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.

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