Activists in SF Try to Get Drivers to Obey the Law

This year in Toronto drivers have been murdering non-drivers at a record rate. Of course, collisions causing casualties are all avoidable – drivers should watch where they are going and infrastructure designed for car drivers makes roads dangerous for everybody. Toronto isn’t unique for its number of driver caused fatalities in North America.

In San Fransico local activists got so sick of car drivers not obeying laws they took matters into their own hands. They setup simple barricades, just pylons, on bike lanes so drivers would know not to drive in them. It worked, drivers didn’t plow through the pylons to drive where they shouldn’t!

The cones, inspired by groups in New York City and elsewhere that have tested similar temporary interventions, are meant to point out that bike lanes really need to be separated to be safe.

“It’s not that we want the police to write tickets for people driving down bike lanes,” he says. “We want it so people can’t possibly drive down bike lanes, or can’t possibly zoom around corners and cut off pedestrians—because it’s physically impossible. I want the city to take it much more seriously.”

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The Oppression of Lawns

The concept of a lawn at a residence has a short, but rich, history. Basically, the rich had large estates and to demonstrate their wealth they had large swaths of land not used for cultivation. Today there are still people trying to show off their wealth by owning large lands of uselessness. Things seem to be changing though as people eschew their lawns – some people replace it with something good and others just don’t care about the class association.

Remember that lawns are something you can make a choice about: you can live in a place without the unnecessary space, in hot climates you can try xeriscaping, you can make your landscape green, or you can look into a long list of lawn alternatives.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the traditional American lawn has come in for some scrutiny in recent years. Some, like Baker, are abandoning regular lawn maintenance out of environmental concerns — lawns require fertilizer to grow and gas to mow, and they take up space that could otherwise be used for animal habitat.

Other folks are ditching their lawns because of the amount of water they soak up — 9 billion gallons of it per dayaccording to the EPA. Think of the miracle that is the modern water supply — pristine water pumped hundreds of miles, passed through shiny state-of-the-art filtration systemstreated with miracle chemicals that keep our teeth from falling out of our heads, and available on-demand at the twist of a knob. And then consider that we intentionally dump billions of gallons of that water out on the ground!

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Kindness Spreads Like a Disease

When we think of contagious things it usually in a negative context like a flu or other illness. The next time you here of something being contagious you can now have a positive association because kindness is contagious too.

New research is discovering that individuals who are around generous people can “catch” that attitude and become more kind themselves. It’s really inspiring research!

People in our studies didn’t even need to see others do anything in order to catch their kindness. In another follow-up, people read stories about the suffering of homeless individuals. After each story, they saw what they believed was the average level of empathy past participants had felt in response to its protagonist. Some people learned that their peers cared a great deal, and others learned they were pretty callous. At the end of the study, we gave participants a $1 bonus, and the opportunity to donate as much of it as they liked to a local homeless shelter. People who believed others had felt empathy for the homeless cared more themselves, and also donated twice as much as people who believed others had felt little empathy.
We still don’t fully understand the psychological forces that power kindness contagion. One possibility, supported by our own work, is that people value being on the same page with others. For instance, we’ve found that when individuals learn that their own opinions match those of a group, they engage brain regions associated with the experience of reward, and that this brain activity tracks their later efforts to line up with a group. As such, when people learn that others act kindly, they might come to value kindness more themselves.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Parents Need to be Nagged by Their Kids

Kids are always being told what they can and cannot not do, and new research says that when it comes to the environment it’s parents that should be told what to do. In a study by Stanford University they have found that children who nagged their parents about energy use made a measurable difference on their household’s energy consumption. The researchers used Girl Scouts as their little energy-conscious eco-warriors.

And these Girl Scouts trooped on home to spread their world-saving knowledge to clueless parents.

The results were promising for residential energy use: Both the girls and their parents showed immediate and long-term improvement. The li’l Scouts reported a 50 percent increase in frequency of energy-saving practices after the experiment, with a 12 percent improvement in parental behavior. Over the following seven months, that rate of improvement halved for both groups: Girls were only minding the light switch 27 percent more than they had been before the study, and their parents only 6 percent.

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Drone Built By A Small Tribe Is Protecting Land

We Built a Drone from Digital Democracy on Vimeo.

In Guyana there are a lot of illegal mining and logging operations that the government doesn’t pursue due to a lack of evidence. To protect their lands from such activity a small tribe, the Wapichan community, have built a drone to record the damage being done. They used videos on YouTube to find out how to build the drone and designed their drone to be repairable using locally found products (like discarded plastics). It’s a good story about how access to technology and knowledge by small groups can have a big impact!

“With the drones, we can go into really inaccessible areas,” Fredericks told Quartz. Using its footage, the Wapichan are assembling a “living map” to document their customary land use—and to demonstrate to the government how outside interests were impinging upon lands the Wapichan have safeguarded for centuries.
Their drone confirmed what the Wapichan had long suspected: In the south, close to the border with Brazil, illegal loggers were harvesting trees in lands that were supposed to be protected. And the gold mine at Marudi Mountain, to the southeast of Shulinab, appeared to be leaching pollution into the headwaters upon which the Wapichan depend.

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