Tenday Notes 21 May - 31 May 2022

Tenday Notes 21 May - 31 May 2022

Every ten days or so, I share a quick digest of what I've been working on and reading. Here's the latest. More in the series here.

Let's start this week with a little question. What percentage of new car sales, globally, do you think are SUVs? Ponder it for a moment, write down what you think, and then find the actual answer at the bottom.

I love underwater habitats. I've always been attracted to their retro-futurist aesthetic, even though I know that they're deeply impractical. Honestly, I think I'd rather see underwater cities than space stations.

So I was pretty excited to learn about Nemo's Garden - a collection of underwater biodomes off the coast of Italy, growing herbs, strawberries, mushrooms and more.

This underwater farm in Italy looks like something from a sci-fi film
The subsea greenhouse offers a unique solution to growing food in places where conventional agriculture isn’t possible.

The various news articles about it paper over the difficulties - notably that down there it's much harder to access the main things plants need light, soil and freshwater. But I did some digging, and I think I've found answers to most of it.

Light is dealt with through LED lamps, with electricity presumably supplied by a cable to the shore (though that's not mentioned). Freshwater is claimed to arrive through evaporation/condensation processes, though I'm not quite sure that adds up either, given how much will leave inside the produce. Finally, soil is dispensed with through hydroponics (requiring more water).

The pros - a consistent temperature, protection from pests, some vague handwaving about the taste being more intense - seem far from outweighing the cons. In fact, I can't see any benefits of growing underwater that wouldn't be handled by growing in a semi-sealed biodome on land, or even on a raft on top of the water. Quite honestly, it feels like a bit of an ego project than anything else. I mean just check out this official promo photo of the creator. Some strong Blue Steel going on there.

Yet despite its impracticality, I can't quite bring myself to write it off entirely because underwater habitats and biodomes and such are just so damn fun.

A nice exploration of what a world without flying might look like, with some quotes from my boss Leo Murray.

"I think airships would probably compare favourably with ships," says Murray. "And probably passengers would prefer airships, because you get seasick on the ocean." They could be especially useful for passenger transport to island nations, behind deserts, or across mountain ranges, he adds.
What would a flying-free world look like?
Aeroplanes are incredibly polluting, but could we ever live completely without them?

A few issues back I linked to a game by the Financial Times where you try to reach net zero emissions without getting voted out of office. It's short and simple, and surprisingly fun, though it definitely shares the ideology of its creators.

If you liked that, but want to see another perspective, you might like Half Earth Socialism - a game created by the writers of a new book with the same name. It's more complex, harder, and gives you many many more policy options, including worldwide socialist planning (not an option offered by the FT). I have not yet managed to succeed in it!

Half-Earth Socialism: The Game
Play as a planetary planner and decide what we should do about the climate, biodiversity, and human welfare. Can you bring the world safely to a better place?

For a good year or so, YouTube has been recommending a conference talk to me called The Art of Code, by Dylan Beattie. I finally got around to watching it and gosh, it's a masterpiece.

It's a clear and entertaining explanation, accessibile to both specialists and non-specialists, of so many fun things that code can do, including a version of Conway's Game of Life running in Game of Life, the best explanation I've ever seen of what the Mandelbrot set actually shows, and a coding language written in the vocabulary of 80s power ballads. It's an hour long, but it feels like 20 minutes. Highly recommended.

The new Mogwai song is very good, isn't it?

Finally, let's answer the question I posed at the start. The International Energy Agency reports that 45% of new car sales globally are SUVs. FORTY FIVE PERCENT! If SUVs were a country, they'd be the seventh biggest CO2 emitter in the world.

Global SUV sales set another record in 2021, setting back efforts to reduce emissions – Analysis - IEA
Global SUV sales set another record in 2021, setting back efforts to reduce emissions - A commentary by Laura Cozzi, Apostolos Petropoulos

If you'd like to make life for SUV owners in your neighbourhood a little more difficult, here's a handy guide from *checks notes* the Avon and Somerset Police.

If you're not so into direct action, then Today Do This might be worth a look instead. It's a newsletter that takes one major headline each week and gives you one simple, practical thing you can do about it to make the world a better place.

Subscribe to the newsletter — Today Do This
Subscribe to our ‘do-something-about-the-news letter’ - a free email newsletter from Today Do This. Once a week, one news story, one thing you can do about it.

That's it for today. See you again in ten days.