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. Above eye level they are seen but not seen in a willing suspension of the critical eye. (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
415 parts per million
2020 CO2 concentration
2020 Average Temperature
22 cm above level in 1900
2020 Sea Level
Paris Climate Agreement
Infrastructure takes decades to plan and build, remaining in place often for centuries while conditions change around it. This timescale requires planners, engineers, and architects to build toward a projected future rather than for present conditions. At the same time their decisions in part determine the future that will unfold, such that infrastructure embodies a vision of the future lodged significantly in the past. Inside buildings infrastructure emerges in ducts, pipes and wires, which are considered the least durable parts, even though they may remain for decades, usually hidden from view. When visible, they crowd the ceiling, turning the eye away to the extent that architectural design in general has come to favor the view out, not up.
Decades are the scale of living memory, the span of personal experience. The remembered patterns
and places of childhood are often a 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. In memory rivers have always been muddy, therefore soil loss goes unmourned.
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: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory: Global Monitoring Division. (2018). "Recent Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2." Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network Retrieved 20 September, 2018 from https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/.
Temperature: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. (2018). "Global Temperature 2017: Monthly Temperature Anomalies." Retrieved 20 September, 2018, from https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/.
Sea Level: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. (2018). "Sea Level: Satellite Data: 1993-Present." Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, Retrieved 20 September, 2018, from https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/.
Population: Worldometers. (2018). "World Population by Year." Retrieved 20 September, 2018, from http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-by-year/.