Smart Headlights

They have them in Europe and in Canada, now the United States will be able to have smart headlights too, thanks to a recent ruling by the Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—NHTSA, something I didn’t even know existed. Smart headlights are a technology which relies on sensors and LED. What they do is focus to illumine dark  and unoccupied areas and reduce intensity of illumination when there is oncoming traffic.  It all sounds so welcome, I suspect  we’ve all had the experience of being blinded by traffic from the other side or not seeing certain areas well enough. Smart headlights will prevent crashes by better illuminating pedestrians, animals, and other objects without impairing the visibility of drivers.   In 2019 research from the American Automobile Association found that the roadway illumination of the European cars with the adaptive beam headlight system—the formal name for smart headlights— increased by 86%  when compared with the usual US cars on low beams. It may not sound like a big deal but it seems to me that it will make night driving not only much safer but much easier. In my neighborhood where streets are narrower than on main thoroughfares, coming home late and looking out for people who are too busy looking at their phones while walking their dogs will soon be that much less frustrating. I don’t know how long it will take for car makers in the US to install this technology into new models, but like rear cameras they are an exciting addition.

Doughnut Economics

Doughnut Economics–Amsterdam  adopted it, now others will hopefully too. Its advocates seek to have more cities in the world also adopt it. It comes from a 2014 book of the same name by Oxford economist  Kate Raworth who describes it as an economic model for the 21st century.  The doughnut of course is used as a metaphor to better convey the idea. Here is how it works. The inner ring of the doughnut means people meet certain basic standards for a good life,  food,  clean water, health care, gender equality, housing and income of course. Also included is having a political voice. People not able to meet this minimum fall into the doughnut hole. Outside the doughnut ring  is what is called the ecological overshoot, that means anything that would harm climate, soils, oceans, pollute water, interfere with biodiversity. Two young Israelis have teamed up with the Hershel Center for sustainability to promote the idea, and are holding meetings on Zoom. They hope to introduce it to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa community and hope to  be the leaders of a pilot program there. In a post covid era, new economic models to create human prosperity are needed, and the one from Doughnut Economics, may well be an answer. It is based upon the UN sustainable development goals. It aims at not only protecting human life, but planetary life. A goal is to meet human  basic and social needs without exploiting resources or overusing them.  Kate Raworth, The author, has launched a Doughnut Economic Action Lab or DEAL, which one can watch online and have a better idea of how it would work to be a positive force.

A Nuclear War Agreement

Sometimes we get so enmeshed in the news of the moment, that important news passes us by. Five of the countries  who signed the  Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968,  the US, China, Russia, the UK and France came to an agreement.  They understand that there is no way to win a nuclear war, and further  their pledge includes that a nuclear war must never be fought. Indeed it is agreeing to the obvious. Yet because what may be obvious to the general public and what’s seen by government as in their best interest does not always coincides, it took several months to work out the agreement, often amidst difficult discussions.  And yet, regardless of whether it was agreeing to the obvious, it’s still remarkable that it was agreed upon and issued.

Given the current tensions between the US with both China and Russia, agreeing on anything is certainly noteworthy.  It’s not a panacea and  it’s not going to keep China from invading Taiwan when it wants to or Russia from going further into Ukraine, but perhaps such an agreement could be a factor to at least create a pause for everyone to think through the consequences of aggression, of how far they are willing to provoke. Of course so many nations are after nuclear weapons, and India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea to name but 4 already have them.  That’s a fact that cannot be glossed over. The danger still exists, and the agreement no matter how important it may be does not solve the problem of nuclear arms and nuclear proliferation.

 The agreement is nonetheless an accomplishment, How often in ordinary parlance do we use the phrase ”if we don’t blow ourselves up first.” But for some of us, despite the existence of weapons and of several countries having them, it would seem that when 5 major powers openly declare that nuclear war is not winnable,  we are that much safer.

Non-Citizens Voting

New York City has done something which some will consider wrong but which according to my  understanding of what’s good is a step in the right direction. It has given some 800,000 non citizens the right to vote in local elections. It only applies to green card holders and those holding work permits and the first election where it would apply is in January 2023. It goes without saying it is a debated law and some including experts say they do not know if  New York City’s city council has the right  to pass a law affecting  voting rights. Still, it remains that in a democracy people are to have a voice in their fate, and voting is how we do it. Non-citizens live in the community, and pay taxes, they are involved and it seems only fair they ought to have a voice in the affairs of their city. There’s also the issue of inclusiveness. To my understanding humanity has to learn to be increasingly inclusive as a means to reach unity millennia from now.  And this would be a small step. New York city is the largest city to pass such a law, towns in Vermont and Maryland already allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections and non-citizens can vote in school board elections in San Francisco. It’s worth noting that several other towns in Illinois, Maine and Massachusetts are planning to allow non-citizens to vote. Needless to say it is controversial and some states like Colorado and Arizona have already passed laws preventing non-citizens from voting. It will continue to be controversial and as it does it is bound to foster discussion—perhaps a discussion that will deepen our understanding of what inclusivity means. That I believe would be very helpful to better understand  how democracy works.