Thursday, May 29, 2008

Which plan?

What is the link between sustainability and development? To some, this may be an obvious question, while others fail to see how actions in their own lives have an effect on the global scale.

A BBC article discusses the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review which recently released a report outlining how the current depletion of resources is also depleting the living standards of a majority of the world.

Although it began slowly at first, the effects of the changing climate are becoming more obvious. From large scale disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the recent cyclone in Myanmar, to the recent rises in the cost of food, it is becoming more obvious that the ways in which each person in the world lives is not sustainable. We can not continue to consume resources at this rate.

I recently finished the book Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. Lester Brown leads the Earth Policy Institute which is dedicated to building a sustainable future. This book gives a decent outline of the sustainability issues we are faced with today. I felt it brushed over a few areas in too little detail and didn't provide a lot of concrete solutions, but overall the book was a pretty good overview of our current situation.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The dollar question

One of the difficulties around development is finding the poorest of the poor - who is most marginalized in society and is in need of the most amount of aid and help.

A primary measure that is cited by most - including myself in this website - is the those who live under a 'dollar a day'.

The Economist recently released an article "On the poverty line" which discusses this measure more in depth and how it is changing (the method discussed moves the actual amount up to $1.25/day). A pretty interesting article.

Although, I personally like the idea of not measuring what people don't have, but instead providing an asset based approach - measuring what they do have.

The Peak

I was supposed to start this blog discussing part of the reasons I became interested in sustainability, development and design with an article discussing China and some of it's current environmental crisis; however, I was slow at getting to that, so instead I'll write about a recent sustainability talk I attended.

Metro Vancouver hosts a series of Sustainability Breakfasts which are forums for discussion surrounding sustainability initiatives around Vancouver. I attended the one yesterday morning entitled "Climate Change and Peak Oil: Transport Revolutions and Municipal Responses" featuring Bryn Davidson, Executive Director, Dynamic Cities Project; Anthony Perl, SFU Professor; Stuart Ramsey, Transportation Engineer and Planner, City of Burnaby.

Bryn spoke of the relation between Peak Oil and Climate Change and provided the following equation:
Energy Transition = peak oil + climate change

In his talk he discussed how peak oil and climate change are interrelated and if you deal with one and not the other, it is possible to have negative impacts. For example, coming up with biofuel or alternative coal products for fuel, does not necessarily address climate change, and selling carbon offsets does not necessarily address peak oil. The need is in reducing emissions and oil dependence through resilient investments. His example included the transport industry, in particular trucking - if the industry did not include peak oil and climate change in their modeling, it would not be taking into account what the future might hold.

Anthony Perl, the Professor at SFU expanded on Peak Oil. Describing the oil situation like drinking through a straw - the first half was easy to get and the second half is like squeezing a rock sponge - much, much more difficult. He then went on to point out "the stone age didn't come to an end because people ran out of stones", indicating that there are plausible, technological solutions to the 'energy crisis'. Globally 50% of oil extracted is going to transport, the amount of transport has increased faster since 1990, however as oil becomes more difficult to get, this growth becomes unsustainable. He noted that there would more change in transport in the next 10 years than in the past 30. One example he used was the "Ride the Wind" program in Calgary, which uses wind power for some of their public transport. Innovations such as the Calgary project will become essential in the future. His book "Transport Revolutions" discusses this in further detail.

The final speaker of the morning was Stuart Ramsay with the City of Burnaby. As an urban planner, his talk focused on how four cities have reacted to Peak Oil. In Portland, OR they created the citizen based Peak Oil Task Force to provide expert opinions and deliver recommendations around Peak Oil. Hamilton, ON hired consultants on Peak Oil to create the Hamilton Peak Oil Report. The last two cities discussed had plans focused more on Climate Change than Peak Oil. Abu Dhabi is building a carbon free commons called Masdar and London, UK has created the Climate Change Action Plan.

While I do not think any of the solutions presented by the speakers are fail safe, they are steps in a positive direction. Climate Change and Peak Oil (as well as peak everything) are pressing matters that need to be addresses sooner rather than later.

I hope to address more of these issues as this blog progresses as well as provide further articles and discussions surrounding aspects of Development, Sustainability and Design.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

welcome is coming soon...