Book discussion about Human Development Index (HDI) 2021-2022, #2

“Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our future in a transforming world”

Presenter: Loren Chloe BALAOING                                                                         
Date:November 09, 2022
Presentation: Part I, Chapter I: A New Uncertainty Complex, Pages 51-71
Keywords: Anthropocene, Epoch, Resilience, Uncertainty Complex

 

Hello everyone. Loren here, I am a new member of the Abe Research group, and this marks my first entry in this blog! As Tom mentioned before, this is the continuation of the UNDP Human Development Report 2021-2022, in which I read the second half of Part I, Chapter I: A new uncertainty complex.

Summary

This chapter talked about HCS (History of Climate and Society), and how natural climate change (before anthropogenic causes) influenced the lives of early human civilization and how it will help us determine the state of humanity in the future. HCS explained that the different climate and weather changes in the past lead to the adaptation and resilience of our ancestors.  An example is how the Norse settlements vanished because they failed to adopt to the chilling climate (Degroot, 2018). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defined resilience as the ability of coupled human and natural systems to “cope with hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function, identity, and structure.” There are five pathways to resilience as IPCC stated in this chapter. These five pathways paved how the modern human civilization is operating now.

Source: Based on Human Development Report 2021-2022

We are now living in the period of uncertainty due to Anthropocene. As a recap, Anthropocene denotes an epoch characterized by the geological impact of the human beings on planet Earth, as we are living now at present, but when did it start? The word Anthropocene was only given a formal word by Crutzen and Stoermer in 2000, but we are already experiencing it way before the term was introduced. As mentioned in this chapter, anthropologists believe that it started during the nuclear arms race in the cold war, when influential countries and their allies asserted dominance by nuclear weapons. However, with the concern of what nuclear testing will bring to the biodiversity here on Earth, and how the Earth would be uninhabitable as clearly painted in Jonathan Schell’s “The Fate of the Earth” in 1982, the nuclear arms race finally ended in 1991.

This new epoch questions extinction and survival. What are institutions doing now to protect this existential crisis? There are two factors mentioned in this chapter: to bring the existential risks like climate change and nuclear war down and to make sure that these stays low by making institutional changes. The chapter also mentioned about the consideration of economic security as it is fundamental to wellbeing, and that policymakers need to also consider justice and peace when making institutional changes to keep up with the times.

Source: author, based on Human Development Report 2021-2022

From lowering our carbon dioxide emissions to transitioning into renewable sources, we are now shifting into a “green mindset” to contribute to our existential security. However, there is a need to consider justice and peace in these transitions, as transitions that are half baked can only lead to transferring the risk to another aspect, and overall, may do worse than better. Notably, resource-rich countries suffered from violence, poverty, and social inequality (Aas Rustad, et al., 2022; Leonard, et al., 2022)

We are in a period of uncertainty complex brought about planetary pressures, societal transformations, and necessary action for change. We are also asked to protect the survival of our species through sustainability. To achieve this, Tim Mulgan mentioned that we need to think of muligenerationalism, where we do things that will positively influence the following generations to come, even after this generation will be long gone.

Discussion

How does multigenerationalism affect sustainability?

  • The way I understood this is like the traditions we learned from our ancestors. Sometimes, we do something in our culture, and when we ask our parents why we do it, their answer is because our ancestors did it too, and we are keeping the tradition. As we are growing older, we also need to instill the sustainable way of thinking to our descendants to add more years to our existence.
  • Some lab mates shared that mindset plays a role in this. A notable example shared was waste management in their country, where policy makers focus on economic approach rather than the environmental approach. Also, the influence of our culture affects our mindset, and how other countries may not be as aware of the things happening around the world, because this information may be limited.
  • There is also a discussion on how the younger generation is different from the older ones, and how mindset is “set” for the older generation and may not be flexible for change. However, the younger generation is “selfish”, but more aware that vulnerable countries are affected the most when it comes to climate change, social justice, etc.
  • The mindset of the new generation is changing, where some people in this generation is actively fighting for social justice and peace, but is this enough? We need to change our ways, if not, nothing will happen.

The book discussion ended with me sharing a movie that I watched multiple times with my nephew back in the Philippines: Dr. Seuss’s the Lorax, with the quote “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. It is not.” If you have the time, I suggest watching the whole movie. This concludes my blog for the book discussion. Please stick around for the next entries!

 

References

 

Aas Rustad, S., Reagan, R., Bruch, C., Dupuy, K., Mwesigye, F., McNeish, J.-A., and VanDeveer, S. 2022. “Green Curses Renewable Energy and Conflict in Africa.” Background paper for Human Development Report 2021/2022, UNDP–HDRO, New York

Crutzen, P. J., and Stoermer, E. F. 2000. “The Anthropocene.” Global Change Newsletter 41: 17–18.

Degroot, D. (2018). Climate change and society in the 15th to 18th centuries. WIREs Climate Change, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.518

Leonard, A., Ahsan, A., Charbonnier, F., and Hirmer, S. 2022. “The Resource Curse in Renewable Energy: A Framework for Risk Assessment.” Energy Strategy Reviews 41: 100841.

Programme, U. N. D. (2022). Human Development Report 2021/2022: Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World (pp. 51–71). United Nations.

Seuss, Dr. (1972). The Lorax. HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Schell, J. (1982). The Fate of the Earth. Alfred a Knopf Incorporated.  

Book discussion about Human Development Index (HDI) 2021-2022, #1

“Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our future in a transforming world”

Presenter: Anouluck NORASING 
Date: October 25th, 2022
Page: 1 -21, 

 

Hello to everyone. Tom is here! It is great to be able to write the blog again. Today, I would like to introduce our lab activity, which will now be held every semester. That is a book discussion session among 12 members of the Abe research group. Those who follow our blog may recognize that this activity began last semester, and the book, titled “Data-Driven Innovation: Big Data for Growth and Well-Being,” was recommended by Abe sensei.

Similarly, Abe Sensei suggested an interesting topic for us this semester, titled “Human Development Report 2021-2022: Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World.” This is the latest report of worldwide Human Development Reports produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 1990 as impartial and analytically and empirically informed assessments of significant development challenges, trends, and policies. This is an issue that is very close to us, and its consequences appear to influence the sense of uncertainty that is unsettling lives from all corners.

This activity aims to deepen our knowledge about the trend of human development during the COVID-19 pandemic through the UNDP human development report. Furthermore, the purpose of knowledge exchange is to improve understanding of socioeconomic concerns. Therefore, today I will summarize the overview section of this report and address several key topics.

Summary

The author mentioned that we have been living in uncertain times for the past three years because of the Covid-19 pandemic and other critical crises such as the war in Ukraine and current climatic and ecological disasters. However, people have long fought and worried about illnesses (plagues and pestilence), natural disasters (droughts and floods), violence, and war. Some of us have been brought to our knees by them. At least as many have adopted changes, unpleasant realities, and created ingenious methods to prosper. To show that creative and cooperative qualities are fundamentally human. The interesting point of this part is to illustrate the uncertainty that people have always faced which is comprised of three novel sources of volatile crosscurrents:

Image source: Based on Human Development Report 2021-2022
  1. The dangerous planetary change of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene is defined as a new geological epoch which is an unofficial unit of geologic ti For instance: the covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine are both catastrophic indications of today’s uncertainty complex. me, used to describe the most recent period in earth’s history when the human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.
  2. The pursuit of large-scale social transformations to reduce planetary pressures.
  3. The polarization of societies.

For instance, the report stated the covid-19 outbreak and the war in Ukraine are both catastrophic indicators of today’s uncertainty complex. Each exposes limits of and cracks in current global governance such as compounding the global food insecurity crisis and increasing price volatility in energy, fertilizers, commodities, and other goods. According to figure 2, the report highlighted the comparison to the situation before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 6 in 7 people worldwide felt insecure (UNDP 2022b) about many aspects of their lives, including:

  • Feelings of distress (Bollen et al., 2021)
  • Employment of technology is a double-edged sword (See Zuboff, 2019)
  • Mental well-being is under assault (Connolly and Jackson, 2019; Maguen et al., 2009; Nydegger et al., 2019; Osman and Wood, 2018.)
  • Purposeful social transformations (Rehbein et al., 2020)

In addition, a few nations dropped on the Human Development Index (HDI) scale every year. However, over 90% of the worldwide HDI value fell in a row in 2020 and 2021, erasing all the gains of the previous five years. Hence, insecurity is on the rise practically everywhere, a phenomenon that has been developing for at least a decade and predates the Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant downturn in global human development.

Moreover, the report said uncertainty can create the opportunity for change, sometimes for the better. Consider artificial intelligence, which is both a disruptive potential and a disruptive danger. Its potential for improving labor outweighs its potential for automating it. But the negative displacement of Artificial intelligence (AI) is also too large, too likely, and too rapid, especially if labor-replacing incentives dominate its development.

Image source: Human Development Report based on Brynjolfsson (2022).

Discussion session

Question: How does the wide-angle lens of human development help us understand and respond to this apparent paradox of progress with insecurity?

  • Personally, the HDI value represents a variety of aspects of a country. Because HDI examines three major factors to evaluate the development of a country such as a long and healthy life, access to education, and standard of living. Hence, it can be a strong indication for decision-makers to prepare for decent changes.
  • However, some lab members argue due to the limitations of HDI, HDI is a long-term indicator that may not respond to current short-term development. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier the current version of the HDI considers only a few aspects that can affect the development of a country. To come up with a more accurate analysis, other aspects such as employment prospects, empowerment movements, and feelings of security can be added to the calculation of HDI.

Finally, today’s book discussion session has come to a conclusion. Next time, other lab members will present each chapter and significant points of the report in more detail. Please keep in touch!

References:

Human Development Report 2021-2022. “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our future in a transforming world”. Available: https://report.hdr.undp.org/intro/

Bollen, J., Ten Thij, M., Breithaupt, F., Barron, A. T., Rutter, L. A., Lorenzo-Luaces, L., & Scheffer, M., 2021. Historical language records reveal a surge of cognitive distortions in recent decades. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(30), e2102061118.

Brynjolfsson, E. 2022. “The Turing Trap: The Promise & Peril of Human-Like Artificial Intelligence.” Daedalus (Spring 2022).

Connolly, E.J. and Jackson, D.B., 2019. Adolescent gang membership and adverse behavioral, mental health, and physical health outcomes in young adulthood: A within-family analysis. Criminal justice and behavior, 46(11), pp.1566-1586.

Maguen, S., Metzler, T. J., Litz, B. T., Seal, K. H., Knight, S. J., and Marmar, C. R. 2009. “The Impact of Killing in War on Mental Health Symptoms and Related Function­ing.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 22(5): 435–443.

Nydegger, L. A., Quinn, K., Walsh, J. L., Pacella-La­Barbara, M. L., and Dickson-Gomez, J. 2019. “Poly­traumatization, Mental Health, and Delinquency among Adolescent Gang Members.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 32(6): 890–898.

Osman, S., and Wood, J. 2018. “Gang Membership, Mental Illness, and Negative Emotionality: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” International Journal of Fo­rensic Mental Health 17(3): 223–246.

Rehbein, J.A., Watson, J.E., Lane, J.L., Sonter, L.J., Venter, O., Atkinson, S.C. and Allan, J.R., 2020. Renewable energy development threatens many globally important biodiversity areas. Global change biology, 26(5), pp.3040-3051.

Zuboff, S., 2019. The age of surveillance capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of power: Barack Obama’s books of 2019. Profile books.

IPO Sustainability Seminar fall 2022

IPO Sustainability Seminar fall 2022 “Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning” by Dr. Priya L. Donti.

Date: 4 November 2022

Hello, my name is Tom. I hope everyone is having a great start to the new semester. It was a long time since I posted on this web blog. Today, I have some interesting news to share with you all.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an online seminar hosted by Interdisciplinary Programs Office (IPO), Division of Environment and Sustainability (ENVR), and Division of Public Policy (PPOL), The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

The topic of the presentation is “Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning” in which the speaker is Dr. Priya L. Donti, Co-founder and Executive Director of Climate Change AI and Incoming Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of MIT.

Everyone may aware, climate change is not far away, and there are now major concerns that require immediate action worldwide. In the beginning, the presentation gave me a background of climate change and how machine learning can be a powerful tool for tackling climate change when combined with policy, engineering, and other fields. Moreover, it also addressed how machine learning may assist in the resolution of high-impact problems by filtering decision-relevant information, optimizing sophisticated systems, and expediting scientific research.

As you may know or may not, Machine Learning (ML) is a branch of artificial intelligence that is widely described as a machine’s capacity to mimic intelligent human behavior. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems are used to do complicated tasks in a manner comparable to how humans solve issues. There are two highlights that I found more useful and may apply to my current research. Firstly, I understand the concept of how machine learning can tackle climate change, as follows by the applications listed below:

  • Mitigation is the process of lowering or preventing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • Adaptation means responding to the consequences of climate change since climate change is not a toggle switch.

Following what is machine learning and how it is applicable to tackle climate change, machine learning can additionally work in various fields such as electrical systems, buildings and cities, transportation, climate prediction, industry, and societal adaptation. The content of this presentation also introduced the responsibility of machine learning for climate action, specifically in terms of reducing data and model biases, enhancing credibility and accountability, emphasizing equity and climate justice, and avoiding greenwashing and techno-solutionism. Personally, this is a topic that caught my attention. Because my current research will try to utilize machine learning to assist in forecasting load demand growth in rural areas for a reliable operating system of microgrid system.

Furthermore, the essential point that I learned from this seminar is to know about the considerations and caveats of machine learning. It is necessary to comprehend your problems and how they are structured. It is preferable to identify where machine learning is applicable. Because machine learning is only one component of the strategy. Sometimes, many climate strategies may not require machine learning at all, and basic approaches can occasionally provide solutions.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to those who helped organize such a valuable seminar; it has been a joy to be a part of it. The seminar and discussion following the presentation were informative and enlightening. Anyone who is interested in climate change and AI may find further information or fresh updates at www.climatechange.ai.

Next week, there is another interesting presentation, entitled “Towards cleaner automobility: electric vehicle adoption in the Nordic countries” by Dr. Johannes Kester, Senior Research Associate, Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford. If you are interested, please feel free to find further information in the link below.

For details of next week’s presentation: https://calendar.hkust.edu.hk/events/interdisciplinary-program-office-ipo-sustainability-seminar-series-fall-2022-towards-cleaner