A Farm in a Bomb Shelter

Zero Carbon Food is a new company that has started a farm in downtown London. If that doesn’t sound strange enough, the farm is a in a bomb shelter.

The company is using hydroponics and other modern technological approaches to food harvesting in order to make food even more local for Londoners. Has shipping costs and the time it takes to transport food increases there will be growing demand for urban farms.

Hopefully we’ll see even more hydroponic farms in dense urban centres soon!

The subterranean farm is optimized for growing crops like pea shoots, coriander, mustard leaf, rocket, radish and garlic chive: small, leafy greens with a short growth cycle – made even shorter through careful manipulation of the environment. Unlike outdoor fields at the mercy of variable weather, Zero Carbon Food can deliver a consistent product all year round. (A consistency that attracted at least one inquiry from an entrepreneurial druglord seeking a discreet cannabis farm).

The plants are picked and packed by hand in another part of the tunnel before distribution to restaurants, caterers and retailers under the brand Growing Underground. It’s already partnered with hyper-local food delivery company Farmdrop and is in discussions with supermarket Whole Foods.

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Watch Streets Evolve From Car-Focused to People-Focused


Streets were for people, then cars took over and ruined cities. For the last hundred years cities transformed themselves from walkable places to sprawling buildings which were designed for heavy car use. Now, cities have seen how that’s a mistake.

A design firm, Urb-i, has used Google street view to catalog how cities are making themselves good places to be. Hopefully this trend of making cities human-focused instead of car focused continues!

In São Paulo, Brazil — which boasts over 10 million residents — a third of the people travel by car, another third takes public transit, and another walks. Yet cars take up a majority of the roads and public spaces.

Seeing that, a Brazilian urban planning collective called Urb-i set out to demonstrate that imbalance and show off examples of more people-friendly design. They scoured Google Street View images to find the most stunning public space transformations from around the world. The results give us hope that our cities are becoming more beautiful places to live.

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India Drastically Reduces Deaths from Tetanus

India has an amazingly large population and I can only imagine the challenges with delivering health care to that many people. India has it somewhat figure out and they keep getting better at it. Recently the country has reduced the number of deaths from tetanus to an all time low and to a level that makes it essentially a statistical blip.

India has reduced cases to less than one per 1,000 live births, which the W.H.O. considers “elimination as a public health problem.” The country succeeded through a combination of efforts.

In immunization drives, millions of mothers received tetanus shots, which also protect babies for weeks.

Mothers who insisted on giving birth at home, per local tradition, were given kits containing antibacterial soap, a clean plastic sheet, and a sterile scalpel and plastic clamp for cutting and clamping the cord.

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Rethinking Addiction

Johann Hari wanted to find out why people get addicted to drugs and ended up making some startling conclusions. Yet, not surprisingly, all the war on drugs policies countries have implemented have only increased the addiction problem. Addiction is more complex to solve than just hurting the people who use drugs.

What really causes addiction — to everything from cocaine to smart-phones? And how can we overcome it? Johann Hari has seen our current methods fail firsthand, as he has watched loved ones struggle to manage their addictions. He started to wonder why we treat addicts the way we do — and if there might be a better way. As he shares in this deeply personal talk, his questions took him around the world, and unearthed some surprising and hopeful ways of thinking about an age-old problem.

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Germs Are Everywhere, Don’t Worry About it

Recently, a study by Weill Cornell Medical College found that the New York City subway is filled to the brim with germs. They are plentiful and easily get on you, but don’t worry. Most of the germs are good for you and the rest are more or less harmless.

Over at CityLab they wondered then if all those odd things people do to avoid germs are worthwhile.

These “good” bacteria might come from food, remove toxins from the environment, or outcompete disease-causing pathogens lurking on surfaces. “That means more [bacterial] diversity, by the odds, would be a good thing,” Mason says.

Still, here at CityLab we have to admit to falling prey to dubious germaphobic behaviors, especially during cold and flu season. None of us has started wearing a surgical mask to work or anything (yet!), but at least some of us do things like flush public toilets with our feet, use tissues to open certain doors, and slather on what has to be far too much antibacterial gel. And the worst part is, none of us can really say whether doing any of this stuff actually works.

So we asked Mason and Dr. Martin Blaser, an epidemiologist at New York University, to tell us how much disease we’re really preventing with some of our most common germ-avoidance maneuvers. (Spoiler: not much.) Keep these caveats in mind next time you reach for the Purell.

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