Albert Einstein once said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”
Cue talk of smart cities and open databases. You begin to get a sense of the potential from projects such as the UCL CityDashboard which shows many of the data feeds available as a dashboard. You can quickly see London temp, air quality, traffic reports, public transport updates.
The practical application of this sort of work is still fairly hazy and rings slightly of what one Forum collaborator has called ‘data spectatorship’ but the potential is there for programmes like this to play a very useful role for future cities.
It might not be as dramatic as the Thames flooding or Francois Hollande's midnight moped excursions but energy has nonetheless been grabbing the headlines for months now.
To those of us who study consumer attitudes to the topic, this is no surprise. More than a year ago, Behaviour Change conducted a YouGov survey showing that energy bills were the nation’s single biggest financial worry, and politicians and the media are of course sensitive to this.
Using your intuition on whether your child's nappy needs changing could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a group of Japanese researchers who have unveiled an organic disposable sensor to potentially be used in diapers.
In addition to use in infants' diapers, the technology can be applied to adult nappies, which are a big seller in rapidly ageing Japan.
Regular diapers change colour to indicate they are wet, but a caregiver still needs to take off the wearer's clothes to see. "If sensing is done electronically, you can tell simply by coming close to the wearer - without unclothing him or her," Prof Someya said.
Similar ideas have purported to monitor nutrional deficinecies and give the health warnings for the wearer.
I’m not quite sure when academics and activists first identified “The Green Economy” as a “coming priority” – at least 25 years ago, I suspect, in the run up to the Earth Summit in 1992.
Since then, the Green Economy has come and gone, as a political issue, more times than I care to remember.
Right now, it’s in a “gone” state. Seriously gone. As this blog keeps pointing out, from the day on which David Cameron committed the Coalition Government to being the “Greenest Government Ever”, to the Prime Minister’s latest stumbling performance as the floods took hold of peoples’ lives and imagination, the Green Economy has been completely overshadowed by a host of competing priorities – deficit reduction, economic growth, reducing the size of the state, and so on.
There’s a house on Long Island that can keep you young. At least, that’s what the architects claim – and it’s no small matter in an ageing world. If I asked you what you’d look for in your ideal home, you might reply ‘a space to unwind’, or ‘a little love and laughter’. I’d be surprised if you came back with ‘rejuvenation’: a word used to sell face cream, not housing.
But perhaps we don’t give enough thought to the way in which our minds and bodies are constantly responding to the world around us. What an opportunity for brands! We may not know we want houses that keep us young, but it would make a great selling point in an estate agent’s window.
Keeping up with the neighbours has been used time immemorial to encourage greater consumerism but could it now be used to reduce consumption rates?
E.On, OPower and British Gas have all offered customers the chance to compare energy bills with similar households in the area. Just showing 'what the neighbours paid' (all info is kept anonymous of course) is an effective nudge to get users to save more energy.
Now, a Californian utility company has just finished trialling a similar service for neighbours to compare water use, with some remarkable results: in addition to using on average 5% less water over the trial period, participants were then twice as likely to participate in further conservation efforts, and six times as likely to request a home audit to get more advice on saving water.
As part of the yearly ritual, I accompanied my parents to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Lunar New Year gathering on the first day of the New Year. A visually stunning, highly festive, yet formal occasion this event is typically attended by a host of Ministers and Members of Parliament whose portfolios and interests involve engaging the Chinese business community.
There is now a distinct possibility that the recent flooding and extreme weather will transform the politics of climate change here in the UK.
That may seem like a pretty dodgy prediction – given that the polls would seem to indicate, right now, that around 50% of people in the UK are still not persuaded that today’s weather is directly linked to climate change.
That remains the case, I suspect, partly because the immediate debate about that potential linkage has been so lamentable. And I’m not just getting at those parts of the UK media whose grasp of science is completely obscured by their ideological world view – including most of our right-wing newspapers. The real disappointment for me has been the BBC.
So how exactly do you find the time to do some of that “stop and think” processing that is so important to sustainability practitioners? Is “reflection” what you do the second before you fall asleep? And how do you find time to keep up to speed with new ideas?
I was thinking about all these questions on the way back from the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, where I had to do quite a lot of new thinking! One of the things I was asked to do was to join a Panel looking at the role that gender plays in the world of sustainable development.
Guest article by Nicolas Mounard, Managing Director of Twin
Last year, coffee prices continued their chaotic tumble on New York commodity markets, falling 20% to around $1.20 per pound. Thousands of miles away, this abstract futures market is having a very real-world effect on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The market price for coffee currently stands well below its actual cost of production, causing outcry and hunger in coffee farming communities.
Coffee is sadly just one example in our broken global food system, which sees the poorest and hungriest producing the majority of the world’s food to sell at unsustainable prices. With increasing additional pressures on farming such as climate change and urbanisation, something’s got to give.
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