The Berlin Wall: Now Down Longer Than it was Up

Berlinermauer

The Berlin Wall marked a negative time in recent history in which two sides couldn’t communicate well and severed a country, and families, in two. During the Cold War people risked their lives tring to escape to West Germany from the oppressive East. The tearing down of the wall was a true turning point in modern history and it’s great to celebrate years of peace in Germany since its collapse.

As always, the Berlin Wall represents the inability to have meaningful conversations within our civilization. Let’s hope that no more walls between peoples get built.

The recoherence of Berlin over that later period is a testament to how far the country has come. Differences between the old east and west halves remain, some subtle (in the east street lights are yellow and the traffic-light man wears a hat, in the west they are white and he is bare-headed) and others more fundamental (Ossis support Union and are more likely to vote for the political extremes, Wessis cheer on Hertha Berlin and tend to vote centrist). But generally, to quote Brandt, “what belongs together grows together”. Central Berlin has been rebuilt, new east-west transport arteries like the cathedral-like Hauptbahnhof are open and others are under construction. Peter Schneider, a veteran chronicler of the city, writes: “The fall of the Wall and the reunification of Berlin’s two halves have sped up the city’s pulse, injecting new life energy. It’s as if the city had won back a temporal dimension that, during the years of the Wall, seemed to have disappeared from West Berlin and was merely alleged to exist in East Berlin: the future”.

To be sure, the past is visible too. Berlin epitomises the German knack for sensitively accommodating the scars of history. Parts of the wall have been preserved as memorials and much of the route is now traced by cobble stones which disappear under buildings built in the old death strip—The Economist’s premises in Berlin among them—and re-emerge on the other side. In a plot once bordered by the wall a block from the Reichstag, to which the Bundestag moved from Bonn in 1999, sits the Holocaust memorial, an undulating 5-acre sea of tombstone-like concrete slabs. When, last month, a local historian discovered a forgotten stretch of the wall in the woods by a suburban train line, it was a rare sight: an unarchived, uncurated piece of the city’s 20th century traumas.

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Flowers Reduce use of Pesticide Spraying in Farms

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Farms in the UK and Switzerland are trying a classic approach to reducing their use of pesticides: flowers. Yes, the flowers provide nutrients for insects that eat crops, but they also provide for predators. The difference in the approach for these experimental farms is how they arrange the flowers so the insects get what they need while not enough to damage the crops. Rows of flowers are spaced precisely so that insects can’t travel to far on these factory farms. Smaller farms might naturally benefit from insect proximity already.

As a bonus, the flowers make the farm a little prettier and smell better.

Similar studies have tested the same approach elsewhere. In one study in Switzerland, researchers planted poppies, cilantro, dill, and other flowers along fields of winter wheat. The plants fed and sheltered insects like ladybugs that ate the bugs that eat wheat, and ultimately reduced leaf damage 61%. The researchers estimated that choosing the right mix of flowers could increase yield 10%, making it economically self-sustaining or even profitable to keep planting flowers.

They also want to understand the economic value of the approach, and how it can be incorporated with modern farming tech. “We hope this will underpin a rethink of farming practice to include a more ecological approach to agriculture where farmers actively enhance the underlying ecological processes that benefit crop production,” they say. “We also intend to use this experimental network to demonstrate this approach to industry and to train farmers–our experience has shown that farmers often need to see these approaches in action on real farms before they adopt them.”

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Hundreds of Short Videos to Learn About Philosophy

Too many people think that philosophy is a practice for elites or people with too much time on their hands. Contrary to popular belief studying philosophy is easy and readily available. Studying philosophy helps with many aspects of life from logical thinking to mindful peace. Yes you can learn all about philosophy from some great video series on YouTube, over at Open Culture they compiled some of the better channels for you.

Nowadays, several million more people have access to books, literacy, and leisure than in Marcus Aurelius’ era (and one wonders where even an emperor found the time), though few of us, it’s true, have access to a nobleman’s education. While currently under threat, the internet still provides us with a wealth of free content—and many of us are much better positioned than Epictetus was to educate ourselves about philosophical traditions, schools, and ways of thinking.

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Cyclists Obey the Law More Than Drivers

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Cyclists are law disobeying maniacs! At least that’s a common and all too nasty rumour in North American cities. It turns out that car drivers are the maniacs according to a study fresh out of Florida. The study, the largest of it’s kind, put sensors on cyclists which monitored their behaviour and that of cars near them. The drivers didn’t respect the space around cyclists while the cyclists obeyed the law nearly 90% of the time. What’s more, the study points out, is that the consequences of a driver disobeying traffic laws is far more dangerous than a cyclist.

Good on cyclists for being respectful road users and doing what they can to be safe!

If you drive a car please pay attention to what you’re doing and obey the rules of the road.

In the end, the results indicated that cyclists were compliant with the law 88 percent of the time during the day and 87 percent of the time after dark. The same study determined that drivers who interacted with the study subjects complied with the law 85 percent of the time. In other words, drivers were slightly naughtier than the cyclists—even without measuring speeding or distracted driving.

There was only one crash during the study period, and that too was caused by a negligent driver. In that case, a motorist rear-ended a cyclist as she waited to make a left turn. In the published study, researchers noted, “The driver was impatient and tried to pass at a relatively high speed since the oncoming traffic was about to stop for the bicyclist to turn.”

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EU Launches Urban Mining Project

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The European Union’s newest mining project focuses on urban areas throughout the continent. Their ProSUM project built a database of metals, chemicals, and materials brought into the EU market over the last ten plus years; the idea is that the produced goods can be “mined” again. It’s a really novel way to approach recycle by positioning the recycling process as a mining opportunity. To help companies and organizations understand the plentitude of materials available in existing products (most of which are in landfills or recycling centres) they launched a website the Urban Mine Platform.

The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission’s (EC) Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) in order to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU, relevant for many stakeholders:

  • Manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies.
  • Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.
  • The mining industry will have greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.
  • Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.
  • Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.

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