Deepti Kannapan starts in his article dated August 5 by stating: I tried to go zero-waste in 2019 before adding ‘I bought my groceries bulk or package-free whenever I could, carried my own silverware to the work cafeteria, and stopped ordering food delivered to my house.’ Here is that article.
What Can One Person Do to Protect The Environment?
Three things: Innovate, call their Representative, and organize boycotts
Every time I went to a big-chain coffee store I made sure to pointedly ask for my coffee “for here, in a mug” while making eye contact with the cashier and miming holding a mug. Even with all this emphasis, about every one time in twenty I got handed a disposable coffee cup. At this point I’d be torn: that cup is going in the trash no matter what I did; but I dislike the experience of drinking from a disposable coffee cup. I usually ended up asking the barista to pour it into a mug for me.
Eventually, I told my regular barista that I’d quit disposable coffee cups as a new year’s resolution (which it was not). He changed the order and thanked me for making that resolution.
Most people reacted similarly when I told them what I was doing: with admiration, and then backing away by saying they could never do it themselves. Overall, not an encouraging reaction, because I’m not having much impact by myself. I’m just one person out of billions.
Innovate in your household.
My zero-waste experiment in 2019 resulted in a lot of frustration, but that frustration was useful. I deeply understood the difficulties of eschewing disposable cups.
Using this knowledge, I’ve been experimenting with methods to store my reusable cups and workflows for washing and replacing them. I’m hoping to find or develop a cup that’s fun to drink out of, easy to wash, store, and keep dry.
Innovations like this aren’t particularly high-tech or difficult to do, but that is how progress often happens. According to Eric Von Hippel, a professor who studies innovation at MIT,
Every field we look at in terms of the basic innovations, about half were done by users. And it’s fantastic. Companies very seldom mention the user-developed roots of their innovations.
If you’re frustrated by a problem, you’re uniquely qualified to figure out a solution, whether that’s a trash sorting system, a modified water bottle, or durable clothing.
People modifying products to make them do what they want is how we got the mountain bike. Companies often incorporate the modifications users want, as Von Hippel describes.
And then as a lot of people begin to do it, they say, “Aha! Not only is there a proven innovation, but there’s a signal of general demand.” And that’s the point at which you begin to define what a mountain bike should look like.
Participate in the political process.
Innovating helps create the technologies and processes that push the envelope beyond what we already have. Now the question is, will people use them?
They will if you regulate industries and compel them to adapt with the improvements in the state of the art.
Politics is an area where at first glance, it can seem like an individual voter has no influence. I found the idea of getting involved overwhelming. The 2018 election was the first time I participated beyond voting — I canvassed voters, phone banked, and called my Representatives, as often as I felt up to it, and eased my way into greater engagement.
And the results showed me how momentum can build.
Start small. Sign up for a mailing list of an organization like the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, or any group that resonates with you, and keep aware of environment-related bills that are coming up in your state or country.
Then, after a while, when you feel brave enough, call your Member of Congress or whoever represents you win your government, and tell them how you’d like them to vote on it.
I put this last because this is where most people assume you have to start. I am in favor of boycotts, but only when there is enough leverage to give them a chance of success.
Boycotts tend to work by tarnishing a company’s brand. They work best when the company has a good reputation that is sliding, and that it wants to restore. Boycotts don’t need to significantly impact the company’s revenue to succeed.
Most importantly, they need to be well-organized, focused, and strategic. So just buying what you approve of and not buying what you don’t will not have much of an impact.
[…] we have somehow inculcated a belief that if someone fails to boycott a company, she lacks standing to object to political behavior or to petition Congress for change. People feel guilty about not boycotting, and that guilt gets in the way of full-throated political protest.
There’s no need to feel guilty about the products you buy. You can’t boycott every flawed product in the world at once; you wouldn’t be able to live.
It’s a good idea to learn to plan an effective boycott. It starts with choosing the right target — a company that is sensitive to criticism. Done right, boycotts can succeed.
My avoidance of disposable coffee cups probably didn’t cause the coffee shop to order fewer of them. It probably didn’t cause the overall market for disposable cups to decrease, or fewer cups to be manufactured.
That’s okay because my experiment got me thinking bigger — about the possible products we haven’t yet invented, the legislation we need, and the markets and industries as a whole.
It got me thinking about where we have the most leverage. That’s where we are going to act.
On 28 July 2020, Reducing the carbon footprint of concrete production was claimed by an Australian university associated with two civil engineering contractors. This solution could be envisaged for all developments in the MENA region. The image above is of Santiago Calatrava’s auditorium in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands cuts a striking figure against the Atlantic Ocean. Inside the structure, completed by the Spanish architect in 2003, a performance space is enclosed by curving abstract concrete forms. It can be seen as proof of the non-destructibility of all things concrete; it can also be visually as attractive as any other masterpiece of art.
A new manufacturing research project brings together industry technology and engineering experts from UTS, Boral, and Southern Highland Concrete Constructions to develop advanced technology for manufacturing, placing and curing novel ultra-sustainable concrete in Australia.
The two-year project is co-funded by Boral and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) with both organisations investing $770,000 cash into the research as part of an overall $6m investment. The project aims to overcome current technological barriers of low-carbon concrete manufacturing and accelerate the development of Boral’s lower carbon ENVISIA® concrete.
Boral General Manager – Innovation Development, Dr Louise Keyte, says that ENVISIA® already performs as well as conventional concrete while containing a sizable cement replacement, achieved through the inclusion of alternative binders.
Our ambition, through the collaboration with UTS and Southern Highland Concrete Constructions, is to accelerate our research into new binders and develop the next generation of ENVISIA® concrete. We want to push low carbon boundaries even further while maintaining the practical properties of regular concrete.
Low-carbon concrete uses supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) such as ground granulated blast-furnace slag, fly ash and calcined clay as binders, instead of ordinary Portland cement (OPC). OPC is a major contributor to carbon emissions after fossil fuels.
To date, the percentage of SCM in low-carbon concrete products has been limited to 50% to ensure blended concrete meets set workability, durability and strength requirements without demanding specialised high-temperature curing schemes or the use of highly alkaline activators.
The project team led by Professor Vute Sirivivatnanon combines UTS academic knowledge with the experience of Boral’s innovation team.
Our aim is to push the technological boundaries of binder and chemical admixture technology and lift the maximum replacement rate of OCP while maintaining the fresh and early hardened properties of concrete for optimum construction efficiency. In addition, all durability properties critical to the achievement of design life for concrete structures will be optimised to deliver truly sustainable building.
The core research will be undertaken at the UTS Boral Centre for Sustainable Building at UTS Tech Lab in Sydney, where the researchers will develop and test new ultra-sustainable concrete and evaluate the effectiveness of proposed manufacturing approaches to tackle strength development and improve surface finishing techniques.
Once lab-tested, the team will work with Southern Highlands Concrete Construction, a growing SME specialised in placing and curing concrete, to trial the ultra-sustainable concrete on construction sites.
Benjamin Clarke, Managing Director at Southern Highland Concrete Constructions, highlights that low-carbon concrete will be the future of the construction industry.
We are excited to be part of this project, sharing our expertise and techniques to make sure this next generation of low-carbon concrete achieves its desired strength and durability, and can be deployed cost-effectively.
CEO and Managing Director of IMCRC, David Chuter, describes the project as a great example of pushing industry boundaries by investing in research and development to produce new materials and products.
This Australian research collaboration will see Boral, which is at the forefront of low-carbon concrete development, progress an ultra-sustainable concrete that will be the first product of its kind and will lead the way in reducing the carbon footprint of concrete production, domestically and internationally.
, Discover more of Tech Lab’s industry-led research projects
Climate Fund Managers (CFM) and UPC Renewables (UPC) will develop a 30MW Sidi Mansour wind farm in Tunisia. It is reported on African Review of 24 July 2020.
This Sidi Mansour Project is meant to help Tunisia reduce its imports of fossil fuels. It announced earlier on in 2016 the launch of its solar energy plan, to make its electricity generation mix through renewables ten-fold to 30%.
Tunisia boosting renewable energy drive
The project will be one of the first wind independent power producers (IPP) in the country. Climate Fund Managers is participating as co-developer, sponsor, financial advisor and E&S advisor to the project, through the development and construction financing facility under its management, Climate Investor One (CI1).
UPC will lead the development of the project with its local team that will lead land securitisation, permitting, grid connection, wind resource assessment and engineering and procurement contracts.
“We can start the construction of the Sidi Mansour wind farm in 2020, helping stimulate the Tunisian economy, create local jobs and a social plan for local communities while respecting international environmental protection guidelines,” said Brian Caffyn, chairman of the UPC Group.
The Sidi Mansour Wind Project is set to assist Tunisia in meeting its renewable energy goals. “As potentially the first Wind IPP in Tunisia, this project will be a testament to how CI1’s full lifecycle financing solution can unlock investment in renewable energy in new markets,” according to Sebastian Surie, regional head of Africa for CFM.
In January 2019, UPC was selected as one of the four awarded companies under the “Authorisation Scheme” tender for its 30MW Sidi Mansour project in Northern Tunisia and subsequently signed a PPA with Société Tunisienne d’Electricité et du Gaz. Over its lifespan, the Sidi Mansour Project is expected to lead to a reduction of 56,645 tonnes equivalent of carbon and create more than 100 jobs. The total investment size of the project is expected to be approximately US$40mn.
The mission’s journey to its launch date has arguably been at least as remarkable as the launch itself. With no previous domestic space exploration experience, planetary science capacity or suitable infrastructure, the nation managed to put together a delivery team of 100% local, Emirati staff with an average age of under 35. And setting a deadline of six years rather than ten, as most comparable missions do, it pulled the launch off on time and within budget – now proudly joining the small cadre of nations who have launched a mission to reach Mars.
But given these odds and the fact that Mars missions are notorious for their high failure rates (about 30% since the early 2000s), why did the UAE aim for the red planet in the first place? Space programmes have historically been used as catalysts for geopolitical influence. What’s more, we often think of them as costly endeavours of scientific curiosity, with few immediate and tangible benefits here on planet Earth. Does this reflect the UAE journey?
Space missions typically depart trying to answer scientific questions, before they ask how their value can extend to the society behind it. The Hope mission, however, has inverted this traditional logic. Instead, its conception arose from a quest to fundamentally redirect a nation’s trajectory.
The UAE’s mission has been timed to coincide Hope’s arrival into Martian orbit with the nation’s 50th anniversary as an independent country. Through its design and execution, the mission aims to diversify UAE’s economy from traditional activity, including oil and finance. Instead, it wants to inspire a young Arab generation towards scientific and entrepreneurial careers – and away from other, less societally beneficial pathways.
Hope will also study the Martian atmosphere and gather data to generate the first truly holistic model of the planet’s weather system. The analysis and insights generated will help us better understand the atmospheric composition and ongoing climate change of our neighbour planet.
Lessons for aspiring nations
What could other nations learn from this distinctive approach to space exploration? Can a space mission really transform a national economy? These are the questions at the heart of an external review of the Emirates Mars mission undertaken by a group of researchers at the Department for Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy at University College London.
Over the course of five months, we undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the impact and value generated by the mission less than five years after its inception. What we found was that there’s already evidence that the mission is having the intended impact. The country has massively boosted its science capacity with over 50 peer-reviewed contributions to international space science research. The forthcoming open sharing of Hope’s atmospheric data measurements is likely to amplify this contribution.
The nation has also generated significant additional value in logistics by creating new manufacturing capacities and know-how. There are already multiple businesses outside the realm of the space industry that have benefited from knowledge transfer. These are all typical impacts of a space mission.
But while that is where most studies of the value of space missions stop looking for impact, for the UAE this would miss a huge part of the picture. Ultimately, its Mars mission has generated transformative value in building capacity for a fundamentally different future national economy – one with a much stronger role for science and innovation.
Through a broad portfolio of programmes and initiatives, in just a few years the Hope mission has boosted the number of students enrolling in science degrees and helped create new graduate science degree pathways. It has also opened up new sources of funding for research and made science an attractive career.
One of the lessons is therefore that when embedded within a long-term, national strategic vision, space exploration can in the short term generate major benefits close to home. While space may appear to primarily be about missions for science, when designed in this way, they can be missions for national development.
Hope will reach Martian orbit in February 2021. Only then will its scientific mission truly take off. But its message of Hope has already been broadcast.
Not that long ago, people like Abdullah, a young Syrian man who was forced by the ongoing war to drop out of university, would have found it nearly impossible to safely earn a living. But through Edraak, an Arabic platform for open online education launched by the Queen Rania Foundation in Jordan, he gained graphic design and digital marketing skills. Now, he earns a decent living as a freelance remote worker in Jordan.
Amid the dual economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse in oil prices, digital platforms are becoming even more critical to the region’s economy. With schools being closed since March and 4 in 5 workers affected by business closures globally, per International Labor Organization estimates, the shut-down of public life has revved up the need to move to digital, virtual, and remote learning solutions to build skills and ensure opportunities for people to earn a living.
Yet this emergency need is not being met. Moreover, MENA is missing real-time opportunities for digital development. Digital transformation can lead to rapid, sustained growth, but only if countries invest in digital infrastructure and human capital.
The key to success in this changing landscape is a digital skills revolution. While definitions and typologies differ, ‘digital skills’ generally refers to students, workers and people of all ages having and applying competencies, knowledge and attitudes to learn, earn and thrive in digital societies.
Digital skills most commonly comprise a continuum of basic, intermediate or advanced skills; and, as we will discuss in our next blog on competencies, they may alsorefer to a range of different abilities, many of which are not only ‘skills’ per se, but a combination of behaviors, expertise, know-how, work habits, character traits, dispositions and critical understandings.
As laid out by the International Telecommunication Union, Basic Skills are the general ICT skills required “broadly for all workers, consumers and citizens in a digital society” — such as word processing or researching online. Building on that foundation, Intermediate Skills are “effectively job-ready skills needed to perform more complicated work-related functions” such as social media marketing or e-commerce. Advanced or ‘Specialist’ Skills, which “form the basis of specialist occupations and professions,” are necessary to test, analyze, manage, or create digitally based products or services. These advance skills are needed to harness technology to resolve complex problems, guide others such as policymakers, contribute to professional practices, and propose new innovative ideas to advance economic development.
Skills are the supply side of digital labor markets; jobs are the demand side. Digital or ICT work can be conceived in three terms: enhanced, dependent, intensive. Some jobs are enhanced by digital tools, whereas with others — such as Internet freelancing or call centers — technology is fundamental to the work. Digitally intensive work — such as machine learning or app development — requires more specialist and advanced skills.
While data is sparse and likely not as up-to-date as the pace of change, we have learned important baseline details about the digital skills match — or mismatch — in MENA’s digital labor market. There is a shortage of digital human capital in MENA, marked by skills and information gaps. For example, in its 2017Future of Work study, McKinsey found that across the region, only 1.7% of the workforce is ‘digital talent.’ In their last 2017 skills survey of the region, Bayt/YouGov, a leading jobs website in MENA, revealed that IT jobs are among the top open positions, evidence of an acute talent and skills shortage in the region.
The Gulf countries are arguably the most advanced in terms of digital transformation. Yet, GCC countries still have a significant digital skills gap. In a 2020 survey by PwC of CEOs in the Middle East, 70% said the availability of key digital skills is a business threat, and an earlier 2017 study found that only one of the 10 skills most commonly cited by digital professionals in the GCC matches the fastest-growing skills found globally on LinkedIn. Furthermore, none of the top 10 available skills in the GCC is a technical or specific digital skill.
In this blog series, MENA Digital Directions, we will analyze and compare digital skills competence frameworks, discuss how to build digital skills across the educational pipeline, explore the role of the private sector and identify digital opportunities for women, youth and refugees. With a thorough understanding of the digital landscape and the right investments in digital infrastructure and skills, countries can ensure that more young people like Abdullah have a chance for a brighter, more connected future.
Space is rapidly becoming a new domain for Middle Eastern states to project their power and vie for leadership in the region. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a case in point, with a mission to Mars to be launched this week. A national countdown to July 15 is meant to excite Emiratis and Arabs in general, for it marks the first time an Arab state launches a mission into outer space.
The Emirati government has named its Mars Mission Hope Probe, coloring it with a pan-Arab sentiment. The mission invokes past Arab Islamic achievements in the sciences and incites Arabs to maintain that spirit. There is no shortage of nationalist fervor, either. The UAE has timed the completion of its mission before the 50th anniversary of the federation’s founding in December 2021. It has also tied it to its 100-year goal of establishing a human colony on Mars by 2117.
The UAE has been marketing this science-driven apolitical Arab narrative of hope, but its space policy is more than that. It aims to reinforce its newfound regional power status and align the Middle East’s geopolitical order to its advantage. It has also, by default, ushered in a regional space race, something relatively novel in the Middle East. The UAE’s ability to complete its Mars Mission, and how this factors into its activist foreign policy, will determine the degree to which the UAE transforms itself and the region in the process.
Though the Israeli space program is the oldest in the region, it has not been a priority for Israel. That is not the case with Dubai, which founded the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in 2006. The center was expanded by the federal government in 2014 with the creation of the UAE Space Agency. Knowing that it does not have the expertise, the UAE partnered with three U.S. academic institutions to jointly design and build its mission to Mars. The Emiratis assembled a team to support their effort, with an average age of below 35, a third of whom are women, headed by a young female minister tasked with advancing science. These steps reflected the UAE’s branding of itself as a champion of youth and women, while marketing this enterprise as an international collaboration that included manufacturing in the United States and a launch from Japan.
Other than Israel, Iran has also been active regionally in space. Its international collaboration has not been as intense as the UAE’s. Yet Iran has been producing satellites since establishing the Iran Space Agency in 2004, making it the second space state in the region. It has also sent animals into space, and launched a military satellite last April. Tehran’s early collaboration with Russia and China paid off with its first locally built satellite in 2009, which it named Omid, or Hope, the same name the Emiratis chose for their Mars mission.
The UAE is not the first Arab state to show an interest in space. Saudi Arabia led a pan-Arab effort in 1976 to establish the satellite operator Arabsat. The Saudis also produced the first Arab astronaut, Prince Sultan bin Salman. His participation in a mission of the space shuttle Discovery in 1985 was to be followed by a Saudi space policy, but this was put on hold after the crash of the Challenger.
By venturing into this domain, the UAE wants to position itself in a field long occupied by regional adversaries such as Israel and Iran. Emirati thinking is focused on differentiating the UAE from others and advancing its own agenda despite challenges. The UAE has much to gain if its mission to Mars succeeds—a feat only accomplished by the United States, the former Soviet Union, India, and the European Space Agency. Space is the Emiratis’ next convenient card to raise their country’s standing. Doing this would allow the UAE to bolster its post-2011 rise as a middle power in a region whose traditional centers—Egypt, Iraq, and Syria—have waned. This would grant the UAE an increasing say on thorny regional issues, such as peace with Israel, a nuclear deal with Iran, the Yemen conflict, and the dispute within the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The UAE’s actions in space have not gone unnoticed in the region. Saudi Arabia and Turkey created space agencies days apart in December 2018. Egypt joined the club soon thereafter in August 2019. Not wanting to allow this moment of regional attention to space to go to waste, the UAE established the first pan-Arab Space Coordination Group in 2019. It brought together eleven Arab states whose first goal is to develop “813,” a satellite to monitor earth named after the year in which the famed Arab House of Knowledge reached its peak upon Al-Ma’mun’s ascension to the caliphate. However, paying homage to Arab history did not mean the UAE would avoid standing out. It left for itself the more high-profile feat of a Mars exploration mission, while leaving the less ambitious goal of building a satellite to the Arab conglomerate.
Arabs and their neighbors have historically set their sights on the sea and land for sustenance. Now, space offers a new arena for potential development, competition, and conflict. For the UAE, its ability to shape regional geopolitics to its advantage is filled with hazards, especially with its risky foreign interventions. If successful, its space program can offset some of these risks and provide a chance for a UAE-centric worldview to prevail in an ever-changing Middle East.More on:
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