Is there any other alternative framework?

Simple and specific standards have low technological and knowledge barriers in practice, while complex and resulted-oriented standards create more room for innovation. However, is it possible to combine the two frameworks? It would be simple to practice and free to innovate. It would be easy to realize bottom-up innovation or even revolution.

One of the possible successful applications of combination might be the Internet and platforms based on the Internet. Take the development of YouTube as an example. It began as simple idea of sharing videos with friends by several young people in a few years ago. Now it becomes one of the most popular media platforms with great influences on the world ranging from individual’s daily life to global events. To some extent, YouTube changes the media and entertainment. Behind the dramatic change is the combination of simple standards and result-oriented standards. The internet provides easy access to the public while the programmers provide the platform oriented to sharing videos. In this sense, is it possible to use this kind of combination in other fields, such as carbon control or some other environment issues?

To some extent, carbon control and the media platform share some features. Both of them are access to every individual and groups. It is impractical to calculate carbon emission of everything. But it might be possible to create a device which can calculate and evaluate carbon emission just like the phone to record in the future. If such device or mobile application created, it would be possible to be clear about the amount of emissions and influences, leading to positive way of public supervision, evaluation and education. All these goals could be achieved by building a result-oriented framework for innovation device on the simple framework.

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Story and Statistic

Societal shifts, such as the move from rural to urban living within the time-frame of an average lifespan, demonstrate that humans have potential to impact great change in a short amount of time, often before fully understanding the impacts of that change.

Last spring, I participated in the McKinley Futures Studio at UW, which projected visions of the city of Seattle one hundred years into the future. During a review of our work, a discussion began about  technology and VR. Instead of imagining a dystopian future, one of the reviewers noted that humans evolve more slowly than we innovate. He posited that society will retain an essence of “humanity” as we know it, regardless of what options we may invent to shift our interpretations of reality in the future.

This is relevant to our readings this week, particularly in thinking about “frameworks” and “goals/paradigms.” I’ve studied these concepts previously through systems-thinking, but had not considered these as two categories for points of leverage. My impression is that “frameworks” need to operate in conjunction with “goals/paradigms” to gain traction. While there is great need for innovation in measurement, standard, and policy, this innovation must co-evolve with societal values to have the greatest impact.

Increasing public interest in climate change is a great example of this. Now that measurements have been developed to convey information about shifting temperatures and emissions levels, standards are better able to offer paths forward. However, the power of goal/paradigm must join with this framework-based approach to garner popular support, which in turn influences business and policy. The story of hotel chains moving from their own standards to LEED because of customer familiarity (Carbon Efficient City 22) is one example of popular understanding working alongside measurement to influence greater change.

Currently, the work of documentarians like James Balog (Chasing Ice), Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier (Sea Legacy), and even companies like Patagonia (Damnation) are joining the conversation with scientists, researchers, and standards-developers like USGBC and ILFI. Together, these groups change frameworks in measurable ways, define paths forward, influence markets, and propose policy change. These actors demonstrate the power of framework and paradigm to affect systems by helping society identify with the impacts of our actions so that we can advocate for better paths forward.

 

Create New City Life for people

In the book “The Carbon Efficient City”, there is a sentence leave me a deep impression. “…the easiest way to get lots of people to change what they do in a substantial way is to give them a better alternative that creates more perceived value and delights them.” Take Copenhagen as an example. In 2005, the Copenhagen tried to bring New City Lift to the city that struck a better balance between city life and car traffic. Instead of let squares served as the parking lot, planners and designers hope more pedestrians could stay in squares and use them. So they added lots of furniture and coffee shops to squares which attracted more people willing to stay there. At the same time, in order to relieve traffic pressure, planners and designers encouraged people to ride bicycles by making cycling became the most convenient commute in the city.

To analyze why Copenhagen could reduce CO2 emission by 20% between 2005 and 2015:

In city level: Copenhagen has a long-term plan and set up a goal that is THE FIRST CARBON NEUTRAL CAPITAL in the world by 2025. In the plan, they have a national goal that how much CO2 emission should be reduced and clear targets in different areas. And in each area, they have subgoals for industries.

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In planning level: Copenhagen has a detailed plan in different aspects. Take transportation as an example. They have 15 initiatives to reduce the CO2 emission in transportation. Such as encouraging bike as main transportation, establish environment zones in dense downtown areas where only environmentally friendly cars and trucks are allowed, encourage LED lighting and so on.

In industrial level: take buildings as an example. They not only focus on design and construction but also pay attention to training building owners, renters, trade workers and consultants on CO2 reduction opportunities.

Besides those reasons above, other reasons should be taken into consideration. First is the financial reason. The second is the geographical reason. For instance, because of the flat ground and the walkable size of Copenhagen, it is possible for cycles to be the main transportation. Compare to here Seattle, ups and downs which cost by hills make it difficult for every to choose bikes as the commute.

It is no doubt with the urgency of the MP2.5 pollution problem China. Lots of strategies have been taken in response to this question, not only in government level but also in companies and individuals levels.

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Take Shanghai as an example. In the November 2016, more than 10 Bicycle-sharing companies quickly raised in China, especially in Shanghai, such as OFO and MOBILK. It is a good signal that public start to react the traffic and CO2 emission problems. However, it is not going as well as Copenhagen. Without a detailed “up to down” planning, it is hard to change the situation.

As far as I noticed, even though hundreds and thousands of bikes are easy to use, there is still a high percentage of people choose their own car as the commute. One reason behind it might be related to the big size of the city. At the same time the disordered management of Bicycle-sharing also cause new social problems.

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Bicycle-sharing is a good start to encourage people to use public transportation and try to educate people about the knowledge about CO2 emission. However, in order to reduce CO2 emission at it‘s source, the government should do more and related rating system to supervise industries is needed. 

First, now China already have a 2030 goal that the emission of CO2 will not increase after 2030. We also need a more detailed and comprehensive plan. Besides a national goal, we need subgoals and region goals. Some rich areas such as Beijing and Shanghai could be an example for some poor areas.

Second, consider about the current situation, it isn’t a good choice to raise the tax on fossil fuels since most of the people rely on it. But we could decline the tax of clean energy and encourage new techniques such as Hybrid and electric vehicles.

Third, as a designer, we should provide opportunities for new live models and try to apply techniques in our design. At the same time, we could educate people and create new city life through our design works.

Gamifying our Utilities

Fossil fuels have gained a bad reputation due to their hefty contributions to climate change and global warming. Students petitionProtestingFossilFuels, tweeters tweet, and states pass laws to replace existing and proposed fossil fuel projects with cleaner forms of energy–such as solar, wind, and hydro power. Yet, despite our best efforts, fossil fuel sources persist because they are cheap and reliable.

Furthermore, many states have too much demand for clean energy sources to satiate the public’s need to charge their technology and power their air conditioning units. If fossil fuels are the culprits EnergyConsumptionCartoonresponsible for robbing the vitality of our environment, then we are the getaway drivers. (Indeed America is historically one of the highest consumers of energy.)

Therefore, if we want to successfully combat climate change, then we will need to fight back on the front lines by decreasing energy consumption. This can be done most effectively by re-framing how users interact with their utility companies.

Utilities have already been testing new strategies to curb consumption. Often new strategies are implemented by water utilities in drought-prone regions or by electric utilities to decrease power usage during peak hours. Strategies such as showcasing or shaming users have been shown to have little effect, and some systems have prompted public backlash. If this is the case, how do utilities incentivize better behavior?

Gamification has proven to be an effective measure for changing behavior.

Just recently I received an Apple Watch, and my daily activity became viewable to my friend (who also has an Apple Watch). Due to this sharing feature, I am incentivized to take more steps throughout my day because I know my friend is watching. I now go out of my way to walk more because I can earn rewards and the respect of my peers for doing so. This is an example of gamification working. (Although whether this activity is making me healthier is another story.)

Aside from Apple, many other industries and developers have harnessed the power of gamification. Apps for mobile phones give rewards and kudos to users for drinking more water throughout their day, and some programs reward users with virtual credit for real-world actions. Utilities could also harness these strategies to cut consumption.

Top energy savers could be featured by user name on a scoreboard for all to see, or users with below-average consumption could receive credits for a reward program that would eventually pay out with gift cards or discounts on future rates. Digital avatars and profiles could also be designed and linked across utilities so that your online eco-warrior persona can manifest with points and levels displaying how amazing you are at decreasing energy use.

Eco-Warrior Online Persona

Gamifying the user interface with utilities can create a new awareness around how citizens think about their energy usage.

Although gamification is not a way to change federal or state optimization goals or clean energy-production funding, consumption is a key variable in the carbon emission equation–and it is one that must be minimized. Despite regulatory hurdles, real change can be achieved through bottom-up efforts by stopping energy emissions at its source: demand.

De-Siloizer

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Slipping into an apathetic oblivion is becoming a reality for far too many of us. After reading the twentieth headline for the day the weight of the world can feel so heavy and unbearable that it’s easier to do nothing than anything. Simultaneously many of us feel anxious about pending issues and the state of our union. We’ve allowed our news cycle to blind us to the civic work being done in our communities, states, and country. The good news is; there’s good news out there at each of those levels.

So how do we find it?

Consumers of media can scroll a little further, check out new sources and share the whole picture with their circles rather than reposting the latest HuffPo or Blaze article. This would be a great start to breaking out of self-made silos and creating a culture of appreciation and knowledge rather than disgust and division.

How do you break out of that silo when you are the civic entity?

We’ve all experienced having blinders on at work and not taking the time or feeling like we have the time to look up and look around. Our legislators are no different. Federally we need someone distilling what great ideas other nations are pushing forward. State Legislators need to be aware of what other states have been doing. And of course, our city officials need to be aware of what other cities are enacting.

Even more critical however than civic peers looking at each other’s work is looking into other levels. Federal law makers looking at state and city work. Cities making sure they’re aware of state laws, their own as well as the other forty-nine options. From these critical vantage points we can act on great ideas faster creating a more perfect union.

This is where the De-Siloizer comes in to save us from ourselves. They would serve to demystify new regulations at all levels for all levels. They are on top of what’s being proposed and to whom it may apply. They can distill it and share how it will impact the other levels. Make regulatory suggestions even. In reality this role would be a quasi-governmental team pouring over recently enacted laws and using algorithms to align like minded legislation. Perhaps this evolves into a real time data base where everyone can become more engaged and educated about current legislation and its process. This role will remove the blinders and create collaboration like we’ve never seen. The De-Siloizers will propel us out of our apathetic anxiety and into meaningful engagement.

The beauty of a new framework

In today’s economy the prices of energy and water, just as those of products that were made by using these scarce resources do not adequately reflect the true costs of consuming them. We know that waste of water and energy is harming the planet but at the same time we are wasting resources on a regular basis. In some cases we don’t even know that we support the waste of energy or water because of the low transparency on the use of resources.

A strategy that is promoted in “The Carbon Efficient City” is to put a price tag on carbon and water by imposing a flat tax on them. The proceeds of this tax should then be entirely rebated through income and business taxes resulting solely in a redistribution within the economy. The book also tells us about the beauty of this tax based approach which lies in the effect that the prices of a good will partially reflect the global warming effect of it.

Obviously some products would become more expensive for us after this tax is implemented. At the same time the right incentives would be sent out to both customers and businesses. While for example consumers would be discouraged to buy a new phone, the industry should be inspired to become better in recycling the required resources to save energy or to change the product or business model in a way that does the same thing. Putting a lease on the phone to get it back after a certain time could be a way. Inventing modular systems that make it easier to exchange parts. Developing and using bio based materials instead of metals and synthetics. And the list goes on…

Some products or services would become less expensive with such a tax. But how can that be when almost every economic process consumes water or energy? The answers shows a part of the beauty of the carbon tax framework that the book is not really pointing out. It is because of the effect of the redistribution of the money over the income and business taxes. When income tax for example is lowered, also the price for labor to a businesses will decrease. This will increase the value of human labor to a company and could slow down or even turn a long ongoing trend around: Trying to make human labor redundant to save costs on it.

For some reason all developed countries charge high taxes on the income of its citizens while taxes on resources stay low. Sometimes pollution is even subsidized like in the case of fossil fuel. But what if we increase the cost of resources and lower the cost of labor with the help of such a carbon and water tax? Maybe it would enable us to offer jobs to the increasing number of highly educated people that will enter the job market within the next decades. It would definitely make it easier for companies to hire more people. It could improve quality of life by enabling more human resources to create value and engage in important activities like science, craftsmen-ship or home care.

If we want our society and our species to succeed in the long run, we need to save our natural resources and built economic growth on the capabilities of people. A tax is a beautiful way to achieve this goal.

 

How Regulations Are Enforced In Practice Matters

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Regulation in the built environment has its good intentions. Regulation is designed by decision-makers to redirect and improve general folks’ behaviors. Again, as humankind, we’re imperfect and can be irrational. Through regulation, government are trying to steer us into a better direction while preserving our freedom of choice. In other words, regulation is a manifestation of nudge theory.

Every time there is a new regulation put into effect by government, some vested interests get hurt, creating a certain degree of turmoil. Government, as the invisible hand, has every reason to assume responsibility and properly intervene in the situation, as supported by the influential economist J M Keynes.

Let’s suppose City A wants to increase ownership of hybrid vehicles and reduce fossil fuel reliant vehicles. If the city chooses to shut down all manufactures of all conventionally fueled cars, thousands of workers will go on strike, confronting government with bread and milk. City A will be too overwhelmed to deal with new energy car initiative. Such a shock therapy gets nothing done in this case.

Conversely, instead of striking the fossil fuel vehicles manufactures into a stroke, City B chooses to subsidize new energy industry in terms of their wages, research and development, tax rebate, etc. Higher wages attract more workers, who are nudged into the development of new energy industry without hurting their interest, or the economic health as a whole, while abandoning the conventionally fueled vehicle industry. In this example of progressive reform, government achieved what they set out to do, simply by nudging people into a new direction, while preserving their freedom of choice, as opposed to depriving them of the same.

Regulation itself is neutral; governments spare no effort to justify every rule and regulation proposed to be enacted. What dictates and differentiates the outcomes is the methodology, the doing, the mindset, the way how things get done.