Human Fraternity crosses the gates of Rome to enter the world: Fratelli Tutti’s mission to reconstruct a new grammar of humanity

Human Fraternity crosses the gates of Rome to enter the world: Fratelli Tutti’s mission to reconstruct a new grammar of humanity

«Every man is our brother, every woman is our sister, always. We want all to live together, as brothers and sisters in the Garden that is the Earth. The Garden of fraternity is the condition for all life»[i].

Thus began the Rome Declaration on Human Fraternity, drafted by 30 Nobel Peace Prize winners, signed by the Secretary of the Vatican State, H.E. Card. Parolin, and presented during the first Meeting on Human Fraternity, promoted on 10 June 2023 by the Vatican Foundation “Fratelli Tutti”.

This Foundation, led by the Vicar of His Holiness for Vatican City, Card. Mauro Gambetti[ii], clearly inspires its mission to the Encyclical of Pope Francis “Fratelli Tutti” and promotes the value of human fraternity through the culture of dialogue, the discovery of reciprocity and mutual enrichment.

One of the goals is the «globalisation de la Fraternitè»[iii] that can offer something positive to values such as freedom and equality because the freedom tends to shrink and wither without fraternity, while equality among all human beings can be a concretely attainable objective as a «result of the conscious and careful cultivation of fraternity»[iv].

On the 8th of March 1970, in a famous speech held during the Cologne Fraternity Week, the Nobel Prize winner for literature, Henrich Böll, invited to constantly remember the secular trinity (freedom, equality, fraternity) from which fraternity derives and from which it must be recovered precisely to allow everyone to be truly free and equal[v].

The fraternitè as the linchpin of the French Revolution and the Christian fraternitas (in particular, in this case, the fraternity described by Pope Bergoglio), also as the civic friendship theorized by Plato and Aristotle, as the fraternalism in the modern worker’s movements represent different historical uses of the ideal of fraternity, but with main and common constitutive elements: a relational bond, mutual aid and equality[vi].

The Foundation wants to reaffirm the fraternity as a value among communities, but also to promote it as a political, social and economic principle or idea. Nowadays fraternity has been forgotten and ii tends to be considered only a duty of solidarity for States to remove inequalities and pursue objectives of substantial equality[vii].

The inculturation of fraternity in society could lead individuals to accept the diversity and autonomy of the others, to recognize equal dignity for all human beings, to cultivate inclusive relationships and «experiences of proximity and contamination with each other»[viii]: there would be a need to rediscover fraternity in the world to win wars and abuses[ix].

We hope that a new time of fraternity will reawaken «the deepest and most deeply rooted desires» of the human soul and will truly lead us into our commitment to reduce inequalities and tolerate diversities; the human beings, who don’t deviate «towards barbarism», should always feel alive the social duty to pity the weak and the suffering and contribute to the conviction that politics «must make common life better and more fraternal and to ensure that the architecture of laws, of institutions and customs of this common life become a home for many brothers»[x].

Therefore, in the second edition of the World Meeting on Human Fraternity, entitled “#behuman”, held on 10th  and 11th of May 2024 in Rome, the “Fratelli Tutti” Foundation has launched a work of spreading fraternity in the social, political and economic ecosystems[xi] through 12 working tables (sport, social cooperation, education, peace, children, health, sustainability and enterprise, work, agriculture, local government, information, social media) composed of experts, intellectuals, changemakers, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists and representatives of institutions[xii].

The Foundation has two ambitious goals: making fraternity «a principle of social action in the public space»[xiii] and realizing a Charter of the human to reconstruct «a grammar of humanity, on which to base choices and behaviour […] to build up this spirtuality of fraternity»[xiv].

 

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References

 

[i] Declaration on Human Fraternity, Rome, St. Peter’s Square, June 10th, 2023. Available: https://www.fondazionefratellitutti.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Dichiarazione-sulla-fraternita-umana.pdf

[ii] https://www.fondazionefratellitutti.org

[iii] Joli, Michel. La fraternitè globale. Expliquée à ceux qui veulent changer le monde, èditions érès, Toulouse, 2021, 130.

[iv] The Holy Father Francis, Encyclical Letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship, Par. 103-104. Available: www.vatican.va

[v] Boll, Heinrich; Wolf, Christa. Fraternità difficile, Piccola Biblioteca morale, Edizioni e/o, Rome, 1999, 64-65.

[vi] Puyol, Angel. Political Fraternity. Democracy beyond freedom and equality, Routledge, New York, 2019, 59-60.

[vii] Mattioni, Angelo, Solidarietà giuridicizzazione della fraternità in Marzanati Anna, Mattioni Angelo (a cura di), La fraternità come principio del diritto pubblico, Città Nuova, Rome, 2007, 7-10.

[viii] Barbaro, Sergio, Fraternità e Common Law: il caso della responsabilità per “omissione di soccorso” in Cosseddu Adriana (a cura di), I sentieri del giurista sulle tracce della fraternità. Ordinamenti a confronto, Giappichelli, Torino, 2016, 96-97.

[ix] Zuppi, Matteo Maria, Odierai il prossimo tuo. Perché abbiamo dimenticato la fraternità. Riflessioni sulle paure del tempo presente, Piemme, Milano, 2019, 150-157.

[x] Maritain, Jacques, Cristianesimo e democrazia, Passigli, Firenze, 2007, 40-41.

[xi] About economy and fraternity: Punzi, Antonio, La convenienza del bene. Mercato, informazione e persuasione nella Caritas in veritate in Graziadio Serena (a cura di), Etica lavoro mercato. La Caritas in veritate, Aracne, Roma, 2011, 54-61.

[xii] Cardinale, Gianni, Francesco e i premi Nobel per la pace: dodici tavoli per un mondo più umano. Available here: https://www.avvenire.it/chiesa/pagine/francesco-e-i-premi-nobel-per-la-pace-dodici-tavoli-per-un-mondo-pi-umano

[xiii] Based on words of the Secretary of the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, Father S.I. Francesco Occhetta: “Incontro mondiale fraternità: padre Occhetta, “rimettere la fraternità come principio dell’azione sociale nello spazio pubblico”. Available here: https://www.agensir.it/quotidiano/2024/5/7/incontro-mondiale-fraternita-padre-occhetta-rimettere-la-fraternita-come-principio-dellazione-sociale-nello-spazio-pubblico/

[xiv] The Holy Father Francis, Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the participants in the World Meeting on Human Fraternity, Clementine Hall, Saturday, 11 May 2024. Available here:

https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2024/may/documents/20240511-world-meeting.html

 

 

The Hidden Environmental Impact of Our Digital Lives

The Hidden Environmental Impact of Our Digital Lives

Introduction

Technology has become a central part of our lives, as more and more aspects of our daily routines rely on digital technologies. While our lives have become “smart”, little thought has been given to the environmental consequences. Since technology is often viewed as purely beneficial, it does not typically raise environmental concerns.

This article looks at three ways digitalisation impacts the environment: by performing any action on the Internet, by disposing of devices improperly, and through the existence of data centres themselves.

 

Google searches

On the Internet, every click implies energy consumption. The impact generally depends on the size of the websites and the elements (such as images, videos and graphical elements) featured on pages, but even a simple Google search can pollute. It is difficult to accurately calculate the impact of Google searches on the environment: the company itself does not publish its data and there is no standardised independent source on Google’s volume data.

However, estimates can be made. In 2014, researcher Joanna Moll calculated that “on average, the production of 1 kWh emits 544 gr. of CO2. It takes 13 kWh to transmit 1GB of information, the equivalent of 7,07 kg. of CO2.”[1] The google.com homepage weighs about 2MB, so its current (estimated) 105,000 searches per second[2] would generate 1,485kg of CO2 emissions per second. This is an imperfect calculation since it uses data from 2014 and since energy may be produced through renewable sources, but still validly demonstrates the impact of digital interactions.

 

Tackling e-waste

E-waste refers to electronic products which are no longer functioning or used, and includes household appliances, office equipment and personal devices. Only 20% of e-waste is collected for recycling; owners often keep their previous phones and old devices rather than disposing of them. Of the remaining 80%, 76% has unknown fate and 4% is thrown into household waste. When e-waste ends up in landfills, metals contained in electronic devices, such as mercury and lead, may seep into the ground and contaminate groundwater. The Global North does not suffer the consequences of this mismanaged disposal, as disused and unwanted products are mostly sent to countries in the Global South. It is places like Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Accra in Ghana, that suffer the drastic consequences of the 215,000 tonnes of electronic goods dumped here. “Out of 100 soil samples collected in Agbogbloshie, more than half have shown an amount of lead which is over twice as much as the standards allowed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).”[3]

 

Data centres

Data centres are the backbone of the Internet and, as such, they require high amounts of electricity to run. In addition to the electricity required to run the computers where data is stored, vast amounts of energy are also needed to cool the computers. This is typically done through mechanical cooling (e.g. fans) and amounts to roughly 25% of a data centre’s total power consumption.

Researchers reported that data centres accounted for 1%[1] of world energy use in 2005, when there were roughly one billion people on the Internet.[2] With users have grown to over five billion, one might expect their energy consumption to have sharply increased over time, but this is not the case. However, this has not been the case: data centre energy consumption has only slightly increased (it is now roughly 1.4-1.7%[3]) thanks to widespread and sustained efforts in improving efficiency.

 

Conclusion

Our future is digital, and digitalisation is not a process that can be reversed. Our reliance on this infrastructure highlights the importance of ensuring that future generations can enjoy both the convenience of such technologies and a healthy planet. Technology clearly has very concrete effects on our environment we cannot ignore only because of the convenience of digital tools.

Acknowledging that the exponential growth of the digital world is currently unsustainable – and will only worsen in the future – is important because it allows us to focus on finding solutions to the above problems. Data centres show that pollution is not the sole option, and that sustainability and innovation can go hand in hand. However, quick and decisive action must be taken to limit the impact of our digital lives on the environment.

 

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References

[1] Moll, Joana. ‘CO2GLE’. Jana Virgin. Accessed 6 June 2024. https://www.janavirgin.com/CO2/CO2GLE_about.html.

[2] Domo. (2023). Data Never Sleeps 11.0. https://www.domo.com/learn/infographic/data-never-sleeps-11

[3] J. Ottaviani, ‘E-Waste Republic’, accessed 6 June 2024, https://web.archive.org/web/20180628102332/https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2015/ewaste/index.html.

[4]  Jonathan G Koomey, ‘Worldwide Electricity Used in Data Centers’, Environmental Research Letters 3, no. 3 (2008), https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/3/3/034008.

[5] ITU. ‘Number of internet users worldwide from 2005 to 2023 (in millions).’ Chart. November 27, 2023. Statista. Accessed June 10, 2024. https://www.statista.com/statistics/273018/number-of-internet-users-worldwide/

[6] IEA. “Data Centres & Networks.” Accessed June 10, 2024. https://www.iea.org/energy-system/buildings/data-centres-and-data-transmission-networks.

Smart and Sustainable Mobility. A multi-layered governance strategy

Smart and Sustainable Mobility. A multi-layered governance strategy

 The story behind pollution 

The modern world requires speed, adaptability, and precision. All these three adjectives are not meant to be a statement for people, they are more suitable for a car advertisement. From the beginning, starting with Ford Model T by Henry Ford (1908), the urban context was profoundly changed by cars, at the point that old Victorian and Medieval streets left the scene to flat and bright highways (Ratti, Claudel, 2017). 

Car selling increased and the consequence was a reduced rate of investments in public transportation, benefitting instead new roads (Ratti. Claudel. 2017). Population in cities started to increase, and the esteems tell us that nearly 70% of the global population will live in cities by 2050 (Lyons, 2016). The end of the story is well known, beyond traffic congestion and its stressful consequences on the people, GHG emissions started to increase causing considerable problems for the resident population. 

The so-called smog, which can be revealed by the AQI Index, is becoming more and more integrated inside commonly used navigation app and sometimes influence the choice to get out. Nevertheless, GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more in absolute terms than any other sector (EPA.gov, 2024). But a possible way out exists, or at least there is a space for debate on implementing it. The solution is called smart mobility and relies on the fact that: 

“Urban mobility of the future could be transformed, with developments such as: new forms of propulsion; new forms of vehicle control; changing business models of ownership and use; mobile technologies that equip and empower individuals; and opportunities to undertake activities without the need to travel. ‘Smart’ is the order of the day.” (Lyons, 2016)

 

Smart Mobility is: getting smart about mobility 

The previous quote pretty much says everything over the topic and specifically focus on the relation between a technology and its management. Governance therefore is a practice that should be taken more into account if we want to manage the issue. As a matter of fact, smart solution already exists, at least in the Global North. Think about scooters, e-bikes, e-cars, hybrid cars; and even the newest governance way, for example: car-pooling, car sharing, and all the sharing apps that let us ride a scooter or a bike. 

Which is the problem? The management and governance of these means has not been explored enough to say it is smart. How are we going to match citizens needs if there are only private players in this market aiming to make a profit, and we always follow the demand side? 

 

A multi layered governance of mobility 

To act in the governance field, it is needed to specify the level and the actors involved. As first, where do people go when there is too much congestion? The very basic and common commuting that everybody does each day is going to work or school. That is why usually there is congestion, and in the weekend, it feels like everybody disappeared from the city. 

To answer this problem people usually say that everybody should use bikes, walk, or get on the public bus to avoid causing more congestion. The thing is people have different attitudes towards the tasks they outperform, even if they seem to be similar. 

Therefore, there are three kinds of layers through which the problem can be tackled: Governance, Local zones-local attitudes, and finally the transportation mean. The mean is in the last position because of the problem already stated, it is not the kind of means you use, is the way you use it that causes problems. 

Governance 

There are a lot of strategies but sometimes they are poorly applied. Because people think about relying on what pollutes the less, instead they should focus on what is the management that better accommodates the needs of the people working/living there. Are they going to work in the same neighbourhood, or they are moving outside the city? Different needs, different means, different rules over the usage of it, this is the point. 

Local zones-local attitudes 

Each solution should be tailored on a very restricted group of people and on a defined area of interest. This goes in line with other policies related to sustainability, for example in the energy field. If a building has solar panels, a part of the energy can charge the e-vehicles that will be used by the community. A different thing may happen instead in a central part of the city where public transportation is pretty much available. 

The transportation mean 

Finally, after assessing the environment and having explored the existence of its peculiarities, as well as identifying common traits among the population residing there, it is possible to select the most suitable option. 

If there is an event, a problem, or something extraordinary, every citizen should be advised about it. Cities as London implemented a service of rapid communication and monitoring with citizens in order to speed up the resolution of a problem. The city of Rome instead suffers from an extended problem of lack of funding in the public transportation, and a common sense of affection to car (Barbieri, 2016). In this last case welcoming new so called smart means, will just create more congestion, and public transportation should be preferred instead. 

 

Reaching the Social Agreement 

Who is going to apply the strategy? Or connect with the people understanding their profile? The State has the right number of tools to apply the strategy. In this way it will be possible to capture the real public value coming from the new smart mobility (Docherty, 2017). 

In the future a study of the attitudes of the people towards transportation should be a primary input in the management of climate change. It is not less important than preventing heatwaves, it is rather part of the solution towards them. Therefore, needs and attitudes of the people could be mapped and updated the moment they change so to better optimize space and mobility. 

The State should hold information regarding the home-to-work journey of citizens taking into account their needs. The ones who can only go by car could be allowed, while those who benefit from public transportation or other sharing services (for instance if they have solar panels) could organize their journey on a different basis. A more organized city, with the right amount of space for everybody, is less congested, less polluted, and happier. 

 

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Bibliography 

Barbieri, Lorenzo. ‘Prossima fermata: adattamento: trasporti pubblici urbani e cambiamenti climatici a Roma: il caso del trasporto di superficie’. Doctoral Thesis, Università degli studi Roma Tre, 2016. https://arcadia.sba.uniroma3.it/handle/2307/5960 

Docherty, Iain, Greg Marsden, and Jillian Anable. ‘The Governance of Smart Mobility’. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 115 (September 2018): 114–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2017.09.012. 

Lyons, Glenn. ‘Getting Smart about Urban Mobility – Aligning the Paradigms of Smart and Sustainable’. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 115 (September 2018): 4–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2016.12.001. 

Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. ‘Tube, Overground, Elizabeth Line, DLR & Tram Status Updates’. Transport for London. Accessed 11 May 2024. https://tfl.gov.uk/tube-dlr-overground/status/. 

Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. ‘Tube, Overground, Elizabeth Line, DLR & Tram Status Updates’. Transport for London. Accessed 11 May 2024. https://tfl.gov.uk/tube-dlr-overground/status/. 

Ratti, Claudel. ‘La città di domani. Come le reti stanno cambiando il futuro urbano’. Giulio Einaudi editore s.p.a., Torino (September 2017). ISBN 978-88-06-22522-3. 

The World Air Quality Index. ‘World’s Air Pollution: Real-Time Air Quality Index’. waqi.info. Accessed 12 May 2024. https://waqi.info/. 

US EPA, OAR. ‘Carbon Pollution from Transportation’. Overviews and Factsheets, 10 September 2015.https://www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/carbon-pollution-transportation. 

Degrowth & fashion: future allies or eternal enemies?

Degrowth & fashion: future allies or eternal enemies?

Degrowth is a social movement, a political debate, and an academic field of research. “An equitable reduction in production and consumption that increases human well-being and improves ecological conditions at the local and global level, in the short and long term” as Schneidera and Kallis say. As a matter of fact, the economic growth model of long-term economic growth depends on the accumulation of capital, the growth of labour or population and the increase in productivity largely determined by technological progress. In the fashion industry, ongoing allegations of exploitation of clothing workers have prompted legislation to take greater account of social impact. The concept of Sustainability in itself takes into account not only environmental, but also economic and social impact.

So, it really possible a sustainable growth or should we start to accept that we need to slow down as a society and accept that the growth cannot be forever to be sustainable?

 

Hence the idea that a “degrowth” is necessary to really find a balance between human beings and the planet. On the other hand, the 2030 agenda embraces the challenge of finding a just transition. In this regard, many high fashion companies are acting to support this purpose, such as the Prada ocean conservation program “Kindergarten of the Lagoon” and the support from Fendi that with the. program “Hand in Hand” aims to support local craft workshops. As stated by Lorenzo Bertelli, head of corporate social responsibility:

“The dream is to move towards stakeholder capitalism and create a stronger balance between people and the environment”.

Despite the numerous campaigns made by various brands of haute couture, surely it should not be forgotten that green washing is a real problem that obstructs the just transition and indeed feeds a mechanism of inequality. So it will be time to make us understand who really is on the path of change always showing transparency and who is just pretending.

To do so, with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), European Union (EU) legislation that came into effect on January 5, 2023 which mandates European companies (including qualified EU branches of non-European companies) to disclose their social and environmental impacts and the effects of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) actions on their business. The purpose of the CSRD is to provide clarity to assist investors, analysts, consumers, and other stakeholders in better assessing the sustainability performance of EU companies, as well as related business impacts and risks. In fact, introduced as part of the European Commission’s Sustainable Finance Package, the CSRD significantly expands the scope, sustainability disclosure, and reporting requirements from the previous Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). The directive’s reporting is based on the concept of the so called “double materiality”, which means that organizations must disclose information on how their business activities impact the planet and people, and how sustainability goals, measures, and risks affect the company’s financial health. For instance, apart from requiring an organization to report its energy consumption and costs, CSRD mandates the communication of emission metrics detailing the impact of energy usage on the environment, reduction targets, and information on how achieving these goals will affect the organization’s finances and all these information disclosed must be made available to the public and reviewed by third parties tasked with verifying its accuracy and completeness.[1]

 

In addition to the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the efforts of high fashion companies towards sustainability, another crucial aspect of achieving sustainable growth lies in fostering a shift in societal values and consumption patterns. Education and awareness campaigns can play a vital role in promoting responsible consumption, ethical production practices, and environmental stewardship. By educating consumers about the true costs of fast fashion and the importance of supporting sustainable and ethical brands, a cultural shift can occur where sustainability becomes a key consideration in purchasing decisions. Furthermore, governments and regulatory bodies can incentivize sustainable practices through policies such as tax breaks for ecofriendly businesses, subsidies for renewable energy adoption, and stricter regulations on harmful practices. Collaborative initiatives between governments, businesses, and civil society can also drive innovation and promote sustainable solutions across industries.

 

Another crucial aspect to consider in the pursuit of sustainable growth is innovation and technology: in fact, advancements in technology can play a significant role in driving sustainability across various industries, including fashion. For example, the development of sustainable materials, such as labgrown fabrics, bio-based textiles, and recycled materials, can reduce the environmental impact of clothing production. Additionally, innovations in supply chain management, such as blockchain technology for transparency and traceability, can enhance ethical sourcing practices and reduce the risk of exploitation in the fashion supply chain. Moreover, investing in renewable energy sources and adopting eco-friendly manufacturing processes can further contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of the fashion industry. Companies that prioritize sustainability in their operations and not only focusing on the economic growth, can mitigate environmental risks and alos position themselves as leaders in innovation and responsible business practices, which can attract environmentally conscious consumers and investors.

 

Regarding the concept of degrowth, Robert Kennedy’s speech from 1968 serves as a reminder of how the “growth” alone cannot be an wellness index, connecting it to the GPD growth of a Nation:

“We will never find a purpose for our nation or personal satisfaction in the mere pursuit of economic well-being, in endlessly amassing material goods.

We cannot measure the national spirit by the Dow-Jones index, nor the country’s successes by the Gross Domestic Product.

GDP includes air pollution and cigarette advertising, as well as ambulances to clear our highways from weekend carnage.

GDP accounts for special locks on our doors, and prisons for those who try to break them. It includes television programs that glorify violence to sell violent products to our children. It grows with the production of napalm, missiles, and nuclear warheads, and includes research to improve the dissemination of bubonic plague. It increases with the equipment police use to quell riots and rises even more as slums are rebuilt from their ashes.

GDP does not consider the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their leisure time. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of family values, the intelligence of our debates, or the honesty of our public officials. It does not account for justice in our courts or fairness in our relationships. GDP does not measure our wit, courage, wisdom, or knowledge, nor our compassion or devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life truly worth living. It can tell us everything about America, but not if we can be proud to be Americans.”

 

In light of Kennedy’s insights, achieving sustainable growth in industries like fashion necessitates a comprehensive and mindful approach. It involves not only economic prosperity but also ethical considerations, environmental stewardship, and social well-being. Embracing technological advancements for eco-friendly materials and transparent supply chains is crucial, alongside responsible business practices and adherence to regulatory frameworks promoting sustainability.

Moreover, educating consumers about sustainable choices and fostering collaboration among stakeholders are also key elements. For these reasons, Kennedy’s speech prompts us to reflect on the broader impacts of economic activities beyond GDP figures. It underscores the importance of transparency, accountability, and a genuine commitment to sustainability in steering industries towards a greener, more equitable, and sustainable future. By integrating these principles into business strategies and societal norms, we can strive for a balanced and resilient global economy that prioritizes the well-being of both people and the planet.

 

In conclusion, achieving sustainable growth in industries like fashion demands a multifaceted and holistic approach. This entails embracing technological innovation for eco-friendly materials and supply chain transparency, practicing responsible business ethics, adhering to regulatory frameworks like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, educating consumers about sustainable choices, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders. While the concept of degrowth prompts reflection on the sustainability of perpetual economic expansion, a balanced and resilient future is attainable through sustainable practices, regulations, education, and collaborative efforts. Transparency, accountability, and a genuine commitment to sustainability are pivotal in steering industries toward a greener, more equitable, and sustainable global economy that benefits both people and the planet.

 

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[1] https://www.ibm.com/it-it/topics/csrd

Urban Food Systems: a challenge to holistic approaches?

Urban Food Systems: a challenge to holistic approaches?

Manfredi Valeriani

 

The complexity of the world we live in requires more and more encompassing approaches towards the problems that societies face across the globe. New conceptualizations of development and sustainability have been created in the past based on intersectionality, highlighting the interconnection among issues. A clear example of this is represented by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) that years ago have created a structured formalization of how issues substantially different in nature (i.e. gender equality and life below water) maintain certain levels of interdependence, both positive and negative, and all need to be tackled simultaneously to promote a more efficient action towards a better future. From the formalization of the SDGs there have been further conceptualizations that have favored holistic approaches towards development and sustainability. Most of these initiatives still find their origins in the UN framework and in the networked approach of the SDGs. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) is promoting a wider approach towards human health. The “One Health” approach recognizes the interconnection between human, animal, and environmental health. This concept starts from the understanding that global health challenges cannot be tackled without a diverse approach that intervenes in various sectors including human and veterinarian health, environmental science, biology, and ecology, etc. As the SDGs themselves suggest, there is no preferential start when tacking action and there are no hierarchies among the goals.

 

Another example of this process is the role that Food Systems have in fostering a healthier and more sustainable development. Food systems can be defined as systems that “comprise all the people, institutions, places, and activities that play a part in growing, processing, transporting, selling, marketing, and, ultimately, eating food” (Food System Dashboard 2023). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has developed a framework around the concept of food systems that allows for an encompassing approach towards development. It is not a secret that food production alone is accountable for high levels of greenhouse emissions up to one quarter of the global total (Ritchie 2019). The impact on the environment of food systems is extremely high, not only in terms of greenhouses emissions, but also in terms of land and resource (i.e. water) consumption. At the same time, food is the most basic factor that determines human survival. Unfortunately the global food environment has been deteriorating in the last years (The Economist 2022). It is within this framework that FAO has focused its work on Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) that are based on meeting today’s needs for food security without compromising future generations. To be defined as such, the sustainability of a food systems has to be met on three levels: economic, social and environmental (Nguyen 2018) showing once again the high intersectoral nature of food system, their impact, and the need for an encompassing action. However, it is important to keep in mind that while holistic approaches might ensure a more effective action at the systemic level, they might lose efficacy if applied at the local level. The urban food systems are an example of this.

 

The idea of food systems becomes increasingly complex when applied in urban contexts. While cities are often presented in full contraposition to rural areas in a clash between grey and green, urban spaces can still see the flourishing of local initiatives that can produce small scale food systems. However, these food systems share difficulties given by the environment they are created in. Urban agriculture faces limiting spatial constraints that lead to low production and the physical incapacity to have a strong impact on the food needs of the broad urban population (McClintock 2010). Limited production means limited economic sustainability, implying that urban farming is not a solid form of income and cannot be considered as a full-time activity, at least not in every community. This means that urban farming is used very differently depending on where it is implemented. Urban farming is shown to be directed to those with high amounts of resources in terms of time and capital, while vulnerable communities might see no interest in engaging in such activities. These factors can strongly undermine the long-term sustainability of these projects (Guitart, Pickering, and Byrne 2012). Yet, urban food systems are still capable to enhance access to fresh produce, to promote dietary diversity, to increase education on sustainable food practices and consumption and to foster community building (Carney 2012; Sanyé-Mengual et al. 2020). These effects are indeed higher in contexts where access and knowledge of food are limited. Therefore, the impact of urban farming is drastically different when looking at initiatives applied in different parts of the world. While in the Global North it might have limited impact in terms of providing basic needs, in the Global South it can still represent a form of income for low income communities its impact changes as the as we move to the north of the world where for high income communities it represents an improvement in ecofriendly production rather than a livelihood activity (Cavallo, Di Donato, and Marino 2016).

 

As other holistic approaches, food systems are indeed capable of grasping the complexity and the interdependencies that characterize the physical and social environment we live in.  At the same time, questions should be asked on the applicability of these approaches to the different local contexts. While theoretically sound, these global approaches such as those posed by the UN might fail the test of the local, favoring generalization at the expenses of the specific needs of vulnerable communities worldwide. Research is moving towards reconsidering the dimensions on which this generalization has been built. Dividing the globe according to lines drawn across the equator might impede the capacity to estimate new trends and new differences that are rising worldwide. Low-income communities in the south might be more similar to low-income communities in the north rather than to high-income communities of their areas. This implies that approaches to sustainable development might require new frameworks that go beyond intersectionality giving more attention to dimensions such as inter-community and inter-generation. Food systems, with their capacity to disseminate impact from global to local might be the perfect test to apply new approaches built on these dimensions.

 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 873119.

 

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References

 

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The Economist. 2022. Global Food Security Index 2022.

Shaping Tomorrow: The Implications of Artificial Intelligence on Creative Industries and Beyond

Shaping Tomorrow: The Implications of Artificial Intelligence on Creative Industries and Beyond

Author: Viktoriya Pisotska, PhD

 

In recent times, the conversation surrounding the influence of digital technologies on creative industries has gained momentum, emphasizing the significance of digital platforms and the emergence of digital ownership via NFTs (Chalmers et al 2022), a trend amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic (Khlystova et al., 2022). The discussion has evolved to include the critical role of artificial intelligence (AI) in creative industries, a sector where the definition of creativity within the AI context remains a subject of debate.

 

This article examines the creative industries, defined as activities that originate from individual creativity, skill, and talent and have the potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property (DCMS, 2001). The distinctive nature and ways of working of this sector render it particularly susceptible to profound changes and innovations propelled by generative AI (Hong et al., 2014), with a vast impact on economies and societies (Campbell et al., 2022, Dwivedi et al., 2023b). A comprehensive understanding of the interplay between generative AI and creative industries is crucial for leveraging potential benefits, addressing emerging challenges of these industries and beyond (Amankwah-Amoah, 2024).

 

The objective of this concise article is to stimulate inquiry and critical analysis among scholars and practitioners regarding AI’s ramifications for creative industries, their artists, as well as to discuss AI’s broader societal implications. It endeavors to initiate a dialogue by posing fundamental questions aimed at unraveling the nuances of creativity in the AI milieu. These inquiries include: How should we redefine creativity in the age of AI? Who qualifies as creative in this new context? How can one differentiate between artworks solely created by humans and those partially or entirely produced by AI? In what ways can AI tools enhance the creativity and productivity of artists? What competencies will be essential for artists in an AI-evolving landscape? Moreover, what strategies can artists employ to safeguard their creations, assert ownership, and what ethical guidelines should govern AI’s application in the creative sectors?

 

Research on AI commenced in the mid-20th century. The term “artificial intelligence” was first introduced in 1956 during the Dartmouth Conference, where a consortium of researchers convened to explore the feasibility of creating machines capable of demonstrating human-like intelligence. Since that time, AI research has advanced substantially, with significant developments across various subfields, including machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics. However, the adoption of AI applications has been gradual (Allam & Dhunny, 2019). An intriguing trend is highlighted by an analysis from Google Trends (Fig. 1), which illustrates a decrease in AI interest from early 2004 to 2008, followed by a notable resurgence in AI’s popularity from 2014 to 2024 (Google Trends, 2024).

 

Fig.1: Popularity of AI from 2004 to 2024 (Google Trends, 2024).

 

In the realm of creative industries, a growing number of scholars (e.g., Anantrasirichai & Bull, 2022) have recently begun to explore the application of AI in this sector. One of the limitations in the past was the readiness of the technology itself. Researchers (e.g., Davies et al., 2020) have suggested that the growth rate of research publications on AI, particularly those pertinent to creative industries, has increased by more than 500% in numerous countries. Predominantly, these studies have focused on AI’s application in creative industries (Anantrasirichai & Bull, 2022), the related challenges (De Cock Buning, 2018), and discussions about creativity (Lee, 2022). A recent survey conducted by Adobe (2018) revealed that three-quarters of artists in the US, UK, Germany, and Japan would consider using AI tools to assist in tasks like image search, editing, and other ‘non-creative’ activities. This demonstrates a widespread acceptance of AI as a supportive tool within the community and indicates a general awareness of the current state of technology, as most AI technologies are designed to operate in specific domains where they assist and support human efforts rather than replace them. Remarkably, the first painting created entirely by AI was auctioned for $432,500 in 2018 (The New York Times). Despite the growing interest in the intersection of AI and creative industries, this area of research remains nascent, with many questions yet to be addressed.

 

One pressing question is: how, and if, should we redefine creativity in the age of AI? Lee (2022) argues that AI holds the potential to re-humanize the notion of creativity, which has been increasingly perceived through a dehumanized lens due to the prevailing discourse within creative industries over the last two decades. Lee suggests that the industry’s characterization of creativity as a form of capital obstructs a labor-centric view of creativity. Explorations into AI and creativity probe the intrinsic nature of human creativity and the artistic process, while also recognizing the potential challenge AI poses to human creators by detaching creativity from human agency. Thus, the discussion surrounding AI and creativity in the context of creative industries invites critical examination of the political-economic aspects of creativity (labor vs. capital) and the source of creativity (humans/artists vs. mechanical processes/capital).

 

Regarding the question of whether we will be able to distinguish between artworks entirely created by humans and those that are partially or entirely generated by AI, current research does not provide a definitive answer. As AI technology advances, producing increasingly sophisticated and human-like creations, this task will undoubtedly become more challenging. Several methods could potentially differentiate between the two. Firstly, artists can disclose whether their works are AI-assisted or solely human-made, although this depends on the creator’s honesty and transparency. Appropriate software could identify AI-generated artworks. Techniques such as forensic analysis, artistic style analysis, and expert critique can be employed to detect subtle patterns or ‘fingerprints’ in AI-generated images, identify the human touch in art, and involve art critics and experts in differentiating between human and AI-generated creations. However, these analyses may become more difficult as AI evolves. Consequently, there is a need to establish legal standards mandating the disclosure of AI usage in creative works.

 

To reflect on how AI tools can enhance not only an artist’s creativity but also productivity, consider the example of 20th Century Fox. The company employed AI algorithms developed by IBM Watson to analyze movie trailers and predict which elements would most resonate with different target audiences (Forbes, 2024). Furthermore, independent filmmakers and smaller production companies have utilized AI for tasks like script analysis, video editing, and even composing music scores. Although AI has not reached the capability to independently produce entire films, it has been incorporated into the filmmaking process, streamlining certain tasks and boosting creativity and efficiency.

 

Regarding the necessary skills, insights can be gleaned from artists who are already integrating AI into their creative work. For instance, Hans Zimmer, a celebrated composer known for his scores in movies such as “The Lion King,” “Inception,” “Interstellar,” and “Dune”, has expressed his interest (e.g., in his interview for GQ) in using technology to enhance his creative process and expand the limits of music composition. He identifies essential skills including emotional intelligence—a quality AI lacks—along with creativity, originality, artistic identity and vision, authenticity, and the ability to engage in critical thinking and problem-solving. In Zimmer underscores the importance of striking a balance between technology and human expression, ensuring that technology augments the artistic vision rather than detracting from it.

 

The impacts of generative AI go beyond creative industries’ boundaries, affecting culture, policy and society (Amankwah-Amoah et al., 2024). Governments worldwide recognize AI as a key driver of economic growth and societal advancement (Hall & Pesenti 2018). A prime example of its application is in the development of smart cities, which leverage Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to boost urban efficiency and the overall workings of city life (Allam & Dhunny, 2019). The advent of digitized cities, equipped with an array of sensors, computational cores, and diverse telecommunication networks, has unlocked the potential to collate extensive data from various neighborhoods about how people in cities live, and how cities evolve over a certain period of time. It is possible to obtain data about land spaces, open spaces, buildings and such. This data acquisition can enable a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of urban life and the evolving dynamics of city spaces, including the efficient use of land and the interaction within open and built environments (Allam & Dhunny, 2019). When such data is processed through AI systems it illuminates aspects of urban logistics and informs the decision-making processes of urban planners, fostering more effective governance and policy-making that align with the needs and well-being of urban residents. Moreover, AI can be instrumental in shaping urban policies that address and mitigate the impacts of climate change—recognizing the critical importance of developing resilient and sustainable cities for future generations. Yet, despite these optimistic strides, concerns regarding privacy breaches and the overarching social implications of AI remain salient issues requiring further scholarly investigation and ethical deliberation (Jha et al., 2021; Yigitcanlar et al., 2020; Anantrasirichai, Bull, 2022). While generative AI is here to stay (Dwivedi, 2023a), it is imperative to critically reflect on its congruence with societal and cultural norms and to contemplate the ethical implications for those involved. As we journey forward, ensuring that innovation and technology enhance, rather than overshadow, the human touch in our creative tapestry is imperative. In essence, actively managing the creative process and directing AI’s evolution, rather than merely consuming it, will become increasingly important. At the time of writing this article, several questions remain open to interpretation, not least of which is the query of whether AI has crafted this text.

 

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References

 

Allam, Z., & Dhunny, Z. A. (2019). On big data, artificial intelligence and smart cities. Cities, 89, 80-91.

Amankwah-Amoah, J., Abdalla, S., Mogaji, E., Elbanna, A., & Dwivedi, Y. K. (2024). The impending disruption of creative industries by generative AI: Opportunities, challenges, and research agenda. International Journal of Information Management, 102759.

Anantrasirichai, N., & Bull, D. (2022). Artificial intelligence in the creative industries: a review. Artificial Intelligence Review, 55(1), 589-656.

Campbell, C., Plangger, K., Sands, S., Kietzmann, J., & Bates, K. (2022). How deepfakes and artificial intelligence could reshape the advertising industry: The coming reality of AI fakes and their potential impact on consumer behavior. Journal of Advertising Research62(3), 241-251.

Chalmers, D., Fisch, C., Matthews, R., Quinn, W., & others. (2022). Beyond the bubble: Will NFTs and digital proof of ownership empower creative industry entrepreneurs? Journal of Business Research.

Davies, J. (2020). The art in the artificial. London: Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Nesta.

De Cock Buning, M. (2018). Artificial Intelligence and the creative industry: new challenges for the EU paradigm for art and technology by autonomous creation. In Research handbook on the law of artificial intelligence (pp. 511-535). Edward Elgar Publishing.

DCMS (2001). Creative Industries Mapping Document. London: Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Dwivedi, Y. K., Hughes, L., Bhadeshia, H. K., Ananiadou, S., Cohn, A. G., Cole, J. M., … & Wang, X. (2023)b. Artificial intelligence (AI) futures: India-UK collaborations emerging from the 4th Royal Society Yusuf Hamied workshop. International Journal of Information Management, 102725.

Dwivedi, Y. K., Kshetri, N., Hughes, L., Slade, E. L., Jeyaraj, A., Kar, A. K., … & Wright, R. (2023)a. “So what if ChatGPT wrote it?” Multidisciplinary perspectives on opportunities, challenges and implications of generative conversational AI for research, practice and policy. International Journal of Information Management71, 102642.

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Hall, D. W., & Pesenti, J. (2018). Growing the artificial intelligence industry in the UK. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/652097/Growing_the_artificial_intelligence_industry_in_the_UK.pdf

Hong, W., Chan, F. K., Thong, J. Y., Chasalow, L. C., & Dhillon, G. (2014). A framework and guidelines for context-specific theorizing in information systems research. Information systems research25(1), 111-136.

Jha, A. K., Ghimire, A., Thapa, S., Jha, A. M., & Raj, R. (2021). A review of AI for urban planning: Towards building sustainable smart cities. In 2021 6th International Conference on Inventive Computation Technologies (ICICT) (pp. 937-944). IEEE.

Khlystova, O., Kalyuzhnova, Y., & Belitski, M. (2022). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative industries: A literature review and future research agenda. Journal of Business Research.

Lee, H. K. (2022). Rethinking creativity: Creative industries, AI and everyday creativity. Media, Culture & Society, 44(3), 601-612.

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