Mobility & Smart City: England & Wales

During January and February 2017 I have been working on two events with Midlands Environmental Business Company (MEBC), an independent membership organisation that promotes the business and economic benefits and opportunities of the implementation of sustainable development principles, and the transformation to a low Carbon society. MEBC is also is also the UK branch of the World Business Council of Sustainable Development in Geneva.

The first event at the University of Cardiff about Smart Cities included presentations from leading experts from the UK and around the world on how public-private partnerships are providing creative, profitable solutions that enhance public well-being; to encourage debate on how these solutions can benefit Cardiff and the City region. Organisations in Cardiff included Toshiba, Jacobs, Sustainable Places Research Institute and the Welsh Government. Smart Technologies can help us build safer, zero carbon cities; and promote the smart delivery of services, driving resource efficiency and improving quality of life. But, as with all technological developments,  there is both a cost and payoff that needs to be considered. Science and statistics may recommend machines replacing people in some cases, reducing human interaction and quality of life for some of our most vulnerable people, including elders. Populations are ageing but at what price?

Mobility 2025 took place at Birmingham Council House on Friday 17 February to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the region regarding transport. The government is introducing a Clean Air Zone to reduce pollution in city centres. Some vehicles will no longer be permitted to enter and be subject to fines. This will affect business and travel in the West Midlands. Emissions in Birmingham from traffic are critical with 1500 people dying from air pollution each year. How are we going to tackle these challenges?

Presentations addressed topics including integrated transport systems, the future role of the car in the city and air quality. Representatives and researchers from HS2, Transport for West Midlands and Warwick University shared their news and future projections that lead to a healthy debate. Driver-less cars are the hot new topic encouraging car sharing and reducing road accidents and deaths that are caused daily due to human error. However these still pose questions about the importance of human interaction and employment levels. As our reliance on machines increases, so does our need to power them with energy sources. Manpower is decreased both as employees and as active healthy and happy individuals, so we create more machines and gyms to keep people moving. As usual citizens with less disposable income cannot afford certain services and their blue collar roles may be decreasing leaving these members of society less better off once again. There are many sides to the debate;  we are living in complex times.

This is invaluable background research for me in my ongoing quest to understand climate change challenges being grappled with by governments, scientists, academics, researchers and activist on a national and global scale. Its a complex picture that is important to understand from my perspective as a change maker with a passion to re-tell and re-address the challenges from a creative and cultural viewpoint. Arts and cultural organisations when aligned with these sectors may be able to play their part to encourage civil society to be engaged and empowered to re-think their choices and behaviour. This could lead to improving quality of life for both people and planet.


Birmingham Smart City


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