MPE 2013+ Workshop on Sustainable Human Environments

April 23 - 25, 2014
DIMACS Center, CoRE Building, Rutgers University

Midge Cozzens, DIMACS, Rutgers University, midgec at
Lou Gross, University of Tennessee, gross at
Fred S. Roberts, DIMACS, Rutgers University, froberts at
Alexis Tsoukias, LAMSADE, Universite Paris Dauphine, tsoukias at
Laura Wynter, IBM Research Collaboratory, Singapore, lwynter at
Presented under the auspices of the DIMACS Special Program: Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013+.


Jonathan Bullinger, Rutgers University

Title: The Interface between Security and Commerce in Urban Areas

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center (WTC) complex, New York City has made two initiatives a top priority: the security of Lower Manhattan and the economic revitalization of the City's downtown district[1]. Both priorities were imperative for the survival and growth of the nation's 4th largest business district. However, there is often a perceived conflict between the freedom of economic activity and the need for increased security. Economic vitality requires the free movement of people, and goods and services, but the implementation of security measures and strategies implies that freedom of movement is restricted or at the very least highly controlled. But are the goals of enhanced economic activity and increased security necessarily in conflict? Are there instances when security stimulates or enhances economic activity rather than suppress it? How much security is enough and how much is too much? These questions serve as the foundation for the Urban Commerce and Security Study (UCASS), a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional project sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs. Few places are more suitable a study site as downtown Manhattan to investigate such questions. The area is a hub of economic activity and a vibrant city center that not only has a history of terrorist attacks but also remains an attractive terrorist target.

[1] Lower Manhattan is New York City's downtown business district.

Joel Caplan, Rutgers University

Title: Sustainability at its Worst: Crime and Chronic Illegal Behavior Settings

What attracts illegal behavior, and why does crime cluster at certain places over time? Such chronic criminogenic areas are examples of "sustainability at its worst." This presentation discusses how to answer this and related questions using Risk Terrain Modeling (RTM), a spatial risk analysis technique developed at Rutgers University's School of Criminal Justice. RTM identifies the risks that come from features of a landscape and models how they co-locate at micro-level places to create unique behavior settings for crime. This presentation will focus on RTM's application to diagnosing the spatial attractors of crime. But, RTM has also been used for a variety of other topics, including injury prevention, public health, traffic accidents, border security, military/defense, or maritime piracy. RTM is relative easy to master by people with a basic skillset in statistics and geographic information systems (GIS). But, to make it more accessible to a broad audience, the Rutgers Center on Public Security produced the RTMDx Utility, an app that automates RTM. This presentation will explain the risk terrain modeling process and discuss how the RTMDx Utility is currently being used by public safety and security agencies to identify the most likely places where crime will emerge in the future, even if it hasn't occurred there already. A demonstrative case study will focus on the process, methods, and actionable results of RTM when applied to violent crime.

Katherine A. Daniell, The Australian National University

Title: Participatory Modelling for Water Planning and Risk Management at the Urban Fringe

Population increase and urbanization pressures around the planet are resulting in the expansion of cities through both outspill around their fringes and infill and redevelopment processes. Urban fringe development presents a number of opportunities, and some clear risks, to the communities living in these and adjacent areas, and the water systems that support them. 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 that need to be managed over time by a range of stakeholders. Management of these risks is particularly complex, involving the navigation of large amounts of information, uncertainties and conflict. It therefore requires appropriate methods to understand and manage these risks with a range of stakeholders.

Participatory modelling methods are one such solution. This presentation will discuss how an example participatory modelling process, which was originally designed and tested in France, was adapted and collectively engineered by local stakeholders for use in Australia (the Lower Hawkesbury Estuary) and Bulgaria (around the capital city Sofia) for water planning and risk management. Discussion on the use of and lessons from these processes and the broader literature, including factors related to the implementation of resultant regional risk management plans, will also be provided.

Erle Ellis, UMBC

Title: Anthropogenic Biomes: Global Ecology for the Anthropocene

Human populations and their use of land have transformed more than three quarters of the terrestrial biosphere into anthropogenic biomes (anthromes), which range from dense settlements, villages, and croplands to rangelands and seminatural lands with lower levels of population and use. While this global transformation of ecology has been portrayed as recent and unsustainable, human societies have been transforming ecosystems to support their populations for millennia. As human opulations become increasingly concentrated into urban areas, these changing scales of social-ecological interaction are creating novel challenges and opportunities for both society and nature. To engage with these opportunities is to empower a post-natural view of the human role in shaping nature, guiding us towards greater stewardship, innovation and engagement with the future of humanity and the planet.

Gidon Eshel, Bard College

Title: Multi-Metric Environmental Costs of Animal-Based Categories of the United States' Diet

Livestock exert enormous regional to global impacts on air and water quality, ocean health, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and are the largest land user globally. Quantifying the environmental burdens of the various livestock types is thus a grand challenge of sustainability science whose global significance can hardly be overstated. Here, we quantify land, irrigation water, GHGs and reactive nitrogen (Nr) costs due to feed consumption by each of the U.S. diet's major animal-based categories, and compare them to costs of plant-based alternatives. Our calculations reveal resource demands per consumed kcal of eggs, poultry, dairy and pork similar (within 2-fold), but strikingly lower than beef's.

Beef requires 65, 25, 6 and 10 times more land, irrigation water, GHG and Nr than the most efficient livestock. Crop plants' land, GHG and Nr requirements are 1-2 orders of magnitude lower than livestock's, with comparable irrigation costs. The study thus elucidates the multi-metric environmental benefits of potential, easy to implement dietary changes, and highlights beef's uniquely high resource demand.

Brian Nakamura, Rutgers University

Title: Modeling Patron Screening at Large Gathering Venues

Security at large gathering venues has ramifications for both public safety and economic considerations. Enhancing security would generally increase patron safety and reduce the risk of a security incident occurring. A severe security incident such as a terrorist attack can have dire economic consequences for the venue as well. On the other hand, enhancing security generally costs more money in the short-term and often creates inconveniences for patrons, which may negatively affect their experience there. This presentation will discuss some models and simulations developed to analyze various screening procedures at large entertainment and sports venues. These tools were used to understand the impact of changing screening procedures at a major sports venue.

Nora S. Newcombe, James H. Glackin Distinguished Faculty Fellow, Temple University

Title: Educating to Use Evidence

There is an increasing emphasis on evidence-based policy choice. But policy makers and the public often resist evidence-based recommendations, including those about the environment. This talk suggests that well-known difficulties in everyday reasoning and decision making account for at least some of this resistance, especially in situations that involve probability and uncertainty. We can and should educate students in such a way as to increase their understanding of science. We should also use communication principles from cognitive science to guide discussions of probability.

Nicolas Paget, The Australian National University

Title: Study of Information Sharing for Natural Resources Management (ongoing PhD thesis)

In the context of resources shared and used by numerous actors several dilemmas and issues arise. Free-riding, non cooperative behaviour, strategic choices, long term vs short term choices among others. We question the hypothesis which is often stated that the more information is shared between actors, the more resilient the system in which they interact and the better the outcomes for actors. To understand and test this hypothesis, we are currently focusing on a case study in the South of France. Two frameworks (Elinor Ostrom's Social and Ecological System (SES) and the Interaction Space) are applied and compared: Social-Ecological System (Ostrom & al, 2007) and Interaction Space (Ostanello, Tsoukias, 1993). In this case study, the system undergoes urban pressure that threatens, by its externalities, anthropic activities requiring a clean environment. These frameworks are currently being filled thanks to interviews that are conducted with local actors. The main question of the thesis will be then investigated through multi-agent simulation with agent's behaviour developed thanks to the interviews. During the talk, I will present this methodology to gather the audience's feelings, remarks, suggestions and critics.

Irene Pluchinotta, Technical University of Bari - Italy and LAMSADE - Paris Dauphine University - France

Title: Decision-Aiding For Participatory Management Of Common Environmental Resource With Multi-Agent Approach

Cities are becoming smart not only in terms of the way we can automate routine functions serving individual persons, buildings, trac systems but also in ways that enable to gather in a single model urban environmental protection, energy eciency and economic sustainability, to improve the equity and quality of life for its citizens. Technology alone and a traditional engineering approach are very unlikely to solve our current environmental problems. Even if there are seemingly great technical solutions for community problems, they may easily be rejected or their implementation fail for a variety of reasons when the aected communities and local experts have not taken part in the decision processes. Many authors and institutions have stated the need for a democratization of decision-making processes and inevitably, cities evolve according to the behaviours and skills of their inhabitants. Thereby many agents characterize urban spaces and ecosystems and both complex human behaviour and complex natural- articial systems produce remarkable impacts on global environments. Our knowledge of the complexity of ecosystem processes is increasing, together with our awareness of the inherent uncertainty. Consequently, Environmental Decision-Making takes place in a highly interconnected system, in which neither the decisional ramications of a management action, nor the complexity of its impact, can be neglected. Agents inhabiting a shared environment must coordinate their activities with participatory approaches that involve people in interacting and negotiating to the collective action. Two decades of research into the management of what economists call common-pool resources suggests that, under the right conditions, local communities can manage shared resources sustainably and successfully. These revolutionary ndings challenge the long-held belief in the tragedy of the commons. According to Ostrom, the tragedy is not inevitable when a shared resource is at stake, provided that people communicate and operate in a collective way. In order to ensure the sustainable development there is an increasingly recognized need for the development of improved approaches to aid multi-stakeholder decision-making. The need for the involvement of a number of dierent Agents during the planning process in environmental resources management, induced issues of gathering and exchanging complex knowledge, representing structured concepts, supporting dierent languages. A Multi-Agent Approach allows to formalize the behaviours of citizens in the knowledge management structure and to simulate the architecture of the interaction in a case of participatory management of a common resource. The nal aim of my research is try to simulate future scenario, both desirables or not, to observe and reconstruct the dynamism of connections between Interaction Space and active behaviours. In the workshop, I would like to present some methodological aspects of my studies.

Fred S. Roberts, DIMACS Center, Rutgers University

Title: Mathematical Sciences and Sustainable Human Environments

Rapidly growing urban environments present new and evolving challenges: Growing needs for energy and water, impacts on greenhouse gases, public health, safety, security. As rapid city expansion continues, mathematical scientists can play key roles in shaping sustainable living environments in collaboration with scientists from many fields. This talk will review four key themes of creating sustainable human environments: The role of data in "smart cities"; anthropogenic biomes (urban ecosystems); security; and urban planning for a changing environment. Specifically, the talk will explore some mathematical sciences challenges in "smart" traffic management; in the theoretical notion of a "compact" city; in approaches to safety and security at sports venues; and in urban planning for climate events.

Viral Sagar and Unnati Rao, University of Mumbai

Title: Fuel from Waste

A major problem faced today is the shortage of fuel. The earth's total endowment of oil, before humans started using it, was roughly 2 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. Consumption has been rapidly increasing and about half is used up. Consumption is currently 31 billion barrels each year. At this rate, all the oil would be used up in 32 years presuming the rate of consumption remains the same. This is a serious issue as without fuel, nothing would work.

A big disadvantage of modernization is waste disposal. Waste is classified as any form of unwanted material. Since it is a by-product of any human activity, accumulation of waste is unavoidable. Moreover, with increase in the global population and the rising demand for food, the waste produced by each household is rising exponentially. Improper waste disposal leads to problems such as habitat destruction, climate change, outbreak of diseases and deterioration of air quality. Hence it is necessary to ensure proper waste disposal.

The different wastes include electronic waste, plastic waste, rubber tyres, petroleum sludge and organic waste. The conventional methods of waste treatment are incineration, gasification and torrefaction. This paper has discussed about the polycrack method the method for obtaining fuel from various wastes. The method involves the processes of vaporization, cracking, recombination and condensation.

This method not only provides an efficient method of waste disposal, but also generates fuel, thus solving to an extent the global energy crisis. Also, the fuel obtained from the polycrack process has higher calorific value as compared to regular fuel.

Stanislav Sobilevsky, MIT

Title: Big Data for Urban Sustainability

Intensive development of urban systems creates a number of challenges for urban planners and policy makers in order to maintain sustainable growth. However together with new challenges new tools come. The past few decades saw a technological revolution that resulted in the broad penetration of digital technologies in everyday life. More and more aspects of human activity now leave digital traces behind them, thus increasing production of big data related to human mobility, interactions or other types of behavior such as shopping. Various datasets from the last 5-7 years - landline and cell phone call records, public transportation records, vehicle GPS traces, bank card transactions, digital social media (Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare...) are now available for research purposes, creating tremendous opportunities for new solutions to well-known research and operational problems in urban planning, human geography and other areas of social science.

Analysis of big data created by human activity allows a better understanding of present cities as well as the design of innovative concepts for the future ones. And opposed to the traditional survey-based approach big data analysis possesses a number of advantages such as lower cost, instant availability, objectiveness and accuracy. In this talk we present the approach applications to solutions and innovative concepts in a variety of areas related to urban sustainability, such as transportation optimization, emissions estimation, urban scoring, human mobility modeling, city definition, regional delineation.

Satish V. Ukkusuri, Purdue University

Title: Big Data Analytics for Urban Traffic Management: State of the Art and Future Directions

Over the last several years many private and public sector agencies have been interested in how sensor data, social media, mobile technologies, and data visualization can help us manage our urban environments. IBM has coined the term "Smart Cities" to describe the recent development in this area, while CISCO calls it "Intelligent Cities". This talk with present ongoing research on how very large scale geo-location data from taxis and social media can be used for understanding urban activity patterns and predicting congestion in cities. Specifically, this study will use data from Foursquare and Twitter to characterize and predict activity patterns in an urban area. In addition, the potential role of this datasets for predicting network state and travel time will be discussed using sample data sets collected at the Integrative Transportation Analytics group at Purdue University.

Xianyuan Zhan, Purdue University

Title: Urban Link Travel Time Estimation using Large-scale Taxi Data with Partial Information

Taxicabs equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) device scan serve as ubiquitous sensors monitoring traffic states in urban areas. This paper presents a new descriptive model for estimating hourly average of urban link travel times using taxicab origin-destination (OD)trip data. The focus of this study is to develop a methodology to estimate link travel times from OD trip data and demonstrate the feasibility of estimating network condition using large-scale data with partial information. The data, collected from the taxicabs in New York City, provides the locations of origins and destinations, travel times, fares and other information of taxi trips. The new model infers the possible paths for each trip and then estimates the link travel times by minimizing the error between the expected path travel times and the observed path travel times. The model is evaluated using a testing network from Midtown Manhattan. Results indicate that the proposed method can efficiently estimate hourly average link travel times. Currently, there is a limited research on estimating urban link travel times using large-scale OD travel time data. This research provides a new possibility of fully utilizing the partial information provided in the urban taxicab data for network condition estimation purpose, which is cheap and also has a much better coverage than the usual centralized approaches.

Authors: X Zhan, S Hasan, SV Ukkusuri, C Kamga
Published in Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies 33, 37-49.

Laura Wynter, Director, IBM Singapore Research Collaboratory Research Scientist, IBM Watson Research Center

Title: New Techniques for Modeling Environmental Systems with a View Towards Sustainability

This talk will cover several inter-related themes underway within an IBM research project for the National Environmental Agency of Singapore. The models under development are part of a project designed to provide mobile agents for the environmental agency with predictions of various quantities such as heavy rainfall (of great importance in the tropics), ozone levels, particulate matter, and NO2.

Previous: Program
Workshop Index
DIMACS Homepage
Contacting the Center
Document last modified on April 10, 2014.