Building the World

January 11, 2021
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ENERGY: Renewing Hope in 2021

Winds of change are in the air. Literally.

“Vestas V90-3MW Wind Turbine of Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Fram, Thames Estuary, UK” by Phil Hollman, 2006. Wikimedia Commons.Wind Power innovator BladeBUG may aid maintenance of marine turbines, now 40% of the cost of these energy generators. If offshore wind were more affordable and reliable, it could increase its energy contribution by 18 times. BladeBug, a drone-based innovation founded by Chris Cieslak, won recognition from ORE Catapult (Offshore Renewable Energy in Blyth, UK) and will now integrate with MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments). Both are part of a consortium led by Plant Integrity.

“CLT-plate with three layers of spruce” by Pañh, 2018. Wikimedia Commons.

Another renewable natural resource set to develop increased importance: wood. Can timber help to lessen the carbon impact of concrete and steel in the building industry? A form of ultra-thick plywood termed Cross-laminated Timber (CLT)  can be used for walls and floors. While the Eiffel Tower may not be redesigned, France recently ruled that all new commercial buildings must have solar or green rooftops, and has now legislated that all new public buildings be constructed with at least 50% timber. Enter a new term in architecture: “plyscraper.” Leading manufacturers that investors are watching: Stora Enso, KLH Massivholz GmbH, Binderholz, Mayr-Meinhof Holz Group, Hasslacher.

“Beautiful Sunset,” Reem78, 2015. Wikimedia Commons.

Ever since Peter G. Glaser patented solar power satellites, energy from the sun has proven efficient and relatively inexpensive as technologies for solar panels improve. But until Glaser’s innovation can be pursued, solar panels still collect only one/fifth of what is possible. Oxford PV is employing silicon with perovskite that increases solar panel efficiency by 29.52%, setting a new world record. The company originated at Oxford University, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was developed.

Will COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland herald a new era for climate and cooperation? Image: “University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1900” Library of Congress image ppmsc.07600

Brilliant medical and scientific researchers created Covid vaccine innovations through rapid cooperative response to a world crisis that some likened to the Manhattan Project. Climate change is another world crisis. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that has championed causes of public health, sees hope for 2021, noting the November United Nations COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, as catalyst for nations to pledge responses to climate change. With new administrations in the United States, new political definitions of the United Kingdom and European Union, increased commitments to energy neutrality by China and others, there is reason for hope. What do you think will be the most important advances in 2021?

For more:

BladeBUG. https://bladebug.co.uk

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Up on a Roof,” 13 November 2015. Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/11/13/up-on-a-roof/

Glaser, Peter. “Space Solar Power.” 1999 MA Space Grant Consortium Public Lecture. MIT. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03x_Q4DGfel

Heap, Tom. “Why I’m feeling hopeful about the environment in 2021.” 4 January 2021. BBC Radio 4.

Hutchins, Mark. “Oxford PV retakes tandem cell efficiency record.” 21 December 2020, PV Magazine. https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/12/21/oxford-pv-retakes-tandem-cell-efficiency-record/

Jaffe, Paul. “Power Beaming & Space Solar Innovation: Peter Glaser.” 30 July 2020. HDIAC Webinars. VIDEO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhFaLgmJsk

IMARC Group. “Top 5 Cross-Laminated Timber Manufacturers Worldwide.” 4 October 2017. https://www.imarcgroup.com/top-cross-laminated-timber-manufacturers-worldwide

OE Digital. “Spider-like Robot to Change Offshore Wind Blade IMR Game.” 28 April 2020. OEDigital. https://www.oedigital.com/news/277974-spider-like-robot-to-change-offshore-wind-blade-imr-game

Souza, Eduardo, translated by José Tomás Franco. ArchDaily. 20 May 2018. “Cross Laminated Timber (CLT): What It Is and How To Use It.” https://www.archdaily.com/893442/cross-laminated-timber-clt-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it

Voytko, Lisette. “Bill Gates Has Big, Scientific Hopes for 2021. Here’s Why.” 22 December 2020. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisettevoytko/2020/12/22/bill-gates-has-scienfitic-hopes-for-2021-heres-why/

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

December 31, 2020
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ENERGY: 2020 by the Numbers

The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons, including climate change. Temperatures were 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit (0.6 Celsius) warmer than the 1981-2010 average and 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit (1.25 Celsius) above pre-industrial times. Rising temperatures have consequences. In January of 2020, Australia suffered wildfires burning an area bigger than Florida. In summer, Atlantic hurricane season brought 30 named storms, carrying more water (warming oceans produce more water, higher waves, increased flooding). Western United States areas like California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington witnessed fires that destroyed 10.3 million acres. In the Arctic, data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service showed the region is warming faster than feared, more than twice the pace as the rest of the globe, with 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). Environmental scientists noted that 2020 set a record for carbon dioxide concentrations, rising to 413 ppm (parts per million) in May of 2020, even with Covid-19 lockdowns. (Kann and Miller, 2021)

“Wildfire in Santa Clarita, California.” Image: wikimedia.

Price tag? $95 billion. And that’s just for U.S. climate-related damage, according to Munich Re, insurance company to other insurance firms that covered damage from Atlantic storms and California wildfires. Chief climate scientist of Munich Re Ernst Rauch warned that building in high-risk areas added to losses. Hurricanes  were significant in damage, causing $43 billion in losses. Convective storms (like hailstorms and tornadoes) caused $40 billion. Wildfires added up to $7 billion including destruction of crops, endangering food security. Residential and business properties sustained damage and claimed insurance losses, over 4000 properties in Oregon and many more in California. According to Donald L. Griffin of American Property Casualty Insurance Association, “We can’t, as an industry, continue to just collect more and more money, and rebuild and rebuild and rebuild in the same way.” (Flavelle, 2021) Beyond the United States, the numbers are just as dire. Cyclone Amphan struck Bangladesh and India in May, resulting in $14 billion in damage. Asia sustained $67 billion in losses from natural disasters.

Cyclone Amphan May 2020. Image: wikimedia commons.

What does this mean for 2021? Following the money and perhaps led by the insurance industry, new ways to rebuild may lead us into the New Year. We’ll take a look at some hopeful trends, next.

American Property Casualty Insurance Association. https://www.apci.org

Flavelle, Christopher. “U.S. Disaster Costs Doubled in 2020, Reflecting Costs of Climate Change.” 7 January 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/07/climate/2020-disaster-costs.html?referringSource=articleShare

Kann, Drew and Brandon Miller. “2020 was tied for the hottest year ever recorded — but the disasters field by climate change set it apart.” 8 January 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/08/weather/2020-global-temperatures-tied-for-warmest-on-record-copernicus/index.html

Munich Re. https://www.munichre.com/en.html

Thanks to Jason W. Lusk for editorial guidance and suggestions.

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

November 30, 2020
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WATER: Art and Environment

“Coral Reef” by photographer Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: wikimedia.

As coral reefs around the world suffer effects of climate change, BlueLab Preservation Society has responded to “combine art and science to address issues of sustainability,” according to art director Ximena Caminos. The result: an ‘art-ificial’ reef, designed by artists, for Miami Beach, to stretch seven miles along the coast. Some compare ReefLine to the High Line in Manhattan, but instead of walking shoes, one traverses the area with fins – both piscatorial and human. While the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has lost 50% of its coral, and reefs worldwide are similarly damaged, Florida hopes to re-establish marine life with the underwater art installation. Some have noted that Pantone’s color of the year in 2019 was “Living Coral.” It quickly became a hair color of choice. Can fashion and art play a role in raising environmental awareness?

“The Silent Evolution” in Cancún’s MUSA. Image: wikimedia.

“Ocean Siren,” an underwater sculpture for the Great Barrier Reef by conservationist artist Jason deCaires Taylor, was the first art to be included in Australia’s Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA). “Ocean Siren,” modeled after 12-year old Takoda Johnson, member of the Wulgurukaba People, changes color in response to varying ocean temperatures. Jason deCaires Taylor was also the architect for Mexico’s Museo Subacuático de Arte or Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA), with 500 statues between Cancún and Isla Mujeres, with the goal of protecting the Mesoamerican Reef, largest in the Western Hemisphere. The sculptures are made with a neutral PH cement surface to promote coral tissue growth. Florida’s ReefLine will feature works by artists Shigematsu, Ernesto Neto, and Agustina Woodgate.

Coral reefs: locations. Image: wikimedia.

While some environmentalists may question the practice of drawing more tourists to visit delicate coral reefs, others may find ways of raising awareness of the importance of marine life helpful. Perhaps the movement towards biodegradable beach flip-flops and other products replacing plastic endangering our oceans will accompany Florida’s initiative. What do you think about underwater art and artificial coral reefs?

Blue Lab Preservation Society. https://www.instagram.com/bluelab_preservation_society/?hl=en

DeCaires Taylor, Jason. “An underwater art museum, teeming with life.” TED Talk. VIDEO: https://www.ted.com/talks/jason_decaires_taylor_an_underwater_art_museum_teeming_with_life

Hutchinson, Carrie. “An underwater museum is opening inside the world’s most famous reef.” 29 April 2020. cnbc.com. Includes VIDEO. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/29/museum-of-underwater-art-to-open-inside-australia-great-barrier-reef.html

Palumbo, Jacqui. “An otherworldly underwater sculpture park will open in Miami.” 26 November 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/reef-line-miami-underwter-sculpture-park/index.html

November 19, 2020
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ENERGY: Fueling the Future

Electric Green Camo. Photographer warcow112; image: wikimedia.

After 2030, you won’t be able to buy a diesel or gasoline car or van in Britain. That’s five years earlier than planned, but not a minute too late. “We must use the extraordinary powers of invention to repair the economic damage from Covid-19, and to build back better. Now is the time to plan for a green recovery with high-skilled jobs that give people the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make the country cleaner, greener, and more beautiful,” stated Boris Johnson, Prime Minister. It’s part of a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050: Britain was the first G7 country to put that goal into law, in 2019.  New green jobs are expected to number 250,000, supported by $16 billion (12 billion Pounds) in government funds, tripled in contribution by industry. Britain plans on EV tech in the Midlands, advanced fuel specialists in the Wales, agroforestry practitioners in Scotland: those who train for new green jobs will be certified with a Lifetime Skills Guarantee. It’s a 10 point plan:

Ten from Number 10 Downing.

One – Wind

Two – Hydrogen

Three – Nuclear

Four – Electric vehicles (EV)

Five – Public transport including cycle lanes

Six –  Aircraft (and ships) of zero emission

Seven – Greener homes, schools, hospitals

Eight – Carbon capture and storage

Nine – Planting and rewilding

Ten – Energy innovation fund.

CCC Poster by Albert Bender, 1935. Let’s update the wording to “Everyone’s Opportunity.” Image: wikimedia.

Britain’s plan may provide an example of using post-pandemic funds to fuel a new economy. What will other countries do? In the United States, after the great depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the Civilian Conservation Corps to build a new vision with jobs in infrastructure that transformed the nation. Is it time now for a new CCC – Climate Conservation Corps? In another time of dire circumstances, the Manhattan Project garnered resources that led to a new form of energy. Now, as we approach 2021, how can American recovery and stimulus funds transform education, industry, and infrastructure?

Johnson, Boris. “Green Jobs,” 18 November 2020, Financial Times. http://www.ukpol.co.uk/boris-johnson-2020-article-in-financial-times-on-green-jobs/

Twidale, Susanna. “Britain to ban new petrol cars by 2030 on road to net zero emissions.” 17 November 2020. Reuters, ESC Environment. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-britain-idUSKBN27X220

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

 

September 15, 2020
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ENERGY: Fire, Air Quality, and Innovation

Fire fills the air with dangerous pollution. Innovation in air conditioning and filtration is needed now and in the future. Image: wikimiedia.

In California, Oregon, Washington and other states, Americans have recently seen a preview of climate change. Earlier this year, Australia suffered record bushfires. Africa experienced the worst drought in decades, threatening energy supplies and food security in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Longer, hotter, dry seasons set the stage for drought, and vulnerability to fires caused by a number of factors. Forest management and human actions are surely factors, but a warming climate intensifies the problem. Severe conditions will force climate migration, as many move to safer locations. World Weather Attribution consortium warns that if global temperatures rise by 2C, fires will occur four times more often.

Challenge: design a better air-conditioner. Image: wikimedia.

Building better fire mitigation includes addressing air pollution health hazards. Air-conditioners and air filtration systems are ready for a major leap in technology. In the 1980’s, we made the alarming discovery that refrigerants like those in cooling appliances were emitting chloroflourocarbans (CFCs), depleting Earth’s ozone layer. Response was a global accord, the 1987 Montreal Protocol, to stop using harmful pollutants in cooling devices. But now we still need something to replace CFCs, and so enter HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons. These are also problematic: HFCs accelerate global warming at 11,000 times the rate of carbon dioxide. Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol legislated the phasing out of HFCs. While 102 countries have signed on and ratified their participation, some countries have not. Sadly, those non-participants are some of the world’s biggest users of HFCs. It’s a missed opportunity because we could save 460 billion tons of dangerous emissions over the next 40 decades. If we doubled energy efficiency of air-conditioners, we could save $2.9 trillion by 2050. Here’s a searchable database of non-HFC cooling technologies. Global energy demand for air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050. Want to do well, while doing good? Build a better air-conditioner.

Carlowicz, Michael. “Drought Threatens Millions in Southern Africa.” 1 December 2019, Earth Observatory/NASA. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146015/drought-threatens-millions-in-southern-africa.

Cool Technologies Database. “Sustainable Cooling Database.” Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). https://cooltechnologies.org/

Dutta, Meghna. “Top Air Conditioners that double up as Air Purifiers too.” 1 May 2018. The Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/techook/top-air-conditioners-that-double-up-as-air-purifiers-too-5158512/

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “HFC-free Technologies: Putting the Freeze on HFCs: A Global Digest of Available Climate-friendly Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Technologies. https://eia-global.org/initiatives/hfc-free-technologies/.

EIA. “Unlocking Kigali Amendment Climate Benefits.” https://eia.-global.org/

Ghosh, Pallab. “Climate change boosted Australia bushfire risk by at least 30%.” 4 March 2020. BBC.com.https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51742646.

Litwin, Evan. “The Climate Diaspora: Indo-Pacific Emigration from Small Island Developing States.” 1 May 2011. University of Massachusetts Boston. DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.1912859. Corpus ID: 128341843.

Lustgarten, Abrahm with photographs by Meridith Kohut. “How Climate Migration Will Reshape America.” 15 September 2020. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/15/magazine/climate-crisis-migration-america.html?referringSource=articleShare.

Noor, Dharna. “We Essentially Cook Ourselves if We Don’t Fix Air Conditioning, Major UN Report Warns. Earther. https://earther.gizmodo.com/we-essentially-cook-ourselves-if-we-don-t-fix-air-con-1844416667%3Futm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=bottom.

Pearce, Fred. “Thirty Years After Montreal Pact, Solving the Ozone Problem Remains Elusive.” 14 August 2017. Yale Environment360. https://e360.yale.edu/features/thirty-years-after-the-montreal-protocol-solving-the-ozone-problem-remains-elusive/

United Nations. “The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.” United Nations Ozone Secretariat.https://web.archive.org/web/20130420100237/http://ozone.unep.org/new_site/en/Treaties/treaties_decisions-hb.php?sec_id=5.

United Nations. “Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer,” Kigali, 15 October 2016. United Nations Treaty Collection, Chapter XXVII Environment, Registration 1 January 2019, No. 26369, Status: Parties 102. For the text of the treaty, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Treaties/2016/10/20161015%2003-23%20PM/Ch_XXVII-2.f.pdf/

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

 

September 4, 2020
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WATER: Beach Weekend? Biodegradable Flip Flops

“Pristine Beach on the Soline Peninsula,” 2011. Photographer Alex Proimos. Image: wikimedia.

Labor Day 2020: for many it’s a beach weekend in flip flops. Too often, beaches are strewn with broken or discarded flip flops that litter the sand and pollute the water. Enter an innovation: biodegradable flip flops from the University of California San Diego and the California Center for Algae Biotechnology.

“Algae in pond, North Carolina.” Photographer: Ildar Sagdejev, 2008. Wikimedia.

Formula: take pond algae, dehydrate to a paste, extract lipids, run through series of chemical changes to produce polymers, pour resulting material into a mold. Present product, manufactured in partnership with Algenesis Materials, is 52% biodegradable and 48% petroleum; by 2025, the flip flops will be 100% made from renewables. If you do leave your flip flops at the beach, they’ll biodegrade and compost in 18 weeks.

Biodegradable flip flops will go on sale in 2021. Image: wikimedia.

It’s the world’s most popular shoe. Over three billion people wear only flip flops, but the footwear lasts only for about two years and is then discarded, eventually entering the world’s waters. East African beaches see 90 tons of discarded flip flops each year. Three billion flip flops end up in waterways and oceans every year. UniqueEco recycles old flip flops into toys; Terracycle shreds them to use for manufacturing picnic benches.  DIY Dreaming uses old flips to make dog beds. Okabashi makes recyclable sandals, and Splaff and Sanuk use natural materials for footwear. But Algenesis may be the first to make flip flops from algae. The footwear industry generates $215 billion annually, and the plastic industry is worth $1.2 trillion. Algensis biodegradable flip flops will go on sale in January 2021.

California Center for Algae Biotechnology. https://algae.ucsd.edu/about/index.html

Elassar, Alaa. “Researchers create eco-friendly, biodegradable flip flops made of algae,” 23 August 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/23/us/uc-san-diego-algae-flip-flops-trnd-scn/index.html

Frerck, Robert. “Flip Flop Factos: Find Out.” Blue Ocean Network. https://blueocean.net/flip-flop-facts-find-out

Segran, Elizabeth. “How one lab is turning algae into flip-flops – and taking on Big Plastic in the process.” 8 August 2020. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90543908/how-one-lab-is-turning-algae-into-flip-flops-and-taking-on-big-plastic-in-the-process/

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

August 28, 2020
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ENERGY: Promethean Problem

“Prometeo trayendo el fuego,” Jan Cossiers, 1637. Museo del Prado. wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus stole fire and gave it to humans, we’ve been the only species that can start and stop a fire. Darwin believed human capability to control fire was the greatest evolutionary achievement, second only to language. Now, that capability may be changing.

Wildfire Map of California, seen by NASA satellites. Image: nasa.gov.

Increase temperatures by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, decrease rainfall by 30%: it’s a formula for fire risk. Add occurrence of lightning strikes, like those in California recently, and there is a predictable crisis. According to Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center, the area’s temperatures are 3.5 degrees higher than a century ago. Lightning strikes have also increased: up by 12% across the United States. According to California governor Gavin Newsom, California experienced 10,849 lightning strikes in 72 hours in August 2020, amid record temperatures. In 2020, California has battled 40 percent more fires than in 2019. It’s not just a California problem. In Alaska, temperatures are increasing faster than anywhere else in the USA, with four of the ten largest fire years on record occurring in the past fifteen years, with 2 million acres lost in each major fire year. In Colorado, over 1 million people receive drinking water from the Upper South Platte Watershed, northwest of Denver: in the past two decades, fires have threatened the water utility. In Colorado this week, wildfires burned across 135,423 acres, causing the state to warn residents about air quality and banning campfires: the Grizzly Creek Fire closed Interstate 70 for more than one week. Some warned that after the fires, landslides may increase. Water levees across the Colorado River Basin have decreased, including reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell. In South America, wildfires also pose dangers. It’s a global problem that will increase with climate change. What can we do?

“Trees Torching: High Park Wildfire” U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017. Image: wikimedia.

World Weather Attribution (WWA), an international collaborative organization including the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford (ECI), Laboratories des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environment (LSCE), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), uses satellite data and other sources to monitor atmospheric pressure patterns and levels of water vapor to predict heatwaves, fires, droughts, among other weather threats. Study data on every global region from 2014 – 2020 can be found here. These studies provide both warnings, and the basis for sustainability litigation.

Wildfire Propagation Model. Image: wikimedia.

Like sea-rise that will continue to some extent after we solve the climate crisis, temperature increases, with resultant drought and fires, can also be expected. There are some options: limit building and development in fire-prone areas, manage forests, combat insect-borne disease, improve our power grid, strengthen data analysis on climate change, and develop early warning systems for wildfire smoke that can pose air pollution and health risk. Future environmental decisions will need collaboration among biologists, fire scientists, and landscape ecologists, according to Professor Van Butsic of UCBerkeley, who states “land sits at the nexus of ecological conditions and human decisions.”

“Eden Reforestation Projects Logo,” www.edenprojects.org.

Wildfire protection innovations include Elevated Rain Induced Solution (ERIS) developed by Wildfire Innovations with targeted, moveable, suppression systems. Early detection innovations like SmokeD by IT for Nature can detect fires and alert nearby businesses and residents, via a phone app. Verisk Analytics Inc. developed a fire risk management tool to evaluate fuel, slope, and access, generating a hazard score. Will reforestation help? According to studies, the cost of replanting may bring promising returns: one reforested acre will be worth $191, 110; 30 acres, $5,733.300. Eden Projects and MillionTrees help restore land and lives. Private investment may see an opportunity, with investor capital innovations like Blue Forest Resilience Bond (FRB) and  Encourage Capital. 

Butsic, Van, A.D. Syphard, J.E. Keeley, and A. Bar-Massada. (2017). “Can private land conservation reduce wildfire risk to homes? A case study in San Diego County, California, USA.” Landsc. Urban Plan, 157, 161-169. LUC LAB: Researching Land Use and Land Use Change, University of California Berkeley.

Darwin, C. The Descent of Man. London: 1871.

Doer, Stefan H. and Cristina Santin. “Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world. 5 June 2016. Philos Trans R Soc Lon B Biol Sci. 2016 Jun 5: 371 (1696): 20150345. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015. 0345 PMCID: PMC4874420.

Finley, Bruce. “Climate change hits home in Colorado with raging wildfires, shrinking water flows and record heat: State faces continued increases in average temperatures for decades due to past burning of fossil fuels.” 25 August 2020. The Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2020/08/19/colorado-climate-change-wildfire-drought/

Gowlett, J.A.J. “The discovery of fire by humans: a long and convoluted process.” 5 June 2016. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0164. Article ID: 20150164. Special issue on The Interaction of Fire and Mankind. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0149

Lenihan, Rob. “Innovation at the forefront of wildfire prevention.” 24 July 2018. Business Insurance. https://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20180724/NEWS06/912322839/Disaster-management-innovations-at-the-forefront-of-wildfire-prevention#.

Lightning Maps. https://www.lightingmaps.org.

Mulkern, Anne C. “Climate Change Has Doubled Riskiest Fire Days in California.” 3 April 2020, Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-has-doubled-riskiest-fire-days-in-california/

NASA. Forecasting Fires in South America. VIDEO: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File%3AForecasting_South_American_Fires.ogv

Newsom, Gavin. “CA has experienced 10,849 lightning strikes in the last 72 hours.” 19 August 2020. Twitter: @GavinNewsom.

Temple, James. “Yes, climate change is almost certainly fueling California’s massive fires.” 20 August 2020, Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/08/20/1007478/california-wildfires-climate-change-heatwaves/

Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Connection between Climate Change and Wildfires” published 9 September 2011; updated 11 March 2020. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/climate-change-and-wildfires

U.S. Global Change Research Program. “National Climate Assessment”. https://nca2018.globalchange.gov

World Weather Attribution. https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/analysis/projects/

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

August 22, 2020
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ENERGY: August 22 – Earth Overshoot Day 2020

August 22: Earth Overshoot Day 2020. Image: wikimedia commons.

World time zones came to us via the Canadian Pacific Railway, and clocks are as old as the hourglass or the water clock famously given to Caliph al-Mansur, founder of Baghdad, by a visiting Byzantine emperor. But now there is a new way of reckoning time.

Earth Overshoot Day, calculated by the Global Footprint Network and the National Footprint & Biocapacity Accounts (NFA) with data from 2016 forward from the United Nations (15,000 data points per country, per year), is that day each year when humans have used up all the resources Earth can renew, that year. From Earth Overshoot Day on, the rest of the year racks up an “environmental deficit.

Climate change is hard to grasp, because it is gradual. How can we “tell climate time?” The Doomsday Clock (maintained since 1947 by atomic scientists) is one way; it started as a nuclear threat measurement but now includes climate change. Earth Overshoot Day may help us to learn how to reset that clock. In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day was three weeks earlier: in other words, 2020’s pandemic and resultant decrease in resource-consumption and energy emissions reduced our carbon footprint and bought us some time. No one would wish to repeat the pandemic, but considering planned ways for Earth to take a Sabbath might help us apply lessons learned in 2020 to rebuild back better.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. “The Doomsday Clock.” https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/past-statements/

“Energy: A Sabbath for Earth?” 22 March 2020, Building the World Blog, University of Massachusetts Boston. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2020/03/22/energy-a-sabbath-for-earth/

Global Footprint Network. “Earth Overshoot Day is August 22, 20202: more than three weeks later than last year.” https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2020/06/05/press-release-june-2020-earth-overshoot-day/.

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

August 10, 2020
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SPACE: Here’s looking at you, Earth

Eye of a Chameleon. Image: wikimedia.

Eyes in the sky, Earth Observation Satellites monitor environmental conditions by reporting hot spots and testing efforts to mitigate climate change. OHB-System has just signed a contract to build a new satellite network to monitor carbon dioxide, helping countries achieve goals of the COP 21 Paris Agreement. Part of the Copernicus System, the first OHB spacecraft will launch in 2025; it will be called CO2M.

Scenographia Systematis Copernicani” engraving circa 1660. Image: wikimedia.

CO2M will join the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation program, a system of satellite sensors called Sentinels that watch the Earth from space. Marco Fuchs, CEO of Germany’s OHB-System, oversees the contract with the European Space Agency. Thales Alenia Space (TAS), a French-Italian company, is a sub-contractor, designing carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide spectrometers. Belgian partner, OIP Sensors, will provide a cloud imager. CO2M will track carbon dioxide to a resolution of 2km by 2km across a span of 250 km. Satellites will carry both a CO2 detector and also secondary sensors that can differentiate between human-produced emissions and those occurring naturally.

TAS logo. Image: wikimedia.

Looking for employment or investment opportunities? Check out satellite enterprises: OHB, TAS, OIP

Since COMSAT launched the first communication satellites, space has become the place that allows us to transmit video, communication, and weather information about Earth. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are leaders. Here’s a look at NASA’s program:

NASA’s Earth Science Division Operating Missions. Image: wikimedia/nasa.gov.

ESA’s Sentinel satellite system is comprehensive, and will expand when CO2M joins the initiative. For now, here’s the Sentinel array and specific capabilities:

Sentinel-1: monitor Earth’s surface in all weather conditions

Sentinel-2: monitor land changes

Sentinel-3: observe oceans

Sentinel-4: measure atmospheric gases

Sentinel-5: monitor air quality

Sentinel-6: measure rising seas

When CO2M becomes operational, joining the Sentinel series, it will track CO2 around the whole globe every five days. CO2M’s data, along with other Sentinel reporting, and NASA’s initiatives as well as others, will help meet the climate goals established by COP21 also known as the Paris Agreement. The Eiffel Tower displayed the message: now we must meet the goals. Space, looking at Earth, can help.

“#1Heart1Tree” image on the Eiffel Tower, Paris, during COP21 where climate goals were agreed by most nations of the world. Earth Observation Satellites will help meet those environmental goals.  Photo by Yann Caradec, image: wikimedia.

If you are interested in learning more about Earth Observation Satellites, join the Copernicus Academy’s MOOC, beginning in September 2020.

Amos, Jonathan. “European Sentinel satellites to map global CO2 emissions.” 1 August 2020, BBC.com.

Copernicus Earth Observation System. https://www.copernicus.eu/en

Copernicus Academy, 160 members fromthe EU 28 plus Iceland and Norway, sharing research and providing training on Earth Observation. Join the MOOC starting in September 2020.https://www.copernicus.eu/en/opportunities/education/copernicus-mooc

OHB Magazine. https://www.ohb.de/en/magazine/

NASA, Edited by Andrew J. Butrica. “Beyond the Ionosphere: Fifty Years of Satellite Communication.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1997. https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4217/sp4217.htm

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

July 28, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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WATER: How much do you use?

How much water do you use? Image: “Blue question mark,” wikimedia commons.

Only 1% of water on Earth is drinkable (actually, it’s 2.5% but only 1% is readily accessible). The rest of the water on the planet rests in the sea, but it is salty and therefore requires desalination to use for drinking or agriculture.

New River, a fresh water supply and a fresh idea. Image: wikimedia.

Ever since the most ancient times, humans have invented ways to find, distribute, use, and power with water. From the Roman Aqueducts and the New River of England that brought fresh water to the growing cities of Rome and London, respectively, to the water use agreements of the Colorado River of the USA and Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric of Australia, the story of civilization is the story of water.

With populations growing and climate changing, water will become more scarce and more important for uses for drinking, agriculture, industry, and energy. While macro systems that deliver water to our taps are large in scale, each of us can do something to protect and conserve water.

 

Take this quiz to calculate your WATER USE.

Attenborough, Sir David. “Fresh Water.” Episode 3. Our Planet. BBC One/Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2DU85qLfJQ/

Jacobsen, Rowan. “Israel Proves the Desalination Era is Here,” 29 July 2016. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/israel-proves-the-desalination-era-is-here/

Spang, E., E. R, K.S. Gallagher, P.H. Kirshen, D.H. Marks. 2014 “The Water Consumption of Energy Production: An International Comparison.” Environmental Research Letters, Volume 9, 105002. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105002/meta/

Water Calculator. https://www.watercalculator.org/wfc2/q/household/

Water Footprint Calculator. “Water Websites for Kids.” 13 November 2019. https://www.watercalculator.org/resource/water-websites-for-kids/.

Thanks to Sierra C. Lusk for research and inspiration.

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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