammable Planet.” September 2014.

Kartit, Dina et al .”Wildfires breaking out across the world.” 24 August 2022. Reuters.

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

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