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opportunities before efficiencies
navigating to the new economy

Homeless Santa by AZRainman CC BY 2.0Well that’s it. There’s clearly no one left in the US political elite that has the balls to think beyond their term in office.

What is it that makes politicians think they know more than economists and scientists anyway? Maybe if we elected scientists and economists to lead us, they’d actually do the right thing – like implementing “oil austerity” to fight future “climate debt” or something.

The scientific and anecdotal evidence is pretty clear – the climate is changing faster than predicted, and it’s related to man-made CO2.

The reckless insanity of planning to exploit oil from an ice-free arctic defies comprehension. Coastal communities in Alaska are already cued up as the first North American “climate refugees” due to rising ocean waters. Stepping on the climate change gas pedal for short term profit puts the whole world at risk.

America’s new Arctic strategy, if implemented, will dramatically accelerate the very processes of fossil fuel consumption that have already led to carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations reaching a record 400 parts per million. And as Damian Carrington reports:

“… the last time this happened was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today.”

Studies based on paleoclimate data consistently show that conventional climate models of where this current business-as-usual trajectory is heading tend to underestimate the extent of the crisis.

A 2011 paper in Science found that at the current rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions, by the end of the century they will reach levels last seen when the planet was 16C hotter – far more catastrophic than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) worst case projection of a virtually uninhabitable planet at 6C by 2100.

2100 is only 87 years away… How old are your kids?

Obama’s Arctic strategy sets off a climate time bomb (via The Guardian)

Image: By AZRainman CC BY 2.0

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school kids run towards cameraKids were not designed to obediently sit at desks and learn a bunch of boring stuff by rote. They’re energetic bundles of curiosity and creativity looking for an opportunity to discover and learn. With proper supervision and guidance kids can do amazing things and work out their exuberance and settle their differences – learning valuable life skills in the process.

That’s exactly what Tashawnee Guarriello sees every day at P.S. 309 in Brooklyn NY. Guarriello or “coach G” as she’s called, is part of the Playworks program founded in California in 1996.

The idea is to encourage mildly structured school play as part and parcel of the participating school’s curriculum. It has the multiple benefits of positive social interaction and dispute resolution, creative and interactive play and simply burning off the excess energy that comes with being a kid. Schools that are involved with the program are reporting less bullying, kids feel safer in school and the transition from playtime to classroom learning is smoother.

So far, this type of practical program seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Let’s hope that educators can change the ‘rule’ sooner rather than later.

Why Recess Might Be the Most Important Part of School (via The Atlantic – Cities)

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cbc-mike-duffy-screenshot
I used to like Mike Duffy when he was a broadcaster reporting from Ottawa for CTV/ATV. As a fellow Maritimer, I appreciated his Prince Edward Island point of view and who didn’t smile when he said hi to his mom at the end of his double-enders with Steve Murphy on Live at 5.

And then Stephen Harper appointed him to the Senate and the old Mike Duffy seems to have been abducted by aliens or else he succumbed to the often-fatal disease that inflicts so many politicians these days – hubris.

Last year, the story came out about Senator Duffy’s inappropriate living expense claims for his home Province of PEI when he was actually living in Ottawa. His defense was that he didn’t understand the tax claim form. Doesn’t a Senator make enough to get H&R block to help him sort that kind of stuff out? Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt, why was he avoiding the media by sneaking out through the kitchen of a Halifax hotel? He should know better than anyone else that the evasive move just made him look even more guilty.

Now, Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s chief of staff just ‘gifted’ Duffy $90,000 to pay back his expenses to Revenue Canada. WTF? This is just going from bad to worse.

PM’s chief of staff paid off Mike Duffy’s Senate expenses

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I never get tired of listening to Ken Robinson speaking on education and the importance of encouraging creativity in our children.

In this video, Ken makes the point that the American education system needs to embrace and develop the unique traits of each child instead of teaching and testing to a standard that supposedly ‘leaves no child behind’. He goes on to explain how the ‘command and control’ approach of the Federal and State governments developed to suit the industrial economy never really worked and is clearly the wrong path going forward.

If you have children and you’ve never listened to Ken speak, do yourself a favor and take the time to watch this. You won’t be disappointed.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

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Bitcoin - By zcopley CC BY-SA 2.0Homeland Security Investigations, connected to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has requested a freeze on Mt Gox’s account – which is the primary Bitcoin exchange. The virtual currency is alleged to be an easy money-laundering channel for the drug trade. Volatility in Bitcoin’s value over the past few months has brought the virtual currency it into the bright lights of the US government scrutiny.

Bitcoin’s decentralized network is thought to prevent governments from monitoring activity and blocking transactions but this may put that theory to it’s first real test.

Jerry Brito, a scholar at the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University, urges federal regulators to tread lightly. “Bitcoin has the potential to be a boon to the economy and a boon to merchants,” he argues. He believes it could “disrupt traditional payment networks that have not been innovative for a very long time,” reducing the costs of financial services.

Brito also suggests heavy-handed government interference could drive the currency users underground, making it unavailable to legitimate users.

The coming political battle over Bitcoin (via The Washington Post)

Image: By zcopley CC BY-SA 2.0

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Beijing Smog By kevin dooley CC BY 2.0China pulled out an old chestnut from the “hey, look over there” department in a largely ridiculed attempt to not really address the worst pollution in the capital city in over fifty years. The pollution generated by automobiles and state-owned factories in Beijing is so bad you can see it from space!

So rather than actually take on the real pollution challenges that present persistent long-term health risks to chinese citizens, they’re proposing to pull the plug on a popular cultural activity that street vendors can rely on to make a few bucks in the summer. Of course, like the US sequester, this has the advantage of showing the people that they’re making the “tough choices” to address the problem. Yeah, right.

China’s Latest Environmental Initiative— Banning Outdoor Barbeque (via The Atlantic)

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Middle class done in by the internet

Image By JacobRuff (CC BY 2.0)In his latest book “Who Owns the Future?”, computer science pioneer, Jaron Lanier makes his case for how the internet has undermined the social contract that gave rise to the middle class throughout the industrial age and threatens our democratic underpinnings.

His comparison between Eastman Kodak and Instagram is valid and shocking. At it’s prime, Kodak employed 140,000 people – when Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, it employed 13 people.

We don’t realize that our society and our democracy ultimately rest on the stability of middle-class jobs. When I talk to libertarians and socialists, they have this weird belief that everybody’s this abstract robot that won’t ever get sick or have kids or get old. It’s like everybody’s this eternal freelancer who can afford downtime and can self-fund until they find their magic moment or something.

The way society actually works is there’s some mechanism of basic stability so that the majority of people can outspend the elite so we can have a democracy. That’s the thing we’re destroying, and that’s really the thing I’m hoping to preserve. So we can look at musicians and artists and journalists as the canaries in the coal mine, and is this the precedent that we want to follow for our doctors and lawyers and nurses and everybody else? Because technology will get to everybody eventually.

He’s stating a position that has been on my mind for some time – the wealthy have made virtually all the financial gains since 2008 while the 99% are losing ground. It’s unsustainable.

The Internet destroyed the middle class (via Salon)

Image By JacobRuff (CC BY 2.0)

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There are very few people with the unique experience, and vision to see the big picture and brave enough to call it as they see it. Well Seth Godin makes a point of espousing the idea that if you don’t stretch beyond your comfort zone you’re risking more than failure. Besides, we learn by failing (or should) all the time. If we always do something we know we can do – we’ll never grow.

Godin has published a number of successful books – after the the first one generated 900 rejections from publishers. There’s a lesson for all of us there – pick yourself up, figure out what you did wrong and do it again. Repeat as necessary.

Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception (Interview)

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Solar Window Outlet

window_socket-may-2013

Now this is the kind of thinking that moves the world in the right direction. Simple, convenient and made to perform a specific task.

It has a small solar panel on the back and sticks to the window with suction. You can plug in directly or charge the internal battery and use it later.

It takes 5 -8 hours to charge to the full 1000mAh capacity and the charge lasts for about 10 hours so you can charge your cell phone or iPod with it while you’re on the go. How cool is that?

Plug It On The Window

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