Carbon Emissions Are Down 17%

Researchers from the Nature Climate Change have released information that in April of 2019 global CO2 emissions had dropped by 17%  and in some places like the US and UK, these numbers have fallen by a third. This is all in part to the world hitting pause on everyday life due to COVID19. Going forward, even if some restrictions are lifted researchers project a 7% drop in overall carbon emissions by the end of the year, which is more than a 3% decrease from the 2008 financial crisis. According to climate scientist, Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, “CO2 stays in the atmosphere a long, long time, even though we had a massive change in emissions, that did not affect the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere very much. It’s small compared to what we’ve put in the atmosphere for decades.” In order for scientists to measure the earth’s CO2 emissions they had to study mountains of data and statistics about car traffic, electricity usage, airline flights, and manufacturing, in order to build a global picture of how the pandemic has cut emissions. Satellites cannot be programed to receive CO2 emissions in real-time in orbit and to make matters trickier each country has its own unique carbon emission output. However grim our current global situation is, this research shows that not all of us have to commute to the office every day and that a likely future of working from home might be in the cards. Possibly not all events like conferences have to be in person either. Over the last few months, NYC has closed several miles of streets off to cars, allowing more room for pedestrians to safely practice social distancing. If we continue to do this in other major cities, the outcome will have a lasting positive impact in the long run. Looking back at the 2018 financial crisis, the Obama administration pumped funding into renewable energy sources, why can’t we do the same in this crisis?

New York City in 1911

New York is ever-changing and even though we live in a very different time, nothing makes the past feel more immediate than video. This footage, shot in 1911 by the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern, was first restored by MoMA in 2018 and now again by video editor Denis Shiryaev. It shows different neighborhoods all around Manhattan, with much of the same architecture and landmarks that we still see today. And while it’s fun to see all the things that are different (the clothes! the cars! the signage!), it’s even more interesting to feel that we’ve walked the same roads as so many others who came before us and loved this city just as well.

1 Trillion Trees

To combat the ever looming climate change, a new campaign is gaining traction: planting 1 trillion trees. A new ambitious project under the World Economic Forum launched in January called has set to achieve this goal. If achieved, this would be a tremendous step forward in combating climate change. According to Fast Company, “a 2019 study estimated that restoring forests with around 1.2 trillion trees could store more than 200 gigatons of carbon”. Currently, the world looses a U.K. sized chunk of forest every year, sometimes for the sake of products such as hamburgers and shampoo. One of the problems is cutting down trees more rapidly than they are able to mature. In some cases, forests are able to regenerate on their own by placing fences to safe guard them. It is more important to keep existing trees safe than planting new ones. For example, the Amazon forest to protect young trees from cattle. Another problem lies in efforts of monitoring trees daily, which often times falls short. Fast Company estimates that “planting 60 billion trees will cost at least $4 billion a year to finish the campaign within 20 years”. To combat the high cost, governments could implement incentives similar to those in the solar industry, where landowners quickly plant and maintain trees. Pachama is a startup that uses drones and satellite imaging to track how trees grow and their carbon storage.  According to Justin Adams, the director of the Tropical Forest Alliance at the World Economic Forum, “we’re scrambling to really sort of figure out what are the workstreams that need to be in place to actually measure those commitments, track progress against those, so that by . . . next year, we will be able to talk more explicitly about how that would all work.”  There is no doubt that this initiative has sparked momentum throughout the world as we continue to combat climate change.

Kathleen McMahon Accessibility in React components

I recently had the pleasure of attending Kathleen McMahon’s talk on Accessibility-flavored React components make your design system delicious!. Accessibility on the web has been a big topic in our office for a while. It’s a part of the web development skill set that often goes overlooked and it is something we can all work on being better at. Kathleen’s talk was two-fold. She showed us examples of what the web is like for users with adaptive needs and how we (designers and developers everywhere) are failing these users. It’s good to note that accessibility is not just screen readers. There are font sizing, zooming, contrast, and other issues to keep in mind. Then she gave us a look into good methods for constructing reusable react components with a focus on keeping the final output properly accessible. This was a refreshing glimpse into the problem and path forward with making the web usable for everyone.

Millennials & The Dinner Party

In a recent article published by Vox, author Nisha Chittal explains how millennials “killed” the traditional dinner party and how (and why) it’s been reinvented and replaced by more casual gatherings. There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the behavior of younger generations and how that behavior is directly driven by values (shameless plug for our Sustainable Insights Report!) and the way that we gather together over a meal is no exception. For so many years, dinner parties were formal, multi-course affairs and, as Chittal writes, “having a dinner party was a way to show off your extensive social connections, your wealth, your place in society. It was a sign of having good taste — which is ultimately all about class anxiety.” Many millennials, on the other hand, were coming of age during/just after the Great Recession and had far more financial stress than worry about anything else. And with home ownership at a record low, people had neither space nor funds to throw anything lavish. Instead, entertaining has become more focused on time spent together and connection, rather than which fine china is on the table, and millennial or not, that’s something worth celebrating.

How Gen Z is Dealing With a Looming Climate Apocalypse

Vice recently sat down with 9 Gen Z’ers to discuss the innvitable climate apocalypse. It seems like in this day and age, only doing the bare minimum when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint is not enough and often times leads to “eco-anxiety – the stress associated with facing a climate crisis and uncertainty about the future”. 

Recently, there have been enormous outcries from Gen Z’ers with a sense of urgency to act now for the future of our planet. Many of the interviewees have changed their diets (many becoming vegans and vegetarians) and waste consumptions (eliminating packaged goods and bicycling as a form of transportation) in efforts to make a change. However, the majority still experience eco-anxiety when thinking of our world vanishing before their eyes. Most feel paralyzed with sadness and grief of not being able to do enough or completely overwhelmed as this is a much larger issue. In many cases, as children they were exposed to an environment that sparked eco-anxiety, once they understood the consequences of the world’s waste. “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly” summarizes the exact steps we, as a society need to take in order to protect our planet.

It is hard to not get stuck in a nihilist fashion of thinking that days on this planet are numbered, so why do anything or bother at all. The problem begins as a refusal to accept there is a need for any of this change, be it on a personal, social, and global aspect. Change can only happen with shake-ups in power through activism and voicing these concerns. According to an article published in The Nation, as Gen Z comes closer to the voting age in 2020 they could force many politicians into dealing with climate issues compared to any previous generations. A recent study found “42 percent of millennial Republicans recognize that climate change is caused by humans, while only 30 percent of conservative boomers do” which would profoundly impact choosing the right candidate on either side. Furthermore, climate change was ranked among the top 10 issues that would influence their decision in the upcoming election. With recent public polls showing many becoming increasingly more anxious about the inevitable climate apocalypse, failing to address this on the political fronts will hurt a party’s ability to succeed. Gen Z have stepped up to take the reigns and continue to be a driving force within the climate change conversation.  

Hacktoberfest 2019

Hacktoberfest is here to help make it easier to give back to the open-source projects and communities that help power our digital lives. To get started you need to register on their site, then start submitting quality PRs to any public GitHub repository. The first 50,000 participants that meet their four-PR threshold in October get a free t-shirt.

Using Art to Fight Climate Change

Art has long been an outlet for social commentary and as climate change continues to dominate the news cycle, more artists than ever are using that outlet to inspire people to action. Valentino Vettori’s immersive Arcadia Earth installation is one stunning example of how artists can come together to create something at once beautiful and thought-provoking. With a full lineup of additional experiential artists, Arcadia Earth sprawls a massive 15 rooms, each focusing on an individual environmental threat. And because they’ll partnered with Oceania Global, visitors can rest assured that the money spent on the ticket will help conservation efforts as well. Running through January 2020 at 718 Broadway.

All photos via TimeOut, by David Mitchell.

Our phones aren’t safe

This isn’t news or a panicked overreaction, just a reminder that our phones aren’t inherently safe and we can’t pretend they are. The years of thinking phones aren’t as vulnerable as a computer or one brand is safer than another are over. Google’s Project Zero has recently posted about sustained targeted attacks against iOS devices over the past two years. A flood of 0-day iOS exploits for sale has pushed their market price below that of 0-day android exploits. A popular app on the Google Play store with over 100 million downloads contained malware that scams advertiser clicks.
Image by Thought Catalog, downloaded from Flickr/stockcatalog.

Celebrating the Software that made the Apollo 11 mission possible

Fifty years ago a crew of three astronauts rocketed out of our atmosphere with the goal of landing on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and command module pilot Michael Collins are immortalized for landing on the moon. Numerous technological advancements helped NASA achieve its mission, but the work of hundreds of thousands of engineers on the software to control the command and lunar modules was the foundation that made this fantastic adventure possible. Their 145,000 lines of code is surprisingly terse compared to modern software projects. The abort routines written by Margaret Hamilton became one of the more important sections of the code. Aldrin and Armstrong encountered the 1202 “system overloaded” error while attempting to land on the moon. This error nearly stopped their mission short, but the astronauts and command crew back on Earth trusted their software and let the on-board computer reset itself and ignore non-essential routines so all available resources could be focused on the landing.
The moon landing was as much a software engineering project as it was a rocket flight. Happy 50th anniversary to the Apollo 11 mission and everyone that helped all of mankind take that giant leap.