An opportunity to reduce confirmation bias and polarization?

I have long believed that deep data surprises can help overcome our natural tendency toward confirmation bias, that is, the selective acceptance of facts. Using an interactive data tool to explore election results in places you know — and those you do not know at all — is a wonderful way to surprise yourself.

My hope is that many, many people explore this NYT interactive map and trigger their central route to changing attitudes about what partisan labels mean as well as who, where (and perhaps why) people voted one way or the other.

New Words on the New York Times

New NYT Twitter feed image

Simple but brilliant: this Twitter feed automatically posts any word that the NY Times uses for the first time. Latest entry: kilimologist (if you click on the word, you get the context, in this case “Batki is a self-proclaimed kilimologist, an expert in old weavin…”).

Source: New New York Times.

The top 10 best solutions to global warming?

top solution solution_refrigerantmanagement

Environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken has edited a book called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, which lists and ranks “the 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world”.

Jason Kottke reports that on the website for the book you can browse the solutions in a ranked list. Here are the 10 best solutions (with the total atmospheric reduction in CO2-equivalent emissions in gigatons in parentheses):

1. Refrigerant Management (89.74)
2. Wind Turbines, Onshore (84.60)
3. Reduced Food Waste (70.53)
4. Plant-Rich Diet (66.11)
5. Tropical Forests (61.23)
6. Educating Girls (59.60)
7. Family Planning (59.60)
8. Solar Farms (36.90)
9. Silvopasture (31.19)
10. Rooftop Solar (24.60)

Refrigerant management is about replacing hydro-fluorocarbon coolants with alternatives because HFCs have “1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide”. As a planet, we should be hitting those top 10 solutions hard, particularly when it comes to food. If you look at the top 30 items on the list, 40% of them are related to food.

Pat’s notes:

  • I have italicized 6 out of the top 10 solutions that to me seem most relevant for Vermont.
  • If you drill down, there is a wealth of data for each solution, with source references, on the Drawdown website. Well worth spending some time there.

Helping Farmers Establish Roots in Local Schools and Institutions

The UVM Food Feed aims to spread the information about what it takes to support sustainable food systems. One key message to get out is the basic economics of farming. Here’s a recent example:

For farmers everywhere, there are a million things to worry about on any given day—weather, pests, soil, the sheer amount of work that needs to be done—to name only a few. However, for many farmers, added on top of this laundry list of tasks is finding a market to get the products they’re growing into the hands they have grown it for. “It’s easy to grow the stuff, the hard part is figuring out the outlet […],” says Molly Willard of Willow Brook Farm in Peacham.

By Shane Rogers Green Mountain Farm to School

Source: Helping Farmers Establish Roots in Local Schools and Institutions

Vertical farms: Growing more food where people live

Vertical farming. It just makes sense to me.


BetterLife Growers will use ‘tower gardens’ like these to grow lettuce and herbs in Atlanta. PHOTO: SCISSORTAIL FARMS


The world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, 33% more people than are on the planet today, according to projections from the United Nations. About two-thirds of them are expected to live in cities, continuing a migration that has been under way around the world for years.

That’s a lot of mouths to feed, particularly in urban areas. Getting food to people who live far from farms—sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away—is costly and strains natural resources. And heavy rains, droughts and other extreme weather events can threaten supplies.

That’s how Betsy McKay of the Wall Street Journal summarized the case for urban commercial farms.

While there are questions about the business model and sustainability of early pioneers in the niche, to my mind, there is no question we simply must figure out a way to make the numbers work.

In addition to the food-energy-dollar factors, I’m hoping someone explores the opportunities for education and workforce development as well.

Vertical “factory farms” in warehouses may not have the visual appeal of Vermont’s rural working landscape, but from my albeit limited experience, the kale tastes just as good.

~ Pat

Source: A Farm Grows in the City, by Betsy McKay, Wall Street Journal