LoLo PhD student, Lauren Ferguson, travelled to Tampere, Finland, to present some of her work on indoor air pollution inequalities. The Finnish Urban Studies Conference has ran annually since 2013, focussing on the interplay between the physical, social and political dimensions of the built environment. The theme for this year’s conference was Sustainable Cities.
This year the conference was held in Tampere, considered Finland’s second city, with its own unique history as the former centre of the country’s industrial sector. Finland is set to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, and the conference was poised to discuss how this transition will deal with wider national challenges; such as climate change, population growth, decreasing biodiversity and societal inequality.
On Thursday, I sat through a number of sessions on topics such as urban environmental policy, urban data justice, the role of smart technologies and a roundtable discussion on the challenges of multi/inter-disciplinary approaches when carrying out urban sustainability research. I found particularly interesting the discussion on data inequalities mediating social inequalities – technologies developed to aid sustainable urban design are often embedded with data bias’ where disadvantaged populations are not sufficiently represented in the underlying model the technology is developed from. It’s something I have experienced in my own research, when modelling environmental exposures between households of different socio-economic status (SES). Often, I find there is insufficient data for lower SES homes and this sometimes lead to pooling the whole dataset together, meaning inequalities can be overlooked – so it was interesting to hear that this is an effect found in urban data more generally.
On Thursday evening there was an official invite to a cocktail reception at the city’s Vapriikki Museum, which is home to the Natural History Museum of Tampere, the Media Museum and the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, and housed in a former engineering works. Conference attendees and local urban planners attended. Finally, I presented my research on Friday morning, which introduced a modelling framework to assess the effect of policy interventions on population exposure to indoor air pollution in London. The tool can examine how interventions, such as home energy retrofit policies or outdoor air pollution reductions may act to exacerbate or reduce unequal exposures to indoor air pollution. I received some constructive comments suggesting I should consider multiple indoor pollutants at once, and I even managed to meet up with my former UCL colleague, now working in Tampere.