Tag Archives: environment

Facing Disasters

27 May

For a brief moment I hesitated.

Interviews with survivors of the Grenfell inferno reminded us of the horror and the tragic consequences of an avoidable and predicted disaster.

Last Wednesday the UK’s national news media was dominated by two events – the 1st anniversary commemorations of Manchester’s Arena bombing and the start of the Grenfell Tower fire enquiry.  Both sobering and intensely local.  Both respecting their community responses.

Last Wednesday I also hesitated – but not in the face of any disaster. On that day it might have been timely to reschedule the last two episodes of the Knowing Your Place Series.  It might, perhaps, have seemed right to bring forward the comments on Resilience and defer the scheduled episode on Sustainability.

But no. Manchester’s memorial moments needed no further comment at that sensitive time – the learning can follow.  West London’s respect for Grenfell’s grieving will, we are assured, gain the time it deserves.   Both are about aftermaths.  The ‘Knowing Your Place’ series is more forward looking.   I pressed ahead with publication of Keep on Running – in circles’.

It’s true that proper local consideration of the need for sustainability can be triggered in the pit of disasters.  In Part 8 of the series the primary example is of the renaissance of a rusting and decrepit steel town but, with evidence already to hand, we need hardly wait any longer for the very worst impacts of climate change to strike.  We’ve surely already waited long enough.  Alfred Russel Wallace (a contemporary of Charles Darwin) wrote of man-made environmental damage in 1898.

Working to avoid disasters – to bequeath to future generations an environment in better balance – doesn’t grab media and political attention with the same force as people perishing right now.  Two of the leading approaches to ecological sustainability are rooted in science and economics – and are closely intertwined.  The economist Kate Raworth questions underlying assumptions and Ellen MacArthur asks how resources can be re-used. The answers are being written not by national governments but by citizens, communities, city leaders and their local universities.

If you get the chance to read ‘Running in Circles’, do follow the links to Kate’s and Ellen’s work.  Both will inform future communities and city leaderships who do not want to sleepwalk towards disaster.

The final part of the series, ‘What If?’ will appear, as scheduled, next Wednesday – just in time to complete this primer ahead of the Intelligent Community Forum’s 2018 Summit in London.

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Adapt or Mitigate or Rethink? Creating an environment for fresh thinking

31 Mar

On the day when a report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has prompted headline writers to debate Adaptation versus Mitigation we highlight an altogether different approach – one that demands that we rethink the way economies work.

In ‘A few words about a Circular Economy‘ we consider the challenges of communicating fresh ideas in an environment where words like ‘green’ are no longer helpful.   New digitally-enabled capabilities are hastening the end of mechanistic ‘linear’ economics but expertise in understanding Whole Systems’ and ‘Ordered Complexity’ is only just emerging.

Our editorial gives just a glimpse of the potential for fresh thinking being pioneered by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and comments on how we must also rethink our choice of words to describe the journey.

A New Dynamic - coverThe footnotes include a link to ‘Booms and Boomerangs’ – our January review of ‘A New Dynamic’ (the set text for MBA students at the Bradford University School of Management) and other material from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

 

 

RSA City Growth Commission – deadline for submissions – 17th January

13 Jan

hi=-tech buildingAs the RSA’s Call for Evidence is set to close next Friday we were reminded to look back at how we viewed the Urban Regeneration scene in 2008 – just prior to the financial meltdown.   Such was the paucity of ground-breaking developments that we described Urban Regeneration as ‘a cottage industry’.

Now that the economic cycle is once again supportive of renewed hope for urban regeneration and there are calls for smarter (or more intelligent) cities and communities, it’s perhaps time to pick up those themes that now seem more than ever essential in the search for prosperous local economies.

Full story here

Developing the Economic Fabric of the Future

5 Jan

Thinking about the prospects and projects for 2014, several development themes seem likely to be woven into the complex economic and community development fabric.  

One of our great insights from last year came from the CIO of the City of Chattanooga in Eastern Tennessee as he explained his rationale for investment – a process that resisted the technology-driven desires and preferences of the IT industry and focused ruthlessly on the real objectives of his municipal client departments.

This, in the USA’s first ‘GigabitCity’ where connectivity and capacity is not an issue, reflected a determination to deliver real benefits to the City’s administration (and  consequently its citizens and tax-payers) without wasting the rich resources available.  And in the Mayor’s office we found two of them – the City Mayor and the Mayor for the surrounding County.  Their mutual understanding of the interdependent role of the City and its hinterland added a fresh dimension to discussions of ‘Smart Cities’ that are so often reduced to Urban versus Rural contentions.

Immediately after visiting Chattanooga we spent time in New York with the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) and, once again, their perspective on the challenges faced by communities around the world provided a new way of thinking about the priorities we give to economic development.

In The Fabric of Our Futures (PDF) we summarise some of the more obvious themes that will arise in 2014 and, hopefully, will inform projects and prospects for future Study Tours, the UK’s Next Generation Digital Challenge Awards and the platforms we organise for innovators and community leaders.

The full text is also available here.

Sustainable Development and socio-efficiency

5 Jul

GI LogoIn his introduction to the July issue of Quality Times the editor draws attention to the definition of eco-efficiency by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development – “eco- efficiency is achieved by the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life, while progressively reducing ecological impact and resource intensity throughout the life-death cycle, to a level at least in line with the earth’s carrying capacity.”

The editor, Pradeep Chaturvedi,  adds that ‘similar to the concept of eco- efficiency but so far less explored in corporate sustainability is the concept of socio-efficiency, i.e., the relation between a company’s value added and its social impact.  While it can be assumed that corporate impact on environment is usually negative, this may not be true for the social impact. . . .  Both eco-efficiency and socio-efficiency promote economic sustainability of businesses in the long run’.

This neatly introduces a paper by Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas that addresses Environmental Management Challenges and Opportunities for the World Congress in Dehli on 19th/20th of July.  In the context of a world-wide digitalisation of economies, empowerment of citizens, and the disappointments of Rio+20 last year this paper aimed at corporate boardrooms could not be better timed.

The Groupe Intellex summary of Colin’s paper is available here.

 

 

The Sunday Breakfast Review: Seizing Our Destiny

21 Oct

As a follow-up to the NextGen 12 session ‘The rise of the Intelligent City’, our Sunday Breakfast review this week looks at the latest ICF publication – Seizing Our Destiny’.

This  slim volume profiles 7 cities and considers how they have sought to adapt to the challenges of the digital economy.   Instead of drifting with the tide of national economies, these places, their people, their enterprises and institutions, are ‘seizing their destinies’ – finding ways to create local prosperity and solve local social challenges.

This movement towards identifying local initiatives as the key to wider economic revitalisation stands in stark contrast to conventional market sector analysis.

Cities may of course be deserving of special funding to alleviate complex societal and economic challenges (and there are more votes in cities) but all communities – urban or rural – should take note of the need to make a start on adaptation to the digital economy.

Resolving their local ‘digital deficit’ is just a start – it needs several supporting actions – but it is the most obvious platform for rebalancing and revitalising the economy.

Full story here

UPDATE:  (23:00 EST 21 October 2012)  ICF names Smart21 for 2013.

Rio+20: Pressing for a Restart

26 Jun

In this final editorial from the UN Sustainability Summit in Rio we consider the disappointments felt by many participants but also celebrate the digital connectivity that has taken the messages from this event to all corners of the world.

In Marit Hendrik’s compilation of voices from Rio we hear from the UN leadership, from those concerned with their own country’s leadership deficit in environmental matters and those who really understand the need to re-engage with a digitally-empowered and well-connected next generation.

Full story here with video from Marit Hendriks for NextGen TV.