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On May 8th, 2020, Dr. Ana Berti Suman defended her thesys on “Citizen’s Sensing” online and responded to peer reviewers questions. The day before she organised an online seminar with participation from the entire world. As one of the cases (AiREAS) of her Phd study I was asked to a short background presentation. My argument of citizen’s sensing was context driven, namely from the humanitarian view of one that defends core human values such as health and healthy air. How do existing laws help AiREAS, or stand our processes in the way? Or should there be new regulatory rules to govern citizen’s taking initiative to monitor their own environment using technological aids and confronting government with their insights and results.
A cartoonist made a drawing of my arguments. The blog about the seminar and all the speakers can be read on the Tilburg University’s School of Law site.
The 24 hours non stop HEX Hackathon on April 1st in Eindhoven was a brilliant setting of about 100 creative young minds.
About 20 teams were established and 6 challenges were presented, 2 of which were proposed by AiREAS (air quality, health and city dynamics) and the AiREAS partner TNO: Smart Cities have healthy air and Future Mobility if we ban the car from the city.
11 out of 20 teams choose to work on these two challenges. They were asked not only to be creative, societal relevance and impact was also key. They were already provided with three possible lines of thought: human persuasion to change behavior (leave that car and take some alternative transport means), think of alternative means that do not impact so negatively as cars in cities, or propose redesign of the city’s infrastructure.
- Team Delft: A game to make people aware of air quality and stimulate them to walk or go by bike.
- Cool kids can’t die: Awareness on air quality for kids
- NOObs: Future mobility using LoRa
- Belgians: Lifestyle app
- Heks Hacks: People receive an energy lable for their travel choices
- D3SH: Car Surf, a new way of dynamic carpooling
- R-aware: ???
- Autopool: Event based car pooling
- Eco Score: Competition between municipalities on “best Eco Score”
- Amelioration: ???
- Gone Good: the habit of doing good
- The challenge Crackers: define instant challenges
All teams have been invited to the School of Talents to further develop their creative ideas and introduce it into society using the network of the City of Tomorrow and AiREAS with the Sustainocratic coaching skills of the School of Talents.
Sept 23rd, 2014: Siemens and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) announced the winners of the City Climate Leadership Awards 2014 at a ceremony held on Monday night in New York City. The Awards honor cities all over the world for excellence in urban sustainability and leadership in the fight against climate change. The winning cities in the ten award categories are:
Amsterdam (Finance & Economic Development)
Barcelona (Intelligent City Infrastructure)
Buenos Aires (Solid Waste Management)
London (Carbon Measurement & Planning and Air Quality)
Melbourne (Adaptation & Resilience)
New York City (Energy Efficient Built Environment)
Portland (Sustainable Communities)
Seoul (Green Energy)
Shenzhen (Urban Transportation)
In the international network circle of AiREAS (citizen’s driven healthy city cooperation, that started in Eindhoven and focuses on air quality and human health) people reacted with surprise that highly polluted London was awarded for Air Quality.
AiREAS is not submitted for these or any other award. We are hence not surprised. If you don’t buy a ticket don’t expect to win the lottery. It is not the state of pollution that matters but the effort a city does to solve the issue for human health and vitality. We @AiREASnl and City of Tomorrow (@STIRfoundation) reason using 4 paradigms, not just one. The award winning cities have every right to be highlighted, in their fragmented technologically innovative way.
What people tend to forget is that cities are the old conglomerates of “industrialised” financial and technological dependencies. People who live in cities enjoy the centralized facilities but depend for their basic needs (water, food, energy, clothing, etc) entirely of the system’s dynamics of the city with the surroundings, still totally based on money. To get access to money the citizens need to work or speculate. Due to system automation cities only develop consumers but not labor. Cities sustain themselves with growth, change, inflation or go broke.
Big enterprises such as Siemens depend on these huge city’s investments in technological solutions so award those that excel in this, rather than those (such as Eindhoven) that develop living lab solutions with their own population and entrepreneurship. In large cities systems prevail over human, responsibility driven interaction, simply because financial flows give old power to the political and economic structures. They however cover just part of the solutions.
Local responsibility is extremely cost and bureaucracy saving, very challenging even for the local creative forces that get involved in their own sustainable city progression with the development of a circular local economy, yet demanding a new local leadership mentality. It requires facilitating support from the policy makers, is not directly taxable nor instantly part of the global economic reality, so no reward system is in place yet to back it up. Local value systems appear in the city based on value creation and sharing. These subsystems detach from the large economies producing a power shift in the city.
That’s why solutions like Sustainocracy and AiREAS are not (yet) receiving global awards simply because they do not fit marketing communication plans. They just solve key local issues through co-creation, they don’t buy or sell them.
Of the 4 paradigms available to cities, economic lobbies and fragmented power positions around public dependencies tend to push to a single focus, the one of technological innovation only, offered by the big global players. “Smart Cities” is not (yet) about people but mainly about (business) systems. From an overall global sustainable progress point of view we see that the other 3 paradigms need to be respected too, else the cities enter into chaos anyway. These other complementary 3 are however not money driven, hence hardly ever highlighted:
- Chaos: cities have to accept the collapsing of old obsolete structures and economic efficiencies to open up for overall renewal based on other types of innovative solutions (people, planet, profit) in a more holistic approach.
- Awareness: cities have to allow and help their self aware and responsible citizens to develop solutions of their own and connect to the evolution of their own community. This requires freedom for experimentation and innovation from inside the community. It opens up a new economic reality of cocreation, universal ethics, commitment and best practice from within.
- Harmony: cities need to learn to focus on harmony between nature, people, authority (rather than power) and their own regional self sufficiency.
Those cities that develop themselves using all the four paradigms (Sustainocracy) become strongholds of human evolution that contribute to the whole as well as the regional self. They become pearls of co-existence, harmony and flexibility. Then they will be rewarded by evolutionary progress and need to address the challenge of growth (in population) because of a livable, integral attractiveness, fulfilling the “sustainocratic dream” of sustainable human progress within, among others, climate awareness.
Our civilian sustainocratic initiative AiREAS designed its own low cost real time city measurement network for registering and displaying air quality in near real time. We use state of the art technology, scientific modelling insights, etc. and measure ultrafine particles (UFP or PM0.1) that are smaller than a virus, PM1, PM2.5, PM10, ozon, temperature, SO2, etc. Our network was installed and calibrated in December 2013. Since then we collect and store valuable data.
Making the invisible visible from an air quality point of view is necessary in our multidisciplinary attempt to co-create a healthy city. Having the data is one, interpreting them is a totally different story as this unexpected event will show.
One of our partners, Imtech, in charge of data storage and ICT, is experimenting with data display on mobile telephones. I have the test app now on my phone to do some early fieldtesting. Another partner, ECN, in charge of the equipment development, has an internal display tool for testing and benchmarking purposes. This tool I use too to compare app and network data when necessary.
Every day I look at the status of the city. On the app I generally see the network as a bunch of green balls. They change color when the norm is reached (orange) or passed (red). On the computerbased tool I can see more detail and summary over time. There I often detect sudden peaks that come and go fast.
On the monday morning of Juli 21st I looked again on my app. The traditional boring green balls were all flashing red and orange. Here I display what I saw that morning:
It immediately triggered my interest. What could cause such sudden city pollution, particularly in the field of PM2.5? The other measurements did not show the same peaks.
I contacted ECN and they not only confirmed what I saw, they added that the peak had been gradually building up from midnight onwards! That was strange. We expect traffic related peaks but not a nighttime buildup when the city is expected to be at rest. Was there a fire somewhere? Quick research revealed that no special events were reported.
The sunday before had been a nice, warm summer day. The evening was warm, humid and windstill. Many people were still in town as their holidays would begin a week later. Reports from our civilian network spread over town added two issues to be considered:
* many people had been barbequeing that evening
* lots of people had complained of respiratory difficulties and a sleepless night
That night a fog had been building up over town from midnight onwards and slowly disappeared around 10 am that monday morning. The pollution peak had coincided with the fog, not the human BBQ activities. We were puzzled.
Someone suggested that our network was measuring water droplets as if it were finedust. That plausible idea could be eliminated because we use drying techniques before counting the particles and other foggy days had never shown such peaks. And water does not necessarily produce respiratory discomfort.
The local hospital also entered the debate. The hospital has operation chambres where also meat is burned, for instance to close wounds. CO2 concentrations in the OCs at one time had been high causing people to loose concentration and complain of fatigue. There is a natural relationship between healthy air and the number of ions in it. Ionizing the space helped overcome this problem. Then a new problem occured. Personnel had complained of nausea after closing wounds with burning techniques. Research showed that a specific combination of air moisture, ions and gases from burned meat caused chemical reactions that produced the sickness.
The question now arose if this could have occurred in the public space? The theory now is that on that sunday evening people massively BBQed in Eindhoven. The city is geographically located in a shallow dip. The bbq fumes accumulated in the city and were not dispersed due to the lack of wind. The high humidity caused fog to develop from midnight onwards. The water condenses on the finedust producing chemical reactions with the gases from the burned meat. Sensitive people who inhaled this experienced breathing problems, sickness and a sleepless night. At 10 am the problem disappeared as the fog lifted.
The explanation seems plausible as it could be contrasted with the experiences in the hospital that had been researched. Some AiREAS partners have promised to try to simulate the event in a lab environment to confirm the analysis or offer new insight. From a healthy city point of view we feel motivated to introduce bbq alternatives and innovations in town. We also have a new impuls to see if in wintertime similar situations occur when burning wood in stoves for heating. What does this do during foggy days?
All people involved were impressed with the multidisciplinary interaction to come to a plausible explanation. Many people were triggered positively to participate in the debate. It has not ended yet of course but the curiosity has pinpointed us to an issues that we can solve ourselves as citizens through awareness and innovative response.
AiREAS is creating Local AiREAS initiatives throughout Europe now. Maybe we can share experiences both in the field of public space as special environments s.a. hospitals.
Co founder of AiREAS
Our lifestyle and human organisation are packed with invisible monsters that affect our comfort of life and prospect of a sustainable future. These monsters are real but the fact that they cannot be seen caused their neglected by the large public. Often it seems that “what one cannot see does not exist” type of mentality reigns.
We protect our children from the traffic in the streets by telling them to look twice before crossing. We even make them touch a car to get a feel of how hard the material is that would hit you. But do we know how healthy the air is in which the children play? Do we know how healthy the food is that they eat? The water they drink?
Millions of people around the world get sick because of the short and long term effects of air pollution and malnutrician. Our children are affected by these invisible monsters at school, in the street where they play and even at home where they are supposed to feel safe.
We can take responsibility for the safety and health of our selves and our children for those things that we can see and touch but when it is invisible and beyond our control we cannot. The problem of the invisible monsters is that we may be scared of them but they have been created by our life style. The consumer society has been structured in such a way that health is secondary to profit. So these invisible monsters are in fact us, through our behaviour.
Even if we would want to take responsibility we cannot because we depend on the global industrial and delivery processes that we created to produce and distribute our products. We depend on our cars to get us from A to B and our supermarkets to supply us with our food.
We don’t know who controls what and where what comes from. Our responsibilities have been taken over by complex power systems and processes that provide us with the luxury of comfort and the discomfort of invisible monsters. We have built economies around consumption of goods. New economies have risen around the effects of consumption and the pain caused by the invisible monsters. But if we want to attack those monsters we have to attack our selves and everything that we have created so far: our systems, our lifestyle and our economies.
Those monsters have grown so big lately that they have become a larger crisis than all crises summed up. Who is going to deal with these monsters before they eliminate us like myxomatose did with the rabbits? Because that is what they are, self inflicted deceases that eat us up from the inside. They represent a humanitarian crisis, an economic urgency and a severe risk for our current and future generations.
It is high time to work together, make those monsters visible and take responsibility to eradicate them from our existance.
http://www.aireas.com is one of such initiatives that gives it a try.