Fighting Noise Pollution in Paris

Paris, it was discovered, is the noisiest city in Europe. It has 5.5 million people, while London or Berlin are much smaller,  and this contributes to the noise level having become a public health issue. It interferes with people’s sleeping and in some cases with ordinary living such as talking or listening to music. As part of combating noise pollution a special program has installed  noise radars that are capable of detecting the noise levels and identify of the vehicle it is coming from. For now the radars called “medusas” are only in the 17th and 20th arrondissements. Once the program goes into effect after 2023 each offender will be fined 135 euros, a fine automatically sent to their home. Much of the noise comes from scooters and motorcycles souped up to increase the sounds they make. It is estimated that one  of these scooters can wake up as many as 10,000 people. The efforts are a continuation of  the city fighting noise pollution. The first noise plan was in place from 2015 to 2020 and implemented measures such as sound barriers  along the peripherique, the freeway that goes around  the city or the testing of an innovative low noise asphalt. Not only are Parisians upset by the noise levels, the Word Health Organization  attributes  excessive noise, above 55 decibels, to a whole range of health issues, including cardio vascular problems. Also France’s National Noise Council  has determined that excessive noise interferes with people’s sleep and productivity and costs the nation 147 billion euros each year. Other cities and other countries are watching France’s efforts in the hope of being able to import or adapt them. Anyone living in a large urban center can certainly appreciate the need to do something, anything about noise pollution.

Vertical Agriculture

Control environment agriculture often called vertical agriculture is a form of urban farming  that takes place in warehouses, not warehouses instead of acreage and fields, but warehouses full of drawers with plants and seedlings, stacked up to 30 feet or more. It’s a great answer to the environmental concerns of traditional agriculture but it is still new and still has kinks to work out. One great advantage is that it can be located near urban hubs and cut down on transportation costs, in fact some investors insist on that. It relies on LED technology for the needed light but that can sometimes be costly and there is so far only so much LED  prices can be stretched and that may already have been reached. Some produce require more LED than others. Lettuce and herbs do well, but tomatoes require a lot more and so do strawberries. Another issue is, can what is being produced meet the increasing demand. It also requires a tech savvy workforce. And yet despite all this the field is thriving. It’s in Pennsylvania, New York, California, Georgia. What makes vertical farming great is the ability to grow food anywhere without consideration of climate. Every company has its own protocols which are well guarded  which means that certain specifics about how each goes about it  is not known.  They guard their intellectual properties,  growing system designs,  materials and structure. By 2026 vertical farming is expected to grow worldwide to $9.7 billion business from a $3.1 billion one in 2021.

Vertical farming may be a growing business, and it may attract investors, but what’s attractive is not only being its ability to grow food in urban centers outside of traditional farming but also  because it is an agricultural method that  can transcend the constraints of climate—something that looks so promising.

Help Walking Home

As is often the case a simple answer makes us go, Wow, why didn’t we think of this before. In this case it has to so with Strut Safe  a telephone service for young women walking alone at night. It was started by Alice Jackson and her friend  Rachel Chung after they had attended a vigil for a young woman killed while walking home. It is based in Edinburgh, but given  that the  dangers of young women walking alone at night applies to so many towns and cities in so many countries, the idea deserves airing. Perhaps  it will be copied and help others too. Sometimes the callers are out of breath because they have run or are scared, or even think they have heard someone following them. The trained volunteers reassure them, reminding them that they are right there with them and will be until they are safe at their destination. The callers are asked personal information, the kind that might be needed if there  was to be a problem, so that police or ambulance could find them, not only name, address and birth date but also what they are wearing so that they can be easily identified. And the calls last until callers reach  home or wherever. Right now the service which is funded through donations operates weekends only and is usually used by people walking home from a club, after having left a boyfriend, or going home from work. While the service has been publicized, most find the number through social media.

Although many young people may have cars, many don’t. Even in big cities where public transportation and services like Uber exist, services if they are in operation at night  can be very slow, pointing to the need for this idea  even if it is adapted to local conditions and local needs.

Chef Jose Andres and His Co-workers

I rarely focus on individuals doing something good because I don’t want to foster the cult of personality, but there are times when focusing on an individual is a testament to the power of the human spirit and it needs to be noted.  I had become aware of World Central Kitchen when they began in 2010 cooking meals in Haiti after the earthquake, and then in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. And one night as I was listening to BBC World Service I learned they were in Ukraine and Kyiv cooking for those who couldn’t cook for themselves, providing several thousand meals a day. The logistics to bring in what they needed were becoming very complex including the fact that not only local suppliers were not always available but also they now often had to pay cash instead of using credit cards. I went to the website and was surprised that instead of the normal hype and pabulum one tends to encounter, there seemed to be a kind of more direct and concise  statements. it says, for example ” food relief is not just a meal that keeps hunger away. It is a plate of hope. It tells you in your darkest hour that someone, somewhere cares about you.” World Central Kitchens goes in disaster areas, in war zones and other emergency food relief  such as those arising from climate  change disasters.  Like Doctors Without Borders they link humans to each other at times when despair is near and need is felt so keenly.  They are now also working in an area that can easily be forgotten, the famine in Madagascar. And as they learned in Haiti, they prepare food that is locally considered something like comfort food.  Jose Andres is the public face, and one that can attract needed donations, he’s been widely interviewed, and recently been named to replace Amos Oz on a White House task force.  But the people and volunteers who work with him cannot be forgotten. They too remind us of what human beings can accomplish and stand for.