Building the World

March 22, 2022
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World Water Day – Making the Invisible Visible

World Water Day 2022. “Splash!” by José Manuel Suárez, 2008. Image: Wikimedia CC 2.0 creative commons. Included with appreciation.

Today is World Water Day, begun by the United Nations as an international day of observance. This year’s theme is “Groundwater – Making the Invisible Visible.” Did you know that groundwater is the largest source of freshwater on earth? How can we sustain and renew this essential element?

Vista nocturna del Río Bravo, frontera El Paso – Ciudad Juárez.” By Iose, 2007. Dedicated by the photographer to the public domain and included here with thanks. Image: Wikimedia.

Groundwater is transnational. Rivers, above-ground water resources, are often boundary lines separating countries. An example is the Rio Grande (called Río Bravo in México), a river that separates what is now known as the United States and México. Another US/México river whose resources are apportioned, and sometimes disputed, is the Colorado River. But the groundwater beneath both nations is also noteworthy: there are as many as twenty  transboundary aquifers shared by México and the United States.

“Groundwater Withdrawals 2010.” by Herbert and Doell, 2019.  Image: CC 4.0 wikimedia. With appreciation.

Transboundary aquifers demand cooperation. Because groundwater is critically important as a freshwater source, and because so many nations share underground aquifers, groundwater may become one of the most important areas of cooperation  –  and perhaps serve as the water of peace.

Interested to know more about world water, and how we can sustain and renew the Water Planet? You might like to explore this new book: Renewing the World: Water.

Renewing the World: Water explores the future of the water planet. Image: “The Earth seen from Apollo 17.” Photo by nasa.gov. public domain. Included here with appreciation.

Brooke, K. Lusk. Renewing the World: Waterhttps://renewingtheworld.com

Eckstein, Gabriel. “Buried Treasure or buried Hope? The Status of Mexico-US Transboundary Aquifers under International Law.” International Community Law Review 13 (2011): 273-290. https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/facscholar/129/

International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC). “Transboundary Aquifers of the World” https://www.un.igrac.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/TBAmap_2015.pdf

Herbert, Claudia and Petra Doell. “Global assessment of current and future groundwater stress with a focus on transboundary aquifers.” Water Resources Research,  55(3), 4760-4784. DOI:10.1029/2018WR023321.

UN-Water. www.unwater.org

United States Bureau of Reclamation. “Environmental Flows in the Rio Grande-Río Bravo Basin.” 1 February 2022. Drought Adaptation Webinar Series. VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I-prBCOjTs

World Water Day. https://www.worldwaterday.org/

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

March 9, 2022
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ENERGY: Sustainability – natural and geopolitical

“Ukraine animated flat.” by Zscout370. CC 3.0. Image: wikimedia.

The crisis in Ukraine has tragic consequences for people and country, but also reveals something else of concern to peace: energy and geopolitical sustainability. While science has made it clear that climate change is driven by energy choices, transitioning from fossil fuels will be a challenge in the best of circumstances. But recent world events remind us of another factor in energy strategy: geopolitical sustainability.

What can the Suez Canal teach us about strategic assets in times of peace, and times of war? “Suez Canal” satellite photo by NASA, 2001. Public domain. Wikimedia.

Geopolitics emerged as an economic factor during the Suez Canal crisis of 1959. When the matter was resolved, by a team led by Jean-Paul Calon, the Suez Canal Company became one of the leading financial investment houses. Suez reveals the importance of who controls strategic assets in times of peace, and in times of war. Another case study: the energy crisis of 1973 when the OPEC declared an oil embargo: by 1974, oil prices rose by 300%. What can those lessons teach us today?

“Russia’s petrolem regions.” by Historicair, 2007. Creative Commons 3.0. Image: wikimedia.

Russia supplies 40% of Europe’s natural gas (Poitiers 2022). Some experts recommend that this is the time for the EU to support more energy-vulnerable members, and to restructure the continent’s energy system. In other market areas, there is a significant difference. Russia exports more than half its market output to Europe; but the EU sends just 5% of its exports to Russia. The EU’s market economy is ten times greater than Russia’s. But the figures in energy look very different. Various EU states have differing exposures. For example, here are figures for reliance upon Russian natural gas:

Bulgaria: 100%

Poland: 80%

Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia:  60%

Germany: 50%

Italy: 40%

Belgium, France, Netherlands: 10%

Spain, Portugal: 0%

Source: Poitiers et al., 2022

European gas reserves are currently 1/3 full. But that relatively comforting news is countered by gas prices: on February 24 when Russian troops crossed the Ukraine border, gas prices in the EU skyrocketed by 60%.  Some help may come from Qatar and the United States; Japan and South Korea could send some supplies. But many supply lines are already maxed out: Algeria and Norway are producing and exporting at capacity. Pipelines are under threat. If the Netherlands upped their natural gas exploitation, there is the danger of increased seismic vulnerability. What are the alternatives until we can transition fully to renewable energy? Who has reserves?

“Countries with Natural Gas Reserves: 2014: Russia has the largest reserves” by Ali Zifan, who has dedicated this work to the public domain, CC0 1.0. Image: wikimedia.

In planning a transition from fossil fuels, we need a global redrawing of the energy supply chain. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a new energy vision with strategic withdrawal from Russian oil and gas (the UK gets only 5% of its gas from Russia) but Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz advocated exempting Russian energy from sanctions. (BBC 2022). Meanwhile, the United States announced new policy on Russian coal, gas, and oil. With Ukraine crisis, most serious in humanitarian and democratic concerns, there have been effects on regional and global energy, as well. Russia is the largest producer of crude oil, after Saudi Arabia. This week, oil prices rose to $139 per barrel – a high of 14 years. Will the Ukraine crisis cause a redesign of world energy and accelerate the transition to an energy system sustainable not only in resources but also in geopolitics? Climate change is cited by many as a pressing reason to transition to renewable energy. But the deprivation, suffering, tragedy of war now bring this issue to a painful urgency. Could the current crisis and war lead to a new era of energy with a renewed commitment to peace?

Barsky, Robert B. and Kilian, Lutz. “Oil and the Macroeconomy since the 1970s” The Journal of Economic Perspectives. 18 (#4): 115-134. doi: 10.1257/0895330042632708

Biden, Joseph R.,President. “Announcement of U.S. Sanctions on Russian Energy,” 8 March 2022, White House.gov. VIDEO: https://youtu.be/G7Kr1tHmEP0

Davidson, F. P. and K. Lusk Brooke. Building the World. Volume One, Chapter 16, pages 187-204. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO/Bloomsbury, 2006. ISBN: 0313333734.

Houser, Trevor, et al., “US Policy Options to Reduce Russian Energy Dependence.” 8 March 2022. Rhodium Group. https://rhg.com/research/us-policy-russia-energy-dependence/

Johnson, Boris as quoted in “Ukraine war: PM calls for ‘step-by-step’ move from Russian fuel.” BBC. 7 March 2022.

Krauss, Clifford. “Loss of Russian Oil Leaves a Void Not Easily Filled, Straining Market.” 9 March 2022. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/09/business/energy-environment/russia-oil-global-economy.html?referringSource=articleShare

Poitiers, Niclas et al., “The Kremlin’s Gas Wars: How Europe Can Protect Itself from Russian Blackmail.” 27 February 2022. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/2022-02-27/kremlins-gas-wars

Reed, Stanley. “Burned by Russia, Poland Turns to U.S. for Natural Gas and Energy Security.” 26 February 2019. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/business/poland-gas-ing-russia-use.html?referringSource=articleShare

Upadhyay, Rakesh. “The 5 Biggest Strategic Petroleum Reserves in the World,” 29 March 2017. oilprice.com. https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-5-Biggest-Strategic-Petroleum-Reserves-in-The-World.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

 

 

February 3, 2022
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SPACE: International Space University

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg aboard ISS in 2017. In 2031, could this be you, studying science in an international space university? Image: NASA 2017. Public Domain: wikimedia.

In 2030, the International Space Station will be “relocated.” Where? Point Nemo: the most remote from land area of the ocean. NASA announced the transition “De-Orbit” plan, along with goals for the next decade. Future space goals include:

Enable Deep Space Exploration

Conduct Research to Benefit Humanity

Foster a U.S. Commercial Space Industry

Lead and Enable International Collaboration

Improve Humankind

While NASA’s statement praises the International Space Station (ISS) for two decades of scientific, technological, and diplomatic achievements including “biological, physical, biomedicine, materials, and Earth and space science,” the next decade is to continue science while “laying the groundwork for a future in Commercial LEO (Low Earth Orbit) Destinations by 2030.” (NASA January 2022)

Commercial enterprise in space includes Axiom. “Logo of Axiom Space,” public domain, wikimedia commons.

Speaking of the Commercial Leo Destinations (CLDs) by 2030, NASA makes a clear statement: space is moving from diplomatic cooperation to commercial collaboration. Recognizing the “over 20 commercial facilities operating aboard ISS today,” NASA names several enterprises (investors, take note) including: Axiom Space, Blue Origin, Nanoracks, and Northrop Grumman Space Systems. Yet, NASA’s comment that “the ISS remains the sole example of how an international team can productively and successfully cooperate over the course of decades in space” leaves open the question of how such cooperation may continue.

“University of Karachi” photograph by M. Yousuf Siddiqui, Creative Commons 4.0, wikimedia. Thank you to M. Yousuf Siddiqui for inclusion of this image.

Is there now an opening for a consortium of universities (by their very name, “universes” that are centers of inclusion) to plan an educational, research-based, international space university? Such a center of learning could continue the ISS vision, even as space’s sole center of international cooperation plans to transition. While private enterprise is a leader in innovation, commerce is proprietary. There remains a need for at least one place in space that belongs to all of those on Earth who share, equally, in the promise of space. If you were to found and name a university in space, what are your ideas?

NASA. “International Space Station Transition Report: pursuant to Section 303 (c) (2) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.I., 115-10). January 2022.  https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/2022_iss_transition_report-final_tagged.pdf

Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University. 2016. Download free, Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24526

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

November 23, 2021
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THANKS Giving: Global traditions of gratitude

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States. Photograph by Derek Jensen (Tysto) 2004. Generously donated to public domain by the photographer. Image: wikimedia commons.

Giving thanks can take many forms including exchanges to strengthen friendships between nations. American presidents sit at the Resolute Desk, given by Britain to the United States in 1880 as a gesture of thanks for rescuing the HMS Resolute from an Arctic ice-jam, repairing and returning the vessel to the United Kingdom. Six years later, in 1886, France gifted the United States with the Statue of Liberty as an icon of freedom and democracy, and to honor Abraham Lincoln. The famous sculpture proposed by Éduard de Laboulaye (French political philosopher, abolitionist, and expert on the US Constitution) was commissioned to Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi with interior designed by Gustave Eiffel, of the Paris Tower fame.

Norway has given a tree to Trafalgar Square, London, annually since 1947, in thanks for the end of World War II. Photo by Anneke-B, “Trafalgar Square Tree,” 2008, the year the tradition switched to halogen bulbs for energy conservation and sustainability. Wikimedia CC2.0, with thanks to photographer Anneke-B.

World War II’s dangers formed alliances later celebrated by partners in thanks for solidarity, including annual gifts of  20,000 tulips bulbs from the Netherlands to Canada for sheltering Princess Juliana during the war, and Norway’s yearly gift of a holiday tree to grace Trafalgar Square in London in commemoration of World War II’s alliances, cooperation, resolution, and peace.

Most festivals of harvest and thanks feature traditional cuisine. Here is a vegetarian feast from Seoul, Korea. “Korea-Seoul-Insadong-Sanchon” by Julie Facine. Creative Commons license CC by SA 2.0, wikimedia. Included with thanks to photographer Julie Facine.

As Americans observe Thanksgiving, it’s a time to recognize traditions of gratitude around the world. Countries celebrating a holiday of thanks include: Barbados (Crop Over Festival), Brazil (Dia de Ação de Graças), Canada (Thanksgiving), China (Chung Ch’iu), Germany (Erntedankfest), Ghana (Homowo Festival), Grenada (Thanksgiving), Israel (Sukkot), Japan (Kinro Kansha no Hi), Liberia (Thanksgiving), Malaysia (Ka’amatan), Netherlands (Thanksgiving), Norfolk Island (Harvest Home Festival), South Korea (Chuseok), and Vietnam (Têt-Trung-Thu). Many world festivals of thanks honor the harvest, the family, and the power of alliance and cooperation.

Received at the White House on 23 November 1880, the Resolute Desk (seen here with John F. Kennedy, President, and son, John) is a Partners’ Desk. Photo by Stanley Tretick, October 1963. Public Domain image. Wikimedia.

Today, we observe an anniversary with a message. The Resolute Desk, that began this discussion, arrived at the White House on 23 November 1880. When the gift was opened, it was discovered to be a partners’ desk: crafted for two people, facing each other, to work together. The design is believed to promote cooperation. Should be there be an international holiday of thanks to honor cooperation and peace?

Deron, Bernadette. “This is how 15 other countries around the world celebrate thanksgiving.” 7 November 2021. All That’s Interesting.com. https://allthatsinteresting.com/thanksgiving-in-other-countries

“Gifts Given Between Countries.” Accessed 22 November 2021. https://visual.ly/community/Infographics/travel/gifts-given-between-countries-weird-and-wonderful

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 17, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Linking the World

“Ancient Silk Road,” image: wikimedia commons.

The history of civilization may be measured by connection. First it was the Silk Road that connected cities; then it was the age of ships that created ports from Singapore to Suez.  Canals threaded connection through waterways, making one route from inland to sea: the Grand Canal, Canal des Deux Mers, Erie, Panama. Rail linked continents: the Trans-Continental, Canadian Pacific, and the Trans-Siberian united people across vast spans. But each of these achievements was a separate project.

“Belt and Road Initiative.” graphic design by Mathildem 16, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

BRI or B3W? Now, there are two plans to connect the world in a more comprehensive way: the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) announced and begun in 2013 by China, and the “Build Back Better for the World” (B3W) proposed by the G7 in 2021. China is ahead: more than 100 countries have signed BRI agreements. Some comment that the BRI is able to move quickly from plan to construction of new ports linked to rail and road routes, and also express concern regarding resourcing: financial, human, and natural. But some say that the G7 could take inspiration from Charlemagne who united disparate groups through links of education, as well as land and sea. The G7’s B3W may include capital to fund areas like climate, digital technology, health security, as well as transport.

Will B3W make waves of change? “47th G7 2021 Waves Logo,” wikimedia commons.

Climate change will cause a new vision. It is certain that the world needs rebuilding: old bridges, ports, rail, and roads are in dire need of replacement, while new infrastructure could transform many places not yet linked. Some have cited the Marshall Plan as precedent to rebuilding and linking a new vision of the world. Others may see different possibilities that include contemporary concerns. As BRI and B3W consider terms of engagement and goals of success, is there an opportunity to link the world through the values of inclusion, peace, and sustainable resilience?  What is your vision of an interconnected world?

Ruta, Michele. “Three Opportunities and Three Risks of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 May 2018. World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/three-opportunities-and-three-risks-belt-and-road-initiative

Sanger, Davi. E. and Mark Landler. “Biden Tries to Rally G7 Nations to Counter China’s Influence.” 12 June 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/world/europe/biden-china-g7html?referringSource=articleShare

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 21, 2020
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SPACE: Rock Hounds bring Finds to Earth

There’s a goddess on the moon and she’s a rock collector. China’s lunar explorer, Chang’e 5, named after the lunar deity, returned four pounds of rocks to Earth this week.

“The Moon Goddess Chang E.” Ming Dynasty Scroll, Metropolitan Museum of Art Acquisition number 1981.4.2. Image: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

It’s been 44 years between rock collecting expeditions: for the first time since 1976 (Soviet Union’s Luna 24 returned 6 ounces (170 grams), humans reached the lunar surface, collected samples, and headed home with prize specimens. The USA returned moon rocks in 1972. Since making its first lunar landing in 2013, China has achieved notable milestones including the first space probe landing on the far side of the moon in 2019. Change’e 5 brought 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar material back, landing in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region landing site on 16 December 2020. Some was surface rock, but a probe mechanism also collected material from 6.5 feet (2 meters) underground.

“Chang’e 5 Assembly, leaving CZ-5 rocket.” China News Agency. Image: wikimedia.

We may be in what some call a “golden age” of sampling from space. In addition to moon samples, we have retrieved interplanetary material from NASA‘s Stardust that returned samples from the tail of Comet 81P/Wild 2, and Genesis mission that sampled solar wind. JAXA’s Hayabusa that brought samples from asteroid Ryugu in December 2020; NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex visit to asteroid Bennu will return material (in 2023). Meanwhile, in 2021, we expect China’s Rianwen-1 to reach Mars, and Russia’s Lunar-24 to revisit the moon. JAXA’s Martian Moon Exploration (MMX) mission will soon return samples from Martian moon Phobos.

Hayabusa in hover mode. Image: JAXA. Wikimedia commons.

What did Chang’e find on the moon? The legendary goddess told a tale of global warming involving the heat of 10 suns. Perhaps rocks from the moon may shed light on Earth’s plight. As for the Chang’e mission, Pei Zhaoyu deputy director of China National Space Administration (CNSA) stated: “We hope to cooperate with other countries to build the international lunar scientific research station, which could provide a shared platform for lunar scientific exploration and technological experiments. ” Earlier, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, then director general of European Space Agency (ESA) suggested building a village on the far side of the moon to replace the aging International Space Station: “Partners from all over the world contributing to this community with robotic and astronaut missions and support communications satellites.” Frank P. Davidson, co-founder of Camp William James of the CCC, envisioned a program called Lunar U. Should there be a lunar study-abroad program for students, too?

“Moon and International Space Station.” That’s ISS in the lower right of the photo. Image: NASA.gov. Wikimedia.

Elin Urrutia, Doris. “We may be in a ‘golden age’ of sample-return space missions.” 5 December 2020. Space.com. https://www.space.com/golden-age-space-sample-retrieval-missions.html

Hauser, Jennifer and Zamira Rahim, “China’s Chang’e-5 lunar probe successfully delivers moon samples to Earth.” 16 December 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/16/asia/china-lunar-probe-intlindex.html

Quirke, Joe. “European Space Agency proposes village on far side of the moon.” 15 July 2015. Global Construction Review. https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/european-spa8ce-age6ncy-8p0r6o4p2os8e0s6-4v2i0l8la/

Xinhua. “China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft brings home moon samples.” 17 December 2020. www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-12/17/c_139595181.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

 

 

There are plans in development for lunar base establishment; some aspects will be scientific, other may be commercial.

November 6, 2020
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SPACE: 20 Years of International Cooperation

Emblem of the International Space Station, celebrating 20 years of cooperation. Image: nasa and wikimedia.

Twenty years ago this week, three people whose nations were formerly enemies embarked upon a journey of scientific and social cooperation. NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian space engineers Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev set foot in a laboratory orbiting 227 nautical miles above Earth. They left behind conflicts, differences, and rivalries. Living and working together for 136 days, they built what has become the International Space Station.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson in the ISS Cupola observing Earth. Image: nasa.gov.

During the last two decades, what is perhaps civilization’s greatest success in peace has welcomed 241 people from 19 nations. The International Space Station was an investment of many countries (costing over $100 billion) but it has yielded a good return on investment. We now know how to build in space, we have studied the effects of microgravity, we have developed new technologies including Lasik laser surgery, and we have learned to live cooperatively.

“Golden sunset on Earth seen from International Space Station on 18 April 2015. Image: nasa.gov

International Space Station is scheduled and financed for the next four – five years. Some say it will be privatized after that, with commercial ventures supporting the $4 billion per year upkeep. There are plans for Axiom Space, located in Houston, Texas, to build a commercial module addition to the Space Station. But many are reluctant to pursue privatization of what has been a monument of international cooperation. In Japanese, the International Space Station has a poetic name: Kibo, meaning Hope. It was Japanese astronaut Wakata Koichi who composed the first poem ever written in space:

Afloat in the darkness before my eyes

the watery planet bluely flows

How strong is my affection for that ancient home of ours,

how deep my gratitude for the gift of life.

Tomorrow, I will dare the blue sky

and open up worlds unknown

For there we have our dreams.

Axiom Space. “Missions to the International Space Station today; the world’s first commercial space station tomorrow. Axiom Space. https://www.axiomspace.com/

Chang, Kenneth. “How the Space Station Became a Base to Launch Humanity’s Future.” 2 November 2020. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/02/science/international-space-station-20-anniversary.html?referringSource-articleShare

International Space Station. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Koichi, Wakata. “Afloat in the darkness.” Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). http:issjaxa.jp/utiliz/renshi/index_e.html

Stickland, Ashley. “Humans have been living on the space station for 20 years.” 2 November 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/02/world/space-station-20th-anniversary-continuous-human-presence-scn-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

September 21, 2020
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Let Your Voice Be Heard

“The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism,” states the declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations (UN). Founded after the tragedy of World War II, the UN has worked to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedom for all, in the context of sovereign equality of States and the right of self-determination for all. To participate in the 75th anniversary, see videos of presentations here.

Logo of the United Nations. Image: wikimedia.

Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic will require cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sets the theme: “Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive, and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face.” The UN invites your ideas for the top three priorities of the future. Where would you like to see the world in 25 years, the 100th anniversry of the UN? Let your voice be heard in setting global priorities and shaping our future together:  take the survey.

United Nations. “The United Nations is running the largest ever global conversation as it turns 75 and wants to hear from you.” https://un75.online/#s2.

United Nations. “Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations,” September 2020. https://undocs/org/A/75/L.1.

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 20, 2020
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ENERGY: Funding the Future

How should we spend the money of hope? Image: wikimedia.

THE MONEY OF HOPE

In the early part of 2020, the entire globe went into lockdown, suffered a plague of sickness and death that took lives and livelihoods of those in every corner of the world. In an urgent response, money on an unprecedented scale has entered the global economy.

Economic stimulus, large deposits of cash and loans, initiated to save national and global economies, present opportunity. How countries direct their bailouts may determine the future. Never again will so much money be readily available to rebuild the world. Let’s take a look at some examples:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$700 billion pledged in asset purchases or quantitative easing (QE)

Federal funds rate: 0-0.25%

Discount window rate: cut by 150 basis points

Unlimited QE, including purchase of corporate and municipal bonds

Six months of allowing foreign central banks to access U.S. dollars for overnight dollar loans

$2.3 trillion to support local governments, small-mid businesses, with 4-year loans to enterprise with up to 10,000 staff

$2.2 trillion aid package (27 March 2020) with $500 billion for suffering industries and direct payments to individuals ($1200) and families (up to $3,000)

EUROPEAN UNION

120 billion euros ($130 billion) added to asset-purchase program of 20 billion euros per month

750 billion euros in QE, adding to existing with total of 1.1 trillion euros

Eliminated cap on number of bonds EU could buy from any Eurozone country

Cut interest on Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) by 25 basis points to -0.75% (12 March 2020)

Suspended limits of EU government borrowing

Allowed credit line equal to 2% of national GDP from European Stability Mechanism (ESM) fund

European Investment Bank lending 200 billion euros to businesses

ESM freeing up 240 billion Europe of credit to governments

Total of 3.2 trillion euros: including provisions to cut company working hours rather than jobs

Berlin, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

GERMANY

750 billion euros total: with 100 billion for economic stability fund with direct stake in businesses

100 billion euros for public-sector development bank

400 billion euros to secure corporate debt vulnerable to default

FRANCE

300 billion euros guaranteed for corporate borrowing from commercial banks

45 billion euros to shore up businesses and employees

ITALY

400 billion euros of liquidity and bank loans to businesses

25 billion euros to suspend mortgage and loan repayments for families and companies, and funds for firms to pay workers on furlough or layoff.

SPAIN

200 billion euros divided in half with 50% government-backed credit for businesses/50% to help vulnerable people

700 million euros program to suspend evictions for six months after emergency is lifted

UNITED KINGDOM

200 billion pounds ($248 billion) of bond purchases

interest rate cut to 0.10% Bank of England

Bank of England doubled corporate bond purchase program to 20 billion pounds

Bank of England pledge to buy commercial paper with maturity of up to 1 year for businesses with pre-crisis investment grade credit

330 billion pounds in loan guarantees to business including paying 80% of staff salaries

Allowing businesses to temporarily retain 30 billion pounds of VAT (value added tax)

CANADA

Reduced overnight interest rates to 0.25%

Pledged purchase of Government of Canada securities – C$5 billion per week

C$50 billion credit for insured mortgages

C$10 billion for business support

C$150 billion for morgtages

C$55 billion for tax deferrals for businesses and families

C$27 billion aid for workers and low-income households

Government payment of up to 75% of salaries for workers in small and mid-sized businesses

Japan. Image: wikimedia.

JAPAN

Bank of Japan one-year zero-rate program to financial insitutions

Y430 billion for small and mid-sized businesses

Funding upgrades of medical facilities

Pay working parents forced to take leave due to school closures

Stimulus package of Y108 trillion ($993 billion) with cash payouts to households, small businesses; total package is equal to 20% of Japan’s economic output

CHINA

Yuan 2.8 trillion for infrastructure investment, backed by local bonds (19 March).

People’s Bank of China cut reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for small banks by 100 basis points. Worth about 400 billion yuan; cut will be in two phases, 15 April then 15 May 2020.

500 billion yuan ($71 billion) for re-lending and re-discount quotas

350 billion yuan for increased loan quota for businesses

Cut cash reserve requirements for banks, releasing 550 billion yuan

Also ruled: expand budget deficit, issue more bonds, drop interest rates, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks, and encourage renewed consumption

INDIA

1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) for food security and direct cash transfers. (26 March)

Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.40%

SOUTH KOREA

100 trillion won economic rescue package (7 April) including 29 trillion won in loans to small and mid-sized businesses, and 20 trillion won to buy corporate bonds and commercial paper

36 trillion won in loans to exporters hurt by virus shutdown

9.1 trillion won ($7.5 billion) cash payments to most families

17.7 trillion won to boost consumption

INDONESIA

$24.9 billion for social welfare to 10 million household for food and energy discounts, and 3 percentage point cut in corporate tax rate (to 22%)

Bank Indonesia cut seven-day reverse repurchase rate to 25 basis points to 4.50%

Central bank cut reserve requirement ratio by 200 bps for banks (and 50 bps for Islamic banks)

AUSTRALIA

A$90 billion ($56 billion) funding for banks at rate of 0.25%

A$15 billion program for residential mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities

Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates in two steps for total to 0.25%, and introduced QE with a target of 0.25% for bond yields

A$66 billion for companies and welfare

A$17 billion for apprentices, small business, retirees

A$130 billion for wage support for 6 million workers

A$715 million support for airlines

Sydney Opera House, Australia. Image: wikimedia.

BRAZIL

1.2 trillion reals ($231 billion) for central bank purchase of bank loan portfolios, repurchases of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds

150 billion reals for most vulnerable people and jobs

51 billion reals to allow companies affected by virus to reduce worker pay and hours, with a goal of preserving jobs (1 April)

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) cut rate by 100 basis points to 5.25%, and then reduced again (14 April 2020) to 4.25%

1.2 billion rand ($66 million) for small farms to keep up food production

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

$50 billion to help low-income and emerging market countries

“The Great Lockdown Economic Retraction: A global map of the outlook of retraction and growth of nations across the world for 2020.” From IMF Outlook. Image: Foxterria, Wikimedia.

FUNDING THE FUTURE

Add up all those stimulus packages, monetary funds, loans, and that’s a lot of money, much of it supporting business interest rates and workers’ jobs. Yet, with the exception of instances where the industry is targeted (agriculture, transport, finance), there are few stipulations on how the money should be directed. For example, there could be payments and supportive programs for innovations in energy or water, decarbonizing transport, or reducing air pollution.

While the 2020 coronavirus is an acute crisis, and climate change is a chronic crisis, both require response. Over the past decades, we have talked about climate change, but taken too little action. Part of the reason is funding. Without the urgent public health crisis and resultant shutdown, the world would never have allocated so much money to rebuild economic life. Yet, there it is. Now.

Yes, there has been disaster response to unfortunate hot-spots suffering tsunami or hurricane damage, earthquake or fire devastation. But that was in a region. Yes, there has been systemic change, world-wide, in some industries due to disaster; after 9/11, airports and security changed permanently, but that was just one sector.

In 2020, the whole world changed at once. With everyone hit by the corona virus, new ways of communicating and working evolved. Cities rethought transport. Fossil fuel loss dropped and cities saw cleaner air. Sadly, it was all due to death and sickness. But as a result, to rebuild after the virus, every country on earth has raised new money, and new hope.

Where money goes to an industry, how can that sector direct renewal to the future we know is coming: de-carbonized and sustainable? Of course, some of the funds must support present production lines and supply-chains, but surely a percentage could be directed forward to future goals.

What would you do with this one-time funding to rebuild the world?

Sources:

Cash, David and Rebecca Herst, “Covid-19 and Climate: Policy and Practice.” 22 April 2020. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/news_events_media/events/covid_19_and_climate_policy_and_practice

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. A Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 978052658351

International Monetary Fund. “IMF makes available $50 billion to help address the coronavirus.” 4 March 2020. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/04/sp030420-imf-makes-available-50-billion-to-help-address-coronavirus?mod=article_inline.

Ivanova, Maria. “Coasts and Communities.” Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, National Science Foundation. University of Massachusetts Boston, Center for Global Governance and Sustainability, Global Environmental Governance Project. https://www.umb.edu/igert/about.

Reuters, “Factbox: Global economic policy response to coronavirus crisis.”  14 April 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-economy-factbox/factbox-global-economic-policy-response-to-coronavirus-crisis-idUSKCN21W2AJ

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691149097

Appreciation to the University of Massachusetts Boston, especially Dean David Cash, Professor Maria  Ivanova, and Director Rebecca Herst.

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

January 25, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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ENERGY: Doomsday Clock

Back in the good old days, when doomsday was just three minutes away. Now, it’s 100 seconds. Time to reset. Image: wikimedia

We are in humanity’s moment of greatest peril,” warn those who keep time on the Doomsday Clock, moving us to 100 seconds before midnight. Midnight means catastrophic global annihilation. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by those who worked on the Manhattan Project, when doomsday only meant blowing ourselves up with bombs, the Doomsday Clock now includes a second danger: “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.” (Ban Ki-Moon et al 2020)

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, inventors of the Doomsday Clock. Image: wikimedia

The Doomsday Clock does not really tick but is set. It started at seven minutes to midnight in 1947. Its best year to date was 1990, when it was fixed at 17 minutes to midnight, indicating the world was hopeful and relatively calm. The clock held at 2 minutes to midnight through 2017 – 2019, but now it is closer than it has ever been. It’s only been reset 24 times since 1947.

Regarding this week’s setting of the clock to 100 seconds before midnight, the keepers of the clock note two action areas. First, due to expire in 2021, the only remaining bilateral agreement between two nuclear super powers (Russia and USA), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), must be extended. Regarding the other existential threat, climate change, over 60 countries have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the United States has not committed, California and New York have. That’s encouraging, but it’s still not enough, just 11% of world emissions.

Meanwhile, the clock is moving closer to midnight. Whether or not we suffer a nuclear war or an accident, certainly possible, climate change is not only possible but probable, and accelerating. We need to turn back the Doomsday Clock. What can you do to turn back the hands of time?

It is time to stop climate change, and reset the Doomsday Clock. Image: “Prague Astronomical Clock,” wikimedia.

ANIMATION: “Know the Time.” https://thebulletin.org/multimedia/know-the-time.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock

Sengupta, Somini and Nadja Popovich. “More than 60 countries say they’ll zero out carbon emissions. The catch? They’re not the big emitters.” 25 September 2019. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/25/climate/un-net-zero-emissions.html.

“Why the world is closer than every to Doomsday,” by Jerry Brown, William J. Perry, Mary Robinson, and Ban Ki-Moon. 24 January 2020, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/24/opinions/doomsday-clock-emergency-moon-robinson-brown-perry/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 Unpor

 

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