A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the idea that it’s possible to be shocked but not surprised. This is how I often felt as I flicked through the pages of 99 Maps to Save the Planet, a book that visualizes human impacts on the environment.
Put together by KATAPULT – a German magazine that creates insightful infographics on various social issues – the book has an introduction by conservationist and TV presenter Chris Packham. He makes the point that being bombarded with too much complex information can sometimes leave us confused and floundering. “There is no struggle to grasp the facts displayed so lucidly here,” he says, “no excuse to ignore them.”
While some of the ideas depicted will be familiar to most readers, such as Earth overshoot day, many of the infographics represent information in new ways that are freshly eye-opening for me. For example, in one map cities are labelled not with their own names, but the names of other cities whose current climates they will experience at various degrees of warming. At a temperature rise of 2.01–2.5 °C, London is projected to feel like Barcelona does now. Troublingly, some cities’ future climates cannot be compared with any existing ones.
There is occasional humour throughout, and some pages feel tongue-in-cheek. One, for instance, shows a map of “where people drive SUVs” in blue and “where people need to drive SUVs” in black. The map is, of course, 100% blue, with the exception of groups of islands coloured in red. The key indicates that these are islands that will soon be submerged by the sea.
The book has some positive pictures too, such as one showing the dramatic global reduction in consumption of substances that damage the ozone layer as a result of the Montreal Protocol that was implemented in the 1980s. But this just leaves me wondering why climate change hasn’t been treated with similar urgency. I hope that the shocking information in this book helps to spur some action, even if it comes without the surprise.
China’s first autonomous container ship will enter service in October 2021. The 300TEU Zhi Fei will be deployed by the state-owned Shandong Port Shipping Group to shuttle between Qingdao’s main port and the latter’s sub-port, Dongjiakou.
Zhi Fei is the first container ship serving China’s inland waterways to meet the criteria of unmanned autonomous navigation tests.
China began its push towards autonomous vessels in March 2019, when the Ministry of Transport approved research and development into smart navigation and integrated transport. Maritime nations are keen on autonomous navigation as a means to reducing maritime accidents and resolving a shortage of seafarers.
Construction of the Zhi Fei was assigned to Yangfan Group’s Qingdao shipyard, the vessel design was undertaken by Navigation Brilliance Technology, Shanghai Bestway Marine Engineering Design, Shanghai Marine Equipment Research Institute, Dalian Maritime University and the China Waterborne Transport Research Institute.
Vessel construction was completed in June 2021 and sea trials were conducted later that month.
The ship is fitted with intelligent navigation and advanced environmentally-friendly solutions that reduce emissions and noise, including an electric propulsion system.
Zhi Fei is 117 metres long and 15 metres wide with a maximum sailing speed of 12 knots.
Operating the Zhi Fei will be an experiment for the future development of unmanned navigation in China.
Besides autonomous navigation, the Ministry of Transport will experiment with installing ship-to-shore mobile communication network on the vessel, smart pilotage, and unmanned dispatch and management of container cargoes.
Vassilis G. Kaburlasos
Agricultural robotics has been a popular subject in recent years from an academic as well as a commercial point of view. This is because agricultural robotics addresses critical issues such as seasonal shortages in manual labor, e.g., during harvest, as well as the increasing concern regarding environmentally friendly practices. On one hand, several individual agricultural robots have already been developed for specific tasks (e.g., for monitoring, spraying, harvesting, transport, etc.) with varying degrees of effectiveness. On the other hand, the use of cooperative teams of agricultural robots in farming tasks is not as widespread; yet, it is an emerging trend. This paper presents a comprehensive overview of the work carried out so far in the area of cooperative agricultural robotics and identifies the state-of-the-art. This paper also outlines challenges to be addressed in fully automating agricultural production; the latter is promising for sustaining an increasingly vast human population, especially in cases of pandemics such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
The biggest industrial plant yet to suck tons of planet-heating carbon dioxide out of the air came online yesterday in southwest Iceland. Direct air capture plants like this one have been hyped up lately by world leaders and giant corporations — notably Microsoft — that are looking to erase their legacy of greenhouse gas pollution.
This particular operation is ideally located to test theemerging technology. The new plant, built by Swiss company Climeworks, is powered by renewable energy from a geothermal power plant nearby. Climeworks also plans to lock the captured CO2 away in basalt rock formations just three kilometers from the geothermal plant. It’s a storage plan that likely bypasses the need for controversial new carbon dioxide...
LettUs Grow, an indoor farming technology provider from Bristol, have teamed up with the University of York, & Spark:York to create “Grow It York”: a vertical, community farm at the heart of a vibrant container park in Piccadilly, York. The container park, called Spark:York, is a Community Interest Company using shipping containers to provide spaces for local restaurants, retailers and entrepreneurs.
The farm forms part of theFixOurFood programme, a leading food systems research collaboration led by the University of York, funded for 5 years through the Transforming UK Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund. FixOurFood aims to transform Yorkshire food networks and develop regenerative systems that will create a fairer and more sustainable future for food production.
Grow It York is an indoor urban community farm in a shipping container, supplying hyper-local produce to the surrounding businesses and locals. It was built to investigate how vertical farming can play a role in creating positive changes within our food systems, while also benefiting our health, environment and economy.
The project’s mission is to prove that healthy food is about more than nutrition: “Our food must come from a healthy planet supporting biodiversity and vigorous ecosystems. It should enrich the communities where it is grown and eaten, and help local economies to thrive.”
LettUs Grow is supplying the vertical farming technology and their Growing Specialist, Billy Rodgers, is also providing on-site growing training. Billy said, “The Grow It York project has a really interesting range of teams involved. The collaboration between work in technology development, project feasibility research & real-world use of vertically farmed produce is important because food sustainability can’t be addressed by any one thing - you need to look at the whole food supply chain. It’s been really great being able to provide growing training for Grow It York. It’s exciting to see how projects like these can make learning about growing food more accessible to those in cities.”
LettUs Grow’s aeroponic technology is an eco-friendly method of growing crops indoors without soil, with less water and without the need for pesticides. The container farm will grow salad crops such as pea shoots, watercress, microgreens and herbs, which can also be prepared and eaten fresh at the restaurants within Spark:York.
CEO & co-founder of LettUs Grow, Charlie Guy, believes that projects like these are key to maximising the benefits of indoor growing: “It’s exciting to see indoor farming being utilised in this environment because the advantages of growing in such close proximity to consumers are so evidently visible. Whether that’s reducing food miles and food waste, or more holistic benefits such as getting people involved in and excited about growing food locally. Container park communities are a great way to demonstrate the impact of indoor farming on a smaller scale and they really emphasise the potential for this model to be translated across the country at different settings and scales.”
The University of York, through FixOurFood, is researching how hybrid businesses that prioritise social and environmental benefit (not just profit) can be encouraged in the food system. It will explore how these innovative businesses can help tackle the health, environment and economic challenges of how we produce, supply and eat food. This joint university-business community farm is the first of its kind, but there are plans to expand to other locations if the project is a success.
“It’s fantastic to be working with Spark:York and LettUs Grow on this project combining research with action - growing fresh produce for the variety of local restaurants, working with the local community and evaluating the impact of Grow It York. We hope to offer community slots for growing in the farm and are already working with eco and food groups in schools to design events around the farm. The indoor farm can grow produce all year round with the highly local supply chain promoting the local economy and less vulnerable to disruption from weather, pandemics, changes to international trade and so on,” said Professor Katherine Denby, project lead in FixOurFood.
Tom McKenzie Spark:York’s co-founder and Director said: "We’re extremely proud to be working with LettUs Grow and the University of York on this. It represents an exciting step forward for our project, and the first time any form of vertical growing has been trialled in York city centre. We feel this setting is perfect, with such a focus on local and independent food producers at Spark:York.
It’s brilliant to see our chefs already starting to use this amazing produce. The interest from members of the public visiting the venue has already been huge, and we hope we can use the opportunity to shout about the significant environmental benefits that this method of agriculture can bring. We’re hoping the local community can become heavily involved in the running and activities in the farm, and end up seeing this as an asset to be explored and enjoyed."
The farm is open to the public, who can visit to see produce growing. The site is open 12 -11pm Tuesday to Saturday. Those who want to taste the vertically farmed produce, can pick up a free salad bag from the Spark York’s General Store at Unit 3 on Thursday mornings from 9.30 - 11 am and Saturdays from 8.30 - 10 am (or until the stock has gone).