The Daily Dose: Japan forges forward in CO2 fight; The adaptive approach to controlling city traffic.

Politicians in Asia are proving more responsible stewards of the Earth’s well-being than their Western counterparts. Just take a look at Japan. Per the Nippon Times, “The government launched discussions Tuesday to review current targets for Japan’s fiscal 2030 energy mix to better reflect the global trend toward reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. The update of the medium- to long-term energy plan, conducted roughly every three years, will focus on the promotion of renewable energy as the country looks to cut dependence on fossil fuels.” This comes on top of Asia’s more effective COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Perhaps, now is the time to admit that people in the East get it, especially when it comes to public health. This bodes well for the region, even in the face of a potential second wave.

A fair amount of research data has been produced that supports the thesis that socioeconomic factors play significant roles in determining a city’s climate. Moreover, inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods need to walk further in order to find green spaces and parks, in general. Now a recent study has shown that the combination of hotter local climates and distance from parks also make urban ecosystems much less diverse while also increasing pest populations. Per Science, “Sometimes, the racial makeup of a community is even better at predicting ecological outcomes, according to a review published in Science last month. The impact of racial segregation and housing discrimination on urban ecosystems in the United States has made these communities hotter and more vulnerable to pest species, such as rats. Scientists say incorporating justice, equity, and inclusion into conservation practices will improve public and environmental health.” For anyone aware of Robert Moses and his blatantly racist urban design efforts in New York, this is nothing new.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, timely testing has been a key part of the mitigation efforts. The mantra has been “Testing, testing, testing.” Unfortunately, for most Western countries, the availability and timeliness of testing has been atrocious. Having a quick test that can be performed at home could be a game-changer. According to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “A widely available, quick, and accurate home test could dramatically reduce community transmission of the virus and help identify emerging hotspots. Some companies already have tests ready for the FDA to assess for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)—a special designation for urgently needed but unapproved medical products. In August, the agency issued an EUA for a 15-minute rapid test similar to a pregnancy test, which could be administered by healthcare providers at point-of-care locations such as clinics and schools. It was a potentially important step.” We’ve got a question though. If people refuse to even wear masks, how can they be counted on to go out of their way to perform these home tests? Not likely.

If you’ve ever stood at a corner or pulled up to a crosswalk and waited for a stop light to change colors, you know the feeling that urban traffic is an unconquerable beast. For some complexity scientists, solving the congestion problems is not a problem of prediction but rather one of adaptation. Carlos Gersheson is leading the charge. According to Quanta Magazine, “By using computer simulations that specialize in adaptation and not in prediction, Gershenson uses self-organization as a tool to improve urban mobility. Although most of the transport-system solutions he has proposed to various cities have encountered political and bureaucratic obstacles, his ideas were implemented successfully in Mexico City’s metro system in 2016. Just by signaling clearly where people should wait to let passengers exit before boarding the trains, the pilot project eliminated almost all conflicts and pushing during the boarding process and reduced the time spent boarding by as much as 15%.” A pushing-and-shoving free commute sounds amazing. Where do we sign up?

Lastly but never leastly, the wonderful folks at the American Scientist have experimented making and using several types of homemade facemasks. If you’re in the market for a replacement to your old, grotty, and overused PPE, it’s worth a look.

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