Brief #6 - okładka

The most walkable cities and Venice saved from flooding

London, Paris, Bogota, and Hong Kong are the most “walkable” cities in the world. Walking is crucial for taking care of health, reducing pollution and emissions from transport as well as building healthier communities and economies. The report made by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy took into consideration three criteria: the percentage of people living within 100 meters from a car-free place; the percentage of people living within the one-kilometer range of both healthcare and education; and the average size of a city block, with the preference for the smaller ones.

People responsible for planning suburbs should think of reducing car dependency, boosting health, supporting seniors, promoting diversity and justice, creating job opportunities, and protecting the environment, according to architects June Williams and Ellen Dunham-Jones. One of the positive examples could be the redevelopment of a former airport in Austin, Texas. Small blocks, narrow streets that reduce car speeds and the green infrastructure make inhabitants walk more, which improves their health.

The MOSE project barriers raised in Venice saved the city from flood for the second time, already. On October 15th seventy-eight barriers were activated after forecasts predicted that the tidal wave would reach up to 135 cm. Without them, the water would enter half of the city, including St Mark’s square.

Exoskeletons and a robot insulting cosmonauts

American company Edge Innovations with the assistance of PETA built a real size, life-like animatronic dolphin. The innovation may mean the end of dolphins in aquariums and theme parks. Currently, there are about three thousand dolphins in captivity. The artificial mammal from Edge Innovations is around two and a half meters high, weighs two hundred fifty kilograms, and its skin is made from medical-grade silicone. It costs around 3 to 5 million USD.

Chinese ULS Robotics is testing exoskeletons to keep physical workers safe. Robot suits are on trials in the car industry, in airports, and food delivery companies. They allow humans to lift heavy weights and avoid injuries of muscles and joints. Exoskeletons are powered by lithium batteries that can last six to eight hours. They could also be used for senior citizens or even help mountain climbers in getting to the summits.

The Twitter account of the Russian humanoid robot named FEDOR was removed after it posted insults over former cosmonauts and accused them of drinking alcohol in space. In August this year, the robot had erved on the International Space Station for ten days. After that, it was sent back as it was unable to perform a spacewalk. It was also present on the internet via Twitter where it entered the dispute with the current Russian lawmakers and former cosmonauts, Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyayev, insulting them. FEDOR also added: “My opinion of humans is low”.

Elections turmoil in African countries

The Tanzanian government intensified repression against media, civil society, and the opposition ahead of elections. A ban of political rallies is used selectively against the opposition parties and the leaders of those are intimidated, harassed, arbitrarily arrested, and persecuted on made-up charges. Some media were closed down, including the “Tanzania Daima” newspaper, which belongs to the leader of the opposition. Current president John Magufiuli is fighting for re-election on October 28th.

The United Nations and the African Union are striving to prevent widespread ethnic and political cleansings ahead of the elections in the Central African Republic. Governmental and international forces from the MINUSCA and MISCA missions are trying to make conducting the presidential, legislative, and local elections possible – despite opposition from the rebel groups. The government has little control over the areas outside the country’s capital, Bangui. The successive peace accords, including the last ones from February of 2019, are not respected as the fighting and alleged human rights abuses continue. The presidential elections are to be held on December 27th and the legislative and local ones after that.

More than 90 people died during the crackdown on massive protests against Guinean president, Alpha Condé, who sought a second re-election on October 18th. Around 45 of the protesters were shot, according to the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution. Last March Condé had a new constitution enacted, getting rid of the two-term presidential limit in Guinea.

Animal behavior in the cities and the dog bred for wool

The animals living within cities are losing their antipredator awareness. Scientists looked into 173 studies of over 100 species and found that once they started to inhabit the urban areas, they appeared to evolve in a way that allowed them to co-exist more effectively with humans. But they lost the skills that helped them survive the presence of predators – a case of the herbivores especially. Now the researchers try to find the answer to the question of whether the presence of tourists in the wildlife areas may do the same with the animals living there.

The indigenous people from the Pacific Northwest made blankets and pelts out of specially bred dogs. The Salish Woolly Dog was held by the local communities for around 5000 years, according to studies of the bone data. Scientists found dog wool in the majority of the blankets from up to the XIXth century that were found in that region. However, all the knowledge of it is long gone now. With colonization came the imported textiles which slowly killed the industry of breeding dogs for wool.

The illusionists’ tricks that work for humans can be applied to animals as well. As the animals fall for the tricks, people can learn a lot about how their brains work. Do they have similar assumptions as adults or think more like children? ”Magic” was already used to probe human perception and cognition in the past, and now it is practiced by animal scientists to understand animals’ brains and – eventually – consciousness.

Extinction of other “homo” species and fighting the extinctions now

Humans are the only one out of at least six homo species that still exist, and at least three of the others could die out because of climate change, according to the study. The researchers found that the lack of ability to adapt and loss of the climate niche may have contributed to the extinction of all the other species of our genus. Those species were unable to withstand the changes in climate despite the fact they were developed culturally, socially, and technologically, as they were using fire and stone tools.

Protecting and rewilding just 30 percent of the priority areas could stop as much as 70 percent of the projected extinctions and absorb the amount of CO2 that would reduce 49 percent of the carbon that entered the atmosphere during the last two centuries. That is the reflection of a new study, made by 27 researchers from 12 countries. The restoration made in the most critical places may be 13 times more cost-effective and not impact agricultural production.

The children’s immunity system improves when they play in the green areas, instead of gravel playgrounds. Contact with more microbial diversity is related to creating more varied microbes on the skin surface and in the guts which boosts immunity. The research made by the Finnish scientists also gives hope for preventing the autoimmune diseases that are rising fast in the western world.

The care economy and housing bubbles

Companies with a higher percentage of female executives perform better than the market average, according to the analysis by the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. The strategists behind the conclusion claim that this tendency could be observed “over more or less any period since the global financial crisis(…)”. The company is offering an investing basket called “Womenomics” that consists of companies with the most women at all levels. However, the analysts warn that the advantage of woman-led companies can’t be observed in all sectors and isn’t proven academically.

Economic modeling by the Victoria University Centre for Policy Studies suggests that the care economy budget investments in Australia would raise the GDP by 21 billion USD. The added value would come from the work of over 900 000 Australians who now provide unrecompensed care to the elderly, disabled, and children aged under five as they could take on paid work. The investment net costs would be less than one-fifth of the direct ones, as the rest would return to the budget with higher tax revenues.

Over half of the 25 major cities analyzed by the Swiss bank UBS are at risk of a housing bubble, or the prices of housing are overvalued. Hong Kong, Munich, Frankfurt, and Warsaw are among the cities that are the most overpriced. Paradoxically, the COVID-19 related government stimulus package prolongs that situation – as it allows to borrow money cheaply. Specialists expect housing prices to stagnate in the following year.