community · culture · environment · happiness · health

Parks, bikeways, other natural playful landscapes are good for the economy

English: Ritner Creek Covered Bridge near Pede...
Ritner Creek Covered Bridge near Pedee, Oregon, used as a rest stop during the Watermelon Rides organized by the Salem Bicycle Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Friday. I hope you get a chance to go outside this weekend. Not just because it’s good for you, but because it also helps the economy. No really, at least according to one study, and anecdotally, Oregon is seeing  ahuge economic benefit by encouraging outdoor recreation, specifically bikeways and bike tourism:

During a special hearing on bicycle tourism at the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee in Salem, OR, on May 9th, representatives from Travel Oregon released a major new report on the economic impact of bicycle-related travel. The Travel Oregon study, The Economic Significance of Bicycle-Related Travel in Oregon Detailed State and Travel Region Estimates, 2012 (PDF), looked at bike tourism’s impact throughout the state during 2012. The big number — which garnered a headline in The Oregonian and has been adjusted up since our story in March — is $400 million. That’s how much people “involved in bicycle-related activities” spent in Oregon last year.

One key reason for the ascension of bike tourism in Oregon are initiatives like the nation’s first State Scenic Bikeway program.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department named two new Scenic Bikeways that same day. They’ve got the right idea about increasing revenue by making their state fun to hang out in!

You can read more about the economic impacts, but it’s so far a pretty effective strategy to promote tourism.

environment · health

Infographic: How Bikes Improve Everything!

Ok, maybe a bit of an overstatement, but I still like the infographic; sometimes it is easiest to explain really complicated, heavy issues using an image:

From Sustainable Business Oregon:

If the entire European Union boasted average cycling miles like Denmark’s the region’s emissions would drop by 25 percent. This according to the European Cycling Foundation.

But a cool infographic from a Northwest coalition of health care management advocates also points out the health benefits of bike commuting. For example: The average worker will lose 13 pounds in their first year of biking to work.

The group also posits that Portland’s investment in bike-commuting infrastructure will save the city millions in health care expenses.

Created by: Healthcare Management Degree

behavior · community · environment · Social

The new economy is local, handmade

English: Looking northeast at Zukkie's Bike Sh...
The new economy is local. Image via Wikipedia

I read a great article in Fast Company yesterday by Bruce Nussbaum, the former assistant managing editor for Business Week and a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design, about a trend that he refers to as “indie capitalism,” this idea of a homemade economy. Homemade in many ways: products made at home and sold from there, locally focused market, and driven by small, independent entrepreneurs:

You won’t learn about it in business school, hear about it from Wall Street, or see it in Palo Alto. But if you spend time in Bushwick, Brooklyn, or on Rivington Street in Manhattan, you just might detect the outlines of an emerging “indie” capitalism. This new form of capitalism is not just about conventional startups and technology and venture capitalists. If you add up all the trends under way today, I believe we are beginning to see the start of something original, and perhaps wonderful. It may prove to be the economic and social antidote to the failed financial capitalism and crony capitalism that no longer delivers economic value in terms of jobs, income, and taxes to the people of this country.

Indie capitalism is local, not global, and cares about the community and jobs and says so right up front. Good things come from and are made locally by people you can see and know. The local focus makes indie capitalism intrinsically sustainable–energy is saved as a result of a way of life, not in an effort to reach a distinct and difficult goal.

Indie capitalism is socially, not transactionally, based. It’s not just Internet social, involving 5,000 friends, but personally social. Take Kickstarter, for example, where people fund the music, books, and products that they can watch develop over time. In this model, consumer, investor, audience, fan, helper, and producer conflate. People find and prepare their food the same way they find and prepare their music. And then they share it all.

More at 4 Reasons Why The Future Of Capitalism Is Homegrown, Small Scale, And Independent

I am really excited by this idea of a locally-sourced and locally-focused economy. I think it is better for the environment, but I also think it’s better for community building and having a better sense of place, to feel connected to where you live and what you do, and enriched by it.

Please read the entire, well-written article, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

anthropology · behavior · community · creativity · environment · health

Making money off the land

A swaledale ewe on the rolling fells of the La...
You may be looking at a model of your next lawnmower. Image via Wikipedia

After the last post about dumpster diving, I thought we could focus on something a little more fresh, like growing your own food. Or your own sheep.

From renting out goats and sheep in order to naturally trim lawns and hillsides, to teaching other people how to raise chickens and bees, “urban homesteading” is becoming a way of life that is not only natural and makes people feel good, it’s also profitable.

As an uncertain economy and a stagnant hiring climate continue to freeze people out of the traditional job market, a number of entrepreneurs like Mr. Miller, many of them in their 20s and 30s, are heading back to the land, starting small agricultural businesses. And in the process, they are discovering that modern homesteading offers more rewarding work, and possibly more security, than entering the white-collar fray.

Mr. Miller, who supplements his income by working on a local farm, has resisted raising his prices because he wants his services to be available to all. And while Heritage Lawn Mowing is not yet in the black, he says he has found a better way of life.

“It’s a gateway to that whole rural dream,” he said. “And with the type of recession we’re having, there’s stability in it.”

Other yeoman start-ups are charting a more traditional path to profits.

Carrie Ferrence, 33, and Jacqueline Gjurgevich, 32, were in business school at Bainbridge Graduate Institute in Washington State when they noticed that many local neighborhoods were “food deserts,” without easy access to fresh local produce and other grocery staples.

Their answer was StockBox Grocers, a company that repurposes old shipping containers as small grocery stores. The company won $12,500 in a local business plan competition and raised more than $20,000 online in a Kickstarter campaign to finance its first store, which opened in the Delridge neighborhood of Seattle in September.

“It’s a tough job market, and you have really few instances in your life to do something that you really love,” Ms. Ferrence said. “It’s not that this is the alternative. It’s the new plan A.”

Read more: Sheep Lawn Mowers, and Other Go-Getters (New York Times)

What is it that is so appealing to this (my) generation about growing gardens, knitting, and owning a sheep-rental mowing company? Why are we so drawn to this idea of keeping bees, growing our own vegetables, and sewing our own clothes? I have some ideas, but I’d be curious to hear yours in the comments below.

behavior · community · culture · disease

Want Jobs? Build Bike Lanes | Fast Company

Traffic congestion along Highway 401
Focusing on building bicycling infrastructure turns out to be a better ROI for cities than focusing on cars. Image via Wikipedia

The Federal government, as well as places like Seattle, WA, right now are pushing for more freeways, bridges, and car-focused infrastructure, but bikes may be a better solution with a faster return on investment:

…In reality, bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects generate more than just peace of mind. They also generate 46% more jobs than car-only road projects, according to a new study.

Streetsblog points us to the University of Massachusetts study, which evaluated job opportunities created by 58 infrastructure projects in 11 U.S. states. The result: Cycling projects create a total of 11.4 local jobs for each $1 million spent. Pedestrian-only projects create a little less employment, with an average of 10 jobs for the same amount of money. Multi-use trails create 9.6 jobs per $1 million–but road-only projects generate just 7.8 jobs per $1 million.

A similar study that examined infrastructure projects in Baltimore, Maryland came up with similar results: Pedestrian and bike infrastructure projects create 11 to 14 jobs per $1 million of spending while road infrastructure initiatives create just seven jobs per $1 million of spending.

Want Jobs? Build Bike Lanes | Fast Company.

This never would have occurred to me, so I’m glad that there is somebody out there looking at some of the economic perks to encouraging bicycling. Bikes are also obviously a great investment for cities because they promote exercise, connection with one’s environment and community, and lower pollution, all lowering cost of living there.

children · education · technology

Applied anthropology and technology

I have been working on an article about activism in developing nations, namely bringing alternative energies to rural impoverished communities.

Barefoot College (see youtube video), works with women to teach them on a grassroots level how to be solar engineers and run and operate a household solar power system. The college also has a lot of other programs helping women with economic independence and with human rights

The group Portable Light just won an award for their work with the Huichol. Sheila Kennedy at MIT created portable, flexible solar panels, which the Huichol women sewed onto their bags so they had a portable power source.

A third group, Light up the World Foundation, develops and installs LED lights and solar power systems in individual households and businesses.

These are example of opportunities for any anthropologist interested in the politics and accessibility of technology, using alternative energy and skipping the whole “industrial revolution” phase while growing/developing/whatevering a nation, or mostly importantly working with different groups to help provide safe, affordable, less polluting alternatives to kerosene and wood fuel.

And of course, everyone’s heard about the One Laptop per Child initiative.

However, an interesting point to bring in: many of these types of groups come in with the idea that by providing light they are helping children receive an education (being able to study at night > children can finish homework > children receive good education). However, in many nations the rudimentary education provided to students is more detrimental than helpful. Children learn how to perform certain skills in an industrialized economy, and yet they don’t learn enough to pass their final exams, or there are no jobs for them when they graduate. During all of these years of education, they have also become isolated from their traditional ways of subsistence – farming, hunting, fishing, or whatever. They are stuck between two different economic and cultural systems and cannot function in either one.

So not only is it important to provide children with Internet access and computers and non-toxic light sources, it’s also important to make sure they are receiving an education that will serve them as adults.