Space Tech and Sustainability – How Satellites Are Reshaping The Definition Of Value.

Back in the mid-1500s Nicolaus Copernicus revolutionised society by positing that the Earth orbited the Sun and not vice versa. In this blog I will explore how his legacy of society-shifting, scientific based know-how will aid the transition into a greener world by creating value in more than just economic terms.

Yesterday (13/10/17) was a momentous day for the closely-knit bond between science, technology and industry! For those who are unaware, yesterday marked the launch of the eleventh satellite in the Sentinel Missions of the Copernicus Programme – Sentinel 5 – Precursor! The Copernicus Programme is headed up by the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency and is the world largest Earth Observation programme. The purpose of this programme is to create a highly detailed and near real-time status check of the Earth with regards to six principle scientific research areas: land, oceans, atmosphere, climate change, emergency response and security. This data is freely available and was intended to drive the social, environmental and economic prosperity of European citizens, an approach to sustainable development that the WBCSD refers to as redefining value, so as to place equal value on all three value factors, not only economic.

“So how can satellites drive this new form of prosperity?”, I hear you ask. Well, the Copernicus Programme has spilled into many industries, including but not limited to: agriculture, renewable energies and ocean management. In industries such as agriculture, the European Commission found that Copernicus data has had a very tangible impact upon all three pillars of value. By using the most up to date and detailed satellite imaging data, farmers are able to make the most efficient use out of their land which reduces the environmental impact agricultural activities have on habitat degradation and pesticide use whilst also creating economic value for the farmer by increasing their yield per m². What’s more, by using data relating to weather, air quality and solar radiation but to name a few, farmers are able to produce higher quality food which directly benefits human health and therefore society as a whole. In this example all three sectors of this new definition of value have been enhanced. Follow the link for many more examples of the socio-economic benefits of the Copernicus project.

Having seen just how big an impact the first 4 sentinel missions and having access to free data has had on European and global development, I am very excited to see what benefits yesterday’s launch brings and indeed the other 5 sentinels due for launch by 2020. Sentinel 5 – Precursor is equipped with a gadget called the TROPOMI which gathers extremely precise and current data on atmospheric conditions. This holds a lot of potential for action on climate change, air pollution and ozone depletion which in turn, if acted upon, will benefit societal and environmental health and offer opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses to financialise positive action on sustainable development, after all it’s only a matter of time before sustainable development really lifts off!

Tom

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