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TEDxLondon: City2.0



TEDxLondon, with a theme of ‘City2.0’, sought to bring the issue of sustainable cities to the forefront. Speakers outlined how to deal with a growing urban population and the issues created from overcrowding to air pollution.

The event was held at the Crystal in London’s Royal Victoria Docks on December 6. Hosted by David Rowan, editor of Wired UK, the event featured thought-provoking speeches on the issues associated with urban growth and the intelligent planning of sustainable cities.

A wide array of speakers took to the stage including structural engineer Roma Agrawal, London Historian and journalist Leo Hollis, executive director of the US Regional Plan Association Tom Wright and architect Michael Pawlyn.

One of the speakers, Hollis, argued that there isn’t enough talk about civics and called for social urbanisation where people are put at the centre of decision-making.

He spoke about an experience in Bangalore involving an activist group called the Ugly Indian. The group was fed up with the authorities taking to long to tidy up run down areas so they did themselves and found that people working in the local area, who were not part of the group, came to help.

Hollis said, “This is one of the key questions when we consider the city of the future – who is the city for? How do we come together and what are the rules and regulations of citizenship in the future?”

He proposed three key values that should underpin a city of the future – trust, equality and the right to the city. “If the city is not for everybody, then who is it for?”, he concluded.

Tom Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association in the US, spoke about how future cities not only need to plan for population growth but the impacts of climate change. He used the example of his hometown New York to show how urbanisation is putting pressure on city resources.

He said that after Hurricane Sandy it became obvious that infrastructure needed to become more efficient to combat the extreme weather events that are likely to become more frequent in the future. This coupled with population growth means that means that a huge amount of investment is needed.

Wright said, “This is going to mean investing in energy, water supply, efficient buildings, ways to move people around, housing, parks, education and healthcare. These things are going to cost money and I think we are at a point now a real decision needs to be made in the United States.”

Co-founder of clean technology company Pavegen, Jonathan Keeling, demonstrated how new technology could change the way cities get their energy and make them more environmentally friendly. He argued that future cities should create power where and when it was needed.

He said, “It seems we are living in an age where we take things like energy for granted. Are we taking the nuclear power message of the 60’s of energy being too cheap to meter at its word?”

The company’s technology uses the kinetic power of people walking to create electricity. Using the technology on streets would allow cities to power streetlights and more in an efficient and clean way, Keeling said. It has already been used in retail, offices and parts of the London underground.

Keeling added that Pavegen was just a small part of a larger landscape of smart energy innovations that have the potential to change the world’s future built environment.

The rest of the videos from the event are available to view here.

Further reading:

Existing city infrastructure can be ‘reprogrammed’

Our future cities will have to be smarter and more resilient

Green versus grey infrastructure

Just one in four European cities fully prepared for climate change

We need expert problem-solvers to build the cities of the future


Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family



Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace --

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By --

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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