Environmental Impact of Robotics

Environmental Impact of Robotics

Come attend our first Sustainable Robotics Public Event. Let’s explore together what is the impact of Robotics on the environment and how the field could contribute to more sustainability.

There are questions regarding the role of robotics towards Sustainability, with both potential negative and positive impacts (Boesl et al., 2021). An internationally shared observation is the current lack of information on some of the most pressing issues, and in particular on the environmental aspects. To address similar gaps, in other fields such as Artificial Intelligence, initiatives have arisen to create scientific communities, and knowledge-exchange communities, to better document the impact and available resources – for instance, climatechange.ai. A like-minded initiative has been founded in 2021: Sustainable Robotics. Its goal is to gather a community of interest around the topic of sustainability. Our first event, will aim at gathering experts to inform on how can Robotics document, prevent and address one of the most pressing issues of our times: the protection of the environment.

Date will be announced soon

IROS 2022 Workshop

IROS 2022 Workshop

After a successful workshop at IROS 2021, we decided to submit an ambitious program: beyond informing, let us also actively involve the participants in a deliberatory exercise. We wish to voice what robotics experts and actors think, want and need to become more sustainable.

Supporting the achievement of and awareness regarding the SDGs within the community. In 2015, 93 countries agreed on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
They are a framework of recommendations and principles to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. After the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), they address the global challenges, such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice. To achieve these standards, member states may rely on the development of new technologies, such as robotics and automation (R&A). This field could have a significant impact on our society in the coming years. However, R&A also comes with major systemic, environmental, and social challenges.
R&A offer a wide range of tools to enable the SDGs. Drones for search and rescue missions in case of natural disasters could reduce the impact of such catastrophes. Automated monitoring of environmental changes in air, land and water can allow a better understanding and preservation of ecosystems. Precision agriculture can increase productivity and reduce food waste, thus helping to provide food security. Similarly, robots will increase the overall productivity in many industries by automating tedious tasks, thus reducing the price of goods and the risk of work-related injuries. They could improve access to transportation and healthcare and improve the quality of life of people living with disabilities.
R&A can also inhibit this progress. Automation of industries will cause job losses, primarily affecting workers with low education and countries who do not have the means to invest in such technology or to educate a workforce able to benefit from this process. Inequalities in the use of robots in agriculture could prevent small farmers from competing with multinationals, thus enhancing urban exodus and threatening food sovereignty. Robots are also often made of rare-earth materials and produce e-waste, which causes an inherent danger to the environment if not dealt with properly. They may also ease the feasibility of projects which may have damaging consequences on ecosystems, or delay structural changes needed to address global warming (e.g. individual autonomous cars).

IROS 2021 Workshop

IROS 2021 Workshop

Program

The workshop was held online on October 1st, 2021 from 2pm to 4:00pm, CEST time, during IROS 2021.

2:00 – 2:05 Presentation of the Workshop
2:05 – 2:35
Panel 1: Robotics and SDGs: Society and Economy
2:35 – 3:05
Panel 2: The role of robotics in achieving the Environmental SDGs
3:05 – 3:35
Panel 3: Governance for Robotics and the SDGs
3:35 – 3:55
Poster Spotlights
3:55 – 4:00
Closing