In an interesting contrast of perspectives on governments’ takes on environmental issues, these two videos highlight air pollution in Hong Kong and electronic waste in Toronto.
The first is a comedic public service announcement (PSA) put out by the Clean Air Network (CAN), which is a nonprofit advocating for more action to control air pollution in Hong Kong. I first saw this as part of an entry at the Green blog at New York Times that I saw yesterday.
Basically, air quality is a big mess because of industrial activity and roadside pollution. Instead of the usual “shockvertising” and serious ad campaigns, CAN decided to change their approach with this light, but poignant piece. Check it out:
For the Cantonese version, click here. The wording in this version is a little bit different, but the ideas are the same. (Interestingly, instead of the horse scent, there is man’s scent. Probably geared towards the fans of the main actor, Daniel Wu, because that is him in the image, I believe. I wonder why they chose to make it a horse scent and not anything else.)
The second is also an entertaining PSA but this time put out by a government agency. The City of Toronto wants your electronics, and they make it quite clear here:
I also saw this yesterday, at the blog Green as a Thistle. This video is quite funny, almost to the point where you don’t believe the City are the ones who actually released it. It is more in the style of a cheesy mattress commercial.
It seemed like a strange twist of fate that I came across these two videos on the same day, each with its own purpose in a common mission to incite environmental action, but coming from different perspectives. As I see it, there is one government attempting to stimulate action, and one government needing to be stimulated into action. It really gives you something to think about!
Today I started reading news in Google Reader, and came across 2 topics that I wish could just find a way to meet up. They have to do with getting widespread behavior and mentality change to happen and funding for political campaigns/issues. That may not sound like they can be connected, but just read on!
The first article is titled “Misperceived Paths to Energy Savings” from the Dot Earth blog on the New York Times. It that talks about a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The researchers surveyed regular people and found that they generally do not have the right idea about what the most effective ways to save energy are, when compared to what is recommended by experts. The best ways to increase energy savings, according to this study, are efficiency improvements, rather than usage curtailment. (Though both may be necessary, in my opinion.)
I think what they are trying to stress here is that people have the idea in their heads that if they just turn the lights off when not in use or drive a little less, that that will be enough to make a major difference, that they can “do their part” in these small ways. While these behavioral changes are good and great, there really isn’t much of a change in mentality or understanding of the deeper issues. There is still a self-centered approach to those activities, whereas more significant action would take more significant effort (i.e. buying more efficient light bulbs, appliances, water heaters, cars, etc.; insulating your home).
The NY Times journalist suggests that this study is a sign that the US needs to invest more in energy literacy in order to make a dent in the wasted energy and avoidable carbon emissions related to energy use.
The next article I would like to bring into this discussion is about Proposition 23 in California. You can find the second article here at Grist. Prop 23 opposes the climate change legislation in California, and is supported by big oil companies from other states such as Texas. The campaign against Prop 23 also has big backers, such as environmental groups, tech companies in Silicon Valley, and other companies. All in all, there are several millions of dollars going into the campaigns on both sides.
I won’t get started on how unrestricted lobbying could possibly be one of the big reasons why our local and federal governments continue to fail on important fronts, because that would be too much of a tangent. But I couldn’t help thinking, what if they took those millions of dollars going into campaigning and actually put it into informative programs on the ground to address issues like energy efficiency? Maybe it wouldn’t even take that much seed money to get something going, because apparently home energy efficiency is a booming business.
Now, I’m not actually suggesting to take the money out of the No on Prop 23 campaign, but what if every group that invested in the campaign matched with an investment into an energy literacy program? Rather than only putting money into TV and radio ad campaigns that may not increase the general public’s understanding of climate change legislation but confuse people more?
I do not wish to resign to the idea that people are mindless and believe whichever campaign had the most funding and was therefore more prominent. Maybe I don’t understand enough about what is going on. I admit that I sometimes do not understand why people are such adamant deniers of climate change.
In any case, the point is that there really isn’t enough effort or funding going into informing the masses and this could potentially be an innovative way to raise funds and awareness. I would really like to see a lot of things become part of general knowledge, like climate change and evolution, which really deserved to be a part of general knowledge decades ago.
I was lucky enough to catch The xx at Summerstage in Central Park last Sunday after being away for a tournament. And by “catch,” I mean I sat/stood outside of the gates in a clearing in the trees and barely was able to see a sliver of stage.
There is something about being outside in semi-nature, enjoying live music, that makes me very very happy. Maybe it is the combination of being in a green, grassy park with the sun shining and breeze blowing, and good aural stimulation that just relaxes the mind and body. It could also be that outdoor concerts are associated with summer, which is a generally happy time of the year. Yay for Vitamin D!
This reminds me of a few things I’ve read in the past few months. First, there were some studies that looked at how consumers spent their money. They split this into 2 categories: material purchases and “experiential” purchases. The researchers found that the happiness that consumers felt from material purchases did not last as long as the happiness that they got from experiential purchases. For example, buying a massage or doing something with friends gives a longer lasting happiness than shopping for clothes or splurging on things.
Considering I didn’t even have to purchase a ticket to The xx’s concert, I’m really glad that I went! It has been good for my mental health this week.
Another good article is this one in the NY Times. It talks about similar ideas and a specific story about a couple who took it upon themselves to get rid of most of their belongings. The woman was able to get it down to 100 personal items, and they were able to move into a smaller apartment and pay off their $30K debt. The couple was also happier with their jobs and life in general because they were able to do more of the things they liked, like being outdoors, volunteering, and spending time with family.
I’m not ready yet to winnow down my belongings that much, but I would like to try to get rid of the possessions that I don’t necessarily need anymore. It is a difficult thing to do, though, but I have managed to clean out some clothes at least once a year. I do, however, find it particularly satisfying to find a use for something that I had been saving for a long time. This might be a different type of happiness. Maybe a happiness from solving some kind of puzzle? A puzzle of how to use randomly sized boxes and containers?
What experiences make you happy?
An interesting article on CNN about maximizing spending for happiness
Here are some articles a friend sent to me recently (thanks Katie!).
The second article is about gecko tape. Geckos have a really fascinating ability to climb on the pads of their feet using Van der Waals interactions between the tiny setae (each with a diameter of 5 micrometers) on the pads of the toes and the surface of the thing it is sticking to. The article says that tape and adhesive technology being developed now that imitates the gecko’s abilities may be available on the market in 3-5 years!
I am currently reading the book The Best American Science Writing 2007, and in it was an article about lie detecting by Robin Marantz Henig entitled Looking for the lie that was published in the New York Times Magazine. (Just so you know, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that polygraphs can detect lies at very high accuracy.)
Towards the end of her piece, Henig discusses some of the evolutionary implications pertaining to deception and the development of the brain. Advanced social interactions are complex and often deception needs to be part of the equation and might be somewhat related to skills that make individuals socially adapted and intelligent.
This idea is interesting because it would explain a lot of the selfish behavior that we see in humans today. Social groups that are small enough may not suffer as much from serious deceptive offences, though they definitely have their share of gossiping, etc.
But as social groups get bigger, relationships are not as much defined by kinship but by association and profession. Being able to lie or deceive may have become adaptive in these settings where it would be the difference between gaining an advantage over a competitor or getting the short end of the stick.
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This NYT article talks about the trend that is becoming more popular now of keeping chickens in backyards across the nation, such as Chicago, Brooklyn, and the rural West.
From the article, the general sense is that most of the people who recently started raising chickens in their backyards are doing it because of the economic recession. A common sentiment that is repeated in the article is that people want to feel secure, just in case they lose their job or the recession gets worse.
Possibly the most difficult thing about raising animals is feeding them. The problem with raising the chickens in backyards is that you spend nearly as much as you could make just by buying feed for the chickens. There are also the initial costs of providing shelter and purchasing the chicks.
Compared to farms that purchase feed in bulk or have enough land to rotate the chickens on plots of grass, raising your own chickens is inefficient. You are hardly saving any money while increasing the hassle for your household.
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