Building the World

August 2, 2021
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WATER: Microplastic Filter Innovations

Microplastics in four rivers – Image. “Microplastics in freshwater ecosystems: what we know and what we need to know.” by Martin Wagner, et al., Environmental Sciences Europe. 26, 2014. doi: 10:1186/s12302-014-0012.7

Did you know that 35% of the plastic in our water is microfibers? Those microfibers come from our clothing, released into the water supply during laundering. Microfibers are too small (0.5mm) to be captured by traditional filters. Currently, 2/3rds of clothing contains some percentage of synthetic materials. A typical washload of polyester clothing may shed 9,000,000 microfibres with every wash. Now there is something we can do to stop this problem: attaching a filter to washing machines to catch the microfibers. While the origin of microfibers in clothing is the garment industry, a major source of plastic microfibers is the effluence of laundry water. PlanetCare is expanding their product to a larger version for commercial laundries. 

“SEM picture of a bend in a high-surface area polyester fiber with a seven-lobed cross section” by Pschemp, 2000. Image Wikimedia.

Other companies are developing microfiber filters for washing machines. Environmental Enhancements offers the Lint LUV-R. Xeros Technologies produces the XFiltra. Filtrol makes a similar product. Cora Ball and Guppyfriend use a different technology: devices that collect microfibers inside the washing machine during the laundry cycle. While attached filters catch more fibers (87%), these tend to be the longest ones; Cora Ball inserts and Guppyfriend washing bags capture 26%, mainly the smallest fibers. Using both approaches would increase success.

Fast Company “G-Star Raw x Planetcare collab to flight microfibre pollution.” 8 October 2019. https://www.fastcompany.co.za/business/g-star-raw-x-planetcare-collab-to-fight-microfibre-pollution

Kart, Jeff. “Science says laundry balls and filters are effective in keeping microfibers out of waterways.” 2019. Forbes. https://forbes.com/sites/effkart/2019/02/01/science-says-laundry-balls-and-filters-are-effective-in-removing-microfibres/

Rabinovich, Ben. “World Oceans Day: Check out these amazing inventions currently cleaning our oceans.” 4 June 2019. Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-7104173/World-Oceans-Day-Check-amazing-inventions-currently-cleaning-oceans.html

Tuttan, Mark and Katie Pisa. “Washing your clothes is causing plastic pollution, but a simple filter could help.” 14 November 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/14/world/microfiber-filter-plastic-pollution-int/index.html

Zupan, Mojca.  2019 YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD7iTYhAC_U

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 27, 2021
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SPACE: Big Ticket to Ride

“Movie poster of documentary SPACE TOURISTS,” by Christian Frei, 2009. Original image at https://www.flickr.com/photos/8157718@NO2/7135867365/sizes/2/in/photostream. Public domain.

Ride with Bezos? Price still unknown – the only ticket was auctioned for $28 million: for a ten minute ride, Blue Origin’s meter runs fast as a rocket. Fly with Branson? Over 600 seats on Virgin Galactic are pre-sold, going for $200, 000 to $500, 000 for a hour’s excursion. Prefer a longer stay? A space vacay to the International Space Station by Elon Musk and SpaceX: $55 million. There are other costs – environmental.

“First successful flight of the Wright Flyer: traveled 120 ft. (36.6m) in 12 seconds, on 17 December 1903. Image: Library of Congress, ppprs.00626

One way to evaluate financial, and environmental, costs of private space travel could be to look back to 17 December 1903 when the Wright Flyer took off from Kitty Hawk. In December 1944, the Convention on International Civil Aviation  established rules for civil aviation: stated goals were safety and international cooperation. In 2004, the world had 900 airlines, tallying 22,000 aircraft serving 1,670 airports. (Spaceports, overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration, are now in high construction demand.) In 1960, civil aviation flew 100 million people; by 2017, 4 billion passengers.  In 2019, revenues in the global aviation industry reached $838 billion. However, passenger air travel spikes the highest (and fastest) growth in individual emissions. Flight shaming (flygskam) is a resulting development. Branson and Bezos both drew criticism for spending funds on space tourism when there is a world in need below.

“A simulation of ACRIMSat (Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor Satellite)” by NASA/JPL, 2006. Public domain.

Commercialization of space might also be examined through the development and expansion of satellites. COMSAT, the first commercial satellite operator, began with Intelsat and Inmarsat. When “Early Bird” launched in 1965, the Communications Satellite Act had just established a policy for a commercial communications satellite system open to many nations cooperatively. Comsat began with a $5 million line of credit. Sales by 1996 were $1 billion. Launching satellites produces carbon pollution, and also another kind of pollution: traffic. As of 1 August 2020, there were 2,787 satellites orbiting Earth – 1,364 of them communications satellites both government and commercial.

What can we do to reduce space emissions pollution? Image: “Space Shuttle launched with two solid-fuel boosters (SRB.” NASA, 1981, public domain.

Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, a commercial airline, ferries passengers worldwide, diluting the energy burden per seat. But Virgin Galactic carries just six, tallying a much higher per-person emissions cost; the one-hour flight is equivalent to driving a typical car around the Earth. One concern is the type of fuel used by Virgin Galactic: the system runs on a kind of synthetic fuel that burns with nitrous oxide, shooting black carbon into the stratosphere. Blue Origin uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, causing 750 times less climate-forcing magnitude than Virgin’s (Ahmed 2021). SpaceX will bring four passengers to space in September, causing the equivalent of 395 transatlantic flights worth of emissions.

“Image of depleted Ozone Layer at South Pole, Antarctica” by NASA, 2006. Image: public domain.

Space tourism projects market growth of 17% each year in the coming decade. Price-per-flight will be reduced, and innovations will increase. Just as SpaceX introduced reusable rockets, a game-changer for the space industry (landing 44 of 52 attempts), and Axiom is planning to launch its own commercial space station at the cost of $1.8 billion to NASA’s $150 billion for the International Space Station, privatization of space will streamline the industry. But because rockets emit 100 times more CO2 per passenger than flights (Marais 2021), and because rocket exhaust is released directly into the atmosphere from a higher point of entry, the ozone layer (earlier protected by the 1987 Montreal Protocol) may be again under threat.

Aviator Amelia Earhart and Purdue University President Edward C. Elliott, with Lockheed Electra, 1936. Image: public domain.

Some feel private space commercialization may be a misuse of resources more urgently needed on Earth; others predict important innovations will follow July 2021’s first commercial space tourism flights. Some of the most important developments must be in fuel options and emissions management. Will commercial space flight learn from civil aviation? Bezos’ Blue Origin space tourists brought little carry-on luggage, but two significant items hitched a ride: Amelia Earhart‘s goggles, and a piece of canvas from the Wright Flyer.

Ahmed, Issam. “Environmental concerns grow as space tourism takes off.” 18 July 2021. Phys.org. https://phys.org/news/2021-07-environmental-space-tourism.html

Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum. ameliaearharthangarmuseum.org

CNBC. “Blue Origin launch re-cap.” 20 July 2021. CNBC.com. https://cnb.cx/36LdlzA.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). “Spaceports by State.” https://www.faa.gov/space/spaceports_by_state/

Johnson, Dave. “11 of the biggest innovations shaping the future of spaceflight today.” 12 October 2019. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/spaceflight-travel-innovations-spacex-rockets-2019-10

MacMartin, Douglas G. and Ben Kravitz. “Mission-driven research for stratospheric aerosol geoengineering.” 22 January 2019. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of American (PNAS). https://www.pnas.org/content/116/4/1089

Marais, Eloise. “Space tourism: rockets emit 100 times more CO2 per passenger than flights – imagine a whole industry.” 19 July 2021. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/space-tourism-rockets-emit-100-times-more-co-per-passenger-than-flights-imagine-a-whole-industry-164601.

Pollard, James. “What is the Environmental Impact of Private Space Flight?” 20 July 2021. NBCsandiego.com. https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/national-international/what-is-the-environmental-impact-of-private-space-flight/6289612/

Reference for Business. “COMSAT Corporation.” https://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history2/70/Comsat-Corporation.html

Ross, Martin N. and Dorin W. Toohey. 24 September 2019. “The Coming Surge of Rocket Emissions.” 24 September 2019. EOS, 100. https://doiorg/10.1029/2019EO133493

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “1903 Wright Flyer.” https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/1903-wright-flyer/nasm_A19610048000

United Nations. “Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.” 16 September 1987. https://web.archive.org/web/20130602153542/http://ozone.unep.org/new_site/en/montreal_protocol.php

June 7, 2021
by buildingtheworld
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ENERGY: Arctic Refuge

“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Photograph by Steven Chase, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: wikimedia commons.

US Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will keep its mission as a refuge, at least for now. Leases to drill for gas and oil have been suspended, pending review. This follows cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, on 20 January 2021. When the Alaska Highway was built, and later the Trans-Alaska pipeline, it was a matter of war and then of preservation of another kind. But the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) covers 19.6 million acres including the Mollie Beattie Wilderness. It is the second largest wilderness area in the US, and contains 1 million acres of coastal plains. Coasts are attractive as access points for ships and drilling operations. But coasts are also critical for habitat, and already of concern for rising seas.

“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Image: wikimedia commons.

Mollie Beattie, conservationist and former director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the first woman to head the agency), once said: In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it’s un-environmental, it is un-economical. That is the rule of nature.

Alaska Wilderness League. “Arctic Refuge.” https://www.alaskawild.org/places-we-protect/arctic-refuge/

Gup, Ted. “Woman of the Woods – Mollie Beattie, a Natural as Fish and Wildlife Chief,” Washington Post. https://web.archive/org/web/20050306030214/http://www.esew.org/mollieb.htm

Harwood, John and Liz Stark. “Biden administration to suspend oil and gas drilling leases in Arctic refuge, undoing a Trump-era decision.” 1 June 2021. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/01/politics/oil-and-gas-arctic-leaders/index.html

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

May 11, 2021
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SPACE: What goes up, must come down. But how?

Long March 5b just missed the Maldives. Image: “Diamonds Thudufushi Beach and Water Villas, May 2017, Ari Atoll, Maldives.” by Martin Falbisoner, 2017. Wikimedia commons.

It was a long march and a splash entry. On 8 May, the Long March B5 fell from space into the Indian Ocean, thankfully missing the nearby 1, 192 islands of the Maldives. Long March 5B launched on 29 April 2021, conveying into orbit the hefty main module of the new space station that China is building, to open in 2022. Some questioned the decision not to fire the Long March 5B rocket engine after releasing its payload, therefore sending it into “uncontrolled reentry.”

“Long March 3B Launch,” by Aaxanderr, 2008, public domain creative commons.

Even if the odds were good, since 70% Earth happens to be water, dumping space debris in the ocean whether in controlled or uncontrolled reentry, may not the best practice. Just ask the marine life at 72.47 degrees East and 2.65 degrees North.

“It starts right here – in Maldives.” by Nattu, Male, Maldives, 2008. Image: Creative Commons 2.0, wikimedia.

Controlled reentry aims at a watery grave. Coordinates 48 degrees 52.6 minutes south latitude and 123 degrees 23.6 minutes west longitude mark Point Nemo, or the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility. It’s 1,450 nautical miles from anywhere, which is why it is the chosen splash-down spot for space detritus. Between 1971 and 2016, space agencies worldwide crashed 260 spacecraft into Point Nemo: there’s part of the MIR space station, a SpaceX rocket, and over 100 resupply vehicles. Over time we may regret that ditching strategy, no matter how much we believe Point Nemo or the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility poses no problems. As water rights develop, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) may rule on Point Nemo.

“Point Nemo or the Oceanic Pole of Inacessibility,” by Timwi 2007. Creative Commons Public Domain. Image: wikimedia.

But most space debris never gets to Point Nemo. There are an estimated 9,000 tones of material circling Earth. Many pieces like old satellites drop out of orbit and burn up before they hit the surface (that’s what happened to Sputnik, the first object in space in October 1957). But even such burning is cause for concern. Little has been done to assess effects on the upper atmosphere, especially consequences of alumina particles that remain trapped and can deplete the ozone layer. The protective layer that keeps Earth from ultraviolet radiation was the subject of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and 2016 Kigali Amendment.

“Image of Depleted Ozone Layer on South Pole Antarctica 2006.” Image credit: NASA. http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/ozone_record.html

Space business is increasing faster than we can keep up in laws and treaties. For example, early laws and conventions spoke only of governments, on the assumption that space was just too expensive for private enterprise. Today, companies like SpaceX are rewriting that text. Space law’s founding documents include the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1972 Space Liability Convention. The first regulates what people can do in space; the second considers how to assign responsibility for activities or objects that cause damage. With satellite constellations like SpaceX and OneWeb launching rapidly, the sky is suffering from traffic, some of it from dead satellites taking of space while waiting to drop, burn, or splash. And we’re putting more up there. As of August 2020, there were 2,787 satellites in orbit (1,364 of those are communication satellites used by business and government). In addition, there are 3,000 dead satellites (and 34,000 pieces of space junk bigger than 10 centimeters and who knows how many particles) still up there, and causing not only traffic but danger.

“Image of Space Debris and Human Spacecraft.” NASA.gov.

We’re only getting started. Since COMSAT began, we’ve sent more satellites, and spacecraft, each year. Estimates now predict 9,000 units by 2025. Some of those will burn, some will splash, and eventually some of them will be retrieved. It’s a new industry. Watch for more laws about what goes up and how it comes down, along with innovations in space sanitation.

Gorman, Alice. “The growing problem of space junk.” 8 May 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/08/opinions/long-march-5b-space-junk-growing-problem-gorman/index.html

Gorman, Alice. Dr. Space Junk Vs The Universe: Archaeology and the Future. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2019. ISBN-13: 9780262043434; ISBN-10: 0262043432.

Hunt, Katie. “Mission to clean up space junk with magnets set for launch.” 1 April 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/19/business/space-junk-mission-astroscale-scn/index.html

Jones, Andrew. “Huge rocket looks set for uncontrolled reentry following Chinese space station launch.” 30 April 2021. Space News. https://spacenews.com/huge-rocket-looks-set-for-uncontrolled-reentry-following-chinese-space-station-launch/

Mosher, Dave. “A spacecraft graveyard exists in the middle of the ocean – here’s what’s down there.” 22 October 2017. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/spacecraft-cemetery-point-nemo-google-maps-2017.10

Myers, Steven Lee and Kenneth Chang. “China Says Debris From Its Rocket Landed Near Maldives.” 8 May 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/08/science/china-rocket-reentry-falling-long-march-5b.html?referringSource=articleShare

O’Callaghan, Jonathan. “What is space junk and why is it a problem?” Natural History Museum, London. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-is-space-junk-and-why-is-it-a-problem.html

Paoletta, Rae. “This Is What Legally Happens If An Uncontrolled Rocket Damages Something.” 5 May 2021. The Planetary Society. https://www.planetary.org/articles/uncontrolled-reentry-rocket-damage-space-lawyers-explain

Thompson, Helen. “There’s a Spacecraft Cemetery in the Pacific.” 21 May 2015. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/theres-spacecraft-cemetery-pacific-180955338

United Nations, Environment Programme, Ozone Secretariat. “The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.” https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol-substances-depleete-ozone-layer/text

United Nations, Environment Programme, Ozone Secretariat. “The Kigali Amendment.” https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol/amendments/kigali-amendment-2016-amendment-montreal-protocol-agreed

United Nations. Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html

United Nations, Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.” https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introliability-convention.html

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

 

April 30, 2021
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CITIES: Leafing Out

“Chestnut trees in blossom, Boulevard Arago, Paris, France.” 2012. Image: wikimedia commons

Today is Arbor Day; it began in 1872 when the newly settled state of Nebraska noted the need for trees and instituted a tree-planting holiday. But this year, there will be less greenery, because American cities are losing 36 million trees – per year.  Increased development is the main reason for urban tree loss, but arboreal disease, insects, fires, hurricanes, and storms also bring loss. When city trees are replaced by buildings or parking lots, the ground that formerly absorbed rain is now impervious.  Paris, France announced a goal of making 50% of the city’s surfaces permeable. Gardens and lawns near the Eiffel Tower will also be extended in preparation for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

TEN BENEFITS OF TREES

Heat reduction – when tree canopy covers 40% of an area, there is a 10 degree (F) cooling

Air quality – trees absorb carbon emissions and pollution

Energy reduction – trees reduce energy costs by $4 billion per year

Water quality – trees cleanse surface water, returning it to groundwater

Flood reduction – trees absorb water and reduce runoff to rivers and streams

Noise reduction – trees muffle traffic noise and add natural sounds of birds and wind

UV radiation protection – trees absorb 96% of ultraviolet radiation

Aesthetics – trees improve property appearance, and value

Health – tree-lined areas have statistically lower human sickness and death rates

Habitat – trees house birds; forests promote wildlife diversity

If you’d like to help maintain and nurture urban tress, consider helping organizations such as the Arbor Day Foundation, and Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition.

Block, India. “Paris plans to go green by planting “urban forest” around architectural landmarks.” 26 June 2019. Dezeen.com. https://www.dezeen.com/2019/06/26/paris-urban-forest-plant-trees-landmarks/

Chillag, Amy. “US cities are losing 36 million trees a year. Here’s why it matters and how you can stop it.” 18 September 2019. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/health/iyw-cities-losing-36-million-trees-how-to-help-trnd/index.html

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

April 22, 2021
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Earth Day 2021

“Earth Spinning.” Image animation: wikimedia commons.

Earth Day 2021 brings some good news: we may be on target to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement (COP21). When nations convened in the city of the Eiffel Tower in 2015, the world set a new course. It was not a minute too soon. Climate Action Tracker (CAT) predicted, in 2009, that global warming would rise to 3.5 C by 2100, bringing disastrous conditions for life on Earth. Now, in 2021, things have improved and we may hold global warming to 2.1 C, if we continue to take action. Every year, on Earth Day, we celebrate our planet and also take stock of the state of our climate.

China’s pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2060, with a peak expected well before 2030, is an important part of recent progress. Japan and South Korea pledged to get to net zero by 2050. The European Union has taken it to the next level, not only pledging to cut carbon dioxide emissions 55% by 2030, and reaching net-zero by 2050, but making that goal legally binding. The United States, recently rejoined the Paris agreement and set new goals for climate improvement domestically, including mandating the federal government vehicle fleet to be all electric and allocating funds for 500,000 charging stations across the US Federal Highway system. Today, the United States has convened a global summit for Earth Day 2021 to bring world leaders together to address climate.

What can you do? Every action you choose has some climate impact: you can act to reduce plastic, contribute to green spaces in cities, become a citizen scientist, make art to raise awareness, make a pledge for climate action – click here.

Abnett, Kate. “EU clinches deal on climate law, tougher 2030 emissions goal.” 21 April 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-eu-idUSKBN2C80NZ

Climate Action Tracker (CAT). “Phasing out fossil fuel vehicle sales by 2030 will help to make US transport sector policy 1.5 C compatible.” https://climateactiontracker.org

Earth Day. https://www.earthday.org

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Temperature analysis shows UN goals ‘within reach.'” BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-55073169

United Nations. United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC). “Earth Day 2021 Is Set to Galvanize Climate Action,” 20 April 2021. https://unfccc.int/news/earth-day-2021-is-set-to-galvanize-climate-action

White House. “FACT SHEET: Executive Actions to Take Climate Change at Home and Abroad.” 27 January 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/27/fact-sheet-president-biden-takes-executive-actions-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad-create-jobs-and-restore-scientific-integrity-across-federal-government/

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

April 7, 2021
by buildingtheworld
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WATER: Fashion Forward

“Miami Fashion Week 2019” showing designs of Claudia Bertolero. Image: wikimedia.

Fashion designers and producers are leading a revolution in the garment industry, currently responsible for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions (Briggs 2021) and 20% of global untreated wastewater resulting from dyeing fabrics. Ralph Lauren Corporation announced “Color on Demand” in its adoption of ECOFAST ™, a sustainable  textile method developed by Dow, to be used in 80% of Ralph Lauren wear by 2025. ECOFAST uses 40% less water, 85% fewer chemical, 90% less energy. Leather jackets made from mushrooms, garments produced in safe and just factories, fibers that are sustainable, shoes that biodegrade, and plastic shopping bags transformed into fabrics, are some of the circularity trends transforming fashion.  The Circular Fibres Initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation brings together industry leaders to change the life cycle and supply chain of fashion fibres and textiles. Stella McCartney placed sustainability fact sheets on seats of the Palais Garnier for the 2020 spring collection show. Will garments of the future have sustainability ratings, and ingredient tags along with laundering instructions?

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “New Circular Fibres Initiative brings industry together to build a circular economy for textiles.” 11 Ma7 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/new-circular-fibres-initiative-brings-industry-together-to-build-a-circular-economy-for-textiles

McCartney, Stella. “Circular Fashion/Circular Economy.” StellaMcCartney.com. https://www.stellamccartney.com/experience/en/sustainability/circularity-2/

Newbold, Alice. “Stella McCartney: Sustainability is the future of fashion, not just a trend.” 30 September 2019. Vogue. https://www.vogue.co.uk/tags/stella-mccartney

Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL). “Ralph Lauren Revolutionizes How the Fashion Industry Dyes Cotton.” 22 March 2021. https://corporate.ralphlauren.com/pr_210322_ColorOnDemand.html

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

March 22, 2021
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WATER: World Water Day 2021

“Water Drop” by José Manuel Suárez, photographer, 2008. Image: wikimedia.

World Water Day, begun in 1993, calls us to honor and preserve the world’s freshwater supply. Water, in the form of drinking water and safe sanitation, is the #6 Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations.  Environmental historians observe that human history can be traced by innovations in water systems. Aqueducts built by the Romans brought fresh spring water to a growing city when the Tiber river became threatened. In England, the New River was one of the world’s first built watercourses, bringing potable water to the burgeoning city of London. The Colorado River Compact defined the rights and use of water for the American states of the Upper Basin (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico) and Lower Basin (California, Arizona, Nevada); sovereign peoples of the Navajo, Havasupai, Walapai, and several others; and México.  Rights of the Whanganui River of New Zealand established legal personhood in 2017, confirming a growing awareness of the rights of nature. Today’s World Water Day 2021 is dedicated to our personal use of water. While 71% of the world has access to safe drinking water, only 45% have use of safe sanitation. To access the country data where you live, the United Nations invites you to explore the world water database here. To tell your own story about how you experience water, record your views here.

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

March 12, 2021
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES: Higher Ground

“Seattle, Washington, as seen from Bainbridge Island ferry 2016.” Photo by Dicklyon. Image: wikimedia commons.

Waterfront property is causing real estate prices to rise – but not in the usual places. Miami’s 2017 Hurricane Irma caused billions of dollars in damage to beachfront properties. Just after that storm, real estate further inland saw price increases. A new term, coined by Professor Jesse Keenan of Tulane University, has entered the lexicon: “climate gentrification.” Three forms of climate gentrification may be considered:

HIGHER GROUND, RISING VALUES – neighborhoods that suffer less damage in storms are becoming desirable, even if such areas were formerly not considered elite;

WATERFRONT PROTECTIONS – property owners of waterfront real estate are investing in weather-proofing measures, spurring rebuilding innovations;

COMMUNITY ACTION – areas with resilience improvements such as elevated infrastructure, flood barriers, and storm drains, are increasing in value.

Miami is one of the cities seeking higher ground. Image: wikimedia commons.

While home-owners may take action, so can government. Galveston, Texas, raised the city up 16 feet with sand and ground development. The city also built a 10-mile-long seawall. Miami drew $200 million from the Miami Forever Bond to improve flood-mitigation infrastructure. New Jersey increased insurance premiums for coastal neighborhoods. Rebuilding coastal cities will cause redesign of canals, harbors, and ports. Boston may experience sea-level rise from a conservative estimate of two feet by 2050, to over six feet by 2100. As coastal cities like Boston, Jakarta, New Orleans and others pump drinking water from reservoirs and aquifers, subsidence of land intensifies the effects of sea rise.

“Panoramic Boston” by photographer Henry Han, 2011. Image: wikimedia commons.

The Sustainable Solutions Lab of the University of Massachusetts Boston suggests state and local government could help with new zoning laws. According to David W. Cash, Dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, “As we watched hurricanes and extreme weather events hit various parts of the United States, it became really clear that Boston was very vulnerable to both flooding and sea level rise.” (Moran 2018). Another important initiative, from the School for the Environment, recommends strengthening and updating the state’s Wetlands Protection Act.

“Aerial View of Great Marsh in Massachusetts.” Image: wikimedia commons.

The future may be safeguarded by a Regional Coastal Flood Protection Agency for Massachusetts. Perhaps broader regional efforts may include Canada and México: rising seas will not stop at national borders. Might there be a regional CCC – Climate Conservation Corps? Could cooperation, and funding, be found with USMCA? How can the world’s regions protect shared coasts through environmental justice and preservation, seeking higher ground?

Are regions the new nations? Image: “North America from Space, based on NASA satellite views.” Artist: Przemek Pietrak, 2015. Image: Nasa/wikimedia commons.

Aune, Kyle T. et. al., “A spatial analysis of climate gentrification in Orleans Parish, Louisiana post-Hurricane Katrina. Environ. Re. 2020 Jun; 185:109384. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32240840/

Boston Harbor Association, lead author Ellen Douglas, University of Massachusetts Boston. “Preparing for the Rising Tide.” 6 February 2013. https://www.umb.edu/news/detail/umass_boston_professor_is_lead_author_of_report_identifying_risks_of_sea_le

Caldwell, Erin D. “UMass Boston report shows that climate change views vary by race.” 28 October 2020. Dorchester Reporter. https://www.dotnews.com/2020/umass-boston-report-shows-climate-change-views-vary-race

Dill, Jackson and Brandon Miller. “Sea level rise is increasing fastest in populous coastal areas, study says.” 9 March 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/09/world/sea-level-rise-increasing-with-sinking-land/index.html

Keenan, Jesse. “Climate gentrification.” https://architecture.tulane.edu/content/jesse-m-keenan

Kreul, Stephanie, et.al., “Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston’s Built Environment for Increased Flooding.” September 2018. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston https://www.umb.edu/editor_uploads/images/centers_institutes/sustainable_solutions_lab/Governance-for-a-Changing-Climate-Full-Report-UMB-SSL.pdf

Miami Riverside Center (MRC). “Miami Forever Bond Project to Mitigate Effects of Sea Level Rise.” 1 March 2019. https://www.miamigov.com/Notices/News-Media/Miami-Forever-Bond-Project-to-Mitigate-Effects-of-Sea-Level-Rise

Moran, Barbara. “New Zoning Codes Would Help Mitigate Boston Flood Risk, Report Says.” 28 September 2018. WBUR. https://www.wbur.org/news/2018/09/28/zoning-boston-flooding-concerns

Nathan, Aparna. “Climate is the Newest Gentrifying Force, and its Effects are Already Re-Shaping Cities.” 15 July 2019. Harvard University Science Policy Blog. https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/climate-newest-gentrifying-force-effects-already-re-shaping-cities/

Newkirk, Vann R. II. “How to Build Hurricane-Proof Cities: In the age of climate change, the only way to protect the American coastal metropolis is to rethink it entirely.” 12 September 2017, The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/how-to-build-hurricane-proof-cities/539319/

O’Connell, Annie. “Impacts of Sea Level Rise.” February 2018. Neponset River Watershed Association. https://www.neponset.org/happenings/impacts-of-sea-level-rise/

Tolan, Casey. “High ground, high prices.” 3 March 2021. CNN.com. With Charts and Illustrations. https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2021/03/us/climate-gentrification-cnnphotos-invs/

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

February 18, 2021
by buildingtheworld
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ENERGY: Genie in a Bottle

“Genie in a Bottle,” from Stripped Tour, Christina Aguilera Image: wikimedia.

February 18, 2021. It’s National Battery Day. What is this genie in a bottle that we call a battery?

Lithium-ion batteries are making news. It’s a technology popularized in 1991, when rechargeable lithium-ion batteries were first used in hand-held camcorders. A decade later, Apple began using these batteries in smartphones. When electric cars entered the market (Edison worked on one, before Henry Ford invented the gasoline-driven automobile), batteries became the way to power the future. SEMATECH introduced a new industry, and now two new semiconductor materials – gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SIC) are now being used in EV batteries. With General Motors (GM) pledging a full transition from gas and diesel to electric vehicles by 2035 (Ford, Tesla, Volkswagen and others in similar quests), the race is on.

“Tesla Model S at a Supercharger station.” Image: wikimedia.

Who’s Who (a partial list) in Electric-Vehicle Batteries:

CATL or Contemporary Amperex Technology Col, Limited, founded in 2011 in China, announced an increased investment of $4.5 billion on 4 February 2021. CATL will open a new plant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, upgrade a plant in Yibin, Sichuan Province, and expand a joint venture plant with automaker China FAW Group. A new plant in Germany is also under construction. (300750:CH)

LG Chem in South Korea, world’s biggest EV battery manufacturer, just announced its battery division would now be a stand-alone business. LG counts GM, Geely Automotive Holdings Shanghai Maple Guorun Automobile Co., Hyundai Motor Group, and Tesla among its customers. Tentative name for the new business: LG Energy Solutions. (LGCLF)

Nissan Motor Co. and American Electric Power are competitors with a different strategy: reusing old EV batteries with a technology to extend lithium-ion battery life by over 30%. The experiment uses Nissan Leaf expired-batteries with a method developed by Melbourne-based Relectrify. BMW AG and Toyota are also reusing cells in EV charging. (NSANY)

Novonix is working with Dalhousie University on battery material research, noting new deals with Tesla on synthetic graphite. (NVNXF)

Panasonic. Tesla is in talks with Indonesia to build a battery cell factory with Panasonic. (PCRFY)

QuantumScape is introducing solid-state batteries lithium-metal batteries, offering a faster charge, longer life, and increased safety. The San Jose, California company filed with the SEC for a new development on 1 February 2021. (QS)

Tesla. Bringing battery production in-house has been a goal for Elon Musk who introduced a ‘tab-less’ battery called 4680 that will produce a 16% increase in range for the company’s electric vehicles. They new cells measure 46 millimeters by 80 millimeters. (TSLA)

Zinc Copper Voltaic Pile. Image: wikimedia.

The oldest battery known to history was found in Baghdad: a clay pot containing a metal tube and rod. But when Alessandro Volta discovered that zinc and coper, placed in a saline or acid solution, could transform zinc into a negative pole and copper into a positive pole, the action began. Chevrolet named one of its early EV models a “Volt.”

Will batteries advance hydroelectric power? Image: Hoover Dam, wikimedia.

Battery storage may transform hydroelectric power In Chile, a 50 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery energy storage project (think the equivalent of 5 million iPhones) will be paired with a hydroelectric facility, to store generated energy without need to construct a dam or reservoir. Will the Hoover Dam explore this technology, with consideration to drought affecting Lake Mead? It was hydroelectric power that first fascinated Nikola Tesla who, looking at a photo of Niagara Falls, said: “Someday I’ll harness that power.”

Battery Council International. “It’s national battery day.” www.batterycouncil.org

Hareyan, Armen. “Rumor says Tesla may have completed 1st round of Indonesia battery talks involving Panasonic.” 12 February 2021. Torque News. https://www.torquenews.com/1/rumor-says-tesla-may-have-completed-1st round-indonesia-battery-talks-involving-panasonic

Hawkins, Andrew J. “Tesla announces ‘tabless’ battery cells that will improve the range of its electric cars.” 22 September 2020. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/22/21449238/tesla-electric-car-battery-tabless-cells-day-elon-musk

Kawakami, Takashi. “EV-battery giant CATL to boost capacity with $4.5bn investment.” 4 February 2021. NikkeiAsia.com. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Automobiles/EV-battery-giant-CATL-to-boost-capacity-with-4.5bn-investment

Kubik, Marek. “Adding Giant Batteries To This Hydro Project Creates A ‘Virtual Dam’ with Less Environmental Impact.” 23 May 2019. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marekkubik/2019/05/23/adding-giant-batteries-to-this-hydro-project-creates-a-virtual-dam-with-less-environmental-impact

Schmidt, Bridie. “EV battery material firm Novonix strengthen ties with Dalhousie University.” 15 February 2021. The Driven. https://thedriven.io/2021/02/15/ev-battery-material-firm-novonix-strengthen-ties-with-dalhousie-university

Semiconductor Review. “How Semiconductor Advancements Impact EV Batteries.” 26 October 2020. Semiconductor Review. https://www.semiconductorreview.com/news/how-semiconductor-advancements-impact-ev-batteries-nwid-124.html

Stringer, David and Kyunghee Park. “Top Electric-Car Battery Maker Wins Approval for Company Split.” 30 October 2020. Bloomberg News and Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles-top-electric-car-battery-maker-wins-approval-company-split

Stringer, David. “Companies Explore Using Old Electric Car Batteries to Cut Costs.” 24 January 2020. Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles/companies-explore-using-old-electric-car-batteries-cut-costs

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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