10 years ago

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Infrastructure takes decades to build

Overhead, older infrastructure persists in electric wires, highway bridges, and elevated train lines that continue to run on oil and gas.  A nascent infrastructure of renewable energy emerged to offer a different vision for the city yet the vested interests in old technology resist.  Communities fight against the construction of oil pipelines and toxic waste dumps, demanding rights to clean air, water, and land. (more)

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Highways of the world, intact forest and critically degraded habitat

 
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Adapted from INTACT Forest Cover map and World Wildlife Fund Status map

Highway

Intact Forest

Critically degraded habitat

Degraded soils

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Measures 

 
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Global Population
7.9 billion in 2022

CO2 concentration
416 parts per million in 2022 

Average Temperature
15° C in 2022

Sea Level
24 cm above level in 1900

7.1 billion

394 ppm
CO2

14.7°C

Temp

18 Cm

Sea Level

Paris Climate Agreement

Covid 19 Pandemic

Year

Decades

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 adopted by forward-thinking planners, engineers and architects, providing models and a trajectory forward in the decadal process of transition.  Oil, gas, and coal industries fight against change with existential fervor, preventing rational discourse and planning.

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 accelerate with each decade.  

 

References

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

Rekacewicz, P. ( 2008.). Global Soil Degradation. UNEP/GRID-Arendal. International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. GRIS Arendal, UN Environmental Programme. https://www.grida.no/resources/6338

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/.