Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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Some Thoughts After Traveling to Iceland (Climate Change and Geothermal Energy)

In the past few years, Iceland has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. So last Thanksgiving, I went to Iceland to see what the big fuss was all about. One of the many tourists draws of Iceland in winter is the promise of venturing off-the-beaten-path to remote, wild, snowy fields. The landscape was filled with wild horses and sheep. You can also find glacial lagoons and geysers erupting as you trek across the country.  After traveling there, my advice is to do yourself a favor by soaking in the Blue Lagoon and enjoy a facial mask. And make sure you view the Northern Lights in the dark!

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Some of the scenes in Game of Thrones (GOT) were filmed in Iceland. One of the scenes of John Snow walking on a glacier, shown in the following pictures, was filmed in Vatnajökull National Park. Another fun fact is that Iceland’s water smells like sulfur almost everywhere on this Island.

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https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/21/16177632/game-of-thrones-season-7-episode-6-recap-fantasy-league

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http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2017/12/01/09/46DD5D2200000578-0-image-a-23_1512122324002.jpg

It is Iceland’s natural beauty that attracts the tourists, but that natural beauty is now threatened by climate change. According to our tour guide, this Vatnajökull  glacier (the biggest glacier in the country) is melting approximately 100 meters (320 ft.) per year, causing sea levels near Iceland to rise. Reports from the Icelandic Government’s Committee on Climate Change (IGCCC) claim that if we don’t do anything to help reduce climate change, Iceland’s glaciers will no longer exist by the next century. During an ice cave tour, the guide told us it is harder and harder to find good ice caves to even see, because melting ice makes the water flowing beneath them very unstable.
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I would say Iceland is a place on earth that doesn’t look like earth. There are about 130 volcanoes on the island–30 of them.  Even though we call it Iceland, it actually more like Fireland or Hotland. Iceland lies in the crack in the Earth’s crust where the North American tectonic plate and Eurasian tectonic plate meet, so while the Earth’s crust slowly tears apart, energy releases—giving Iceland its vast geothermal energy resources. Once scientists discovered this in 1970s, Iceland started capitalizing on this energy resource. According to Ásgeir Margeirsson, CEO of Geysir Green Energy, Iceland citizen save four times cost for heating.

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https://www.icelandontheweb.com/articles-on-iceland/nature/geology/geothermal-heat

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http://www.nea.is/geothermal/

Iceland is a pioneer in using geothermal energy all over the world. The country’s geothermal resources come from the dynamic volcano, and several major geothermal power plants produce around 30% of the country’s electricity. One of the most popular places in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. This is the world biggest man-made lagoon, which is fed by nearby geothermal power, and renew every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow, and used to run turbines that generate electricity.

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There is a lot to learn from Iceland when it comes to adopting clean and alternative energy. Companies such as Tesla . There are many solar energy companies that are taking the lead in powering our homes and automobiles using a cleaner form of energy. Once alternative energy options, such as home solar panels, can be mass-produced cheaply, more people will be inclined to adopt these new technologies. Until then, we can help to fight climate change by eliminating our carbon footprint and choose using green energy.

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

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The Future of Transportation Part II

As an alumnus and a member of the Advisory Council for the Civil Engineering Department at Cornell University, I was asked to lead a workshop during the summer CATALYST Academy. The purpose of the summer program was to bring high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to Cornell to spark an interest in engineering and the university. My workshop entitled “Transportation: How you can be part of the Future” included a 30-minute presentation and a 60-minute group activity. Part I was the summary of the presentation portion of my workshop. 

 

Group Activity

I created a 60-minute group activity to give the students a high-level experience designing the transportation for the future. For the assignment, they had to solve a transportation problem for a specific type of community by developing at least two goals and using technology, while meeting the needs of at least two social equity communities. How hard could that be?

One aspect of the activity was to see the students work in teams. My workshop was on the first day of the program, so the students had just met each other. I divided them into six groups at random. The amazing part was watching them interact with each other and more importantly how they made sure everyone participated. Although I only asked for one person to present for the group, each group chose to present as a team.

The Ideas

The six groups and immediately started thinking and creating. Here’s what the groups created:

  • Group 1: Their community setting was space. Their goals were to establish connectivity between earth and mars, and create mining jobs. Their technology was autonomous spaceships. Their social equity groups were homeless and historically underserved communities by providing jobs.
  • Group 2: They selected a suburban setting, because more generations are living together and cities already have public transportation. Their two goals were to establish connectivity and the reduce air emissions. Their technology was autonomous vehicles that have Wi-Fi. Their social equity groups were seniors, persons with disabilities, and single parents.
  • Group 3: This group designed an autonomous bus with a mobile application to improve safety and reduce congestion in historically underserved communities and seniors. Their community setting was urban such as West Palm Beach Florida.
  • Group 4: They wanted to build a hyper (beyond just high) speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles to move people and goods within 30 minutes. The train would be autonomous, have free Wi-Fi on board, and tickets would be electronic and affordable. Their social equity group was historically underserved communities and persons with disabilities. Without being prompted they also discussed the need to have housing policies so that people won’t be displaced.
  • Group 5: Similar to group 4, they focused on megaregional travel. Their goals were to maximize moving people and vehicles faster. They selected high speed rate that is autonomous, has free Wi-Fi, and uses applications to track travel. They would focus on single parents and historically underserved communities by keeping the new system affordable.
  • Group 6: They created a SkyHub, which is a mobile transportation system that connects people via the air. Their goals were to reclaim street space for people and reducing congestion by moving transportation vertically. To ensure equity they have at least once stop in every neighborhood.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

Bike parking near the Rijksmuseum.

A Tale of Three Cities – Amsterdam: I didn’t do the thing you’re supposed to do

During my vacation to Europe  in March, I met my step goals in Paris and biked in Brussels. The last city I visited was Amsterdam. We took the train from Brussels to Amsterdam. When we walked out of the central train station, I had to choke back tears upon seeing the sheer volume of bike infrastructure, people biking, a large plaza for people, and streetcar lines. As a transportation nerd, this was transportation system paradise.

My Transportation Takeaways:

I didn’t bike in Amsterdam

I know… I know. I’m ashamed. I went to the one of the best places in the world for biking and I didn’t get on a bike the entire time I was there. The major reason for not biking is I didn’t have access to a bike. Since most of the Dutch have a bicycle or two (or four), Amsterdam does not have public bikeshare system. Some hotels offer bikes for guests, but we stayed at an AirBnB.  There are also places that rent bikes in three-hour increments. It was way too much effort for my short stay to locate a bike rental place. Even if I put in the effort to rent a bike, parking for bikes in near impossible to find, which leads me to my next point.

There wasn’t enough bike parking

There are parts of DC where there isn’t enough biking parking, because there isn’t any bike parking at all or there is one sad bike rack. In Amsterdam, there was so much biking parking including a bike parking garage. However, there still wasn’t enough bike parking. Around the city, every  bike rack was overwhelmingly full. There was such a lack of bike parking that some people locked the bike to itself (wheel and frame) and left it on the kickstand in the middle of the sidewalk.

There was plenty of public transportation

While I didn’t bike, I did ride the streetcars. The system was relatively easy to use even without knowing the language. Transferring between streetcars was seamless. Even late at night I didn’t wait more than 6 minutes for a streetcar. I had a 48-hour iAmsterdam pass, which allowed me unlimited transit rides. As a bonus, the pass also granted me access to public museums.

There was space for everyone

Despite Amsterdam’s reputation as a multimodal, no motor vehicle heaven, people did drive in the city. However, it was obvious that the city prioritized space for people and public transportation over cars. Throughout the city, all the modes were separated. There were wide sidewalks for walking, wide protected bike lanes and bike boulevards for biking, exclusive transit lanes for public transportation, and still had lanes left to accommodate motor vehicles. I did not observe any streets where modes were sharing lanes.

The culture of biking was much different

Back to biking, Amsterdam had a noticeably different bike culture from DC.  Most people in Amsterdam rode city bikes, cruisers, or cargo bikes, whereas in DC, many people have faster bikes like road bikes or hybrids. I saw one road bike the entire time I was there. Since they had chunkier bikes, no one biked particularly fast. I didn’t see anyone wearing a bike helmet. While most people biking obey traffic signals and laws, it was common to see people texting while biking or talking on their cell phones.

During my time in Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, I had an opportunity to experience different transportation infrastructure. While I was supposed to be vacationing, it was inspiring to see some international best practices to bring back home, and help generate ideas for Nspiregreen’s projects in the U.S.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

 





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