PODCAST

The Oblique Life Global Goals

The Oblique Life

The world needs to shift to a new paradigm, but what is stopping us and how can we do this? In 2015, 193 world leaders signed up to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable world by the year 2030. We have the technology, we have the people and if we have the money but can we make this target? Romi Sumaria and Aarti Shah explore some of the biggest challenges that we face to meet these goals, share the real stories of what is being done on the ground and speak to inspiring individuals and organisations that are leading the way in delivering impact.

S02E06: Access to Clean Water
5d ago
S02E06: Access to Clean Water
Whether it is New York City, Mexico City or Ho Chi Minh City, enabling equitable access to clean drinking water, and adequate drainage and storm run-off must overcome multiple challenges.Burgeoning urban populations need increasing amounts of water, but the changing climate is impacting primary sources. “What we have considered sustainable water management for decades is untenable when we consider continuing pressures on supply and quality,” Dr Anna Robuck warns us. Enrique Iomnitz explains the “perverse” vicious cycle of Mexico’s leaky grid. As in many Global South cities, supplying water intermittently reduces water loss, but when the flow stops, the pressure causes even more leaks - exacerbated by earthquakes.Regenerative systems operate on a circular budget with more limited releases of water than the linear model industrialised countries are accustomed to. Enabling safe regeneration - even beyond consumer servicing - requires upgraded infrastructure, and also trust. Balancing safety with sustainability is a challenge even in the United States, where policies do not take into account the slew of chemicals pouring out of households, farming and industry. Governance and funding are often key differentiators between the Global North and South, but cities such as Lingyuan in China are leading the way.The new generation of solutions need to treat water at a lower energy and chemical cost. The ‘sponge city’ concept and retaining increasingly heavy rains are starting to be taken on. To scale and speed up solutions, academics need to collaborate more closely with the private sector and governments. Local community engagement and education, public private partnerships and new distributed marketplaces for the commercial sector, as demonstrated by Romain Joly and Enrique Iomnitz’s enterprises, must also be integrated. Speakers:Dr. Anna Robuck, Researcher, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiEnrique Lomnitz, Co-Founder & Director, Isla UrbanoRomain Joly, CEO at O-We Water Vietnam & Director of business development at 1001fontaines
S02E03: Technology and Cities
May 16 2022
S02E03: Technology and Cities
Information and telecommunications infrastructure is our most recent urban amenity. Today, wireless voice, data and Internet connectivity and increasingly digital transmission are enabling new types of economic and community interaction. In this episode, we discuss how information and communications technology (ICT) can shape the urban environment, and how cities can create opportunities for ICT. To quote Dr Maria Lema, the ‘Smart City’ should be one which “improves efficiency and provides a better quality of life for all citizens.” For this, we need to address challenges, from a lack of standardisation and processes, to lagging infrastructure and domineering telecoms providers, to technology negatively impacting the climate. Digital infrastructure and technologies must be accessible and affordable if they are to create employment opportunities, improve quality of life, and manage resources for all. Data is what makes a city smart. It helps optimise - and even democratise - services such as transport and healthcare. 5G, with its lower cost of ownership, is changing the way cities operate. A local authority can provide services without relying on traditional network operators. Through artificial intelligence, as Briana Brownell states, there could be fundamental changes in how we live our lives from birth, but citizens must be engaged so that they are able to have agency. This is starting to change. In all these areas, policy and financing need to be strategic, and mindful of the contexts in which the technology operates. In summary, when deployed well, ICT enables cities to make judicious use of the planet’s resources and creates new, equitable social and economic openings and interactions.Speakers:Briana Brownell, CEO,  Pure Strategy Inc.Dr Maria Lema, Co-Founder, Weaver Labs
S02E02: Re-Imagining Governance
May 9 2022
S02E02: Re-Imagining Governance
In episode 2, we focus on re-inventing governance for urban ecosystems of the 21st century through the cities of Rotterdam and Mumbai.Bas Boorsma speaks about our undergoing a transition - from the hollowing out of the middle class to a complex digital transformation that is creating new employment opportunities, and eliminating old ones. The transition is also about actively engaging, preparing and motivating citizens from diverse backgrounds. We discuss what types of structures and policies enable regeneration and inclusivity. Streamlining and collaboration within government are needed, but so is partnership with broader society. Power should be devolved as close as possible to city residents, as long as it comes with the capacity and funding for it to be effective. Even where power is fractured across different levels of government, as is the case of Mumbai, democratic legitimacy should come through a bottom-up citizen participatory approach commingled with more traditional top-down instruments. Design-led technology can contribute to this.The Covid-19 pandemic has made the government - and the middle classes - realise “the city works on the shoulders of migrants”, to quote Dr Anita Patil-Deshmukh. Shocks such as this may impact policy. More generally, though, we must be more nimble. While self-governance has a role, start-ups and scale-ups on the ground hold important insights. Regulators can support innovators while protecting what is best and fairest for society at large.  “Agile is one of those magic ingredients for preparing our cities for our next phase of transition and success,” says Bas.Resources: - free open-source participatory democracy platform for cities and organizations Boorsma, Chief Digital Officer,  City of RotterdamDr Anita Patil-Deshmukh, Executive Director, PUKAR: Youth & Urban Knowledge, Urbanism, Research Programme, Barefoot Researchers