Skip to main content

People, planet and profit - connecting local to global

In attending the Cabot Institute Annual lecture with Professor Peter Head CBE presenting on some of the big ecological issues – and novel solutions – facing the world, it struck me that ‘big data’ and its innovative applications being put forward during the lecture provided a clear example of an older adage much loved by the green movement “think global, act local”. This is particularly important to Bristol as the city closes-in on 2015 – its year in the limelight as European Green Capital.

Moving the situation on

Although we of course had to endure the oft-used explanation about the dire situation we humans have got ourselves into – with good reason, now that there is over 90% scientific certainty in accepting that human-made CO2 emissions are causal in climate change – there was a concise set of information on how we might do something positive to self-help our way to a better future.

The valid point was made during the lecture that we are living at the most exciting and critical time in our history, in that we now know the problems we face and we actually already have the tools to do something about them, but that we aren’t connecting the problems with the solutions yet.

Connecting Communities

Professor Head sounded the clarion call to begin to use the many sources of data out there to start to enable communities to plan their own future scenarios. Sounds woolly and technocratic? Well, maybe, but I have always expressed a viewpoint that technological approaches alone cannot ‘dig ourselves out of the hole’, and that we need a social science and societal (read: community) input to these problems to begin to make the positive changes we all now clearly need to see to our dominant paradigm.

This is in fact what was being proposed in a refreshing way. Out there, in our every day lives and all around us are millions of sources of data – from pollution sensors to cameras, mobile phones to heart rate monitors, sat-nav systems to weather sensors, seismic monitors to traffic management or motion sensors – generically known as the internet of things. There are forecast to be over 30 billion internet connected devices by 2020.

There is a huge amount of data that is useful but kept separate for no good reason, and the idea postulated by Professor Head was that this can and should be integrated to allow a whole view of our local and global environments.

An example is shown in the image below, which is a city region expressed in a 3D map showing energy, water, transport infrastructures, population density, land use and land quality, geology.
To this can be added limitless other sources and layers of data. This “map” can then be used by the local community to show what effects would be experienced by making a change to the physical environment.

For example, if a city centre motorway were to be replaced by a series of tram lanes, cycle and pedestrian ways and a canal (as was done in Seoul, South Korea), what effects would this have on the local and regional economy, on travel times, health, pollution, community cohesion, education etc.

Image from Resilience.io

Solar PV is a game changer

It is hard to do justice on paper the depth of possibilities as communicated by Professor Head but I can draw it down to my own community and my own area of business.

Solar PV has apparently the highest level of public acceptance of any renewable energy source, and the sort of visioning exercise outlined would be hugely useful to planning how much deployment could or should be undertaken in any given local community and in what way. Should it be solar farms where biodiversity can be seen to increase, or building-integrated power that melts into its environment, and would the community like to own that energy source themselves, or simply have access to the outputs – there’s a whole series of interactions that this kind of mapping would enable to permit community energy and perhaps even larger ambitions such as the West of England Solar City Region to take flight rather than trundling along at ground level.

More information can be found at the following sites:

www.resilience.io
www.icesfoundation.org
www.ecosequestrust.org

This blog has been reproduced by kind permission of Kerry Burns, Your Power UK.
Read the original post on the Your Power UK website.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Bristol Future’s magical places: Sustainability through the eyes of the community

“What is science? Why do we do it?”. I ask these questions to my students a lot, in fact, I spend a lot of time asking myself the same thing.

And of course, as much as philosophy of science has thankfully graced us with a lot of scholars, academics and researchers who have discussed, and even provided answers to these questions, sometimes, when you are buried under piles of papers, staring at your screen for hours and hours on end, it doesn’t feel very science-y, does it?

 As a child I always imagined the scientist constantly surrounded by super cool things like the towers around Nicola Tesla, or Cousteau being surrounded by all those underwater wonders. Reality though, as it often does, may significantly differ from your early life expectations. I should have guessed that Ts and Cs would apply… Because there is nothing magnificent about looking for that one bug in your code that made your entire run plot the earth inside out and upside down, at least not for me.

I know for myself, I…

The Diamond Battery – your ideas for future energy generation

On Friday 25th November, at the Cabot Institute Annual Lecture, a new energy technology was unveiled that uses diamonds to generate electricity from nuclear waste. Researchers at the University of Bristol, led by Prof. Tom Scott, have created a prototype battery that incorporates radioactive Nickel-63 into a diamond, which is then able to generate a small electrical current.
Details of this technology can be found in our official press release here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2016/november/diamond-power.html.
Despite the low power of the batteries (relative to current technologies), they could have an exceptionally long lifespan, taking 5730 years to reach 50% battery power. Because of this, Professor Tom Scott explains:
“We envision these batteries to be used in situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries. Obvious applications would be in low-power electrical devices where long life of the energy source is needed, such as pacemakers, satellite…

Dadaism in Disaster Risk Reduction: Reflections against method

Reflections and introductions: A volta The volta is a poetic device, closely but not solely, associated with the Shakespearean sonnet, used to enact a dramatic change in thought or emotion. Concomitant with this theme is that March is a month with symbolic links to change and new life. The Romans famously preferred to initiate the most significant socio-political manoeuvres of the empire during the first month of their calendar, mensis Martius. A month that marked the oncoming of spring, the weakening of winter’s grip on the land and a time for new life.
The need for change Having very recently attended the March UKADR conference, organised by the Cabot Institute here in Bristol, I did so with some hope and anticipation. Hope and anticipation for displays and discussions that conscientiously touched upon this volta, this need for change in how we study the dynamics of natural hazards. The conference itself was very agreeable, it had great sandwiches, with much stimulating discussion …