2021
November
08
Monday

Monitor Daily Podcast

November 08, 2021
Loading the player...

TODAY’S INTRO

Arshay Cooper’s busy year on the water

Two weeks ago, some 11,000 rowers and many, many more spectators and volunteers descended upon Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the iconic Head of the Charles regatta. That’s where I ran into Arshay Cooper. You may remember him from our cover story last year about his journey since being part of America’s first all-Black high school rowing team in the late 1990s – a life-changing experience he wrote about in his book “A Most Beautiful Thing.”

It was a busy scene on the banks of the Charles River, so we caught up by phone a few days later. And a lot has happened since our story. 

Mr. Cooper, who has his eye on increasing the talent pool for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, now leads the newly established A Most Beautiful Thing Inclusion Fund, which is under the George Pocock Rowing Foundation. This year, after traveling the United States, fund leaders tapped five programs, supporting them with everything from boat donations to financial backing for the regatta transportation that better-resourced programs take for granted. There are grants for coaches of color, academic tutoring, college counseling, swimming lessons, and community events that just this fall acquainted 2,000 kids with the sport.

“The talent is everywhere; the access and opportunity is not,” Mr. Cooper says.

Mr. Cooper told me the serenity of being on the water can do for these kids what it did for him – calm the storms of everyday life, poverty, and disruption. He tells of an eighth grader angered by being called out for talking during one of his presentations.

“My friends were that kid,” Mr. Cooper says. “It’s hard to recover from how he was spilling.” But the next day the boy returned, and sat on a rock by the dock. “You could tell he’d never been by the water. He said, ‘I need someone to talk to.’ He was strong. Soon, he was running around like a kid in a candy store. He wanted to experience a different world – [to go] from concrete and dirt to water and grass.” 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

‘I had to stand up and say no’: Pro-choice Christians battle Texas law

Abortion is a complicated issue in many faith communities. One effect of Texas’ strict new abortion law, SB8, has been to spur people to wrestle more deeply with the topic – and to clarify their feelings around it.

Amelia
Ann Hermes/Staff
Julianna Massa, a staff member with the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, fills out care bags on Oct. 4, 2021, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The bags contain food, toiletries, prayers, and information for women traveling from out of town to explore abortion options.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 7 Min. )

The Rev. Gayle Evers grew up in a “super conservative” family. The co-pastor of Journey Imperfect Faith Community in Austin says she has wrestled with reproductive rights for a long time.

That is, until September, when Texas implemented the strictest abortion law the country has seen since Roe v. Wade established abortion as a constitutional right almost 50 years ago.

“With SB8 I had to stand up and say no,” says Ms. Evers. “It absolutely shreds the fabric of trust in our society.” And “it not only judges delicate, complicated situations with an iron fist; it prejudges them.”

Faith featured prominently as state lawmakers advanced the law. “Our creator endowed us with the right to life,” said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott when he signed the law. But for some people of faith, it has inspired a newfound interest in, and activism around, reproductive rights – both in Texas and beyond.

“Faith is about how we love each other and help each other,” says Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, who has been helping Texas women obtain legal abortions in her state. “A law that turns family members against family members, or neighbors against neighbors ... that’s not faith.”

‘I had to stand up and say no’: Pro-choice Christians battle Texas law

Collapse

Growing up in a “super conservative” family in Tennessee didn’t lead the Rev. Gayle Evers to become a conservative pastor.

Now based in Austin, Texas, she is co-pastor of Journey Imperfect Faith Community, and a chaplain for a group that ministers to LGBTQ people of faith and their families. She has been active for LGBTQ rights for several years. Reproductive rights, however, are something she has wrestled with for a long time.

That is, until September, when Texas implemented the strictest abortion law the country has seen since Roe v. Wade established abortion as a constitutional right almost 50 years ago.

“With SB8 I had to stand up and say no,” says Ms. Evers.

“It absolutely shreds the fabric of trust in our society,” she adds. And “it not only judges delicate, complicated situations with an iron fist; it prejudges them.”

The specifics of the law are well documented. SB8 bans any abortion after six weeks, before women often know they’re pregnant, but state officials are also banned from enforcing the law. Instead, private citizens, anywhere in the United States, have been deputized to bring suits against anyone, anywhere in the state, who “aids or abets” someone in getting an abortion. The law includes no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.

Faith featured prominently as state lawmakers advanced the law this spring. “Our creator endowed us with the right to life,” said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott when he signed the law in May. But for some people of faith, it has inspired a newfound interest in, and activism around, reproductive rights – both in Texas and beyond.

“Faith is about how we love each other and help each other,” says Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (NMRCRC). “A law that turns family members against family members, or neighbors against neighbors ... that’s not faith.”

“To us that’s the most egregious part of this, is that it uses faith as a way to harm and discriminate – which unfortunately is not new, but, you know, we don’t need to keep doing that,” she adds.

The effects of SB8

Amid a bevy of court challenges, SB8 has largely remained in effect since Sept. 1. A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared open to letting abortion providers challenge the law last week, when they heard a fast-tracked appeal. The high court could still overturn the constitutional right to abortion nationwide in a separate case it will hear next month. For now SB8 has had telling effects in Texas.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Planned Parenthood administration building, shown on Oct. 4, 2021, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Planned Parenthood clinics in Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico saw a 132% increase in patients from Texas after SB8 took effect in September, compared with the month before.

The number of abortions in the state in September dropped by about 50% compared with September 2020, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a group of university-based researchers. The average drive to an abortion clinic has increased from 17 miles to 247 miles, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for reproductive rights.

At least 300 Texans traveled to Oklahoma in September seeking an abortion, “PBS NewsHour” reported. That same month, Planned Parenthood clinics in Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico saw a 132% increase in patients from Texas compared with the month before, according to Planned Parenthood of the Rockies.

Texans as a whole are divided on the restriction itself. Forty-seven percent of Texas voters oppose banning abortions as early as six weeks, and 45% approve, according to a University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll. But 57% of voters oppose the law’s “bounty” provision, including 35% of Republicans.

In Albuquerque, the controversy has driven some people to get more involved with NMRCRC.

“I was kind of helping from afar,” says one volunteer who, for privacy reasons, asked to only be identified as Crystal.

She had been donating, and attending the occasional rally in Santa Fe, the state capital. “After the Texas law, I kind of figured volume would pick up and they’d need more people,” adds Crystal. “It’s kind of what brought me back.” 

Part of NMRCRC’s work includes logistical support for people traveling to Albuquerque from out of state to get an abortion. Crystal’s role is to be the driver. She takes people to and from the airport, to and from the clinic, and to and from where they’re staying. When they talk, she tries not to dig too much. But one passenger last month has stuck with her.

“All she wanted to do was get back home to her family,” says Crystal. The woman, from the Houston area, “was worried about somebody finding out,” Crystal adds. But “she just wanted to go home and get back to her life.”

With grown children herself, she found the story “heartbreaking.”

“I don’t know that I would be able to handle it that well,” says Crystal. “I think it would’ve been much harder for me.”

A complicated past and an uncertain future

The right to abortion faces an uncertain future around the country. Twelve states have passed “trigger” laws that would automatically ban abortion in the state if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, which could be an outcome in the case it’s hearing next month, Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women Health.

Over the decades, Christianity – in particular white evangelical Christianity – has come to be viewed as synonymous with the anti-abortion movement. 

“Scripture tells us to rescue those who are being taken away to death,” said William Ascol at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, when introducing a resolution calling for the abolition of abortion.

But the reality, and the history, are more complicated. 

Abortion was legal under common law in the U.S. from the country’s founding until 1880, when the first restrictions were passed at the behest, not of the church, but of the medical establishment. For the first 100 years or so, women had until “quickening” – roughly 15 weeks, when they could feel a fetus moving – to decide whether to continue a pregnancy. Some legal scholars argue that originalists on the Supreme Court should take this history into account when deciding Dobbs later this year.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director at the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, at its office on Oct. 4, 2021, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The early abortion-rights movement favored moral and religious arguments more than its opponents. Indeed, in the 1970s, the Southern Baptist Convention passed resolutions affirming that women should have access to abortion. Today, polling shows that a majority of most religious traditions in the country believe abortion should be illegal.

The Rev. Angela Williams, an ordained pastor and an outreach coordinator with the progressive Texas Freedom Network, has been working for five years with congregations to pierce “a conspiracy of silence around reproductive health issues,” as its website describes it. The work has been difficult. 

“Individuals may be ready to say, ‘I care about this [issue],’” she says. But it can be tough “as people work through the implications in [their] congregation.”

“It doesn’t feel as urgent until something like SB8 happens,” she adds. But now, congregations “are coming to us saying, ‘What can we do? How can we change this?’”

Abortion has long been a complicated issue in many faith communities. In some ways, another effect of SB8 has been to clarify feelings around what has long been an uncomfortable topic.

But seeking more clarity doesn’t mean disregarding how complicated the issue of abortion is for people of faith, says the Rev. Daniel Kanter, senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas.

“To just ideologically say ‘abortion should be outlawed’ is to miss the complexity,” he says.

Mr. Kanter’s views on the issue are well known. He is one of the plaintiffs who sued in August to stop SB8 from going into effect, and part of his work involves counseling women who are considering getting an abortion.

“I would say you can’t be pro-life and go past the life you see in front of you: the woman,” he says.

But now, with SB8’s “bounty” system in effect, he isn’t sure he can even help them navigate that complexity, lest he also be sued.

“I haven’t been in a situation in which I’ve had to censor what I am able to talk about with a member of my congregation. But this is [now] the consideration,” he says.

For Ms. Evers in Austin, she believes she is on a similar journey as the one she made on LGBTQ rights, which she used to think were sinful. Then, in her 20s, she became friends with a colleague who was gay and who died after being diagnosed with AIDS.

For 30 years, she wrestled with the tension between what she knew to be true – “that these are good people” – and how it could be reconciled with what the Bible had taught her.

“I believed that being gay was not a sin; it was normal,” she adds. But “I needed to let my heart catch up with my mind.”

On abortion, she’s “still in that liminal space,” she continues. She plans to continue pondering it, and she plans to ponder it with members of the Journey Imperfect Faith Community in the coming months.

“My heart is behind my mind,” she says. “But I expect my heart will catch up.”

Germany cuts carbon emissions. Not fast enough, young generation says.

It’s an old cliché: There’s talking the talk, and walking the walk. Young Germans are telling their leaders they need to do better on the latter point – matching climate goals to action and doing it faster.

Amelia

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 7 Min. )

Germany’s climate-conscious young generation finally has the political wind at its back. After the recent national election, two smaller parties backed heavily by first-time voters are now set to join a new coalition government.

This comes on the heels of a historic court decision in April, ruling that the government’s existing climate action law was “insufficient” and “violate[s] the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are very young.”

Youthful protesters have had much to decry. Germany’s clean energy transition has been fitful, with an abrupt phaseout of nuclear power and a reliance on coal that’s been tough to shake. 

To hit the nation’s target of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 65% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, requires nothing less than a “fundamental restructuring” from power plants to buildings and factories, according to a recent Federation of German Industries report

The estimated cost, equal to 2.5% of Germany’s economic output, is “a lot of money,” says Matthias Zelinger, an energy expert at VDMA, an engineering industry association. “On the other hand, it is less than we’ve invested in the merger of [post-1989] Germany, east and west. So it’s our generation’s project. It’s hard, but it’s not undoable. We have to be fast and efficient.”

Germany cuts carbon emissions. Not fast enough, young generation says.

Collapse
Moritz Richter/Courtesy of Joelle Sander
Climate activists gather for the Wiesbaden, Germany, portion of a global climate strike organized by Fridays for Future just ahead of Germany's September federal election. Young Germans have become a major voice pushing the nation to act faster on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Joelle Sander had expected no more than 200 people at the climate strike she organized in September in her hometown of Wiesbaden as part of a global youth-led event. It took place two days before Germany’s federal election, the first in 16 years without Angela Merkel on the ballot.

That day, 2,000 strikers showed up in Wiesbaden. “So much is finally happening after two years of corona. The global strike gave me hope that people still care about climate action, and that our future isn’t dead,” says Ms. Sander, an 18-year-old vegetarian.

In the German capital, around 100,000 climate marchers streamed toward the Bundestag, clogging up car traffic. “Germany is the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide in history, and that with a population of 80 million people,” Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist who had traveled to Berlin for the strike, told a crowd. Across Germany, more than 600,000 people gathered on Sept. 24 at various climate events, say organizers.

As the election showed, Germany’s climate-conscious young generation finally has the political wind at its back: First-time voters overwhelmingly cast ballots for two smaller political parties, whose platforms promised bold climate action. Both parties are now set to join a new coalition government.

This comes on the heels of a historic decision in April by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, which ruled that the government’s existing climate action law was “insufficient” and “violate[s] the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are very young.”

Those complainants were mostly youth activists who are enraged that politicians and leaders were doing so little to protect the Earth, and hence their future. Their movement now attracts people of all backgrounds, not just youths like Ms. Sander who shun meat-eating and car ownership. “Grandmas and grandpas and parents and scientists and teachers are joining, because the climate crisis has gone so far people are dying and they’re now concerned about their children’s future,” she says.

There has been much to protest about Germany’s climate action, or lack thereof. Its clean energy transition has been fitful, with an abrupt phaseout of nuclear power and a reliance on coal that’s been tough to shake. Yet the future is looking brighter under a climate-focused coalition government at a time when German youths and consumers are engaged like never before with the goal of going green.

Compared to European peers that have installed more renewables, “in absolute numbers these countries are definitely ahead,” says Jörn C. Richstein, thematic lead of electricity markets research at the German Institute for Economic Research’s climate policy department. “But if you look back at where Germany was in the 1990s, we’ve made real progress.”

 

Moritz Richter/Courtesy of Joelle Sander
Climate activist Joelle Sander helped organize the Wiesbaden portion of the global climate strike event planned by Fridays for Future. She rallies attendees with a megaphone. Ms. Sander says the movement for climate action is spreading beyond youths to attract people of all backgrounds and ages.

Net-zero by 2045?

Germany was among the first major economies to pass a law to mandate a hard exit from coal. The government has also set a target of 2045 for net-zero output of greenhouse gases and a near-term target of cutting emissions by 65% by the end of this decade, compared with 1990 levels.

Still, its coal phaseout target of 2038 is much slower than that of France or the United Kingdom, the host of this week’s United Nations climate conference, which has urged countries to stop burning coal, one of the dirtiest energy sources.

And turning Germany’s words into action has so far been a challenge. To achieve a clean-energy transition it needs the right mix of renewables, buy-in from consumers to politicians and industry executives, and changes in the regulatory framework for carbon-intensive industries and for bringing renewable energies on board. All this in a country that plans to mothball its nuclear power stations by next year.

“It’s a tremendous task, and we have to do nearly everything possible in the coming years,” says Matthias Zelinger, head of the Competence Center Climate & Energy for VDMA, an engineering industry association.

Cutting Germany’s total emissions by 65% compared with 1990 levels by 2030 requires nothing less than a “fundamental restructuring of our energy system, international energy supply, building and vehicle stock, infrastructure, and large parts of industry,” according to a recent Federation of German Industries report. Investment in fossil-fuel related technologies must end, along with a faster stop to coal-fired power. All this would require additional public and private investment of about 860 billion euros by 2030 (nearly $1 trillion) or about 2.5% of Germany’s gross domestic product, the report found.

“That’s a lot of money,” says Mr. Zelinger. “On the other hand, it is less than we’ve invested in the merger of [post-1989] Germany, east and west. So it’s our generation’s project. It’s hard, but it’s not undoable. We have to be fast and efficient.”

Why progress is slow

Many experts mark Ms. Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster in Japan as the beginning of Germany’s energy transition. The previous year, she’d supported extending the working lives of nuclear plants. Her about-turn, which reflected public opinion on the perceived risk of nuclear power, delivered a boost to renewables like solar and wind. But Germany also became more reliant on coal and natural gas to generate electricity for its homes and factories because renewables didn’t ramp up fast enough.

This lack of progress is maddening for young activists like Ronja Weil, a student in Berlin who’s affiliated with Gerechtigkeitjetzt (Justice Now), a Berlin-based alliance of 27 initiatives that campaign for climate-friendly policies. “I think that actually the government does not execute climate protection at all. We have to change systematic factors and ask ourselves questions such as ‘How do we want to produce energy?’” says Ms. Weil.

Adding onshore wind turbines can be challenging: It takes 3 to 5 years for regulatory approval, so project developers often prefer offshore wind sites or look overseas. In 2018, Germany installed about 750 onshore wind turbines; even fewer were added in 2019 and 2020. Opposition from some citizen groups, whose members skew older than climate strikers, has stymied approvals. Opponents say wind turbines are eyesores and not the right renewable option.  

Solar and wind together generated more electricity than all the fossil fuel sources combined in 2020. But coal use has resurged this year amid a global spike in natural-gas prices and a fall in wind output.

“Do small things, [and] big things can be moved”

The April high court ruling was in response to several legal challenges filed mostly by young plaintiffs, including Luisa Neubauer, one of the national organizers of the Sept. 24 rallies. They alleged that Germany’s and the European Union’s commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement wouldn’t prevent future global warming and as a result violated their human rights since they would suffer the consequences in the future.

“The constitutional court ruled that society and politicians have to speed up the fight against climate change, and we have to tighten and accelerate measures quickly,” says Dirk Janssen, director of the North-Rhine Westphalia division of Friends of the Earth Germany.

In response to the ruling, Parliament agreed on deeper emissions cuts by 2030 and moved up its net-zero target to 2045, five years ahead of the EU. Industries are also making progress, rolling out pilot programs for decarbonizing even highly polluting sectors such as chemicals and cement, says Mr. Zelinger.

Michael Probst/AP
Steam comes out of the chimneys of the coal-fired power station in Niederaussem, Germany, Oct. 24, 2021. Germany's timetable to phase out coal-fired electric generation by 2038 is drawing criticism, inside and outside the country, as too slow. The path is difficult partly because Germany has focused on phasing out one prominent alternative: nuclear power.

“More and more industries are now even drawing up their own roadmaps on how to decarbonize,” he says. “And the new coalition government will go further.”

Changing the way progress is evaluated to include future measures will help this process, says Dr. Richstein. Take steel manufacturing, on which Germany’s renowned auto industry depends. Installing a low-carbon blast furnace is expensive, and can’t be done in stages. “You basically need to replace the whole thing at once and then you have a clean process. A lot of these sorts of binary decisions are needed across sectors, and in a lot of cases it’s single installations that account for most emissions in industrial processes. That’s why it’s good to track progress based on these early indicators where you say, how far are we in different sectors with replacing old with new processes?”

Germany can no longer ignore the consequences of global warming, says Mr. Janssen of Friends of the Earth Germany, given summer heat waves, drought-ravaged forests, and the deadly summer floods in 2021.

“People can see that climate change is here,” he says. “This means environmental NGOs are no longer fighting the fight alone. Germany’s climate movement today is a broad church, from civil disobedience groups to the more well-heeled, middle-class supporters. It’s the energy companies and politics that are way behind, so much so that we worry that the efforts to implement the energy transition may amount to too few, too late.”

Ms. Sander, the climate strike organizer, is hopeful for the new coalition that includes the Green Party, but worries that government will still move too slowly. She’s working to train more activists to bring even younger voices into the movement. “If 100 million people do small things, big things can be moved.”

Could 3D printing help solve the housing crisis?

As this next story shows, progress often comes when people are willing to think beyond conventional constraints and assumptions. It doesn’t hurt to have a fair degree of patience as well. 

Amelia
Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor
Shawn and Marcus Shivers, future homeowners of what is considered the first 3D-printed home by a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the United States, show up to volunteer on the construction site, Oct. 20, 2021, in Tempe, Arizona. They expect to move into their new home – 1,738 square feet of livable space – by early 2022.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 5 Min. )

Multiple firms in the United States are building 3D-printed homes. Typically, the design is exported into a computer program where the 3D geometry of the structure is sliced into layers. Code commands plot the path of the nozzled machine – directing it from point A to B, fast or slow, straight line or arc.

Unbound by traditional building restrictions, 3D-printing allows for more creative freedom in architecture, says Michael Maughan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho. Advocates point to other benefits as well, like speedier on-site construction, less waste, and reduced labor – all of which could lower building costs. Efforts are also underway to make 3D-printed construction more sustainable.

Earlier this year, in Tempe, Arizona, a massive printer oozed out row upon row of gray, toothpastelike ribbons of mortar that have hardened into walls. The site is considered the first 3D-printed home for a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the U.S.

Construction has taken longer than Habitat’s usual projects – half a year versus a traditional 16- to 20-week build. It’s also been more costly than the usual stick-built houses in the area. Nevertheless, advocates say 3D-printed homes could eventually provide much-needed affordable housing.

Could 3D printing help solve the housing crisis?

Collapse

From a distance, the home under construction blends in with its Tempe, Arizona, neighborhood – modest residential blocks landscaped with pebbles and cactuses. The ranch-style house is even topped with a traditional wood-frame roof, hiding a surprise below. 

Earlier this year, a massive printer oozed out row upon row of gray, toothpastelike ribbons of mortar that have hardened into walls. The site is considered the first 3D-printed home created by a U.S. affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, the global affordable-housing nonprofit. 

“This is such a unique house,” says future owner Shawn Shivers, sporting a hard hat on-site.

Advocates say 3D-printed homes could provide what the Shivers family seeks: affordable housing. As with any new industry, there are growing pains, of course, including issues of regulation and sustainability. But as the Tempe team knows well, it takes patience to print a path to progress. 

Early promise

Guns, burgers, artificial joints – a range of improbable objects have become printable since the 1980s. Even NASA is planning for 3D-printed habitats beyond Earth. In recent years, 3D-printed construction, an example of additive manufacturing, has taken off with the advancement of software, materials, and machinery.   

Though unlikely to go mainstream in the near-future, according to Guidehouse Insights, “after years of R&D, the market is nearing a tipping point as companies are moving beyond pilots and demonstration projects to selling their products.”

Multiple firms in the United States are building 3D-printed homes. Tech startup ICON claims to have built the first permitted 3D-printed home in the country in 2018 in Texas. SQ4D, another construction technology company, boasts that it listed the first 3D-printed home for sale in the U.S. this year (in New York for $299,999). The tech has gone global, from rural Mexico to the United Arab Emirates. PERI 3D Construction, overseen by a German parent company, supplied a gantry-style BOD2 printer to the Tempe project. 

Typically, the building design is exported into a computer program where the 3D geometry of the structure is sliced into layers. Code commands plot the path of the nozzled machine – directing it from point A to B, fast or slow, straight line or arc.

Courtesy Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona
During May and June 2021, a gantry-style BOD2 printer extruded a 3D-printable mortar to construct the walls of this Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona house in Tempe, Arizona.

Unbound by traditional building restrictions, 3D-printing allows for more creative freedom in architecture, says Michael Maughan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho. 

“The reason we make rooms square and houses as boxes is because that’s efficient, and it’s what’s been done before,” says Dr. Maughan, suggesting a future with more unique building designs. 

Advocates point to other benefits like speedier on-site construction, less waste, and reduced labor. All could lower building costs – an attractive goal, given the pandemic context:

  • Though prices for building materials decreased slightly in September, they’re still 13.9% higher than 12 months earlier, according to an analysis of federal data by the National Association of Homebuilders. 
  • Faced with a hot housing market, the construction industry may need more than a million additional workers over the next two years, estimates Associated Builders and Contractors. 
  • Demand for affordable housing persists. In Arizona, single-family home prices skyrocketed 22.7% between May 2020 and May 2021, a Move analysis of Zillow data found. 

Learning curves

Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, an affiliate of the global nonprofit, estimates that around 70% of its innovative Tempe home will end up printed. 

One October morning, Mrs. Shivers and husband Marcus Shivers traipse past the corrugated walls of their custom home-to-be, envisioning bar stools here, a ceiling fan there. They’re eager to move in. Before they’re handed the key, they will have volunteered at least 400 hours of “sweat equity.”  

“For me it’s everything, ‘cause I’m more of a hands-on skill guy,” says Mr. Shivers, who likes learning about masonry. “I was telling someone the other day that I literally have sweat in my house.”

Mrs. Shivers conquered her fear of the nail gun. “I was just so scared of it at first … but now I’m like – kchh-kchh,” she says, miming with her hand. “I’m like, pro now.”

The high school sweethearts met at a basketball game a couple of blocks from their new digs. They love Tempe – a college town punctuated by palms – and committed to stay, even as prices began to rise. They say their estimated mortgage repayments to Habitat for the three-bedroom house will be about $100 cheaper than rent on their current two-bedroom apartment.

How well their home lives up to 3D-printing’s vaunted promises remains to be seen. The nonprofit won’t know the total cost, build time, or waste until after completion.

Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor
Marcus Shivers watches construction on his future 3D-printed home, Oct. 20, 2021, in Tempe, Arizona. Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona estimates around 70% of the house will end up being printed. The structure has a traditional wood-frame roof and standard concrete slab foundation.

Habitat expected the prototype to take longer than usual projects, and it has: half a year versus a traditional 16- to 20-week build. Pandemic aside, supply chain issues have thrown a wrench in the works, like delays with foam insulation and windows, says chief operating officer Debra Bradley. 

And with so many in-kind donations – from the printer to plumbing – it’s difficult to know how this home compares to Habitat’s usual stick-built houses in the area. Those typically cost around $200,000, a price tag the Shivers’ place has already surpassed. Major additional expenses, says Ms. Bradley, resulted from a regulatory wrinkle. 

The City of Tempe, which sold the land to Habitat for around $10, follows the widely used 2018 International Residential Code. Since that version of the code doesn’t address 3D-printing directly, Habitat had to invest in additional structural design before the house could obtain necessary permits. 

We really want to look at innovation as a solution for this affordable housing crisis here in Arizona that can be replicated elsewhere ... but we really believe that it’s got to start with that building code,” says Ms. Bradley. 

Such growing pains for a new field are expected, say industry experts. 

“We’re trying to do something that’s never been done before, and it doesn’t sit well within the existing system,” says Dr. Maughan at the University of Idaho. “Even small changes to materials and processes – they take a long time to implement in this industry.”

Sustainability is another concern. Many 3D construction firms rely on cement, the production of which accounts for around 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

That’s why Dr. Maughan is tapping into the potential of renewable materials, which might also be a cheaper alternative. His team is exploring how to combine wood waste with a binding agent for use in 3D-printed construction. Likely a few years away from market, he says, it could be a “huge game changer.”

The private sector is weighing in, too. Mighty Buildings, a California construction technology company, plans to use a cement alternative by partner Fortera that cuts CO2 emissions by over 60% for each cement ton replaced. This supports Mighty Buildings’ pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2028. 

In Tempe, the Shivers expect to move in early next year. He can’t wait to grill. She can’t wait to run a rug the length of their long hallway.

Also: “Figure out how we’re going to hang things on the walls,” she says. “’Cause they’re all cement.”

 

Points of Progress

What's going right

From rainforest to row houses, honoring rights to home

In our progress roundup, governments and collaborative citizens champion the importance of preserving both natural and built environments for their inhabitants.

Amelia

From rainforest to row houses, honoring rights to home

Collapse

Australia makes a humble return of a rainforest to its Indigenous residents, and in U.S. cities, aggregated data is making it easier for people to hold property owners accountable for their renter practices and building upkeep. 

1. United States

Tech-driven tools are helping curb evictions and urban blight in cities throughout the United States. Baltimore is posting QR codes on 17,000 vacant properties, allowing the public to find out who owns a building and keep track of its development. In San Francisco, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is teaming up with housing advocacy organizations to track renter displacement. The platform, available to residents in the Bay Area as well as those in Los Angeles and New York, identifies serial evictors and “Wall Street landlords” – investment trusts that have bought thousands of houses in California since the Great Recession. In Detroit, city officials adopted a local software company’s mapping data to help identify abandoned buildings, and civic groups now canvass properties to counsel residents on avoiding displacement.

Crowdsourced data helps the public identify negligent property owners and hold these landlords accountable. The data used in these tools – ownership records, pending court cases, construction permits, etc. – is already public, but people often don’t have the time or knowledge to navigate city and state data portals, untangle webs of shell companies, and ask the right questions. “We’re talking about democratizing access to information,” said Brendan Schreiber, president of an affordable housing development firm in Baltimore.
CityLab

2. Costa Rica

Monteverde, a Costa Rican mountain district, has created Latin America’s first grassroots electric vehicle charging network. Experts agree that electrifying the transport sector is key to reducing fossil fuel reliance and car pollution, but the slow rollout of EV charging stations in Latin America and other regions contributes to “range anxiety,” or the worry that EVs won’t be able to reach their destinations. One remote tourist destination is trying to dispel those concerns.

In a typical year, Monteverde’s cloud forests draw hundreds of thousands of visitors – and their SUVs. Since 2019, business owners and climate activists have worked to protect the area from excess fumes by promoting EV tourism. The group embraces simple strategies: reserved parking for EV cars, well-maintained plug-in stations with clear signage, and online maps charting all charging points. Monteverde’s Ruta Eléctrica has helped establish about 85 slow 120-volt charging stations throughout the region. Many businesses welcome the opportunity to cater to eco-conscious clients, say coordinators. “In rural areas like Monteverde, people are actually more environmentally conscious,” says Richard Garro, the sustainability manager at Hotel Belmar, which offers free EV charging through Ruta Eléctrica. “It’s part of why people come here.”
BBC

3. Switzerland

Denis Balibouse/Reuters
A “Yes, I will” flag is hung ahead of a vote on same-sex marriage in Bern, Switzerland, Sept. 8, 2021.

Switzerland has legalized marriage and adoption for same-sex couples. Parliament approved expanded federal marriage laws in late 2020, but opponents collected enough signatures to trigger the recent referendum. Nearly two-thirds of voters in the historically conservative country leaned in favor of amending marriage laws, with overwhelming support throughout rural and urban areas. The new rules will likely take effect on July 1, 2022, according to the justice minister.

In addition to bringing the country in line with most Western European nations, the change will have a significant impact on the LGBTQ community, say advocates. Equal marriage rights mean easier paths to naturalization for non-Swiss spouses, and more options for starting families. Now people in same-sex relationships can adopt children with no biological relationship to them – a right previously limited to heterosexual couples and single people. 
Reuters, The New York Times, Financial Times

4. Madagascar

Conservationists are releasing 1,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises back into the wild. Named for the yellow starburst pattern on their shells, these tortoises are found only in Madagascar and play an important role in regenerating native forests. Faced with illegal poaching and trafficking, the tortoise population is believed to have dropped from 12 million to 3 million over the past 20 years.

Dita Alangkara/AP/File
The illegal pet trade is a major threat to Madagascar’s radiated tortoise, pictured on sale during a flora and fauna expo in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2010.

The Turtle Survival Alliance, which currently cares for 25,000 radiated tortoises rescued from poachers, is releasing 1,000 in a secret 15-acre plot of forest in southern Madagascar. The tortoises will be microchipped, and 30 to 40 will be outfitted with GPS trackers to help researchers monitor their progress. The release marks a milestone for local conservation efforts, say coordinators. “If we can establish a reliable and effective method to return confiscated tortoises to their native landscape in protective communities, then we can begin to draw down the massive numbers we are supporting in captivity,” said TSA-Madagascar Director Herilala Randriamahazo. “The persistence of our treasured radiated tortoise in nature depends on it.”
Radio France International, BBC

5. Australia

Australia has returned the Daintree rainforest to its Indigenous custodians. Part of the Wet Tropics UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, Daintree is Australia’s closest link to the ancient Gondwana forests that covered the continent 180 million years ago. Daintree holds thousands of important plant and animal species, and has traditionally served as the home of the Kuku Yalanji people, some of the earliest humans to live in Australia.

In a historic deal that the government called a “step on the path towards reconciliation,” 395,000 acres of rainforest and neighboring national parks have been returned to Indigenous residents. The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people will co-manage the land with the Queensland government, and eventually gain complete oversight. “The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people’s culture is one of the world’s oldest living cultures,” said Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon, “and this agreement recognizes their right to own and manage their Country, to protect their culture and to share it with visitors as they become leaders in the tourism industry.”
BBC, CBS News

Here they go again: ABBA reuniting after 40 years

They’re all about upbeat lyrics and memorable melodies. With the many challenges of the past year, fans say there couldn’t be a better moment for the return of the Swedish pop group.

Amelia
Baillie Walsh/BANG Showbiz/Reuters
ABBA, the Swedish pop group that produced hits like "Dancing Queen" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You," released its first album in four decades on Nov. 5. "Voyage" grew out of a new virtual reality concert experience that will debut in London in May.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 3 Min. )

Swedish pop group ABBA recently shocked the world by reuniting after four decades, with one of its first new singles referencing its own history – and return. 

“New spirit has arrived,” sing the group’s two female vocalists on “I Still Have Faith in You.” “We have a story and it survived.”

The instantly recognizable sound of Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, and Björn Ulvaeus spans – and unites – generations. Some observers say that ABBA’s music endures because Mr. Ulvaeus’ down-to-earth lyrics reflect everyday concerns, even as Mr. Andersson’s stratospheric melodies offer a release from them. Fans hope that ABBA’s new album, “Voyage,” released Nov. 5, can deliver on those qualities.

The group’s return was sparked by the creation of a virtual reality concert experience. Youthful-looking avatars of the singers – ABBAtars – will perform inside a London arena. While conceiving the show, which opens in May, ABBA recorded the 10-track album.

“It’s totally fantastic that it’s arriving now,” says American singer-songwriter John Grant, who has covered ABBA’s “Angel Eyes.” “We definitely need that because there’s been a shift in the world that’s been rather ugly.” 

Here they go again: ABBA reuniting after 40 years

Collapse

Four decades since ABBA’s last album, the band’s music has weathered critical derision, changes in musical fashion, and Pierce Brosnan’s rendition of “S.O.S.” in the movie musical “Mamma Mia!” Yet, if anything, the band has actually grown in popularity over the years. So when ABBA recently shocked the world by reuniting, one of its first new singles referenced its own history – and return. 

“New spirit has arrived,” sing the group’s two female vocalists on “I Still Have Faith in You.” “We have a story and it survived.”

The instantly recognizable sound of Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, and Björn Ulvaeus spans – and unites – generations. Some observers say that ABBA’s music endures because Mr. Ulvaeus’ down-to-earth lyrics reflect everyday concerns even as Mr. Andersson’s stratospheric melodies offer a release from them. Fans hope that ABBA’s new album “Voyage,” released Nov. 5, can deliver on those qualities.

“It’s totally fantastic that it’s arriving now,” says American singer-songwriter John Grant, who has covered ABBA’s “Angel Eyes.” “We definitely need that because there’s been a shift in the world that’s been rather ugly.” 

The super troupe – which consisted of two married couples – was long deemed uncool. A disco-glam wardrobe that included matching ponchos didn’t exactly help. Its breakthrough was the 1974 Eurovision competition, a kitsch annual televised event. The Swedes’ winning entry, “Waterloo,” was about that most natural of topics for a pop song: Napoleon Bonaparte. Over time, ABBA’s lyrics evolved. 

“Björn settled into the portrayal, or the point of view, of the ordinary man or woman,” says Carl Magnus Palm, whose books about the group include the upcoming “ABBA on Record.” “‘Dancing Queen,’ for instance, is one of those songs. That’s what the song is about – it’s just leaving your humdrum existence, if only for a few hours on the dance floor.”

The peppy pomp of hits such as “Money, Money, Money” or “The Winner Takes It All” belies the weighty lyrical subject matter. 

“I thought of them as this cute, foreign band that was like a pop-y Fleetwood Mac,” admits musician Nicole Atkins. 

But when the American songwriter recorded her 2014 album, “Slow Phaser,” in Malmö, Sweden, she frequented a restaurant with a karaoke jukebox consisting solely of ABBA. 

“As I got into them, I was like, ‘Oh, the reason that these songs are great is because there’s sunshine melancholy,’” says Ms. Atkins, who released the disco-pop album “Italian Ice” in 2020. “They’re songs you’d be crying to if you weren’t dancing to them.”

Capitol/AP
"Voyage" is the latest album from ABBA. “We have a story and it survived,” sing the group’s two female vocalists on one of the first new singles, “I Still Have Faith in You.”

ABBA’s saddest song, “The Day Before You Came,” from the early 1980s, reflected the divorces of both couples and heralded the group’s dissolution. But dozens of ABBA tribute bands worldwide kept the music alive, says Halina Ulatowski, founder of one such U.S.-based act, Dancing Dream. ABBA’s music has also been critically reappraised. “ABBA is more popular in the U.S. and the world now than it was in the ’70s,” says Ms. Ulatowski. “The reason for it is definitely the ‘Mamma Mia!’ stage show and the two movies.” 

ABBA’s return was sparked by the creation of a virtual reality concert experience. Youthful-looking avatars of the group – ABBAtars – will perform inside a London arena. While conceiving the show, which opens in May, ABBA recorded the 10-track album. 

“We were all terrified that there was going to be this crazy Cher auto-tune on things,” says Mr. Grant, the musician. “Hearing Frida and Agnetha singing together again, there’s nothing like it.”  

He adds that ABBA’s lyrics sometimes betray the fact that the Swedes are writing in their second language. Another new song, “Don’t Shut Me Down,” includes the phrase “You look bewildered.”

“That seems totally out of place in a pop song,” says Mr. Grant. “So when I heard that I was like, ‘They really sound like themselves in every aspect, even those weird word choices.’ And I love that.” 

The album cover depicts a solar eclipse in which the sun is starting to reemerge. Anita Notenboom, co-founder of the Official International ABBA Fan Club, found the image uplifting in this pandemic era. 

“I was thinking about what kind of name you can give [the album],” says Ms. Notenboom. “I thought, ‘Maybe they will call it ‘Hope.’’ But when I heard that it was called ‘Voyage,’ I thought, ‘How appropriate. ... We are going on a voyage with them.’”

Other headline stories we’re watching

(Get live updates throughout the day.)

The Monitor's View

Climate action by dictate? Or democracy?

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 2 Min. )

One pleasant surprise at this month’s global climate talks in Scotland was India’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2070. Yet the pledge by the world’s largest democracy came 10 years after one made by China, a dictatorship that also set a more ambitious date of 2060 to achieve neutrality, or 10 years earlier than India’s.

Still, the pledges by the world’s two most populous nations have brought up another comparison, one critical to achieving global climate targets: Which type of government, a top-down authoritarian one or a consensus-building democracy, will succeed in curbing emissions faster and better?

Among some climate activists, a sense of climate emergency has raised frustrations over democracy’s often slow or flip-flopping pace in bringing rapid results on emissions cuts. Yet the values of democracy that allow grassroots activism to push for tough climate action may be winning, based on a comparison between China and the United States. The U.S. has exceeded the targets of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol by 11% while China’s emissions have gone up by 43%.

Climate action by dictate? Or democracy?

Collapse
AP
Climate activists in the Philippines, a democracy, carry a slogan during a rally outside the Chinese consulate in Makati, Philippines, ahead of the UN Climate Change Summit (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland .

One pleasant surprise at this month’s global climate talks in Scotland was India’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2070. Yet the pledge by the world’s largest democracy came 10 years after one made by China, a dictatorship that also set a more ambitious date of 2060 to achieve neutrality, or 10 years earlier than India’s.

Still, the pledges by the world’s two most populous nations have brought up another comparison, one critical to achieving global climate targets: Which type of government, a top-down authoritarian one or a consensus-building democracy, will succeed in curbing emissions faster and better?

Among some climate activists, a sense of climate emergency has raised frustrations over democracy’s often slow or flip-flopping pace in bringing rapid results on emissions cuts. In a report last year by Deutsche Bank, analyst Eric Heymann wrote, “I know that ‘eco-dictatorship’ is a nasty word. But we may have to ask ourselves the question whether and to what extent we may be willing to accept some kind of eco-dictatorship (in the form of regulatory law) in order to move towards climate neutrality.”

On the other side, Yaqiu Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, tweeted this during the climate talks in Glasgow: “An unaccountable government that disrespects freedom of speech, citizen participation, and other basic human rights is ill-equipped in addressing climate change, even if it wants to.” 

Indeed, the values of democracy that allow grassroots activism to push for tough climate action may be winning, based on a comparison between China and the United States.

The U.S. has exceeded the targets of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol by 11% while China’s emissions have gone up by 43%. Green activists in China have been suppressed as the country keeps building more coal-fired power plants; in the U.S., activists are flourishing, even being elected to office, as coal plants are being shut down.

One country now debating this issue is Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, which pledges climate neutrality by 2045.

After an election there Sept. 26, three political parties – the left-leaning Social Democrats, the business-friendly Free Democrats, and the environmentalist Greens – are currently negotiating to form a new governing coalition. By some media accounts, the talks have stalled because the Greens insist on a super-ministry that would have absolute power to control any decision by other ministries that might affect climate, such as transport, construction, and agriculture. The Greens chairperson, Annalena Baerbock, demands a “binding climate check” on any new laws or policies.

Less than a month after this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference ends, President Joe Biden plans to hold a virtual summit of leaders from the world’s democracies. Climate change is not on the agenda. Perhaps it should be. Governments that rely on transparency, accountability, and equal rights could be the ones that best bring humanity back into equilibrium with the environment. India’s climate pledge could finally help the world settle this debate.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Helpful ‘policing’ we can all do

  • Quick Read
  • Read or Listen ( 3 Min. )

​​Spiritually “policing” our thinking – striving to let God, good, animate us, rather than giving in to anger or fear – opens the door to inspiration that improves our lives and benefits those around us.

Helpful ‘policing’ we can all do

Collapse
Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Keeping our communities safe for all is such an important goal, and policing is a key part of that. But reading a recent article about some of the political arguments surrounding the issue got me thinking about a “policing” role each of us can play: nurturing a spiritual sense of policing that comes from within, enabling us to control our own thoughts and actions for the benefit of all.

I’m not talking about everybody taking on a law enforcement role. Rather, I’m talking about monitoring our thoughts, being proactive in determining what kinds of impulses we nurture and ultimately act upon.

We all have an innate ability to “police” each thought that comes to us in ways that improve our character as well as circumstances. I’ve found the most effective way to do this is to consider whether our thoughts are being influenced by the divine Mind that Christ Jesus expressed, or the carnal, mortal mind that is its counterfeit. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace,” the Bible explains (Romans 8:6).

Soul, another name for God, is where our spiritual sense comes from. This sense transcends the limited physical senses. It enables us to see that we are at one with God, divine Love, and to feel calm, safe, loved, valued, and assured of God’s goodness and care.

Everyone is capable of feeling this love and recognizing that our real spiritual nature as children of God is whole, complete, and naturally attracted to good, because God, who is infinitely good, is our creator. As we recognize this, our thoughts are naturally elevated and any pull toward wrongdoing is diminished.

Now, spiritual-mindedness is natural to each of us, but it can sometimes seem hidden. Frustration, anger, lack, hatred, revenge, or resentment would try to cover up the light of our true spiritual selfhood. But when we have the humility to allow ourselves to be influenced more and more by the Christ – the message of love that God is communicating to us all the time – we better discern the intelligent, peaceful, fulfilling, and inspired ideas that remove limitations and barriers from our experience.

Jesus fully demonstrated the healing power of silencing the carnal mind and responding more and more to the Divine, the one true Mind of all of us. He looked beyond the material picture to discern the spiritual reality that was right there all along. Where there appeared to be lack, he saw God’s presence and abundance. Where sin appeared to be in the driver’s seat, he saw God’s whole, complete, and good sons and daughters. Where there appeared to be inharmony in the body, he saw health and wholeness as the true status of the children of God. And this brought about needed healing and solutions.

Each of us can strive to follow Jesus’ example, and as we do we will experience more of what it means to be governed by God and to bring good into each other’s experiences. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this news organization, writes in her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience” (p. 106). In another part of the book she adds, “Reflecting God’s government, man is self-governed” (p. 125).

In my own experience, diving into study and prayer about the nature of God and my relation to Him freed me from rebelliousness, willfulness, and several addictions. I began to see that these tendencies were elements of the carnal mind, not the divine Mind, and therefore are not actually natural to us. As I awakened to the spiritual light and truth of our native being, a greater sense of peace and dominion over these unhealthy traits and habits came over me. I sought out better relationships. I looked more toward God for my sense of satisfaction.

As a result, my life was transformed, and those I interacted with benefited from this, too.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). As we individually let our thoughts and actions be governed by God, we find a deeper peace, purpose, and fulfillment that blesses us and the community around us.

Viewfinder

Marathon moment

Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters
A runner takes a selfie on Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge over New York Harbor as other runners stream by during the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7, 2021.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

As always, thanks for starting your week with us! Tomorrow, staff writer Noah Robertson looks at U.S. college campuses, where male enrollment has been dropping for years. At the same time, the value of a degree is rising – which means not having one limits the prospects for a growing number of young men. Now, more schools are taking steps to change the dynamic. 

More issues

2021
November
08
Monday

Give us your feedback

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.