It’s Not Environment Versus Economic Prosperity

Amazingly, there are people who think that environmental protection will cause economic calamity (bankers seem to be good at causing economic collapse all on their own). This old way of thinking still impacts policy and other decisions made around the world. In order to put this archaic notion away, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s latest initiative is a year of blogging about how economic and environmental success go hand in hand.

Their first post on the matter is about how the perception of the environment as an asset to economic prosperity.

People often talk about “economic value,” “ecological value,” and “social value” as if they were separate things. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As the discussion above makes clear, the “value” or “benefit” we are talking about here is the contribution to sustainable human well-being. None of these elements (ecological, social/cultural, economic) are mutually exclusive; that is, none can make a contribution to that goal without interacting with the others.

What we can ask is: what is the relative contribution of, for example, natural capital to sustainable human well-being, in combination with other forms of capital (built, human, social), in a particular context?

We have to look at these things in context and as part of an integrated, whole system of humans embedded in cultures, which are, in turn, embedded in the rest of nature.

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Forget Burning Man, Go To Ephemerisle

Ephemerisle is a libertarian Burning Man on the ocean. It’s goal is like Burning Man’s insofar that it exists to explore new ideas while throwing a big party. Ephemerisle is really trying to figure out how people can survive on the ocean for an extended period of time while finding solutions to the logistical aspects of doing so.

Ephemerisle participants need to figure out many things from waste management to how to generate electricity. On top of that, because it’s libertarian, do it all while creating some sort of economy.

I’m not into the American libertarian movement but I do like the idea of finding out how to live on the open seas in a sustainable manor.

Seasteading’s proponents say it isn’t impossible, it just has a funding problem: existing solutions cost money to implement, and the solutions that don’t exist yet cost money to develop. But even they admit it’s a hell of a funding problem. The funding necessary to launch even the simplest floating city was in the billions, leaving most proposed projects dead in the water, so to speak.

Unlike Burning Man, where participants are still subject to the laws of the United States, Ephemerisle would offer attendants true autonomy from American government. Also unlike Burning Man, which bans cash transactions between participants at the event, Ephemerisle would embrace money and commerce, as a respected feature of society. And also unlike Burning Man, Ephemerisle would be unticketed, free to anybody who could get there.

If people liked the festival enough, Patri thought, they might start staying out there for longer year after year, and invite their friends. It would grow both temporally and in population. For that to happen, the island itself would have to grow, too. Over time, maybe these people would be motivated to solve a lot of seasteading’s hard engineering problems, so Ephemerisle could continue to grow.

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It’s Time to Rethink Capitalism

Capitalism favours the wealthy and what we have seen this entire millennium is that this is more true than ever. Inequality is on the rise pretty much everywhere, and this is a problem. In this TED Talk, Paul Tudor Jones II, examines the current problematic state of capitalism and how we can rethink it.

Paul Tudor Jones II loves capitalism. It’s a system that has done him very well over the last few decades. Nonetheless, the hedge fund manager and philanthropist is concerned that a laser focus on profits is, as he puts it, “threatening the very underpinnings of society.” In this thoughtful, passionate talk, he outlines his planned counter-offensive, which centers on the concept of “justness.”

Bike Lanes Improve Cities Aesthetically and Economically

There is a strong and powerful myth in North America that car drivers spend more and will always require parking. That is a myth. It turns out that nearly every study done on bike lanes as proven that cyclists are the transportation class cities should cater to because drivers don’t need all those useless parking spaces and drivers aren’t richer than others. (They have to waste all their money on gas and repairs anyway.)

Transportation Alternatives

A neighborhood survey of 420 people on First and Second avenues in Manhattan’s East Village, home to protected bike lanes, found that aggregate spending by non-drivers accounted for 95 percent of all retail spending in the area. That’s not too surprising in New York, given the great transit infrastructure, but the figures remain impressive. Cyclists spent about $163 per week on average, compared to $143 among drivers.

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Even More Evidence That Bike-Friendly Cities Are Better Cities

Bicycles are wonderful contraptions that help people be healthier, have better commutes, and are a wonderful solution to car-based traffic jams. Yet, there are still cities out there that hate cyclists (like Toronto and it’s crack-smoking mayor). In a more civilized place, Aukland, they are embracing bike-friendly infrastructure to make the city better for people and for businesses!

The researchers looked at Auckland, New Zealand, which is currently not a particularly bike-friendly place, and used computer simulations to model different scenarios for new bike-related investments, including regular bike lanes, lanes shared with buses, and fully separated lanes.

They found huge differences: If the city built a network of separated lanes and slowed down traffic speeds, it could increase cycling by 40% by 2040, but adding a few lanes in a few places might only increase bike traffic by 5%. The more people ride, the more the cost savings would add up for Auckland–the biggest factor being a reduction in health care costs. A smaller investment would have little impact at all; the city is so bike-unfriendly that major changes are needed.

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