Date: July 2015
Place: Nesbyen, Norway
I am sure you know a lot about these sexy guys. Indeed, they are said to be one of the best recognized, known, and researched animals in the world. And I have met them this summer in Langedrag Nature Park in NesbyenNorway.
Yes, that’s right. This is the gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as western wolf, from the Canidae family. Most probably you have already met it in different legends and fairytales, as the wolf is a popular character there. Although in many of them it appears as the Big Bad Wolf, in some cultures, like in the Japanese mythology, this animal was worshipped as near deity. In Ancient Greece and Rome wolves were connected to the sun and the god Apollo. But most of the time these social predators are depicted as dangerous and evil. For example, in the Bible wolves serve as symbols of greed and destructiveness.
In spite of this dark image given to the gray wolf, it is rarely a threat to humans, as they are not part of his natural prey. Wolves feed on both small and large mammals, including hares, foxes, deer, moose, wild goats, wild boar, and others. They hunt mostly in packs, although single wolves or mated pairs were also observed hunting.
Wolves are very social and territorial mammals. They also have complex expressive behavior, body language, and facial color patterns. Wolves also use howling to assemble the pack (something like “Avengers, assemble!”), send out an alarm, or locate each other across large distances.
Wolves are hunted by people for their thick and durable fur, which is used for making scarves, jackets, rugs, etc.



What is the recipe for a 100% sustainable world?
In my opinion, you need the following ingredients:
+ 20 g of research and innovation
+ 20 g of renewable energy and energy efficiency technology
+ 50 g of environmentally friendly and resource-saving habits and behavior
+ One “teaspoon” of spices of sustainability policies, economic incentives, and sound legislation…
… and other ingredients depending on the vision of sustainable world you are “cooking” and where you are doing this.
Did I miss anything?
Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the basis of our “cake”, the dough!
This is to be prepared from an efficient and thorough mixture of economic, social, and environmental data and knowledge.
Indeed, such data are very important for practically everything: goal setting, decision making, progress tracking, evaluation of results achieved, and their comparison to the goals and vision of a sustainable world. Without this information we would not be able to determine where we stand in sustainable development, measure our ecological footprint, assess the state of climate change, decide upon sustainability strategies, and implement them in an efficient way. Data is like “solar energy” charging the “photovoltaics” of sustainability research and action.
These statements are based on numerous examples.
Take climate change mitigation and adaptation, for example. The dominant majority of our knowledge about climate change comes from the Assessment Reports prepared and periodically updated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They serve as the information basis for education on climate change, development of climate policies and strategies, and even the global climate negotiations with the next one (COP 21) to take place this November – December in Paris, France. And what makes the IPCC Assessment Reports so valuable for such important and globally influencing things? The data. Concrete, comprehensive, analyzed, and verified data. Of course, there are still many gaps, as climate change is an enormously complex field of science. But without the data gathered through technology and research and made available to the broad public in an open way we wouldn’t have even considered this issue and would have continued to emit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions uncontrollably, thus aggravating the already serious problem.
I use certain environmental data myself. For instance, when I was an activist within the global movement Let’s Do It!, which aims to reach the vision of a green, clean, and zero waste world, I had done research and education on waste pollution and management. My objective was to obtain the most up-to-date information on waste pollution and GHG emissions from it, communicate it to the broad public, and educate people about this issue. For this purpose Toomas, my coordinator at Let’s Do It!, and I have created the Waste Explorer – an on-line visualization tool for the waste data in all countries of the world. And now it is used for various research, raising awareness, and education activities on the topic of waste pollution and management in many other organizations worldwide.
Talking about environmental education and specifically eco-friendly habit formation, this is where data and knowledge have great potential. Nowadays there is a growing number of initiatives that try to explore it. And they are all based on daily collection and measurement of key environmental and behavioral data, display them to the beneficiary in an easily understandable and attractive manner, and then suggest information and solutions that are most effective both for well-being of the user and the protection of the environment. One example I got to know and interacted with recently is the smartphone app BreezoMeter claimed to be the first real time air quality data platform. What BreezoMeter does is that it gathers air quality and weather data and displays it in a simple and user-friendly way for people to be able to make informed decisions on choosing the least polluted areas of their residential areas to go to, thus minimizing health risks from air pollution.
We at the organization Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA) also actively use environmental and social data to form eco-friendly habits and nurture sustainable behavior among both individuals and organizations. Our MEGA vision is a sustainable world, where every person contributes to sustainable development and creation of positive social/environmental impact in a collaborative and fun way anywhere in the world. In order to achieve this vision we apply gamification to educate people about environmental issues, offer them solutions to address these issues, and then showcase their real positive impact. All this is wrapped up into an innovation called MEGA Game: The Game with Impact, where data and knowledge are integrated into the game platform to assist in collaborative decision making for sustainable development.

As you can see from these examples, data and knowledge and their open availability to decision makers and the broad public are the crucial components of a well-informed, effective, and equitable progress in sustainable development. Luckily, the attention to such data continues to increase, and the technology of gathering, processing, and displaying it continues to improve. Therefore, I envision that in the nearest future we will have open access to comprehensive information delivered in an easily understandable way through a number of technological means, which will guide our daily choices and policy making for a better and sustainable world. This will be the “delicious cake for everyone to enjoy in an equal, respectful, and knowledgeable way”.
And it seems that such a vision is not far from being realized. Already such initiatives as Eye on Earth are focusing on ensuring open access to comprehensive environmental, social, and economic information for supporting citizen engagement and decision-making for sustainable development. If you are interested in this topic, you are welcome to attend or follow on-line the Eye on Earth Summit to take place during the 6th – 8th of October, 2015, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

1. Let’s Do It! (2013). Blog: Behold – The Waste Explorer!
2. MEGA (2015). About MEGA.
3. The House of Cakes (2015): Earth Cake 2.



Date: July 2015
Place: Oslo, Norway
These broad leaves of about 3 meters in diameter floating on the surface of water on a submerged stalk belong to the plant called Victoria amazonica. It comes from the family of water lilies (Nyphaeaceae), the aquatic herbs that can be found mostly in temperate and tropical climatic conditions. Victoria amazonica specifically is a happy resident of the Amazon River basin. But the plant on the photo has actually been found by me in the Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway, that I visited in July this year.
Besides the very large leaves, Victoria amazonica is also known for its big (up to 40 cm in diameter) flowers that change colour: the first night they are open the flowers are white, but the second night they become pink. With both of these features, the large leaves and flowers, Victoria amazonica is considered to be the biggest water lily in the world.



Date: July 2015
Place: Oslo, Norway

I have met these cute but carnivorous little “smiles” in the Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway. However, they are not native in this cold country, as their origins lie in the subtropical wetlands of the North America.
These “smiles” are actually the leaves of a very peculiar carnivorous plant called the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). The leaves form clever snap traps that help the plant capture and then digest small insects and arachnids. The trap closes only when the trigger hairs inside are touched twice in rapid succession, thus avoiding unnecessary movements that could have been caused by dust and other particles falling on the lobes of the trap. The speed of closing of the lobes when triggered is about one-tenth of a second. When closed, the trap creates some sort of a hermetically sealed “stomach” that digests its prey for about ten days. After that the trap opens up again and is ready for the next unlucky bug.
Venus flytrap is the most popular cultivated carnivorous plant. It is being sold worldwide as houseplant. Sometimes it is also used in herbal medicine.