Building the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 11, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Mine your own business

Are old coal mines the new gold mines? Image: “Round Mountain Gold Mine” by Patrick Huber, 2008. Creative commons license: 2.0. Included with appreciation.

As we transition from coal, what will happen to those old mines? Two approaches are worth considering. One is a necessary expense; the other is a new kind of gold mine.

Days of the California Gold Rush (1848-1865) began an era of intense and often unregulated mining. In a frenzy of attack, 370 tons of gold worth (in today’s value) $16 billion were unearthed. In the United States, the 1872 General Mining Act regulated gold mines opened up by the Gold Rush, as well mines for extracting substances including lithium – needed today for batteries powering electric vehicles. Current competition for lithium mining rights is active across the United States, and the world. But what happens afterwards?

Will we soon see the end of coal mining? Image: “Coal mining,” illustration from The Graphic, 1871. Image: wikimedia. Public Domain. Included with appreciation.

When a mine is depleted, it is often abandoned. In the U.S., there are 390,000 abandoned mines on federal land. More than 67,000 present physical dangers; 22,000 pose environmental risks. Mines seep metals and toxic materials into streams and rivers, polluting drinking water for humans and wildlife. Moreover, mines on sovereign land of original Native Indigenous Americans are insufficiently protected. From 2008 to 2017, the U.S. spent $2.9 billion addressing mining problems. Could cleaning up old mines become profitable? There is precedent. The Abandoned Mine Land Fund, instituted in 1977 as a mandate for the coal industry to clean up abandoned mines and upgraded by an addition proposed by Representative Liz Cheney, yielded not only improved environmental and health benefits but fees for future use; by 2020, more than $11 billion poured into the fund. What should we do with the money? Is there an incentive leading to opportunity?

Coal-fired plants are already wired to the grid. Close the mine but keep the infrastructure. Image: “Electricity Grid Schematic,” by M. Bizon, 2010. Based on Datei: Stromversongung. Image: wikimedia 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Coal-fired plants are essential for the future: not for coal, but for their existing infrastructure. Coal-fired plants are wired to the grid. Getting permit permissions is a lengthy process;  building grid connectivity infrastructure is expensive. Using existing wired infrastructure may be one answer. In the United States, former coal-fired plants are now being repurposed as battery, solar, and wind facilities. Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, and North Dakota are among states phasing out coal while turning plants into renewable energy centers. In Massachusetts and New Jersey, seaside coal plants already wired to the grid are now being connected to offshore wind energy. Worldwide, there are 8,000 coal-fired power plants: China has 1,000; India has 285; the USA has 240. All of those are candidates for energy reuse and revitalization.

Can we turn old coal mines into a new form of gold mine? Gold from the sun? Image: “Saulés elektriné” by Aiseinau, 2021. Creative commons license. Included with appreciation.

Mining is an ancient practice but its environmental safeguards need an upgrade, both in the United States and worldwide. New mines for lithium and other materials may develop. Coal mines will close but can serve a new goal. How can owners of coal-fired plants benefit from this opportunity? Repurposing coal-fired plants – already wired to the grid – to support renewable energy could turn what is now a liability into a new kind of gold mine.

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Phoenix Rising: The future of coal-fired plants and coal mining.” Renewing the World: Energy. Forthcoming. For related information, https://renewingtheworld.com

Heinrich, Martin and Chris Wood. “This mining law is 150 years old. We really need to modernize it.” 28 July 2022. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/28/opinion/clean-energy-mining-pollution.html?referringSource-articleShare

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Queued up: Characteristics of power plants seeking transmission interconnection.” 2021. https://emp.lbl.gob/queues

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “Power plants seeking transmission connection – interactive data visualization link.” https://emp.lbl.gov/generation-storage-and-hybrid-capacity

McGowan, Elizabeth. “Federal funds to help turn Virginia coal mine into solar farm.” 8 March 2019. Energy News. https://energynews.us/2019/03/08/virginia-solar-farm-among-10-projects-to-receive-mineland-reuse-funds/

Misciagna, Vanessa. “A county torn over lithium mining could set the tone as America looks for renewable energy sources.” 15 April 2020. The Denver Channel. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/national-politics/the-race/a-county-torn-over-lithium-mining-could-set-the-tone-as-america-looks-for-renewable-energy-sources

Shao, Elena. “In a first, renewable energy is poised to eclipse coal in U.S..” 13 May 2020. The New York Times. https://nytimes.com/2022/07/15/climate/coronavirus-coal-electricity-renewables.html?referringSource=articleShare

State of Illinois. “Coal-to-Solar Program.” 2022. https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Media/PressReleases/Pages/PR0220601.aspx

United States. Government Accountability Office. “Abandoned Hardrock Mines.” March 2020. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-20-238.pdf

United States, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. “Status of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund (AML Fund).” Amendment initiated by Representative Liz Cheney. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2462/text

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 29, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Agreeing on a better future

 

U.S. leaders finally agree on climate. Image: “Handshake icon” by Masur, 2007. Wikimedia creative commons public domain. Included with appreciation.

The largest energy investment in United States history just made history. Climate and energy policy, worth $369 billion, has been agreed. Incentives and actions in the bill are estimated to lower American carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

“High Park Wildfire, USA.” Image from U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2012. Wikimedia public domain, included with appreciation.

It’s not a minute too soon. At a time when Americans are battling drought, wildfires, flooding, heatwaves so intense that roads are melting, climate policy has grown urgent. And costly. The insurance industry reports costs of $39 billion in climate-related damage in the first half of 2022; that’s up from $31 billion just a year ago. Germany is turning off hot water in public taps, and all of Europe is bracing for a winter without Russian energy. The UK announced sea-level rise increased faster and more than expected. Nations, and regions, must work together to share energy resources and transitions.

The Manhattan Project marshaled the cooperation and resources of a nation. Image: “Manhattan Project Map” by Liandrei, 2011. Creative commons 3.0. Included with appreciation.

Americans have risen to the challenge of urgent energy response before. The Manhattan Project, spurred by fear of disaster and damage yet unknown to humankind, marshaled the resources of a nation. The result was a new form of energy.  The Clean Air Act of 1990 was the last big American environmental legislation: this will top that, bringing a plethora of incentives, subsidies and taxes. Some environmentalists lament one provision allowing drilling on 2 million acres of public land and 60 million acres of offshore seabed before use for renewable energy. While there are EV credits, the bill lacks similar encouragement for bikes, especially ebikes, knocking off an earlier credit of $900 in the earlier plan.

Here are some bill provisions, still pending passage:

POWER PLANTS – tax credits for zero-carbon power including battery, geothermal, nuclear, solar, wind.

CARBON SEQUESTRATION – tax credits for carbon capture.

EV – Buy a new electric car and get $7,500 off; buy a used Ev and get $4,000 off.

ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES – the bill allocates $9billion for new energy-saving appliances, solar roofs, new air conditioning, heat pumps.

CLEAN MANUFACTURING –  for domestic production of batteries, or key minerals like lithium, solar panels, or wind turbines, there is $60 billion waiting, plus an additional $500 million to assist with heat pumps and key minerals.

METHANE MITIGATION – plugging leaks from gas and oil wells, pipelines is key to stopping methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. This provision works by penalty – $900 per metric ton of emissions over federal limits by 2024, moving to $1,500 in 2026. On the plus side, $20 billion for farmers to reduce cow burps and agricultural gases.

DOING GOOD IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD – $60 billion for communities unfairly burdened by climate change.

In November 2022, the world will reconvene for COP 27 to report climate action steps. If passed into law, this new agreement will advance climate response for the United helping to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #13 – Climate Action.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal – CLIMATE ACTION. Image: United Nations, 2016. Wikimedia public domain. Included with appreciation.

Environmental Protection Agency, United States (EPA). “Clean Air Act.” 1990. https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-text

Nilsen, Ella. “Clean energy package would be biggest legislative climate investment in US history.” 28 July 2022. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/28/politics/climate-deal-joe-manchin/index.html

Shao, Elena and Brad Plumer. “Seven Key Provisions in the Climate Deal.” 28 July 2022. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/28/climate/biden-climate-deal-key-provisions.html?referringSource=articleShare

Zipper, David. “There’s a maddening omission in the Senate Climate Bill: Congressional Democrats cannot imagine a world in which fewer people drive cars.” 29 July 2022. Slate.com. https://slate.com/business/2022/07/climate-bill-manchin-schumer-senate-ebikes-evs-cars.html

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

July 9, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER: Po River Crisis

Po RIver of Italy. Illustration from wikipedia. Public Domain.

How can you grow the bountiful produce so treasured by Italy, and the world, in salty water? The worst drought in 70 years, caused by lack of snow and dearth of rain in Italy’s Po River valley, is choking once-verdant farmland. The Po River is 450 miles (650 kilometers) long, birthed in the Alps and running to the Adriatic Sea. One-third of Italy’s population lives near and depends upon the Po River, savoring the bounty of its farmland. Coursing fresh water from the Po usually overwhelms any drifting waves from the Adriatic, but with the Po’s drought, salty seawater is entering at a rate driving inland as far as 18 miles (30 kilometers). Crops are suffering, and so are cucina povera specialities like manzo all’olio or pisarei e faso.

“Italian cuisine,” by photographer who dedicated this image to the public domain and remains unknown. From wikimedia.

Warming weather and drought have also wreaked havoc elsewhere in Italy. The Marmolada glacier in the Italian Alps collapsed on 4 July 2022, killing seven hikers, including two experienced mountain guides. in an avalanche of melting snow mixed with rocks. Prime Minister Mario Draghi stated the cause of the tragedy was climate change. Temperatures in the area have reduced glaciers by half since warming began. More avalanches are feared.

“View of the Marmolada Glacier” taken by photographer of the Italian army circa 1915-1918. Source: www.esercito.difesa.it. Creative Commons license 2.5. With appreciation to the Italian Army.

Hydroelectricity is also affected by drought. One-fifth of Italy’s energy comes from hydroelectric facilities, mainly located in the mountains. In the first four months of 2022, hydro power fell 40% (compared with 2021) due to drought. A water plant in Piacenza was closed on 21 June due to low water levels of the Po, the river that provides the water for the hydroelectric plant. At a time when Europe is trying to reduce dependence on imported energy, hydro power is essential.

Keeping the lights in Piacenza’s magnificent cultural treasures, homes, and businesses.  Image: “Teatro Piacenza,” by photographer Lorenzo Gaudenzi, 2010. Creative commons license 3.0. With appreciation.

What can be done? For now, a state of emergency declaration will truck water to 125 towns that must ration drinking water. In agricultural areas, drought-tolerant crops may become the new normal. Hydroelectricity may need a rethink and redesign: the Colorado River, Lake Mead, and the Hoover Dam have recently shown hydroelectric threats. Regarding melting glaciers, there is no quick fix. Water systems may be ready for Italian creativity and innovation, like those developed by ancient Romans who built the Aqueducts. Starting in 313 bce, Romans built 11 aqueducts, yielding about 200 gallons (750 liters) per person per day. That is more than the average American has: in 1975, the average was 150 gallons (563 liters) per day; in 2021, it was down to 115 gallons. Ancient Rome had such an abundance of water that the city became known for its fountains; composer Respighi’s Fountains of Rome.

Blackman, Deane R. and A. Trevor Hodge, eds. Frontinus’ Legacy: Essays on Frontinus’ De Aquis Urbis Romae. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001.

Brooke, K. Lusk. Renewing the World: Water. Cambridge: Harvard Book Store, 2022. ISBN: 9798985035919. https://renewingtheworld.com

Evans, Harry B. Water Distribution in Ancient Rome. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.

Parker, Jessica. “Italians wait for rain where longest river runs dry” BBC 8 July 2022. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-62096162

Patel, Kasha. “”Scenes from Italy’s worst drought in 70 years.” 7 July 2022. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2022/drought-italy-po-worst-water/

Respighi, Ottorino. Fountains of Rome. Performed by Berlin Philharmonic. https://youtu.be/eGZ9oslaeak

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

June 16, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER and ENERGY: Beyond a Drought

June 2022: an early heat wave intensifies drought. Image: “Heat Wave in United States June 13-19, 2021,” by NOAA. Public Domain, creative commons. Included with appreciation to NOAA.

Is it climate change, or just a heat wave? Maybe the former is intensifying the latter. This week, 60 million people in the United States are enduring extreme heat. Texas broke a heat record on June 12 as the electrical grid strained with the number of people turning on air conditioners. Families noted unusual new residents as outdoor insects crawled into any available shelter to escape sweltering heat. Wildfires sparked: more than 30 recent conflagrations burned one million American acres.

Drought may impact hydroelectricity. Image: “Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, – 2007” by photographer Waycool27, and dedicated to the public domain by the photographer. Included with appreciation.

Heat waves add to concern about drought, an ongoing challenge. Lake Mead, the nation’s largest water reservoir, recently marked its lowest level on record since 1930. The Colorado River, source of Lake Mead’s water, recently reported historic new water shortages, triggering enforced reductions along the Upper and Lower Basin states. Now 143 feet below the target full level, Lake Mead’s drop is as deep as the Statue of Liberty is high. That water drop threatens the water supply of millions of residents, farmers, industrial operations, and others. At 36% capacity, if the water in Lake Mead continues to fall (it has been losing more than 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – every day – for the last 22 years), the hydropower capability of the Hoover Dam (which formed Lake Mead) will also be threatened. Engineers and scientists are watching: if Lake Mead drops another 175 feet, the Hoover Dam will reach “dead pool” (895 feet) and the great dam will fall silent. Because 90% of Las Vegas water comes from Lake Mead, that city will not only have less electricity but very little water. (Ramirez et al., 2021)

“Tennessee Valley Authority” Image 2977 by TVA, 2018. This image is the public domain and included with appreciation.

It’s not just Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam that are of concern due to heat and drought. The Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the nation’s first hydroelectric major achievements, warned customers both residential and commercial to turn off the lights. Nashville Electric Service asked people to turn down air conditioning. Itaipú, harnessing the Paraná River, has similarly found drought threatening its hydroelectric capability.

“Talbingo Dam of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric.” There are 16 dams in the system. Photograph by AYArktos, dedicated to the public domain, creative commons. Included with appreciation.

Hydroelectricity, as the term indicates, is dependent upon water. Australia recently announced Snowy Hydro 2.0, in an effort to double electrical output of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric. But the snowy part is problematic now that climate change is threatening snowmelt. Further concern is that 35% percent of the “Australian Alps” have seen wetland loss. Now, snow cover may reduce by 20% to as much as 60%.

What happens if water becomes non-renewable? Image: “Dry riverbed in California,” by NOAA, 2009. Included with appreciation.

Drought has serious consequences for agriculture, habitation, and now hydroelectricity. Hydroelectric power is one of the earliest and most widely applied methods of generating electricity from renewable sources. What happens if or when water becomes non-renewable?

Daley, Beth et al., “Snowy hydro scheme will be left high and dry unless we look after the mountains.” 22 March 2017. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/snowy-hydro-scheme-will-be-left-high-and-dry-unless-we-look-after-the-mountains-74830

David, Molly. “Nashville Electric Service asks customers to help lessen energy use during high temperatures.” The Tennessean. 13 June 2022. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2022/06/13/heat-wave-tennessee-2022-nashville-electric-service-customers-conserve-power/7613867001/

Ramirez, Rachel, Pedram Javaheri, Drew Kann. “The shocking numbers behind the Lake Mead drought crisis.” 17 June 2021. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/specials/world/cnn-climate

Spang, Edward, William Moomaw, Kelly Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, David H. Marks. “The water consumption of energy production: An international comparison.” 2014. Environmental Research Letters. 9. 105002. 10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105002 and https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266620784_The_water_consumption_of_energy_production_An_international_comparison

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 28, 2022
by Building The World
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TRANSPORT: Highways and Wildflowers

“Balsamroot and lupine wildflowers near Tom McCall Preserve along the highway.” by photographer Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, 2014. CC 3.0. Included with appreciation.

On Memorial Day weekend, 34 million Americans will travel by car. It’s the first long weekend of spring: a time of flowers, especially wildflowers. Parks play a role, and so do household and campus lawns participating in No Mow May. But highways can also provide miles of sustenance for spring pollinators like bees.

Highways will be an area of innovation in climate change. “Interstate 80, Eastshore,” by photographer Minesweeper 30. CC3.0. Included with appreciation.

Concrete is efficient, but highways could be improved. In 1965, the United States passed the Highway Beautification Act, providing funding for planting and protection of wildflowers along median and shoulder strips of American highways. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law, stating “We have placed a wall of civilization between us and the beauty of the countryside. Beauty belongs to all the people.” (Johnson, 1965) Encouraged by his wife, Lady Bird Johnson who advocated the program to beautify American roads. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center also honors her vision.

“Highways UK-EI.” by SPUI, dedicated to the public domain. Image: wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

In the United Kingdom (UK), the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) launched the “Big Biodiversity Challenge” with Highways England. Realizing that the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since 1930, road construction crews finish highways by preparing a side strip or verge for wildflower planting. Highways England plants the flowers. Recently, a section of the A38 from Ashburton to Ivybridge in Devon won the Biodiversity Pollinator Award. France places stormwater ponds every two kilometers along major roads: a recent survey found the ponds have welcomed many amphibian species. Across the UK, B-Lines have mapped a kind of bug highway across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Belt and Road Initiative. “One-belt-one-road,” by Lommes. Creative Commons 4.0 International. Included with appreciation.

As the world builds more roads, including space for wildflowers and wildlife is an opportunity to be noted. Will China’s Belt and Road Initiative  (BRI) connecting China, Central and West Africa, parts of Europe, Indian sub-continent, Indo-China, Mongolia, and Pakistan may be the largest road building project in history. Now, as 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) of roads are designed and built, would offer an un-precedented chance for environmental inclusion. Should environmental provisions be stipulated by banks, including multilateral development banks and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), funding and overseeing the BRI? What of the roads of India? Africa? The Pan-American Highway?

“Wild-flower” by photographer Anilmahajan19, 2017, in Nagpur, India. GNU license. Included with appreciation.

It has been the practice of some highway systems to seed the median strip between divided highways with grass. But grass can be thirsty, and yet yields relatively sparse benefits. In fact, some states in the Colorado River Compact are outlawing non-functional turf due to the shrinking of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, water reservoirs for the river that supplies both drinking water and electricity to 40 million people. Drought in the area is causing water shortages and also wildfires.

“Lake Mead and Hoover Dam with water intake towers, seen from Arizona side of Hoover Dam,” by photographer Cmpxchg8b, 2010. Generously dedicated to the public domain by the photographer.Image: wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Should highways be planted, instead, with wildflowers? If you hit the road this weekend, take a look at the wildflowers along highways and also country roads. It’s a natural resource, not often noticed, but increasingly important to the future of climate and environment.

What if all highways and roads hosted wildflowers? Could the world look like this? “Bitterwater Road Wildflowers,” by photographer Alan Schmierer, generously dedicated to the public domain CC1.0. Wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Conniff, Richard. “Green Highways: New Strategies To Manage Roadsides as Habitat.” 10 June 2013. Yale Environmental 360, Yale University School of the Environment.

Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA).  https://www.ciria.org

Forman, Richard T.T., et al., Road Ecology: Science and Solutions. Island Press, 2003. ISBN: 1559629326 and 1559639334.

Highways England. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/highways-england/

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. https://www.wildflower.org

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Global Trade, Investment, and Finance Landscape.” OECD Business and Finance Outlook 2018. https://www.oecd.org/finance/Chinas-Belt-and-Road-Initiative-in-the-global-trade-investment-and-finance-landscape.pdf

United States Highway Beautification Act of 1965. Public Law 89-285, 22 October 1965. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-79/pdf/STATUTE-79-Pg1028.pdf

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 18, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER: Mapping YOUR Climate Risk

What is your climate risk? Animation created by SaVi software from Geometry Center, University of Minnesota by Grand DixenceWikipedia for view of Iridium coverage. Image animation edicated to the public domain (CC1.0) by its creator, and included here with appreciation.

Climate change brings risk. For some, it is water: floods, storms, and sea-rise. For others, it is drought: water shortages, crop losses, and wildfires. Floods killed 920 people in Belgium and Germany, 192 in India, 113 in Afghanistan, and 99 in China – in one month (July) of 2021. Deaths from floods and related landslides took the lives of people in Bangladesh, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Yemen that same year. (Davies 2021)

“Flooding in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA.” Photographed by Don Becker, USGS, 2008. Dedicated to the public domain (CC1.0) by United States Geological Survey and included here with appreciation.

Previous data from weather sources tracked flood risk, resulting in flood insurance for many properties (and denial of such insurance for locations too vulnerable to merit rebuilding). Water damage will only increase with climate warming, as storms grow more powerful. Rising sea levels will escalate floods and coastal inundations. Those who live in the territories of the Colorado River know well another risk related to water: drought. Water scarcity has ravaged crops, parched residential landscapes, reduced drinking water supplies, and now threatens hydropower created by the Hoover Dam. Australia, the most arid continent on Earth, is vulnerable crop loss, and electricity reduction in facilities like Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power.

California Fires in 2021. “Erber Fire in Thousand Oaks,” by Venture County Fire Department Public Information Office. Dedicated to the public domain (CC1.0) and included here with appreciation.

Drought also brings another danger: wild fire. Fire risk is growing with climate warming. In 1980, fire damage in the United States tallied $10 billion; in 2021, costs reached $300 billion. Worldwide, fire affects 1.5 million square miles (four million square kilometers) of Earth – each year. To picture that, the area would measure one-half of the continental United States, or more than the entirety of India. Using data from satellites like the Copernicus Sentinel-3, and the European Space Agency (ESA). the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters tracked 470 wildfire disasters (incidents affecting more than 100 people) since 1911, totaling $120 billion in damages. The 2021 Dixie Fire in California devoured 626,751 acres (253,647 hectares); that same year, in Siberia, wildfires destroyed 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares) to become the largest wildfire in documented history. In 2022, the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak fire in New Mexico continues burning over 270,00 acres and is still (at this writing) only 29% contained. The cumulonimbus flammagenitus cloud ( or CbFg or pyroCb) from the fire could be seen from space on NASA’s Aqua satellite via MODIS.

What’s your property’s climate risk? Photography by Antan0, 2010. Image of magnifying glass. CC4.0; included here with appreciation.

Would you like to know what the future looks like in your area? Now, a new mapping technology from the First Street Foundation can help you determine your risk. If you live in the United States, enter your street address, or your zip code, and you will see if you are one of 30 million properties vulnerable to flooding or wildfire. To assess your own property’s risk, click here.

Aqua Mission. Earth Observing System, NASA. https://aqua.nasa.gov/content/aqua-earth-observing-satellite-mission

Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. https://www.cred.be

Copernicus Sentinel-3. “Measuring Earth’s oceans, land, ice, and atmosphere to monitor and understand global dynamics.” European Space Agency (ESA). https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-3

Davies, Richard. “Worldwide – Over 920 People Killed in Floods and Landslides in July 2021.” 2 August 2021. Floodlist. https://floodlist.com/asia/world-floods-july-2021

First Street Foundation. “Make climate risk accessible, easy to understand, and actionable for individuals, governments, and industry.” https://firststreet.org/mission/

Haddad, Mohammed and Mohammed Hussein. “Mapping Wildfires around the World.” 19 August 2021. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/19/mapping-wildfires-around-the-world-interactive

Risk Factor. “A property’s flood or fire factor.” https://riskfactor.com

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

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

 

 

April 22, 2022
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Earth Day 2022

TAKE ACTION NOW. “Earth seen from Space” photograph by Nasa.gov. Wikimedia commons.

As the world transitions from fossil fuels, some say the change of direction was caused by an oil spill. April 22 is celebrated around the world as Earth Day. Begun in 1970, Earth Day was proposed by Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) when the senator was among those who witnessed a damaging oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Nelson reached out to leaders of the future – students – and across the political aisle to Congress leader Pete McCloskey, as well as to student activist Denis Hayes (who later became president of the Bullitt Foundation). Together, the three proposed a day for a teach-in about the environment. April 22 was chosen because it was between Spring Break and Graduation. Hayes recruited a team of 85 who recommended that April 22 receive a special name: Earth Day.

That first Earth Day was so successful that many trace the birth of the environmental movement to the raised awareness. Another factor: NASA landing people on the moon the year before, in 1969, giving everyone on the planet a sense of Earth’s community.

1970 became a turning point. The Environmental Protection Agency was created, and new legislation passed: Environmental Education Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Clear Air Act. 1972: the Clean Water Act. 1973: Endangered Species Act (co-authored by Pete McCloskey, who also worked with Climate One ), and that same year, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

What began in the United States soon went global, as befits Earth Day. In 1990, Earth Day reached 141 countries, raising a movement that led to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Now, Earth Day is honored by 193 countries. As Earth Day notes, it is the “largest secular observance in the world.”  (earthday.org)

Are you ready to help? There are many ways you can participate in Earth Day’s TAKE ACTION NOW

Hayes, Denis. “50 Years: Earth Day” 23 April 2020. https://youtu.be/YVJufelR5Aw

McCloskey, Pete. “Oil and Smokes” Climate One. https://www.climateone.org/video/pete-mccloskey-oil-and-smokes

Nelson, Gaylord. “A Vision For The Earth,” speech on Earth Day 1970. https://youtu.be/y3RCPAtmpv8

Pazzanese, Cristina. “How Earth Day gave birth to environmental movement: Denis Hayes, one of the event’s founders, recalls the first and how its influence spread,” 17 April 2020. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/04/denis-hayes-one-of-earth-days-founders-50-years-ago-reflects/

Thulin, Lila. “How an Oil Spill Inspired the First Earth Day,” 22 April 2019. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-oil-spill-50-years-ago-inspired-first-earth-day-180972007/

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

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