10 years ago
Infrastructure takes decades to build
An economic boom has careened into bust, halting building projects around the world, even as talk turns to clean energy infrastructure. Overhead, older infrastructure persists in electric wires, highway bridges, and elevated train lines that continue to run on oil and gas. Over several decades a nascent infrastructure for renewable energy emerged to offer a different vision for the city. (more)
Highways of the world, intact forest and critically degraded habitat
Adapted from INTACT Forest Cover map and World Wildlife Fund Status map
Critically degraded habitat
7.8 billion in 2021
415 parts per million in 2021
15° C in 2021
23 cm above level in 1900
Paris Climate Agreement
Infrastructure takes decades to plan and build, remaining in place often for centuries while conditions around it change. Ten years ago carbon-free infrastructure was envisioned by forward-thinking planners, engineers and architects, and in some places, built, providing models and a trajectory forward in the decadal process of transition. Their vision of the future seemed bold at the time, challenging often-conservative professions to imagine changes they had not yet seen.
Decades are the scale of living memory, the span of personal experience. The remembered patterns and places of childhood are often an anchor of normalcy against which subsequent experience is measured. The generation now middle aged remembers a time when climate was a stable, cyclic background ever thus, and nature was imagined to be large, unchanging, and unchangeable, absorbing the actions of people without consequence.
That same generation also grew up with machines humming in the background of their lives powered by coal, oil, and gas, which performed labor that was never a part of their experience. For those born since 1980 the labor is still invisible, even more so, but the climate cannot be counted on. This shift of expectations, grounded in living memory at the scale of decades, changes the emotional baseline, perhaps opening the imagination to change.
Images of the future conjured in the past shape the present, even as new visions are created for climatic changes that are accelerating with each decade.
Image: Composite of images: Times Square at night, 1911, Library of Congress; Horse Car’s Last days, 1917, The New York Times Photo Archive.
Map: Compilation of regional highway maps
World Wildlife Fund. (2010). "Conservation Status Map." 2019, from http://www.uky.edu/~tmute2/GEI-Web/GEI/GEI10/GEI%202010%20lectures/GEI%20Global%20Conservation/WWF%20conservation%20status_map.jpg.
Greenpeace, University of Maryland and Transparent World. (2006-2017). "Intact Forest Landscapes." 2019, from http://www.intactforests.org/.
Potapov, P., M. Hansen, et al. (2017). "The last frontiers of wilderness: Tracking loss of intact forest landscapes from 2000 to 2013." Science Advances 3 https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/1/e1600821.full
CO2: Global Monitoring Laboratory Earth System Research Labs /Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gasses/Current Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/.
Temperature: NASA Global Climate Change Vital Signs of the Planet/ Temperature: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/.
Sea Level: NASA Global Climate Change Vital Signs of the Planet/ Sea Level: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/.
Population: Worldometers "World Population by Year." Data from United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-by-year/.