Valuable vintage papers on merits of "mundane science" in pursuing sustainable development

Two priceless papers on undervalued “applied” science, co-authored by Dan Kammen in the ’90s, still resonate today: “Science and Engineering Research That Values the Planet" (with Arne Jacobson) and "The Virtues of Mundane Science" (with Michael Dove). Here’s the conclusion of the "mundane" paper:

"There are a number of ways to give such initiatives a larger role in research and policy decisions. These include giving much more support to academic-industry and academic-practitioner partnerships; extending academic boundaries to encompass the entire range of human-environment interactions; breaking down the often antagonistic division between development professionals and academia; instituting a more open review process for development publications, projects, and institutions; removing the barrier between development planners and the intended beneficiaries or local populations; and addressing the frequently counterproductive tension between pure and applied research. The primary obstacles to implementing these proposals are cultural and institutional, not scientific. Expanding our commitment to mundane science requires that we overcome a Catch-22, however: Mundane issues generate little interest until a crisis emerges, at which point a solution is expected at once because the problem appears to be so simple. Unless we overcome the bias against mundane science, we will be wedded to shortsighted, partial solutions to emerging issues in development and the environment. Serious research requires a commitment to sustained periods of training, preparation, and support, which mundane science rarely receives. A valuable principle to use in the design and evaluation of sustainable development initiatives is that of use-inspired basic research, which – however basic the science involved – has a clear focus on applications…."

Crown Prince Haakon today held a post about sustainable development and why there is good reason to be optimistic technology during the conference Manifestation in Trondheim.

The Crown Prince also gave a speech during the event:

I am a technology optimist. I have always believed that technology will go ahead and give people the products we really want - and that makes us environmentally friendly purchase, without the consumer necessarily have to be conscious driven by idealism. Therefore, I am including big fan of raw electric cars and the cars that people want because they are the best and toughest; not because they feel the obligation to have to buy one of these stylish medium green car, said Crown Prince in his introduction.

You can read the rest of his speech here (in Norwegian)


Architect Vincent Callebaut’s take on vertical farming is as interesting to look at as it is beneficial.

About the project:

The cities are currently responsible for 75% of the worldwide consumption of energy and they reject 80% of worldwide emissions of CO2. The contemporary urban model is thus ultra-energy consuming and works on the importation of wealth and natural resources on the one hand, and on the exportation of the pollution and waste on the other hand. This loop of energetic flows can be avoided by repatriating the countryside and the farming production modes in the heart of the city by the creation of green lungs, farmscrapers in vertical storeys and by the implantation of wind and solar power stations. The production sites of food and energy resources will be thus reintegrated in the heart of the consumption sites ! The buildings with positive energies must become the norm and reduce the carbon print on the mid term.

Read more…

URGENT PRESS RELEASE: CANADIAN School Conservation Contest - Save Alberta’s Wild Horses

We are asking Canadians to ban together and help in this time of need! This is a time sensitive…

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Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental activist who founded the Green Belt Movement, which focused on planting trees and women’s rights; her organization paid a small stipend to women to plant seedlings throughout the country. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, with the committee citing her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.”

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How to produce more wealth with less resources? Some argue it’s through technology and newer regulations. The simple concepts in this video show how technology can (or at least should) be able to help cities become more sustainable. Stick with it. 

"Design Matters: Doing Better with Less" is a short but powerful animated story about using design to create sustainable wealth, and it provides essential insights into the future of business and innovation.

upcoming conferences - do let us know if you will attent & how it was!!

7-10 December 2014.  Shanghai. China

International Symposium & Training Course on the Historic Urban Landscape

Organised by: The World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (WHITRAP) and Tongji University


14-17 December 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Organised by: the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)


14-17 January 2015, Kent, UK

The implementation of the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage Legal and practical evaluation of the management of Cultural World Heritage Sites

Organised by: Research Network on the protection of Cultural World Heritage Sites


21-23 January 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark

Eleventh Sustainability Conference Sustainability Dividends – Developmental Fault Lines

Organised by: On Sustainability Knowledge Community


26-27 February 2015, Manipal, India

Second International Conference on Tourism & Hospitality Management 2015 (ICTHM 2015)

Organised by:  International Center for Research & Development (ICRD); Manipal University; Singidunum University; International Association of Intellectuals (IAI).


19-21 March 2015, Gothenburg, Sweden

Challenge the past / Diversify the future

Organized by: Critical Heritage Studies; HUMlab, Umeå University; Visual Arena


25-27 March 2015, Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul, Turkey

3rd International Conference on “Archi-Cultural Interactions through the Silkroad”

Organized by: International Association of Silkroad Universities (iaSU)


April 8-11, 2015, Miami, USA

45th Annual Meeting of the Urban Affairs Association Transnationalism from Above and Below: The Dynamics of Place-making in the Global City

Organised by: Urban Affairs Association


15-19 April 2015, Chicago, USA

SAH 68th Annual Conference: Chicago at the Global Crossroads

Organized by: The Society of Architectural Historians


20-23 April 2015, Florence, Italy

IAIA15 Impact assessment in the digital era

Organized by: International Association for Impact Assessment


30 June to 3 July 2015, Versailles, France,

The European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) 2015 biennial conference

Organized by: ESEH and The University of Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines


13-16 July 2015, Liverpool, UK

Trans-Atlantic Dialogues on Cultural Heritage: Heritage, Tourism and Traditions

Organized by: Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage and the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP).


Low Tech Magazine on How To Heat And Cool Cities Without Fossil Fuels

Lloyd Alter. March 26, 2012

One of the fundamental problems about covering sustainable design is that really, the single family house doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. We spend so much time covering passive houses, for example, when they and all of the other green houses shown on every design website don’t add up to a rounding error when it comes to where people live in most of the world, which is in cities.

That’s why Kris De Decker’s post at Low Tech Magazine is so important and groundbreaking. He has written The solar envelope: how to heat and cool cities without fossil fuels. He writes:

Passive solar design does not involve any new technology. In fact, it has been around for thousands of years, and even predates the use of glass windows. For most of human history, buildings were adapted to the local climate through a consideration of their location, orientation and shape, as well as the appropriate building materials. This resulted in many vernacular building styles in different parts of the world. In contrast, most modern buildings look the same wherever they stand. They are made from the same materials, they follow forms that are driven by fashion rather than by climate, and are most often randomly located and oriented, indifferent to the path of the sun and the prevailing wind conditions.

He then goes on to describe how zoning and building rules might be changed to create solar envelopes and the ensure the principle of solar access. It used to be common practice; De Decker notes that ” The Ancient Greeks built entire cities which were optimal for solar exposure.”

Via: Treehugger

Image: © The density atlas

Overcoming Automobile Dependence

I think I already said that I’m reading Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence days earlier. I’ve finished reading it (along with more than 5 books about Old Manila) during my 4.5 hour school break earlier this day. The main point the book asserts a dissension of the conventional wisdom, Traffic Jams = Build Wider Roads.

Generally since European Cities are old and planned when cars are still not invented, pedestrianizing the traffic and reducing traffic congestion is not a big menace to Europe. Medieval European Cities are actually the Walkable cities so change did not come so hard for Europe to overcome their Auto dependence.

Automobile or Car dependence is generally observed in some American and Australian Cities, whose land area permits a less dense urban sprawl. This phenomenon is now being observed in developing Asia like the Philippines.

The book actually traces the history of cities into its transport priorities. There are walking cities, transit cities and the Automobile Cities. Spanish Intramuros was our Walking City, Manila is our Transit City and Metro Manila is our Automobile City. We are vying for the Sustainable City, where walking, transit and automobile are in harmony and does not cause much degradation to the city and to the environment. Actually, we are still in the transition between the Automobile and the Sustainable City: Manila wants to free itself from Automobile Dependence but it is still reluctant to do so.

As stated in the book, to develop the Sustainable City three vital steps must be undertaken:

1. In creating a more sustainable city is to revitalize the inner city

2. In creating a more sustainable city is to focus development around the present rail (or Mass Transport) system.

3. In creating a more sustainable city is to discourage urban sprawl.

The key to save the rural and forested sides is to discourage the cities to expand further than the current. As the urban area expands, the journey only goes longer and farther.

The book stated that road expansions only benefit a few (car owners, oil companies, toll companies), and since as always, Rail Transit Investment was viewed by Governments as not money making ventures. But some case studies presented here that some Mass Rail Transits can be profitable if it is efficient and popular and has a far reach.

Also, the greening and pedestrianization of some open and public spaces (Plazas, Parks, Monuments) are good to the community. As more and more people enjoy their surroundings, a sense of history and community is developed among the residents. Another effect that the book noted is the improvement on the community ethics wise, as soon as some communities are pedestrianized or greened, a decrease in criminality and some untoward incidents within.

The book also aimed a hit on privatism or isolationism, prevalent in the upper class subdivisions here in Metro Manila.

Also, the book presented some case studies on other countries but I’ll focus on our affluent neighbor Singapore.

Singapore as you know has very limited land for development so the government curtailed excessive car ownership. So Singaporeans have first to obtain a Certificate of Entitlement for them to purchase any car. But this certificate is not a piece of cake, everyone must bid out for the certificate, sometimes it is much much more expensive than the actual car. Only a few certificates are released by the government each year. Also, it imposes a toll on certain roads to the Business District.

Newman, Peter and Kenworthy, Jeffrey. Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence. USA: Island Press, 1999.


"Water holds the key to sustainable development, we must work together to protect and carefully manage this fragile, finite resource."  - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Happy World Water Day!

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Our Volunteers around the world work with local governments, clinics, nongovernmental organizations, and communities at the grassroots level, where the need is most urgent and the impact can be the greatest, focusing on outreach, social and behavior change in public health, hygiene and water sanitation.

5. Never stop innovating. The future of social entrepreneurship is limited only by our imaginations and creativity. In many ways, all socially-responsible businesses are moving in this direction. Their employees and shareholders are demanding they be accountable for more than just dragging money to the bottom line — making new approaches to problems a must. We are in continual dialogue with our clients to identify the new products and services that they most need to build stable, more secure livelihoods.

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Scientists in South Korea say they have produced gasoline from genetically modified Escherichia coli, a bacteria more commonly associated with food poisoning in humans. The researchers, from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, say their work could one day lead to a new and sustainable source of clean fuel.

"Kusum Athukorala, one of the country’s leading experts on water management, agrees that women are key to adapting effective measures to deal with water challenges and changing climate patterns.

“Women are the foot soldiers of climate change adaptation,” said Athukorala who heads the Network of Women Water Professionals, Sri Lanka (NetWwater) and the Women for Water Partnership…

However, despite their importance, women are still being largely left out of the decision making, according to a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). The report - The Challenges of Securing Women’s Tenure and Leadership for Forest Management: The Asian Experience - found that gender discrimination is still rampant.

Arvind Khare, RRI’s senior director of country and regional programmes, said that women’s roles should not only be recognized but should also be enforced. He took the case of land rights in rural China, where women often find themselves losing land, due to cultural and social norms, despite laws that are gender neutral on paper.

“How can we look at climate adaptation and food security when those who do most of the work at ground level have no say?” he asked.

Via AlterNet

Dallas, TX.

I am a student at Southern Methodist University and currently work with their Environmental Representative (e-rep) program.

I went to a grand opening mini-conference at Southern Methodist University for their new Sustainability and Development Master of Arts degree in the Lyle school of engineering. 

I am proud to say that Dallas leaders are looking towards making Dallas the greatest city in the United States by leading in sustainable development.

By commuters commuters into city apartments, developing mass transit (DART), and increasing the walk-ability of a formerly car run city Dallas is reaching towards the future.

One day I hope to live in a Dallas high-rise without a car and work in a sustainable engineering professional job.   

This is why I believe in Dallas. 

We can overcome oil, poor lifestyle choices, and save the world we live in.

Dallas will be the best place to do this now!