Category: Energy Studies

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The intelligence we seek in “smart cities”

The intelligence we seek in “smart cities”

The term “smart cities” began to emerge in the late 1960s, and experts define them as innovative cities that utilize information and communication technology to improve the quality of life and cater to the needs of current and future generations. In 2016, the International Telecommunication Union launched an initiative called “United for Sustainable Smart Cities,” which is one of the United Nations’ initiatives to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11. This goal aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Although smart city concepts are now associated with sustainability, the technological advancement accompanying smart city projects is expected to lead to higher energy consumption rates compared to natural rates. This is because they rely on transportation and communication networks and data collection more extensively than usual in cities. Therefore, introducing clean energy projects, optimizing natural resources usage, and embracing circular economy concepts have become essential issues in the development of these cities. Consequently, planning for these cities has become intertwined with various economic, social, environmental, and cultural aspects.

It’s worth mentioning the works of Jane Jacobs, especially her groundbreaking book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” in which she addressed many fundamental issues in city building. She criticized urban planning that fails to directly integrate community members in the planning process, stating, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Hence, if smart cities can build advanced infrastructure and keep pace with the times, can they also make the lives of their residents better in all aspects of sustainability, especially in terms of social relationships?

What’s the benefit if these cities can create advanced and investment-friendly infrastructure but are unable to make their inhabitants more cohesive and happy? Cities are built for humans, so they should be built to preserve their cultures and foster their relationships with each other. This is not a simple matter, as Jacobs also said, “Man is difficult to live with, and therefore all kinds of cities (except dream cities) suffer from problems.” Therefore, we need to delve into understanding communities if we intend to plan smart cities for them. The intelligence we seek in cities is the one that ensures the prosperity of communities in all different aspects, in a thoughtful and balanced manner.

Dr. Abdulla AlAbbasi

Abdulla AlAbbasi

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Insights into the Singaporean Experience in Waste Management

Insights into the Singaporean Experience in Waste Management

The world generates approximately 2.1 billion tons of waste, and it is expected that this number will reach 3.4 billion tons within 30 years, representing an increase of about 70 percent. Many countries are striving to address the waste crisis, particularly because it is economically costly and causes numerous damages to ecological systems. The prevailing waste management system worldwide involves collecting waste from areas and disposing of it in designated landfill sites by municipal authorities.

In support of international efforts to combat climate change and protect the environment, and within its steadfast commitment to environmental and climate issues, as well as creating sustainable opportunities aimed at achieving net-zero emissions by 2060, the Kingdom of Bahrain faces a prominent challenge in managing waste sustainably in the long term. The kingdom seeks to establish numerous waste management projects, such as waste-to-energy conversion, aiming to preserve the environment and ecological systems.

As mentioned earlier, most countries have their own waste collection systems. When waste accumulates in residential areas and elsewhere, vehicles pass through all neighborhoods in the provinces to collect and then transport the waste. In Bahrain, waste collection and disposal are managed by two private sector companies responsible for collecting solid waste in the provinces and disposing of it at the municipal landfill site in Askar.

Many countries have implemented pneumatic waste conveyance systems, also known as the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System. This method involves connecting internal or external units to throw waste into underground pneumatic tube containers. This technology has been in existence since 1960 and is used in many major cities such as London, Stockholm, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, with trials being conducted in residential neighborhoods in Singapore. However, each city employs this system according to its suitability. The same system used in London may not be suitable for a small city like Singapore and vice versa.

Singapore has implemented a sustainable waste collection system through pneumatic waste conveyance systems after making technology mandatory in residential areas with no fewer than 500 residents. The Singaporean government believes that as the population increases, particularly in urban areas like Singapore, it becomes clear that traditional waste bins and the old infrastructure required to serve them are no longer suitable. Therefore, pneumatic waste conveyance systems address many problems that traditional waste collection methods, which are costly economically and environmentally, cannot. The government sees this technology as sustainable and more operationally cost-effective. We have taken Singapore as an example because it resembles Bahrain in terms of area and challenges.

How does the pneumatic waste system work? In Singapore’s system, when residents dispose of their waste in internal or external waste disposal units, an underground vacuum pipe network transports this waste to a closed container. Once operators ensure that the container is full through an automated sensor, a truck passes to collect (or vacuum) the waste for disposal. The entire waste collection process is fully automated, reducing labor requirements and increasing productivity.

Through this system, Singapore aims to reduce above-ground waste accumulation by 100 percent, in addition to reducing economic and environmental expenses associated with traditional methods because it requires fewer operational staff and cleaners compared to traditional methods. Therefore, there is significant savings in labor costs, and vehicle expenses such as fuel, maintenance, and passing through residential areas and neighborhoods at the national level, which are very costly in the long term. It also provides a healthy way to dispose of waste and reduces carbon emissions from vehicle use. This means a healthy environment for residents and greater aesthetic satisfaction without waste bins along sidewalks. Overall, the pneumatic waste disposal system is considered safer, cheaper, and better for the environment in the long term.

Although the pneumatic waste system has many advantages, it also comes with recurring challenges along the way that can be addressed. For example, when residents throw large or sharp waste into garbage disposal units and trucks vacuum the waste underground quickly at speeds of 30-60 miles per hour, it can cause fractures or tears in the pipes, necessitating engineers to repair tears and remove blockages, which can lead to system downtime for a period of time. Other challenges include how to introduce infrastructure into urban areas and design it, as well as developers or municipalities needing to determine the true cost of this project and balance the benefits and returns on investment in the future.

Dr. Abdulla AlAbbasi

Abdulla AlAbbasi

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Technology and the environment.. Friends or foes?!

Technology and the environment.. Friends or foes?!

The rapid changes we are witnessing today in the fields of technology, innovation, and knowledge represent a significant transformation on the human level. Civilization, as far as historians can tell, has never experienced this type of cognitive and technological progress before. Some may struggle to comprehend the magnitude of this advancement, perhaps because they have lived within the confines of their own era since childhood. Imagine, for instance, if electricity and its applications had never been discovered. How would our lives be without air conditioners, for example? This applies to many contemporary applications, particularly in the fields of communications and transportation, which sequentially emerged after the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom.

In this context, the French philosopher and sociologist Auguste Comte’s proposal comes to mind, in which he divided the stages of human development into three stages, culminating in the industrial stage. However, this stage has evolved in a complex manner, with the intertwining of sciences being prevalent in its applications, aiming primarily at ensuring human welfare. Let us consider, for example, the so-called revolution of communications and information, which has made contemporary humans closely intertwined with technology, perceiving the universe through instantaneous connectivity. This era has a different charm and a unique pattern, as pointed out by my dear professor, Dr. Mohammed Al-Sandouq, in his paper titled “Is Technology a New Way of Thinking?” In which he proposed adding another stage to Comte’s stages, namely the stage of technology. Despite being built upon the industrial stage, technology exhibits more complexity in its features and interactions, encompassing multiple and intertwined aspects of human life.

Some may disagree with the aforementioned proposal philosophically, yet all may largely agree that our current era is more advanced and complex than any previous human eras, according to our limited knowledge. Therefore, the level of scientific prosperity we are witnessing is exceptional in every sense of the word. We see the emergence of many exceptional applications, such as the ChatGPT chat program and, recently, the smart Apple glasses. Just as what is happening is unprecedented and astonishing, so too are its challenges more severe and more complex. Perhaps the most dangerous of these challenges is the climate crisis, which has directly worsened with the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Away from claims advocating for halting technological growth on the pretext that it is the main cause of the climate crisis, we currently need to address the problem rather than lament its remnants. The unprecedented technological prosperity achieved by humanity is an unprecedented advancement that must be preserved as a cultural asset, and its moderation is essential to serve current and future generations. One of the important solutions to addressing the climate crisis may be through harnessing the advanced technology itself to solve this dilemma. This is what we see today under what is called “Technology-based solutions” as one of the fundamental tools to achieve carbon neutrality, which includes techniques such as carbon capture and storage. There are also bolder scientific solutions that may be applicable in the near future. For example, the US National Academies of Sciences recommended allocating up to $200 million over the next five years to explore how to deploy what is known as solar geoengineering or “climate engineering,” which aims to artificially cool the Earth by using cloud seeding or spraying water into Arctic clouds to deflect sunlight from them to preserve ice. Undoubtedly, this approach to addressing environmental challenges requires adopting more stringent international policies, in addition to creating attractive and stimulating economic opportunities for scientific research, in order to open up more opportunities for such pioneering applications.

Dr. Abdulla AlAbbasi

Abdulla AlAbbasi

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Who is Behind Climate Change ?

Energy Studies

Who is Behind Climat Change ?

Usually, this question is posed: Who is responsible for climate change? And it’s followed by: Why should we bear the mistakes of countries causing this pollution that affects our planet? Although this question is legitimate, there’s no practical benefit in discussing it at this time. The priority now is for all of us to work together to address this dilemma instead of blaming each other. When there’s a fire in your house, you put out the fire first before asking who caused it. If we want to be fair with developed countries, which were the main contributors to harmful emissions at the beginning of their industrial revolution, undoubtedly, we all benefited from their products that significantly changed our ways of living. Hence, the reality dictates that we are all partners in this problem to varying degrees, and there’s no party exempt from this major responsibility.

This is indicated by the American scientist, and the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, Elinor Ostrom, in an interview about climate change where she says: “Part of my frustration with international negotiations is that we have engaged in huge battles over who caused climate change primarily and who is responsible for fixing it. We haven’t developed a comprehensive corrective path yet.” What distinguishes Ostrom’s approach in addressing the environmental problem is that it’s based on her economic theory, which advocates for employing natural resources through the community itself. Based on this, she calls on individuals and communities to take practical steps instead of waiting for the results of international negotiations. She has great confidence in the ability of communities to tackle the environmental problem and thus create the necessary regulations and mechanisms to maintain an eco-friendly life.

Although this approach deals with the climate problem from a different perspective, one that addresses the issue comprehensively and doesn’t wait for governments to take action, it never denies the importance of supporting international treaties. Ostrom herself emphasizes that environmental efforts should interact at multiple levels through what she calls a polycentric governance system. This system organizes small units and links them based on rules understood by individuals, communities, and countries, ultimately benefiting everyone. For example, when an individual chooses to walk long distances instead of driving a car, they’re exercising for their own benefit and at the same time reducing harmful emissions from the car. Thus, the individual achieves health benefits and also contributes small benefits to the world.

Ostrom’s approach restores confidence in the ability of individuals to create radical change, as she refutes the prevailing notion that collectively used natural resources will be excessively exploited and destroyed in the long term. This is done through field studies on how people manage natural resources in small local communities. Many positive examples around the world have shown that communities can preserve their natural resources, as seen, for example, in Nepal where farmers have been sharing scarce water resources for centuries. Therefore, as individuals or communities, we can preserve our common natural resources like air and water and significantly contribute to halting climate change. Hence, it might be worthwhile now to correct the question posed here about who is behind climate change to what have you done to stop this change?

Dr. Abdulla AlAbbasi

Abdulla AlAbbasi

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Does artificial intelligence technology replace human jobs?

Energy Studies

Does artificial intelligence technology replace human jobs?

The relationship between humans and machines is a historical one, crafted by humans to meet their specific needs according to the technology available at the time. Changes in this relationship are evident through successive industrial revolutions and changes in various manufacturing models. After the third industrial revolution, driven by fossil fuels, the fourth industrial revolution emerged equipped with advanced technological capabilities such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and other advanced technologies in the twenty-first century.

The economist Ludwig von Mises, born during the second industrial revolution (1870-1918), mentioned that machines are necessary to increase productivity. In his book “Anti-Capitalistic Mentality,” he states that “the increase in what is called labor productivity is due to the employment of better tools and machines.” Indeed, machines and advanced technology have contributed to human prosperity and improved productivity at work. Today, artificial intelligence solutions have contributed to increasing productivity and profitability in many sectors of the economy in various fields such as space, agriculture, the military sector, health, education, e-commerce, and many others.

At the same time, many experts and business owners warn that the extensive reliance on artificial intelligence solutions may pose an existential threat to humanity because these technologies may replace human jobs, especially since they can enhance productivity and accuracy to a greater extent than human labor. The question here is: Can artificial intelligence indeed pose a functional existential threat to humans?

Throughout history, there has been fear of machines replacing humans due to the increased productivity they possess compared to humans, which has been a major concern for farmers, factory workers, and others. Regarding artificial intelligence technologies, they have a significant impact on productivity at work and may replace many jobs in the future, but this time not only in factories and farms but in all sectors and industries like industry and services. It is believed that these technologies will pose a threat by displacing jobs because they will perform roles better than the tasks performed by humans but with greater efficiency and accuracy. In the near term, this may lead to economic disruption, unemployment, and widening income inequality. However, the situation differs in the medium and long term, especially in our rapidly evolving digital world.

In the medium and long term, especially in our rapidly evolving digital world, artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the job market by creating new job opportunities and specialties that were previously unimaginable. As artificial intelligence technologies continue to advance, new jobs emerge, such as artificial intelligence ethicists, data scientists, specialists in automation, machine learning, and deep learning, among many other opportunities that have emerged with these technologies. This expansion not only contributes to diversifying the workforce and increasing its productivity and efficiency but also contributes to economic growth by leveraging the potential of artificial intelligence-based innovations. Companies benefit from artificial intelligence technologies to streamline operations, enhance productivity, and provide personalized customer experiences, ultimately leading to increased profitability and sustainable growth.

The integration of artificial intelligence technologies across various industries reshapes market dynamics, providing companies with a competitive advantage and driving expansion into markets. As artificial intelligence becomes more entrenched in business operations, organizations experience improvements in efficiency, cost reduction, and increased competitiveness in the market. The symbiotic relationship between artificial intelligence and human expertise paves the way for a new era of innovation, collaboration, and growth in the global market. Therefore, despite the risks associated with these technologies that must be addressed in the present, adopting these technologies will contribute to increasing innovation, industry growth, promoting future job creation, and sustainable economic growth.

Dr. Ali Faqeeh

Research Associate

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CLIMATE PESSIMISM DOES NOT OFFER A SOLUTION

CLIMATE PESSIMISM DOES NOT OFFER A SOLUTION

Ahmed bin Fares, the famous linguist and author of the dictionary “Mukayyis al-Lugha” once wrote to Badee al-Zaman al-Hamdani, complaining to him about the corruption of people and the changing times. Badee al-Zaman replied to him: “Do you think that the times are corrupted? Don’t you ever say when it was righteous?” This opinion adopted by Badee al-Zaman has some truth to it, and another aspect of unlimited pessimism. The truth is that people in every era complain about their time, and the reality is that every era has its positive and negative changes alike. Simply focusing on the shortcomings and generalizing them in this way leads people to frustration and negativity. The principle is that if we want to be practical and fair, we must remember the aspects of growth and prosperity, and study them in order to invest in them more.

This previous approach includes issues related to the environment and climate. While the environmental reality suffers from real crises, the steps taken by international organizations and the international community have become more mature than ever before. This does not mean at all that they are sufficient, but self-criticism, and looking negatively at all these great efforts, leads to frustration and procrastination. Developing environmentally friendly applications is a responsibility shared by everyone, and focusing on developing positive behavior and an optimistic outlook is something that should be adopted in all future policies in this field.

It is worth mentioning that a study published in the journal of environmental psychology titled “Why Does a Green Lifestyle Make Us Happy?” indicates that the relationship found in previous studies regarding the positive feeling associated with environmentally friendly practices does not stem from a desire to appear socially acceptable, but it goes beyond that to being a path with meaningful and ethical significance. Conversely, negative feelings arise when a person does not care about the environment and does not feel that this matter has great significance in their life. Therefore, people’s sense of satisfaction with themselves makes them more enthusiastic to allocate more resources and effort towards environmentally friendly applications, which contribute to preserving both humans and nature around us.

It is necessary in the coming stage to look at the future more positively, rather than blaming our time and past times. Responsibility is shared for working to reduce the consequences of climate change, and a positive spirit is the optimal way to encourage communities, governments, and international institutions to create comprehensive cooperation to ensure that there are major transformations towards preserving the environment and reducing the impacts of climate change. We cannot achieve this if we are not optimistic that we are capable of doing so by all available means, which ensure happiness and prosperity for people around the world. As the saying goes: “Pessimism is the distance people put between themselves and their dreams,” and “Optimism is the key that opens the doors to success and happiness,” so be optimistic.

Dr. Abdulla AlAbbasi

Abdulla AlAbbasi

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