What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube

What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube

 

The above-featured image is about the ocean producing 50% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming, and is the main source of protein for a billion people around the world. Credit: IPS

What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube that Keeps them Alive

By Baher Kamal

MADRID, Jun 7 2022 (IPS– Imagine a patient connected to a vital oxygen device to keep him or her breathing, thus alive. Then, imagine what would happen if this patient unplugged it. This is exactly what humans have been doing with the source of at least 50% of the whole Planet’s oxygen: the oceans.

But oceans do not only provide half of all the oxygen needed. They also absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming while alleviating its consequences on human health and that of all natural resources.

The carbon — and heat– sink

The world’s oceans capture 90% of the additional heat generated from those emissions.

In short, they are not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink.

The ocean is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world.

And over three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, the vast majority in developing countries.

Oceans also serve as the foundation for much of the world’s economy, supporting sectors from tourism to fisheries to international shipping.

Nevertheless…

Despite being the life source that supports humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on Earth, oceans are facing unprecedented real threats as a result of human activity.

While providing the above facts, this year’s World Oceans Day (8 June) warns about some of the major damages caused by human activities, which devastate this source of life and livelihood.

This report is also based on data from several specialised organisations, such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), among others, as well as a number of global conservation bodies, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Too many causes. And a major one

Oceans as dumping sites: There are several major threats leading to suffocating the world’s lungs.

Such is the case –for example, of overfishing, illegal fishing and ghost fishing–, human activities have been transforming world’s oceans into a giant dumping site: untreated wastewater; poisonous chemicals; electronic waste; oil spills, petrol leaks, oil refineries near rivers and coastal areas, ballast waters, invasive species, and a very long etcetera.

Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

Plastic

Of all these, plastic appears as one of the major sources of harm to oceans. See the following data:

As much as 75 to 199 million tons of plastic are currently found in our oceans.

Unless the world changes the way how to produce, use and dispose of plastic, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple from 9-14 million tonnes per year in 2016 to a projected 23-37 million tonnes per year by 2040.

How does it get there? A lot of it comes from the world’s rivers, which serve as direct conduits of trash into lakes and the ocean.

In fact, around 1.000 rivers are accountable for nearly 80% of global annual riverine plastic emissions into the ocean, which range between 0.8 and 2.7 million tons per year, with small urban rivers amongst the most polluting.

Plastic everywhere: Wherever you look and whatever you see, buy and use, there is plastic: food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, stirrers, cosmetics, lunch boxes, ballpoints, and thousands of other products.

Cigarette butts: Then you have the case of cigarette butts, whose filters contain tiny plastic fibres, being the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment.

Today, the world produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste … every year.

Plastic addiction: Such human dependence on plastic has been steadily increasing. Since the 1970s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material. If historic growth trends continue, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1.100 million tonnes by 2050.

“Our seas are choking with plastic waste, which can be found from the remotest atolls to the deepest ocean trenches,” reminds the United Nations chief António Guterres.

Fossil fuel: As importantly, some 98% of single-use plastic products are produced from fossil fuel, or “virgin” feedstock. The level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics is forecast to grow to 19% of the global carbon budget by 2040.

Mare Nostrum: This small, semi-closed sea –the Mediterranean is considered as one of the most affected regional seas by marine litter.

In fact, the annual plastic leakage is estimated at 229.000 tons, 94% of which consist of macroplastics. Plastics constitute around 95% of waste in the open sea, both on the seabed and on beaches across the Mediterranean.

COVID-19: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) February 2022 publication: Global Plastics Outlook reports that the increase in the use of protective personal equipment and single-use plastics has exacerbated plastic littering on land and in marine environments, with negative environmental consequences.

Rivers: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that, flowing through America’s heartland, the Mississippi River drains 40% of the continental United States – creating a conduit for litter to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately, the ocean.

Data collected through the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative shows that more than 74 per cent of the litter catalogued in pilot sites along the river is plastic.

Electronic waste: should all this not be enough, please also know that the world produces 50 million tons of e-waste, a portion of it ends up in the ocean.

Ghost fishing

According to an October 2020 report released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and authored by Alexander Nicolas, more than 12 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s seas every year.

Fishing gear accounts for roughly 10% of that debris: between 500.000 to 1 million tons of fishing gear are discarded or lost in the ocean every year. Discarded nets, lines, and ropes now make up about 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Alexander Nicolas explains.

This marine plastic has a name: ghost fishing gear.

“Ghost fishing gear includes any abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear, much of which often goes unseen.

“Ghost fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine plastic as it un-selectively catches wildlife, entangling marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and sharks, subjecting them to a slow and painful death through exhaustion and suffocation. Ghost fishing gear also damages critical marine habitats such as coral reefs.”

Overfishing

Overfishing is yet another major damage caused to the world’s oceans threatening the stability of fish stocks; nutrient pollution is contributing to the creation of “dead zones.”

Currently, 90% of big fish populations have been depleted, as humans are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing: A fugitive activity that further adds to the abusive overfishing, causing the depletion of 11–26 million tons of fish… each year.

IPS article The Big Theft of the Fish provides extensive information about these two major activities that deplete the oceans vital natural resources.

Untreated wastewater is another example of the damage made by humans to the oceans.

It has been reported that around 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged without treatment, a big portion of it ends up in the oceans.

The oceans in a conference

All the above facts –and many more– are on the agenda of the United Nations Ocean Conference 2022 (27 June- 1 July), organised in Lisbon and co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal.

According to its organisers, the Conference seeks to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action. Cross your fingers!

 

Bahrain deploys e-paper displays to increase sustainability

Bahrain deploys e-paper displays to increase sustainability

Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business

Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business

Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business
Planet Smart City announces plans for more than 50 smart projects in three years
Planet Smart City collaboration to help create 15,000 housing units in India
Planet Smart City’s ‘operating system’ vision for affordable housing
Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’

Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’

Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’ as explained by Dr B K Mukhopadhyay and Dr Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay in The Sentinel is a simple and easy way out of the current difficult conjecture of human-induced deterioration of planet earth’s natural potentialities. Masdar City pictured above is a good example of what is put forward here.

Investing in creative talent for innovative ‘smart cities’

”If man and machine work side by side, which one will make the decisions?” Smart cities essentially combine data and digital technology aiming to make faster and better decisions to improve the quality of life. Well-rounded, comprehensive, real-time data open up the opportunity to observe, plan, and project events as they unfold while understanding how demand patterns and behavioural changes occur; and, finally to respond speedily with low-risk and lower-cost solutions.

Smart city plans are now part of core discussions when it comes to planning, forecasting, and resource allocation by municipal leaders globally. It is interesting that after almost two decades of awareness and recognition of the concept of smart cities, there is less misunderstanding around the fact that smartness is beyond simply installing digital interfaces in existing infrastructure or streamlining city operations. Once again, the purpose of smart cities is to be able to make better decisions using a wide range of information and improve quality of life and well-being.

By 2050, projections show that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas while the number of megacities will double. In other words, about 7 of 9.8 billion people are projected to live in urban areas by 2050. For India, studies show that the projection would be 52.84% while it’s 80% for China. There are some disagreements between the UN and other researchers in regards to different projected numbers for Africa.

When MDGs (millennium development goals) were quite the buzz alike our SDGs (sustainable development goals) today, Governments in Africa and Asia started a more strategic plan for rapid urbanization to reduce the risk of harming the prospects of hundreds of millions of their citizen. This had a global knock-on effect. More than a decade ago, studies show that Brazil failed in the past to plan for rapid urban growth which exacerbated poverty and also created new environmental problems and long-term costs that could have been avoided.

A) Urbanization and Smart Cities

Some of the benefits of urbanization are a high density of economic activity, shorter trade links, utilization of human capital, and shared infrastructure. Urbanization is not a curse in as much as the same creates huge wealth and opportunities, enables better use of assets and creates new ones. Urbanization – being a continuous and spontaneous process – in most developing countries is bringing about enormous changes in the spatial distribution of people and resources and the use and consumption of land.

However, such a process is strongly linked to development [social, technological and economic], and many countries lack the appropriate policies and frameworks that can leverage it for increased development gains thereby channelising it towards larger sustainable patterns. In a word, these are not harnessed for development and de facto urbanization’s challenges often seem to outpace the development gains.

On the other hand, the idea is also to double the number of smart cities, and also ‘mega cities’ in this period. The concept of a smart city refers to the initiatives that use digital/ICT (information, communication, technology)- based innovation to improve the efficiency of urban services and generate new economic opportunities in cities. The OECD defines smart cities as “initiatives or approaches that effectively leverage digitalization to boost citizen well-being and deliver more efficient, sustainable and inclusive urban services and environments as part of a collaborative, multi-stakeholder process”.

Since every city has its specific characteristics in size, built environment, and fiscal resources- these differences affect the capacity of cities to manage smart technologies and attract smart city investment. The variation in physical characteristics may also affect the degree of applicability of specific digital technologies. Many studies on smart cities tend to focus on large cities which makes it difficult to transfer their experience to smaller cities. A study by Frost & Sullivan projects that spending on smart city technology is expected to reach US$327 billion by 2025, up from US$96 billion in 2019.

B) How does a smart city work?

Three layers make this concept work in practice. First – is the choice of selected and interconnected technology base, second – is the customised applications (or simply, apps) that allow translation, organization, and interpreting raw rate for generating alerts, insights, analytics, and determining the right tools for solving problems. Third – is the interdependent use of the above two layers by the public, private, and people on an ongoing and sharing basis. Most apps would be effective when more users sign up to it and start sharing user and usage data during work hours, off-hours, driving, and while using utilities (energy, water, internet) at different times of the data. This data could also be used by healthcare and security systems as much as local councils.

It is important to recognise that a Smart City should be able to attract and retain high-tech and creative talent. As traditional jobs disappear and workplaces go highly digitalized, talent is required to be the catalyst in a process that creates new businesses and new jobs. The megacities of the world are therefore competing for this talent.

A study by McKinsey project the following benefits coming from innovation in smart cities, A) smart-city technologies can make daily commutes faster and less frustrating, B) Cities can be catalysts for better health, C) Smart cities can deliver a cleaner and more sustainable environment, D) Smart cities can create a new type of digital urban commons and enhance social connectedness. Above all, a smart city is not simply a light-switch strategy for job creation, but smart solutions are meant to make local labour markets more efficient and lower the cost of living while improving well-being.

C) Smart cities and toward the future

Economic growth will increasingly come from the strength and diversity of innovative activities instead of factor accumulation as in the past. Recent researches also suggest that such innovative activities are concentrated in high–tech clusters in globally–linked cities. Over time as the share of the rural sector in GDP goes down, urban activities take the lead in the very growth process, ably backed by the service activities – major components of the urban service activities include business and creative industries with high value-added. Globalization and the emergence of the tertiary economy have raised the profile of cities in development, especially as innovation and foreign investment are attracted by the agglomeration economies offered by well managed large cities – e.g. telecommunication, broadcasting, energy, tourism; and major urban infrastructure services – water supply, transportation, and education.

Globalization and urbanization together? could bring significant challenges as well as opportunities to both developed and developing countries. A study shows that development is likely to be polarized in a limited number of urban regions, which shows and indicates that while the convergence of production and income may happen across countries, divergence is likely to occur within each country as globalization will bring a concentration of activity to a few sites. The emergence of mega-urban regions with the development of world cities and links amongst them is a strong possibility – the formation of transborder regions, the development of international corridors, and the significance of international networking, among others.

Looking at the writings on the wall

Following Mila Freire, World Bank, it may be located that the main challenges include (a) The need to keep urban planning and management flexible and ready to adapt to new developments on the economic or social front; (b) Getting the best possible technical analysis; (c) Pushing the agenda of excellence; (d) thinking big and long–term; (e) Looking at the big picture – overall competitiveness, labour market, environmental quality, and standing as regards capital and human capital; (f) engaging the private sector; (g) understanding and discussion with community leaders of how much limited–resource local governments can offer; (h) establishing contracts vertically with the central government and horizontally with other municipalities. Equally importantly, policies can also empower local authorities to work more closely with the national government. The importance of developing national urban policies as levers for sustainable development remains beyond any shade of doubt.

  • Dr B K Mukhopadhyay (the author is a Professor of Management and Economics, formerly at IIBM (RBI) Guwahati. He can be contacted at m.bibhas@gmail.com)
  • Dr. Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay (author, international award-winning development and management economist, formerly a Gold Medalist in Economics at Gauhati University)

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Architecture “lagging behind all other sectors” in climate change fight

Architecture “lagging behind all other sectors” in climate change fight

“Inertia” in the built environment sector, according to Yamina Saheb is yet another proof that Architecture is “lagging behind all other sectors” in the climate change fight. Here is the story as per DEZEEN.

Architecture “lagging behind all other sectors” in climate change fight says IPCC report author

By Jennifer Hahn

Efforts to halt catastrophic climate change are being held back by “inertia” in the built environment sector, according to Yamina Saheb, co-author of the latest report from the United Nations climate change panel.

“The sector hasn’t modernised at all since the second world war,” she told Dezeen. “And now, the data shows it’s lagging behind all other sectors.”

“Each gram of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings means a mistake in their design,” added Saheb, a former policy analyst for the European Commission and the International Energy Agency.

“Architects and urban planners should really look at this report carefully and rethink the way they work.”

Up to 61 per cent of building emissions could be cut by 2050 using technologies available today, the Mitigation of Climate Change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found.

But progress has so far been held back by widespread “inertia,” as well as a lack of ambition and prioritising of short-term solutions and profits over long-term gains, Saheb said.

Architects are key to mitigating climate change

The report, which was written by Saheb alongside more than 270 scientists from 65 countries, is the final instalment in the IPCC’s three-part review of the current state of climate science.

Following on from two earlier reports covering its causes and effects, the report sets out a plan for how global warming could be mitigated.

The decarbonisation pledges made by international governments in a bid to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050 are simply not enough, the report found, falling short by as much as 23 billion tons of CO2e.

Architecture "lagging behind all other sectors" in climate change fight
Yamina Saheb portrait
Yamina Saheb co-authored the latest IPCC report

As a result, the world is on track to warm by more than double the 1.5-degree limit set out in the Paris Climate Agreement this century.

“Covering up for these shortfalls will require taking actions across all sectors that can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.

The built environment is among the key sectors highlighted in the report that could help the world to cut emissions by 50 per cent this decade.

“Either get this right or it’s wrong forever”

Urgent action is needed from the sector before 2030, the report says, as the long lifespan of buildings and infrastructure locks in emissions and polluting behaviours for decades to come.

“Residential buildings undergo major renovation once every 25 years,” Saheb explained. “That means if you’re not renovating a building to zero-emissions standards this decade, it will not be renovated to this level by 2050 either.”

“For buildings, there is only one round left between now and 2050, so we either get this right or it’s wrong forever.”

Retrofitting is the single most effective strategy for developed countries to limit emissions from buildings, the report found. But so far, “low renovation rates and low ambition” have hindered large-scale emissions reductions.Read:IPCC climate report a “call to arms” say architects and designers

This can be traced back to the construction industry’s lack of digitisation, Saheb argues, and the fact that homeowners have to organise every element of a retrofit, from the heat pump to the insulation, themselves.

“If you need to repair your car, you don’t have to think about each piece separately,” Saheb said. “You just take it to a garage, they fix it and you don’t care about the details.”

“But for a renovation, you as an individual are required to arrange all the details yourself, which is crazy and unrealistic,” she added. “We should have IKEA kits for renovating our buildings.”

“And in Europe, we need to make renovation mandatory to zero-carbon standards. If we don’t have this required by law, it will never happen.”

Sufficiency undervalued due to financial interests 

Crucially, the report also highlights that architects and urban planners have so far neglected to focus on designing for “sufficiency”.

Unlike efficiency measures, which are marginal short-term technological improvements, this term is used to describe broader strategies such as passive cooling, bioclimatic design and prioritising the construction of denser multifamily homes.

These kinds of measures can drastically reduce a building’s demand for energy, materials, land and water over its lifecycle, without relying on added technology and materials that will need to be produced, powered and maintained.

Architecture "lagging behind all other sectors" in climate change fight
Casa Flores by Fuster + Architects
Bioclimatic design strategies include solar chimneys, as used in Casa Flores by Fuster + Architects

“If you design a new development with lots of single-family homes, you will need more land and more construction materials, as well as more energy and water in use than if you go for multifamily buildings,” Saheb said.

“And then you lock the city where you’re building into emissions and car-dependent mobility for generations. This shows how urban and land-use policies will play a major role in the decarbonisation of buildings, which was not considered before.”

Part of the reason that this has so far been undervalued is the fact that architects and urban planners get paid based on the number of square miles they build, Saheb argues, so designing more compact structures runs against their financial interests.

“No one is questioning if the way they make money is aligned with their contribution to climate mitigation,” she said.

Efficiency is not enough

The industry’s failure to adapt sufficiency strategies so far has actually counteracted emissions reductions achieved by making buildings more energy efficient, the report found.

Adding insulation, switching to more modern appliances and other efficiency measures reduced building emissions by 49 per cent between 1990 and 2019. But the lack of sufficiency measures led to a simultaneous emissions increase of 52 per cent.

“The efficiency improvement was fully offset by the lack of sufficiency measures,” Saheb said.

“Previously, climate mitigation policies for buildings included only energy efficiency and the supply with renewables. And we know today that without sufficiency, this is not enough.”

The top image shows Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest installation.

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