Building the World

August 3, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: Naming Heatwaves

Will Los Angeles be the first American city to name heat waves? Image: “Sunset on the city of Los Angeles, California.” by Censor, 2016. Wikimedia/Unsplash – CC0 1.0 dedicated to the public domain. Included with appreciation.

We name hurricanes and cyclones. Putting a face and name on the alert of coming danger helps people to prepare. We name wildfires for the same reason. Now, in this new normal of climate change, we are beginning to name heatwaves – in and for cities.

Cities are hotter, forming “heat islands.” Image: NOAA, public domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Because heatwaves are felt most vividly in cities, the idea of naming heatwaves is now being considered by Los Angeles, California. That city experienced 6 dangerous heatwaves between 1998 – 2000; now, there will be more, with 22 annually from 2020 to 2050. In 2020, hospitals saw a tenfold increase in emergency room visits during heat spells in Los Angeles.

How would heatwaves be named? Using the model of hurricanes, a number of factors would be assessed: heat overall, night-time heat, and temperature trends. With these factors, an impending heatwave would be declared along a 1-3 scale.

“3rd” no ascribed author. Public Domain. From wikimedia commons. Included with appreciation.

Each city would have different evaluations. When heat hits a city that rarely experiences scorching temperatures, people are less prepared. In Miami, Florida, USA, where “heat season” is already a term for the period from May – October, people are equipped with air conditioners and fans. In days before climate became a crisis, heat waves inspired songs. But the recent UK heatwave found many people in London without air conditioning, something rarely needed in the British Isles. London’s Luton airport had to suspend flights when July 2022 heat melted a runway.

Cities of London and Manchester suffered extreme heat in July 2022. Image: “UK heatwave weather warnings July 2022.” from Met Office, Open Government Licence v3.0. Included with appreciation,

Seville, Spain, where heat is common, has begun to name heatwaves. Seville is the first global city to do so. Seville decided to start at the end of the alphabet, rather than at the beginning as is traditional with hurricanes. Accordingly, “Zoe” arrived in July, with temperatures of 109F (43C), she was considered a category 3 – the highest designation. In the United States, four states are testing the heatwave naming system: Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Will Seville, Spain lead the way? Image: “La Plaza de Espana de Sevilla,” by Francisco Colinet, 2013. Wikimedia Creative Commons CC by SA 3.0 es. Included with appreciation.

Seville’s system was developed with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center. Seville’s former mayor Juan Espadas praised the system “encouraging other cities in the world to also undertake this great endeavor.” (Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center) What do you think about naming heatwaves? How should names be chosen?

MORE:

Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock). “Seville Mayor Juan Espadas announces heatwave naming and categorization initiative.” 18 October 2021. https://onebillionresilient.org/2021/10/18/seville-mayor-juan-espadas-announces-heatwave-naming-and-categorization-initiative/

Debusmann, Bernd, Jr. “Climate change: Will naming heatwaves save lives?” July 30. 2022. BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-62297346

Monroe, Marilyn. “We’re Having a Heat Wave.” YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1xe9gi2gIU

National Ocean Service. “Why do we name tropical storms and hurricanes?” NOAA. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/storm-names.html

National Public Radio. “How do wildfires get their names?” 26 August 2015. Audio and Transcript: https://www.npr.org/2015/08/26/434821450/how-do-wildfires-get-their-names-the-national-park-service-explains

Osborne, Margaret. “‘Zoe’ becomes the world’s first named heat wave.” 2 August 2022. Smithsonian Magazine.

World Meteorological Organization. “Tropical Cyclone Naming.” https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/focus-areas/natural-hazards-and-disaster-risk-reduction/tropical-cyclones/Naming

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

May 12, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: Fast Forward Food

“Noodle Bowl for Lunch” by Tran Mau Tri Tam, 2016. Wikimedia/Unsplash: CC0 1.0. Dedicated to the public domain by the photographer. Included with appreciation.

Cities are known for fast food: the drive-through, the grab and go, the snack stop, pop-up restaurants, food trucks, street cafes and food stalls. Fast food can also be found on shelves of urban convenience and grocery stores. One of the world’s favorite quick treats is the instant noodle. In 2020, 116 billion servings of instant noodles were enjoyed. (Cairns 2022)

“Singapore Skyline at Night with Blue Sky.” Merlion444, 2009. Wikimedia Creative Commons 1.0 public domain. Dedicated to the public domain by the photographer, Included here with appreciation.

Singapore, a city created with trade and diversity as founding principles, is home to the launch of new kind of instant noodle  –  good for taste and for the environment, too. Based in Singapore, WhatIF Foods has introduced a noodle made from the Bambara Groundnut.

“Vigna subterranea” as illustrated by A. Engler in Die Pflanzenwelt Ostafrikas und der nachbargebiete. Volume 2, 1895. This work is the public domain and is included with appreciation.

Bambara (Vigna subterranea) is in the legume family and grows underground (like peanuts): it originated in West Africa and is now grown across the world. It’s what is known, nutritionally, as a complete food: offering protein, carbohydrates, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. WhatIF Foods produces “BamNut” flour made into noodles. The noodles are a bit pricier than the cheapest brands, but many people may value their superior nutrition.

Map of West Africa by Mondo Magic, 2009. Dedicated by the artist to the public domain (CC 1.0) and included here with appreciation.

Bambara Groundnut, or Vigna subterranea, currently comprises a very small part of food supply market (production in Africa is 0.3 million tons) versus the more traditional noodle dough made from wheat (776.6 million metric tons per year globally). But that may change – because Bambara is drought-tolerant. Many areas of the world already suffering drought (from states served by the Colorado River in the United States, to African and Australian areas experiencing drought and expecting more due to climate change and warming). Crops that can survive in dry soil will be in demand. Recent figures from the United Nations reveal that dry soil chokes 40% of agricultural land, and 56 acres (23 hectares) of arable land are lost to drought EVERY MINUTE.

“Corn shows the effects of drought in Texas,” by USDA’s Bob Nichols, 20 August 2013. This photo is the public domain and included here with appreciation to USDA and Bob Nichols.

There are 300,000 edible plant species, but just three (rice, maize, wheat) comprise 86% of all exports. According to Professor Victoria Jideani of Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa, governments should subsidize agricultural diversity, such as the bambara groundnut, that can resist drought, support food security, and broaden the plant-based dietary options for a future-forward table. By 2050, 68% of the world’s people will live in cities. Land is limited, not only by population growth demands but also by agricultural needs. Optimal use of arable land will be one of the factors in balancing population, food security, and environment.

Bangkok, Thailand is a global megacity offering some of the tastiest food in the world, including legendary noodles. Image: “Food Stalls Bangkok,” by Ian Grattan, 2012. Wikimedia CC2.0. Included here with appreciation to Ian Grattan and Bangkok.

WhatIF Foods are currently sold in Singapore and produced in factories located in Australia and Malaysia, are sold in Asia, and in the regulatory approval process in the European Union. Privately financed, the company is now attracting investors. In the United States, you can purchase WhatIF products (noodles are just one of the products) online. Looking for instant noodle recipes? Here’s eight from eight countries.

Adetokunboh, Adeola, Anthony Obilana, Victoria Jideani. “Enzyme and Antioxidant Activities of Malted Bambara Groundnut as Affected by Steeping and Sprouting Time.” March 2022. Foods 11 (6): 783. DOI:10.3390/foods11060783

Cairns, Rebecca. “This Singaporean startup has reinvented the instant noodle.” 9 May 2022. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/08/business/whatif-bamnut-sustainable-instant-noodles-climate-hnk-intl-spc/index.html

Cheetham, Peter and Christoph Langwallner, co-founders of WhatIF Foods. https://whatif-foods.com/

Jideani, Victoria. Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Victoria-Jideani

United Nations Environment Programme. “#FridayFact: Every minute, we lose 23 hectares of arable land worldwide to drought and desertification.” 12 February 2018. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/fridayfact-every-minute-we-lose-23-hectares-arable-land-worldwide-drought

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

May 4, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: No Mow May

NO MOW MAY. This month, let your lawn grow with wildflowers to feed seasonal pollinators like bees. Photo: “Wildflowers” by Richard Croft, 2007. Wikimedia CC 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Public parks like Boston’s Greenway or New York City’s Central Park might be the lungs of the city, but urban and suburban yards may be the pop-up restaurants for seasonal pollinators like bees that will help the world through climate change. American lawns occupy 40 million acres, and may be the largest irrigated “crop” in the United States – three times more than irrigated corn. (Milesi, University of Montana and NOAA National Geophysical Data Center)

“Automaton Lawn Mower by Ransomes, Sims & Jeffries of Ipswich, England,” advertisement circa 1867. Public Domain.

No Mow May is an organization in the United Kingdom advocating the absence of lawn mowing, letting lawns grow wild, for this month, offering a spring habitat and feeding ground of wildflowers and clover critical for emerging bees and early pollinators. In addition to homes, colleges are included: Lawrence University recently joined the organization Bee City, USA, and its affiliate: Bee Campus USA.

Fewer lawns, more bees. “Abeille” by Jean-Raphaël Guillaumin, 2010. Wikimedia, CC 2.0. Included with appreciation.

Yards, and campuses, participating in No Mow May noted three times more bee species abundance and five times more bee attendance than in lawn areas.

Another benefit of No Mow May? Water retention. People water lawns. In an era of drought and water scarcity, lawns may be phased out. That what happened in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lake Mead, water reservoir of the Colorado River, supplies Las Vegas with water. A new law by the Southern Nevada Water Authority prohibits lawns, and watering of nonfunctional turf, in response to drought conditions on the Colorado River. Image: “Lake Mead” by Kjkolb, public domain. Included with appreciation.

A new law, related to water shortages in the Colorado River, enacted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, decreed first-ever permanent prohibition of non-functional turf (soccer fields are functional, household lawns are not). Residents are digging up grass and replacing it with rocks and cactus, creating xeriscapes, a kind of landscaping reducing or eliminating need for irrigation.

Do you have grass in your yard or on your campus? Participate in No Mow May: for a printable yard sign, click here

Bee City USA. https://beecityusa.org

Bee Campus USA. https://beecityusa.org/current-bee-campus-use-affiliates

Del Toro, Israel and Relena R. Ribbons. “No Mow May lawns have higher pollinator richness and abundances: An engaged community provides floral resources for pollinators” 22 September 2020. National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information. doi: 10.7717/peerj.10021

Milesi, Cristina. “More Lawns than Irrigated Corn.” 8 November 2005. Earth Observatory, NASA.gov. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Law/lawn2.php

No Mow May. Plantlife.  https://www.plantlife.org.uk

Osann, Ed. “Toward Sustainable Landscapes: Restoring the Right NOT to Mow.” 6 May 2016. Natural Resources Defense Council. https://www.nrdc.org/resources/toward-sustainable-landscapes-restoring-right-not-mow

Southern Nevada Water Authority. “An Act relating to water; prohibiting, with certain exceptions, the use of water from the Colorado River to irrigate nonfunctional turf on certain properties.” Assembly Bill No. 356, 22 March 2021. https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/Bills/AB/AB356_R1.pdf

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March 22, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: (Eiffel)Tower of Transmission

“Eiffel Tower at Night” by Mike Brice, 2005. Image: wikimedia.

When is an icon also a beacon? The Eiffel Tower has a new capability: digital radio transmission. A helicopter installed the antenna, extending the tower’s height to reach 1,083 feet.  Communications transmission is a tradition of the iconic tower. Gustave Eiffel’s sculpture, built for the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, was originally slated for removal twenty years after the exposition. The land permit contract expired after two decades, reverting the area to the city of Paris.

Guglielmo Marconi with radio equipment, 1901. Life Magazine. Image: wikimedia.

But Gustave Eiffel was always devoted to science, even building a special space in the tower for government technological observations and use. So, when a new communications technology pioneered by Hertz, Marconi, Tesla and others developed in the 1890 decade, Gustave Eiffel suggested the tower – for many years the world’s tallest structure – be used as the site for a radio antenna. On 5 November 1898, Eugène Ducretet transmitted the first radio contact from the Eiffel Tower: it would travel 2.49 miles (4 kilometers) to the Pantheon. The next year, the Eiffel Tower’s new radio capability transmitted a signal from Paris to London. Later, television signal capability added to the Tower’s importance and permanece.

When the Paris Agreement entered into force, the Eiffel Tower displayed the message in green. Image: photograph by Jean-Baptiste/Mairie de Paris and U.S. Department of State, 4 November 2016. Image: wikimedia commons.

The Eiffel Tower communicates in another way: color. When the historic Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, to begin a new era of cooperation as the world’s countries and businesses pledged to stop climate change, the Eiffel Tower displayed the message while the structure gleamed in green lights. More recently, Paris illuminated the Eiffel Tower in the blue and gold of the Ukrainian flag.

“Skyscrapers of Shinjuku, with Mt. Fuji in view.” by photographer Morio 2009. Creative Commons 3.0. wikimedia.

By 2050, 68% of the world will live in cities: the increasing density will mean more high-rise buildings, skyscrapers, and towers. Economies of scale may influence municipal regulations for water and sanitation systems, energy options, and transport links. Tall buildings like Willis Tower in Chicago might also provide new forms cellular and internet transmission. 

“Dipole xmting antenna animation” by Chetvomo. With appreciation to Chetvomo. Image: Wikimedia commons.

Lemoine, Bertrand. “How did radio save the Tower?” 10 February 2020. https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/news/130-years/how-did-radio-save-tower

United Nations. “68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050.” 16 May 2018. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations. https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects-html

VIDEO: “Eiffel Tower grows by 20 feet.” CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/videos/travel/2022/03/16/eiffel-tower-height-change-lon-orig-na.cnn

Willis Tower, Chicago. https://www.willistower.com/history-and-facts/antennas

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

March 2, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: Plastic – Part 4, The Promise

UNEP meets in Nairobi to draft global plastic treaty 2022. Image: “Nairobi night skyline.” by Nbi101, 2013. CC4.0 Wikimedia.

GLOBAL TREATY TO END PLASTIC POLLUTION: This week, 175 UN Member States are meeting in Nairobi to decide upon a legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution. “Ambitious action to beat plastic pollution should track the lifespan of plastic products – from source to sea – should be legally binding, accompanied by support to developing countries, backed by financing mechanism tracked by strong monitoring mechanisms, and incentivizing all stakeholders – including the private sector,” states Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP 2022).

UNEP logo. wikimedia

BUSINESS CAN LEAD THE WAY: While governments can agree, it is business and industry that will make the difference. Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) announced the switch to reusable and refillable packaging. Some of the brands may be familiar to you: Crest, Cascade, Gillette, Pampers, Pantene, and Tide all plan new packaging. Partnering with TerraCycle’s Loop program, P&G’s Ambition 2030 campaign will aim for a circular manufacturing process with as little plastic as possible. Some products like Pampers will come with a bin: when it is full, just text a pick-up service that will take your waste for repurposing and drop off a new container. TerraCycle partners with UPS helped to design packaging, with an eye to the role of transportation as “an enabler for circularity. UPS’ director for global sustainability believes “Loop is the signal for the future.” For more brand innovations, click here.

“Crest toothpaste,” photographer Scott Ehardt, 2005. Dedicated to the public domain by Scott Ehardt. Wikimedia.

TRASH OR TREASURE? Most plastic packaging is used only once. Only 14% of plastic collected is recycled. But it’s more than just trash – it’s valuable. Yet, 95% of that value – mainly of plastic packaging material – is lost to the economy. It is worth $100 billion – annually. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2022).

Reused and recycled plastic is not trash; it is a commodity of value. Image: “Money Flat Icon GIF Animataion by videoplasty.com, CC 4.0 Wikimedia.

PLASTIC OF THE FUTURE Here are some ways to end plastic pollution:

Innovate so all plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable

Ensure future plastics are free from hazardous chemicals

Catch and filter plastic trash carried by rivers (93% from just a few main rivers)

Redesign the plastics system from source to sea

Set up collection, regulatory, and policy government guidelines

Join UNEP agreement with government and business to solve plastic pollution

Transform recycled and reused plastic into a commodity of value

READ the Draft Resolution, “End plastic pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument.” 2 March 2022. HERE.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “Plastics and The Circular Economy.” https://archive.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore/plastics-and-the-circular-economy

Ivanova, Maria. Moderator: “Looking Back: 50 Years of the UN Environment Programme.” 4 March 2022.UNEP and Center for Governance & Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Boston.  https://www.environmentalgovernance.org/unepdialogue

Szczepanski, Mallory. “The Loop shopping system aims to change the world’s reliance on single-use packaging.” 6 February 2019. Waste360. https://www.waste360.com/waste-reduction/terracycle-partners-major-brands-launch-sustainable-shopping-system

UNEP. “UN Environment Assembly opens with all eyes on a global agreement on plastic pollution,” 28 February 2022. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/un-environment-assembly-opens-all-eyes-global-agreemen-plastic

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

February 18, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: Plastic – Part 2, The Producers

Cities are filled with plastic products – where are they made? Image: “Slovnaft – New Prolypropylene Plant” by Miklova. CC by 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Cities are the largest depositories of plastic products. Plastic was the largest category of waste disposal in Singapore in 2020 – 763,000 tons. Singapore recycles only 4% of its plastic waste. Other cities may do a bit better: San Francisco is the top city in the world for recycling. But we see only the end of the process.

“Global production and fate of plastics.” based on Geyer et al., 2007. With appreciation to Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Janbeck, Kara Lavender Law. Creative Commons 3.0, wikimedia.

Where do these products originate? It’s an enormous market – global sales of items manufactured in plastic reached $79 billion in 2018, and with growth of 8.5% per year since then. Europe set the highest value worth of exported plastic, with Asia and North America just behind. Plastic may grow to a $754 billion market by 2027 (unless the world does something soon to reduce the use of plastic). Plastic products may fill our cities, but where do they originate? Who are the producers?

TOP TEN PLASTIC PRODUCERS

Dow Chemical Company (coatings)

LyondellBasell (polyethylene and polypropylene)

ExxonMobil (olefins)

SABIC (polymers)

INEOS (food and product packaging)

BASF (world’s 6th largest manufacturer of plastics)

ENI (various plastics)

I.G. Chem (materials)

Chevron Phillips Chemical (polyalphaoelfins)

Lanxess (polymers)

Source: BizVibe 2022

The plastic you see, in your shampoo container or beverage bottle, is the end of the production process. It’s what you recycle: that’s part of the solution. Some consumer products, like beverage and cosmetic companies, are reducing their use of plastic packaging. But as we address plastic pollution, should we also concentrate on the origination?

Geyer, Roland, Jenna R. Janbeck, Kara Lavender Law. “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.” 19 July 2017. Science Advances. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1700782

Oh, Tessa. “Explainer: Why Singapore’s plastic recycling rate is so low and what can be done to raise it.” 30 August 2021. Today. https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/explainer-why-singapores-plstic-recycling-rate-so-low-and-what-can-be-done-raise-it

“Top 10 Largest Plastic Manufacturing Companies in the World” BizVibe. 2022. https://blog/bizvibe.com/blog/plastic-manufacturing-companies

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February 10, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: Plastic – Part 1, The Problem

Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled. Now the UN will develop a treaty to limit plastic pollution. Image: “Plastic bottles in a pickup truck for recycling.” by Streetwise, 2010. Public domain: creative commons.

Plastic: it is the convenience – and scourge – of our Anthropocene era. Most of it lives in cities, and then landfills. Diplomats are now turning their collective attention to plastic pollution. Modeled on the 2015 Paris Agreement, developed in the city of the Eiffel Tower, the first stage of the UN initiative is assessment: how much plastic is being manufactured? With what chemicals? Who are the main players? What happens when plastic is discarded?

Plastic Facts and Figures:

Since its invention, 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced

Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. Most is in landfills

United States generates 287 pounds of plastic waste, per person, per year

During the pandemic, single-use plastic wrapping products for safety increased 19%

8 million metric tons of plastic enter global waters – each year (that is equivalent to a dump truck offloading every minute of every day

Microplastics are now found in the organs of fish

Microbeads and plastic fibers are found in 80% of the world’s tap water

Led by Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, the UNEA-5 team will convene in Nairobi on 28 February 2022. Preparing for that meeting, we will next take a look the main manufacturers, and preview some innovations that may signal hope.

Birnbaum, Michael and Min Joo Kim. “Plastics production is skyrocketing. A new U.N. treaty effort could cap it. 8 February 2022. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/02/08/plastic-pollution-un-treaty

Ingilizian, Zara. “Waste-free consumption: 3 reasons why cities will lead.” 14 June 2019. World Economic Forum: Shaping the Future of Consumption. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/3-reasons-why-cities-can-stem-the-tide-of-the-plastic-crisis/

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution – it’s time for change!” https://www.unep.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution

UNEP-5. https://www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org/resources/updates/towards-unea-5-2/

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

January 17, 2022
by Building The World
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CITIES: Landscapes and Dreamscapes

“I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on 28 August 1963. Photo shows the view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. Image: wikimedia.

When Martin Luther King delivered a speech that would ring throughout history, “I Have a Dream,” he did so on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in the nation’s capital. King’s words echoed Lincoln’s, who proposed and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and were framed by the setting of a monument dedicated to equality, freedom, and justice. The crowd assembled stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, in a public gathering space first envisioned by the country’s founders. Today’s march to urge passage of a law to protect  voting rights is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Peace Walk.

L’Enfant’s plan for Washington, D.C., facsimile, us.gov. Image: wikimedia

With the vision of capital to be both a center of government and a landscape that invited public art and public gatherings, George Washington engaged architect and engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant in 1791 to map out a new city. The plan was inspired by the open boulevards of Paris, L’Enfant’s original home before he at the age of 22 the young engineer volunteered to serve with the Corps of Engineers of the United States Continental Army: it was then that he met Washington. However, the relationship proved volatile and Washington fired L’Enfant in 1792.

Benjamin Banneker” from image on a U.S. postal stamp honoring the brilliant mathematician and surveyor whom many credit with preserving the design of Washington, D.C.’s design. Image: wikimedia.

Benjamin Banneker, a mathematician and astronomer with an apparently photographic memory, saved the capital. Banneker remember L’Enfant’s design and detailed blueprints exactly. He had been engaged by Major Andrew Ellicott to survey the land. Banneker particularly noted L’Enfant’s design of grand open space for monuments, public art, and common ground for gatherings, and kept the vision in the city’s plan. Others on the capital team included Latrobe and Jefferson. Benjamin Banneker and Martin Luther King, Jr. shared a vision, and some background: both shared an African-American heritage.

“Original Plan for Brasilia” by Lúcio Costa” from O Spaço Lúcio Costa, Brasilia, permanent exhibition: photograph by Uri Rosenheck. Image: wikimedia.

Cities, especially capitals, have an opportunity to be more than an urban conglomerate. In some ways, a capital is public art. When Brazil moved its capital from coastal Rio de Janeiro to the center of the country, the nation gave a new name, Brasilia, to its capital. Recognizing a new era in global perspective and transport, Brasilia was built in the shape of an airplane.

“Drivers, Processes, and Impacts of Sinking Cities” graphic by Wbliss10, 2019. Wikimedia commons.

With global warming and rising seas, we will see the rebuilding of coastal cities. It is a fact that many capitals, especially ancient ones, were ports. Indonesia plans to move its capital because the current one is sinking at a rate of 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) per year due to coastal location exacerbated by aggressive draining of groundwater under Jakarta. Bangkok, Thailand recently reviewed projections that it could be underwater by 2030, due to a combination of heavy skyscrapers built during a real estate and economic boom, and depletion of groundwater resources,  despite attempts to slow the process including Thailand’s Ground Water Act of 1977. Dhaka, Bangladesh is sinking at a rate of 0.55 inches (1.4 centimeters) and sea level rise in the Bay of Bengal is higher than the global average. Nigeria moved its capital from coastal Lagos to central Abuja.

“Aerial panorama of Bremen and the river Weser – Bremen von oben” by Moinichbins, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

Sea rise may soon cause nations to rebuild and redesign some cities, especially those located near water. How can capitals be both centers of efficient governance and inspirational gatherings? If you were to design a new capital, based on the virtues and values of a nation, how would you create a city that is both a landscape and a dreamscape?

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Jakarta: first capital to move due to sea rise.” 2019 Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/05/01/jakarta-first-capital-to-move-due-to-sea-rise/

Keene, Louis. “Benjamin Banneker.” The White House Historical Association.” https://www.whitehousehistory.org/benjamin-banneker

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have A Dream.” 28 August 1963. LISTEN: https://youtu.be/vP4/Y1TtS3s

Rosane, Olivia. “8 World Cities That Could Be Underwater As Oceans Rise.” 5 October 2018. EcoWatch. https://www.ecowatch.com/cities-vulnerable-sea-level-rise-2610208792.html

Thailand. “Ground Water Act of 1977.” http://www.dgr.go.th/en/about/391

Washington D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Walk. 17 January 2022. https://mlkholidaydc.org/

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

 

July 4, 2021
by Building The World
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CITIES: Liberty, Diplomacy, Art (and Fireworks!)

“Statue of Liberty” by Tysto (Derek Jensen), 2005. Image is in the public domain, from wikimedia commons.

On Independence Day, France will give a gift of diplomacy to the United States, celebrating the shared value of liberty. France’s national motto “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity), and the American holiday of independence, will join sentiments as a replica of the Statue of Liberty is presented by the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Paris for a ten-year visit to the land of her big sister. “Little Lady Liberty” (9.3 feet or 2.8 meters) joins the original Statue of Liberty (305 feet or 93 meters) that was a gift from France to the United States in 1886.

“The Eiffel Tower – State of the Construction.” Photograph by Louis-Emile Durandelle. public domain. Image: wikimedia.

While Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed the sculpture, the creator of the eponymous Eiffel Tower in Paris, Gustave Eiffel, crafted its internal structure, introducing an innovative design that relied not on weight as support but on a flexible structure with a central pylon supporting a web of asymmetrical girders. Since its arrival in 1885, the iconic monument has stood on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, welcoming those who came to its shores in search of freedom. The visiting French replica will be displayed on Ellis Island to bear witness to Independence celebrations, before moving to other locations, culminating in Washington, D.C. for its unveiling on July 14, in honor of Bastille Day. The visitor will remain for 10 years. As the world seeks to foster shared values, should countries exchange public art for display, especially in national capitals, as an outreach of diplomacy? If you’d like to follow the journey of Little Lady Liberty, click here.

Another iconic display – both on American Independence Day and French Bastille Day? Fireworks!

“Animation gif of Fireworks, July 4, 2007, Gainesville, Florida” by Sistromc. Image: public domain, wikimedia commons.

Chen, Roselle, with editing by Rosalba O’Brien. “Mini Statue of Liberty retraces her big sister’s steps to New York Harbor.” 2 July 2021. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/mini-statue-liberty-retraces-her-big-sisters-steps-new-york-harbor-2021-07/01/.

Varga, Eva. “The Engineering Feats of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel.” https://evavarga.net/engineering-feats-alexandre-gustave-eiffel/

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

June 29, 2021
by Building The World
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CITIES: Iconic Pride

“Empire State Building in Rainbow Colors for Pride.” Photographer Anthony Quintano. 28 June 2015. Image: wikimedia commons

Cities have an opportunity to inspire and unite urban denizens in shared values. As Toynbee demonstrated in Cities of Destiny, the metropolis can create a unique cultural climate. Many urban centers possess iconic monuments, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, that may serve as cultural billboards. As the world gathered in Paris for COP21 in 2015, that landmark beamed the message: “1.5” –  indicating a shared goal of limiting global warming to that level. Other issues like social justice have illuminated city monuments: San Francisco’s City Hall has often been displayed in rainbow colors.

“City Hall, San Francisco, California, USA.” Photographer Torrenegra. Image: wikimedia

London, England, has many landmarks including the fabled London Bridge and the recent addition to the cityscape: the London Eye. This month, the “Eye,” formally termed the Millennium Wheel when it opened in 2000, displayed rainbow colors to honor Pride, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall turning point for LGBT+ rights.

White House with LGBT+ Rainbow Colors. Image: wikimedia commons.

In June of 2015 when the United States Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) two people of same sex have the right to marry, the White House celebrated by illuminating the iconic Washington D.C. building in the colors of the rainbow. As we strive to build an equal and sustainable future – environmentally and socially – how can cities Troop the Color?

“Malloy, Allie and Karl de Vries. “White House shines rainbow colors to hail same-sex marriage ruling.” 30 June 2014. CNN. VIDEO https://www.cnn.com/2015/06/26/politics/white-house-rainbow-marriage/index.html

Public Broadcasting System (PBS). “The American Experience: Stonewall.” VIDEO https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/

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

Wingate, Sophie. “London landmarks light up in rainbow colours to celebrate Pride Month” 2 June 2021. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/tv/news/london-landmarks-light-up-in-rainbow-colours-for-pride-month-vd05b2fba.

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

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