During the COVID-19 pandemic, 2.6 billion people were under a mandate to stay at home. According to psychologist Elke Van Hoof of Free University of Brussels-VUB, [the lockdown] "is arguably the largest psychological experiment ever conducted." What impact will COVID-19 have on the planet's mental health? The scientific study of psychological resilience is not a new field. But COVID-19 is fairly unique in the range of stressors it triggers, from the death of loved ones to isolation, devastating financial loss, and uncertainty about what comes next. Meanwhile, we actually aren't all "in the same boat." In Scientific American, Lydia Denworth surveys the real-time research on what we can learn from all this about resilience and how to increase it for the next time. From Scientific American:
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Individual resilience is further complicated by the fact that this pandemic has not affected each person in the same way. For all that is shared--the coronavirus has struck every level of society and left few lives unchanged--there has been tremendous variation in the disruption and devastation experienced. Consider Brooklyn, just one borough in hard-hit New York City. Residents who started the year living or working within a few miles of one another have very different stories of illness, loss and navigating the challenges of social distancing. How quickly and how well individuals, businesses and organizations recover will depend on the jobs, insurance and health they had when this started, on whether they have endured hassle or heartbreak, and on whether they can tap financial resources and social support.
Yesterday, I saw a demo of the Homebiogas bioreactor: it's essentially an artificial stomach that uses colonies of microbes to digest your home food waste (it can do poop, too, but people tend to be squeamish about this), providing enough clean-burning biogas to cook your next meal, heat your house, or run a generator -- what's left behind is excellent fertilizer.
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There are tons of houses worldwide in coastal areas, and as climate change proceeds, they'll see more and more flooding. Those owners can't all afford to move.
So the Buoyant Foundation Project is developing an ingenious adaptation concept: Instal floaty material to underside of the house, so when floods arrive the house rides up above the waves -- settling back down when the water recedes.
It's super clever resilience engineering, retrofits existing buildings (instead of requiring new construction), and is relatively cheap to boot. The New Yorker's web site reports:
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A typical New Orleans shotgun house sits slightly above the ground, resting atop short piers; the researchers could, they thought, fasten a steel frame to the underside of a house and affix a set of foam buoyancy blocks. Then they could sink posts into the ground and attach them to the corners of the frame, allowing the house to rise up off the piers without floating down the street.
English and her students built a full-scale prototype of the system, and in the summer of 2007 they put it to the test. They borrowed some corral panels from the College of Agriculture and built a temporary flood tank around their model amphibious home, pumping in water straight from the Mississippi River. The tank filled with two, three, four feet of water, and the house began to rise. By the time they stopped pumping, it was hovering about a foot above the piers. “It was a religious experience when it lifted off,” English recalled.
Joi Ito's Resisting Reduction manifesto rejects the idea of reducing the world to a series of computable relationships that will eventually be overtaken by our ability to manipulate them with computers ("the Singularity") and instead to view the world as full of irreducible complexities and "to design systems that participate as responsible, aware and robust elements of even more complex systems."
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In this Atlantic video, organizational psychologist and dad of three Adam Grant shares why helicopter parenting isn't helping our kids in the long run (duh) and shares advice on raising more resilient kids. I think his advice is spot-on, even if you aren't a parent. It's a good reminder of how we all can weather life's setbacks and "bounce back" stronger.
Related: Late last year, Grant gave a TED Talk that asked the question, "Are you a Giver or a Taker?" that's really worth a watch. It inspired me to read his 2013 book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, which validated my lifelong love of being a "giver." Read the rest
Alex Steffen writes, "Our culture is full of dire predictions, disaster scenarios and post-apocalyptic tales. It’s astonishing, though, how few stories we tell about futures where humanity succeeds.
That’s a problem. I believe it’s literally true that we can’t build what we can’t imagine. The fact that we haven’t compellingly imagined a thriving, dynamic, sustainable world is a major reason we don’t already live in one." Read the rest
My new Locus Magazine column, Wicked Problems: Resilience Through Sensing, proposes a solution the urgent problem we have today of people doing bad stuff with computers. Where once "bad stuff with computers" meant "hacking your server," now it could potentially mean "blocking air-traffic control transmissions" or "programming your self-driving car to kill you." Read the rest
For several years, I've conducted an annual Skype session with the students at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, who read my novel Little Brother as a jumping-off point for a wide-ranging, critical discussion of the Internet and politics. Arapahoe has been much in the news lately, for sad reasons: a student brought a gun to school, shot and wounded two of his fellow students, and then killed himself. Kristin Leclaire teaches Language Arts at Arapahoe, who was living in New York on September 11th, 2001, and she has written a sad, smart, important essay on her experience, called Scar Tissue . My thoughts are with my friends at Arapahoe. Read the rest
Becky Stern writes, "Last year Hurricane Sandy knocked out a large portion of the power grid in New York City, and I was able to stay online thanks to this rig my friend Hackett made-- it's a deep cycle battery, inverter, and stationary bike trainer with a permanent magnet DC motor and charging circuit. To deal with the lingering trauma of a very real natural disaster, we made a video detailing how it works."
Hackett's Bike Generator
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John Robb wants us to stop landscaping our lawns, and start foodscaping them -- growing food for our families. And he thinks the way to jumpstart it is for farmers to make house-calls. I love this idea, but don't think I could participate in it: when we applied to Hackney Council in London for permission to add a greenhouse frame to our balcony they rejected it because it would "interrupt the vertical rhythm" of our building. As far as I can tell, "vertical rhythm" is an imaginary aesthetic quality that is more important than real food.
Of course, since most people in the developed world don’t know how to grow food anymore and many of the methods and tools used to grow high quality food are still being developed, we are going to need to some help.
One great way to do that is to join a local foodscaping program.
This type of program is like a food subscription at a CSA. However, in this program, the farmer comes to you. He/she converts your yard into a high performance garden and teaches you how to garden it successfully.
I think that if we are smart, we’ll be spending more money on foodscaping in ten years than landscaping. If so, good food will be available everywhere.
What if Farmers made House Calls? Read the rest
This comprehensive, user friendly video shows you how to assemble the Powercube; Open Source Ecology's modular power unit.
This comprehensive, user friendly video shows you how to assembly the Liberator CEB Press; the worlds first open source, automated compressed earth brick making machine.