We recently attended this year's Featuring Future Conference at the BOKU Vienna (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences) and were able to listen to significant lectures on the major topics of the future. In this blog, we want to share some exciting impressions of the conference and also talk about how essentially the concept of Citizen Science is for future progress.
Reinhard Steurer, researcher and professor for climate policy at BOKU, addressed in his keynote speech, why we as a society risk so much and instead of real climate and environmental policy, largely settle for sham climate policy.
The reason is the feeling of powerlessness. While at first we can assume a market failure (fossil economic interests), in the next step we speak of a state and government failure, which did not intervene through lobbying. Decades later, we have arrived at a societal failure because we as a whole society remain inactive and prefer to get rid of the information rather than the problem.
The good news is: powerlessness is in our hands — society can empower itself until empowerment becomes power and solutions can be implemented. The entire lecture by Reinhard Steurer can be found in the video below.
When speaking of empowerment: The city of Copenhagen started early to integrate CO₂-friendly initiatives into urban planning. At that time, Jan Gehl, as an architect, was jointly responsible for this development and was a guest speaker at the Featuring Future Conference. In 1962, Copenhagen had created the first car-free street and thus space for people. From then on, cycling facilities were developed so well that the entire city is crisscrossed with a dense network of cycle paths. In addition, work is constantly being done on safety for cyclists and pedestrians.
Vienna is also a city that has an exemplary public transport network to offer, but still reserves most of its space for cars. Political measures for traffic-calmed or completely car-free zones and an expansion of cycle paths are implemented only hesitantly or are not even envisaged.
In response to the audience's question why this worked so well in Copenhagen, Jan Gehl answered: It was possible with small steps and a good documentation of the city, a common plan, namely to become the best city in the world. Car-free zones were seen as an asset because what makes cities attractive are people and places for people, not places for cars.
In 1967, Copenhagen was the first city to document and collect data on life there. Until now, Copenhagen has comprehensive information and a good overview of its city — where people cycle a lot, which ways do they go, where do accidents happen, where is a reduction of cars and exhaust fumes needed?
The city of Vienna, for example, does not have this kind of documentation about cycling and walking. Jan Gehl then appealed that this data is immensely important to get political action going and to start joint projects.
Certainly, Citizen Science can be an important tool to document and empower citizens to achieve progress! For example, BiciZen, a Citizen Science App on the very topic of cycling, has now been released to record data from cyclists worldwide. BiciZen has developed the App in six languages together with SPOTTERON.
Cities, but also rural regions, are tested for their bicycle-friendliness, their developed bicycle network, frequency of bicycle theft, cycling safety and many other parameters. A collaborative platform that aims to make city regions more bikeable and that aids cities in their transition to a low-carbon mobility future and empowers urban cyclists with helpful trip information.
Citizen Science Apps can be used to bring essential data to policymakers. From data on cycling, biodiversity, mental health to climate protection, the possibilities are wide-ranging. Citizen Science Apps can thus be a part of creating social change, and SPOTTERON therefore does its best to design them user-friendly and under strict consideration of data protection.
We highly recommend all the lectures and would like to thank all the Speakers and BOKU for this inspiring event – already looking forward to next year's Featuring Future Conference!