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The Planet is Not Our Slave


Umair Haque says the Planet is not our Slave and that If We Don’t Change our Broken Relationship with Nature, Climate Change is Going to Destroy Us.

The image above is of Udaimonia and Co.


The Planet is Not Our Slave

Pandemic. Megafire. Megaflood. It’s becoming clearer by the day, sometimes by the hour, that we live in an age of apocalypse. Twenty million are dead of Covid, and counting. “Climate change” — I mean global warming — is already making parts of places like California uninhabitable.

Apocalypse, as religious scholars will tell you, means “an unveiling.” Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a religious post. But it is going to be one about what’s being unveiled, revealed, to us, by this age of apocalypse. That’s something elemental, profound, and worrying — about us. On the deepest level. Who are we? Who are we here to be? What is the point of us, the human species?

Something has gone badly wrong, after all. But what?

As I think about it, what this age of apocalypse is beginning to reveal is that our relationships are broken — the deepest kinds of ones. Our relationships with nature, and with each other.

The easiest broken relationship to see is the one we have with nature. We are the worst thing to happen to planet earth since the meteor which wiped out the dinosaurs. Our effect is exactly the same — mass extinction, huge climatic shifts — only slower.

Why is our relationship with nature so broken? How would you describe our relationship with nature? It’s a master-slave relationship. We exploit, dominate, abuse, and ruin. Meanwhile, nature has no rights, self-determination, or inherent worth. The problem, though, is that nature wasn’t meant to be our slave, and reducing it to a position of slavery is ushering in an age of climate apocalypse.We don’t really have one. Nature is something to exploit, abuse, and discard. It’s a resource for capitalism to plunder and despoil and for us, as individuals, to consume.

Think for a moment about how profoundly wrong that is. I have a dog, like you might have a dog. My dog is a character. He has a personality all his own. His emotional life is easily as complex as mine, if not more. He is a far better person than I am — more caring, intimate, less capable of deception and folly. He is innocent in ways I am not.

Nature is like that. It is, above all, innocent. It has done nothing to be annihilated by us. And yet we justify it with the way that we see nature. Have you ever watched the show “Naked and Afraid”? In it, people are sent into the jungle, or the desert, and they try to survive. Yet what’s remarkable about the show is that they never, ever comment on how beautiful the night sky is, or how present life seems to be, or how awareness seems to permeate all things. No — the show is an exercise in paranoia and violence, not peace and gratitude.

I don’t mean that in what you might call, derisively, as David Brooks would, a “hippy-dippy” way. It’s true that nature can be brutal. But nothing in nature is as brutal as us. By and large, nature takes what it needs to survive. A tree grows its roots into the soil, and takes what water it needs to reach towards the sky. The animals drink from the lake — but they don’t try to take the whole ocean.

Only we do that. We’re gaining some kind of small awareness, these days, of how wrong colonisation and slavery were. Whose land was it? It wasn’t ours. But the native peoples, most of them, would have told you, and would still tell you: it wasn’t theirs, either. It was for life. All life.

My dog, a city dog, finds himself in the suburbs. And he’s baffled by human property rights. Totally baffled. Dad, why is that the neighbour’s yard? Who made this arbitrary line? How come that tree “belongs” to us — and this one, to them? Who made these crazy rules?!

The answer is: we did. We carved the world up into property, and then kept on carving it. Empires became nations. Slaves became peasants. But who does the world really belong to?

Nobody and everybody is the answer. The world belongs to all of us, and all of us really means all of us. Not just human beings. And so when I say our relationship with nature is broken, I mean it in not just intellectual ways, but pragmatic ones, too.

Why can’t we save the world’s ecologies? Take the example of the Amazon. It’s a net carbon emitter now, having been clearcut into oblivion. That happened because it was privatised and sold off. Capitalism and human property rights again.

We have to really learn to coexistWe can’t do that under the black spell of capitalism and property rights. It begins with the assumption that everything “belongs” to us, the human species, and the only question is which human gets it. Bezos? Zuck? You? Me? Capitalism’s assumption is that everything in the world is a commodity which belongs to human beings, for them to consume.

But we can’t survive as a civilisation that way. We have already consumed too much — several planet’s worth. At this rate of consumption, global warming will proceed even more apocalyptically. This? Megafire and megaflood? California and Canada on fire? This is one degree of warming, barely that. At two degrees, entire regions of the planet become uninhabitable. At three, the water turns to poison and the soil to dust. You don’t want to know what happens at four, which is that it automatically hits five, thanks to self-reinforcing feedback — it’s enough to know that most life as we know it can’t survive.

And so our civilisation’s systems collapse, as they’ve already begun collapsing. Air, water, food, medicine — all these things are becoming harder and harder to get. Tried to buy furniture or electronics recently? Not easy, is it? But this is just the beginning. Collapse of an incredible kind — history’s worst — happens in mere decades on the course we’re on. By the end of the century — that’s one human lifetime from now — the planet is unlivable for most life as we know it.

Do we want to be that being? The walking apes who destroyed the planet? The ones who were as destructive as the giant meteor which wiped out the dinosaurs? In geological time, we’re the same thing. A meteor happened overnight — we’ve been around for 300,000 years. Big deal — same difference. The earth will survive us. But we will have been a stain, a black memory, a fatal mistake of evolution.

We need to rethink our relationship with nature. And it needs to happen nowLet me give you another example.

Ever since I got Snowy, I find it difficult to eat meat. I’m not a saint, and I was a rank ignoramus before. Now? I see a little creature just like Snowy, full of character, emotion, personality, life, when I eat meat. I still hunger for it, on some physical level. But morally, emotionally, mentally? I’m repulsed by this act of taking a life needlessly. I feel a terrible sense of shame and guilt.

Who’s innocent? If we think about it, the only forms of life on planet earth which are pure, in the sense that they are genuinely nonviolent, are plants and some forms of bacteria. Plants take in sunlight — something inert. Some bacteria can feed on minerals. These are the only two beings on planet earth who do not need to consume living things in order to survive.

The rest of us? We’re trapped in a kind of living nightmare. We have to kill in order to live. We have to literally take life in order to have it. We have to eat something, consume it in the most naked way, in order to breathe.

This is a horrific place to be, if you think about it. It’s no wonder that it’s easier for us to pretend that we’re not doing terrible violence as we walk the well-lit aisles of some cheery grocery store. And yet that cheery grocery store is full of a false happiness precisely because it is the front for a vast machinery of death. How many animals does it take to feed us? Trillions.

This relationship, too, has to change. We have to consume far, far less, if we want to go on surviving as a civilisation now. That change probably has to begin with what we literally eat. The way that we eat, too, is symbolic of how we consume in generalMindlessly. Thoughtlessly. Selfishly. Stupidly.

The ancients had a far, far more mature relationship with nature than we do. They consumed what they needed, and drew the line there. They used all of what they took, in gratitude. They had a profound sense of justice towards nature.

Why? Because they understood they were at nature’s mercy. We don’t. We think we’re above nature. Still think that way, though? Or has that conviction been shaken, by the last year or so, of mega fire and mega flood?

Nature’s trying to wipe us out. Wouldn’t you, if you were her? I would. We’re the worst thing to happen to the rest of life on this planet.

Why do we think we’re above nature — so far above it, that we can take as much as we want, exploit it, abuse it, kill it off?

This mistake goes back. Way back. To the Enlightenment, or monotheistic religion, or both, take your pick. I have religious cousins — very religious ones. Their entire lives are lived to please a deity, not to coexist with anyone or anything else. When they see Snowy, they have a strange reaction — they think he’s dirty and unclean. Not just physically, but existentially.

They don’t even care that this is offensive to me, because, well, I adore the little guy. For them, it’s salvation that matters. Why do they think Snowy’s existentially unclean? Because their monotheistic religion teaches them — as all of them do — that animals don’t have souls. So where do animals go, in this scheme of things? Well, either to hell, or nowhere, because they never existed at all.

It’s patently ridiculous to tell me that my best friend doesn’t exist. That he doesn’t have a soul. Of course he exists — he’s sitting right next to me. Of course he has a soul — it’s a bigger soul than most people I know, full of laughter and grace and courage. Think of how brave the little guy has to be to live with us. He’s ten inches tall.

Soul? I don’t know anyone braver — or more loving — than our dogs, my friends. And yet they tell me that the animals are going to hell.

Are you kidding me? How can you believe that? I’m sorry if you’re religious, but I have to draw a line somewhere. An ideology which says: “all the countless trillions of creatures on this planet except you are not really worthy” is basically fascism. I’m sorry, and there, I finally said it.

Monotheistic religion began this strange way of thinking. The ancients didn’t think this way. For them, not only did animals have souls, but all of nature did. Greeks were just of many ancient cultures to deify nature. The Egyptians did too. Most ancient cultures had such an intimate relationship with nature that “becoming” an animal, in a vision, with the help of a hallucinogen, was considered something divine, something elevated — not something subhuman and degraded, like we do. That’s telling. Of how broken our relationship with nature really is.

The Enlightenment continued the mistake monotheistic religion had made, of subjugating nature, of degrading it. The Enlightenment picked up where monotheistic religion had left off. Animals couldn’t “reason” and employ “logic.” And therefore they were inferior. Enlightenment thinkers loved to build hierarchies, and in them, human beings — “white” ones, because they’d just invented the idea of “race” — were on top, the most “rational” of all. Below them came other “races”, “yellow”, “red”, “black”, and so on.

But there are no yellow or red people, for Pete’s sake. Enlightenment thinkers at this point were literally making things up. What a stupid, stupid tragedy that we still believe them.

But their hierarchies didn’t stop there. Below the inferior “races” came the “animals.” In descending order of reason, too. And since then, that’s the way we’ve come to see the world.

The more “rational” a being is, the more they deserve dominion, power, and control.

Only now, that entire worldview is being revealed as a lie — in a kind of grand, morbid, ironic joke. What was “rationality,” to Enlightenment thinkers? It was self-advantage, basically. Being able to amass and acquire and outwit. It wasn’t just putting cause to effect, but the idea that all that could be employed in profit. Hence, capitalism was the great outcome of Enlightenment thinking.

But if rationality is the maximisation of one’s own advantage — then the ugly endgame is before us nowWhat kind of world does that form of “rationality” lead to? A world where Bezos or Zuck could vaccinate the entire planet — but don’tA world where billionaires own the entire American working and middle class, keeping them in perpetual debt. A world where the human “race” goes on consuming as much as it can, as fast it can — even if destroys its own civilization.

“Rationality” of this form — consumption maximization — turns out to be the most irrational thing of all. Short-sighted, narrow-minded, foolish. The ancients knew it. They weren’t dumb, they just weren’t interested in this way of thinking. They saw where it would lead, which is to human beings acting like locusts, like viruses, like dishonourable and mindless things. Even locusts and viruses have limits to their appetites. Do we? The ancients did not want to go down this road. They saw where it would lead. Nearly every ancient contains a stark prohibition against “rationality” as selfishness and consumption maximisation, as materialism and invididualism — most have complex norms against this mindset. Just think of complex forms of egalitarianism like gift economies or moral codes like Ubuntu.

We are at the end of this way of thinking. And that’s a good thing. Because the price has been steep. Regarding nature as something inferior, stupid, worthless — meat to be consumed — has had a terrible price for us, too. We’ve grown alienated from nature. Our own nature.

What are we? Above all, we’re social beings. We’re not the lone-wolf apex predators that American pseudo-science makes us out to be. We can try to be that, which is what American culture wants everyone to be, but we’re not happy that way. We’re not happy, fulfilled, or ennobled as idiots who carry guns to Starbucks and consume everything in sight with abandon. We just end up like Americans — lonely, dumb, angry, and self-destructive.

We need to become very different kinds of people now. Full of gratitude and love and respect for all of lifeAll of it. From the tiniest creature to the greatest. Rationality can’t be the measure of a creature, because it’s only made fools of us. It’s only led us to self-destruction and ruin, the idea that a person, a nation — or a species — should only be in it for themselves, their own gain, profit, advantage. We need to rethink our relationship with nature from that perspective. It needs to become one of investment, not consumption, which means giving back, nurturing, nourishing, protecting, guiding, coexisting — not abusing, violating, and dominating.

Can we be that thing, that being? I don’t know. Nobody knows. The ancients and the primitives wanted to be those beings. But modern societies came along — and killed them off. With efficiency, with productivity. By instilling this insatiable appetite for mindless consumption, TikTok style. Maybe, in the end, that’s what we’re destined to be, by our primate brains.

This century tests all that. Who we really are, can be, want to be, in this world. The truth and essence of us.

So far, though, I have to wonder — are we even trying to be any different from the violent, stupid, selfish, self-destructive, walking apes capitalism and patriarchy and empire, all those old systems of domination, violence, and violation, want us to be?

September 2021

APICORP to allocate $1bn towards green energy


By virtue, or by follow-up, the Oil Producing Countries of the Golf are trying to rush into the transition to green development. Here is a good example. Apicorp to allocate $1bn towards green energy as described here extends to also ‘introduce green and sustainability bonds in the coming period with the aim of accelerating the adoption of sustainable business models within the energy sector whilst providing incentives to pursue energy diversification and sustainability practices.’

The above image is for illustration and is of The National.

APICORP to allocate $1bn towards green energy

DAMMAM, The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Apicorp), an energy-focused multilateral development bank, plans to allocate $1 billion towards green energy projects and sustainable energy companies over the next two years, particularly in the MENA region. 

This is with a view to concomitantly measure the ESG footprint of all its assets by end of 2023 through active engagement with its stakeholders. 

Unveiling its new ESG policy framework, Apicorp aims to support Energy Transition in its member countries and beyond.

Currently, green assets comprise more than 13% of the multilateral development bank’s overall portfolio – equal to around $550 million in loans and direct investments, a figure which has more than quadrupled over the past five years. 

The new framework also includes a robust due diligence toolkit to measure the ESG impact when making financing and investment decisions, with a focus on supporting the proliferation of renewable energy sources and low-carbon technologies as well as forging more strategic partnerships to promote the sustainability agenda.

Dr Aabed bin Abdulla Al-Saadoun

Additionally, Apicorp will look to introduce green and sustainability bonds in the coming period with the aim of accelerating the adoption of sustainable business models within the energy sector and providing industry players with incentives to pursue energy diversification and sustainability practices.

Commenting on the ESG policy framework, Dr Aabed bin Abdulla Al-Saadoun, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Apicorp, said: “As the world continues to experience unprecedented change, Apicorp recognises the importance of our role, our impact and our responsibility to tackle environmental and climate change challenges within our member countries, partners and wider stakeholders. We want to support a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy by mitigating risks across our operations, supply chain and client transactions by embedding sustainable principles in our business practices. We embark on this journey with the reassurance that all of our member countries are signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement and participants at COP26 to be held in Glasgow later this year.”

Dr Ahmed Ali Attiga, Chief Executive Officer of Apicorp, said: “At Apicorp, we want to lead by example when it comes to transitioning to more sustainable energy sources. Encouraging other partners in our ecosystem to be more mindful of their environmental, governance and societal footprint is therefore integral to our strategy moving forward. As a multilateral development bank with exposure to myriad industries within the energy space, we have the added advantage of being able to measure the overall impact more accurately across the regions in which we operate. Equally important, we will continue to drive the ESG agenda in our member countries through our research and knowledge sharing activities, as well as our unique position in advising key policymakers within government and regulatory circles.” 

Underpinned by three core pillars – Responsible Banking and Investing, Social Inclusion and Partnerships, and Financial Resilience and Governance – the comprehensive framework is a key element of Apicorp’s strategy to formalise and institutionalise its commitment to environmental protection, social responsibility, and robust governance. It also guides how 

Apicorp will go about identifying, measuring, managing, monitoring, and reporting ESG risks and opportunities, as well as outlining criteria related to its own infrastructure, ethics and values, diversity and inclusion, and employee empowerment.

Additionally, the institution will also undertake voluntary public reporting on an annual basis drawn from the leading international standards, including the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, The Principles for Responsible Investment, The Principles for Responsible Banking, and The Equator Principles.

TradeArabia News Service

QF stemming the brain drain


A Qatar based media The Peninsula dwelt on how a local institution Qatar Foundation aka QF is stemming the brain drain meaning of earlier times. Qatar representing 0.10% of the total MENA region land area could perhaps be only doing that to the same proportion. Is it still worth it? Another hiccup would be that of the increasingly divested from and diminishing fossil fuels export-related revenues; could these be that helpful at the same rate in the future, be it near or far? In any case, let us see what it is all about.

The image above is for illustration only and is of the Qatar Foundation headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

QF stemming the brain drain

The Peninsula

Doha: In the past decades, many of the MENA region’s best Arab scientists, inventors, engineers, designers, and innovators left their home countries for better opportunities in the West.

While the reasons for the “brain drain” in this part of the world have been varied, many of these talented youth cite a lack of support and resources as their reason for leaving. However, the situation is evolving – for the better.

For more than a decade, Qatar has become a confluence for science and innovation in the MENA region. It is home to Qatar Foundation’s (QF) edutainment show Stars of Science, and it hosts Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP). 

Qatar’s Abdulrahman Saleh Khamis developed a unique smart educational prayer rug. Targeted at young and newly converted Muslims, the rug teaches the user the correct way to pray, and more.

The show falls under QSTP’s umbrella of programmes that support incubation and start-ups, enhancing capacity to further develop the Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation (QF RDI) ecosystem. The area is fast becoming recognised as the epicentre for technological, engineering, and scientific innovation.

This ecosystem supports and nurtures home-grown innovations from some of the region’s brightest young Arab minds with a view to stemming the tide of MENA innovators seeking resources, support, and mentorship elsewhere. It provides inventors with a nurturing environment where they can refine their inventions, gain guidance, confidence, and mentorship, with the aim to retain promising talent. And with numerous alumni creating innovations that are being used globally, the program also helps to showcase Arab talent to the wider world. 

While Stars of Science helps shape the region’s future through revealing the potential of innovators, QSTP promotes one of QF’s key objectives; empowering the innovator behind the idea. 

Contestants are automatically enrolled into the flagship accelerator programme, XLR8, where they can continue working on their projects with QF’s support. This unique innovation hub assists inventive entrepreneurs with successful startups, helping them bring their creations to the market within the region, but also internationally.

One such innovator is Dr. Nour Majbour, former researcher at Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, part of QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), who took her fascination with the human brain and created a laboratory kit designed to diagnose Parkinson’s disease in its early stages through antibodies. After the show, Dr. Majbour went on to further develop her Stars of Science project, named QABY, within Qatar’s supportive technological ecosystem and officially registered it as a trademark with QF.

Another alumnus from the show is veterinarian Dr. Mohammed Doumir from Algeria – his  ingenious project addresses the issue of limping in racing camels. Post Stars of Science, Qatar’s unique collaborative ecosystem appealed to Dr. Doumir, and he stayed in the country pushing for technological advancement and promoting innovation. With the support of the QSTP Product Development Fund – which incubated and funded his idea – he opened his own company named Vetosis, and is now the director for veterinary research and innovation at QSTP. He is currently adding new applications to his device for camel training and fitness promotion. 

In Stars of Science Season 11, Abdulrahman Saleh Khamis, from Qatar, took inspiration from his Islamic faith to develop Sajdah, the unique Smart Educational Prayer Rug. Targeted at young and newly converted Muslims, the rug teaches the user the correct way to pray — and more. 

After Stars of Science, he started his own company, Thakaa Technologies currently incubated at QSTP where he received funding through the QSTP Product Development Fund. He also successfully completed a pre-order crowdfunding campaign on Launchgood, a platform co-founded by another Stars of Science alumnus, Omar Hamid.

These projects serve as prime examples of incredible collaborations with Qatar’s technological ecosystem, and are a testament to successfully promoting Arab innovators. They highlight Qatar’s unique atmosphere of innovation and support, to the benefit of the Arab region – and beyond – transforming ideas into inventions that positively impact local and international communities. 

Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers


This QUARTZ‘s article about Rethinking cities, could be yet another way of demonstrating that nothing could affect nor alter the development of a town’s built environment. It has, on the contrary, ended up in teaching us the hard lessons of Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers. It is by Anne Quito, Design and architecture reporter. But despite that Is it Time to Stop Building Skyscrapers? Let us see in any case what it all boils down to.

The hard lessons of Sept. 11 led to the boom in supertall skyscrapers

Cities have to accommodate more people, lessen their environmental footprint, and become more equitable.

Standing tall.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, former New York’s mayor Rudy Giuliani encouraged developers to build low. Like many, he feared Manhattan’s tall buildings would become targets for terrorists, after seeing how swiftly the twin towers crumbled.

Twenty years later, quite the opposite has happened. For better or worse, New York City’s skyline is populated with ever taller and taller skyscrapers, with the highest among them in the heart of the original World Trade Center complex. Nearly all of the city’s supertalls—the term for a structure that rises above 300 meters (984 ft)—were built after 2001. Many of them are luxury condos clustered along 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.

Outside New York City, supertalls built after 2001 include the Trump International Hotel and Tower and the St.Regis in Chicago, the Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia, the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles, and Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Before Sept 11, there were 20 supertalls in the world. Today, there are more than 200 and several more are in various stages of construction.

How did Americans go from a mistrust of tall buildings to an unprecedented growth in skyscrapers in the US? In a word, science.

It stems from a steely belief in engineering innovation after the attacks, says Carl Galioto, president of the global design and architecture firm HOK. “I think it has to do with confidence,” he says.

Galioto would know. Prior to HOK, he was a partner at the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merril (SOM) and was an architect-of-record for two of the towers that were rebuilt at the World Trade Center complex. Galioto also worked with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology to translate its forensic reports to improving the international building code.

One Vanderbilt, the tallest office tower in midtown Manhattan, opened in Sept 2020.

Changes in building safety regulations after 9/11

Innovations in building safety led to the current boom in supertall buildings, Galioto says. “There is a direct relationship between the developments in building science related to high-rise construction and the perception of improved safety that allowed supertall towers in New York to be commercially viable,” he says.

About 30 safety and security recommendations were added to the building code as a result of the twin tower collapse. They included widening staircases, using thicker glass on the lower levels, using reinforced concrete for a building’s core, installing back-up power systems, and reserving a dedicated elevator for firefighters. There was a greater understanding of “progressive collapse,” when a succession of structures falls like a stack of cards. There was also a renewed appreciation for bollards and the variety of creative forms they could take.

Some of that work included changing the fundamental understanding of safety. Before Sept. 11, building occupants were considered safe when they reached a fire-proof staircase. After learning that more than 200 people perished in the World Trade Center’s elevators, regulations were updated so people were only counted safe only when they reached the ground.

Galioto and his colleagues at SOM used the two towers they designed—One World Trade Center and 7 World Trade—as a kind of showcase for innovations in building safety. Galioto says he has immense trust in skyscrapers. “Not only do I feel confident about working at One World Trade Center, I felt confident enough that my daughters can work there,” he says. “I think it’s the safest building in New York.”

How much did Sept 11 change architecture?

Galioto remembers how the public came up with zany burning-tower escape plans during that time, such as giving parachutes to top floor occupants or designing chains and outriggers to trap wayward plans. “They were somewhere between Jules Verne and Rube Goldberg,” he says. Galioto recalls one proposal that involved installing escape chutes on the side of buildings. “As if people could just slide down 50 stories and pop out of the air like party favors,” he says. “We very quickly realized that people are safer if they don’t jump out of buildings.”

As to whether the Sept. 11 terrorist attack changed the building industry, Galioto says its impact is proportionate. He questions the notion that terrorism is the foremost fear in the mind of architects. “There’s only as much paranoia as there’s a concern for designing for earthquakes or hurricanes,” he says. “If you look at it objectively, it [anti-terrorism concerns] is just another set of design criteria.”

Santiago Calatrava, the widely admired Spanish architect says what happened in New York 20 years ago reverberates through his practice. “The tragic events of September 11th have undoubtedly made an impact on my practice as both an architect and engineer,” says Calatrava, who designed the Oculus transport hub and the soon-to-be-completed St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Centerin an email to Quartz. “There became new elements to consider in our designs such as building reinforcements, the use of resistant materials, and simply reimagining the flow of a space.”

More ribs: The Oculus at the World Trade Center.

Calatrava explains that he had to modify his original scheme for the Oculus—the bird-shaped building adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial—after the sequence of terrorist events after Sept 11. “Following the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in  2007, the structural design of the Oculus was modified per instructions from the New York Police Department and other responsible authorities to suit newly established security requirements,” he says. “One key change included reinforcing the support structure for the Oculus’ planned ‘wings’ to improve blast resistance. The Oculus had to have twice the number of steel ribs and a column free space was recommended.”

A different line of defense

If engineers have figured out the structure, urban planners say that New York still needs to reckon with the spirit behind building so many gleaming skyscrapers. Vishaan Chakrabarti was the director of the Manhattan office for the New York planning department during the decisive years of the World Trade Center’s reconstruction. In an email, he says engineering sturdy buildings is just half the battle.

Investing in welcoming public spaces is a better plan than creating exclusive “bubbles of security,” as Chakrabarti puts it. He echoes urbanist Jane Jacobs’s theory that a vibrant streetscape is the best form of security. “I wrote back then that using architecture and urbanism as a last line of defense when our national security fails is a mistake, and it continues to be so,” argues Chakrabarti, now the dean of the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. “Security was obviously critical after the attacks, but unfortunately we are always fighting the last war.”

Ditch 90% of World’s Coal and 60% of Oil and Gas


The authors of this article on Climate change and elaborate on how to avert it through experts’ notable advice of a ditch of 90% of the world’s coal and 60% of oil and gas to limit warming to 1.5°C. Would it be feasible if some of the MENA countries economic life sustenance depends on fossil fuels related revenues? Here is what these authors are saying.

Climate change: ditch 90% of world’s coal and 60% of oil and gas to limit warming to 1.5°C – experts

Daniel Welsby, UCL; James Price, UCL, and Steve Pye, UCL

Global mean surface temperatures reached 1.2°C above the pre-industrial average in 2020, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in its recent report that Earth could hit 1.5°C in as little as a decade. The 0.3°C separating these two temperatures make a world of difference. Scientists believe that stabilising our warming world’s temperature at 1.5°C could help avoid the most serious effects of climate change.

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are the source of just over 80% of the world’s energy. Burning them accounts for 89% of human-derived CO₂ emissions. To avert catastrophic warming, the global community must rapidly reduce how much of these fuels it extracts and burns. Our new paper, published in Nature, revealed just how tight the world’s remaining carbon budget is likely to be.

In order to hold global warming at 1.5°C, we found that nearly 60% of global oil and fossil gas reserves will need to remain in the ground in 2050. Almost all of the world’s coal – 90% – will need to be spared from factory and power plant furnaces. Our analysis also showed that global oil and gas production must peak immediately and fall by 3% each year until mid-century.

Fossil fuels still provide most of the world’s energy. Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock

Even meeting these stringent limits may not be enough on its own to stabilise global warming at 1.5°C, however.

That’s because we based our estimates on a carbon budget compatible with just a 50% probability of limiting warming to 1.5°C. Our model simply could not be pushed to a greater chance of achieving the 1.5C target because it was already at its limit, given our projections of fossil fuel demand in the near future.

Our analysis also relies on the large-scale deployment of technologies capable of removing CO₂ from the atmosphere sometime in the future. By 2050, our scenario expects around four gigatonnes a year will be being captured by so-called negative emission technologies. There remains a lot of doubt about whether it is even possible to sufficiently scale these technologies up in time.

So, to aim for a better chance of achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal and to lower the risk of relying on as yet unproven technologies, we argue that our estimates of how much of the world’s fossil fuels cannot safely be extracted should be treated as cautious underestimates. The world may need to be even more ambitious.

Fossil fuel rationing

We estimated how much fossil fuel production in each region must fall and how fast based on a global energy system model. We allocated the remaining shares of fossil fuel production allowed within the budget based on the costs and carbon intensity of producing different oil and gas assets, and how cheap low and zero-carbon technologies are in different parts of the world.

Our analysis showed that total fossil fuel production is limited by a global carbon budget. Production growing in one region of the world will require a decrease in another to keep the global trajectory pointing downwards. A mechanism such as the Global Fossil Fuel Registry – a public database of all known reserves – could provide the necessary transparency for an international effort, with the cooperation of governments and fossil fuel producers.

The US and Russia sit on half of the world’s coal but must leave 97% of it in the ground. Australia, which recently pledged to keep producing and exporting coal beyond 2030, would need to keep 95% of its reserves underground. Oil-producing states in the Middle East must not extract around two-thirds of their reserves, while most of Canada’s tar sand oil must not be burned, along with all of the fossil fuel buried beneath the Arctic.

Our analysis suggests that many countries will need to move out of fossil fuel production relatively quickly, which raises concerns about how the transition can be managed fairly. Countries such as Iraq and Angola have a high dependency on fossil fuels for government revenues. They will need support to diversify their economies in a managed way – including financial and technological assistance to develop new low-carbon industries – and to decarbonise domestically to reduce their own reliance on fossil fuels.

The necessary energy transformation highlighted in this research will require a range of policy levers, including measures that drive down fossil fuel consumption, such as banning petrol cars or promoting renewable electricity generation, and those targeting production itself, including restrictions on new fossil fuel extraction licenses.

Alliances between countries are also likely to be important to build political support for reducing fossil fuel production. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, formed by Denmark and Costa Rica, has pressured other countries to halt investment in new oil and gas projects.

Phasing out global fossil fuel production at the rate suggested in our study is possible, but it will rely on some of the measures we’ve described expanding and gaining the support of large producing countries and companies – those which have benefited most from the fossil fuel era.

Daniel Welsby, PhD Candidate in Energy Systems, UCL; James Price, Senior Research Associate in Energy, UCL, and Steve Pye, Associate Professor in Energy Systems, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.