Archive for the ‘Research’ Category
Research refers to reports by organisations or research by academic institutions relating to urban sustainability issues. If you have research that relates to urban sustainability issues and could benefit people and organisations that are relevant to cities around the world, please post this information on SustainableCitiesNet.com. To do so visit the â€œHow to use this siteâ€ page and follow the prompts.
A local resilience-building project about climate extremes.
Visions of Resilience: Anglesea 2037 is part of a larger research project Transforming Institutions for Climate Extremes. This project is led by Che Biggs at the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL) at the University of Melbourne. It aims to understand how communities and institutions can prepare and become more resilient to disruptive climate conditions. Anglesea was chosen as an ideal case-study site because it faces multiple climate hazards such as fire, drought and sea level rise but it also has a creative community and a strong local identity.
What is the Visions of Resilience: Anglesea 2037 blog about?
The images and articles you see on the Visions of Resilience: Anglesea 2037 blog are glimpses of possible futures. They depict strategies and ideas about how Anglesea could become more resilient to the more extreme possible impacts of climate change. The ideas represented have been developed from a workshop involving Anglesea community members. In the workshop people were asked to propose adaptation strategies in response to a series of challenging future scenarios that describe Anglesea in the year 2037. These scenarios were built from an assessment of climate model projections, historical records from along the Great Ocean Road and interviews with Anglesea residents. The small number of glimpses you see were combined and synthesised from more than 100 ideas developed in the workshop. Treat them as a window into a range of possible futures that might exist. We encourage you to comment on what is good or not good about the way they respond to challenges from climate change.
Why this project? When managing disaster risk, government and private sector organisations often rely heavily on ‘probability’ or ‘expert’ assessments of the likely type, extent and frequency of negative impacts. This can come unstuck when disasters occur outside what has been predicted and planned for. Transforming Institutions for Climate Extremes is a response to this problem. It responds to the call for new methods to improve community resilience and help communities improve disaster planning. It seeks to explore how prepared our communities, our decision-makers and decision-making processes are for the challenges of ‘new’ climate conditions. It will consider what institutional changes are needed to meet those challenges whilst ensuring community ownership.
Climate change in Anglesea? Anglesea lies in an area of southern Australia that will be affected by climate change in many ways. Climate models project that the most likely direct impacts will include changes to rainfall (drier but with more intense rainfall events), changes in temperature (warmer with more heatwaves), increasing acidity of oceans and rising sea levels. In-turn, these impacts are expected to affect a whole range of factors including increases in coastal erosion and days of extreme fire danger to increased risk of heat-stroke and changes to when plants flower and birds migrate. Climate Change is the effect of heat from the sun being trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by gases produced by human activity. While some of these gases (like carbon dioxide) are found naturally in the atmosphere, as we increase their concentration above natural levels, they trap more heat from the sun – a bit like an insulation blanket.
From “Plan to power Darwin with tidal energy gains momentum” by Sophie Vorrath
A plan to power Darwin with tidal energy – and to turn the Northern Territory into a tropical tidal energy hub – has come one step closer to being realised this week, after the signing of an MoU to build a 2MW pilot plant and research centre in Clarence Strait, off the Territory’s coast. Australian tidal energy company Tenax Energy said on Tuesday it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NT’s Power and Water Corporation to develop a 2MW Pilot Plant and Research and Tropical Tidal Testing Centre, the first steps on the path to a utility-scale generation facility that would deliver renewable power to Darwin.
Tenax says the project – to be located between Darwin and Melville Island – will be generating electricity by 2015, and could reach commercial scale before the end of the decade. The 2MW project will be followed by a 10MW pilot array test. The Darwin-based company was first given a provisional licence to occupy 16.8sqkm in the Clarence Strait in 2010, having identified the area as one of three locations around Australia ideally suited to tidal energy; with high tidal velocity movement, sufficient water depth, and proximity to existing power grid infrastructure. (The other two locations are Banks Strait, Tasmania, and Port Phillip Heads, Victoria.) Tenax says power from the Clarence Strait has the potential to provide a “significant percentage” of Darwin’s electricity supply, and would go a long way to helping the Territory achieve a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.
The project’s staged development process is designed to allow the establishment of appropriate environmental and performance standards for tidal energy technologies in tropical waters, while also showing the Darwin community that tidal energy is a safe, convenient and reliable energy source. “The idea with the testing station is to test out a number of different turbines and technologies in the Clarence Strait,” said Power and Water’s manager for sustainable energy, Trevor Horman, on ABC radio on Monday. “(The project) is reasonably close to an existing power line, so we’ll give it a trial over a couple of years and see how the technologies work out there… but we do hope this will prove a safe, reliable and inexhaustible energy source.” According to Tenax’s managing director, Alan Major, reliability is one of tidal energy’s strong points. ”The generating capability of tidal generators is predictable, with exceptional accuracy many years in advance,” he said back in 2010. “Twice a day, every day, the sea rises and falls … creating powerful and reliable water currents.” Major also says that one of the company’s main goals is to to position Darwin as the global centre of excellence in tropical tidal energy, “before the opportunity is captured by others.” “Tidal energy generation in tropical waters will demand new technical solutions that will be developed first in Darwin,” he said in the company’s statement on Monday. “This project is going to place Darwin at the forefront of a global industry, providing local employment and skills development and opening major export opportunities to Asia.”
Read the original article by Sophie Vorrath.
Source: Food Climate Research Network (FCRN)
Applications open for 2012/13
Schumacher College is the first in the world to offer a postgraduate programme in Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production.
The programme has been developed in association with the Centre for Alternative Technology and Plymouth University. From 2012/13 we are offering a Postgraduate Diploma and a Postgraduate Certificate (subject to final University approval) alongside a part-time and full-time MSc.
As global population hits 7 billion in 2011, we urgently need to consider how our food systems will cope in the coming years. Can they produce enough? And are they resilient to an unpredictable climate and reduction in fossil fuels and other high-energy inputs on which they’re currently dependent?
This programme brings together the thinking, research and practice at the cutting-edge of a global food revolution. Drawing from many different projects and schools of thought around the world, and looking at the roles of large scale food production, biotechnology, ‘human scale’ horticulture and botanical diversity, our starting point is natural systems.
How can we work with nature and biological cycles to improve our horticultural production? And how do we do it without increasing environmental degradation, climate change or consumption of finite resources, the pressing questions of our time.
Who is this course for?
This course is for growers, entrepreneurs and leaders who want to progress food systems that are ecologically, socially and financially sustainable. You will have the opportunity to further develop your technical, strategic, and critical skills and the space to regenerate and hone your passion and creativity for a better world.
We are delighted to receive your applications whether you are coming from an undergraduate degree, taking time-out to study mid-career or wanting an opportunity to retrain in a subject area that is of huge importance to our future resilience and well-being.
We are looking for enthusiastic agents of change who are ready to co-create a new sustainable food system in practice. We are looking for those prepared to take a risk and stand on the cutting-edge of new thinking in this area.
Schumacher College welcomes students from all over the world in its diverse mix of cultural experience and age group which allows for rich peer to peer learning.
Course programme overview
The course format has been designed to allow students to combine postgraduate study at Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate level with work and other commitments.
There are six taught modules between September and April, followed by an 18 week dissertation period. Postgraduate Diploma students to not write up a dissertation, but must complete all six Core Modules including Research Methods. Postgraduate Certificate students take Core Modules 1, 4 and 6 only.
Each module is worth 20 credits and, with the exception of Module 2, are composed of one week reading preparation, two weeks residential at Schumacher College, followed by three weeks for assignments with on-line support. The dates of residency at Schumacher College (or CAT, for Module 2) are shown below.
- Module 1: 3 – 14 September Plant Science and Botanical Diversity
- Module 2: 22 – 26 October Food Systems and the Post-Carbon World (CAT)
- Module 3: 26 November – 7 December Research Methods
- Module 4: 7 – 18 January Living Systems
- Module 5: 25 February – 8 March The New Food Economy
- Module 6: 15 – 26 April Ecological Design and Practice in Horticulture
>>Go to the Schumacher College website to find out more about the course.
Source: Core 77
© Buckminster Fuller Institute via flickr
From “The Key to Sustainable Product Creation: The Marriage of Engineering and Design” by Dawn Danby:
These days I spend a lot of time with students and brand-new grads. They’re fired up to make an impact, and are impatient with solutions that don’t directly take on big issues like e-waste and energy scarcity. Many of them know what greenwashing is, even if they don’t know what it’s called. Young designers have been vaguely led to believe that designers hold the power. But when they set out to create green product solutions, they often fail—it’s just not work that can be done alone.
Many of the best sustainable design student projects I see come from interdisciplinary teams. A colleague and I recently coached a team of students who were designing a new refrigerator. Half of the team was made up of UC Berkeley engineers, the other half product designers from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. The engineers investigated technologies like thermal battery innovations, essential for creating a high-efficiency appliance. But they were developing a mass-market product, not simply a new technology. The designers focused on user behavior, cultural context, aesthetics and ease of use. To succeed in the Mexican market, any environmentally friendly technologies had to be affordable for everyone. The biggest waste in fridges, though, isn’t necessarily solved by new technologies: it’s in addressing the huge amount of cold air that pours out when the door is held open. The team’s final design incorporated an insulated window and quick access tray that allows users to ponder, and then to pull out the food they use most, without opening the full door. All of this keeps the fridge closed longer, which saves energy by preventing the cold air from escaping.
Technical solutions can be dreamed up by scientists and clean tech engineers, but the viable projects incorporate beauty, form and human factors. Consider the BioLite stove, which addresses the in-home air pollution problem faced by half the world’s population. In aggregate, this is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Their HomeStove reduces fuel consumption by half, cuts smoke emissions by more than 90 percent, and improves the health of the whole community by nearly eliminating black carbon soot.
Design researcher Dan Lockton has made an exhaustive study of how to understand and adjust behavior, with an emphasis on social and environmental benefit. Lockton’s free, downloadable Design with Intent Toolkit is full of provocations for rethinking a product’s interface, such as “How simply can you structure things, to make it easier for users to do what you’d like them to do?” This is where design can excel: make it easy to switch a computer into a low-power state; make it obvious how much water is being used to fill a bath; or eliminate the option of having a TV remain in standby, “vampire power” mode.
You can design for more complex behavior, too; designing for product lifetime can help slow waste streams and allow recyclers to recover valuable materials. By providing product teardowns and guides on how to fix most common electronics and mobile devices, iFixit’s entire mission is encouraging repairability and long life for electronics, all of which is determined by the way that they’re designed.
I signed up to study industrial design in 1997, in a fit of inspired frustration. I’d freaked myself out on tours of landfills and road trips through forest clear-cuts. Squinting into the future, the design community seemed like it secretly held the reins. I believed that ecological design could change the world—all we seemed to need was the will, and some better data. As a student, I worked on projects that hooked into ecology in obvious ways: salt marsh conservation, degradable food packaging. Looking around at the time, there wasn’t much to see. Bamboo furniture, and a meltscape of recycled plastics: sustainability seen only through the lens of picking greener materials. “You’ll never find work if you’re interested in the environment,” said one well-intentioned teacher. And that’s the main difference between then and now. Engineers develop the technology for green products, and design makes them sing. For this generation of designers and engineers, this is the work worth doing.
Read the full article by Dawn Danby on Core 77.
AlertNet have released a special report “Hungry World“. We heard about it via Nourishing the Planet, who featured the article “Top 10 Food Trailblazers” in their newsletter recently. The report includes articles on a range of issues to be considered when we think of feeding the world in 2050, such as Africa feeding the world; Growing food in cities; Land grabbing for food security, and food commodities speculation. As well as the articles, the report also features a “package” of videos and a series of blogs. It’s all too much to try and include here, so follow the links and explore!
Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on May 10th, 2012
Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre
“Many economic and technological solutions that address sustainability are ecologically illiterate and too linear and single-problem oriented.”
From “Time for social-ecological innovations” by Sturle Hauge Simonsen:
Humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature. If we are to stay within the planetary boundaries, major transformations are needed in the human-environment interactions. This includes innovations that can increase human well-being and at the same time enhance the capacity of ecosystems to produce services.
In a new book entitled “Social Innovation — Blurring Boundaries to Reconfigure Markets“, [Stockholm Resilience] centre researchers Per Olsson and Victor Galaz provide the first comprehensive description of the concept ‘social-ecological innovation’.
They define social-ecological innovation as “social innovation, including new technology, strategies, concepts, ideas, institutions, and organizations that enhance the capacity of ecosystems to generate services and help steer away from multiple earth-system thresholds”.
The chapter is part of a book edited by Alex Nicholls of the University of Oxford and Alex Murdock from London South Bank University. The book focuses on new innovations “that can grapple with the central real-world challenges of our time”.
“We need to move away from quick technological fixes and foster new types of social-ecological innovation,” argue Per Olsson and Victor Galaz. “Many economic and technological solutions that address sustainability are ecologically illiterate and too linear and single-problem oriented. To solve the many complex and interconnected human-environment challenges of today we need a change of mindset.“
Olsson and Galaz point out that there are numerous examples of major socio-technological advances that have improved human life. The flipside is that too many of them have degraded the life-supporting ecosystems on which human well-being ultimately depends. Current large-scale transformations in areas like information technology, biotechnology and energy systems have huge potential to improve our lives in a sustainable way. However, this can only happen if we start working with, instead of against, nature. “Too often our societies change without improving the capacity to learn from, respond to, and manage environmental feedbacks. For example, a systemic shift to biofuels might slow climate change but lead to destructive land-use change and biodiversity loss,” Per Olsson explains.
Olsson and Galaz also warn about the tendency to apply single, technological solutions to complex problems. “This enhances the self-reinforcing feedback that keeps us on unsustainable pathways. Social-ecological innovation focuses on the interactions among a multitude of innovations that together can break current lock-ins and lead to systemic change.”
As a scientific approach, social-ecological innovation links research on social innovation and institutional entrepreneurship with resilience thinking and research on social-ecological systems.
Olsson and Galaz list a number of criteria for the kind of solutions they view as social-ecological innovations. In summary such innovations should:
- Integrate both social and ecological (and economic) aspects.
- Improve human life without degrading the life-supporting ecosystems (preferably even strengthening ecosystems) on which we ultimately depend.
- Deal with multiple social and environmental challenges simultaneously (be sensitive to the fact that solving one problem often creates new ones, there are no ultimate solutions).
- Work more directly for social justice, poverty alleviation, environmental sustain- ability and democracy than profits for individuals.
- Break and/or help avoid lock-ins and create social-ecological feedbacks that help us stay within the safe operating space for humanity as defined by the planetary boundaries.
- Include the creativity and ingenuity of users, workers, consumers, citizens, activists, farmers and businesses etc.
- Utilise the power of social networks and organizations nested across scales (from local to national to regional to global) to enable systemic change at larger scales.
From What Australia can learn from the world’s best de-carbonisation policies by John Wiseman and Taegen Edwards
Around the world an increasing number of detailed policy road maps are demonstrating the possibility, necessity and urgency of a rapid transition to a just and sustainable post carbon future. The key barriers to this transition are social and political, not technological and financial.
The Post Carbon Pathways report, published by the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne and the Centre for Policy Development has reviewed 18 of the most comprehensive and rigorous post carbon economy transition strategies. As Australia enters the next phase of the climate change policy debate, this report will provide vital information on how other jurisdictions are designing and implementing large-scale plans to remove carbon from their economies. The review focuses on transition road maps produced by governments with the strongest emissions reduction targets, such as Germany, Denmark and the UK. It also looks at the most comprehensive and influential non-government authored strategies such as Zero Carbon Britain, Zero Carbon Australia and World in Transition (German Advisory Council on Global Change). Our analysis of these diverse ways of reaching a post-carbon future highlights several key lessons.
The window is closing fast
A wide range of detailed national and global level strategies demonstrate the technological and economic feasibility of rapidly moving to a post carbon economy. This goal can still be achieved at the scale and speed required to significantly reduce the risk of runaway climate change. But the gateway for effective action is rapidly closing. Decisive action in the next five to ten years will be critical. There is a crucial difference between transition strategies that advocate a pragmatic and evolutionary approach and those that advocate more rapid and transformational change. [...]
Technology is not the most significant barrier
Analysis of these strategies shows that technological barriers are not the most significant obstacles to a fair and swift transition to a post carbon economy. The integrated suite of technological and systemic changes needed to reach a just and sustainable post carbon future will clearly need to include:
- rapid reductions in energy consumption and improvements in energy efficiency
- rapid replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy
- significant investment in forests and sustainable agriculture to draw down and sequester carbon into sustainable carbon sinks.
We already have the technologies to achieve emission reductions at the required speed and scale. Soaring investment in technological innovation, particularly in the United States, China and Germany, is driving down the price of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies at a remarkable speed.
Financial and economic barriers: significant but not insurmountable
The economic and social costs of failing to take action to reduce emissions are becoming increasingly clear – as are the multiple employment, health and environmental co-benefits of a swift transition to a post carbon economy. Most strategies advocate a mix of market based and regulatory mechanisms, underpinned by clear long-term emissions reduction targets. Some authors however remain cautious of relying too much on carbon pricing. They recommend additional, more direct interventions such as:
- binding renewable energy targets
- feed-in tariffs
- eliminating fossil fuel subsidies
- allocating the funds to close fossil fuel power stations.
Strategies with emissions reduction targets that are more strongly informed by climate science also commonly advocate a significant shift towards economic priorities which focus on improving social and ecological wellbeing rather than unconstrained growth in material consumption. [...]
There is no solution to climate change without climate justice
Intergenerational justice – the need to respect and protect the livelihoods and opportunities of future generations – remains the most powerful ethical justification for taking prudent and decisive climate change action now. There is also widespread recognition that political support for a rapid transition to a post carbon economy depends on implementing policies to overcome key social equity challenges – within and beyond national borders.
The key barriers are social and political
The biggest barriers preventing a rapid transition to a post carbon future are social and political – not technological and financial. The difficulty of securing and sustaining broad social and political support is widely recognised as the greatest barrier to a swift transition to a post carbon economy. The most significant gap in post carbon economy transition strategies is a lack of detailed game plans for mobilising political leadership and public support. Worryingly, even the most optimistic of the social change theories underpinning these strategies, tend to rely on a variety of ‘Pearl Harbor’ scenarios in which one or more catastrophic ecological events would provide the necessary wake up call. [...] The development and communication of inspiring stories and compelling images of a just and sustainable post carbon future will be particularly crucial.
Australia’s post carbon pathway leadership challenge
The Australian Government’s 2020 emissions reduction target (a 5% decrease on 2000 levels) is clearly still far from the level required for Australia to make a responsible and fair contribution to global emissions reductions. Australia’s 2050 target (an 80% decrease on 2000 levels) is more robust. But there is no detail as yet as to how this target will be achieved. Evidence from the most promising transition strategies elsewhere suggests we need a more informed and thoughtful debate about the kind of economic growth and industry mix that Australia should aim for. We need to talk about the fairest approaches to mobilising the required levels of financial, human and social capital. Most importantly, a far more visionary level of political leadership will be required in order to drive an Australian climate change debate informed primarily by climate science rather than short-term calculations of political and economic feasibility. [...]
Read the article in full on The Conversation.
Read the Post Carbon Pathways briefing paper, summary report or full report.
From “Environmental contribution of Tennessee’s urban trees: $80 billion” by James Holloway:
A study published by the US Forest service values the State of Tennessee’s urban forest at $80 billion thanks to its contributions to the environment. With an urban population of 284 million, that equates to a mean value of $282 per tree.
The total is based on a number of costs that are to some extent offset by the presence of Tennessee’s urban forest (its urban tree population, in other words). These include $350 million-worth of carbon storage based on the current standing stock, over $204 million every year in pollution removal, $18.4 million per year in additional carbon sequestration, and $66 million per year in energy savings-“the most significant contribution” made by the urban forest, according to State Forester Steven G. Scott. But how are the environmental benefits of the trees evaluated?
Data was collected and analyzed using the Forest Service’s own i-Tree Eco software. Using a mobile app providing strict protocols for data collection, researchers took information from 2418 trees and saplings across 255 field plots. Variables noted include species, diameter at breast height (or DBH—taken at 1.4 meters above ground), height, crown dimensions, foliage transparency, damage, and proximity to buildings. The pool of sample data is assumed to be representative of the total population, and from there the software crunches the numbers using “peer-reviewed equations” to paint a macro-scale picture of the urban forest, based on quantifiable characteristics that describe its structure, condition and function.
>>Read the full article by James Holloway on Ars Technica.
>>Read the US Forest Service study.
Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre
Photo: Swiv via flickr CC
From “Sticking to their trade: Why fishermen keep fishing despite dwindling catches” by Sturle Hauge Simonsen:
A new report, recently published by PLoS ONE, challenges previously held notions about poverty and adaptation by investigating why fishermen in developing countries stick with their trade.
“We found that half of fishermen questioned would not be tempted to seek out a new livelihood — even if their catch declined by 50 per cent. But the reasons they cling on to their jobs are influenced by much more than simple profitability,” says lead author and centre researcher Tim Daw.
Fisheries are challenged by the combined effects of overfishing, climate change, deteriorating ecosystems and conservation policies. Understanding how fishermen respond to these changes is critical to managing fisheries. The research project is the largest of its kind and was undertaken as a joint project with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the School of Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia.
Researchers surveyed almost 600 fishers across Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar about how they would respond to hypothetical catch declines. They then investigated how social and economic conditions, such as local culture and socioeconomic development, influenced whether fishermen were willing to give up their trade.
“Surprisingly, fishermen in the more vibrant and developed economies were less likely to give up their trade — despite having more economically fruitful opportunities open to them,” says co-author Dr Joshua Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for coral reef Studies in Australia.
“One of the unexpected findings was that fishermen in a poor country like Madagascar would leave the fishery sooner than those in wealthier countries such as Seychelles. The reason seems to be that they already have diversified livelihoods, while fishermen in wealthier countries may be locked into this occupation,” says Tim McClanahan from the Wildlife Conservation Society. “This is contrary to many arguments about the impacts of management and climate change on poor people, so will surprise many people working in this field and on resource and disaster management policies”.
The findings add to a growing raft of literature which identifies multiple interlocking and dynamic factors which affect people’s capacity to deal with environmental change. It is hoped they will help identify points of intervention for conservation policies that aim to reduce fishing effort. They could also help communities become more adaptive to change.
“It also highlights the importance of understanding resource-based livelihoods, such as fishing and farming, in the context of the wider economy and society,” Tim Daw concludes.
Read the full article by Sturle Hauge Simonsen for the Stockholm Resilience Centre or go to the report.
Image from: CDP Cities
CDP Cities is a voluntary reporting platform for cities around the world to document their actions on climate change. An initiative of the Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP Cities have produced this neat infographic compiling data from the 48 participating cities in 2011. Melbourne features in the section on individual cities, citing ‘creating urban and rooftop gardens, lighter buildings, and lightening roof and road colours to lessen urban heat island effect’ as actions being taken by the City council.