Week 15 – Solar (freakin’) roadways

A couple of days ago I saw a video clip on the internet about solar roadways and decided this was definitely something worth learning about!

SOLAR FREAKIN’ ROADWAYS video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU

What I discovered

Watching the Solar Freakin’ Roadways video really impressed me. I had heard of solar roads before (or at least the idea) but not in the way that Solar Roadways imagines it. Their vision is to have roadways covered with photovoltaic cells that harvest solar energy, melt snow (increasing driving safety), and contain LED lights that can be used for a number of different purposes. Further reading leads me to understand that there are still some issues associated with the Solar Roadways technology, but I am confident these technical issues can be overcome in time. And if these (or a similar product) really did take off… wow!

Action

I shared the video on my Facebook page to help spread the word about this really cool idea, and made a donation to the Solar Roadways organisation so they can continue their research and work.

Solar Freakin’ Roadways video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU

Solar Roadways website: www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml

To donate to Solar Roadways: www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways

Week 14 – Criticism of democracy

I have been interested in (some) politics for a long time, including different political theories and models of government. In the past I have casually researched different forms of government, and while I see democracy as one of the more favourable options (compared to, say, dictatorships or ogliarchies), I have always felt it was not a flawless model of government. For this week’s action I decided to read about some of the criticisms of democracy – not necessarily because I would prefer an alternative form of government, but rather so I can better understand its weaknesses and -possibly- work to reduce them (in my minor capacity as an individual).

What I discovered

I read about many, many different criticisms of and concerns with democracy. I actually found the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_democracy) to be a very well structured introduction to the criticisms of democracy.

Some of the criticisms I found most thought-provoking were:

1) That many people do not have the education and/or knowledge to make informed decisions about different political issues, and so may not vote with rationality. I agree with this, because even though I am interested in politics, different issues and current affairs, there are certain things that I just feel I am not informed enough about to make a decision.

2) That it can lead to marginalisation. Because democracy works in the favour of the majority, there are whole groups which can become marginalised: the will of the majority is not necessarily what will work best for all citizens.

3) That democracy leads to short-termism and possibly political instability. Because the government must be elected frequently to remain democratic, politicians and parties plan mainly for the short term, as a) they are unlikely to still be in charge in the long-term, and b) they need quick success to ensure re-election. This may not necessarily be most beneficial to the population in the long-term.

Action

I do feel very fortunate to live in a democratic society, and today I feel I exercised my democratic rights in a positive way: I made a submission to the Long Term Plan of the Regional Council, which looks at how our taxes will be used over the next 10 years. I am glad I partook in this because I think active engagement is very important for democracy: to me it should be more than just voting on election day and then sitting back for the next 4-5 years. I am also happy because the Regional Council is the authority concerned with environmental issues and resource management in the region, and I feel my opinions were informed and potentially useful.

Week 13 – Autism and employment (Autism Awareness Day)

The 2nd of April is Autism Awareness Day. I chose to specifically learn more about autism and employment for a couple of reasons: firstly, autistic spectrum disorders are not a completely new subject to me (I have quite a few ASD friends, and was in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome for a couple of years); and secondly, because I would like to learn how to make the workplace more supportive for someone on the autistic spectrum.

What I discovered

I learned that 80% of adults with autism are unemployed. That is huge, especially as many people on the autistic spectrum have a lot of abilities. I read about the different discrimination some people with autism face, as well as a lack of support in helping them realise their potential.

Action

I went to Autism NZ and spoke to the Outreach Coordinator (who happens to be my sister-in-law). She gave me information for employers to help support autistic employees (in case I am in a position in the future where I might employ or work alongside someone on the autistic spectrum).

I asked her whether there are any befriending programmes for neurotypical people to spend time with people with autism. She said not yet but she would look into whether this could be set up.

I also gave her information about the Achievement Trust who employs people with intellectual disabilities, as she said that might be interesting for some of her clients.