The Right to Repair

The European Commission is presenting a set of rules that rightly applied are meant to make the movement called “the Right To Repair” come alive. As we all know there tends to be a built-in obsolescence to the electronics and other products we buy. These rules are meant to combat this by making products easier to repair. So often glue is used when screws could make the repair doable. We all have the experience of problems with printers, computers, phones, and the like and it is cheaper to buy a new one rather than have the old fixed. But so much waste is not good for the environment nor for the use of the earth’s resources. The European Commission is mainly concerned with the European Union, but manufacturers will not be making products for the EU alone, so despite Brexit  the regulations will have to also apply to products bought in the UK. Indeed the BBC reports many repair workshops springing up in several UK cities. While the repair movement may not be as visible in the US, it is gaining momentum since the same logic applies, manufacturers will not be making one product for the EU and one for the US. The regulations go further than certain guidelines for manufacturing products, they include packaging in a more environmentally friendly way and  in one that can also eliminate waste. And to all this we can all say Yeah!!

Cashmere and Climate Change

Mongolia has a problem, partly due to our increased demand for cashmere and partly due to climate change. Since it became a democracy in 1990 the number of  cashmere producing goats has soared from 9000 in 1999 to 27,000 in 2020. These goats need grazing and certain climactic conditions have affected how much land  there is to graze on to the point where 70% of the  land  is now overgrazed. The goats are taken care of by 1.2 million nomadic herders which make up 40% of the nation’s population and not only is their livelihood in danger as a result so is the economy of the country. Mongolia is the world’s second producer of  cashmere after China, representing a fifth of global supply and it is the country’s third largest export after copper and gold. Now as the world’s demand for cashmere keeps rising, climate change is accelerating the need for more land to graze on. Temperatures in Mongolia have risen 2 degrees Celsius, more than the world’s average, turning a quarter of the country’s lands into desert, obviously exacerbating the problem with  grazing .

What touches me about this story is how our actions, our needs, our preferences, have an effect on the nomadic herders of Mongolia.   You can say it’s oblique, indirect, that other  factors may be more relevant, marketing, or modern transportation systems, to name but two,  but it still comes down to our penchant for the softness of cashmere. And as I think about it, it reminds me of the interconnectedness of the human family and the oneness of humanity. I hope it will for you too.

Amsterdam’s Flower Solution

The City of Amsterdam has many canals. It also has many cyclists. It is a regular mode of transportation for many in the Netherlands, and since COVID the number of cyclists has increased. It allows people to avoid public transportation and also to feel safer than inside a car. Using some form of cycling has become so entrenched  many said they would continue it after the pandemic. The city now has more cyclists than people with something like 438 miles of cycle lanes. Those lanes are not only for bicycles but all sorts of cycles, motorized, electric, cargo and racing bikes. Before the virus lanes were already overcrowded, now it is of course worse. The problem as it is for those cities which rely on cars is parking. Lanes are often not wide enough for both parking and passage. People have been parking on the canal bridges chaining their bicycle to the fence, making it difficult for people to walk. Instead pedestrians have to walk on the street which is dangerous. It also interferes with sightseeing and with tourists since standing on the canal admiring the city becomes difficult. The answer: the city has now installed large wooden flower boxes in an effort for people not to park there. What is even more noteworthy about this story is that the flower boxes are to be tended by the homeless people who visit one of the city’s drop-in centers.

I once had a professor who was an expert on parking. His solutions, which have been adopted in several cities including Los Angeles,  revolved around charging for parking or charging  more. For those cities where charging or charging more wouldn’t have been viable, we would have found a technology oriented one. In either case Amsterdam’s answer is a reminder of how easy it is to forget simple people-based solutions—and in this case flower-based ones too.

Euthanasia for Children?

Euthanasia for children? The whole idea sounds forbidding to say the least, and probably criminal to some. But let us put aside any initial reaction. Is it forbidding because it is for children, because it is euthanasia, or perhaps because one compounds the other? We live in a country where euthanasia is not only generally illegal, in many circles it is also a big no-no. It is illegal in most of Europe too, but the Netherlands and Belgium have been trailblazers. Euthanasia has been legal there since 2002. In the Netherlands, children over 12 can request euthanasia with their parents’ consent. And parents of children under one can request it. That left children from one to 12. It’s been a contentious debate and a long one, but now the Netherlands has approved euthanasia for children one to 12.  They estimate that it will affect 5 to 10 children a year. These are children who have a terminal illness, and whose suffering is unendurable. To be honest,  I would be among those who would want to spare my child. I would hate it, would agonize about the decision, but ultimately would realize that is the best of bad alternatives. I realize that euthanasia for children adds to a core idea behind the right to die with dignity which gave rise to euthanasia and that is that children do not have the same voice about their fate—an idea which adds to the gravitas of it all. But  parents who would make a request for their child, would rarely if ever do so without much soul searching. If one accepts the premise of dying with dignity, of having a say in one’s own end, and in the fact (which to me personally is at the heart of it) that life is more than biology, then euthanasia for children seems a logical follow up for a country who has already accepted it.