🌎 #297: Your neighborhood's about to get much cleaner

Quinn Emmett
October 28, 2022
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Welcome back, Shit Givers.

A cleaner, healthier world is within reach -- and so are apple cider doughnuts, so everybody wins.

Your favorite Action Step last week was texting/calling/donating/voting with Vote Save America. This week, we added our pals from the Environmental Voter Project to the mix. 

If you're new, welcome! Our Action Steps are usually more varied, but until November 8th, it's all hands on deck.

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CLIMATE CHANGE

Electric school buses

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The wheels on the bus go round and round and are powered by the sun

The news: 389 US school districts across 50 states, D.C., and a swath of Tribes and territories were awarded almost $1 billion this week by the Biden administration to buy almost 2500 electric school buses.

Understand it:  When it comes to multisolving, to making the 80/20 moves we need to build something new — this is a big one.

Electrifying school buses is a massive win for climate and for the health of millions of school children around the country who ride them -- including in states where every single GOP policymaker voted against them, you're welcome.

The timing couldn't be better: We've made enormous progress, but in coming years, billions of children will experience heatwaves more often, and the race is on to cool already-hot redlined neighborhoods.

Next up? Building a massively more robust, reliable, and connected grid, and training and hiring thousands -- if not millions — of workers to keep charging infrastructure up and running.

⚡️What We Can Do: The time is now. Join our friends at Pod Save America or the Environmental Voter Project  to call/text/donate and vote for people who will continue to build the foundation for a healthier world for kids everywhere

COVID

Person pouring tea

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Vaccine equity update 10-28

Our shields are down

The news: The potential for a "tripledemic" sandwich grows more likely as the flu and RSV, held in check by distancing and masks for a couple years, and COVID subvariants, held in check by basically nothing, collide. Pediatric beds are already nearly full in many cities.

Understand it: Like with COVID, and however these variants work out, it's helpful to remember that even mild flu and RSV can keep kids home from school and parents home from work, many of whom don't have paid leave or health insurance.

Or, worse: The lack of a safety net means sick kids do go to school and/or suck adults do go to work, infecting others whose immune response may not be so robust. This is not the circular economy I'm interested in.

This is the part where you ask: "Ok, but what the hell can I do about that?"

⚡️What We Can Do: If you lead or even work at a company with paid leave, message everyone right meow to stay home as much as necessary for them and their families.

If you don't — join our friends at Pod Save America or the Environmental Voter Project to call/text/donate and vote for people who actually learned something from the pandemic and will implement America's first real safety net -- for everyone.

TOOL OF THE WEEK

Refind. On occasion, when I'm not making snacks for my children, I get 10 seconds to browse through Refind. The super personalized emails (and the onboarding that gets you there) are great, but it's also an incredible tool to search and explore articles across a huge variety of different categories and tags. For a curious generalist, it's essential. Check it out.

FOOD & WATER

Oxidation ponds

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It's better than a hose?

The news: As drought increases across the world, in the places it's not actually flooding, though some places check both boxes, we need to find more and more reliable drinking water.

That's where wastewater comes in. From a New York Times article about the aquifer I drink from every single day:

"Homes and businesses in the Hampton Roads region, in the southeastern corner of (Virginia), are drawing groundwater faster than it can be replenished. The situation has gotten so bad that the earth is sinking in some places.

Officials, though, think they might have found a solution in the sewers. Every day, the region’s sanitation system takes a million gallons of treated wastewater and pumps it back into the Potomac Aquifer, a major source of drinking water for the area. And there are plans to increase that to 100 million gallons in the coming years."

Across the world, everything is coming up wastewater: 

  • Colorado granted preliminary approval to direct potable reuse
  • Construction began on a new $55 million treatment project in Buffalo, New York
  • The EU is revisiting rules on urban wastewater to improve sanitation, reduce energy use, and build a more circular water system
  • Scientists have developed an easier and cheaper way to remove antibiotics from wastewater
  • And of course: analyzing wastewater is one of the best ways to understand local viral loads

From the NYT: "One of the big advantages of wastewater...is that there’s always a reliable supply. Using it to recharge aquifers (is) a complex but effective way of accomplishing a basic goal: returning water to where it came from."

⚡️What We Can Do: 50 years after the Clean Water Act, racial disparities (surprise!) continue to plague the EPA and local water utilities. (Shakes fist) clean water is a goddamn human right.

Join our friends at Pod Save America or the Environmental Voter Project to call/text/donate and vote for people who have lived experiences that reflect reality and will fight for a better water system.

TOGETHER WITH EMERGING TECH BREW

Emerging Tech Brew

Join over 450K people who read Emerging Tech Brew - the 3-times-a-week email delivering the latest tech news impacting our future. From drones and AI to climate tech and robotics - if it affects your world, Emerging Tech Brew has got you covered.

The best part? It’s free and only takes 5 minutes to read so there’s no reason not to try it. Subscribe for free.

HEALTH & BIO

Black baby

Hanna Hill

How not to do it

The news: Maternal health hasn't really ever been America's forté. 

Mirroring the legendary Onion headline "‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens", a recent CDC report, shared by our friends at The 19th, showed that "80% of the pregnancy-related deaths that occurred between 2017 and 2019 were preventable."

The factors are numerous and unsurprising to longtime readers or people from these communities, but I gained a much better understanding of them in my conversation with Rep. Laurel Underwood.

Among those: Mental health, cardiovascular conditions, a lack of representation of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in maternal care (hi racism), short appointments, a lack of Medicaid expansion in red states, and — even in states with Medicaid — a lack of qualified staff to tend to pregnant people in the first year after giving birth.

One solution? Pass Rep Underwood's Momnibus Act. Another? Drastically more midwives and community health centers. Plus: midwives, skilled in out-of-hospital births, could be invaluable as natural disasters rise thanks to climate change (synergy!).

From The 19th: "Midwifery, a profession that was made up of predominantly Black women in the 1900s, is now overwhelmingly White at 85 percent.

As long as the workforce remains that way, said Michelle Drew, a certified nurse-midwife, historian and chair of the Caucus for Black Midwives for Reproductive Justice at the American College of Nurse-Midwives, she’s cautious about its potential impact for Black people and other people of color."

⚡️What We Can Do: Read the Momnibus Act, and then join our friends at Pod Save America or the Environmental Voter Project to call/text/donate and vote for people who understand all too well what it means to struggle for health care.

BEEP BOOP

Smiling white guy

This guy 100% sends dick pics

Swipe left on (blurred out appendage)

The news: Maybe you're among the 57% of women who feel harassed on dating apps. Or the 76% of girls aged 12-18 who've received unsolicited nudes.

Or maybe you're just a Shit Giver, or an open-source data nerd, or all of the above!

In all cases, we celebrate Bumble open-sourcing the delightfully named "Private Detector", their two-year-old machine learning framework that screens match-to-match images for...unwelcome content.

A reminder: It's not the algorithm, it's the people who write them.

And when the same group that's been doing the IRL and/or cyber-flashing writes the rules, we get what we've got.

We bring our biases to everything we do, from intentionally building highways to redline cities in the 60's to building ML tools in 2022 that deny women raises, Black people mortgages, and democracies the votes they need to, you know, keep being a democracy.

So, from Bumble: "We are extremely proud to release a version of the Private Detector™ to the wider tech community with the hope of democratizing access to our technology and to help scientists and engineers experiencing the same challenges around the world to improve their approach to online safety."

Huzzah.

⚡️What We Can Do: Bumble has contributed to a variety of state bills to ban this kind of bullshit, succeeding in places like Texas and Virginia. Use their easy tool to get your state reps on board, and then (ding ding ding) join Pod Save America or the Environmental Voter Project to call/text/donate and vote for people who 1) actually understand the internet and 2) will help build one that's safer for women, LGBTQ+, and children.

🗣 Got feedback or thoughts on this issue? Members can comment here. Not a Member yet? You're just $5 away from joining up.

10 THINGS FROM MY NOTEBOOK

  1. How TikTok could swing the election and send us to the bad place
  2. Saudia Arabia held a carbon offset auction, sure, why not
  3. YouTube will let doctors and nurses apply to be labeled as "reliable"
  4. Novartis will license their groundbreaking cancer drug to low and middle-income countries
  5. Activist investment firm Engine No. 1 had a little talk with Coca-Cola about recycling
  6. I'm excited to check out the Future Climate Venture Studio from UConn, R/GA Ventures, and CTNext, supporting innovative climate tech startups developing mitigation, adaptation, and energy solutions
  7. CATL will provide batteries to massive Vegas solar storage project
  8. England aims to be first country to defeat HIV
  9. This algorithm is probably why your rent is so damn high
  10. And finally: If Twitter dies today, these are probably the greatest tweets of all-time

Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving a shit. Have a great weekend.

-- Quinn

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