Cities worldwide aren’t preparing for climate change quickly enough, and it’s putting millions of people at risk

New York City
Coastal cities like New York could be threatened by floods and rising sea levels.

  • Urban issues expert John Rennie Short says cities aren’t prepared for how quickly climate change is accelerating.
  • Depending on their location, cities may experience water shortages, severe drought, heavier storm seasons, and flooding.
  • Cities in temperate latitudes need to be ready for more heat waves and shorter cold seasons, Short says.

Climate change is magnifying threats such as flooding, wildfires, tropical storms, and drought. In 2020 the US experienced a record-breaking 22 weather and climate disasters that each caused at least US $1 billion in damage. So far in 2021, the count stands at 18.

I study urban issues and have analyzed cities’ relationship with nature for many years. As I see it, cities are quickly becoming more vulnerable to extreme weather events and permanent shifts in their climate zones.

I am concerned that the pace of climate change is accelerating much more rapidly than urban areas are taking steps to adapt to it. In 1950, only 30% of the world’s population lived in urban areas; Today that figure is 56%, and it is projected to rise to 68% by 2050. Failure to adapt urban areas to climate change will put millions of people at risk.

Extreme weather and long-term climate zone shifts

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows in its latest report, released in August 2021, global climate change is widespread, rapid, and accelerating. For cities in temperate latitudes, this means more heat waves and shorter cold seasons. In subtropical and tropical latitudes, it means wetter rainy seasons and hotter dry seasons. Most coastal cities will be threatened by sea level rise.

Around the globe, cities will face a much higher probability of extreme weather events. Depending on their locations, these will include heavier snowfalls, more severe drought, water shortages, punishing heat waves, greater flooding, more wildfires, bigger storms, and longer storm seasons. The heaviest costs will be borne by their most vulnerable residents: the old, the poor, and others who lack wealth and political connections to protect themselves.

Extreme weather isn’t the only concern. A 2019 study of 520 cities around the world projected that even if nations limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial conditions, climate zones will shift hundreds of miles northward by 2050 worldwide. This would cause 77% of the cities in the study to experience a major change in their year-round climate regimes.

For example, the study authors predicted that by midcentury, London’s climate will resemble that of modern-day Barcelona, and Seattle’s will be like current conditions in San Francisco. In short, in less than 30 years, three out of every four major cities in the world will have a completely different climate from the one for which its urban form and infrastructure were designed.

A similar study of climate change impacts on more than 570 European cities predicted that they will face an entirely new climate regime within 30 years – one characterized by more heat waves and droughts, and increased risk of flooding.

Mitigating climate change

Cities’ responses to climate change fall into two broad categories: mitigating (reducing) emissions that drive climate change, and adapting to effects that can’t be averted.

Cities produce more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from heating and cooling buildings and powering cars, trucks and other vehicles. Urbanization also makes people more vulnerable to climate change impacts.

For example, as cities expand, people clear vegetation, which can increase the risk of flooding and sea level rise. They also create impermeable surfaces that don’t absorb water, such as roads and buildings.

This contributes to flooding risks and produces urban heat islands – zones where temperatures are hotter than in outlying areas. A recent study found that the urban heat island in Jakarta, Indonesia, expanded in recent years as more land was developed for housing, businesses, industry and warehouses.

But cities are also important sources of innovation. For example, the inaugural Oberlander Prize for landscape architecture was awarded on Oct. 14, 2021, to US landscape architect Julie Bargemen for re-imagining polluted and neglected urban sites. And the prestigious Pritzker Architectural Prize went this year to French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillipe Vassal for creating resilient buildings by transforming existing structures instead of demolishing them to make room for new construction.

Just 25 of the world’s cities account for 52% of total urban greenhouse gas emissions. This means that focusing on these cities can make a huge difference to the arc of long-term warming.

Cities worldwide are pursuing a rich variety of mitigation measures, such as electrifying mass transit, cooling with green buildings and introducing low-carbon building codes. I see these steps as a source of hope in the medium to long term.

Adaptating too slowly

In contrast, adaptation in the shorter term is moving much more sluggishly. This isn’t to say that nothing is happening. For example, Chicago is developing policies that anticipate a hotter and wetter climate. They include repaving streets with permeable materials that allow water to filter through to the underlying soil, planting trees to absorb air pollutants and stormwater runoff, and providing tax incentives to install green roofs as cooling features on office buildings. Similar plans are moving forward in cities around the world.

But reshaping cities in a timely manner can be extremely expensive. In response to levee failures that inundated New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the US government spent more than $14 billion to build an improved flood control system for the city, which was completed in 2018. But many other cities around the world face similar threats, and few of them – especially in developing countries – can afford such an ambitious program.

Time is also a critical resource as the pace of climate change accelerates. In the European Union, about 75% of buildings are not energy efficient. A 2020 report from the European Commission predicted that it would take 50 years to make those buildings more sustainable and resilient to shifting climate conditions.

At best, urban infrastructures that were built for previous climate regimes and less extreme weather events can only be changed at a rate of about 3% per year. At that rate, which would be difficult even for the wealthiest cities in the world to maintain, it will take decades to make cities more sustainable and resilient. And the most vulnerable city dwellers live in fast-growing cities in the developing world, such as Dhaka, Bangladesh, Lagos, Nigeria, and Manila, Philipines, where local governments rarely have enough resources to make the expensive changes that are needed.

Remaking cities worldwide quickly enough to deal with more extreme weather events and new climate regimes requires massive investments in new ideas, practices, and skills. I see this challenge as an ecological crisis, but also as an economic opportunity – and a chance to make cities more equitable for the 21st century and beyond.

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This new dating and friendship app wants to help Asians and Pacific Islanders ‘find community and belonging’

Screenshots of profiles and chats from the Alike dating app.
  • Alike is a new dating and friendship app for the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
  • The app was created by Hanmin Yang, a Korean-Canadian entrepreneur living in Toronto.
  • With Alike, Yang wants to “celebrate the Asian experience” by creating connections and a sense of community.

Hanmin Yang, a Korean-Canadian entrepreneur living in Toronto, experienced a lot of racism as a kid growing up in Canada. Without many childhood friends, he spent a lot of time consuming popular films and TV, and he internalized racism because of how Asians were portrayed.

Decades later, following a divorce and multiple career pivots, he got the idea to create an app where users could connect and heal from past racial traumas together.

That led to Alike, a dating and friendship app for the Asian and Pacific Islander community that recently launched in Canada and the US. The video-based platform aims to “celebrate the Asian experience” by fostering meaningful connections between its users to build a sense of community, according to its website.

Alike founder Hanmin Yang.

Yang started developing Alike in 2019 as a dating app meant to be a safe space for Asian and Pacific Islanders. In his research, Yang saw an app targeting East Asians that deeply disturbed him.

“It was so disgusting for the female Asian fetish,” Yang said. “For one example, the women used the app for free, but the men would pay.”

He wanted to create an app that fights the hypersexualization of Asian women and the emasculation of Asian men, both phenomena rooted in historical xenophobic propaganda, anti-immigration sentiment, and depictions by old Hollywood films – phenomena still reinforced today by our current TV shows and movies.

At the same time, Yang said Alike is meant to be complementary to the mainstream dating apps we all know.

“We’re not saying only date other Asians,” Yang said. “Users typically are using three to four dating apps simultaneously, so we’re just providing another option.”

Preferences can be for dating can be set for seeking a man, woman, or nonbinary person in any combo. When female users began requesting a feature for making friends, Yang expanded Alike, and only users of the same gender can connect with one another in the friendship feature of Alike so it’s not abused.

Alike reinforces finding meaningful connections by designing a few things differently than mainstream apps.

A profile on dating and friendship app Alike.

Instead of written bios, the app requires at least one video recording to be uploaded. Using prompts like “I knew when I was Asian when…” or “My love languages are…”, the video clips allow users to get a first impression of the other person by seeing and hearing them talk, which several users told Insider they loved.

One user in Brooklyn told Insider the video portion “offers something new and acts as a gate to keep out people who aren’t willing to put in effort,” while another user said it “gives further legitimacy to profiles here.”

While people of non-Asian Pacific Islander descent can join the app, there’s an option to match with everyone or only users of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, making it easier to navigate the vast spectrum of diversity within the group. Any users who join who aren’t of Asian Pacific Islander descent are expected to be respectful of the community.

To “like” a user, you have to attach a message in response to a video or photo in that person’s profile, initiating a conversation.

A chat on dating and friendship app Alike.

There’s also no classic dating app swipe feature.

“I didn’t want the simplified approach where it’s designed to swipe through based all on how someone looks,” Yang said. “This forces you to watch their videos and get a good sense of whether this is someone you’d actually like to connect to.”

Many early users told Insider it has been easy to find commonalities with matches on Alike.

Abigail Asuncion, an Alike friendship user in Toronto, said she connected to other users about common interests that were brought up from the video prompts, like gaming and food.

“I connected to one girl about ‘Vita Lemon Drink,'” Asuncion said. “Growing up, only Asians know and have had this drink because it’s typically sold in Asian grocery stores. It was one of the pictures on her profile and right away we clicked!”

A profile on dating and friendship app Alike.

One user, who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania, appreciates how the design of Alike does some of the groundwork in finding connections through prompts.

“A lot of responses are similar to how I feel about topics, and it makes me feel less isolated,” they said. “Especially as someone who grew up in an area without many Asians to interact with, it’s nice to see that some of the quirks I have aren’t unique to me.”

A new user said he looks forward to how Alike may be different from other apps.

“I appreciate that [Alike] provides preferences to Asians as a filtering method,” he said. “For me it’s a big plus, but by no means a necessity. It helps if a potential match can resonate with you culturally to some degree or at least can empathize with how that culture shapes and affects your relationship dynamics.”

Jude Santos, based in southern California, was a beta user who started using Alike for dating. Most of the people he connected with were far away, so he’s preferred to make friends for now, but remains optimistic about Alike.

“Unlike other apps, I know with Alike there’s [an element of] shared experience, knowing my potential partner is of Asian descent,” Santos said.

Dating and friendship app Alike.

Yang hopes users on Alike find a stronger sense of belonging and become more open after sharing life experiences. This may be especially timely as Alike’s launch is in the midst of a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, too reminiscent of the hate and Islamophobia that South Asians had to endure 20 years ago post-9/11.

Alike was started pre-pandemic, so Yang said its development was not influenced by it directly. But he has noticed the community becoming more aware of an undercurrent of anti-Asian racism, more interested in their heritage, and taking notice of Alike’s mission.

“What I really want users to take away from their experience is finding self-love in the process of connecting with others,” Yang said. “We’re trying to heal our community and through loving yourself you can find healing,”

Right now, healing and finding a way to move forward as a community may be more important than ever.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’ve worked at Ikea for 5 years, and customers have gotten so bad that I can’t look at them the same anymore

Ikea customers push carts teeming with Ikea products.
Ikea customers push carts teeming with Ikea products.

  • Insider spoke with a longtime Ikea employee in Florida about working in retail.
  • They said they think the relationship between customers and customer-service workers is broken.
  • This is their story, as told to freelance writer Elle Hardy.

Insider spoke with a Florida Ikea employee about working in retail. Their employment has been verified by Insider. This is their story, as told to freelance writer Elle Hardy.

I’ve been working at an Ikea in Florida for more than five years, and feel that the relationship between customers and customer-service workers has been completely broken. I don’t see how it can go back.

Maybe it’s just people desperate to get their products. When things aren’t in stock and people are mad, they’re taking it out on us because they see us as something lower than they are.

Right now, the supply-chain blockage is a real struggle. Some customers are understanding, but the ones who aren’t stand out. I recently had someone come through who said the reason we didn’t have anything in stock was because our company is socialist. Another customer told me that we weren’t paying attention to our stock levels, so it’s our fault.

I’m worried that customers don’t seem to be grasping that it’s not going to get better. They’re still coming in asking when things will be back in stock. At times, we’ve heard through the grapevine that it could be up to six months before we have certain items.

These issues have been slowly building since we first reopened after lockdown. Our stock was selling faster than anticipated, then eventually, the supply-chain issues took hold and we never completely caught up.

I think that people get spoiled by the culture of instant gratification. To have to tell them that the item they want might not be there for two weeks – it’s something that, in modern times, was unheard of until recently, and customers keep taking it out on us.

Mask mandates earlier in the pandemic didn’t help either. Most of the employees are still wearing masks and taking a step back from people who get right up in your face. For that, we get snide comments and rudeness from some customers.

One customer started on me about how mask mandates are discrimination. They said: “How would you like it if I discriminated against you because of how you looked?”

Honestly, after that, the staff as a whole had an unspoken agreement that we weren’t going to press customers to wear masks anymore. It just wasn’t worth it.

You can spend your whole day fighting with customers if you really want to, or you can just get on with your work and let it go.

For me, I think that was the moment when I first started thinking that the relationship between customers and service workers was broken. We were asking our customers to do one little thing for our safety, and they didn’t just ignore it – it seemed as though they felt like they had to fight with us about it every day.

I’m kind of done with all of them. I can’t even look at people the same way anymore.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I travel the world for free as a wedding planner for the rich and famous. This is what my job is like.

Alison Laesser-Keck
Alison Laesser-Keck is an ultra-luxury wedding planner based in California.

  • Alison Laesser-Keck is the founder of Alison Bryan Destinations, a high-end wedding planning company.
  • She’s planned ultra-luxury weddings around the world for millionaires, billionaires, and celebrities.
  • This is what her job is like, as told to Insider’s Heather Schlitz.

Alison Laesser-Keck is the founder of Alison Bryan Destinations, a high-end wedding planning company. This is what her job is like, as told to Insider’s Heather Schlitz.

I was working in four- or five-star restaurants for years before I started my own wedding-planning company. My husband, Bryan Keck, said it sounded like a terrible idea, but I did it anyway.

I started by placing an ad on Craigslist and immediately booked a wedding at a huge estate with 100 people. I still don’t know how it happened. Bryan worked at a bar, and would tell the important people coming in: “My wife is an event planner.” It wasn’t long before I started getting very high-end Sweet 16 parties. It was word of mouth from the very beginning.

By year two, it was chaotic. I would sleep with my phone next to the bed and check it throughout the night. It was the next level of workaholism, but I felt so deeply about this passion.

Bryan joined the company, and it became our mutual shared passion; it’s the most important thing in our lives outside of family and friends. It requires dedication to the point that our dreams of owning an event company and traveling the world have become bigger than our dreams of having children.

We didn’t want to work in an office and do weddings in the local Four Seasons – that was our worst nightmare

wedding
A wedding in Ventana Big Sur planned by Laesser-Keck.

We’re a destination-wedding company, so we work all over the world. Our favorite part of the job is it’s not just a wedding. We’re creating once-in-a-lifetime, luxury-travel experiences where you can go somewhere cool and bring everyone you love.

It’s so rare to have everyone you love in one space. We work hard to do that moment justice.

After more than 10 years, we’re primarily working with millionaires and billionaires. Some clients are definitely household names, but most are in finance or the business world.

There are clients who will spend millions on their weddings because they really don’t have a budget. At our weddings, we’ve had celebrity entertainers like Miguel, Janelle Monáe, or Solange’s DJ perform. We’ve had a 26-page custom cocktail menu, boat tours through a slot canyon in Utah, and Michelin-starred chefs.

People always think luxury means more things. It doesn’t. For us, it’s about quality and really honing in on the details that make it special.

Clients are sheltered from all the stress and hustle

wedding venue
A wedding at Korakia in Palm Springs.

My husband and I have a very mobile existence. Venues and hotels around the world host us for free because they want us to experience the property. We haven’t had to pay for travel in years. Before the pandemic, we had 56 flights.

Wedding planning just requires such a high degree of detail and organization. If you imagine a big puzzle, you’ve got 30,000 pieces, and they have to click together just right while also being on budget, on time, beautiful, and easy.

There are many times at the heart of wedding season – April to November – when I work from 7 a.m to 11 p.m. When we have weddings constantly, I grab my phone and respond to emails from the moment I wake up. A lot of clients are from New York City, and at 6 a.m. Pacific Time, I already have a large amount of emails.

We’re managing everything for clients – we’re finding and booking venues, sourcing welcome bags, creating floral and lighting design, booking rentals, deciding who walks down aisle when, helping with seating, overseeing design of print material, and plenty of other things. We want our clients to go into guest mode when the wedding happens.

On the night of a wedding, we typically get home at 1 a.m. after about a week of making welcome bags and setting up the venue. On the day of, the team has breakfast together at 7 a.m. before we rush out to the venue.

On the day of a wedding, I run on adrenaline alone

wedding
A Utah wedding planned by Laesser-Keck.

On wedding days, I’m constantly running around with my finger pointed.

We always say we’re going to eat lunch, but we never do because there’s no time. By the time the event starts, we’ve already had an eight- or nine-hour day.

We manage everything, like making sure the band is fed and the design is coming together aesthetically. We hold down silly things, like making sure caterers don’t put butter on tables before we photograph them and making sure no one moves the chairs that we spent two hours straightening.

That stuff is the difference between a well-produced wedding or not. Clients aren’t spending six or seven figures on a wedding to not have linens tucked.

But at the end of the night, I’m on top of the world knowing that we gave our clients something so special. A lot of it is one to three years in the making, and it truly is something they’ll never experience again.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Driving the 2022 Nissan Leaf, the cheapest EV you can buy in the US

The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.

  • I drove the 2022 Nissan Leaf, the cheapest EV you can buy in the US.
  • The latest Leaf starts at $27,400. The one I drove came out to a bit over $39,000.
  • The 2022 Leaf is accessible, practical, and nice to drive, but other EVs have more range.

When Nissan first launched the Leaf hatchback in late 2010, electric cars weren’t really a thing.

Tesla had been selling its first model, the Roadster, for a couple of years. But it didn’t sell very many of them, and they were for rich people. If you were one of the few buyers who wanted a practical, economical, fully-electric ride in those early days, the Leaf was your best bet.

More than a decade later, the electric-vehicle landscape couldn’t be more different.

Tesla is the most valuable car company on Earth. The Hummer nameplate, which shut down mere months before the Leaf arrived, is being reborn under GMC with electric motors in place of a roaring engine. More battery-powered SUVs and pickups are on the horizon than I care to count.

Through all that change, the Leaf is still kicking. Moreover, a recent price cut to $27,400 makes the 2022 Leaf the lowest-priced EV you can buy new in the US. That drops to just under $20,000 if you redeem the full federal tax credit for plug-in purchases.

But can one of the OG EVs still deliver value in 2021, even at a budget price point?

A week with the 2022 Leaf told me the answer is: definitely, so long as you can look past the hatchback’s so-so range in certain trims, less common fast-charging plug, and analog interior relative to some of its newer rivals.

A solid EV at a bargain base price

Although I did test the cheapest EV you can buy in the US, the 2022 Leaf, I, unfortunately, didn’t get to drive the cheapest version of the Leaf. Nissan would only loan out an upper-trim SL Plus model, which came out to $39,255, destination fees included. Still, the core of what the Leaf offers is shared across the lineup.

The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.

The 2022 Leaf comes in five trims and offers two battery sizes. The key difference between normal and Plus models is that the latter come with the bigger battery pack, which translates to more power and longer range.

Here’s how the trims break down by retail price and EPA range:

  • Leaf S ($27,400): 149 miles
  • Leaf SV ($28,800): 149 miles
  • Leaf S Plus ($32,400): 226 miles
  • Leaf SV Plus ($35,400): 215 miles
  • Leaf SL Plus ($37,400): 215 miles

What stands out: EV practicality that won’t break the bank

The Leaf I tested was perfectly pleasant to drive and delivered lots of the pros you’d expect from any EV.

Without a rumbly gas engine up front, the Leaf was quiet. Although it didn’t deliver nearly the kind of lose-your-lunch acceleration you get in some higher-priced EVs, the Leaf was noticeably agile from a stop. Darting through city traffic or making short-notice highway merges was no problem, and the Leaf smoothly and eagerly got up to speed, which you can’t say of every gas-powered economy car.

The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.

Like most EVs, the Leaf offers one-pedal driving, which makes driving incrementally more convenient while boosting range. Switch on the e-Pedal function, and the Leaf doesn’t coast when you take your foot off of the accelerator. Instead, the motor starts slowing down to a stop while feeding that captured braking energy back into the battery pack. Once you master the timing, you practically never need to touch the brake.

Another plus: A bunch of advanced safety features come as standard. That includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and reverse automatic braking, but excludes ProPilot Assist, which steers for you on the highway and uses radar to match the speed of the car ahead.

The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.

Some may call the Leaf’s shape and look dorky compared with the swarm of high-riding little SUVs zooming about these days. But I ask you: Is a roomy, practical interior “dorky”? Are comfortable back seats with ample leg and headroom … “dorky”? How about a cavernous rear cargo area with the seats folded down? If that’s “dorky,” then maybe I don’t want to be cool.

What falls short: Range and charging, but not by much

In a job interview or college application, it’s cliché (and a terrible idea) to rattle off “weaknesses” like “caring too much” and “working too hard.” But in the case of the Nissan Leaf, what some call flaws, others may see as legitimate selling points.

Step inside the 2022 Leaf and you won’t find a minimal interior and a giant, iPad-style touchscreen like you’d see in the latest EVs from Volkswagen, Ford, or Tesla. Instead, there’s a modest, eight-inch display and buttons. Lots of them. There are buttons for the climate control. A button that turns on one-pedal driving. Switches for the heated seats.

The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.

This could repel EV shoppers looking to live on the bleeding edge. But for anyone put off by the screen-ification of new cars, the Leaf could be a breath of fresh air. Inside and out, the Leaf feels less like some futuristic piece of technology and more like an approachable, familiar vehicle with the small quirk of running on electricity instead of gas.

Range – or the lack of it – could be a real drawback for some. The base Leaf gets 149 miles on a charge, which isn’t much in today’s market, but it’s also tough to complain about given the hatchback’s low price. Only one person can decide whether 149 miles works for you.

Looking at the Leaf’s top trims, though, range feels like it’s lacking for the price. For just a bit more than the price of the SL Plus I tested, you could buy a Tesla Model 3 or Volkswagen ID.4, both of which offer at least 250 miles of driving on a full battery. For a bit less, you can get a Hyundai Kona EV with 258 miles of range.

The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.
The 2022 Nissan Leaf SL Plus.

The mid-range S Plus, which promises a healthy 226 miles of range and only costs $5,000 more than the base model, feels like the best deal here.

Another knock to the Leaf: It uses a CHAdeMO port for fast-charging, an aging standard of charger that’s harder to come by in the US than newer CCS plugs. The Leaf is also equipped with a more common J1772 port, but that’s only good for slower charging. Fast-charging is the only way to add substantial amounts of range in minutes, rather than hours.

This all may not matter much if you plan to juice up at home, but it could pose a problem if you rely on public chargers.

Our impressions: Bring on the good, cheap EVs

The Nissan Leaf may be the cheapest new EV for sale in America, but you need to pay up for some of the things I experienced during testing: extended range, extra interior conveniences, features like adaptive cruise control, and more. But the core of what the Leaf offers – a pleasant driving experience, conscience-cleansing electric power, and hatchback utility – all can be had on the cheapest model.

Even after spending on the larger battery pack, the Leaf only retails for $32,400. That’s all pretty remarkable in a world where sub-$35,000 EVs are in short supply. Alongside the Leaf S, the only other EV you can buy new for less than $30,000 is the Mini Electric, which only has 110 miles of range and isn’t really practical for a school run or Costco haul.

Amid all the flashy new startups and pricey flagship EVs, it’s nice to see that someone out there is dropping prices and making solid, accessible EVs for the masses.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’m a Christmas-tree farmer. This year’s extreme heat hit hard, and it’ll likely impact your tree choices.

Dana and Matt Furrow in front of Christmas trees.
Dana and Matt Furrow.

  • Industry groups are warning of an impending Christmas-tree shortage due to extreme heat and droughts.
  • Dana Furrow and her husband, Matt Furrow, own a Christmas-tree farm in Oregon. The weather hit their crops hard.
  • They said it’ll likely impact your choice of live trees this year – whether they be smaller or of a different variety.
  • This is their story, as told to freelance writer Colleen Hagerty.

Dana Furrow and her husband, Matt Furrow, are the owners of Furrow Farm in Hillsboro, Oregon. After growing and selling Christmas trees for decades, they had an unprecedented loss of seedlings this season due to this year’s drought and heatwave.

This is her story, as told to freelance writer Colleen Hagerty. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My husband is a third-generation hazelnut farmer in Oregon. As a teenager, he went to work for a Christmas-tree grower and started planting his own tiny amount of trees once he learned the ropes.

He was 17 at the time, and together, he and I have been doing this for about 30 years.

Trees at Dana and Matt Furrow's farm.
Dana and Matt Furrow’s farm.

There’s a lot that goes into growing a Christmas tree: prepping the ground, fertilizing, raking, cultivating, and going through with your crew to put in the seedlings. Then, we have to make sure they’re in the ground right and standing up straight – if we don’t, that’s when you get the curved trunk.

We still have people who think a tree is planted one year, and then the next year, it’s ready to harvest. I don’t know where they get that idea from, but it takes much longer – six to 10 years for harvest size – so you’re spending a lot of time and money before you ever sell your product.

Plus, the trees require care year-round. It’s not just harvesting or planting them and letting them grow; you’ve got fertilizing and trimming, plus the planting time alone.

Our cut-your-own-tree (u-cut) area is 120 acres, which includes two hazelnut orchards and some pasture, and we also offer fresh-cut trees if people don’t want to cut down a tree. We plant probably 30,000 to 40,000 trees per year.

You do lose a certain percentage – I remember my husband saying you expect to lose about 20%. You always have that plus whatever your other risks are, like the weather.

In June, it reached 115 degrees

Spring was really good for the trees this year, and we actually had more trees for people to cut than we thought we would. But then June came around.

The drought and the high heat that month pretty much killed all of our seedlings in the valley. We also had a really promising amount of Noble Firs for people to cut this year, but the whole field was hit hard by the heat.

When you see mature Noble Firs starting to turn red, you’re like, “Oh, no.”

Damaged trees at Dana and Matt Furrow's farm.
Dana and Matt Furrow’s farm.

If you’ve ever seen diseased trees, heat damage kind of looks like that – or like if you had your tree in your house for a couple of months and then stuck it outside until June or July. The needles are falling apart.

Even if it’s just one branch or a quarter of a branch, when people are going out cutting a tree and they see that, they’re not going to cut that tree down, because they’re afraid that it’ll just dry up even faster. Plus, it just doesn’t look good. Christmas trees have to look green, not already dying.

I felt powerless. We’d been putting time and money into these trees for eight years, 10 years – and every year, you’re paying for labor and other growing costs, and then this tree isn’t sellable.

Trees at Dana and Matt Furrow's farm.
Dana and Matt Furrow’s farm.

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of trees are that way, and you want to have enough trees to get through your season and make sure everyone gets a Christmas tree. You hate to let your customers down, and if you have to close your farm early, it’s like, “Where do the people go now?” because a lot of the farms around here saw a lot of damage.

We’ve never had to deal with this before

We think some of the trees that were damaged from heat will come back, but they might take a couple of years. We’ve never had to deal with this before, so we don’t know, but we’re hopeful that maybe they’ll be able to green up later on or they’ll grow and then we can cut the damaged parts off.

We’re also going to replant some fields we lost this year. The maybe 50 seedlings that made it – which is nothing compared to how many we planted – we took out of the ground, and we’re going to rework the ground.

A building on Dana and Matt Furrow's farm.
Dana and Matt Furrow’s farm.

Usually, we start planting around late winter or early spring, but we’re going to actually try planting this fall because we get more rain this time of year. We’ve been planting more Nordman Firs and Turkish Firs, which are more drought resistant, but they don’t like too much rain either. It’s basically one extreme or the other.

We’ve seen a shortage already

With the heat and Oregon being the number one producer of Christmas trees, I’m sure there will be shortages of Christmas trees out there. There have been for the past couple years across the United States.

In our area, there were a lot of farms that just kind of quit when the economy fell in 2008. So we’ve seen a shortage already, and we have way more people than we used to living around here. We were always open until December 24 every year, but the last couple years, we’ve ended up closing our cut-your-own-tree section halfway through the season.

But we’re not all gloom and doom. We have plenty of fresh-cut Nobles we can bring down. We’ve been getting some rain, which is good.

A lighted building on Dana and Matt Furrow's farm.
Dana and Matt Furrow’s farm.

Everything’s greening up. There are still trees to cut; people just might not be able to cut as many. I’ll probably put a sign out that explains the heat damage, in case people didn’t see it on the news.

We’re opening when we always do: the day after Thanksgiving. I hate telling people to get trees as early as they can because I don’t want to start a frenzy, and I’m sure there’s still going to be lots of trees available. Maybe you’ll have to get a smaller tree than you normally do, or maybe a different variety.

But a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and they all look beautiful, so hopefully people will think like that.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’m a California dock worker facing record cargo-ship backlogs. It’ll be catastrophic if things get worse.

Container ships at the backlogged Port of Los Angeles in September 2021.
Container ships at the congested Port of Los Angeles in September 2021.

  • The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are experiencing record backlog as cargo ships wait to dock.
  • The ports handle nearly half of inbound containers for the US, making the backlog a huge issue.
  • A California longshoreman told Insider what it’s been like to work the ports. They chose to remain anonymous due to their job, but their identity has been verified by Insider.
  • This is their story, as told to freelance writer Jenny Powers.

A California longshoreman told Insider what it’s been like to work the California ports during record backlog. They chose to remain anonymous due to their job, but their identity has been verified by Insider. This is their story, as told to freelance writer Jenny Powers.

I’ve been working as a longshoreman at California’s San Pedro Bay Port Complex for close to 15 years, and the only thing I know for sure about the congestion here is that everyone is blaming someone else.

The shipping companies blame us for not covering skilled-labor jobs, but they’re the ones that approve training for those types of jobs. Then we turn around and blame COVID-19 for the influx of online orders. Consumers see the ships backed up and say we’re not unloading fast enough. Truckers complain about the lack of chassis at the port, which limits the number of containers that can be carried out of the yard. It’s a total blame game.

But the blame game has to start somewhere, and this time, it started with backlogs at the port.

port of la congestion ships
Container ships wait off the coast of the congested ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, in Long Beach, California, U.S., September 29, 2021.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach saw record backlog last month, with 65 cargo ships stuck off of the coast waiting to dock and unload. Combined, the ports are the largest complex in the Western Hemisphere and handle an estimated 40% of inbound containers for the US, making them some of busiest in the world. The recent backlog is just another example of a global supply chain in crisis.

Right now, every single part of the supply chain is backed up – from the overseas shippers to the U.S. receivers – and there are no signs of it dying down anytime soon.

We’re like the Costco of ports

As a major gateway for trans-Pacific trade, everything you can imagine comes through here.

Longshoreman – or dock workers, as we are often referred to – work in commercial ports and harbors, unloading and loading cargo to and from vessels through either manual labor and by operating heavy machinery. It can be a physically demanding job most of the time, and by the end of the shift, it’s pretty normal to feel like you did the most intense workout of your life – even with an hour lunch break and two 30-minute breaks.

I’m what is referred to as an Identified Casual, meaning I get the work left over from the Regulars, who are the permanent full-time workers in the Union.

Since the pandemic, congestion at ports like mine is at an all-time high. Ships idling and anchored offshore can be seen for miles as they sit waiting for their turn to dock and have their cargo unloaded.

According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, as of October 5, there were a total of 143 ships in port: 88 at anchor or drift areas and 55 at berths. The record at the time was 157 total ships, and that was set just last month.

About 20 container ships wait to be unloaded in the Ports of LA and Long Beach
About 20 containers wait to be unloaded in Southern California. Surfers are just hanging out.

Despite what it may look like, those crews aren’t exactly stranded out there in the water. There’s a ferry service that transports people back and forth from the docks, so they’re free to come on land and pick up food or supplies.

They can even go to Disneyland if they want. They might as well. There’s not much else for them to do. It’s a waiting game.

The craziest part is that despite all the logistical challenges and logjam, it’s not going to stop – and that’s because there’s still plenty of money to be made.

What we’re witnessing is a vicious cycle

Since the pandemic, more people have shopped online than ever before, increasing the number of shipments coming into our ports.

Retailers are encouraging consumers to shop early to ensure their gifts arrive in time for Christmas, causing a public frenzy and onslaught of online orders.

As long as manufacturers continue to pay warehouses to ship their products, it’s business as usual for them. The warehouses will then continue contracting with shipping companies to ship their containers out, and the ports won’t turn ships away because they make all their money in docking fees and unloading containers.

All of this has affected the delicate balance of the supply chain: Warehouses are bursting at the seams, shipping containers are in excess demand, chassis are running out, equipment is being run ragged, waterways and railways are overwhelmed, trucks and truckers are maxed out, and our yard and ports are overflowing as a result.

Container ships at the backlogged Port of Los Angeles in September 2021.
Container ships at the congested Port of Los Angeles in September 2021.

There’s also been a lot of talk about the port being closed on weekends, but it’s only closed to truckers on Saturdays and Sundays in an effort to manage traffic. The ports are open on weekends and we are here sorting, unloading, and loading cargo, but there’s not a lot of room in the yard because of the staggering amount of shipments we’re dealing with.

Those of us with our boots on the ground have zero say in what goes on around here. We just keep cranking away; we haven’t stopped.

Being a Casual means no two days are alike

As Casuals, we never know what our actual job is until we arrive for a shift and get assigned our tasks.

The work ranges from boring and repetitive, like driving a utility tractor rig around all day – known amongst the dock workers as the Shake and Bake, because the truck is shaky and has no air conditioning – to activities like lashing containers on the ships, which, while an extremely strenuous activity, makes the shift fly by. I’ll take that over monotonous work any day of the week.

The surge in cargo hasn’t affected our day-to-day as far as how we work, but there’s way more traffic in the yard now, and more containers are being stacked in places I’ve never seen them stacked before.

The last time I saw a backlog close to what we’re experiencing now was in 2015, when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dock workers, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents all the shipping companies, were embroiled in lengthy contract negotiations, which resulted in work slowdowns and stoppages.

Some people assumed workers were striking, but the Pacific Maritime Association essentially choked us out by cutting our workload down. It was a soft lockout, and everyone was playing dirty.

Container ships at the backlogged Port of Los Angeles in October 2021.
Container ships at the congested Port of Los Angeles in October 2021.

Ships were backed up in the harbor while both entities struggled to work out their differences but it’s nothing compared to the number of ships out there now.

The agreement between International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association was set to expire in 2019, but both parties agreed to extend the expiration to July 1, 2022, so you’ve got to wonder how much of what’s going on here is a coincidence versus a matter of timing.

It would be catastrophic for the situation at the ports to get any worse – but it easily could

Before the backup, I worked four days a week, now I’m working between six and seven days a week.

In the past, there might have been 200 jobs available for Casuals during a shift. Now it’s often double or triple that amount. Whoever says people aren’t working because they’re sitting home on unemployment should come down here to the port to see for themselves.

The way I see it, we are all in this together. Every link in the supply chain needs to keep up their end of the bargain.

Instead of pointing fingers, we all need to lend a hand and get it done.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I tried a TikTok trend to solve my bad procrastination habit – I can’t believe it worked

Woman sitting in chair in front of empty white wall
Krista Krumina sitting in the “Lone Chair.”

  • Krista Krumina says she procrastinated for more than six hours each week.
  • She found a TikTok that urged people to sit in an empty chair whenever they procrastinated.
  • She tried this advice with her colleagues and said it worked surprisingly well.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I’d win Olympic gold in procrastination.

I procrastinate for about six hours and 24 minutes a week, almost an entire workday, according to my desktop tracking tool that categorizes the sites and apps I use as ”productive” and ”unproductive.”

Then, to compensate for this time wasted, I tend to work in my free time. There have been days when I close my laptop as late as 10 p.m. and times when I’ve canceled my weekend plans just to finish some tasks.

I recently saw a TikTok video with 269,000 likes where a user, Josh Terry, suggests a procrastination hack: You put a chair in the middle of the room, and whenever you catch yourself procrastinating, you have to go and sit on that chair. I call it the “Lone Chair” productivity hack.

You’re not allowed to talk to colleagues or use your phone or any digital devices.

Terry claims you’ll get so bored from staring at a blank wall that you’ll be happy to do anything, even if that anything is the task you’ve been putting off for weeks.

With low expectations, I decided to try it

Throughout the experiment, I continued to track my time to see how it affected my productivity.

On a Monday morning, I arrived at the office that I share with my team of five and put a chair in the middle of the room. I informed my colleagues that everyone could use the chair if they felt uninspired and started to procrastinate.

Just about an hour into my workday, I caught myself pointlessly clicking through browser tabs and replying to emails that didn’t need to be replied to. And so I was the first person to sit on the Lone Chair.

My first ”session” lasted 17 minutes. I just sat there and stared at the wall. This let me draw my first conclusions about this hack, and they were confirmed during the rest of the week.

Every day, I spent at least 10 minutes sitting on the chair – some days more than once. Over five days, I had seven ”Lone Chair sessions” with a total time of 108 minutes.

I never got unbearably bored sitting on the chair, despite not being able to talk to anyone, walk around, or use my phone. I was entertained by my own racing thoughts.

That said, the longer I sat, the calmer and more organized my thoughts became. After some 15 minutes doing nothing, I knew exactly what I needed to do and how. When I returned to my laptop, I felt as focused and productive as ever.

Having tried other productivity hacks, I was surprised that during the week I tried this experiment, my productivity increased by 17.6% while the time spent procrastinating decreased by 36% from the previous week.

As I shared my observations with my colleagues, they also started to have ”me time” on the chair. Their conclusions were quite similar: Some reported feeling calmer, while others said this time helped them clear their mind and find inspiration again.

Most often, I had too much on my plate and my mind was too scattered to hold on to one specific task. Or sometimes tasks felt so big and daunting that I had no idea where to start.

I would spend hours frantically jumping from one task to another, writing emails (there’s a reason I’ve marked emails as ”unproductive” on my time-tracking app), or making my nth cup of coffee – all while feeling anxious and guilty for not doing the right things.

It turns out that letting my mind go out of control for as little as 10 to 15 minutes was exactly the type of meditation I needed to regain my focus. In the end, I experienced improved concentration, a sharper mind, and a higher resistance to distractions.

There’s just one thing I hate about this hack

Whenever I was sitting on the chair, I couldn’t let go of the awkward feeling that all my colleagues knew why I was there. It was like a public statement that I was procrastinating – something I’d rather keep a secret.

As the week went on, it got better. By Friday, all my colleagues had had their time on the chair as well, and that made me think that perhaps procrastination is a normal and integral part of a workday. Everyone does it. I just happen to do it too often.

But this hack helps, so I’ll probably keep practicing it.

Krista Krumina is a writer and cofounder of the content-marketing and PR agency Truesix, whose clients include DeskTime, the tracking app she used to measure her productivity for this piece.

Read the original article on Business Insider

America’s bus-driver ‘shortage’ isn’t new: It’s due to years of underfunding, and it’s putting kids at risk.

school buses
  • The current school year brought national stories about bus-driver “shortages.”
  • But as economists would argue: When employers raise wages, industry shortages disappear.
  • After years of underfunding education and school transportation, that’s what states need to do.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. Dr. Stephen Owens is a senior policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The beginning of the current school year brought several national stories of purported school-bus driver shortages. Economists generally take issue with this verbiage because when employers raise wages, industry shortages disappear.

School-bus drivers and monitors have long operated for low pay in difficult working conditions – transporting minors with whom they may not have a relationship during strange hours that make it difficult to take on additional part-time jobs. School districts were mostly able to achieve full employment with these conditions before the pandemic, but the problem has been evident for years and longtime concerns are now coming to fruition.

It is incumbent on school districts to raise wages, and for this to happen, states need to increase school funding.

school bus

At the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, where I work as a senior policy analyst, we wrote about the coming crisis well before the pandemic. As in states across the country, the state of Georgia holds the constitutional responsibility to pay for public education. Although in practice, Georgia shares the cost burden with local property taxes and federal funding, the onus sits in the state capital, which helps explain why 53 cents of every dollar spent in public education comes from the state.

As a policy analyst at a non-profit, non-partisan budget and policy analysis organization, I’ve watched state funding stagnate for more than two decades. To wit: Georgia paid $139 million for pupil transportation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2002, $4 million more than the amount allotted for the program in the current year (FY 2022). While state money languished, the public-school system gained 250,000 students and prices increased for fuel, vehicles, and labor.

To add insult to injury: In the wake of the Great Recession, state lawmakers pushed the burden of paying for bus-driver health insurance to local school districts, a change that was never rectified in the years of economic expansion that followed.

A row of school buses.

Budgets for school districts can only be stretched so far, and the last two decades have seen additional budget cuts to public education in Georgia every year, save two. Wages, benefits and working conditions suffered as a result.

The added pressure of issues such as mask enforcement for 70 children on each bus (or safety concerns if students are not required to wear them), on top of a typical schedule of two three-hour shifts broken up by four hours of “time off,” makes for a difficult sell to many potential employees.

But the damage of underfunding school transportation goes beyond the staff – children’s safety is increasingly at risk. The waning state investment has created a situation where as recently as 2018, one out of every four buses in service was at least 15 years old. That same year, 39 school buses on a daily route in Georgia were 30 years or older, meaning as many as 2,600 students rode to school each day on a bus that was made before the first website was created.

Older buses lack the safety upgrades that newer models have, such as anti-lock brakes or rear motorist alert signs. Since the late 1990s, the federal government has required all new school buses of a certain size to include anti-lock brakes due to their ability to stop in the shortest distance and decrease the likelihood of skidding.

School buses lined up outside of a New York school.
Buses lined up outside of a New York school.

It’s reasonable to ask why state support hasn’t kept pace with school needs in this area. The fight for school-bus funding has few open enemies other than apathy.

When counter-arguments are presented, they fall in two general categories: whether drivers deserve higher wages and, related to the first, how states should pay for any proposed solutions. As to the former, setting aside the value of safely transporting 30 to 70 children daily, the job vacancies themselves make the case for higher pay.

If supply doesn’t meet demand for a necessary task (by law, public schools must offer pupil transportation in Georgia), then costs rise.

Benefits are part of this equation as well. Georgia’s bus drivers and monitors are not eligible to join the pension that teachers and school leaders enjoy. These school employees instead have a supplemental pension with a significantly lower benefit – working for 30 years earns a bus monitor a mere $472 per month.

A row of buses in Pennsylvania.
A row of school buses in Pennsylvania.

Those who might argue bus drivers shouldn’t be on the same pension as teachers should consider both the shortage and the fact that most of Georgia’s neighboring states do not segregate school employees into different pensions based on role. The term “segregate” is apt because while the teaching profession is majority white, non-certified employees in maintenance, transportation, and custodial work are more likely to be people of color.

This makes any increase in wages for these positions a potential tool for racial economic justice.

As for how states can pay for all of this, the answer is much simpler. School districts have had to borrow from other educational programs for years to cover transportation costs, and it is beyond time to adequately fund education through increased state investment. Raising state revenue (because, spoiler alert, taxes pay for necessary services) can bolster student transportation programs and alleviate strain on the rest of the school.

The only way our schools can compete for bus drivers or other employees with other industries that might have raised wages to meet the current need, including trucking, is if the principal financer (i.e., states) provides additional funds.

Until then, the shortage will continue – but it’s not a shortage of drivers, it’s a shortage of adequate state public-education funding.

Dr. Stephen Owens is a senior policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, where he focuses on state policies and research that affect public K-12 education in Georgia. Stephen graduated from the University of Georgia, where he holds a doctorate with a focus on education policy.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I had a $195 cannabis-infused dinner in Arizona’s red-rock spiritual wonderland. To say the food was incredible would be an understatement.

Joints laid upright on a table
Guests are offered joints before the meal.

  • The events company Cloth & Flame has begun staging cannabis-infused dinners.
  • Jamie Killin, a journalist, was intrigued despite having little experience using the drug.
  • “I had high expectations – especially for an event that retails at $195 per person,” Killin said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I don’t think I could roll a joint if my life depended on it, and the last time I smoked marijuana was years ago when I split a joint among friends in Amsterdam.

But I’ve always been up for a new experience – whether that was trying cannabis with my high-school friends (and subsequently making myself sick) or purchasing a tin of gummies when marijuana was legalized where I live in Phoenix at the end of last year.

To give you an idea of my marijuana use, that tin of gummies lasted more than six months in my cabinet.

Despite my general naivete, when I heard about Cloth & Flame‘s new cannabis dinners, I was intrigued. A great meal and an Instagram-worthy tablescape go a long way with me, so I was game.

Cloth & Flame has facilitated high-end events for clients including Bentley, Chanel, and Google. I had high expectations – especially for an event that retails at $195 per person – but this meal exceeded them.

My boyfriend and I traveled about two hours north of my home to the mystical red-rock spiritual wonderland of Sedona and checked into a hotel. After a short drive in a charter bus, my fellow event goers and I were in a mountain-surrounded patch of forest by a stone-lined creek.

The evening started with a welcome mocktail, a cruise around the merch table, time to listen to a band performance – and a joint by the “canna-cabin.”

Waiter in white standing over dishes to be served
The dishes being served during the event.

Attendees were offered a joint donated by Copperstate Farms, with three options for strength. My boyfriend – who is marijuana-shy and tried to get out of this adventure multiple times – opted for the lightest option with me.

Before dinner, guests were given time to enjoy the sunset, smoke, lounge in a hammock, and, in my case, make a lot of Instagram stories.

The menu was a multicourse meal featuring fried chicken oysters on a mesquite waffle, poached pears on a bed of feta cheese, achiote-crusted pork, and brown-butter churros. To say the food was incredible would be an understatement.

The entire meal contained about 12 micrograms of THC – the primary component of cannabis that gets you high – and about six micrograms of CBD. Even as someone who wasn’t taking more than 5 micrograms of THC gummies a night, I knew this wasn’t a lot.

Before each course, our server asked if we wanted a “dosed” or “non-dosed” dish. I opted for dosed every time. My boyfriend, who did indulge in a couple puffs of our joint, did the opposite.

The night ended with craft seasonal lattes by the fire, stargazing, sound healing, and lounging around the various seating areas set up around the venue.

I can’t say I’ve been converted into a weed smoker – most of my high didn’t kick in until I was back in my hotel room – but I did appreciate the slow-paced high, dreamy atmosphere, incredible scenery, and, of course, the food.

Cloth & Flame and Copperstate Farms donated a portion of the proceeds from the event to the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that focuses on helping those incarcerated for cannabis-related charges, a sobering reminder of how the drug hasn’t always been an accepted pastime.

This helped me decide to opt for merch, which also benefited the cause.

Between all the good vibes, activities, and a light marijuana buzz, I hardly even missed my usual glass of wine.

Read the original article on Business Insider