Have you ever thought why good ideas rarely materialise, and people just do things the old way?
Have you also wondered why some truly destructive activities just keep going although there is every reason to stop?
In Brazil, a man is willing to kill an endangered animal to feed his family. In Finland, a woman is willing to get some extra income by cutting down the trees of her carbon-sink forest, which she inherited.
This is a complex world. Sometimes destruction happens because people don’t know. Other times the society prevents them from choosing wisely, and citizens don’t know how to change that. Usually there is a lack of understanding somewhere.
These people do what is reasonable for themselves, but they do not know – they currently cannot know – the impact of their actions on global sustainability. Yet, climate crisis and biodiversity loss both depend on the numerous actions of single people and single companies. If we want to coordinate these actions as mankind, we need to develop better tools for evaluation and management of such actions. We must coordinate them to reduce emissions fast.
The city of Helsinki is developing a solution to monitor its own progress in climate mitigation. They want to know how their action plan is performing, and also whether the work actually reduces climate emissions. There are more than a hundred individual actions and even more activities and emissions to monitor. This is why they developed a city climate tool or CCtool to inform decision makers, authorities, and citizens on all this. This happens in real time, and a citizen has access to the same information as a civil servant who is responsible for an action. The tool is available at https://hnh.hel.ninja (only in Finnish at the moment, though).
The tool has information about each action, responsible person and administrative unit, schedules, details about practicalities, and recent activity. It also contains information about indicators that measure the progress of an action, emissions from each sector, and many other things that tell whether a causal chain from an action to emission reduction is actually working as expected. Things don’t improve if any of the steps along that causal chain fails.
Helsinki is actively developing data sources and models to get monitoring data out quicker and future predictions more precise. The work is done online with open code and modular structure. The reason is to guarantee scalability: any municipality in Finland or elsewhere can adopt the same approach and set up their own service for climate action monitoring. Actually, the tools are generic and work for monitoring of action plans unrelated to climate as well.
Helsinki uses knowledge crystals (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_crystal) to collect information and keep it organised and up-to-date. Knowledge crystals are a process to answer a specific question by collaboratively collecting information and critically evaluating it. The result is the current best answer that is continually updated as new information arises. Knowledge crystals link to each other, and they can use machine-readable answers of other knowledge crystals to produce one of their own. They form a modular structure (called insight network) that gives a systemic view on a complex topic such as city climate action plan.
Collaboration is critical in this work, and there is a special need to discuss actions, objectives, or any other details. It is important to learn from citizens. Most expertise lies outside any project, so important information is likely to emerge when this is made possible. It is like Wikipedia of climate policy. However, this must be done in an organised way. A discussion forum is not good enough a way to collect thoughtful knowledge and opinions.
Helsinki, together with Open Knowledge Finland (an NGO promoting open society), is developing a web tool for structured discussion. The idea is to help the best argument win by organising arguments into a tree-like structure based on their relevance. In contrast, likes are not collected, as popularity is not a good predictor of a good argument. An important feature is that discussions can be synthesized semi-automatically, as algorithms can analyze the discussions and identify critical arguments and important places of dispute.
This tool is now under pilot testing (see e.g. https://dev.tietokide.fi/?Q97), and the results are promising. The plan is to add the functionality of structured discussions to the CCtool and thus have as detailed discussions as necessary about important parts of knowledge crystals.
There is an urgent need to improve climate and biodiversity policies worldwide. Individuals and companies cannot act in a coherent way unless there is enough detailed data and understanding available about what should be done and especially what are the most destructive activities that must stop now. Systematic understanding, monitoring, evaluation, and management is an absolute necessity.
You should join the movement enabled by Helsinki. If you are a city representative, launch a CCtool website for your city or a group of municipalities and start monitoring and planning your actions online. If you are an expert, provide your information to the CCtool. If you are a citizen, inform others about this and demand that your municipality joins the movement. If you are an IT developer, join the CCtool development team. Everyone is needed.
Now is the time to act.
Open Knowledge Finland