Weekly Links

Educating Kids is Our Greatest Victory In The BP Oil Spill Settlement

Weekly Links: brief commentary on local, state, and national stories from (roughly) the past week



Settlement From Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Will Be Used to Educate Kids

From Scientific AmericanThis is perhaps the best use of funds from the multi-billion dollar settlement agreement the US Department of Justice reached with BP and Transocean Deepwater following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The National Academies of Gulf Research Program, which was established as part of the settlement agreement, will administer $3.2 million worth of grants to environmental and science organizations that educate middle and high school students mostly in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. One grant will make its way to Georgia, though, to help students better understand the interaction between the Okefenokee Swamp and the Gulf of Mexico. Program initiatives include safer offshore energy systems, ecosystem health, capacity building, and creating thriving communities.

You can repay fishermen and communities, which they’ve done, and you can pass regulations and laws (many of which have recently been repealed), but nothing will truly change until people better understand and appreciate the environment. There’s nothing more valuable than an education, particularly during the formidable middle and high school years. A new generation of leaders will emerge in the Gulf states – a generation better equipped to appreciate the economic and societal benefits of protecting the natural environment. This $3.2 million could very well be the most influential and significant piece of the multi-billion settlement agreement.


Television News Corrupts Our Ability to Discern Fact From Opinion

From The Atlantic. A new study from the Pew Research Center found that Americans are less able to discern fact from opinion as they age. Exposure to television news appears to be the culprit. When participants were given 5 factual statements and 5 opinion statements and asked to correctly identify each as fact or opinion, 34% of those aged 18-29 identified all factual statements correctly while only 17% of those aged 65 and over achieved the same feat. As far as the opinion statements go, 46% of those aged 18-29 identified all of them as opinion while only 21% of those aged 65 and older correctly identified them. The older the age cohort, the poorer the performance.

An earlier study done by the American Press Institute found that despite the results of this Pew study, older Americans were more confident in their ability to discern fact from opinion. Based on this study, more time online does not seem to hinder one’s ability to figure out what is a factual statement and what is an opinion statement. What does appear to hinder that ability, though, is exposure to television news. In contrast to younger Americans, older age cohorts have experienced decades of talk radio and cable news – two outlets that routinely disguise opinion as fact-based news.

Take a look at two of the statement from the Pew study to see how you manage (click for answer):

  1. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget
    This is a factual statement. Sixty-three percent of those aged 18-49 correctly identified it as a factual statement while 61% of those 50 and over did the same.
  2. Government is always wasteful and inefficient
    This is an opinion statement since “wasteful” and “inefficient” are indefinite terms. Seventy-seven percent of those between ages 18 and 49 correctly identified this as opinion while 65% of those 50 and older did the same.

This is an opinion statement: We should seek out the thoughts and opinions of others, but we did fight a war and draw up some critical documents to advance the idea of freedom of thought. Nothing seems more un-American then than acquiescing to the loss of this freedom.

Urban Planning

E-Scooter Companies Face Negligence Lawsuit in California

From The Washington Post. Lime, Bird, and other electric scooter companies are facing a class-action lawsuit for inflicting damage upon communities. The lawsuit claims that the companies acted with gross negligence by dumping scooters in communities without proper warnings and they should have known the scooters would cause a public nuisance. The suit also alleges that many scooters have inadequate safety instructions and defective parts, which constitutes a wanton disregard for public safety since these issues were known or knowable by professionals in the industry.

It’s surprising it took this long for someone to sue them. While e-scooters can be a fun and efficient way of getting around town and we need more non-automobile forms of transportation, chaos will ensue when technology of this nature is simply released into the wild.

As we mentioned in last week’s Weekly Linksyou can still be liable for negligence even if the your actions are legally permitted. So even if cities or states permit e-scooters, negligence and other tort law still apply. This is often why warning labels and other safety devices get incorporated into products.

Urban Planning

A Transit-Oriented Soccer League is Developing in Atlanta

From CityLab. Don’t look now, but a series of transit-oriented soccer fields are sprouting up around Atlanta. The non-profit Soccer in the Streets teamed up with MARTA in 2016 to open a mini soccer field at the 5 Points Station, but that was just the beginning. Soon afterwards a field opened in the West End neighborhood and seven more will open over the next three years. This means parents and kids will have much easier access to multiple, high-quality fields in urban areas. MARTA was already doing tremendous work to develop underutilized spaces and this is just another example.

This concept are similar to how youth soccer is enjoyed in Europe and South America, areas that consistently produce the best soccer players. Small fields sandwiched between buildings in urban areas increases the sport’s availability. In the United States, urban populations have long been shunned from soccer, which has reduced our ability to attract talent away from other sports. Recall that the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup despite being in one of  the weaker qualification groups.

Five Points Soccer Field. Via Soccer in the Streets and CityLab


Cover Photo: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 2010 courtesy of US Coast Guard via Wikipedia



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