The “must read” of the week, for me, was this blog post by David Goldberg at Transportation for America. It describes an infuriating miscarriage of justice in suburban Atlanta, where a drunk driver killed a four-year-old child but the mother was the one convicted of manslaughter. This story perfectly encapsulates so much that’s wrong with the way we usually design and build roads in North America, and how we assign blame for predictable tragedies. (More here.)
Sam Knight had a revealing account (subscription required) of the authoritarian regime and democracy campaigners in Belarus. It’s insightful and helped me think more about the conditions in which people do, and do not, demand change.
Anand Giridharadas penned this spot-on piece against the excesses of the “social entrepreneur” idea for the New York Times. Social change ultimately requires taking power away from those who stand in our way, not just applying an MBA mindset to nonmarket challenges. It is a political process, and it needs street fighters.
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Other good stuff: Virginia Postrel’s piece, “Too Many Public Works Built on Rosy Scenarios”; Julia Whitty’s roundup of extreme weather trends at Mother Jones; and David Cieslewicz’s piece at Crosscut on retrofitting cities for an aging population.
Anybody with a brain of their own gets it that biological reward systems work in favor of short-term vs. long-term behavior. (Chocolate cake, anyone?) Climate communicators certainly know that there’s lots to learn from neuroscience about how the brain processes abstract risks that seem distant in time and place (the climate “brand crisis” in a nutshell). In a related inquiry into the brain, David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, examines research that calls into question the volition behind many criminal acts, proposing a new way forward for law and order. The Atlantic Magazine essay is adapted from his new book, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. The article is a fascinating read and the book is now on my must-read list.
And from Treehugger: How’s this for a radical plan for relieving congestion in a traffic-choked city? Officials in Murcia, Spain have made anyone who’s tired of suffering through a grinding commute an offer they can’t refuse: Trade in your old car for an unlimited, lifetime pass for the shiny new public transit system.
Finally, what can we learn about climate change impacts from a loaf of bread? A look at bread in an era where food shortages mean war or starvation.
Care about your carbon foot print? Maybe you should eat more lentils and less lamb.
Earlier this week I wrote about the carmageddon that wasn’t. Here’s another meme in the same vein: bikes vs. flights. Jet Blue used carmageddon to advertise itself by adding a new flight from one end of LA to another. Some folks challenged Jet Blue, saying they could beat the flight while riding bikes. The result? Bikes won by nearly an hour and a half. The lesson? Airport security takes a long time.