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19 September, 2020

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Play, Pause, Rewind, Stop… Anthropause?

11 August, 2020

The post-Covid world is going to be very different to the one we inhabited before the pandemic arrived to wreak havoc on almost all aspects of life on earth. Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for industrial automation, argues that we need to think carefully how technologies such as VSDs could help lead us to a better, more sustainable world.

Yes, that’s right, anthropause. This is the term formulated by a group of scientists to denote the profound change in human activity which has been brought about by the global pandemic. They define it as “a considerable global slowing of modern human activities”, which has resulted in a variety of far-reaching consequences.

While the pandemic itself has been catastrophic, both to society and to economies around the world, this moment in time has created a unique opportunity for studying the lifestyle patterns of various species – from humans, to wildlife and plant life. Researchers have found evidence that many species have been enjoying all the extra space they have gained while humans have been stuck at home. For example, jackals have been spotted roaming freely in parks in Tel Aviv, but even more significant than this, has been the fall in air pollution levels both in the UK and around the world.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Himalayas in India were visible from a distance of more than 100 miles away due to the reduction in air pollution during the country’s lockdown period. And, according to the BBC, some cities in the UK have seen nitrogen dioxide levels fall by up to 60% compared to the same period last year. While this may be an obvious finding, given the reduction in all forms of travel during the lockdown, the NO2 levels are starting to creep back up again with the loosening of restrictions.

Should these changes point the way to the future? The lockdown gave hope for the ability of modern technologies not only to help manage the pandemic – such as Boston Dynamics’ four-legged Spot robots enforcing Covid restrictions in Singapore – but also gave hope for cities that were already collecting vast amounts of data from atmospheric sensors to track the dramatic changes and hopefully use this data going forward to enforce more permanent post-pandemic alterations.

If the UK’s cities are to use this data to start reducing carbon emission levels as the country edges closer to its “net zero by 2050” pledge, then manufacturers can also use data collected during lockdown to make changes going forward. Have any steps been taken to analyse the effects of machines not running at full capacity, and using this information to try to improve our carbon footprint?

Let us use this anthropause to take a step back and reassess the norm. We are continually hearing the phrase “the new normal”. We have an opportunity to shape and streamline this new normal before any definite structure is set in stone. Reductions in unnecessary travel and inefficient equipment would help to pave the way to more streamlined working lives and lower carbon footprints.

Electric motors use more than half of all electricity consumed in developed countries. A simple installation of a variable-speed drive or a soft-starter, or even a few sensors to turn equipment on and off when not in use, would result in incomparable cost savings. These modifications must be considered now, while we’re in a position of having no choice but to re-evaluate our normal ways of working. Yes, there are many aspects of life that we cannot wait to return to how they used to be, but there are other aspects that we must leave behind in the pre-Covid-19 world.




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