Herb Elliot was a great athlete, who won the gold medal in the 1500m in the 1960 Olympic Games, and dominated middle distance running in his time. Interviewed recently, he had this to say on the Western lifestyle:
Now we have the society where the kids don’t run anymore. I used to run to school. I used to run to catch the bus, I used to run everywhere. The Herb Elliott of today is driven everywhere. And by the time the kids are 15 or 16 or 17 years of age the African kid’s got 10,000 miles in their legs that our kids haven’t got. So I think we can address that but it reflects our style of life at the moment.
In terms of health, fitness, enjoyment, socialization, independence, economics, there's so much to be gained - not to mention the carbon footprint. This is just one of the ways that a low carbon lifestyle can be richer.
Parents will worry, and do need to weigh risks - but think about real risks, rather than headlines about rare events. And what better way to channel our natural concern and desire for children's safety than to work on making our cities and neighborhoods into great places to run and cycle?
Online chat today - Sunday 12 Aug 2012
Quick update: there's a lot going on behind the scenes - don't let the quiet blog fool you - and big plans are brewing. For a start:
We have a monthly online chat, starting in a few hours day from the time of posting. Depending on your timezone, it's:
Date: Sunday, 12 August 2012. (Monday morning in Asia & Oceania.)
Time: 10pm GMT (UTC if you prefer)
USA: 3pm PDT (Pacific) & 6pm EDT (East coast)
Australia, East coast: 8am Monday 13th AEST
New Zealand: 10am Monday 13th NZST
Your time zone: ask the Time Zone Converter - convert from "22 /10 pm" at "UTC/GMT" (top of the list of zones).
Topic for this month: Introductions, open Q & A. There's lots to talk about, but mainly we want to connect and say hi.
How to log in: The details are on our IRC page - see the section Using IRC. Hint: the web method is easy.
Next month we'll announce it more widely, and we'll get more specific. Put it in your diary for next month (2nd Sunday), and we'll confirm closer to the date.
The physical context we live in affects our community and our health. How close are you to your neighbors, and how often do you see them in the street? Is it walking distance to the train station, grocery store and cafe? Is it safe to ride your bike?
The built environment and its effect on community has been a passion for me for 15 years, since reading that community development programs are more or less successful depending on the layout of housing in the community. Where houses are spread out, interaction is less and community development struggles.
Young and old
A few years ago I saw a new (to me) application of this idea: a documentary about an orphanage in France which was placed together with a retirement home. Children without ancestors, together with ancestors without children - a gap was filled in the lives of both. I'm suggesting it as a panacea - it could be done well or poorly. One obvious issue is the importance of freedom to participate or not - to have common space for the young and old, but also have space for each to retreat when they wish.
(By the way, if you know anything about this orphanage and retirement home, please leave a comment - I can't recall the name, and I'd love to know how it's going. I may have some of the details wrong, but I saw it on the "Global Village" program, SBS Australia, I think around 2005.)
The following video describes a somewhat similar idea in the USA: a school that brings children, adult learners and the elderly together, with benefits for young and old in health and educational outcomes and in quality of life.
(The video here launches when he starts talking about the school. If you want to hear about Alzheimer's disease, scroll back to the beginning.)
Two stories from recent years got me thinking. (If you know the stories, you're allowed to skip to the last paragraph.)
1. A British father helped his wife give birth at home. He's not the first, and won't be the last, but there's a lot that can go wrong. You really want to get it right, and if you don't have a midwife or doctor handy, and you (and the woman giving birth) never happened to learn how to deliver a baby, what do you do? Leroy Smith turned to the web, via his mobile phone. He found a wikiHow article, and by following the 10 steps, he did his part well.
2. Surgeon David Nott had a more complex challenge. A hippo had bitten off a boy's arm, and faced death within days from infection. An amputation of his shoulder blade and collar bone would save him - but the doctor didn't have any experience of this unusual and complex procedure, and no one he knew in the Democratic Republic of Congo could help. But a colleague in the UK could help - and did so via SMS. In two very long text messages he explained the procedure, and wished Dr Nott luck. The operation - carried out in a basic operating theater, without the equipment and support the doctor would have expected back home in the UK - was a success, and the boy's life was saved.
In the appropriate technology for solving a problem, the key component is often information. Whether we're talking about health services or development, the right information can be the difference between a good outcome and a failure.
I'm inspired to see wikiHow used in this way - as I am with the stories I hear of Appropedia being used in the field. It's also true that making the best use of expert knowledge, as Dr Nott was able to do, supports good outcomes. Combining these ideas - enhancing ways of accessing knowledge, and making available the best knowledge - continue to guide our mission.
Health is another area where we all want the best information.
I'm a little surprised that there is no active and well-developed wiki on health information. WikiHealth.com could be promising, if it grows, but it's very quiet - only 2 edit sessions in the last 90 days. (I looked for other health wikis listed on WikiIndex, but could find no active wikis - that's an interesting pattern, to look at another day.)
There are other wiki options in health, though. Wikipedia is teeming with information, though it often means wading through a lot of detail, as the articles are not written with a particular focus on health. wikiHow has more practically oriented articles - see their health category.
And of course see Appropedia to look for - and build - information on global public health.