Monday, June 26, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 26

Technology, DIY survival kit
2017 Allied Media Conference

Imagine: A storm has just hit, and everyone has been evacuated to a converted, temporary emergency-storm-shelter-hurricane-evacuation-safety-zone-medical-assistance-center-soup- kitchen. Two people, one a single parent looking for their child, and another, looking for their teacup Yorkie named Madex. There is no cell service or WiFi in the building. What will they do?

…on June 17th, at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, MI, New America’s Resilient Communities team members Raul and Katherine answered this question in a workshop on how to make your own Portable Network Kit (PNK). Participants in the hands-on session played around configured a wireless router and a Raspberry Pi in order to create a local pop-up network in a pinch.

A PDF is attached at the end of the article for how to construct your own PNK.

Travel, well-being

But Scott isn’t just an active grandmother with a passport full of stamps. She’s also a participant in Northwestern University’s SuperAging study—a research project analyzing the brains of people who seem to be resistant to the detrimental memory changes all-too-often associated with aging.

As most of us age, our brains shrink, which leads to a decline in cognition (or thinking skills) the older we get. “Atrophy is thought to contribute in part to the moments of forgetfulness we experience with aging," says Emily Rogalski, Ph.D., the director of the study. SuperAgers like Scott, however, lose less brain volume—one study found that over the course of 18 months, 'normal' agers lost volume in the cortex (the brain area linked to critical thinking) twice as fast as SuperAgers. In other words, Scott’s brain is considered younger than she is, with parts of it looking similar to the brains of people in their 50s.

So, what has travel got to do with it? It depends on who you ask.

Scott will tell you that her travels keep her youthful. “I’m a curious person,” she says. “I want to be a lifelong learner, and to me, travel makes life so much more interesting.”

Politics, government, voting

The Fair Representation Act is one idea for fixing our winner-take-all system using ranked choice voting. It is a way to ensure all votes actually do count, rather than shut out the minority in a state (e.g. - Republicans in blue states or Democrats in red states) when electing our congressional representatives.

Watch the video for more information.

Environment, healing

A 2008 study found that the percent of Americans who participate in outside activities like camping, fishing, or hunting has been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the late 1980s. A survey done in the U.K. found that 70 percent of adults remembered doing most of their “adventurous play” outside, while only 29 percent of kids said the same. And, at least in 2001, when the Environmental Protection Agency did its National Human Activity Pattern Survey, adults spent 87 percent of their time indoors in buildings, and another 6 percent of their time in vehicles.

“That goes to this issue of who has access to nature, and who can gain access,” says Michael Dorsey, the senior program officer for sustainability at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “The decline is differential, based on socioeconomic differences, on race, and on class.” As more people move to urban areas, nature gets farther away. And it’s easier to get to the nature if you have the money to pay for the gas to drive there, for the park entrance fee, for camping gear. When coming up with prescriptions for nature, Dorsey says, “we also have to do that in a political economic context.”

That means making nature available for people who can’t trek to the mountains—making it part of people’s day to day lives. 

Literature, Culture

Congrats, JK Rowling! The Harry Potter book series influenced and thrilled children and adults alike and will continue to do so.

20 years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (AKA Sorcerer's Stone) was published in the UK.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary the first Potter adventure, watch the video in this post that shows how Rowling's magical writing changed the world.

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