CSIRO Solve – February 2007

The Solve quarterly magazine from  CSIRO has many sustainability related articles (Feb 2007 edition). The theme is the intersection of technology, science, multi-disciplinary collaboration and partnerships to create a sustainable world.

Water and IT

The Water theme is continuing on Worldisgreen.com and this time the problem is of data.

The first step in solving the water problem is getting the data on how much water is available, how much is used now and what may be available in the future. In order to achieve this, information technology may be the answer.

A Water Resources Observation Network (WRON) was instigated by CSIRO’s Dr Rob Vertessy in response to the clear need for more accurate monitoring of Australia’s water resources.

He says billions of dollars of investment are needed in new water-supply infrastructure as the urban population grows and the long-term effects of climate change become more apparent. “But where do we start? Good water information is the key to answering these questions.”

The problems being solved revolve around defining data standards, developing security solutions, managing historical data, and even created web-robots to gather dam-level data from multiple web sources.

I can appreciate the need to develop data standards and the ability to transfer data among many different organizations. My current work has been delayed by many months due to the lack of consistent data standards and unavailability of open standards like XML.

Click the link below for the rest of the post.

Eco-Packaging Challenge

It is common knowledge that plastics are a great burden on the environment. Apart from polluting the land and water, petrol based plastics are indestructible. The present plan is of conservation.

CSIRO is talking about bio-plastics as an alternative. CSIRO has started the Sustainable Polymeric Materials Group headed by Dr Dong Yang Wu, from CSIRO Manufacturing and Materials Technology who has assembled a team of 60 scientists.

One of the main services provided by the group is the ability to test the “the trade-off between the strength and biodegradability of plastics, the toxicity of breakdown compounds, the timeframe for decomposition, the ecological destination of the decomposed matter and the mechanism of biodegradation for different polymers and compositions.”

The future is the marriage with materials science occurs when knowledge about how microbes degrade waste builds a platform for designing plastic polymers with altered biodegradability traits that nonetheless perform well during a product’s service life.

Natural Partners

The Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI).

The SCI builds on more than a decade of CSIRO research into ‘systems-based’ approaches, which has included projects such as the HRIC and regional-scale sustainable development. This model takes a holistic approach to community-specific sustainability issues – whether they be salinity, responding to a changing climate, regional development or countless others – and seeks to understand the relationships between local economic, environmental, social and governance systems to develop and deliver systemic responses to the challenges and opportunities.

The SCI initiative is a collaboration between government, NGOs, private sector and the scientific community. The right mix of partners you would require to create a sustainable community.

Dr Noel Purcell, group general manager of stakeholder communications at Westpac gives the best explanation on why Westpac is part of SCI and how it is beneficial.

“While a lot of progress around sustainability is about pragmatic and good execution, there is certainly room for some smarts…and this project was grounded in systems theory and social networks, all of which makes perfect sense to us,” Dr Purcell says. “The sustainability challenges we face as a community require a change in our response. And, it’s fair to say, with two key characteristics. First, no one sector, let alone organisation, can go it alone in this – it has to be collaborative. Second, it’s clear we need more innovative responses.”

The proposed projects vary markedly in their scope and take in communities in Victoria, NSW, ACT, Queensland and Western Sustainable Communities - CSIROAustralia. They include: a municipality that wants to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 and increase the security of its energy supply; a proposal for a ‘brownfield’ redevelopment (brownfield sites are limited in expansion or redevelopment due to actual or perceived environmental contamination) that would assess the impacts of sustainability principles such as water-sensitive urban design and energy supply; and how alternative infrastructure can influence the design of suburbs.

Another project, proposed by Delfin Lend Lease, is the ‘Lockerbie’ development – a greenfield development on Melbourne’s outskirts – that Rod Fehring, CEO of Delfin Lend Lease, says will demonstrate a new model for urban development in Australia.

This website does acknowledge the need for this collaboration. Even though much of the writing is concentrated around business and their relationship to sustainability, as mentioned in the About WorldisGreen.com page, there is a implicit understanding and belief that only with collaboration across multiple dimensions of society is progress possible.

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