Accountability to the Future: Our Sustainability Projects this Fall

As we enter an age where the repercussions of the industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon are becoming increasingly apparent, how can we respond and take action to ensure a sustainable future?

The effects of climate change due to fossil fuel dependent energy production are being felt worldwide. In a recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (consisting of 1,300 international independent scientific experts under the auspices of the United Nations) concluded that there is over 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have contributed to the warming of our planet. They added that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures.

In parts of the world, coral bleaching is transforming once pristine waters with thriving organisms into dessert ocean wastelands. In 2016, it was reported that the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, a UNESCO’s natural wonder of the world, lost 67% of its coral to bleaching. Moreover, it has been reported that in the last 30 years roughly half of the coral reefs found around the globe have died. It’s now a race to save our natural treasures with scientists scrambling to ensure these unique ecosystems survive beyond the next three decades.

Closer to home in San Francisco, California, coastal communities are faced with the inevitability of flooding that is expected to hit in the coming decades due to rising sea levels. The Bay Area communities of Alameda, Oakland, San Mateo, San Rafael and South San Francisco will be greatly affected even if changes are implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, we have now hit a point of no return.

Taking part in this global conversation, swissnex San Francisco examines and explores our climate, sustainability and clean energy this Fall through the following projects.

Climate Garden 2085

Climate Garden 2085, currently showing at the swissnex Gallery, is a public science experiment that presents two possible future climates within two greenhouses; in the first, the world adopts the Paris Agreement, a plan to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and in the second, the world does nothing. Over the course of the exhibition, the plants will transform, change & respond to the climates of 2085 with +2 degrees & +4 degrees warming.

The gardens of Climate Garden 2085 become a narrative environment for holistic sensory immersion, telling a local story with global significance. In collaboration with the Botanical Garden of the University of Zurich, and the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center, Climate Garden 2085 invites the public to observe and interact with plants within temperature-controlled greenhouses and to compare the consequences of action and inaction.

Change of Atmosphere: The ClimateMusic Project

As an analogy for climate, music is familiar, accessible, and—for most people—much easier to relate to than data. The ClimateMusic Project was created to harness this universal language to tell the urgent story of climate change to broad and diverse audiences in a way that resonates and inspires.

On October 26, the ClimateMusic Project performed “Climate,” by composer Erik Ian Walker at swissnex San Francisco. The full 30-minute piece spanned 500 years (1800-2300AD) of the climate’s past and present, as well as two possible future scenarios. The data sets were from simulations from the Community Earth System Model (CESM), an open model that has been used extensively in national and international assessments of climate change. Performers included Swiss violinist Michèle Walther, who studied at the Basel Conservatory.

This event is part of the Bay Area Science Festival and a celebration for the Alpine Bid to host the 2019 World Conference of Science Journalists.

SciComm Studio 007: Science with a #SwissTouch

swissnex San Francisco’s monthly meetup for lovers of science, SciComm Studio, went to the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco. For two full days at the conference, a delegation of Swiss science journalists interviewed their international peers around the Swiss Touch table to discuss global trends in science communication. The discussions were recorded at the Swiss Science Lounge and will be transformed into a public podcast series.

SciComm Studio 007 is part of the #SwissTouch Campaign, a series of events highlighting Switzerland’s innovative and forward-looking edge.  

Free Electrons

The final module of the Free Electrons program, the global energy startup accelerator program that connects the world’s most promising startups with leading utility companies to co-create the future of energy, recently concluded in Singapore. The innovation program, which kicked off earlier this year at swissnex San Francisco, connected 12 energy startups with 8 utilities, and 4 accelerators from 10 countries to find sustainable solutions to our future energy needs. The global program took the cohort from San Francisco, to Lisbon, Dublin and Singapore over the past 6 months.

Swiss company DEPsys was amongst the group of 12 startups. They aim to solve the energy challenges of the future through their product GridEye, a true network optimization platform, measuring, monitoring and controlling the low-voltage grid for an efficient integration of renewable energy sources at decentralized injection points. DEPsys supports a future world powered entirely by renewable energy and it is through their smart grid eye platform, GridEye, that this vision will become a reality. Stay up to date with news from Free Electrons here.

Swiss Living Challenge

swissnex San Francisco proudly supported, alongside many other partners, the Swiss Team’s winning project for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon: an academic competition of 10 contests that challenges student teams from around the world to design and build full-size, energy-efficient and solar-powered houses.The Swiss team took home the gold for their project aimed to support the population to decrease its energy consumption and eventually preserve the natural resources of the country. The Swiss team, made up of participants from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg (HEIA-FR), the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD) and the University of Fribourg (UNIFR), designed an instigator of change, a neighborhood house, titled NeighborHub, that can be integrated into various urban settings with the aim to bring neighbors together and imagine with them more energy-efficient solutions to consume less and better.

To keep up-to-date with swissnex San Francisco’s projects, events and initiatives coming up in 2018, sign up to the newsletter.