This past weekend the tech community came together to join forces in helping victims of the flooding in the UK with a Flood Hack day. Check it out Hackpad for all the ideas here and the full list of projects here.
AMEE were thrilled to participate and I was particularly struck by three things that I believe represent a new and emerging dynamic in sustainability:
1. Increasingly Open: The Environment Agency took a great step forward by opening up flood data here – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-floods-2014-data.
Owen Boswarva also wrote up a good summary here. Though this is only a limited set of the data available and the Environment Agency has said it will only leave it open for a few months it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It’s also great to see the EA working to open up their data via API’s — which is something we’d like to see more of. I also anticipate the Government will look to keep this data open and expand beyond given the engagement with the hackday, plans for more similar activity, and of course the continuing flooding and increasing incidence of climate change events. They will I’m sure need encouragement so we plan to do everything we can to show that opening up this data enables new insights that help society cope with and adapt to climate change.
2. New Meaning of Sustainability: Sustainability becomes more relevant and necessary with each extreme weather event or natural disaster relevance. Flooding in Thailand in 2011 and the Japan’s 2011 earthquake shocked the world into the vulnerabilities of communities, businesses and supply chains. More recent events like the UK’s current floods or 50 communities in Wales considering abandoning their seaside towns due to rising sea levels These events, and our attempts to recover from them escalate the view of sustainability – understood as resilience from environmental change – from a nice-to-have marketing activity to what the UK Defence Secretary has called a “national security issue”. Expect more on that as climate change continues to drive volatility and cost for voters and businesses particularly amidst tight government spending budgets.
3. Tech Community Engaged and Ready: One of the incredible things is how quickly this event came together. A great deal of thanks is due to Joanna Shields at TechCity who pulled a lot of it together. But it’s also thanks both to support by Government, particularly the Cabinet Office and Environment Agency, and pro-active engagement in the tech community from start-ups like us, Conversocial and TaskHub to the giants of Facebook and Google. One comment that really struck me though was when a developer on Sunday morning said to me “of course I’ll give up my Sunday for this. It’s fun and it’s also not every day I can use my skills to help people in need”. I think we’ll continue to see talented developers and other specialists drawn to this area by the motivation to, as Tim O’Reilly put it, working on stuff that matters.
The increasing impacts of climate change are inevitable. Scientists are pretty certain that’s going to continue. The Floodhack as shown that with a little nudging and some active engagement from Government to open up we can catalyze some amazing talent and ingenuity to help build the resilience we need to mitigate the costs and risks of climate change.