Looking into the future

26 May 2014

With more than 50 per cent of the world’s population now living in cities and that set to rise to 70 per cent by 2050, there are growing challenges for managing urban environments.

Increasing needs for energy and water, and impacts of development and resource use on pollution levels, public health, safety and security all require clever management to protect environmental quality and social well-being.

The recent MPE2013+ Workshop on Sustainable Human Environments, held at Rutgers University in New Jersey, sought to examine the role that mathematics and other analytics can play in addressing these challenges.

Dr Katherine Daniell from the HC Coombs Policy Forum at Crawford School of Public Policy was an invited speaker, presenting on the use of participatory forms of modelling for supporting water and risk management at the urban fringe.

“With continued outward growth and densification of cities, communities are being subjected to increasing risks that require careful management,” said Daniell.

“Ecosystem and amenity degradation, floods, droughts, wildfires, pollution, and vulnerability to sea-level rise and storm surge in some cases, are just some such risks.

“Management of these risks is particularly complex, involving the navigation of large amounts of information, uncertainties and conflicting values and perspectives. Appropriate methods need to be used to understand and manage these risks with a range of government, private and community stakeholders.

“Participatory forms of modelling to support policy and planning processes can help to build mutual understanding and stakeholder acceptance around actions to better manage risk,” she said.

Dr Daniell joined other high-profile speakers from the Centre for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), Rutgers University, IBM Singapore and LAMSADE-CNRS, a French research centre working on decision-aiding models and operational research. She worked with senior and early career researchers over three days to outline new directions for research and innovative applications for mathematics in developing more sustainable human environments.

These ideas on the future of smart cities, human-altered ecosystems, sustainability in urban planning, and analytics for understanding social values and supporting policy processes, will be developed as the DIMACS Special Program: Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013+ progresses over the coming years.

The program is open to supporting participation of early and later career researchers, including Crawford and ANU academics. Interested parties can register their interest with the coordinators.

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