Tag Archives: environment

The Malaysian Airlines Flight Disappearance and the Future Epic Battle between Data for Good and Evil

By Gary Survis*

It was only a matter of minutes after the discovery of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that questions began to be asked about the data.  How could a Boeing 777 jet airliner disappear without a digital trace?  What about the data the airplane collected?  What about the tracking data?  The transponders?  How about the satellite “pings”?  What can  the cell phones’ GPS’s tell us?  It was assumed that the quickest path to answering questions about the mysterious flight disappearance was to decipher the big data digital stream that the plane must have created.  One response was a “crowd sourced” effort to use big data to locate the plane.  People believed that in this age of data omnipresence that leveraging data to solve the mystery was the obvious next step.  Some of the same people who feared the NSA’s intrusions and monitoring, were hoping that data held the answer to this enigmatic puzzle.

Malaysian flight 2

But, as the story began to unfold, it became apparent that whoever was perpetrating this “deliberate” act also understood the power of data.  The slow discovery that the transponder and ACARS system (used to transmit maintenance data to the ground) were “turned off” showed a high level of sophistication and knowledge of the data a modern jet creates.  In fact, during a typical 6 hour flight, an airplane will create between 250 and 500 Megabytes of data.  Those responsible for taking action on this flight understood data, how it might be used to locate the plane, and the need to control it.

And so it seems that we are embarking on a journey to a new era where there will be an epic battle between those that will use data for good and those that will seek to control it for evil purposes.  Today, when we talk of big data, we recognize that we are only in the early stages of this transformation.  The internet of things promises even more data in the future from a multitude of industrial devices and sensors.  Who controls this data and for what purpose will be one of the defining discussions of our age.

starwars

One area where there is hope for data being leveraged for good is in the area of sustainability.  We face many seemingly intractable challenges to our future including feeding our population, evolving to respond to the reality of global climate change, and managing our finite resources in the face of unrestrained development and growth.  The list of projects where big data is being used to attack these issues is encouraging.  Space Time Insight is using geospatial visualization to help utilities deliver the smart grid and integrate more renewables into their mix.  Google and the University of Maryland are partnering to develop satellite driven high resolution interactive maps that can track deforestation due to fire, logging, and other sources.  Companies like Monsanto and DuPont are developing “prescriptive planting” technologies that gather and then feedback data to farmers on everything from planting depth, distance and farm machinery productivity.

And these are but a few of the many very promising uses of big data in sustainability.  On March 27th, the Wharton School’s Initiative for Environmental Leadership (IGEL) will be hosting a conference to examine this topic entitled Sustainability in the Age of Big Data.  Companies such as Shell, SAP, IBM, Dow, and others will be grappling with both the power and promise of big data in the sustainability space.  The hope is that business will begin to harness the immense potential of big data to be used for good and begin to solve some of our society’s most pressing problems.

It is still early days in defining how we will use all of this data that we will be creating in virtually every aspect of our lives.  At Syncsort, where I work, we are helping the Fortune 100 begin to discover how to employ this data in transforming their business.  I remain optimistic that good will prevail over evil.  But, I am also realistic.  With open source technologies like Hadoop, massive open data projects, and increasingly inexpensive computing technology, it has never been easier for those that wish to use data for evil to have sophisticated tools previously available only to governments and the largest commercial enterprises. As with the Malaysian Airlines flight disappearance, people want data to be used for good, but it can also play a more sinister role.  Let us hope that we truly understand data’s power and that good prevails over evil in this epic battle for the future of big data.

*Gary Survis is Chief Marketing Officer, Syncsort Data Integration, leading Syncsort’s global Big Data integration marketing team. Gary is a seasoned marketing executive with experience combining traditional and digital marketing tools to provide practical solutions to today’s marketing challenges. He is also currently a Lecturer at Wharton and a Senior Fellow at Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. 

Advertisements

Urban Water Justice in the Developing World

By Urmila Malvadkar* 

ImageIn the developing world, a lack of sufficient clean water is both a cause and consequence of poverty.   Informal settlements—housing up to 60%  of the population of some cities in the developing world– face unique obstacles to water access.  New infrastructure is difficult to install in dense, unplanned communities.  Many governments ignored needs of these communities in order to de-legitimize them and discourage rural-urban migration.  Further, residents are often rural migrants who stay for a few years  and do not advocate for investing in their community.

Where cities are unwilling or unable to provide water, residents can spend hours a day to purchase water from private vendors who charge 10 to 20 times more than tap water.   Some of these vendors in large cities such as Jakarta and Nairobi, have ties to organized crime, collude to cause artificially high prices, refuse to serve certain ethnicities,  and threaten utility workers with violence.

While some official policies– even pro-poor policies–can reduce access to water among the very poor, some programs focusing on improving service to the most indigent communities profoundly improve lives.

Continue reading

PennSustains Competition Gives Over $7,000 in Prizes in its Inaugural Year

*By PennSustains

IMG_7963-001PennSustains participants

Philadelphia, PA – PennSustains, the University of Pennsylvania’s first sustainability solution competition, hosted its inaugural event on October 19, 2013. The contest came together in just six months through the efforts of members from the Society of Women Engineers, Engineers without Borders, SEAS Green, and Penn International Sustainability Association. Benefactor Andy Rachleff, an alumnus and chairman of the SEAS Board of Overseers, challenged Penn students to devise something that celebrated “the joy of building things” and the fun of engineering. Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) and Conestoga Bank also generously sponsored the competition. Continue reading

Board Game for the Environment

poster1.Yixiu2

by Yixiu Zheng*

It has been roughly seven months since my first blog post entitled ‘A Portable Environmental Economics Lab,’ which illustrated my idea on developing an educational board game about water pollution trading. This idea came from a concept of environment economics, property rights, and I wanted to develop a game that could help students understand how permit trading works. Continue reading

Professional Sports Teams Win Big on Sustainability

By Sara Drexler*

igelnrdcevent
Panelists and Moderators from Friday’s Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry Conference. Courtesy of NRDC.

Last Friday, the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative to host representatives from the professional sports industry to share ideas around “Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry: Raising the Bar for Sustainability.” Allen Hershkowitz from NRDC, a senior scientist who is a thought leader in sustainability efforts in the sports industry, opened the panel with a remarkable statistic: 13% of people follow science, over 63% follow sports. The sports industry has a unique opportunity to influence trends in sustainability through its significant fan base across all types of sports. Additionally, the sports industry’s unique facilities and operations present significant opportunity for long-term cost savings through investments in environmental sustainability. This combination of financial incentives and a large base of loyal fans positions the sports industry for maximum impact on sustainability. Continue reading

Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry Conference – Wharton IGEL, NRDC, WSBI

GreeningSportsConfHeaderWant to know more about greening sports?

Join the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL), the Wharton Sports Business Initiative (WSBI), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) at the Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry Conference on Friday, September 20, 2013.

The conference will feature speakers from the Yankees, the Miami HEAT, the Seattle Mariners, NASCAR, and more, in addition to a closing keynote from Frances Beinecke, President of the NRDC. The event’s objective is to examine the best business practices for sports organizations to improve environmental performance and become leaders in sustainable development. Discussions will highlight leadership, corporate partnerships, communications, fan engagement, resource management and merchandise, as well as potential future business opportunities.

This event is open to the public and free of charge: click here to register.

Sustainable Brands 2013 – From Revolution to Renaissance

By Silvia Schmid

McDonoughWilliam McDonough at the Sustainable Brands Conference “From Revolution to Renaissance” in San Diego (Courtesy of Sustainable Brands)

Sustainable Brands’ 2013 Conference “From Revolution to Renaissance” took place this past week in San Diego, bringing together hundreds of professionals and thought leaders in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Sustainable Brands is a supporting member of the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL).

Though many topics were addressed, three of the most salient themes from the conference were:

  • Transitioning towards transparency and full disclosure
  • Maintaining initial values while navigating through big data
  • Changing perspectives on sustainability

Continue reading

Penn Enactus Launches Recycling Initiative for Veterans

by Penn Enactus

2013-02-28 20.24.35A close-up of the first mosaic made of recycled tiles and mirrors by the Penn Enactus Green Initiative team. Courtesy of Penn Enactus

In the fall of 2012, our group of students from the University of Pennsylvania undertook the monumental challenge of starting Penn Enactus, the Penn chapter of the entrepreneurial organization Enactus. Our team reached out to various business leaders and faculty members  to gather a sizable Business Advisory Board, and also greatly benefited from the guidance of Professor Keith W. Wiegelt of the Wharton School, and Joanne Spigonardo, Associate Director of the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL).

One of Penn Enactus’ three current start-up projects is the Green Initiative, created with guidance and support from Wharton IGEL. With environmental sustainability and economic welfare in mind, the Green Initiative team takes an ambitious approach to a common social problem: unemployed military veterans. Combining the determination of the target group, and the use of recycled tiles, mirrors and pottery, we are teaching veterans in the Philadelphia area the skills they need to make, market, and sell mosaic artworks. Continue reading

The 2013 Wharton IGEL Conference Workshop

2822_126o

Thank you to all the speakers and participants of our 2013 Wharton IGEL Conference Workshop! Please make sure to visit the conference page for pictures and speaker presentations. In addition, a Knowledge@Wharton Special Report on the conference will be released soon, so stay tuned!

In the meantime please check out the following blog posts from Oikos Penn students Ruchi Shah and Leah Khaler, who covered our 2013 IGEL Conference:

Love Coca-Cola not for its taste but for its efforts

by Ruchi Shah
Businesses and brands are increasingly obliged to healthy communities and constituents for their bottom-line growth. On March 21, 2013 at the IGEL Conference-Workshop on The Nexus of Energy, Food and Water, Coca- Cola talked about their sustainability goals and accomplishments. Continue reading →

Local Economy in a Global World

by Leah Khaler
Entrepreneur, activist, and White Dog Café founder, Judy Wicks provided a different perspective at the 2013 IGEL conference at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Continue reading →

Of Climate Change and International Policy Architecture

by Samantha Guidon*

StavinsERobert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, Harvard University. Courtesy of Stephanie Nam/Penn Law.

On February 27, 2013, Harvard University’s Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government Robert Stavins came to Penn for a presentation entitled “Climate Change, the IPCC, and International Policy Architecture” as a part of the Risk Regulation Seminar Series, an initiative jointly sponsored by the Penn Program on Regulation, the Wharton Risk Management & Decision Processes Center, and the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL). Continue reading