Geoengineering – Hero or Villian?

Last week I was travelling on business for my company Microsoft. If I have not stated this before, my day job is a software engineer under test for Microsoft. I rarely get to travel for business as my position does not really demand it, but this time it was one of those rare opportunities to go deploy the product that I am working on in the field at a customer site for a pre-beta analysis. Anyhow, one of the perils of traveling across the pond is dealing with a jet-lag and a time difference of 8 hours. In my case, I was up at an early hour of the morning flipping TV channels when I landed on a BBC segment discussing Geoengineering. The guest was David Keith, and environmental scientist who has been long at work on climate change, its impacts, and how to combat it. David spent many years lobbying for carbon caps, and now heads a research company that is exploring the solutions presented by Geoengineering.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, Geoengineering is also known as climate engineering. It refers to the engineering of the climate to counteract the effects of green house emissions and mitigate global warming. Geo-engineering involves many efforts. One of these is known as SRM, which stands for Solar Radiation Management. SRM involves spraying reflective particles in the atmosphere at high altitudes that allow more heat to escape the planet. SRM represents another illustration of bio-mimicry as it mimics the effects of volcanos on climate control.

This brings me to the question at had of whether Geoengineering is a hero or a villain at the end of the day. The argument for heroism is that it represents a technology that may save the day. SRM as well as carbon absorption technologies are the technological solution to global warming. They will be needed, even if it is short-term, to provide the necessary relief and counter act the effects of green house gas emissions. The argument for villainess is that it meddles with nature and provides an unnatural way to counteract a phenomenon. There is much debate on who controls the knob of temperatures. Different stakeholders may want different outcomes. There is also the much dreaded negative unintended consequences that may arise from using such a technology.

What do you think? Hero or villain? To geoengineer or not to geoengineer?

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The new consumers and the shifting paradigm of branding

The content of this blog post was generated from the notes that I took during an interactive workshop conducted by BBMG:http://bbmg.com/ during the Net Impact 2011 conference. The workshop was titled Meet the New Consumers: Five Marketplace Trends that are Revolutionizing Sustainable Brands. I was extremely impressed by the information and content of this workshop that I felt it warrants a blog post here as it applies to the use of Innovation and Creativity in Sustainability.

The main premise of the workshop is that sustainability is the biggest opportunity of our time. The consumers are changing; the new consumer purchases with purpose. The core values of the new consumer has them look at the total value of a product, the experience, what the product means for the whole as opposed to the individual consumer, and how they can contribute to co-create future products.

As a result of this shift in consumers, branding is shifting as well. It is moving from a product, a logo/tagline, marketing, transaction, monologue, buying, what to experience, empowering platform, movement, transformation, co-created dialogue, being, and how.

BBMG looked at 5 marketplace trends that enables a product or idea to shift from a trend, to a tipping point, to mainstream. The trends are:

  1. Deliver total value
  2. Paint a bigger picture
  3. Be their champion
  4. Make more out of less
  5. Invite them in

Indeed these new trends are about the new consumers wanting it all, about them asking what’s in it for we, about taking control, about simplicity and meaning, and about viewing participation as the new consumption.

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Net Impact 2011 Conference, Portland, Orgeon

Net Impact 2011

This weekend, I had the privilege to attend the Net Impact 2011 conference which was held in Portland, Oregon. The conference contained a wealth of information on sustainability, social innovation, renewable and green energy, sustainable finance, agriculture, and education. I found it extremely resourceful in the topics and areas that I am interested in. I very much valued the conversations that the conference initiated, and the engagement of so many stakeholders from students who will form the future and present leaders, to corporations who have much influence in the directions we take into the future, to the organizations that are working on the sustainability issues and are looking for partners and contributors.

Here are some statics on the 2011 conference from their website that will outline the extent and reach of the conference. Source: http://2011.netimpact.org/.

  • 2,500 Attended.
  • 129 Schools Represented
  • 14 Countries and 39 States
  • 73 Exhibiting Organizations
  • 395 Dynamic Speakers
  • 131 Energizing Sessions

I will be using some of the information that I have learned in the conference in future blog posts. For now, I want to leave you with some food for thought. In my discussions with several participants after the conference, there were two camps of opinions on the conference. There were some that did not feel that the conference went far enough to address sustainability, and some like me were just grateful that the conference is taking place and that the various stakeholders are engaged in the conversation on sustainability. Let’s expand each position, and you can choose which you sympathize with the most.

The first camp thought that the conference did not go enough. They felt that there was a lot of green washing. Most of the corporation representatives were its sustainability officers, who are trained to speak in these situations and present a favorable view of each company in the sustainability area. The level of discussion was not in terms of how everything would fit in the context of sustainability, but rather sustainability as a speciality and a value added piece.

The second camp, which I am part of, thought that having as many stakeholders represented and engaged in the conversation of sustainability is a tremendous step in the right direction. Change will not take place overnight, but as the conversation expands, change will happen. There were many sessions that outlined the sobering issues of what faces the world today. The response is not at the level required to meet these challenges. There is an attitude that we can continue to do business as usual and the incremental steps in the right direction will save the day. In my opinion, this attitude that will rapidly change as the externalities caused by the global challenges inevitably get priced into our models. It will take some time, but we are moving in the right direction.

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Biomimicy: design inspiration from nature

Biomimicry is one of the topics that I will be discussing frequently on this blog. Biomimicy in it most basic definition is an imitation of the way nature does things. Nature has been at work, if you will, for million of years in designing processes and systems that work. They work because they exist in harmony with nature and the universe. Nature grows, but it is able to do in balance. Nature has little or no concept of waste; each byproduct and output has an important use. Many outputs are recycled back into production by nature. Most importantly, nature operates without damaging our universe or endangering the species that inhibit it.

There is a lot that can be learned from the way nature designs its systems. Recently, designers have been looking at nature for solutions to our most demanding problems and design challenges. The ideas and solutions inspired by nature are unique, efficient, and have proven to be the most innovative in many cases. The examples are numerous and I will be presenting some of them in future.

I have two videos on biomimicy. The first is a Ted Talk by  Janine Benyus on Biomimicy in action, and I highly recommended for anyone that wants to be inspired by biomimicy. The second is a short video that I put together myself as part of a class assignment. It is not the highest quality, but has served it purpose in allowing me to experiment with video as a media for blogging and expressing ideas.

 

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Blog Action Day on Food

Today October 16th is 2011’s Blog Action Day. Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all. (source: http://blogactionday.org/). This year’s topic is food.

How does food relate to this blog? Where does Technology, Innovation, Creativity, and Sustainability fit with the topic of food? Well, quite simply, we could address the current problems of food shortages and the related problems of world hunger. Looking at some broad statics on the state of hunger and food shortages around the world, we can see the following disastrous statics:

  • Hunger is the world’s No. 1 health risk.
  • One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight.
  • One out of four children in developing countries are underweight.
  • There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of USA, Canada and the European Union.
  • 925 million people do not have enough to eat and 98 percent of them live in developing countries.
  • Undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.

A good question to ask is whether there is shortage of food today that could account for the state of world hunger that is reflected in the stats above. The answer is yes and no. Yes, there are shortages of food. Some which are transient and caused by natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and droughts. And no, the shortages of food should not account of the complete state of hunger in the world today. The argument could be made that there is enough food to go around today. The issue is not the shortage as much as it is the distribution of the food, and the inequality of distribution between the rich and the poor , and the developing and developed world.

The bad news however is that the issues of real shortages of food will be a symptom of the future. With imploding population growth, shortages of farm land, depletion of fertile soil though the use of GMOs and pesticides, extreme weather conditions and global warming, and the degradation of nature services, it is very likely that the world will face food shortages in the future.

So back to our original point on how Technology, Innovation, Creativity, and Sustainability could be used to address the current inadequate food distribution and prevalent hunger, and the future realities of food shortages. In the current situation, technology can go a very long way towards facilitating the distribution of food to the needed parties. From detection of food needs through communication and the social media, to the transportation of food, to the accountability of distribution, technology can save the day in getting the food where it is needed. Innovation and creativity play a role in food production and distribution. Sustainability of course plays a role in sustaining our farm land and food resources, as well as socially facilitating the sharing of food to fight hunger.

In the future the same solutions for our current situation apply. In addition, more innovative ways of producing and distributing food need to be developed.  Vertical gardening to solve the shortages of farmlands,  and efficient transportation and distribution of food jump to mind as potential areas of technological innovation.

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Ticsnow demystified

For my very first blog post, I would like to demystify and explain the name of the blog.

Ticsnow stands for Technology Innovation Creativity Sustainability Now.

It is a blog that explores Technology, Innovation, Creativity, and Sustainability.

Let’s analyze the meaning of each of the words used in the title..

Technology:  application of tools and methods. Orgin: Greek τεχνολογία(technología) from τέχνη (téchnē), meaning “art, skill, craft”, and -λογία (logía) meaning “study of”.

Innovation: the act or process of inventing or introducing something new. Origin: Latin innovatus, meaning “to renew or change”.

Creativity: the ability to use the imagination to develop new and original ideas or things.

Sustainability: the ability to maintain at a certain rate or level. Conserving an ecological balance to avoid depletion of natural resources.

Now: at present time. Immediately given the current situation.

This indeed is a blog about the role of technology, innovation, and creativity in sustainability and solving our sustainability needs. “Now” refers to the immediacy with which these sustainable solutions need to be designed and utilized.

Why ticsnow?

So why ticsnow? What is prompting me to author this blog? Let’s start with Sustainability. Sustainability is needed now more than ever. Many of our current systems and structures are approaching their natural limits. We are unable to continue to grow at the same rate and the same systems as we have had in the past. We are facing unprecedented challenges today. Global warming, the depletion and scarcity of natural resources, the degradation of nature services, the population growth, the widening gap between the rich and the poor. and the expanding world hunger are some of the issues that require immediate solutions. Sustainability is needed to sustain our systems and natural world. Sustainability and balance are needed today more than ever.

So why Technology, Innovation, and Creativity? I believe in the role of technology, innovation, and creativity to enhance and enable sustainability to accomplish its mission. Some of the prevalent ways of addressing the sustainability challenges is to look in the direction of no growth. Some sustainability advocates go as far as proposing that parting with technology and development are ways to achieving sustainability. I don’t agree with this because nature grows. Growth is an ingredient of life that we can’t go without. Undermining human development and technology advancements are not the way to go either.  Technology has provided many innovations and solutions in the past that solved many of our challenging issues, and there is no reason why technology could not save the day and provide the innovative and creative solutions we need for sustainability.

In conclusion, I hope that this blog will spark the interest, motivation, and empowerment needed to innovate with technology to achieve sustainability and create a world that works for everyone..

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