Tag: Sustainability

OpenEcoMaps, eco-living maps using OpenStreetMap data, is now working again. Hooray! I decided to sit down and work out why the OpenLayers interface wasn’t working and it turned out to be quite simple to fix. You can now browse around maps of low carbon energy generators in London, veggie restaurants in Edinburgh, allotments in Exeter, recycling facilities in Glasgow and more! The data is updated every hour, direct from OpenStreetMap, and is available on maps and downloadable/reusable KML and GeoJSON files. The code is also in Github, so you could set-up your own version for another country if you like. There are still some of the layers that aren’t working because the underlying data isn’t being extracted from OpenStreetMap properly. But I’m very glad that, after well over six months with it completely broken, the web site basically works again!

For almost a year now, my pet project OpenEcoMaps has been broken. The vagaries of unreliable XAPI servers meant the system couldn’t download OpenStreetMap data to create all the KML files, and (I think) some changes to OpenLayers meant the web maps also stopped working. It has taken me a long time to work up the energy to fix these. Today I can happily say one half of the system is now working again, and the underlying code is much improved. OpenEcoMaps KML files, and now GeoJSON files, are being created again. Hooray! I switched from XAPI to the Overpass API; grabbed JSON which enabled me to write a more powerful function to turn this into usable objects (for example building a complete Python object for an allotment merging data from relevant nodes, ways and relations); wrote a new library to create GeoJSON files; refactored everything else to fit with…

Following my map of London’s green and blue infrastructure, I have been working on some analysis of the land uses. I was inspired and encouraged to try this by Liliana’s interesting work called “imagining all of Southwark“. Lili and Ari have managed to get the council to release lots of data on properties and car parking, and they are producing analysis of this data by postal code area and by street. They haven’t managed to get anything on land uses, so I thought, why not produce this with OpenStreetMap data? A few evenings later, here is the result shared on Google docs (direct link) covering the eight postal code areas that between them cover most of the borough (SE1, SE5, SE15, SE16, SE17, SE21, SE22, SE24): What the data means The “summary” worksheet shows the total land area, expressed in hectares (10,000 m2), for various different types of land coverage.…

I’ve been playing around with open data from OpenStreetMap and Natural England to make a pretty map of “green and blue infrastructure” in London. Here’s the result: You can download a PDF version suitable for printing here: natural_london. I’m pretty happy with the result, my first real attempt to produce something useful with QGIS. The data I used was: OpenStreetMap shapefiles for most features from Geofabrik, supplemented by… Manually retrieved commons and marshes using the Overpass API (not yet present in Geofabrik shapefiles) Natural England shapefiles for orchards, deciduous woodlands and sites of special scientific interest Ordnance Survey Boundary-Line shapefiles for the Greater London and London borough boundaries There’s no reason the Natural England data couldn’t be manually added to OpenStreetMap, giving us a complete dataset of natural features. I just chose to get on and do it this way rather than wait, or try to add all the data across areas…

Jim Gleeson has an interesting blog entry about the consequences of making a city more liveable. In short, there is a danger that making an area more liveable can price out lower income people. By reducing air pollution and generally improving the local environment in more deprived areas,  richer people will start to move in displacing the people who should have benefitted. His prescription is more housing supply to accompany environmental improvements. But we need to think a bit more carefully about this to get the medicine right for places like London. As he points out, the economic benefits of making an area more desirable will largely go to existing home owners and landlords as the value of the land, and therefore the rent they can charge, increases. Lower income people will be forced to move, presumably (according to Jim’s argument) to less liveable areas. Council and housing association tenants…

I have noticed a lot of young people enthusiastically supporting the Government’s proposals to radically cut down planning regulations. They join in attacks on groups like the National Trust and Friends of the Earth, calling them wealthy NIMBYs who are protecting their own over-inflated house prices. They buy into the suggestion that the planning system has held back house building, harming a growing proportion of the current generation of young people who are now “jilted”, priced out of home ownership. Is this right? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe the Government’s proposals are bad for young people, and bad for intergenerational justice. Is planning the problem? There can be no doubt that planning regulations are a drag on housing development, adding both the cost of the buildings themselves and the process of putting them up. But that’s like saying that the minimum wage and gender equality laws are a…

I’m happy to announce that OpenEcoMaps is now stable and ready for use, albeit with a few wrinkles that I hope some more able hackers can help me iron out. OpenEcoMaps takes data about “eco” (green / sustainable) features stored in OpenStreetMap and turns them into KML files that are shown as overlays on the map, making it easy for people to find out where they can get a vegetarian meal, forage some wild fruit, spot a solar panel, recycle a can, pick up a car club car, or spend some money in a cinema. You can use these KML files on your own map, or in Google Earth; you can embed the OpenEcoMaps map in your own web site; or you can just browse around the site. At the moment there are packs of overlays for London and Exeter, but I can quite easily add other local areas with any…

As another flurry of snow hits the office windows here at City Hall, we’ve put the finishing touches to a video by Darren Johnson investigating the future of insulation in London (and the reasons why over a million homes are still bleedin’ cold!)

Here’s another reason not to try and terrify people out of conspicuous consumption, aside from the basic flaws in the “eco angel” approach and recent evidence that moralising is putting people off ethical consumerism. Some interesting research by Swiss psychologists found that warnings about death has the ironic effect of making some smokers want to smoke even more! The reason? They derive a self-esteem boost from smoking; warnings about death sent these smokers to a trusty source of self esteem to overcome that downhearted feeling – death-bringing cigarettes! So next time you tell someone that buying too much crap might cause planetary collapse, it’s fairly likely that your nasty nagging well send them running for a standard Western self-esteem boost: shopping.

My paper about BedZED in was published in the Environment and Urbanization journal last month, there’s a free PDF for download. Aside from the many nitty gritty technical lessons learned from the UK’s first and still-largest Zero Carbon development, I took away two basic lessons for green policy. The first is that good urban design really can influence behaviour, making for a better sense of community and more environmentally friendly lifestyles. The old rule of thumb – make good choices the default and easy, bad choices more effort – bore fruit. The second is that the prevalent “save you money” view of selling sustainability needs a good kick in the teeth. Of course bill savings can be a good motivation for some people, but where did BedZED residents spend their savings? Flights; the now well-documented rebound effect at work. If you save money somewhere, do you automatically think “Great, I’ll…