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Sustainable Energy for All: this year, next year, sometime – or never?

Lara J Carim27 November 2012

West Yorkshire wind turbines (by
nulabugeye on Flickr)

Liberal Democrat Energy Minister Ed Davey’s clash with his Conservative deputy John Hayes over the future of wind turbines earlier this month demonstrates how topical and divisive the sustainable energy agenda can be.

Despite the issue’s current high media profile, a quick show of hands at the start of Professor Paul Ekins’ Lunch Hour Lecture on 20 November illustrated that there is little public awareness of 2012 as UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All – even among an audience with an interest in the topic.

Undeterred, Ekins, who is Professor of Resources and Environmental Policy and Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, immediately set out in stark terms why sustainable energy is “a huge issue”: 1.3 billion people globally in 2012 have no access to electricity, and 2.7 billion – more than one-third of the world’s population – lack clean cooking facilities.

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UCL-Lancet Commission: Shaping Cities for Health

news editor6 June 2012

Jessica Lowrie, UCL Communications & Marketing intern.

By 2030, globally, three in five people will live in cities. Despite the perception that city living provides an ‘urban advantage’ over those who live in rural areas, those who live in poor urban areas can often have worse health outcomes than wealthier city residents, but also in comparison to rural dwellers.

Urban and economic growth will not automatically create an ‘urban advantage’ – public policy is needed to maintain and improve conditions to allow for such an advantage to exist.

Healthy cities
This concept was the foundation for an event held by the UCL-Lancet Commission on 30 May to launch their high-profile report on Healthy Cities, published on the same day.

The report was the second from the UCL-Lancet Commission, recognising the valued commitment from both organisations to UCL’s Grand Challenges (Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing).

The well-organised and insightful event began with introductions from Professor David Price (UCL Vice-Provost – Research) and Professor Richard Horton (Editor, the Lancet).

Professor Yvonne Rydin (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), lead author of the report, then embarked on a comprehensive overview of the report and its main findings.

Professor Rydin explained that the report aimed “to understand how better health outcomes can be delivered through interventions in urban environments in cities across the world”.

Certain components of a healthy city seem obvious: good water and sanitation infrastructures, clean air, uncontaminated land, safe homes, opportunities for safe and active mobility and effective green infrastructure.

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One banana, two banana…measuring carbon footprints with Banana Theory

news editor1 June 2012

Jamie Bull, PhD student in UCL Engineering

On 21 May, a group of EngD students from UCL and MA students from Chelsea College of Art launched an art installation in the parade ground of Chelsea College.

EngD researchers from the Urban Sustainability and Resilience centre had spent time developing ideas for communicating their research to a wider audience through the medium of an art installation.

The winning team came up with Banana Theory, the idea of using the seemingly omnipresent QR codes as a kind of carbon barcode for products. This was tied in with the book, How Bad are Bananas? which uses the humble banana as a unit of carbon. A box of QR-labelled bananas was then on hand at the launch event to be handed out to the audience.

The main part of the art installation, though, is a giant QR code cut into the turf in the centre of the parade ground.

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Sustainability: Concepts and Materiality

news editor29 May 2012

What does it mean to be sustainable? What enables or hinders sustainable behaviour?

A one-day interdisciplinary workshop on sustainability, held on 18 May and organised through collaboration between UCL Anthropology and the Environment Institute, successfully bought different disciplines together to discuss what sustainability means.

Keynote speaker Blanche Cameron, who among other roles is the founding director of RESET-Development, opened the day with a thought-provoking discussion of sustainability, particularly our relationship to nature.

Blanche argued that we need to move away from our current focus on CO2 emissions and the economy, and towards a focus on all aspects of the natural environment, in order the behave in a sustainable way. This really resonated with those attending and was picked up on again at several points throughout the day.

The first papers session on “cultural shifts” raised questions such as: at what levels do we need to be active in order to promote sustainability? Should we be acting locally? Can this influence global action?

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