Tim Smedley

Frequent journalist, occasional ghostwriter, book author in progress.

The outrageous plan to haul icebergs to Africa

If towing icebergs to hot, water-stressed regions sounds totally crazy to you, then consider this: the volume of water that breaks off Antarctica as icebergs each year is greater than the total global consumption of freshwater. And that stat doesn’t even include Arctic ice. This is pure freshwater, effectively wasted as it melts into the sea and contributes to rising sea levels. Does it sound less crazy now? This untapped flow of water has enticed scientists and entrepreneurs for over a century...

How to drink from the air

All air, from arid deserts to humid cities, contains water vapour – globally, an estimated 3,100 cubic miles (12,900 cubic kilometres) of water is suspended as humidity in the air around us. That’s five Lake Victoria’s (Africa’s great lake, at 2,700 cubic km). Or a whopping 418 times the volume of Loch Ness. But we’re not talking about clouds. This is the humidity in the air we breathe, that reappears as beads of water on the side of a cold drink, or as morning dew on blades of grass. And a technological race is underway to harvest it as drinking water. If the emerging ‘water from air’ (WFA) devices can crack it, it could go a long way towards solving the world’s freshwater problem.

Air pollution investigation by environmental journalist Tim Smedley in "major" acquisition by Bloomsbury Sigma

Bloomsbury Sigma has signed Clearing the Air by environmental journalist Tim Smedley in a "major" acquisition for the imprint. Jim Martin, publisher at Bloomsbury Sigma, acquired world rights to Smedley's Clearing the Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution from Jenny Hewson of RCW Literary Agency. The title will investigate what pollutants are in the air, "what they do to us" and "what we can do about it". Smedley said: "Air pollution is on everyone's minds right now, with a backlash...

How the world’s biggest cities are fighting smog

For three days in March 2016, 10 London pigeons became famous. Seeing pigeons take to the sky from Primrose Hill in north London was not unusual in itself. But these pigeons were wearing backpacks. And the backpacks were monitoring air pollution. Once in the air, the backpacks sent live air-quality updates via tweets to the smartphones of the Londoners below. In almost all cases, the readings were not good. London’s air pollution problem has been getting worse for years, and it often rises to more than three times the European Union’s legal limit.

Why young Londoners are moving to houseboats

Many Londoners would be envious of the postcodes Matthew Winters has lived in: the likes of Broadway Market, Angel, Camden, and Little Venice are amongst the city’s most hip and expensive. Many more would covet his electricity bill: £600 ($754) for the next 15 years. How, then, is he only 24 and a resident of London for just two years? Winters, an actor, is part of a booming trend for houseboat living among young Londoners. And specifically for what’s known as a ‘continuous cruising’ (or ‘CC-in

Better city cycling routes? There's an app for that

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, a Toronto-based cyclist commuter, is considering whether to cycle through the coming winter. It is “only” -5C, she says, but temperatures can plummet to -25C and snow ploughs clear the roads for months. This winter, however, she is running out of excuses. For the first time, 49km of Toronto’s busiest bike lanes will be classified as “winter priority”, to be ploughed and salted. This is in part due to data collected by the Toronto Cycling App, a tool launched in May 201

Top-down or bottom-up? Two visions of smart cities

Two books explore what interactive technology can do for cities of the future – the results range from authoritarian to ideal, open-sourced democracies THERE are currently two equally powerful, but ideologically opposed, visions of what a smart city is and what it should be. In the blue corner is the paternalistic approach, in which a network of sensors, transport arteries, motion-sensitive street lighting and smart grids feed into a central operating centre. There, a team of civil servants and

Waste coffee grounds set to fuel London with biodiesel and biomass pellets

Sometimes an idea seems so good you can't believe it hasn't been done before. Using waste coffee grounds to make biomass pellets and biodiesel occurred to Arthur Kay when he was studying architecture at UCL in 2012. Tasked with looking at closed loop waste-to-energy systems for buildings, he happened to choose a coffee shop. But when he discovered the oil content in coffee and the sheer amount of waste produced – 200,000 tonnes a year in London alone – he jacked in the architecture and set about

Are urban environments best for an ageing population?

Cities don't always seem the most old-age friendly of places. Public toilets that few dare venture into; street-lights turned off by cuts-driven councils; roads choked with cars; the fear of street crime. However there is growing evidence to suggest that as our population ages, cities could actually be the best possible environment for older people. Housing and accommodation for elderly people is already a pressing issue, with prohibitive costs for institutional care and a move towards helping

Carbon benefits of homeworking under the spotlight

Homeworking has been touted as the ultimate "win-win": employers can save on office space while claiming carbon reductions. The employee, meanwhile, can spend more time at home with the kids or the X-Box. However, a report from The Carbon Trust has thrown this equation into doubt. If the homeworker previously travelled fewer than four miles into work by car, or has the central heating on for more than one and a quarter hours, then it's goodbye energy savings, hello net carbon emissions. The re

Small Business: the Northern Powerhouse

It was only just over a year ago that the Chancellor, George Osborne, first announced his plan for “a Northern Powerhouse”, designed to forge closer links between Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, the North East, Hull and the Humber, so that “combined, they can take on the world”. The pace of the Northern Powerhouse scheme has been hectic. But what exactly is it, and what could it mean for small businesses? With a population of 11 million contributing to a quarter of UK’s economic output, Northern England’s gross value added (GVA) is larger than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. If it were an independent EU state, it would rank ahead of Sweden.

Swings, slides and iPads: the gaming companies targeting kids' outdoor play

Three-quarters of UK children now spend less time outside than prison inmates, according to a new survey, with the lure of digital technology partly to blame. But, in a world where gaming and screen time are an everyday reality, could the right technology actually get more kids to play outdoors? Hybrid Play is a Spanish start-up which uses augmented reality (AR) – patching computer imagery on to real life – to transform playgrounds into video games. A wireless sensor resembling an over-sized cl

Sustainable urban design: lessons to be taken from slums

Alfredo Brillembourg is enthusing about Zurich's blue recycling bags. "They are an incredible thing," he says, his accent revealing his Venezuelan roots. The architect and former Columbia University professor talks at a breathless pace, most sentences ending in exclamation marks. "Zurich is an incredible city for recycling! Not only that but they figured out how to finance the whole thing, everyone is obliged to throw their garbage out in one type of bag, the Zuri-bag. That bag is more expensive

Working abroad can prove addictive

Grace Oh’s first day in Paris was verging on surreal. She had just moved from L’Oréal UK to the company headquarters to become senior marketing manager for Asia-Pacific. She now had 14 national teams to deal with and markets to learn — 15 if you include France. And her first task was to decide on the desired “click sound” for a range of lipstick tubes. Presented with an assortment of clicks: “I then had to brief the factories as to the specific sound I wanted . . . I thought this may be part of some initiation ritual!” (It was not).

Building the Olympic Park

This is the story of how HR and organisation development (OD) became integral to the building of the Olympic park for London 2012. And how, in their absence, it could have all gone very diff erently. Cast your mind back to 6 July, 2005. Th e winners of the bid to host the 2012 Olympic games are about to be announced. Expectant crowds have congregated in the two remaining fi nalist host cities – London and Paris. “I was actually in Paris on the day of the 2012 announcement,” says Diane Jones, head of HR at CLM, tasked by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to project manage the Olympic park’s construction in east London. “The French weren’t too pleased."

Green Pioneers: Big company would like to meet eco projects | The Sunday Times

Someone stole our scarecrow, reads a posting on projectdirt.com, a green social networking website. “If anyone sees J-Lo, she is about 6ft 2in with a pole up her bum.” It may not seem like the sort of communiqué that will make for a greener society but, indirectly at least, it could help. Mark Shearer and Nick Gardner set up Project Dirt in south London in 2008. A chartered surveyor and an environmental consultant, respectively, they began the venture on an educated whim.

Green Pioneers: Car charger moves into top gear

Erik Fairbairn stepped off a plane in Sydney in search of inspiration. It was February 2009, and his last business had just crashed and burned during the financial crisis. Ecurie 25 rented out supercars to weekend thrill seekers. In just four years it had grown to annual turnover of £1.2m. Then his City clients vanished as quickly as his stock depreciated. After selling what was left of the business to a rival, the former Britvic executive was left with just enough cash to seed a new business

Alder Hey pushes the boundaries of hospital design

On paper, Alder Hey's new children's hospital and park development should never have happened. A plan to demolish an old Victorian building and build anew on a publicly owned urban greenfield site was conjured up by a disparate bunch: the local NHS trust, the now defunct Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and The Prince of Wales's Princes Foundation – and funded through the much-criticised PFI process.

Banksy, Gormley or Hirst: is public art good for the nation's wellbeing?

It pops up in local parks and town squares; looms over motorway lanes and lurks in hospital car parks. Public art. It's everywhere. But what impact does it have, if any? And could it even have an effect on our health and wellbeing? Perhaps the most famous modern example in the UK is Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North. Before it was erected in 1998, vociferous objection from local opposition councillors and residents almost succeeded in stopping it. Indeed objections to a previous Gormley des
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