After Going Green, Cities Need Turn Blue

wind turbine

Cities need to work with their local ecosystems and not against them. This is evidently true when it comes to waste management and overt displays of green initiatives. There is a harder aspect of ecological thinking for cities and it’s usually beneath our feet: water.

Water systems are complex in every direction – getting drinking water in and storm water out. The way cities plan for water issues is more important than ever before as we enter a time of water scarcity and extreme weather. What we should be doing (and smart cities already are) is designing our urban spaces with the flow of water in mind.

“We need to acknowledge that the water is eventually going to do what the water wants to do, and shift our approach, as human populations living on the Earth, from one of trying to dominate nature to one that acknowledges the power of nature and works in synchrony with that,” says English. “We’ve already set ourselves down this path of dams and levees and water control systems, and it’s really hard to turn back. But we don’t need to keep replicating that. We don’t need to make the situation worse. It’s time to step back from the approach of control and fortification.”

“Cities that today start to embrace water and take advantage of the skills of water, will be the cities that have a better performance economically and socially and politically in 20 to 30 years,” says Koen Olthuis, founder of Waterstudio, a Dutch firm that has found designing around water to be more than a niche market. “When situations change—and that’s happening now, the environment is changing, the climate is changing—cities have to react. You have to change the skills and the performance of the city to give a reaction to this situation, and the reaction should be not fighting it, it should be living with it.”

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Yes in my Backyard!

Berlin

For too long cities have been plagued by NIMBYism – people who chant not in my backyard. People who oppose change have held back communities for too long and now people are shouting yes in my backyard – YIMBY. In Toronto the rise of this movement has led to annual event called YIMBY Toronto. The movement is international though and it’s primarily driven by people who have been negatively impacted by previous generations’ poor urban design choices. A whole generation is taking a negative and making it a positive.

The movement is fuelled by the anger of young adults from the millennial generation, many of whom are now in their late 20s and early 30s. Rather than suffer in silence as they struggle to find affordable places to live, they are heading to planning meetings en masse to argue for more housing – preferably the very kind of dense, urban infill projects that have often generated neighbourhood opposition from nimbys (“not in my back yard”).

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Eco-Friendly Jeans and Denim

beards

Millennials are more interested in ethically produced clothing than previous generations, that’s being proven in the rise of ethical fashion lines. Eco-consious clothing can come in many versions from how it’s designed to how it’s produced. Production is the most energy-intensive part of clothing, and denim in particular is quite challenging. Tons of water is used to make a single pair of jeans and that water run off, if poorly dealt with, can poison local water systems.

One company, Everlane, has created a supply chain that is eco from top to bottom. We should be seeing more companies following their lead in the coming years.

Saitex’s president, Saanjeev Bahl, who also sits on the board of directors for the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, has been a vocal force for change. Unhappy with the apparel industry’s practices—it’s second only to oil as the planet’s worst industrial polluter—Bahl built a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) operation considered one of the world’s most sustainable denim-manufacturing facilities, thanks to incredible efficiencies. A closed water system and jet washing machines lose only .4 liters of water per pair of jeans through evaporation; typical commercial machines waste as much as 1,500 liters per pair. Rainwater harvesting further minimizes water usage, while a five-step filtration process separates water from contaminants. (Preysman and Bahl made a video of themselves drinking the filtered waste water to prove it.)

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More People can Help the Blind: Be My Eyes Now on Android

Be My Eyes is an app designed to help people with low vision to get help from thousands of people around the world. It works by connecting people with vision problems to those with good vision. For example, a blind person might need to know which object is red so they take a picture with their phone and a volunteer using Be My Eyes lets them know. The app has been available on iOS and now Android users can join in on the fun!

The app is free, anonymous, and available 24/7. Anyone can join as a volunteer or end user. There’s no commitment when joining, so for sighted people, this is a great way to make the world better just a few minutes at a time. Its creators report over 270 thousand help sessions, with over 500 thousand sighted users helping 38 thousand blind ones.

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Thanks to David!

Lessons on Dealing with Assholes

The Asshole Survival Guide is a new book by Robert Sutton, a specialist in dealing with assholes. No, he’s not a proctologist. Sutton’s research is about what makes someone behave like a jerk and what others can do about it. He’s a psychology professor at Stanford University where they actually have a no assholes policy. If you’re dealing with a lot of jerks at work then maybe you should read his book.

Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the book, which is about how to deal with assholes. So tell me, what’s your best asshole neutralization strategy?

Robert Sutton
First, it depends on how much power you have. And second, on how much time you’ve got. Those are the two questions that you have to answer before you can decide what to do. Assuming that you don’t have Dirty Harry power or you’re not the CEO and can’t simply fire people you don’t like, I think you have to do two things in terms of strategy.

To begin with, you’ve got to build your case. You’ve also got to build a coalition. One of my mottos is that you have to know your assholes. We already talked about temporary versus certified assholes, but another distinction that’s really important is that some people, and you mentioned this at the outset, some people are clueless assholes and don’t realize they’re jerks, but maybe they mean well.

In that situation, you can have backstage conversations, gently informing them that they’ve crossed a line. This is simple persuasive work. But if it’s somebody who is one of those Machiavellian assholes who is treating you like shit because they believe that’s how to get ahead, in that case you’ve got to get the hell out of there if you can.

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