green initiatives map

July 26, 2009

This map is a draft rendition of the conversation of July 23

Aging 1

Woman are Displacing Men

Two trends are converging and may wreck havoc with how we work and who we employ: the rise of women in the workplace and the disappearance of work traditionally done by men.

Let’s start with men first.  Every economy in the world (except for perhaps a handful of small ones) are run by men, for men. The traditionally “good” jobs — those that pay a decent salary and command respect — have been overwhelmingly held by men. These include farming, manufacturing, and construction jobs. Also many of the jobs that require quantitative skills – mathematics, physics, financial services, stock brokerages, engineering, and so forth have been dominated by men.

But the recession over the past 2-3 years has displaced millions of men – mostly in these kinds of jobs.  Construction work has dried up and manufacturing has been automated, shipped abroad, or just made more efficient resulting in the loss of millions of jobs. Farming is automated and the financial services industry has shed thousands.  For the first time in history there are more women working than men.

Why should this bother us?  Unemployed men have always been a problem.  Idle men turn to alcohol, violence and crime.  Russia has a chronic alcohol problem, exacerbated by unemployment.  Nazi Germany rose due in part to massive male unemployment. In the U.S. the rise in crime and alcoholism an be traced to unemployment and the consequent loss of purpose and worth.  Every politician knows that political unrest and violence are the byproducts of a weak economy.  To reduce crime and keep men employed governments have used “make-work” projects to get men back to work. The United States did this during the Depression and China is doing it now by sponsoring massive public work projects that require construction workers and laborers.

However, in the United States this time around only a small amount of stimulus money is going to construction and other male-dominated fields. A larger portion is earmarked for green energy, research, education and other areas that employ fewer men. It is very likely that the traditional male occupations will never return to anywhere near their pre-recession levels.  Manufacturing will never be a major employer again. There will be growth in quantitative work, but women are increasingly more likely to be educated and qualify for those jobs.

This means that potentially millions of men may remain unemployed and the political question of this century will be what to do with not only unemployed men, but more significantly, unemployable men. Unemployable men are those whose age, education and experience make it difficult for them to learn a new skill. Thousands of men over 40 who have worked in the auto industry their entire lives are an example.  For them to find new jobs will require them to move to a city where jobs are available, get re-educated or learn a new skill, and start at the bottom of the salary scale. It is virtually certain that only a tiny percentage will do that.

At the same time women are receiving two-thirds of all college degrees, are filling the rising number of jobs that require creative thinking, collaboration, and teamwork, and are quickly moving into positions of power and influence where they can help their fellow women.

Right-brain skills are more and more in demand. Creativity, risk taking, entepreneurism, and the ability to live with ambiguity are fast becoming skills that corporations are seeking. Richard Florida has written a book describing such people — those with a mix of creative and analytical skills — as the Creative Class. This group is rapidly growing and will, according to Florida, become the dominant economic group. Women generally excel at these skills and that puts then into a favorable position for employment opportunities.

Given this scenario, it is highly palusible that organziations will have a majority of employees who are women and that the people – men or women – who have a balance of analytical and creative skills will gain a disproportionate amount of wealth.

The challenge for society will be to find a way to navigate through this without a rise in violence, crime or disenfranchised men.

local currencies

July 14, 2009

This could get interesting, thinking about california (see whole article

A decade ago, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) created a local currency, the Buckaroo (derived from slang for the dollar, "buck", and from the University’s kangaroo mascot), with two purposes in mind: to teach students how a national currency "works", and to provide community service to the Kansas City area. Most college students today are used to community service requirements, so the second objective could have been met by requiring that each student complete five service hours for every course. With 10,000 students enrolled in three courses each, 150,000 community service hours would be performed each semester—thereby accomplishing many of the community objectives identified above. However, we decided to provide more flexibility while enhancing the educational experience, so we created the Buckaroo. We provide to each community service organization as many Buckaroos it desires, stipulating that the provider pay only 1 Buckaroo per hour of labor.

Mapping a better world

July 11, 2009

Mapping a better world

Jun 4th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Software: Interest groups around the world are using mapping tools and internet-based information sources to campaign for change
CONVINCING people about the evils of housing segregation can be tough, says Barbara Samuels, a campaigner for fair housing at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland. “People say, ‘What’s so bad about living in an all-black neighbourhood?’ ” she explains. But using a map that displays all the vacant houses in a segregated neighbourhood, how few jobs exist there and how little public transport is available, “you can show graphically how people are segregated from opportunity,” she says. “Maps help you take complex information and portray it in a clear, intuitive manner. You can show segregation in a way that talking about it doesn’t do.”

And compiling such maps is much easier than it used to be, thanks to new mapping tools and sources of information on the internet. Ms Samuels remembers, for example, the tedium of trying to draw basic data on maps by hand in the 1990s. But in 2005 she was able to use maps that displayed 14 indicators of opportunity—created for her by a mapping-technology specialist—to help win a housing-desegregation court case.

For most people it is merely a handy tool to find a nearby pizzeria or get directions to a meeting. But mapping technology has matured into a tool for social justice. Whether it is to promote health, safety, fair politics or a cleaner environment, foundations, non-profit groups and individuals around the world are finding that maps can help them make their case far more intuitively and effectively than speeches, policy papers or press releases.

“Today you are allowed to visualise data in ways you couldn’t even understand just a few years ago,” says Jeff Vining of Gartner, a consulting firm. Along with web-based resources, coalescence around more advanced tools has also helped, such as the emergence of ESRI, based in Redlands, California, as the market leader in mapping software. And the rise of open-source projects such as MapServer, PostGIS and GRASS GIS have made sophisticated mapping available to non-profit groups with limited resources.

Areas with fewer parks vs. obesityparks (lighter rather than darker green) have higher rates of childhood obesity (larger red circles)

All this has made it much easier to create maps that explain—at a glance—something that might otherwise require pages of tables or verbiage. “A percentage or a table is still abstract for people,” says Dan Newman of, a group based in Berkeley, California that charts the links between politicians and money. “With maps, you can show people how an abstract concept connects to where they live.” Wendy Brawer, founding director of, a mapping site based in New York used by people in 54 countries, says maps can make a point even if they are in a foreign language. “Maps are really helpful for that ‘Aha!’ moment,” she says.

For example, “The Grim Reaper’s Road Map: An Atlas of Mortality in Britain”, published in 2008, reveals that the places with the highest numbers of smokers also have the highest rates of death from lung cancer. No surprise there. But the collection of maps from a British publisher of public-policy books also shows that cervical cancer is more likely to strike those in the north of England, and brain cancer is more prevalent in the south of Scotland. Such revelations can lead to investigations and eventual health improvements.

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Columbus, Ohio, which created the maps used in Ms Samuel’s ACLU court case, has made “opportunity” maps of several American cities. The aim is to help people find neighbourhoods where jobs, health care, safety and public transport are in better supply—or to spur the creation of more such neighbourhoods. Rob Breymaier of, a non-profit group that encourages people to “move to opportunity”, recalls using Kirwan’s maps in Chicago in 2006 to help a family of eight. “They ended up finding a place in the north-west suburbs, which is a huge change from Chicago’s south side,” he says. The children ended up in better schools and stayed out of trouble, he says.

Others have used maps to expose violence. was launched by four technologists to map citizen reports of post-election violence in Kenya last year using Google Maps. “We’re building a platform that makes it easier to gather information around a crisis so that governments, or whoever is trying to hide the crisis, can’t do it anymore,” says Erik Hersman, Ushahidi’s operations director.

Sequences of maps can also be used to debunk misconceptions. Many in Los Angeles were pleased, for example, to learn that gun violence had decreased since the mid-1990s. But by developing a series of maps showing where shootings continued to happen, a local non-profit group called Healthy City was able to show that for some Los Angelenos, gun violence was as bad as ever.

MAPlight used a similar time-lapse approach to show the influence of money on congressional votes. Starting in January 2007, it tracked which states (those growing sugar-beets and sugar-cane, it turned out) were making the most generous political donations in the run-up to a vote in July 2007 on subsidies for the sugar industry. But once the vote was tallied and the subsidy granted, states that had appeared bright red with political contributions suddenly revert to tan, indicating an instant drop in donations. “We make visible and real something that is usually invisible and abstract,” says Mr Newman.

Changing the way American politics is funded is a tall order. But some map-based campaigns have already produced clear results. For example, the Food Trust, a campaign group based in Philadelphia, used maps as part of its fight to reduce diet-related disease and malnutrition in urban parts of America. “I remember the first supermarket-commission meeting,” says Jennifer Kozlowski, special assistant for the environment to David Paterson, the governor of New York. “Some of the maps in the report mapped obesity-related deaths and access to produce markets. It was as clear as day that something needed to be done.” In January Mr Paterson announced the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative, including $10m in grants and loans for supermarket projects in under-served communities.

Such examples underscore why campaigners are rushing to make the most of map technology. “We don’t just want to be about mapping,” says John Kim of Healthy City. “Maps don’t change the world—but people who use maps do.”