Don’t Give Me No Bad News!

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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Humans have a cognitive bias known as the negativity bias, which means that negative or threatening information tends to have a stronger impact on our emotions and memory than positive information. This bias evolved with early man as a survival mechanism to help humans detect and respond to potential threats in their environment. Media outlets are well aware of this and emphasize negative stories to capture and maintain audience attention. The more audience they garner, the more that audience spends time on a website, the more ads the outlets can sell. Cha-$$-ching. While bad news may capture our attention more readily, it is essential to maintain a balanced perspective and seek out positive or constructive information as well. You may be surprised by amazing people doing amazing work as they tackle the world’s challenges. Let’s try it on a couple of very threatening stories we get bombarded with. Water Scarcity In the 1990s, my very brilliant mother announced that the 21st Century would be the century of water. Sure enough, water scarcity has become a global problem. Many regions face challenges in meeting the water demands of their growing populations, agricultural needs, and industrial activities. As a result, water scarcity has gained significant attention, making it a crucial focus of the 21st century media outlets. Sounds very dire. But, if you google “solutions to water scarcity in the 21st Century,” you can read about the development of advanced water recycling technologies. Desalination. There are fresh (pun intended) desalination technologies, such as reverse osmosis and nanofiltration that are making the process more energy-efficient and cost-effective, contributing to the increased adoption of desalination as a water supply solution. Check out solar desalination domes. Precision Agriculture involves using advanced technologies such as remote sensing, data analytics, and drip irrigation to optimize water usage in agriculture by precisely measuring soil moisture levels, crop water requirements, and applying water only where and when needed. Aquifer Recharge and Managed Aquifer Replenishment techniques involve intentionally recharging depleted aquifers by injecting treated wastewater or excess surface water into underground storage. By replenishing aquifers, these methods help restore groundwater levels and provide a buffer during periods of water scarcity. My personal favorite story is about fog harvesting. These technologies are stories happening right now, but they don’t sell ad space. Plastic Pollution of Oceans. We’ve all seen and read about islands of plastic waste in our oceans. Horrifying, scary, dramatic, negative stories. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a 620,000-square mile swirl of trash in the ocean between California and Hawaii. Maybe, if the public heard more about the solutions being developed to tackle the problem, the problem solvers would get bigger funding. The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization. They develop advanced technologies to remove plastic pollution from the oceans. Their cleanup systems consist of long, U-shaped floating barriers with a skirt that hangs beneath the surface of the water. The barriers are designed to capture and retain plastic debris while allowing marine life to safely swim underneath. Once the plastic is collected, it is able to be removed and recycled for further use. Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) are solar-powered, unmanned vessels that use solar energy to power their operations and navigate the ocean to collect and remove plastic waste. These vessels are equipped with sensors and cameras to detect and identify plastic waste in the water. Computer vision and machine-learning algorithms are employed to enhance the detection and recognition capabilities. These vessels have the advantage of being environmentally friendly, as they rely on renewable solar energy for their operation. They can operate for extended periods without the need for refueling, reducing the need for human intervention while covering large areas of the ocean. Once plastic debris is identified, collection mechanisms such as nets or skimmers are deployed to gather and contain the waste. When the vessel reaches its capacity or completes its mission, it can return to a designated facility where the collected waste is properly disposed of or recycled. Enzymes. At the same time, scientists are developing enzymes capable of breaking down certain types of plastics. These enzymes have the potential to efficiently degrade plastic waste, including PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles and containers. Seabin is a floating rubbish bin that can be installed in marinas, ports, and other water bodies. It uses a pump to draw in water, collecting floating debris, microplastics, and even oils and pollutants. The collected waste is then separated, with clean water returned to the ocean. The Litter Gitter is a passive floating device placed in rivers and streams to collect plastic waste before it reaches the ocean. It uses a net to capture floating debris, allowing water to flow through and preventing the escape of collected waste. These problem solvers need to have their stories told, so the public can get behind them and support them. And, maybe, we could start regenerating some optimism in this country. Balance We don’t have to sit in the dirty diaper of negativity the media spits out at us 24/7. While bad news may capture our attention more readily, we can seek out constructive information as well. Actively engaging with positive or uplifting content can help counterbalance the impact of negative news and promote a more holistic understanding of the world. Vamos a Ver!
Paula Labrot

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