Move to the City for a Slow Life


It’s often thought that cities are buys bustling places where nobody slows down. Sure, the streets are busier and there is more activity, but the city is a slow place for living. Arizona State University researchers looked into the lifestyles of urban dwellers and discovered that they are slower than people who live elsewhere. The slowness is all about when people hit particular moments of life and how they think about the future.

“Our findings are contrary to the notion that crowded places are chaotic and socially problematic,” said Oliver Sng, who led the research while a doctoral student at ASU and who now is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan. “People who live in dense places seem to plan for the future more, prefer long-term romantic relationships, get married later in life, have fewer children and invest a lot in each child. They generally adopt an approach to life that values quality over quantity.”

Sng, with ASU Foundation Professor Steven Neuberg and ASU psychology professors Douglas Kenrick and Michael Varnum, used data from nations around the world and the 50 U.S. states to show that population density naturally correlates with these slow life strategies. Then, in a series of experiments (e.g., in which people read about increasing crowdedness or heard sounds of a crowded environment), they found that perceptions of crowdedness cause people to delay gratification and prefer slower, more long-term mating and parenting behaviors.

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A New Perspective on Depression

Depression seemed to be talked about more last year than in previous years thanks to celebrities revealing their troubles with the affliction. There’s also been more research into depression. With more people thinking about and looking into depression we get new perspectives on the issue.

Now, some researchers are arguing that depression could be a symptom of lifestyle decisions and some influence from our evolution. The evolution aspect is rather interesting because it could be interpreted that depression is a reaction to help one person not infect others with communicable diseases.

So if people with depression show classic sickness behaviour and sick people feel a lot like people with depression – might there be a common cause that accounts for both?

The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.

Both cytokines and inflammation have been shown to rocket during depressive episodes, and – in people with bipolar – to drop off in periods of remission. Healthy people can also be temporarily put into a depressed, anxious state when given a vaccine that causes a spike in inflammation. Brain imaging studies of people injected with a typhoid vaccine found that this might be down to changes in the parts of the brain that process reward and punishment.

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Cities Are More Environmentally Friendly

Get out of the suburbs and into the city! Especially if you care about the environment.

The cities are where all the good policy around climate change is being enacted. While international agreements are not much more than show cities around the world are fighting hard to ensure that their locales are liveable and sustainable.

Cities have a unique power to drive immediate change involving issues such as public transportation, but they also can help influence prosaic long-term land use planning (think about all those interminable city council meetings) to realize truly sustainable cities. No futuristic visions of cities are needed. For now, the reality is more mundane: asphalt recycling and better insulation in buildings, timers for coffee makers and telecommuting, light sensors, and water conservation.

Local governments are tackling GHG emissions in any way they can: Boston, for instance, has mandated the nation’s first green building code for private projects. In Gainesville, Fla., the city utility pays a premium for solar power from peoples’ homes fed back into the grid. In Babylon, N.Y., homeowners are eligible for loans to make their homes more efficient, and those loans are entirely repaid through cost savings in their power bills.

But to create low- or zero-emission cities — among the only ways to avoid dangerous climate change if the objective is to cut GHG emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the target set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — more revolutionary changes are needed.

At least 1,000 cities in the U.S. and around the world are adopting targets and taking action, says ICLEI. Cities are cooperating internationally, offering financial incentive programs for clean power plants and home retrofits, and planning growth and emission cuts as much as half-a-century down the road.

Cities lead the way in action to halt climate change at The Guardian.

Retrofitting Suburbia

The suburbs are infamous for being inefficient, sprawling, violent, and a great place for growing marijuana. So what to do with all this wasted land? Well, here’s a TED talk on how to convert suburbia into a liveable and more urban space. This video gives me hope for a more sustainable North America.

Thanks to Craig!

Urbanites Pollute Less

A Canadian study has looked at how much carbon per capita a person living in Canada produces and the conclusion is that if you live in a city you produce less carbon. Once more it’s proven that living in an urban centre with high density is better for the environment than urban sprawl.

When it comes to climate change pollutants, Toronto residents are among the greenest in Canada, says a new study.

The report, published in the April issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization, says metropolises, commonly denigrated as big, dirty places, are in fact spewing fewer greenhouse gases per capita than the rest of their countries.

“Blaming cities for climate change is far too simplistic,” said author David Dodman, a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, England. “There are a lot of economies of scale associated with energy use in cities. If you’re an urban dweller, particularly in an affluent country like Canada or the U.K., you’re likely to be more efficient in your use of heating fuel and in your use of energy for transportation.”

Dodman found that the average Canadian is responsible for 24 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, while Torontonians just 8.2 tonnes.

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