“Sustainability is the key. Plan all your actions with this in mind.” – Riccardo Scarinci, Algorithm Designer, Project Manager, Biz Dev. Y4PT Hackathon Participant and winner.
As we travel together, the sun is beginning to grow warm over part of the world. Spring is rising with the dawn, heating the earth and coaxing the seeds of plants and ideas to crack open and send tendrils of potential out into the unknown.
Beneath our feet and in our hearts, this journey is moving from hope to happening in a season of new growth.
And elsewhere on this same planet, at this same time, the year is cooling into autumn. Plants and animals are preparing to survive the winter; gathering resources, sheltering what is important and shedding what is no longer needed.
Surrounding us, and in our brains, this journey is moving from hope to happening in a season of harvest, readiness and conservation.
Our world is in balance, breathing steadily in and out. From all our different seasons, our different weathers; we global elements of Y4PT travel together. We meet, we exchange, we travel on. We return to meet again.
Beginning the morning’s work with meditation, we focus on our breathing. In, and out. Steady, balanced. The flow of air and ideas uniting our community in this moment. All our languages, our skills, our unique experiences brought together; breathing in and out.
As we breathe the air of the places we meet, we are aware that it gives us life. We are aware that we breathe in the oxygen we need. But what else are we breathing?
Perhaps we listen to traffic passing outside. Or perhaps to the movement of trees. Perhaps we hear people laughing. Or perhaps we hear horns and shouting.
Someone reaches into their pocket for a tissue and blows their nose. Perhaps the white paper is grey with the dust of the city. Perhaps someone else is using their asthma inhaler more than usual today. Perhaps we are tired. Perhaps there is a little catch in our throats..
We know why we are here. Our world is in danger. We have been choking it up for years. Creating processes, vehicles, objects, and whole places that seep, exhale, belch and slough off dangerous waste. Tiny particles shivering off and away, into the air. Into the air, and so into us as we breathe. Every particle containing the potential for sickness and disease. Heart disease, stroke, COPD, respiratory infections and lung cancer – just from breathing. And not just now, as we are learning and aware of the danger, but every day as we go about our lives.
We have been building ourselves cities – wonderful human gatherings where we can work together, make friends, make families. But for generations, we have built them in ways that stifle us, and even take our lives.
“The trend I see is that people are more inclined over short term goals and wins and they don’t foreseen the big picture or the implications of their actions over long term.” – Ion Morozan, Software Engineer, Product Designer, Y4PT Hackathon participant and winner.
We have prioritised expansion, without conserving what we need. We have been living as though it is always spring. But at Y4PT, when we meet, we have travelled from all the seasons, not just one. We are here to create and to inspire a better, healthier way. We do not need to do things the way they always have been done. We are new generations. We choose to work with the balance of nature, rather than attempt to conquer it.
“Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and don’t consider mankind superior to all the rest of the organisms in the world.” – Vreixo González Caneda, Software Developer, Y4PT Hackathon participant and winner.
Mistakes of our past and present have polluted not just the cities themselves, but far beyond. In 2012, the WTO reported that one in eight of total global deaths was due to air pollution, making air pollution the world’s largest single environmental health risk. New data in 2018 revealed that one in nine people globally breathe highly polluted air. As well as particulates, a wide range of gasses in our polluted air including Carbon Monoxide(CO), Chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs), Nitrogen Dioxide(NO2) and Sulfur Dioxide(SO2), are forcing the climate of our entire planet to change.
Our air knows no borders. So our ideas too must travel. Just as every particle or molecule of pollution contains the potential for harm, every spark of an idea contains the potential to prevent and reverse this damage. And so we meet, we exchange, we research, and we create the solutions of the future.
We know that just pushing the problem elsewhere is not a solution, because we all come from somebody else’s “elsewhere”. Truly global collaboration owns and addresses the whole challenge.
“My hope is that the pollution generated by transport and especially private transport might be reduced in the years to come, even removed [and replaced entirely] with sustainable power sources. My fear is that we just move the contamination from place to another, for example from city centres to the surroundings of big batteries manufacturers.” – Vreixo González Caneda, Software Developer, Y4PT Hackathon participant and winner.
In 2015, we launched the #BreatheableCities World Campaign; a multi-stakeholder initiative measuring people’s exposure to and inhalation of air pollutants through different modes of transport, in order to estimate impact on human health.
In the first experiments of this kind ever performed in the country, Bogotá DC (Colombia, South America), was the was the first city to host the Campaign, organising two editions to date. The first measuring black carbon during the course of a day, and the second integrating exposure and inhalation aspects, monitoring a wider range of air pollutants over a 12 day period.
The studies concluded that not only did car drivers experience the highest exposure to particulate matter, but that those engaging in healthier mobility modes, such as cycling, while suffering significantly lower exposure (almost half), were vulnerable to increased inhalation of pollutants due to the physical effort that would otherwise provide health benefits. Our polluted air is making even #HealthyMobility significantly less healthy. There is no option but to clean up, and fast.
“I hope and I’m sure that it will be sustainable one day, but my fear is when this will happen.” – Silvio Biasiol, Software Developer, Maker and Y4PT Hackathon Participant.
The Youth of Y4PT are not prepared to wait for older generations to come up with the answers. Why wait, when 8.8 million lives a year could be saved? At each Local and Global Hackathon, ideas are pitched that can solve these problems. From the improved air pollution monitoring hardware of Montréal Global Finale 2nd Prize-winners “Air4”, to the integrated rural transport of Menden Local Hackathon winners “Get moving”, Y4PT teams are offering improvement, optimisation and innovation at every step. Skilful teams of young minds develop these ideas, carrying them forward and exposing visiting mentors, judges and supporters to the inescapable truth that things can be done differently, and that the people capable of making these changes are already here. We must welcome and invite them. We must employ them; and not to continue our work as it already stands, but to listen to them, learn from them. They know how to make it work, and they know that it is practical and logical to improve.
“Technology moves forward rapidly, and […] current standards tend to leap behind quickly. Therefore nowadays humanity is still actively looking for popular movements which could eventually become the standard. So once humanity can be convinced to adopt a greener or better standard, this might become the next million-dollars platform for the years to come.” – Johnny Heesterbeek, Engineer and Y4PT Hackathon Participant.
The world is listening to the youth, and is beginning to change. Even those of us motivated only by the bottom line are aware that these changes must be made. What is best for us as humans, is best for us as cities, as countries, and as a planet. A healthy way may seem simple and obvious, and ideas promoting it are often selected to win these competitive Hackathons – so why do we keep avoiding it in our everyday lives?
“What makes people happy in a city? Clean air, green spaces to meet and play, facilities in proximity of each other. Put these wishes central to your urban developments and mobility decisions. I can guarantee you will face many temptations in your daily work, especially of things that people want (more), but never forget what makes people happy in the end! – Geert de Leeuw, Urban Geographer, Lecturer in the Built Environment, and Y4PT Hackathon Participant and Mentor
– Laura Trevail; Brussels & Southend. April 2019