FC108: The Board Is Your Brush

Plus, terrible lizards, sunken data centres, GMO chestnut trees, and good news on peak oil, a pneumonia vaccine and fur farming in Poland.

FC108: The Board Is Your Brush

Good news you probably didn't hear about 🌈

According to notorious latte-sipping, radical greenies, BP, the world has already passed peak oil. The company estimates that, for the first time ever, global energy demand is levelling off and that in the face of stronger climate action, oil demand will fall by at least 10% this decade and by as much as 50% over the next 20 years. Carbon Brief

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has committed to becoming a 'regenerative company'. Since 2017, it's cut 230 million metric tons of carbon from its supply chain, and is now targeting zero emissions by 2040, without offsets. The company is also committing to protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and 1 million square miles of ocean by 2030. Electrek

China has lifted over 50 million people out of poverty in the last five years. The country's requirements are stricter than the World Bank's; in addition to having sufficient income, China doesn’t consider people to be out of poverty until they have enough food and clothing, guaranteed basic healthcare, access to compulsory education and safe housing. Bloomberg

A new agreement between UNICEF and the Serum Institute of India has dropped the global price of the pneumonia vaccine to $2 per dose. The 43% price drop will expand protection against one of the world’s deadliest diseases, forestalling the deaths of millions of children in developing countries. Borgen

Animal rights activists are celebrating a huge win, as Poland's lower house has voted to ban fur farming. The law, which is expected to pass the upper house easily, also bans ritual slaughter for exports and the use of wild animals in circuses. Poland is the world’s third-largest fur producer after China and Denmark, and the ban will spare the lives of more than five million animals. CIWF

Indistinguishable from magic 🐇

Tel Aviv is on track to become the first city in the world to roll out smart roads that can charge electric vehicles while they're driving. The project involves laying copper coils beneath asphalt, with receivers installed on the floor of moving vehicles to transmit energy directly to the engine and battery. Times of Israel

Australian scientists have started a company that sells additive to cattle feed made of seaweed. It inhibits a specific enzyme during digestion, reducing methane emissions by more than 80%. If just 10% of global cattle farmers added this to their feed, it would have the same impact as removing 50 million cars from the world's roads. The Cattle Site

In the first half of the 20th century, an imported disease wiped out four billion American chestnuts - 99.9% of the entire species. Now geneticists are attempting to revive these magnificent trees, by inserting a wheat gene that detoxifies the blight. So far the project has nailed all the tests, and approval is looking likely. Grow

Researchers in London have invented a bandage-like biomaterial for healing severe bone fractures. It's coated in a protein that aids in the growth and repair of tissue, and a gel embedded with human bone stem cells. The bandage significantly speeds up the healing process, improves recovery and reduces the risk of infections. ZME Science

Two years ago, Microsoft sunk a shipping container with 855 computer servers off the coast of Scotland. They've just retrieved their underwater data centre, and the results have astounded everyone. Only eight servers failed, one-eighth of the rate experienced on land. The ocean is a cooler, cleaner, better place to keep our 1s and 0s. BBC

container ship being lifted off sea bed
Data is the new ̶o̶i̶l̶ pirate treasure

Off the beaten track in the Dark Forest 📡

Sociotechnologist Patrick Tanguay writes Sentiers, one of our favourite email newsletters. It's consistently awesome, and perhaps the closest thing on the internet in tone and style to our Dark Forest section. It's where we came across this incredibly cool exploration of solarpunk as both a sci-fi genre and radical social movement.

An excellent critique of the Social Dilemma, the Netflix documentary about social media. "The insiders have harsh things to say about algorithms, they too have been buffeted about by nonstop nudging, they are also concerned about the rabbit hole, they are outraged at how surveillance capitalism has warped technological possibilities—but remember, they meant well, and they are very sorry." Librarian Shipwreck

Tony Hawk, the legendary skateboarder, and Iain Borden, an architectural historian, take you on a tour of the world's most iconic skate spots. This 13 minute mini doco made us unreasonably happy, and includes an amazing moment when skaters suddenly realised that entire cities were their playgrounds. The world becomes your canvas and the board your brush, every small obstacle your inspiration. Vox

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick says that far from ushering in the surveillance state, drones have been a democratizing force. At places like Standing Rock, and in the Amazon and Syria, they've been used to hold the powerful to account, with protestors monitoring police behavior and environmentalists and journalists gathering irrefutable evidence of abuse. MIT Press ^^ THIS IS SO SOLARPUNK.

National Geographic has been on a roll recently. Our inner eight year olds loved their new feature on dinosaurs. From the colour of their skin and feathers to how they lived and evolved, scientists have learned more in the last 25 years than in the previous 250. If you haven't updated your 'terrible lizard' knowledge in a while you're in for a surprise.

four dinosaurs covered in feathers
They courted each other with elaborate displays and squabbled for social status. They suffered broken bones and infections. They snapped after bugs and nibbled on ferns. Their days were as rich and varied, frenzied and humdrum, as those of the birds outside our windows.

Give a damn 🌏

When you think of skateboarding, Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa probably aren't the first places that come to mind. Skateistan is changing that. They're a non-profit organisation that empowers kids by combining skateboarding with creative, arts-based education. Their focus is on groups usually excluded from sports, especially girls, children living with disabilities and those from low-income backgrounds.

We're sending them US$7,000 to set up a workshop and makerspace in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan's third largest city. They're going to use the money for Raspberry Pis, computer screens, sewing machines, carpentry tools, motors, and a 3D printer. After a few rounds of emails they sent us this proposal, check it out. Thanks to all our paying subscribers for making this possible.

The team say the makerspace will really help with with their youth leadership students. They'll have the opportunity to learn livelihood skills and develop ideas for future careers paths that lead to decent work. It'll also help kids who work in the street, by giving them skills to support their families such as sewing and mechanical engineering. At least 100 students and their families will benefit from this annually, and there's a minimum of 50% participation by girls.

Want to feel better about humans? Watch this video about what Skateistan is doing in Afghanistan, South Africa and Cambodia.

Human Kind 💖

Meet Shirley Raines.

Every Saturday morning, she heads out to Los Angeles' Skid Row, home to one of the United States' largest concentrations of homeless people, where her team of volunteer hair stylists, barbers and makeup artists give free haircuts and makeovers for anyone who needs them. For a few hours, an entire city block is transformed into an outdoor beauty salon, where homeless people get to look good and feel better.

She said she came up with the idea for Beauty 2 The Streetz after volunteering at a soup kitchen, where she realized that while food, water and shelter may be what homeless people need to survive, a haircut, a new hair color and some makeup are what help them thrive. Her team has also stepped up their efforts since the outbreak of the pandemic, switching gears to provide essential needs such as hand sanitizer, food, and masks. Raines now goes out three times a week by herself to hand out care packages, and then again with her team of 25 on Saturdays.

"Just because they live on the streets doesn't mean that there aren't things we can do to help them not appear as they live on the streets. They may be homeless and live in a tent, but they don’t want to be dirty. They don’t want to be unkempt with their hair. They just don’t have any options. It's their right to be beautiful." Allure

woman giving another woman a makeover
Not all queens live in castles. Flaunt

That's it for this edition, thanks for reading.

Remember, this has all happened before, and it was a lot worse the last time around. We all got so used to happy endings that we forgot things can and do fall apart. If you dig up the history of pandemics, you'll see it all there. The distrust, the frenzied conspiracy theories, the mind-boggling ineptitude of leaders, the protests, the doctors' pleas falling on deaf ears, the exhausted nurses, the shamelessness of the powerful who know only how to divide.

It's all happened before. Our great grandparents, and their great grandparents before them, they had to deal with invisible killers and fearmongering and frustration too. Just like now, their pandemics were brutally unfair, falling hardest on the most vulnerable parts of society. They showed that when people are scared, they're capable of both extraordinary kindness and the most mindless stupidity, and often in quick succession.

Human nature doesn't change. What does change is the science. They didn't have that the last time around.

We'll see you next week.


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