Cabot Institute blog

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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Kyoto-Bristol-Heidelberg workshop: Novel frontiers in botany

Botany is an ancient field of science and often has an (incorrect!) reputation for being outdated. The recent plant sciences workshop ‘Novel Frontiers in Botany’ shook off that image by bringing together researchers from Kyoto University, Heidelberg University and the University of Bristol to discuss their cutting edge research and form exciting new collaborations.

The workshop, held in March at Kyoto University, was part of an ongoing strategic partnership between the three Universities and their botanic gardens. It built on previous plant science meetings of the partner institutions, which have already led to ongoing international research collaborations. The plant biology research interests of the three universities, whilst overlapping, incorporate different techniques and ideas, so by working together we can synergistically accelerate plant sciences research across the partnership.

Student-led success


One of the highlights of the meeting was its student-led focus. A team of graduate student organisers, led by PhD student Yumiko Sakai, Kyoto University, designed a programme of primarily short (15 minute) talks given by graduate students and post-docs, which was key to ensuring a wide range of subject areas could be included, from molecules to ecosystems, cell biology to phylogenetics.

I think the student-led aspect encouraged more discussion too; instead of a complete story presented by professors, the speakers typically presented unfinished work, which meant attendees of the workshop gave feedback and suggested potential future directions. Graduate students and post-docs perform most of the experiments that underpin academic research, as well as being the future of plant science research, so it was great to learn new techniques and ideas from each other, as well as building our professional networks and the international research profiles of the three universities. Daily poster sessions and a number of excursions certainly helped to get the group communicating, although I’m not sure how much science was discussed at our trip to a local karaoke bar!
Several potential new collaborations have already come out of the workshop, which highlights its success. PhD student organiser Yumiko Sakai summed up the meeting, “Making new friends in our research field was a wonderful experience! Developing this student-led workshop will unite the young people that undertake frontier research”.

This meeting was supported by funding from the Kyoto University’s Supporting Program for Interaction-based Initiative Team Studies (SPIRITS) and from the University of Bristol’s Lady Emily Smyth Agricultural Research Station (LESARS).

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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Sarah Jose, Biological Sciences, University of Bristol.

Sarah Jose


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

How accurate are the media on climate change and extreme weather events?

I've always appreciated the environment, but had previously taken on the role of spectator. I credit this magnificent city of ours with inspiring me to change my passive respect of nature to taking an active role in trying to preserve it. The strong sense of community in Bristol and the green-mindedness of its residents is infectious, and is evident in the number of fantastic projects we have which are led by the people and by our local government.

I craved more information about our environment so started attending lectures and events that are regularly held by the Cabot Institute and various departments across the university. As my insight to the issues we face grew, I realised I needed to increase my understanding and hopefully align my career in a way in which I could have a positive impact. I decided to enrol in a masters in Climate Change Science and Policy so I could appreciate the scientific intricacies rather than relying on what I heard, and what I read in the media.  

My course enabled me to learn about climate modelling and the difficulties of implementing environmental policies, not just logistically but in terms of ethics and opinion. It is one thing to be passionate about science and research, it is quite another to communicate that to a non-specialist in a way that the magnitude and seriousness of climate change is realised. A warming climate will affect the entire globe and all sectors within it. Bridging the gap in knowledge between climate scientists and policy makers/society is therefore paramount. People often rely on the media as their main source of information and indeed it can successfully act as an education broker between scientists and the public. The seemingly omnipotent power of the media to mould opinion can be beneficial, but do we really know if what we’re reading is the truth?

I was offered the opportunity to explore this question, and it was the Environment Agency (EA) that requested the answers. Specifically, I conducted my dissertation on the accuracy of the UK media in reporting of extreme weather events. It may seem a rather unusual project to be proposed by the EA, so I shall explain. Within the organisation is a climate change branch, a part of which is the ‘Climate Ready Support Service’. Their objective is to provide advice and support to businesses in order to prevent and mitigate the effects of extreme weather events and climate change. The Environment Agency uses recent extreme weather events to exemplify realistic scenarios that could befall a vulnerable business.

The speed, scope and accessibility of the media makes it a valuable tool, during and immediately after a weather event. The fast-paced nature of modern reporting and social media necessitates that to some extent the EA relies on information from news organisations. Additionally, there are vastly more journalists than there are staff in the ‘Climate Ready Support Service’ therefore media reliance is essential. When the EA republishes this information it must be relevant, accurate and consistent, and it was my mission to quantify the reliability of UK media and to assess the confidence that the EA can have in it.

I was not able to analyse all UK media so I studied a selected sample from the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Mirror. I chose them because they contain a mix of broadsheet/tabloid, political affiliations and demographics. I analysed sixty two articles across three extreme weather events: ex-Hurricane Bertha (2014), the spring floods (2012) and the Birmingham tornado (2005). This provided a range of recent short, high impact events and longer-lasting cumulative ones. I conducted content analysis on each article, breaking the text up into study units that could be verified by official sources such as government documentation, academic journals and weather data. Media accuracy is not as straightforward as being right or wrong, not just the objective facts. Subjective inaccuracies also play a part, and can fundamentally alter the final message or mislead the reader from the truth. I categorised these as omission of information, exaggeration/under-exaggeration, personalisation, sensationalism and general confusion.

The results suggest that overall the UK media is 77.9% accurate. The Guardian achieved the highest overall accuracy (83.8%), followed by the Telegraph (76.2%) and the Mirror obtained the lowest accuracy rate (72.5%). Of more consequence to the EA is objective (factual) accuracy as opposed to subjective accuracy, and, the Guardian is the most reliable of the three publications in this respect (94.3%). Even though it is a broadsheet, the Telegraph was less objectively accurate than the Mirror with 85.8% and 87.3% accuracy respectively. Across all three publications, factual inaccuracies such as measurements, geolocations, timings, names etc. were most prevalent with 30%. This was followed by omission/addition as the next most common error (27%). Exaggeration was also significantly evident in the press accounting for 17% of the total inaccuracies.

What does this mean for the EA? This research hopefully clarifies which publications are worth relying on most heavily when obtaining their information. I would still recommend the agency continue to conduct their own internal fact checks because evidently there are still errors. Additionally, it was a one person study, with only one perspective and a limited sample size. As with any research, there’s always more that can be done to validate the findings and as this was the first study to investigate media accuracy of extreme weather events, more is warranted before sweeping conclusions can be made.

What I found interesting was that of the sixty two articles analysed only four of them mentioned climate change within the content. It is the EAs aim to embed climate change messages within all aspects of their organisation, and with the projected increase of such events I would have expected more linkage in the media. After interviewing some journalists a lot of them agreed that climate change should be associated with not just extreme weather stories, but all topics such as education, health and finance. There are practical limitations in achieving this but perhaps in the future, climate change will always be considered in all aspects of our global society. For now we should remain hopeful that we make some significant steps forward after the United Nations Climate Summit in December, and that Bristol continues its European Green Capital ethos into 2016 and beyond.

It was a great experience knowing that my work might have a real world impact and my contacts in the Environment Agency were really helpful throughout the process. I am now working within the Sustainability Department here at the University of Bristol with the aim of reducing our environmental impact by implementing the S-Labs Initiative (Safe, Secure, Sustainable Labs).

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This blog is written by Anna Lewis who recently graduated from the Climate Change Science and Policy MSc at the University of Bristol.  As part of her course she undertook a Cabot Institute pilot project called Community Based Learning which connects postgraduate students with organisations in order to help them solve a real-world problem.  If your organisation would like to get involved in Community Based Learning with the University, please contact cabot-cbl@bristol.ac.uk.
Anna Lewis

Anna now works at the University implementing sustainable laboratories throughout the institution.


Monday, 14 March 2016

The Nikki Project: Designing a rainwater harvesting system for an African health centre

Last summer three Engineers Without Borders (EWB) members conducted a six week recce on water supply in Nikki, Benin, last summer. After building contacts with local engineers, schools and hospitals, sourcing handwritten archived data, and finding many interesting answers to our questions, we are now working hard on designs for a rainwater harvesting system and planning this summer’s work. This blog is about our project, why it’s important and how we’re going about it.
Main high street in Nikki, northern Benin.
The Nikki Project aims to address water supply problems in the small district of Nikki, Benin. A big layer of granite near to the ground surface means there is only a seasonal water table. This means the Benin government’s method of borehole water supply, which works for the rest of the country, does not work here. Citizens are given a few hours of water supply per day (at the best of times). This water is cut until 2 am and rarely lasts past 5 am; certainly not ideal for schools and hospitals that need water for treatment during the day. Instead, citizens turn to private boreholes, wells and at the worst times, an untreated lake outside the city.
Map showing Benin at the bottom of the image.
Engineers Without Borders Bristol are partnered with a Spanish charity, OAN International, who identified this problem two years ago and asked EWB Bristol to help tackle Nikki’s water supply issues. Last summer our aim was to build a partnership with a local service, who we trusted to maintain the system in our absence and who we thought would be a good working partner to trial our designs.

Back in the UK about 25 of us meet every week to work on this project. Our main task this year has been the design of a rainwater harvesting system for a small health clinic. This clinic was established by two male nurses, funded from the money they earned working for the Benin national health service. They run the clinic by working 12 hours shifts each, with dedication and fantastic vision. Like all health services in Benin the centre charges for their services, but unlike the hospitals makes no profit from the sale of medicines. The hygiene measures taken were extraordinary for Benin; to paraphrase a Spanish medic volunteer, this was 'the first time [he] has seen a Benin child being told to wash their hands’. The clinic deals, amongst other things, with malaria and pregnancy: the two biggest causes of death in the area.
The health clinic that EWB are working with to provide a rainharvesting water supply.
The EWB Bristol team surveying the health centre site in Benin.
Our rainwater harvesting solution will consist of a large 90,000 litre storage tank, a water treatment system, and a small water tower to gravity feed the water into existing taps in the clinic. The tank will collect water during the rainy season and store it safely until the dry period when no water is available from the government supply.

This type of system has become very successful and widespread elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, and if successful this type of system could be expanded to suit more clinics or schools in the region. We chose to work with this health centre because of the nurses’ incredible dedication to their cause; before we had finished explaining the concept, they had already started discussing how they would start saving up for it. While contributing to the materials is certainly something we are discussing as the cost of materials and labour is not high in Benin, a sense of ownership is key to the system being maintained properly and thus being a success.
An example of pipes not properly attached and fallen down in the wind leading to an abandoned RWH tank. This tank was built 2005. The current staff have no recollection of it ever functioning.
We are still exploring design options for our rainwater harvesting system:
  • Should the pump be manual or electric (practical in everyday or with a higher risk/cost of replacement)?
  • Should the water be chlorinated in the tank or after the tank or both? Is it worth the money if it will be chlorinated again anyway?
  • Would someone prefer a monthly job or a daily job in maintaining the water treatment system? If we use a Bernoulli chlorinator will it make chemical concentrations easier or more difficult to control? Possibly easier if they understand and potentially disastrous if they do not?
  • What construction materials are best? This needs to be considered with respect to practicality, local skill availability, durability and what is culturally accepted.
We are affiliated by Engineers Without Borders UK who are there for advice, provide pre-departure training for volunteers and offer insurance while out there. We have gratefully received £2,000 from the university Alumni Foundation and £11,000 from the Queen’s School of Engineering to support the project and the lab testing we’re planning before the trip this summer. We will be blogging and updating our website as the project progresses.

For more information about this project, photos, travel reports and journal entries can be found on our website: beninwater.my-free.website.

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This blog is written by Daniela Rossade, a 2nd year mechanical engineering student at the University of Bristol and is running this project as part of Engineers Without Borders Bristol.
Daniela Rossade

EWB Bristol is always looking for advice and people who have experience with rainwater harvesting and international development to learn from. We also value feedback on our ideas. If you are interested your help would be gratefully appreciated.  Please contact Daniela at ds14678@my.bristol.ac.uk.


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Hydrogen and fuel cells: Innovative solutions for low carbon heat

On 29 February 2016, I attended a meeting in Westminster that was jointly organised by the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UKFCA) and Carbon Connect with the aim of discussing current challenges in the decarbonisation of heat generation in the UK. The panel included David Joffe (Committee on Climate Change), Dr. Marcus Newborough (ITM Power), Ian Chisholm (Doosan Babcock), Klaus Ullrich (Fuel Cell Energy Solutions), Phil Caldwell (Ceres Power) and was chaired by Dr Alan Whitehead MP and Shadow Energy Minister. The attendees included a number of key players in the field of hydrogen production, fuel cell and renewable energy industries, as well as organisations such as the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Image source: Policy Connect.
To set the scene, I would like to quote some facts and figures from the 2015 Carbon Connect report on the Future of Heat (part II).

  1. The 2025 carbon reduction target is 404.4 MtCO2e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent), but the reduction levels as of 2014 have only been 288.9 MtCO2e. The current Government’s low carbon policy framework is woefully inadequate to bridge this gap.
  2. The government introduced the Renewable Heat Incentive in 2011, with the ambition of increasing the contribution of renewable energy source to 12% of the heat demand by 2020. Some of the initiatives include biomass, “energy from waste” and geothermal. However, clear policies and financial incentives are nowhere to be seen.
  3. What is the current situation of renewable heat and how good is the 12% target? The good news is that there is a slight increase in the renewable share from 2004. The really bad news is that the contribution as of 2013 is just 2.6%. The UK is further behind any other EU state with regards to its renewable heat target. Sweden has a whopping 67.2% contribution and Finland 50.9%.

Towards a decarbonised energy sector, two important networks should be considered, electrical and gas. Electrification of heat is very well suited for low carbon heat generation, however, the electricity demands at peak time could be extremely costly. The UK’s gas network is a major infrastructure which is vital for providing gas during peak heat demand. However, it needs to be re-purposed in order to carry low carbon gas such as bio-methane, hydrogen or synthetic natural gas.

It was clear from the debate that hydrogen can play an important role in decreasing carbon emissions even within the current gas network. The introduction of up to 10% of hydrogen into gas feed can still be compatible with current gas networks and modern appliances, while generating a significant carbon emission reduction. However, where is the hydrogen coming from? For heat production at the national scale, steam reforming is the only player. However, with the government pulling away from carbon capture and storage (CCS), this option cannot provide a significant reduction in carbon emissions.  Capital costs associated with electrolysers would not be able to deliver the amount of hydrogen required at peak demands. The frustration in this community with regards to the future of CCS was palpable during the networking session.

We need hydrogen, generated from renewable energy sources… but the question is how?
David Fermin (left) in the lab with some of the Electrochemistry research group at the University of Bristol.
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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member David J. Fermin, Professor of Electrochemistry in the University of Bristol's School of Chemistry.  His research group are currently looking at the direct conversion of solar energy to chemical fuels, in particular hydrogen; the conversion of CO2 to fuels; and electrocatalysts for energy vectors (e.g. what you put in fuel cells and electrolysers).

David Fermin
David will be giving a free talk on the challenges of solar energy conversion and storage on Tuesday 12 April 2016 at 6.15 pm at the University of Bristol.  To find out more and to book your ticket, visit the University of Bristol's Public and Ceremonial Events web page.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Community volcano monitoring: The first weeks at Volcan de Fuego

Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) is an active volcano close to the Guatemalan city of Antigua. The volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in central America with a lively history of life-threatening eruptions.  It is thought that around 60,000 people are currently at risk from the volcano.

Monitoring the volcano is challenging with a limited availability of resources in the developing country. Bristol volcanology PhD student Emma Liu and colleagues are currently in Guatemala implementing a novel program to monitor ash fall from the volcano using community involvement. Volcanic ash is a hazard to human health, as well as to aviation. Additionally it holds vital clues into the activity of the volcano that can help us to understand past eruptions and predict what it may do in the future.  Once ash falls to the ground it is easily blown or washed away meaning lots of valuable information is lost in the hours and days after an eruption. Collecting ash as it falls can be challenging over a large area so Emma is roping in the local population to help.

Her cleverly designed ‘ashmeters’ are made almost entirely from recycled plastic bottles and are being installed in the gardens of local schools and houses around the volcano.  The components are easily replaceable and can be found locally. The ash falls into the meters and can be then collected and bagged by the residents. So far the meters have been installed in nine locations all around the volcano allowing Emma and her team to sample ash from almost any possible type of eruption.  As well as being indispensible from a scientific perspective, Emma hopes the scheme will help to improve the relationship between scientists and the volcano’s residents as she explains; ‘By engaging local communities directly in volcano monitoring, we hope to improve the two-way dialogue between scientists and residents, thereby increasing resilience to ash hazards’.
The scheme so far has been a great success, with the ashmeters being welcomed into people’s homes and attached to roofs and fencepost. Within a week of the ashmeters being deployed, they were tested by a large eruption on the 1 March 2016. Three ashmeters were installed during this eruption, all of which successfully collected ash. The Bristol volcanologists have now been able collect the ash which will be brought back to the University of Bristol for analysis.  The Bristol group will remain out in Guatemala for another few weeks in the hope they will able to distribute more ashmeters and gather more vital information for the management of volcanic hazard in the area. Emma received funding from the Bristol Cabot Institute Innovation Fund to set up this project.

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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Keri McNamara, a PhD student in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.
Keri McNamara


Monday, 7 March 2016

Is benchmarking the best route to water efficiency in the UK’s irrigated agriculture?

Irrigation pump. Image credit Wikimedia Commons.
From August 2015 to January 2016, I was lucky enough to enjoy an ESRC-funded placement at the Environment Agency. Located within the Water Resources Team, my time here was spent writing a number of independent reports on behalf of the agency. This blog is a short personal reflection of one of these reports, which you can find here. All views within this work are my own and do not represent any views, plans or policies of the Environment Agency. 

Approximately 71% of UK land (17.4 million hectares) is used for agriculture - with 9.3 million hectares (70%) of land in England used for such operations. The benefits of this land use are well-known - providing close to 50% of the UK’s food consumption.  Irrigated agriculture forms an important fulcrum within this sector, as well as contributing extensively to the rural economy. In eastern England alone, it is estimated that 50,000 jobs depend upon irrigated agriculture – with the sector reported to contribute close to £3 billion annually to the region’s economy.

It is estimated that only 1-2% of the water abstracted from rivers and groundwater in England is consumed by irrigation. When compared to the figures from other nations, this use of water by agriculture is relatively low.  In the USA, agricultural operations account for approximately 80-90% of national consumptive water use. In Australia, water usage by irrigation over 2013/14 totalled 10,730 gigalitres (Gl) – 92% of the total agricultural water usage in that period (11,561 Gl).

However, the median prediction of nine forecasts of future demand in the UK’s agricultural sector has projected a 101% increase in demand between today and 2050. In this country, irrigation’s water usage is often concentrated during the driest periods and in the catchments where resources are at their most constrained. Agriculture uses the most water in the regions where water stress is most obvious: such as East Anglia. The result is that, in some dry summers, agricultural irrigation may become the largest abstractor of water in these vulnerable catchments.

With climate change creating a degree of uncertainty surrounding future water availability across the country, it has become a necessity for policy and research to explore which routes can provide the greatest efficiency gains for agricultural resilience. A 2015 survey by the National Farmers Union  found that many farmers lack confidence in securing long term access to water for production - with only a third of those surveyed feeling confident about water availability in five years’ time. In light of this decreasing availability, the need to reduce water demand within this sector has never been more apparent.

Evidence from research and the agricultural practice across the globe provides us with a number of possible routes. Improved on-farm management practice, the use of trickle irrigation, the use of treated wastewater for irrigation and the building of reservoirs point to a potential reduction in water usage.

Yet, something stands in the way of the implementation of these schemes and policies that support them: People. The adoption of new practices tends to be determined by a number of social factors – depending on the farm and the farmer. As farmers are the agents within this change, it is important to understand the characteristics that often guide their decision-making process and actions in a socio-ecological context.

Let’s remember, there is no such thing as your ‘average farmer’. Homogeneity is not a word that British agriculture is particularly aware of. As a result, efforts to increase water use efficiency need to understand how certain characteristics influence the potential for action. Wheeler et al. have found a number of characteristics that can influence adaptation strategies. For example, a farmer with a greater belief in the presence of climate change is more likely to adopt mitigating or adaptive measures. Importantly, this can also be linked to more-demographic factors. As Islam et al. have argued, risk scepticism can be the result of a number of factors (such as: age, economic status, education, environmental and economic values) and that these can be linked to the birth cohort effect.

This is not to say that all farmers of a certain age are climate-sceptics but it does point to an important understanding of demography as a factor in the adoption of innovative measures. Wheeler et al. went on to cite variables of environment values, commercial orientation, perceptions of risk and the presence of an identified farm successor as potentially directing change in practice . Research by Stephenson has shown that farmers who adopt new technologies tend to be younger and more educated, have higher incomes, larger farm operations and are more engaged with primary sources of information.

Yet, there is one social pressure that future policy must take into account – friendly, neighbourly competition. Keeping up with the Joneses. Not wanting Farmer Giles down the lane knowing that you overuse water in an increasingly water-scarce future. This can be harnessed within a system of benchmarking. Benchmarking involves the publication of individual farm’s water use, irrigation characteristics and efficiency and farming practice. Although data is supplied anonymously, individual farmers will be able to see how they measure up against their neighbours, competitors and others elsewhere.

Benchmarking is used in other agricultural sub-sectors. A 2010 survey found that 24% of farmers from different sectors used benchmarking in their management processes. This is particularly evident in the dairy sector, where both commercial and public organisations use the methods as a way to understand individual farm performance – an important example of this would be DairyCo’s Milkbench+ initiative. In 2004, over 950,000 hectares of irrigated land in Australia, 385,000 hectares in China and 330, 000 hectares in Mexico were subjected to benchmarking processes as a mean to gauge their environmental, operational and financial characteristics.

The result is that irrigators would have the means to compare how they are performing relative to other growers – allowing the answering of important questions of ‘How well am I doing?’ ‘How much better could I do?’ and ‘How do I do it?’ Furthermore, this route can be perceived as limiting the potential for ‘free-riding’ behaviour within a catchment as well emphasise the communal nature of these vulnerable resources. We’ve all seen ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ result in increased consumption – benchmarking provides us with an important route to use this socialised nudging for good.
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This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Ed Atkins, a PhD student at the University of Bristol who studies water scarcity and environmental conflict.


Ed Atkins

Resilience and urban design

In this article, inspired by the movement of open spaces in cities across the world and resilience theory [1], Shima Beigi argues that city and human resilience are tightly interlinked and it is possible to positively influence both through utilising the transformative power of open spaces in novel ways.

Human resilience makes cities more resilient


Future cities provide a fertile ground to integrate and synthesise different properties of space and help us realise our abilities to become more resilient. Rapid urbanisation brings with it a need to develop cohesive and resilient communities, so it is crucial to discuss how we can better design our cities. In the future, urban design must harness the transformative function of open spaces to help people explore new sociocultural possibilities and increase our resilience: resilient people help form the responsible citizenry that is necessary for the emergence of more resilient urban systems.

Cities are complex adaptive systems


Cities are complex adaptive systems which consist of many interacting parts with different degrees of flexibility, and open urban spaces hold the potential for embedding flexible platforms into future urban design; they invoke the possibility of adopting a different set of values and behaviours related to our cities, such as flexible structures designed to change how we imagine the collective social space or intersubjective space.

Transportation grids are for functional movement and coordination in cities, but open spaces can be seen as avenues for personal growth and development, social activities, learning, collective play and gaming (figure 1). They help us adjust and align our perception of reality in real-time and for free. All we need is our willingness to let go of the old and allow the new to guide us toward evolution, transcendence and resilience.

Figure 1: Boulevard Anspach, Belgium, Brussels. Images credit Shima Beigi

Open spaces also encourage another important process: the emergence of a fluid sense of one’s self as an integral part of a city’s design. Urban design can help citizens feel invited to explore and unearth parts of the internal landscape.

Mindfulness engineering and the practice of resiliencing


Drawing on my research on resilience of people, places, critical infrastructure systems and socio-ecological systems, I have collected 152 different ways of defining resilience and here I propose an urban friendly view of resilience:
"resilience is about mastering change and is a continuous process of becoming and expanding one’s radius of comfort zone until the whole world becomes mapped into one’s awareness".
In this view, our continuous exposure to new conditions helps us align with a new tempo of change. Resilience is naturally embedded in all of us and we need to find those key principles and pathways through which we can practise our natural potential for resilience and adaptability to change on a daily basis. This is what I call 'mindfulness engineering' and the practice of 'resiliencing'. There is no secret to resilience; Ann S. Masten even calls it an 'ordinary magic'.

Building resilient and sustainable cities


Future cities provide us with the opportunity to increase our resilience. There is no fixed human essence and we are always in the state of dynamic unfolding. So the paradox for the future is this: the only thing fixed about the future is a constant state of change. As existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said, “the only thing repeated is the impossibility of repetition.” It is only through this shift of perspective to becoming in tune with one’s adaptation and resilience style that we can change our mental models and become better at handling change.

Footnote

[1] The movement of resilience as the capacity to withstand setbacks and continue to grow started in early 70s. Today, the concept of resilience has transformed to a platform for global conversation on the future of human development across the world.

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This blog is by Cabot Institute member Dr Shima Beigi from the University of Bristol's Faculty of Engineering.  Shima's research looks at the Resilience and Sustainability of Complex Systems.

Shima Beigi
This blog has been republished with kind permission from the Government Office for Science's Future of Cities blog.  View the original blog.