The Web Makes You Humble, Not Stupid

In the early years of the internet people worried that it would make people stupid and people would sit around not contributing to society. It turns out that the internet is not as bad as TV. Indeed, the web may make us more humble and help us realize our own ignorance.

One possibility is that the internet actually makes us more humble. “We suggested that people might be engaging in a sort of social comparison between themselves and the internet,” Amanda Ferguson, one of the study’s authors, writes me in an email. “This would reduce their ‘feeling-of-knowing’ the answer (since they’re comparing themselves to the all-knowing internet), and ultimately lead them to answer fewer questions.”

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Meningitis Outbreak in Africa Will Not Happen

Meningitis has killed a lot of people, most of them in Africa in what is referred to as “the meningitis belt”. Every couple of years a meningitis outbreak flares up and ravages many countries, but not this year. This year meningitis was beaten by a cadre of countries and organizations. Many lives will be saved thanks to their efforts.

The last big outbreak was in 1996-1997. 250,000 people were infected and some 25,000 people died. Even in off years, there are low level meningitis outbreaks. Last year, 1,300 people died from the disease in Africa.

But this year, there will be no meningitis season at all.

It did not make front page headlines, but last month it was announced that cases of meningitis dropped to effectively zero in 2014 across the meningitis belt.

The disease has been effectively wiped out through a combination of technological innovation, political will, and an unusual collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry, NGOs and governments.

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Thanks to Mirella!

Environmentally Friendly Condoms

Condoms are great for your health but unfortunately aren’t so great for the environment. Condoms are made out of rubber which can be sourced from sketchy places, and now a company wants us to change where we get our rubber from for condoms.

It is good to see a company push for eco-friendly sex products. We see a ton of consumer goods trying to be made by more sustainable methods, so why not make products for the bedroom more eco-friendly?

Mother Jones: What makes your condoms environmentally friendly?

Jeffrey: If you look at the life cycle of the condom, you start with the fact that they’re made from the sap of the rubber tree, like maple syrup is from a maple tree. We were lucky enough to find the world’s only fair trade certified rubber plantation. The plantation provides free education for 1,000 people in southern India. They built a hospital that provides 100 percent free medical care to employees and a discount to the whole community. And they provide free housing. It’s the only one certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means they’re managing the biological diversity on the plantation, the use of chemicals and pesticides. We took that through to the factory—changing the way the product is made. We reduced the protein content in the latex, which is what causes allergies. Most condoms are contaminated with a carcinogen called nitrosamine. We removed casein, which makes it ok for vegans to use. It’s the only non-GMO-certified condom in the United States. But the more important part of the story is that condoms help women plan the size of their families. When women plan the size of their families they have a better socioeconomic outcome. There’s a lot we can do without, but we need condoms. The world’s most sustainable, responsible, condoms.

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Summary of COP21 Climate Deal

The Paris climate (COP21) talks are over and the deal has been struck, many are rightly calling this deal a huge step forward! All countries agreed to cutting emissions while running a more efficient world economy. Nations of the world have agreed that our current trajectory of wastefulness will make life for everything on the planet very very hard. Even Canada, who had a reputation of sabotaging climate change negations, was invited to facilitate some of the talks.

With all the talk and coverage around COP21 it might seem all so overwhelming. Lucky for us, the Guardian has put together a short article summing up all the great points made in Paris.

Long-term global goal for net zero emissions
Countries have promised to try to bring global emissions down from peak levels as soon as possible. More significantly, they pledged “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”.

Experts say, in plain English, that means getting to “net zero emissions” between 2050 and 2100. The UN’s climate science panel says net zero emissions must happen by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.

Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute said the long-term goal was “transformational” and “sends signals into the heart of the markets”.

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6 Cities Where Highway Removal Made the City Better

Car culture has ruined cities with never ending traffic problems and made the streetscape untenable for modern living. Smog from cars kills too many people every year. Yet, we still see places looking backward and ensuring that this regressive car-focussed planning continues. Toronto is one such place with it’s obsession on keeping a decaying highway running right through it’s downtown.

Gizmodo has collected six examples of cities that are actually doing something about their traffic problems: the highways got torn down. One example not included in their list is Maastricht which is presently in the process of removing a highway.

Let’s hope that even more places learn that the best way to deal with urban traffic planning it is to make it urban and not for cars.

Looking at San Francisco now, it’s hard to believe that a massive, stacked freeway ran right along what is now one of the most scenic views of the bay. But there it was, State Route 480, until the 1989 Loma Prieta quake damaged it. There had been talk about removing the freeway since the early 1980s, but the earthquake spurred the conversation along, and demolition began in 1991.

The result was a triumph for downtown San Francisco, which now had miles of public space, walking and bike paths, plus new transit routes where the double-decker freeway once was. The city also helped prove to the rest of the world that freeway removal was not only possible but could be an economic boon for the city, since San Francisco both saved money on construction—installing the wide boulevard was cheaper than fixing the freeway—and the new development increased property values. San Francisco actually got two great removal projects out of this earthquake: The city’s damaged Central Freeway also became Octavia Boulevard.

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