Deepen your understanding of Ecofying Cities with these carefully crafted educational exercises that let you get the most out of this TED Studies subject.
It's difficult to measure something as complex as sustainability. For example, what's the best way to measure energy and resource use? Think about the problem at different scales.
A) Human scale: Think of yourself, your own resource use and its environmental impact. Use the references below as a starting point. How does each provider calculate a carbon footprint — are you able to find information about the methods used? How easy would it be to misinterpret specific questions and get a dramatically different answer? Do you have enough information to answer all the questions? Using what you've learned from this exercise, describe what’s challenging about measuring a carbon footprint.
- Global Footprint Network: Footprint Calculator
- Center for Sustainable Economy: Ecological Footprint
- Fundaćion Chile: Zero Carbon app
- Carbon Footprint: Carbon Footprint Calculator
- World Wildlife Fund: Footprint Calculator
- Ecological Footprint Calculator
- Berners-Lee, M. (2010). How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. London: Profile Books.
- Goodall, C. (2010). How to Live A Low Carbon Life: The Individual´s Guide To Tackling Climate Change. London: Routledge.
B) Urban Scale: How can we measure the resource use of a city? Consider that we are only measuring items about which we have data, so we can’t ever get a complete picture. What is the most sustainable city in your country? How is this determined and can you find out exactly what is being assessed? How does your country fare in comparison to others? Good resources include:
- Forum for the Future (2010). Sustainable Cities Index (U.K.)
- Portney, K. (2012, June 15). 2012 Greenest Cities in America. Corporate Knights.
- Light, J. (2013, January 4). 12 cities leading the way in sustainability [Blog post]. Moyers & Company. (U.C.)
- Economist Intelligence Unit (2011). Green City Index (Global). Siemens AG.
- World Resources Institute: Sustainable Cities Initiative (Global)
- Ross, A. (2011). Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City. New York: Oxford University Press USA.
C) Global Scale: Each year we're globally increasing carbon emissions and increasing energy use. The population is growing, consumption of goods and services is higher and the climate is changing. Learn more about measuring carbon emissions at the national and international scales. Good resources include:
- Center for International Climate and Environment Research (CICERO). (2013). Carbon Footprint of Nations
- Water and Energy Relief International (2013). Change in energy and environmental performance score of selected countries, 1990-2010 (%) [Infographic].
- Moore, S. (2013). Bringing the World Back to Zero [Infographic].
Consider the issues of scale and sustainability. What do you think — does your personal carbon footprint even matter at the scale of a city, country or globally? Where can we make big impacts? Is your city measuring its sustainability, and if so, how? Collaborate with classmates, colleagues and/or community organizations to sponsor a discussion of the issues.
William McDonough says, "Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world, with clean air, clean water, soil and power — economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed, period." If we assume that people want to be happy, healthy and safe and that they want the same for others, then why does it seem that people go against their own best interests? Why are we wasting energy when this costs money and creates environmental damage?
Read "The Psychology of Energy Savings: A Q&A With Alex Laskey and Sendhil Mullainathan" and watch Laskey's 2013 TEDTalk "How behavioural science can lower your energy bill". What are the best ways to get people to save energy? How would the other TED speakers featured in Ecofying Cities answer this question, or would they dismiss energy savings as significant means to achieve sustainability?
Imagine that you're leading a task force that's been charged with redeveloping a certain area within your local community. Using what you've learned from the TEDTalks and related resources in Ecofying Cities, explain why you think this area needs redevelopment, and then describe the changes that you might make, the methods that you'd use, and the individuals or organizations you'd enlist as partners in the effort. For additional inspiration, check out the City 2.0 site where you'll find stories, videos, resources and more.