Royal College of Art Teams Up With UNESCO to Heal the Ocean


Royal College of Art Teams Up With UNESCO to Heal the Ocean

The British postgraduate school's NEMO initiative is combining data science and design innovation to help the peacebuilding UN agency in its mission to solve critical environmental issues.

The future of our planet's oceans deeply concerns scientists and civilians alike, given that the future of the planet itself depends on these vast bodies of water and marine life. However, the chasm between ocean data gathering and community actions in co-design (aka the process in which end-users have a stake in the design process) is proving to be a problem, especially in times of climate crisis. To that end, the Royal College of Art (RCA) is joining UNESCO — both GRoW grantees — in working toward closing this gap and setting course for a healthier world.

The London-based art and design university launched the NEMO initiative (New Economic Model for the Oceans) in 2021 to address climate impact on the ocean through innovative research and design — and to better connect scientists, designers, and citizens. The initiative has studied the relationship between the ocean and coastal communities in Greenland and the United Kingdom. NEMO also designed an AI camera sensor package that was installed on a ship to gather data across the ocean between Greenland and the UK. Through cross section analysis and data visualization, the initiative was able to illustrate how land-based activities are contributing to ocean-climate issues as well as pollution.

NEMO recently partnered with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (led by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO) and accepted three Ocean Decade Challenges: to protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity, to develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy, and to change humanity's relationship with planet's largest expanses of sea. The ambitious program aims to solve pressing issues plaguing our oceans by using what RCA calls "data visualization, data science, engineering and innovation design to formulate products, services, systems, interventions, and policies."

Through all of this work, the Royal College of Art is demonstrating how an art and design school — not just an engineering or hard science institution — can play a critical role in helping to reverse the alarming decline in the ocean's health.

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