A sense of ‘purpose’ is the driving force behind our interactions with the world. As we rebuild from a global health crisis, the importance of individual purpose and the expression of our combined societal values, is under the spotlight. We are becoming more aware of our interdependence with nature, and the impact of our actions on the urgent challenges of the planet. Hence, the need to incorporate ‘sustainability’ is a necessity rather than a trending fad.
Resonating with sustainable development
Sustainability is crucial to meeting our needs today, without hampering the capacity of future generations to meet theirs. Only by truly understanding the meaning and relevance of sustainability in our lives and for the planet we live on, can we implement positive change. Today, the world is facing several critical challenges and global leaders are seeking solutions through sustainable development.
The UN has outlined 17 sustainable development goals for 2030, with education high on the priority list after ‘No Poverty’, ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘Good Health and Well Being’. In fact, education is a widely acknowledged solution to achieving these core goals. As such, access to quality higher education is rendered a basic right for young individuals to grow into responsible, ethical and knowledgeable citizens.
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
The UNESCO roadmap, ESD for 2030, sheds more light on the role of education for sustainable development and urges people to consider if what they are learning is truly relevant to their lives, and will contribute to Earth’s survival. In India, the NEP 2020 has highlighted the need to reconfigure the entire education system to foster learning methodologies, in line with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. When held to high standards, education can encourage the development of conscious, ethical leaders and mitigate future misconduct.
ESD incorporates critical environmental issues such as climate change and geographical changes into core subjects such as math, science, and art, and prompts institutions to revise learning cycles and applications. The aim of this initiative is for students to relate what they learn in the classroom to their real-life actions, meaning they are better equipped to change behaviours early in life and embrace sustainable lifestyles.
The Role of Quality Education in ESD
There is a continuous and massive exchange of knowledge today, thanks to dynamic social media and content tools. However, this is not a substitute for a quality education, which not everyone has access to. Quality education goes beyond conducting and attending classes traditionally, to encompass a purposeful learning plan intended to prepare learners’ participation in a global society. It should equip them with the technical and interpersonal skills needed to make informed decisions, and take responsible actions for their own long-term development as well as the communities at large.
If quality education is the answer to global sustainability problems, how do we unlock its potential?
The toolbox to get there
There is significant responsibility on educators as they apply best-in-class pedagogical practices with sustainable learning goals in mind. Education for Sustainable Development is indeed a tough challenge to address within a fixed number of classes and assessments, but thankfully, there are tools at hand to help tackle it.
To achieve sustainable development goals, it is essential to adapt learning methodologies for the future of work and education. Global universities are realising the importance of curating a responsive curriculum that seeks to instil essential attributes that empower students to grow, emerging skill sets required to secure a job, and an appreciation of how their actions impact the environment and humanity.
Quality education is supported by accurate and meaningful assessment practices that lead to higher-order thinking and a deep understanding of concepts. Academic integrity tools, including online platforms, empower educators and students to uphold this fundamental vision by curbing behaviours that undermine learning. For example, students involved in contract cheating or academic plagiarism rob themselves of true learning and widen future knowledge gaps. Using academic integrity tools to check the originality of student work pre and post submission, helps to identify this intentional cheating and address skills gaps, towards better learning outcomes.
Time-saving, technology-assisted grading solutions help educators improve grading efficiency and consistency, to spend more time on teaching. They facilitate transparent feedback while identifying knowledge gaps early on, to scaffold student learning. That way, both students and teachers are aligned on expectations and the progress of learning objectives. Furthermore, educators can harness these tools to identify patterns in students’ assessment performance to adjust their own instruction and help shape the future curriculum.
Quality education paves the way for a more sustainable future, while simultaneously elevating student success and development across the board. Designing a responsive education strategy is key to achieving this. One that is transparent includes sufficient training and decision support, and is centred on applied learning in the classroom, will deliver the key sustainability outcomes the world needs.
(The image above is of Jamesteohart / Shutterstock)
Today, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) have become big business. Throughout the 2020s, Harvard Business Review estimates that these technologies will add $13 trillion to the global economy, impacting virtually every sector in the process.
One of the biggest drivers of the value-add provided by AI/ML will come from smart cities: cities that leverage enhancements in such technologies to deliver improved services for citizens. Smart cities promise to provide data-driven decisions for essential public services like sanitation, transportation, and communications. In this way, they can help improve the quality of life for both the general public and public sector employees, while also reducing environmental footprints and providing more efficient and more cost-effective public services.
Whether it be improved traffic flow, better waste collection practices, video surveillance, or maintenance schedules for infrastructure – the smart city represents a cleaner, safer, and more affordable future for our urban centers. But realizing these benefits will require us to redefine our approach towards networking, data storage, and the systems underpinning and connecting both. To capitalize on the smart city paradigm, we’ll need to adopt a new and dynamic approach to computing and storage.
Providing bottomless storage for the urban environment
In practice, the smart city will require the use of vast arrays of interconnected devices, whether it be sensors, networked vehicles, and machinery for service delivery. These will all generate an ever-growing quantity and variety of data that must be processed and stored, and made accessible to the rest of the smart city’s network for both ongoing tasks and city-wide analytics. While a smart city may not need access to all the relevant data at once, there’s always the possibility of historic data needing to be accessed on recall to help train and calibrate ML models or perform detailed analytics.
All of this means that a more traditional system architecture that processes data through a central enterprise data center – whether it be on-premise or cloud – can’t meet the scaling or performance requirements of the smart city.
This is because, given its geographic removal from the places where data is generated and used, a centralized store can’t be counted on to provide the rapid and reliable service that’s needed for smart city analytics or delivery. Ultimately, the smart city will demand a decentralized approach to data storage. Such a decentralized approach will enable data from devices, sensors, and applications that serve the smart city to be analyzed and processed locally before being transferred to an enterprise data center or the cloud, reducing latency and response times.
To achieve the cost-effectiveness needed when operating at the scale of data variety and volume expected of a smart city, they’ll need access to “bottomless clouds”: storage arrangements where prices per terabyte are so low that development and IT teams won’t need to worry about the costs of provisioning for smart city infrastructure. This gives teams the ability to store all the data they need without the stress of draining their budget, or having to arbitrarily reduce the data pool they’ll be able to draw from for smart city applications or analytics.
Freeing up resources for the smart city with IaaS
Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is based around a simple principle: users should only pay for the resources they actually use. When it comes to computing and storage resources, this is going to be essential to economically deliver on the vision of the smart city, given the ever-expanding need for provisioning while also keeping down costs within the public sector.
For the smart city in particular, IaaS offers managed, on-demand, and secure edge computing and storage services. IaaS will furnish cities with the components needed to deliver on their vision – whether it be storage, virtualization environments, or network structures. Through being able to scale up provisioning based on current demand while also removing the procurement and administrative burden of handling the actual hardware to a specialist third party, smart cities can benefit from economies of scale that have underpinned much of the cloud computing revolution over the past decade.
In fact, IaaS may be the only way to go, when it comes to ensuring that the data of the smart city is stored and delivered in a reliable way. While handling infrastructure in-house may be tempting from a security perspective, market competition between IaaS providers incentivizes better service provision from all angles, whether customer experience, reliability and redundancy, or the latest standards in security.
Delivering the smart city is a 21st century necessity
The world’s top cities are already transforming to keep up with ever-expanding populations and in turn their ever-expanding needs. Before we know it, various sectors of urban life will have to be connected through intelligent technology to optimize the use of shared resources – not because we want to, but because we need to.
Whether it be a question of social justice, fiscal prudence, or environmental conscience, intelligently allocating and using the resources of the city is the big question facing our urban centers in this century. But the smart city can only be delivered through a smart approach to data handling and storage. Optimizing a city’s cloud infrastructure and guaranteeing cost-effective and quality provisioning through IaaS will be essential to delivering on the promise of the smart city, and thus meet some of our time’ most pressing challenges.
David Friend is the co-founder and CEO of Wasabi Technologies, a revolutionary cloud storage company. David’s first company, ARP Instruments developed synthesizers used by Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and even helped Steven Spielberg communicate with aliens providing that legendary five-note communication in Close Encounters of the ThirdKind. Friend founded or co-founded five other companies: Computer Pictures Corporation – an early player in computer graphics, Pilot Software – a company that pioneered multidimensional databases for crunching large amounts of customer data, Faxnet – which became the world’s largest provider of fax-to-email services, Sonexis – a VoIP conferencing company, and immediately prior to Wasabi, what is now one of the world’s leading cloud backup companies, Carbonite. David is a respected philanthropist and is on the board of Berklee College of Music, where there is a concert hall named in his honor, serves as president of the board of Boston Baroque, an orchestra and chorus that has received 7 Grammy nominations. An avid mineral and gem collector he donated Friend Gem and Mineral Hall at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. David graduated from Yale and attended the Princeton University Graduate School of Engineering where he was a David Sarnoff Fellow.
Ahmad Al-Rousan, Secretary-General of the Arab Union for Cement and Building Materials (AUCBM), provides an overview of the challenges facing the cement industry in the MENA region.
It is a fact that the cement industry of the MENA region has, for the most part, fairly recent origins, with some exceptions being small scale and limited productivity operations in countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Syria.
Since the mid-1970s, the cement industry across the Arab world began to expand as demand for construction and infrastructure in these countries grew. At present, the number of companies and factories in operation has reached 171, with 32 additional cement mills. Design capacity for the region has thus reached 355 million tpy.
In recent years, prior to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for cement fell in several Arab countries as a result of difficult economic conditions and war; a number of factories were shut down or destroyed, and some projects were suspended or postponed. Currently, Egypt and Saudi Arabia lead the region in terms of factory numbers and production capacity. Cement consumption also declined during 2018 and 2019 in the GCC countries, across North Africa, Jordan, and Lebanon at rates ranging from 1.5% to 17%.
With the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020, measures such as factory closures and the halting of operations were seen across the world, including the MENA region, which lead to significant declines in both production and demand, with the decrease in demand exceeding 39%.
With a view to ensuring that factories continue to operate at an acceptable rate while maintaining preventive measures, AUCBM has circulated a roadmap that details the health measures to be taken in order to maintain the continuity of production. Many factories managed to endure this epidemic and have resumed their operations. Some countries recorded growth in consumption during the second half of 2020, such as Saudi Arabia, where sales increased by more than 20%.
In addition to the above, the challenges facing the cement industry of the Arab world can, at this stage, be summarised as follows:
Some of the measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic still constitute an obstacle to factories, especially those involving reductions in the number of workers on site.
The tough economic conditions faced by many Arab countries and the suspension or postponement of numerous planned projects (especially in the GCC countries), though the execution phase of some of these projects has already started this year.
Decreased market demand for cement, occurring naturally as a result of the difficult economic conditions and ongoing conflict in the region.
Security problems and ongoing conflicts in some countries.
Recent expansions of cement factories in some countries created large production surpluses, which were compounded by the fact that some countries already export cement (Algeria and Saudi Arabia, for example).
The increase of cement consumption in the MENA region, primarily requires the existence of construction and infrastructure projects, which the Arab world still needs. It is true that modest consumption growth has been recorded in some countries since mid-2020, but these rates continue to fluctuate due to the absence of constant and continuous projects.
The panel, “Cleaning up the Power Sector,” was moderated by Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy at Data for Progress, a think tank.
Scientists believe that achieving net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 is crucial.
“This is what physicists tell us is necessary to prevent — not global warming; it’s too late for that — but global warming at a scale that will cut civilization off at the knees,” said longtime climate activist and author Bill McKibben, a distinguished scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College.
Clean electricity is a solution, panelists said.
“Seventy-five percent of our carbon problem right now can be solved through clean electricity and electrification,” said Leah Stokes, co-host of the “Matter of Degrees” podcast and an associate professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. “We can use clean electricity to power our homes, our cars, even about half of heavy industry.”
“It’s pretty much a miracle that we’re now at a place where the cheapest way to produce power on planet Earth is to point a sheet of glass at the sun,” McKibben agreed.
We’re now at a place where the cheapest way to produce power on planet Earth is to point a sheet of glass at the sun.
Bill McKibben, Co-founder, 350.org
Yet despite the rise of solar and wind power and the transition away from coal-fired power and natural gas, we’re not moving fast enough.
“Thanks to policy investments over the last decade, we have a toolset available of mature technologies that [are] cheap and ready to scale, including wind and solar power,” said Jesse Jenkins, a macro-scale energy systems engineer and assistant professor at Princeton University. “But we need to be smashing records for the deployment of these energy technologies every year for the rest of our lives.”
How to hit that goal? Panelists identified a way forward — one built on technology and policy and powered by human resolve.
The willpower to divest fully …
Solar and wind power have become cost-effective for a reason: advocacy. Panelists noted that the cost of wind has dropped by approximately two-thirds and the cost of solar power and lithium-ion batteries has fallen as well over the past decade.
“That’s not an accident. That was due to public policy — and that public policy was due to pressure from activists and from advocates, and from public interest groups,” said Jenkins.
That advocacy and involvement will have to scale up massively to reach the 2050 goal, particularly in regards to phasing out the use of fossil fuels.
“Even with [clean] technology available, the hardest thing that humans have ever done, acting with enormous unity, is at every turn [to] keep trying to break the vested interest of the fossil fuel industry and utilities,” McKibben said.
We have to stop using fossil fuels, and we have to stop building any new fossil fuel infrastructure of any variety.
Leah Stokes, Associate professor, UC Santa Barbara
This requires sustained grassroots efforts, such as the anti-fossil-fuel organization 350.org, which McKibben cofounded in 2008.
McKibben cited in particular “the young people around the world rallying around figures like Greta Thunberg,” and said it’s time for high-profile groups to follow suit and publicly renounce fossil fuels — including institutes of higher learning.
“The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is looking a little naked in this regard. Its neighbor Harvard, and its neighbor across the bridge Boston University, have now divested. … It’s time for MIT to pay attention to the physics department and stop trying to profit off climate change, too,” McKibben said.
Stokes called for a “paradigm shift” away from the idea that efficiency can sufficiently mitigate the effects of burning fossil fuels.
“For a long time, we thought if you get a Prius, that’s good enough. If you get a high-efficiency gas furnace, that’s good enough. And what we know now is that it’s not good enough,” Stokes said. “We have to stop using fossil fuels, and we have to stop building any new fossil fuel infrastructure of any variety.”
… and to buildfuriously
Achieving net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 is about more than stopping fossil fuels; it requires formidable innovation — and infrastructure — to replace it.
On the technology side, that includes the development of improved hydrogen production, ways to produce steel without emissions, and negative-emissions technologies such as bioenergy, Jenkins said.
On the policy side, advocates and policymakers need the fortitude to commit not just to fossil fuel divestiture, but to building new infrastructure.
It’s all too easy for well-intentioned people to say ‘no’ to [a] project without understanding that we have to say ‘yes’ to something, somewhere.
Jesse Jenkins, Assistant professor, Princeton University
“We have to shift this whole country into a mode of infrastructure-building that we haven’t seen in my life,” said Jenkins, who said the U.S. is living off of the fruits of the 20th-century investments in highways, cities, and power systems “that really petered out in the 1970s.”
“That has to fundamentally change if we’re going to build a net-zero emissions economy,” Jenkins said, which requires building wind and solar at more than twice the average pace over the next decade and doubling (or tripling) the total amount of transmission capacity in the country to support electrification over the next 30 years.
“It’s a challenge for environmental activists and others who are organizing. We’re very good at stopping things. Now we have to figure out how to accelerate and support the growth of substantial amounts of infrastructure,” Jenkins said.
New projects of this enormity require stakeholder buy-in on a regional scale.
“If we just go project by project, and we leave it to a private company to navigate where the wind project goes or where the transmission line goes, it’s all too easy for them to fumble that,” Jenkins said. “And it’s all too easy for well-intentioned people to say ‘no’ to that project without understanding that we have to say ‘yes’ to something, somewhere.”
Stokes said, “We need businesses right now to be calling up their congressmen, calling up their senators and saying, ‘We want you to actually do this. We want you to act on climate change and act on investing in American families.’”
Policy is key
Stokes visualizes progress along what she calls a “narwhal curve” to track clean energy deployment.
“We need to be getting upward of four or five percentage points if we want to get to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, which is what President Biden campaigned on and won on and is trying to legislate on currently,” she said.
McKibben called Biden’s agenda the “first serious climate legislation” to arrive on the Hill.
A key component, currently held up by opposition from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, is the Clean Electricity Performance Program, a proposed government incentive for utilities to receive grants if they deploy clean power at the necessary pace and scale, without a burden on consumers.
“That’s really important because it means that everyday customers who are paying their electricity bills are not going to carry the costs of this transition — the federal government is going to help make electricity bills cheaper while doing this clean energy deployment,” Stokes said.
On the flip side, utilities that don’t move quickly enough would pay a penalty. “It’s not about making bad, dirty stuff more expensive — it’s about making cheap, good, clean stuff cheaper,” Stokes said.
“If you look at the bill in Congress right now, it is our best opportunity to dramatically accelerate that feedback cycle … by primarily investing in the growth of clean energy technologies and driving and accelerating trends that really are already underway,” Jenkins said.
These include investing in electric vehicles, including rebates and tax credits for consumers, as well as investment in electric vehicle manufacturing and carbon capture technologies.
How Stuff work produced this illuminating article on how Space Architects Will Help Us Live and Work Among the Stars cannot go noticed. Hence it is republishing here.
Above is this rendering showing another view of Team SEArch+/Apis Cor’s Mars habitat. The unique shape allows for continuous reinforcement of the structure and allows light to enter through trough-shaped ports on the sides and top. TEAM SEARCH+/APIS COR/NASA
Space Architects Will Help Us Live and Work Among the Stars
If you’re of the Elon Musk mindset and think that humans, to survive, will have to become a multiplanetary species, we’re going to need a place to live and work. Out there. In space. On other planets.
We’re going to need somebody — a lot of somebodies, really — to build us houses and apartment buildings and offices and space Walmarts and modes of transportation to haul us between all those places. Heck, we’re going to have to build a lot of places to do everything we do here on our rapidly decaying home planet.00:17/01:43
We’ll need architects. A lot of them. We’ll need a different type of architect, to be sure, for our ventures into space. We’ll need … space architects.
Luckily, that’s already a thing.
The Idea Behind Space Architecture
Olga Bannova doesn’t carry a business card that reads “Space Architect,” though she admits that would be pretty awesome. Instead, Bannova’s title (or one of them) is director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) — it’s been a thing since the late 1980s — in the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering. SICSA is home to the world’s only space architecture graduate program. A diploma nets you a Master of Science in Space Architecture.
It’s not a huge program yet, churning out only a few graduates every year. It is, like much of the whole idea of multiplanetary expansion, an emerging field.
But for those who believe that our very existence relies on someday moving to a different galactic neighborhood, space architecture has us covered. It is, in a very real way, simply the latest exploratory mission away from Mother Earth.
“You can’t stay in your house forever and think that somehow everything else will be the same … everything is changing, including our Earth, including us, including the solar system, including the galaxy. It’s all changing and moving,” Bannova says. “That’s why it’s important. It’s mostly about understanding more about ourselves.”
What Is Space Architecture, Really?
Space architecture, really, is just what it sounds like. Bannova heads an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) committee, the Space Architecture Technical Committee (SATC) that concentrates specifically on the field. The SATC, on the site spacearchitect.org — if it has an internet site, you know it’s a thing — describes it like this:Space Architecture is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space (it encompasses architectural design of living and working environments in space related facilities, habitats, and vehicles). These environments include, but are not limited to: space vehicles, stations, habitats and lunar, planetary bases and infrastructures; and earth based control, experiment, launch, logistics, payload, simulation and test facilities.
Space architects, then, are charged with designing buildings and houses and offices and a whole bunch of other stuff that humans need to survive — those interstellar Walmarts, perhaps — both here and in space plus devising ways to get between them. All this, not for nothing, while dealing with problems that Earthbound architects don’t even dream about. Don’t need to dream about. Maybe can’t dream about.
Say, for example, a lack of oxygen or atmosphere. Weather patterns that make our current climate-change problems look like a calm day at a sunny beach. A lack of sunlight. Too much sunlight. Microgravity.
A lack of material to build what you need. Or no way to ship material that you need to where you need it. Or no way to get it there in a timely way, considering the vast distances between points in space.
It’s not hard to imagine the problems that space architects will face, now and in the future. It’s not hard to imagine, either that we can’t even begin to imagine some of the challenges they’ll be up against.
Carving out a space in space for our species to continue is a huge undertaking, perhaps the most audacious ever for mankind. It must be what the possibility of flying to the moon — of human flight at all — must have felt like to Galileo.
But, yeah, we knocked those out, didn’t we?
The Challenges Ahead
Identifying the multitude of challenges in our move into space, thinking them through, and realizing that so many have yet to be recognized is a sizable part of what space architects now, and space architects in the future, must do. The field cries out for critical thinkers who have an understanding (if not necessarily a doctorate-level degree) in a multitude of specialties; not only architecture and its different branches, but the different areas in engineering (industrial, aerospace, systems and aeronautical, to name a few), physics, geometry, mathematics, logistics, computer science, human biology and many more.
In meta terms, architecture embraces both art and science. It addresses how we build, how we live, in the space we inhabit. You don’t build a library without figuring out how we move about it, where the books go, where the light comes in.
If our living space is to become outer space — a habitable space that humans have been learning about, up close, for at least 20 years — well, we better start cracking the books.
What’s a habitat on Mars to look like? How do winds there affect what you build? What about gravity? How do you construct a farm, if one can be built, with the radiation of another planetary body beaming down? How do we build living quarters on a ship that may take decades to get where it’s going? How can we make sure that a flying habitat flies?
What can we learn by building these habitats on some of the less-hospitable areas of Earth? How can what we learn help us while we’re still here?
You want to be a space architect? Get yourself a planet-sized toolbox.
“Space architecture is not for the technically timid. To play this game, one needs to educate oneself about the harsh realities of life beyond Earth, and the science and technology for fashioning habitable bubbles in deadly environments,” Theodore Hall, a former chairperson of the SATC and an extended reality software developer at the University of Michigan, said back in 2014. “Only then is one prepared to stand toe-to-toe with the engineers and strive for architectural aesthetics that treat the human as more than a deterministic biochemical subsystem of a soulless machine.”
Those still interested in space architecture — and, again, we’re going to need a lot of forward-thinkers to sign up — shouldn’t be intimidated, though. Plenty of problems are there to be faced, certainly, and it will take all kinds to determine how our species can best live away from home.
Problems in finding a new home among the stars? Space architects are on the job.
“It’s impossible to predict everything, in space especially. It’s hard to design some close-to-perfect habitat even on Earth,” says Bannova, who carries an undergraduate degree from the Moscow Architectural Institute, dual masters degrees (in architecture and space architecture, both from UH) and a doctorate from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology. “We have more questions than answers. It’s the nature of the profession. But it gives you an opportunity to see and decide for yourself where your passion is.”
Originally posted on Pandaemonium: Josephine Baker poster This essay, on Josephine Baker, Éric Zemmour and universalism in French politics, was my Observer column this week. It was published on 5 December 2021, under the headline “How can a country that hails Josephine Baker take the racist Zemmour seriously?” “How does it feel to be a white man?”…
Tunisia is the country with the highest rate of erosion for eroding sections, which are losing 2.4 meter a year on average, causing an estimated annual asset destruction cost amounting to the equivalent of 2.8% of the country’s GDP
By Joanna Allan, Northumbria University, Newcastle Morocco has positioned itself as a global leader in the fight against climate change, with one of the highest-rated national action plans. But though the north African country intends to generate half its electricity from renewables by 2030, its plans show that much of this energy will come from […]
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