Congestion Pricing Gaining Popularity

Nobody likes sitting idle in traffic yet we keep building roads and supporting the automobile as a transit solution. To alleviate pressure from commuters driving into the city (who are likely not carpooling) cities turn to congestion charging on autos. It’s a simple concept to at least match the cost of using public transit with the cost of driving into a city. Difficulties arise in North America where public transit isn’t well funded and historically policy favoured cars instead of people. The unique challenges in North America are being put to the test this year and it’s looking promising that drivers will actually have to pay for the roads they use.

What happens in New York could set a precedent for the rest of the country, which is undergoing several, simultaneous debates about sweeping reforms amid the progressive “blue wave” that characterizes the left in 2019, from the Green New Deal to Medicare for All. If implemented correctly, congestion pricing, which has already reached cities like London and Stockholm could upend traffic flow and curb carbon emissions while funding the crumbling subway infrastructure. 

But congestion pricing also means we risk hurting the working class when we try to mitigate climate change by addressing transportation. Think of the Yellow Vest protests in France: the protests were instigated by a fuel tax law intended to combat climate change. However, working class people argued that the tax was regressive. The scope of the protests gradually expanded to more general societal frustrations—specifically, the fact that lawmakers only try to improve society by taxing the poor.

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Good Web Designers Care about Accessibility

computer screen

Web design gets overlooked by users even though its impact on them is large. Bad design can lead to misunderstandings and to people accidentally buying something that they didn’t want to. In all likelihood you have had suffered from poorly designed websites. If you’re a person with any sort of disability then you also probably appreciate good web design because it takes into consideration accessibility. Good accessible design is a benefit to everyone for many reasons, and if you’re wondering why then check out the following article.

Without accessible technology, there’s a discriminatory gap between those who can get full use from their devices/products/services, and those who can’t. As technologists, we have a moral imperative and belief that technology can empower people of every language, culture, geographical location, ability, to do more — therefore, accessibility is a requirement of such a belief.

…with every new feature, every new website, the divide between those who are online and those who are not increases, making it all the more imperative to make the web available for everyone.
— Tim Berners-Lee

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The History of the Carbon Cycle Sits in Ancient Wetlands

forest and river

Scientists have unearthed and pieced together evidence on more than 1,000 ancient wetland sites from across the globe, that are presently covered by fields, forests and lakes. Although vanished from the Earth’s surface, these buried sites could explain some of the differences between global carbon cycle models and real-life observations.

Cliffs, quarries, road construction, and scientific sampling have revealed carbon-rich wetland deposits buried under other kinds of soils and sediments. Many wetlands are characterized by thick deposits of undecomposed plant material (or peat), which is often preserved, resulting in a record of wetland presence. The buried wetlands frequently included coastal marshes that had been flooded by sea level rise, and wetlands that had been buried by glaciers, flooding, or wind-deposited sediments.

The researchers compiled the information about these buried wetland deposits, including where they were found, when they formed, and why they were buried.
“We were really surprised when we started to combine our data from different sites around the world. What we thought would be only a few sites turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. When we started to look for more examples from previous studies, we identified more than 1,000 buried wetland sites across the globe,” Dr Claire Treat from the University of Eastern Finland says.

The study was led by Dr Treat at the University of Eastern Finland and by Dr Thomas Kleinen at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany.

Buried wetland sites were found from high Arctic islands of Canada and Siberia to tropical Africa and Indonesia, to Southern South America and New Zealand. Some formed less than 1,000 years ago, while others formed during the warm climate period between the two latest glaciations more than 100,000 years ago.

Using these records of wetland presence since the beginning of the last interglacial, 130,000 years ago, the researchers found that wetlands in northern latitudes responded to changes in climate. Wetlands formed when the climate was warmer, and many wetlands were buried during periods of glacial advance and cooling temperatures. When it was cold, few new wetlands formed until the climate warmed again. Some of these buried peat sediments remain until today. These new findings of widespread buried peats suggest that, on the whole, peat burial can result in the slow transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to land, ultimately offsetting a small part of climate warming in the past.

“The fact that these peats are buried and stay on land is  basically like a leak in what we usually consider a closed system of how carbon moves around the earth, from the atmosphere to the land and oceans. This new finding isn’t represented in our models of the global carbon cycle, and may help to explain some behaviour that differs between models and observations,” Dr Treat from the University of Eastern Finland says.

The results also suggest that present-day wetlands may continue to offset rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations as the climate warms if they remain undisturbed by drainage and wildfires.

Press Release from the University of Eastern Finland.

Economists: Let’s all Work Less

happy workers in a factory

We all work too much. Indeed, millennials are the hardest working generation due to structural effects of poor policy from preceding generations (like the 2008 crash and encouraging rent seeking behaviour). Both the boomers and Gen X earned more for their work than millennials, so what’s the point of current working culture of itself isn’t working? It’s high time that we rethink productivity in relation to wages and time. Economists are on board, plus there are a litany of other reasons to work fewer hours.

Working fewer hours was once seen as an essential indicator of economic and social progress. I explore this history in my book Whatever Happened to the Leisure Society?

It’s time to put reduced working hours back on the political and industrial agenda.

There are strong arguments for working fewer hours. Some are economic. Others are about environmental sustainability. Yet others have to do with equity and equality.

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Canada’s Supreme Court Rules Companies Have to Pay for Environmental Damage

industryIt might seem obvious that companies should pay for damaging property, but that wasn’t the case for years. Up to now companies in Canada were able to extract resources from land (poisoning entire ecosystems) and leave the cleanup costs to be covered by the government. Privatize the profits and socialize the costs. The Supreme Court ruled that if a company goes bankrupt then environmental expenses have to be covered before creditors get their money back.

Hopefully this discourages banks from loaning to companies that pillage and flee.

The top court ruled 5-2 to overturn the earlier ruling. In doing that, it said bankruptcy is not a licence to ignore environmental regulations, and there is no inherent conflict between federal bankruptcy laws and provincial environmental regulations.

“This is good news for landowners, taxpayers and the environment,” said Keith Wilson, a lawyer who represents landowners with oil and natural gas wells on their properties. Among his clients are those with wells sitting idle on their land for decades.

“The concept of polluter pays is alive and well in Canada.”

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