Framework for Community-Based Sustainable Development by Caleb, Charles, and Dan
A modular sustainable development framework for communities that is cognizant of the synergistic nature of infrastructure and society.
An abundance of literature and technical proposals exist to mitigate the variety of climate-based challenges that we currently face. What is currently lacking is a holistic roadmap to integrate these individual proposals into communities successfully. Failed sustainable development projects mar the landscape of many developing nations: from the environmentally damaging Lesotho Water Project funded by the World Bank, to the now abandoned Lake Turkana Fish Processing. Technologically advanced solutions to complex problems rarely consider the ‘human factor’ that is crucial to any development project. A failure to consider the populations actually impacted by policy proposals often leads to wasted capital, inefficiency, and corruption.
In addition, these proposals are often individually constructed, independent of other proposals. These solutions are often created with a clear problem in mind e.g. renewable energy, waste management, food insecurity, etc. Oftentimes though, one solution can often tackle multiple problems at the same time. These residual or edge effects, where the beneficial effects of one proposal can often bleed into other areas e.g. vertical agricultural hydroponics can be used as educational resources, community building, and health centers. In this way, our proposal does not minimize trade-offs but rather additively maximizes strengths to describe a concrete, encompassing, solution.
Development does not occur in a linear fashion; it often advances through the progress of separate but interconnected sectors. We aim to present sustainable development paths for the Energy, Water, Waste, and Food sectors that are cognizant of their synergies with the SDG's.
We do not expect the implementation of this entire proposal all at once. Rather, this Integrated Roadmap serves as a modular reference for sustainable development as a community sets its development goals depending on its contexts.
What actions do you propose?
Though this Integrated Roadmap is organized by Energy, Water/Waste, and Food, the three sectors work together to form a sustainable society. Cleaner energy fuels the water management systems and food production; the energy-efficient and energy-producing waste/water management practices can utilize food waste and reduce fossil fuel demands; the sustainable agricultural practices can more efficiently utilize water and energy resources. Change takes time and comes from many different directions and so incorporating community members as the driving force of this proposal is necessary to the feasibility and success of this Integrated Roadmap. A key component of this proposal is to incorporate local involvement to empower community members and achieve SDG’s 5, 10, 16, and 17 while fulfilling the sustainable development of infrastructure.
As a result of the our increasingly automated world, society is also becoming much more energy intensive. In parallel, it is necessary for global energy sources to shift away from fossil-fuel energy sources in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The energy sources of the future will have to run on more intermittent sources of energy (e.g. Wind and solar), which makes the current demand-based, centralized, grid system too slow and bulky. Given the current rise in renewable energy generation, we can confidently conclude that there is significant technological and market inertia in renewable energy generation. In addition, a smarter power grid system will have more attack surfaces from which hackers can gain access and control to the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that power grids run on. In order to address both the intermittency problem posed by renewable energy and the cyber resiliency problem posed by scale, we propose using franchised microgrid technology.
Although increasing renewable energy generation is one way to combat greenhouse gas emissions, another approach is to reduce energy usage. In particular, heating and cooling is the largest single cost for residential and commercial energy users. There are several documented passive approaches to reducing A/C consumption: the White Knights proposal, one-way infrared windows, and variable shade windows. Indeed, the last two are in the startup/tech development phase, while the science underlying the White Knights proposal has been known for some time now.
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We believe that by looking at each proposal from a full life cycle perspective can reveal further improvements in achieving other SDG’s. For Franchised Microgrids, the manufacturing of such equipment can help spur job creation and revitalize industrial factories (SDG 8,9). In addition, by encouraging the local, distributed, generation of power, we can reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants and encourage the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EV), thus improving air quality, health (SDG 3), and productivity (SDG 8). Passive cooling technology not only reduces energy consumption, but also alleviates the urban heat island effect, which brings variety of health(SDG 3) and productivity benefits (SDG 8).
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The growing amount of generated waste and demand for clean water that is necessary to sustain developing communities has morphed into a dire infrastructural demand. We suggest the implementation of an organized yet decentralized system of integrated management centers that approaches water and waste in a holistic and synergistic manner.
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The “Infrastructure for a Living Future” proposal in the 2015 Energy-Water Nexus suggests the creation of Community Water and Energy Centers (CWERC) for the small-scale treatment of and energy generation from wastewater. This plan would treat wastewater as an opportunity for energy generation, groundwater replenishment, and local economic development. Through the use of anaerobic digestion described in the “Using Biogas Technology To Improve Sanitation And Mitigate Climate Change” proposal from Waste Management 2014, human and food waste can be processed to both treat the waste and produce biogas that can offset fossil fuels to foster energy independence-- contributing to the achievement of SDG 6, 7, and 9.
The implementation of these CWERCs to produce biogas would contribute to the achievement of SDG 13 by creating an alternative energy resource while empowering local communities to take part in the development. The construction and management of these centers provide opportunities for locals to improve their community and their own financial status while contributing to the improvement of their collective public environmental health to fulfill SDG 3, 8, and 11.
CWERCs can not only serve as a source of jobs, energy, clean water, and sanitation, but can also serve as a resource for community environmental education and participation. These centers could serve as facilitators of other community environmental engagement initiatives, such as the “Rainwater harvesting” proposal from Energy Water Nexus 2016, to encourage a paradigm of conservation.
The power behind the combination of these proposals is the utilization of locals as a resource for work and knowledge to develop collaborative communities that take part in the maintenance and stewardship of their own environment and health.
The world’s growing population has led to the expansion of urban areas across the globe. Rural land once used to grow crops and provide food are being absorbed and urbanized by the cities surrounding them in order to accommodate growing urban populations. In 2008 the world’s urban population surpassed its rural population for the first time ever and by 2050, food production must increase by at least 60% to feed the world population. This invokes a fundamental question: How can we feed the world’s growing population if cities are growing and consequently decreasing the amount of fertile land? Our solution consists of the synthesis of several proposals that identify the necessary steps to be taken by both urban and rural areas while also addressing many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In order to achieve sustainable food supply, urban centers must turn inward and begin producing food within communities. We propose that urban areas begin building vertical hydroponic farms in unused lots, as suggested by The Green Guys 2015 proposal, to effectively maximize food production locally while strengthening urban communities. This proposal will be used in conjunction with the SUFI Hub proposal from 2015 to create a system that reduces carbon emissions within hydroponic farms while also minimizing energy and water usage. By first implementing these two proposals in urban areas that lack access to fresh produce, cities will be able to eliminate food deserts, foster community growth, and take another step towards achieving SDG 2, 3, 7, 10, 11, and 13.
In addition, the expansion of urban areas must be closely regulated to prevent the destruction of fertile, agricultural areas, particularly in lesser developed countries with more lax regulations. A 2010 report by the United Nations showed that historical urban centers arose in areas with surrounding fertile land for their food production capability. However, these urban centers often expand over the fertile land, making them prone to climate change related food shortages and disasters. The close collaboration of local and national governments is necessary to ensure that urban areas do not eliminate the world’s main food sources.
The responsibility of preventing urban food shortages also lies largely on rural counterparts. We propose implementing the 2017 MUAD Negros proposal for sustainable farming and forestry to rehabilitate existing farmland, develop agroforestry projects, and educate farmers on sustainable farming practices. By approaching our rural sectors with a plan that emphasizes community building through projects and environmentally sustainable farming practice education, we will promote the strengthening of rural regions while maximizing food production, minimizing environmental trade-offs, and taking the actions towards SDG 8, 11, 13, and 15.
Expertise for Program Progress
One aspect of public policy that is severely lacking is detailed impact evaluation and iterative improvements in design . Without such quantitative reflection, it is impossible to determine the actual significance or efficacy of any proposal. In addition, the lack of a robust research group dedicated to molding policies and advising legislators on how to implement proposals that accommodate differences in local culture and tradition can result in inflexible or poorly fitted implementations.
We propose to leverage the existing Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) , an interdisciplinary and collaborative institute focused on developing nation development and impact evaluation. A network of premier research institutions, CEGA is an existing reservoir of expertise in the field of impact evaluation and engineering design for problems faced by developing nations. We propose to augment the center to develop a nexus focused on implementing, evaluating, and improving upon various instances of our proposal being integrated. In terms of implementation, CEGA will act as a well-funded resource center for legislators and policymakers who wish to implement elements of our framework. As elements of our roadmap are implemented globally, CEGA will also act as a central rubric for evaluating the efficacy of proposals. Finally, as a result of these evaluations, CEGA will iteratively improve upon designs and act as a centralized institutional memory of the results of different methods of implementation. Of course, CEGA will only serve as a launchpad and central designated system - independent researchers and news organization will also play a role, both independently and as partnerships.
To demonstrate the implementation of this “Integrated Roadmap,” we will detail a potential application of our integrated framework in the context of Vietnam.
Vietnam has been experiencing rapid economic growth and development that has led to both strains on its infrastructure and opportunities for improvement. As Vietnam’s population grows and improves its living conditions, demands for resources as well as services in water, sanitation, agriculture, and energy sectors will rise. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) are major components of Vietnam’s development direction and would have the advisory resources and capabilities to apply synergistic sustainable development strategies with the Vietnamese government by giving guidance for the application of development investments, such as Vietnam's Second Rural Energy Project . Vietnam could direct its investments into the creation of a energy microgrid and Community Water & Energy Center franchise system to provide training programs and subsidies that incentivize the development of reliable locally-run infrastructure development programs that integrate synergistically green technologies that include photovoltaics, waste-to-biogas, and sustainable farming practices. These programs can be directed to include provisions that require the inclusion of women and minorities within the development programs and training. These programs empower citizens to become local environmental leaders of their community's development.
With financial resources from international bodies such as the IFC and UN Environment and specialized expertise from institutes such as the CEGA, the Vietnamese government can create an agency that implements a franchise system for development that provides technical education and financial resources for locals to develop regional infrastructure systems that link CWERCs, renewable energy microgrids, and sustainable farming methods.
Who will take these actions and which types of actors are involved?
Given that this is a multi-faceted, society-facing, approach, the primary responsible stakeholders should be governments at a municipal, provincial, or national level. However, public contracting is a common method of implementing many of the proposals we integrate in our framework, which should present opportunities for involvement from private companies that offer services or products that can provide the requisite materials/expertise to governments. Researchers can adapt these methods to fit local needs and evaluate how effective these methods are. Finally, our focus on community-based inclusivity means that the ultimate stakeholders are the common people.
It is clear that the most nations follow a nationalized, public and regulatory method to spur investments in energy, waste collection, agriculture, etc. It is natural then that governments will, at first, firmly take the initiative to implement our roadmap.
Private companies will also play a role in developing innovative technologies that are also cost-effective. Spurred by public investments, startups and lab spinoffs will serve as a vehicle to carry lab research into the real world. Marketplace competition with competitive subsidies should drive prices down while further encouraging a renewing cycle of improvements and advances.
Any overarching public policy must be flexible to accommodate cultural differences and modular to allow for customization, experimentation and improvements. In addition, significant public investment demands accountability. To this end, we propose to establish CEGA as a central hub of such research, but academic researchers and journalists across the world must continue to report on and experiment with these various proposals as they are implemented in the real world.
A challenge of implementing this proposal is the lack of technological expertise to apply the development directions. International bodies (World Bank, IFC, UN Environment) and research institutes (Center for Effective Global Action, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative) could help provide the financial resources and expertise for these developing nations to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions as part of their own environmental initiatives. Also, developed countries can contribute to these sustainable development programs as offsets in their sustainability portfolios.
Finally, we believe that the only way to realize a massive grassroots tide of action for climate-related goals is through the people. There are institutions and governments, but ultimately, the success of any of these proposals lies in the vigor and fervor of the people. This is why we focus not just on integrating the proposals themselves, but on how these proposals will affect local communities, and how such communities can actively participate.
Where will these actions be taken and how could they scale?
This Integrated Roadmap for Sustainable Development aims to mitigate the increase in greenhouse gas emissions associated with the development of industrializing countries. As the world population increases and living conditions transition toward a paradigm of greater privilege and consumption, demands for resources will inevitably increase.
Our integrated proposal is targeted to areas that are developing their infrastructure. Currently, some of the most relevant geographic areas that this sustainable development vision can be implemented include regions of India, Southeast Asia, and Africa that are starting to industrialize.
As countries begin to gain the monetary benefits of rapid economic growth, they will also have to face societal repercussions and make decisions on the direction of development. By learning from the experiences of already developed countries and by utilizing innovative frameworks that are cognizant of relevant factors, these industrializing regions can make better-informed decisions that will ensure sustainability and long-term benefits for their people while avoiding the arduous trial-and-error process of countries that have industrialized before them. Without paradigms and pre-existing infrastructure to entrench them, currently industrializing countries have great potential to shape their development flexibly and without as many institutional barriers.
This Integrated Sustainable Development roadmap does not have a single starting point; rather, it can serve as a reference for development with an array of sectors to focus from that allows for contextual adaptation while maintaining a perspective that is considerate of future needs across all sectors in the big picture of global sustainability.
In addition, specify the countries where these actions will be taken.
What impact will these actions have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
Learning from the environmental issues associated with the development of currently industrialized countries, less developed countries can leapfrog towards more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly options that do not emit as much greenhouse gases.
Rather than reach the current lifestyles of an average United States Citizen which emits 16.6 metric tons of CO2 per year, average citizens from a country like Vietnam who currently emit 1.8 metric tons per year could reach an industrialized lifestyle that reflects that of a country like France that emits only 4.6 metric tons per capita annually. Following the vision in this Integrated Roadmap for Sustainable Development, developing countries could leapfrog past even environmentally-conscious industrialized countries and reach a developed country lifestyle that is even more energy-efficient and sustainable.
What are the most innovative aspects and main strengths of this approach?
Because this proposal approaches development in an integrated yet modular fashion, it is adaptable to the complex and varied patterns of regional development. It serves as guiding tool that industrializing countries can look to and extract contextually relevant principles for sustainable development. For example, if an agency is looking to begin constructing infrastructure for water it can look to the Water/Waste section specifically and be inspired towards water development that takes into account interacting long-term considerations such as climate change and other SDGs.
In addition, a common thread throughout the sectors of this proposal is community development. We believe that including local community members in the development itself is beneficial because these locals are a valuable resource. The empowerment of these citizens to cooperatively create a sustainable society promotes equity as these members gain skills and knowledge as contributing components of their environment.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
Below are the total initial implementation costs and projected yearly revenue for each suggested proposal. Note that the areas affected vary and must be scaled to fit the needs of each area of implementation.
After one the one year mark, we see a net yearly revenue of over $1.5 million dollars which does not show a huge return on investment immediately, however the money that is saved by implementing these programs (not shown) makes large strides to enhance financial sustainability by lowering annual costs while increasing impact.
A challenge of following this proposal is the lack of technological expertise and funds available to many developing urban areas. Developed nations could help provide the technological and financial resources to these developing nations to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions as part of their own environmental initiatives.
In addition, these initiatives will likely be carried out by existing institutions whose status quo often do not equitably include women in the decision-making process-- reinforcing the lack of gender equality in governance and community leadership. Also, development does not occur evenly across different communities and so social inequities between areas with more resources for sustainable development and areas without such resources could transpire. To combat these inequalities, we propose the integration of requirements for equitable inclusion within the directives that create the education and job training programs. These education and job training programs would provide a pathway for women and minorities to become integrated within the development projects as invaluable sources of local expertise and leaders of their community's environment.
About the Authors
Charles Yang currently resides in the United States and is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley studying Material Science and Engineering. He is passionate about developing cost-effective energy storage applications to enable large-scale renewable energy generation. For this proposal, he helped develop the core ideas and key themes of the proposal, with an emphasis on urban environments.
Dan Ma is a native California resident who is currently attending the University of California, Berkeley to study Environmental Economics and Policy. Dan was involved with the development of the proposal’s framework, direction, and content. Dan’s interests lie in the intersection of public policy, environmental science, law, sustainable development, and research as a means for achieving environmental progress and social justice.
Caleb Wright lives in California and studies Mechanical Engineering as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. Caleb is interested in the ethical application of engineering in developing communities with a focus on infrastructure and water systems. His contributions to this proposal include the development of a comprehensive food and agriculture implementation plan for urban and rural communities. Caleb also played a key role in generating the proposal scope as well as researching past proposals.
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What enabling environment would be required in order to implement this proposal?
Environmental progress requires collaboration between international institutions, experts, governments, and communities. This collaboration necessitates policies that hold these stakeholders accountable to their actions as components of an interconnected global system.
An international policy that mandates environmental reparations for communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation would provide financial resources for less developed nations to implement sustainable development and achieve environmental justice progress. Despite backlash against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, these institutions are crucial to aiding and advising the implementation of this proposal as important actors in less developed nations. In addition, creating incentives for developed nations to provide both financial resources and technological expertise to enable the implementation of this proposal as part of an offset program would also aid the success of this proposal.