Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

Crowdsourcing Science: Citizens Measuring water levels

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on July 16th, 2013

Source: FastCoExist

Print
Image from the CrowdHydrology project.

From the article “An Army Of Citizen Scientists Is Tracking Our Water Levels” by Zak Stone.

In an age of mechanized, digitized labor there are still some jobs where humans get it done better or more cheaply than just about any machinery–particularly when that human labor is crowdsourced by volunteers. University of Buffalo Geologist Chris Lowry figured that out when trying to collet basic information on the water level of streams across a large watershed in western New York, an endeavor that would eat up cash using machinery or time using labor from the lab. After reading an article about a researcher who used crowdsourcing to get the public to help monitor roadkill, “I was like ‘If these people can get people to help out with their research, why can’t I get people to help out with water level measurements?'” explains Lowry. He started simple, printing out a half sheet of paper that said “‘Please text me the water level,’ and it had a phone number. “And then I bought a giant ruler, I brought this into the stream, I put this sign on top, and then I just waited for someone to send me a text message,” he explains. “And sure enough, a couple people sent me text messages.”

That basic idea turned into the pilot project CrowdHydrology at nine New York freshwater sites, starting in 2011. Now, with support from the U.S. Geological Survey, the project will expand to more than 50 new sites across New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The data can help fill in gaps in data collection as budget cutbacks mean the USGS is discontinuing monitoring of certain streams.

When citizens are contributing data, quality is always a concern, but Lowry says control tests–where a pressure transducer measures water levels in the same sites where people are measuring by hand–show that “people who send us text messages do a really really good job.” The level of error turned out to be to be as small as one tick mark on a ruler.

Lowry has found that engaging local communities is the key to getting a high volume of texts from any given site–more so than just foot traffic. And locations where passersby are more likely to take an interest in science–like a nature center–have worked best. “I really think that as scientists we may just be on the cusp of crowdsourcing scientific data. I think there’s going to be a big boom in the future for using these kinds of methods,” Lowry says. […] “On one side we’re using [the project] for cutting edge research. On the other, we’re using it as this outreach tool to foster the next generation of scientist.”

>>> Read the full article on FastCoExist.
>>> Learn more about the CrowdHydrology project on their website.


What’s your carbon Handprint?

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on July 5th, 2013

Source: FastCo.Exist

handprinter
Screenshot from the Handprinter video.

From the article ‘An App That Measures Your Positive Impact on The Planet‘ by Ben Schiller:

Greg Norris has worked in the field of lifecycle assessments–what you and I know as “footprints”–for many years. And, not long ago, he started to feel depressed about it. Everything seemed to be in a negative direction, impact-wise. “From the footprint perspective, all you see is bad news,” he says. “I ended up feeling like the Earth would be better off without me.”

So, Norris came up with what he calls “the mirror image of footprints”. Handprints are the positive things we do to reduce damage we inevitably cause from driving, buying stuff, and so on. It’s a form of offsetting. But instead of paying someone to plant a tree in Malawi, you have to take care of the corresponding action yourself. “I asked myself: How can I make it possible that there would be less pollution because of me? The answer is to stimulate change for the better,” he says.

You can create a handprint in three ways. First, you simply cut your footprint: say, by cycling to work, rather than driving. Second, you can champion an action suggested on the platform (carpooling, say). Or, third, you can come up with a completely new idea. In each case, Handprinter calculates the benefit and your part in bringing it about. If, for example, you share a link and someone clicks on it, you get credited with that action. Everything is subtracted from your footprint, which you calculate at the beginning. […]

Norris sees the platform as a way of inspiring positive behavior. If he can get enough people using the app, he hopes to create a virtuous circle of people proposing and rewarding action. As an example, he points to an initiative in Maine that Handprinter has been involved with. Owens Corning has donated 300 water heater blankets, which schools are giving away to residents in return for nine months’ worth of energy savings. The schools will spend the money on new blankets, setting up a positive cycle. (Students can follow the ripple effects on the Handprinter app). […]

>>> You can read the original article here.
>>> You can learn more about Handprinter on their website or try the beta version of the app.


Seasonal Calendars: learning from Indigenous ecological knowledge

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on November 14th, 2012


Seasonal calendar from the Ngan’gi language group in the Northern Territory (TRaCK)

From the SBS Podcast Indigenous weather knowledge bridges gap by Naomi Selvaratnam

Indigenous communities across northern Australia have helped to develop seasonal calendars using their environmental knowledge. The calendars detail the changes in plant and animal life across the year, and can include as many as 13 seasons.

Darwin-based CSIRO researcher, Emma Woodward says the project highlights the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge into scientific research projects. She told Naomi Selvaratnam the value of indigenous knowledge is frequently underestimated by scientists.

The following comes from the CSIRO about the most recently released seasons calendar from the Gooniyandi language group in the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberly.

The Mingayooroo – Manyi Waranggiri Yarrangi, Gooniyandi Seasons calendar was developed by key knowledge-holders of the Gooniyandi language group from the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberley and CSIRO, as part of a Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge project on Indigenous socio-economic values and rivers flows in northern Australia.

The seasonal cycle recorded on the calendar follows 4 main seasons: Barranga (‘very hot weather time’); Yidirla (‘wet season time when the river runs’); Ngamari (‘female cold weather time’) and Girlinggoowa (‘male cold weather time’). Gooniyandi people closely follow meteorological events, including wind speed and direction, clouds and rain types, as each event is linked to different behaviours of animals. Gooniyandi people can therefore look to the weather to tell them when it is the best time for hunting and collecting different plants and animals.

The Gooniyandi Seasons calendar represents a wealth of Indigenous ecological knowledge. The development of the calendar was driven by a community desire to document seasonal-specific knowledge of the Margaret and Fitzroy Rivers in the Kimberley, including the environmental indicators that act as cues for bush tucker collection. The calendar also addresses community concern about the loss of traditional knowledge, as older people from the language group pass away and younger people are not being exposed to Indigenous ecological knowledge.

>>> You can listen to the podcast on SBS World News Radio and download the Gooniyandi seasons calendar from CSIRO.
>>> You can also access seasonal calendars for other Indigenous groups from TRaCK (Tropical Rivers and Coast Knowledge) research hub.


Teaching neighbours to build small renewable energy projects for resilience

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 31st, 2012

Source: Resilience


Photo via JfS

From “Transition Town Fujino goes for local energy independence” by Carol Smith via OurWorld 2.0:

Fujino is one of three fully functioning Transition Movement initiatives in Japan, although over twenty are in the works. Established in the fall of 2008, Transition Fujino (which we’ve featured on Our World a few times in the past) started up by sharing information on the core issues through events like briefings and film presentations.

Then a local currency, the Yorozuya (meaning “general store” in Japanese), was launched and began playing a major role in stimulating local networking. The Yorozuya project started with 15 members in 2009 and has now grown to include 150 households. Those participating can exchange goods and eat at restaurants using the currency. The network also thrives by targeting local needs, such as providing pet care, weeding vegetable gardens, and picking up children. It further serves to connect those in need with those who can give a hand. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the network displayed a great ability to support disaster-affected areas by collecting cash donations, gathering and sorting emergency relief supplies and regularly holding charity events.

In the wake of the [March 03 2011] disaster, the working group Fujino Denryoku (“denryoku” meaning “electric power”) was established to help people break away from their dependence on electricity provided by the traditional power utilities and transition towards self-sufficient, locally-distributed energy created with the participation of local people.  The group’s first project was to supply power for lighting and sound systems at a local festival. Project teams also went out to festivals in the earthquake disaster zones in the Tohoku region and offered support to the affected areas by supplying power generated with renewable energy.

The working group also holds monthly “Solar Power System Workshops”, where participants, including beginners, can easily assemble a home system by connecting photovoltaic (PV) panels and batteries, etc., as part of a campaign called “An Energy Shift Starting at Home”.  At the first workshop in December 2011 participants initially learned from one another, but the workshop began to attract attention from a wider public and within six months it was being introduced on TV and in magazines. Now the workshops host not only local residents, but increasingly people from outside communities.

Read the full article on the Resilience website to find out more about Transition Towns in Japan, energy independence and local resilience, or read the Japan for Sustainability (JfS) newsletter article by Yuriko Yoneda that this article was based on.

 


Intelligent Farming Can Reduce the Need for Pesticides and Fertilisers: Research

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 29th, 2012

“Figure 3. Multiple indicators of cropping system performance” from Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health

From “A Simple Fix for Farming” by Mark Bittman:

It’s becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably, with far fewer chemicals. And I’m not talking about imposing some utopian vision of small organic farms on the world. Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use — if it wants to.

This was hammered home once again in what may be the most important agricultural study this year, although it has been largely ignored by the media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study’s sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture.

The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.

In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it’s a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.

[…]

Read the full article by Mark Bittman on the NY Times Opinionator blog, or check out the research paper, published on plos one:

“Results of our study indicate that more diverse cropping systems can use small amounts of synthetic agrichemical inputs as powerful tools with which to tune, rather than drive, agroecosystem performance, while meeting or exceeding the performance of less diverse systems.”  Davis AS, Hill JD, Chase CA, Johanns AM, Liebman M (2012) Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47149. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047149


“City Semester”: Learning about climate change and sustainability in the city

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 25th, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities

From “The High School Curriculum Every Urban Planner Wishes They’d Had” by Nate Berg:

[…]

City Semester is an immersive, city-focused course that combines classwork and field studies for juniors at Fieldston. It’s like other semester away programs run by the school, but instead of sending kids out to the Rocky Mountains or the Maine coast, students in the City Semester program turn their attention to their own neighborhood and city. Meyers has compiled a broad range of teachers from the school to participate, including teachers focusing on history, ethics, language, theater, literature, film, photography and music.

The program is divided into four main sections: sustainability, immigration and difference, power and conflict, and neighborhood and community renewal. This last section is centered around the Bronx River, located a couple miles from the school.

“We wanted to talk about neighborhood formation, and chronologically to talk about the recovery of the Bronx,” Meyers says. “We use the Bronx River as a means of discussing both human and non-human communities.”

One of the main parts of this section of the program consists of a two-day canoe trip down the river. The students collect scientific data about the water and the ecology and make presentations about both the history of the neighborhoods and the development of the river habitats. Meyers says this approach pulls in what the students are learning and relates it to things they see in their day-to-day experiences and the neighborhoods around them.

“Adolescents are at a place in their lives where understanding the relevance of what they’re learning can make an enormous difference in terms of their engagement,” Meyers says.

The program looks broadly at the city as a subject, even looking into the policies and politics that are driving change in New York. Meyers took the class to meet with officials from the city’s Department of Transportation to hear about the planning and implementation of bike lanes throughout the city. Then they rented bikes and rode the lanes. Meyers says this hands-on approach helps students to see the various ways what they’re learning can be applied in real-life situations.

And if delving into city politics isn’t enough to add a little more stress to high schoolers’ lives, one of the sections of the course had students role-playing and problem-solving their way through some not-too-far-off disaster scenarios brought on as a result of climate change. Rising sea levels create a flood in lower Manhattan that causes a blackout, in this scenario. During the power outage, a rumored hostage situation at the United Nations causes the whole subway system to shut down. Students had to imagine they were stuck in their school for 3 days – and to cope with all the logistical and psychological impacts such a situation would cause. They even engaged in community design charrettes to come up with feasible retrofit ideas that can help communities handle the potential threats they’ll face as the climate continues to change.

This section of the course was taught earlier this year by Alec Appelbaum, a journalist who’s covered urban planning for years. He says that high schoolers are maybe the ideal audience for this sort of lesson.

“They’re going to be living with the consequences of the misdirected debate that’s gone on about climate change,” says Appelbaum. “The carbon overload in the atmosphere is something that young people didn’t particularly cause and will have to survive.”

[…]

Read the full article by Nate Berg.


Farmhack: Open-source agricultural technology

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on July 4th, 2012

Source: Shareable

From “FarmHack: Collaboratively Retooling Agriculture” by Benjamin Brownell:

FarmHack is a network for sharing open source know-how amongst the distributed fringe of DIY agricultural tech aficionados and innovators. In the same vein as Appropedia or Open Source Ecology, a collaborative digital knowledge-base facilitates the harvest of crowd wisdom to address challenges and inefficiencies in modern ecological (and economical) farm operation. It is a project of Young Farmers Coalition and somewhat angled to the exuberant and tech-savvy eco-preneurial demographic, but inclusive and supportive of all open earthy inhabitants.

A primary focus of the organization is toward intensive development meet-ups, teach-ins, and hackathons, in person, on the farm. Just after landing at my new rural summer farm home and hack-factory in Vermont, I learned of one such get-together nearby on Lake Champlain. It appealed as a chance to meet peers, learn about the local Intervale organic agricultural enterprise collective, and practice some “agile” collaborative protocols in fresh context.

[…]

We were first treated to a tour of the Intervale Center, and the predominantly “hacked” implements and equipment of its Farmers’ Cooperative, such as automated greenhouses, root vegetable washer (designed in conjunction with University of Vermont engineering students), salad greens dryer (Amana brand washing machine uncased and set to spin), four-barrelled flame-throwing weed exterminator, and electric tractor-to-be. Use of these is on a per-hour honor system basis, with a proportional pooled fund (plus lots of good-natured volunteer effort) to cover maintenance, repairs, and new purchase. It’s effective, productive, and proliferating (link is an “idea worth sharing” pdf pamphlet on farm equipment co-ops from University of Sasketchewan Center for the Study of Cooperatives).

Rural areas–so many in stark economic decline today–are in fact a wealth of raw materials, practical skill, and entrained devotion towards creative repurposing and sustainable initiative. Some of the best comfort and satisfaction about life on and with a piece of land, is that there is always plenty to “do;” to explore, to evaluate and improve upon, to hack away at in a mechanical or strategic manner–with room for creativity and eclectic flair–leading directly to concrete (frequently delicious and/or nutritious) result.

[…]

Commercial crop production and domestic animal management is intensely context-sensitive and dynamic vocation. It’s frequently demeaning and discouraging. It’s relatively crap pay. And, it is occasionally a paramount satisfaction returned for gritty labors in the public interest that are literally life-giving. Sustainable food systems are the long-range engine and “money supply” of our civil society. Open sourcing the know-how and effective story lines of successful ventures within this realm will invite citizens back into the processes and rewards of collaborative solving for abundance, ecology, community, and culture.

Read the full article by Benjamin Brownell on Shareable.


Low-Tech Transferable Designs: Pictorial Manuals

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on November 23rd, 2011

Source: No Tech Magazine

From “When Low-Tech Goes IKEA” edited by Deva Lee:

What happens when two industrial design students from Sweden end up in Kenya creating a pedal powered machine for small-scale farmers who are often illiterate and speak more than 60 languages? You get a do-it-yourself design that seems to have come out of the IKEA factories – pictorial manuals included. “Made in Kenya“, the bachelor project of Niklas Kull and Gabriella Rubin, is a textbook example of low-tech made accessible to everybody, regardless of their native tongue and language skills. […]

The students had two aims for their project: to improve the economic conditions of the local small-scale farmers, who make up three quarters of the workforce in the country, and to stimulate the local manufacturing industry. At present, Kenya lacks an industrial-scale manufacturing industry and is highly dependent on the import of goods. The juice extractor is of a capacity and cost that would allow a small group of neighbouring farmers to invest collectively in a small production facility. To keep production costs low, ensure availability in rural areas and promote the domestic manufacturing capacity, the pedal-powered machine does not require complex components or manufacturing methods.  The design manual is aimed at the Jua Kali – the informal manufacturing sector which represents an estimated six million of the Kenyan workforce. With limited capital, modest workshop facilities and narrow access to raw materials, these self-employed blacksmiths and carpenters make handmade products – such as agricultural implements, hand tools and kitchen utensils – at a lower price than the imported goods.

Read the full article on No Tech Magazine.


Food Waste & Blaming the Individual: Research Article

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 13th, 2011

Source: Food Climate Research Network (FCRN)


Photo by abbyladybug via flickr CC

From “Attitudes to and behaviours around food waste“:

This paper is written by David Evans of the Sustainable Consumption Institute. It is based on observations of ‘ordinary’ people shopping for and preparing food (19 households in all). It argues that, contrary to the prevailing view, people do know how to cook and do care about throwing food away. However it argues that the pressure to ‘eat properly’, in part a consequence of the styles promoted by celebrity chefs, gives rise to food purchasing habits that are unrealistic and give rise to waste. It concludes by suggesting ways in which food waste can be reduced – by portion resizing and by moves to “normalise the provisioning of foodstuffs that are not susceptible to rapid decay” (ie. tins, dried foods, frozen foods etc).

Reference and abstract as follows:

Evans D (2011). Blaming the consumer – once again: the social and material contexts of everyday food waste practices in some English households, Critical Public Health, 1–12

DOI:10.1080/09581596.2011.608797

In public debates about the volume of food that is currently wasted by UK households, there exists a tendency to blame the consumer or individualise responsibilities for affecting change. Drawing on ethnographic examples, this article explores the dynamics of domestic food practices and considers their consequences in terms of waste. Discussions are structured around the following themes: (1) feeding the family; (2) eating ‘properly’; (3) the materiality of ‘proper’ food and its intersections with the socio-temporal demands of everyday life and (4) anxieties surrounding food safety and storage. Particular attention is paid to the role of public health interventions in shaping the contexts through which food is at risk of wastage. Taken together, I argue that household food waste cannot be conceptualised as a problem of individual consumer behaviour and suggest that policies and interventions might usefully be targeted at the social and material conditions in which food is provisioned.

Read the article and related links on FCRN.

Or read about it on the SCI website.

 


From Here to There: Marketing and Branding Public Transport

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 23rd, 2011

Source: The City Fix

In an attempt to give public transport a competitive edge, EMBARQ has released a report on marketing and branding public transport. The reports aims to help guide cities and public transit agencies in making mass transit a competitive and desirable alternative to private vehicles. Titled, “From Here to There: A Creative Guide to Making Public Transport the Way to Go,” the report hopes to encourage cities and transit agencies to think critically and creatively about how to make public transport the preferred way to travel.

The purpose of the guide is to help transit agencies develop strong and successful strategies to achieve three important goals:

  • Attract new users that currently use private transport, such as cars and motorcycles,
  • Retain existing public transport users who might feel compelled to buy a private vehicle, and,
  • Secure political and financial support from government officials.

By taking a cue from the private sector, which routinely and successfully influences consumer behavior, the report applies eight branding, marketing and communications tactics to the public transport sector.

  • Brand and identity
  • Internal communication
  • User education
  • User information systems
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Public relations and external communications
  • User feedback systems
  • Online engagement

“For some time, it has been clear that cities need to create high-quality public transport systems to improve the urban environment,” the report explains. “However, not until recently has it become clear that cities must also convince the public that these high-quality systems are in fact high-quality.”

The recommendations in the report are by no means prescriptive or exhaustive. The report is merely a starting point for exploring ‘best practices’ in the public transport marketing and branding world. With the launch of “From Here to There,” EMBARQ hopes to start an open dialogue that will enhance public transit and the very quality of our cities.

This report is only the beginning of EMBARQ’s efforts in helping public transport become a stronger alternative to private vehicles. We will also launch a series on online engagement for public transport starting in October 2011. Stay tuned!

Download the report in English and Portuguese.