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Finland is the 'most sustainable' country, say expats
India finishes last of 60 countries in environment and sustainability, as ranked by the expats who work there.
- How 'green' is life in your work country?
- That's the question InterNations asked its network of expats.
- The United States ended 30th out of 60 countries.
InterNations, the world's largest expat network, has delivered a global ranking with a twist. For the first time, it's asked its members to rate the environmental and sustainability qualities of their work countries. The best country for a sustainable life abroad: Finland. The worst: India. The U.S. lands exactly in the middle, at #30.
The ranking reflects the combined score for three categories:
- Products and Utilities: How available are sustainable goods and services? How 'green' is the energy supply? What about the local waste management and recycling practices?
- Policies and People: How engaged is the local government in green policies? And how environmentally aware is the public?
- Quality of the Environment: Specifically, of the local environment, air and water.
Nordics on top
Evo Hiking Area in Hämeenlinna, Finland. Great nature, clean air, clean water? Check, check and check.
Credit: Kanta-Hämeen kuvapankki on Flickr/ Public Domain.
The Nordic country scores at or near the top in all categories surveyed, including the quality of the natural environment (say 96 percent of expats in Finland), water and sanitation (96 percent) and air (95 percent).
Swedes lead the world in environmental awareness (84 percent versus just 48 percent globally). Perhaps not surprising, for the homeland of Greta Thunberg. This is reflected by government policy. Sweden currently gets more than 50 percent of its power from renewable sources and wants to go 100% renewable before 2040. "I've been here for over 20 years and I clearly see the benefits of my taxes paid coming back to me and the rest of society," says one American expat.
"The beautiful nature, the clean air and tap water, and the focus on the environment," are what one Ukrainian expat enjoys most about Norway. With 76 percent of expats happy with the availability of green goods and services, Norway's 'weakest' category is still 13 percentage points above the global average.
The first non-Nordic in the global ranking, Austria places in the Top 10 for each category and comes in first for the availability of green goods and services (90 percent).
Swiss nature is the most appreciated in the world (98 percent versus 83 percent on average). Switzerland also gets stellar results for air and water quality and the availability of green energy and green goods and services.
Danes are very much into green causes, as is their government, say 83 percent resp. 84 percent of expats. "Organic food is readily available, and they are good with recycling," observes a South African expat. And they love cycling: 9 out of 10 Danes own a bike.
7. New Zealand
85 percent of expats agree that the New Zealand government takes green issues seriously. In fact, New Zealand plans to use 90 percent electricity from renewables by 2025. The country also scores high on the quality of its natural environment and all other categories – albeit slightly less on the quality of its water and sanitation.
"I enjoy the rising awareness about environmental issues and the alternatives the government and society are developing," says one Colombian expat. Indeed, 80 percent of expats agree the German government is pro-environment (versus 55 percent globally).
The only North American destination in the Top 10, thanks especially to expat appreciation of Canada's natural environment (96 percent), but also the quality of its water and sanitation (90 percet) and the availability of green goods and services (80 percent).
"Access to nature for hiking and bicycling" is a definite boon for one American expat. In fact, the country's natural environment, although ranking 13th out of 60, is its lowest-rated subcategory. Luxembourg does even better when it comes to green energy, waste management, and the quality of its air and water.
Taiwan, most sustainable destination in Asia
Eternal Spring Shrine in the Taroko Gorge, Hualien County. Outside of Taipei, Taiwan can be surprisingly green and beautiful.
Credit: Zairon, CC BY-SA 4.0
The highest-scoring expat destination in Asia, Taiwan boasts 92 percent approval of its waste management and recycling, and 80 percent of the availability of green goods and services. But "the air pollution (in Taipei) is getting worse because it is too crowded," one expat complains.
Green goods and services are widely available, agree 82 percen of expats, as is green energy. However, 13 percent rate the Dutch environment negatively, 4 percet above the global average.
Well ahead of its neighbor Spain (#20), the country scores high for air quality (91 percent) and natural environment (95 percent). "I like the opportunity for gardening and growing our own food," says one expat.
Estonia scores in the Top 20 for every category and gets its highest marks for its natural environment. "A beautiful country with excellent air quality and open spaces," praises an Indian expat.
15. Costa Rica
Both the government and the people are very supportive of green policies, find 82 percent, resp. 67 percent of expats. "It's easy to live a healthy lifestyle with regard to the food, climate, clean air and water," says one. Costa Rica won the 2019 UN Champion of the Earth award and has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050.
"The beauty of the environment" is one of the best things about living in Czechia, says a Russian expat. No less than 97 percent of expats agree.
77 percent of expats are happy about the availability of green goods and services in France, which is 14 percentage points above average. The country also scores well for waste management and recycling. In short, France has a "good, green and clean environment," one Iranian expat finds.
While ranking high on the quality of its nature, water and air, Australia scores low when it comes to government support for green issues (51 percent). Fortunately, expats see more interest among the general population (68 percent).
Expats rate the government's interest in green issues higher than globally average (77 percent versus 55 percent), but the Singaporean public's engagement for the same less than average (40 percent versus 48 percent). Of course, in a small, crowded place like Singapore, "(nature) spots are limited."
Spain's "scenery, diversity of places to visit and healthier environment" are what rate highly with one British expat. Its weak point is governmental and public support for green issues – but still slightly above the global average.
London is "polluted and noisy"
Afternoon traffic jam in London.
The highest-ranking country in the Middle East, Oman does especially well for natural environment (93 percent) and air quality (76 percent). However, only 50 percent are happy with the availability of green goods and services (versus 63 percent globally).
22. United Arab Emirates
Despite higher-than-average scores in some categories, the UAE's 52nd place out of 60 for the appreciation of its natural environment drags down its overall score.
Two in three expats rate Israel's air quality positively, 55 percent think the government cares about the environment (exactly the global average) and 51 percent thinks the public does too (slightly above global average).
The highest-ranked South American country, Ecuador scores especially well for its natural environment (95 percent). Its overall ranking is dragged down by lower scores for air and water quality. One Dutch expat sees "a lack of care for the environment."
Japan boasts a "high quality of life due to clean air and water, as well as many natural recreational places," reports a Malaysian expat. Waste management and recycling is rated highly (85 percent), but not the government's (27 percent) nor the public's (33 percent) engagement in green issues.
Expats are particularly satisfied with Ireland's air quality (16th) and natural environment (19th), but only 65 percent are content with the quality of the water and sanitation.
Biggest pluses: the public is into green issues (57 percent), the availability of green goods and services (75 percent) and green energy (66 percent). Belgium scores below average for air quality and one Danish expat complains about "poor green infrastructure."
28. United Kingdom
"(London) is very polluted and noisy," complains a Swiss expat. In fact, the UK's natural environment ranks just 43rd. On the upside, green goods and services are slightly more available than the global average.
The Gulf state ranks near the bottom for its natural environment and performs best for its government's green credentials (72 percent). One British expat regrets "the lack of green spaces."
30. United States
When it comes to green government policies, the U.S. ranks in the Bottom 10; but the country does a lot better in terms of the availability of green goods and services. "I like that basic services for living, such as access to clean water, are guaranteed," says one Venezuelan expat.
World map for the 'sustainable expat'
Sixty expat destinations ranked for sustainability, from best (orange) to worst (light blue). In between: fairly okay (brown), middling (grey) and not that great (dark blue).
While 94 percent of expats are happy with the quality of the natural environment, only 37 percent find Panama's waste management and recycling practices up to scratch (versus 60 percent globally). "There is a lot of litter on the streets and in the ocean," says one expat.
Italy's "beautiful landscapes and natural areas" earn the country high praise, but that is offset by "air pollution and heavy traffic," as the same expat explains.
Just like its overall score, Colombia is a mid-fielder in most categories. Its worst ranking is for air quality (47th), its best for the policy and people attitudes towards the environment (30th).
65 percent of expats appreciate the Qatari government's green efforts, but just 40 percent think the people feel the same. "There is a lack of green options, but things are changing," observes a Canadian expat.
Expats rate the quality of Hungary's water and sanitation higher than the global average (76 percent versus 72 percent), but its air quality significantly lower (49 percent versus 62 percent).
Poland is one of the few European countries to rank below average. No less than 60 percent of expats are unhappy with the air quality in Poland, compared to just 24 percent worldwide.
"St Petersburg is absolutely beautiful. There are many parks and green spaces, and the canals and the coast make it even better," gushes an American expat. But Russia is bigger than St Petersburg, and on the whole less pleasant. Water quality and waste management are just two categories rated well below the global average.
88 percent of expats like Argentina's natural environment, and 64 percent are satisfied with air quality (versus 62 percent globally) but the country performs average or worse on all other indicators.
Chile scores among the Bottom 10 for air quality, and not too well on many other indicators, but the quality of the country's natural environment (appreciated by 89 percent of expats) somewhat mitigates the result.
With 86 percent of expats lauding Malaysia's natural environment, the country scores above the global average in exactly one category. An Australian expat in Kuala Lumpur expresses concerns "about the air quality and waste disposal."
South Korea's "rather horrible" air
Seoul's air quality is so bad you can picture it. Only India's air is perceived as worse than South Korea's, according to the expat survey.
41. South Korea
Coming in on 59th place, South Korea scores particularly poorly for air quality. One Filipino expat even finds the Korean air "rather horrible". The water and sanitation quality are rated a lot higher, though.
Turkey's natural environment scores only slightly below average (78 percent versus 82 percent globally), as does the appreciation for its air quality (59 percent versus 62 percent). But the country scores well below global average when it comes to waste management (42 percent versus 60 percent). One expat laments the "traffic, pollution and lack of recycling" in the country.
Mexico is the worst performer among the North American destinations. No less than 35 percent of expats are dissatisfied with the quality of water and sanitation. One respondent mentioned the "lack of clean and operational public restrooms."
The island nation scores particularly well on air quality (68 percent), but worse than average on many other indicators, notably environmental awareness. "Garbage is just left anywhere," complains one British expat.
Greece's worst score is for waste management and recycling (53rd), but it does better for air quality (19th). Overall, 89 percent of expats appreciate Greece's nature, but the country is "not environmentally conscious," a Canadian expat says.
46. South Africa
Being Africa's best-ranked country at #46 is a bit of a Pyrrhic victory. In fact, South Africa scores near the bottom in many categories, including green energy options and government interest in green policies (both 59th).
The worst destination in South America when it comes to environment and sustainability. Just 23 percent of expats say the government supports green policies, only 32 percent think the population is interested in them. A Canadian expat lamented the "lack of empathy for the environment."
Morocco's biggest draws for expats in terms of environment and sustainability are its air quality (67 percent) and its nature (80 percent). But "I wish there was a greater awareness (with regards to) littering," complains an American expat.
49. Saudi Arabia
Best score: 50 percent of expats believe the Saudi government supports green policies (still 5 percent below the global average). "I don't like the total reliance on cars, the lack of recycling, and the lack of green spaces," an Australian expat says.
29 percent of expats are dissatisfied with China's natural environment, more than three times the global average (9 percent). "The air quality is terrible, and the people are packed tightly together," says an American expat.
Bad, worse, India
India scores worst in all three categories, but to be fair – some of its problems were imported from more developed countries.
51. Hong Kong
Hong Kong's two highest-ranked qualities are its natural environment and its water and sanitation infrastructure (both 37th). It does a lot worse for air quality (55th). "They still have landfill sites. And food waste is also a huge problem," observes a Hungarian expat.
The only European country in the Bottom 10, Malta performs poorly in all categories, but especially in terms of green policies. Only 33 percent of expats thinks the government cares about those, and only 48 percent think the same of the people. "It's a shame," says one British expat: "Wind farms and electric buses would be a good idea."
No less than 72 percent of expats are unsatisfied with Kenya's waste management and recycling, versus just 28 percent globally, and just 23 percent of expats believe Kenyans are interested in the environment, versus a global average of 48 percent.
The Philippines places in the Bottom 10 for each category. There is "no environmental care," laments one British expat.
53 percent of respondents agree that the Thai government is not supportive of green policies, more than double the global average (25 percent). An American expat lists "air pollution and the government's inability to enforce air pollution laws" as their least favorite aspect of expat life in Thailand.
Expats rate only India and South Korea as having worse air quality than Vietnam. A Dutch expat lists "air pollution, noise, bad waste management and rodents" as things he does not like about living in Vietnam.
50 percent of expats are unhappy about the state of Indonesia's water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. just 15 percent worldwide). "There is no waste management. All rubbish is going to the rivers and into the ocean," says a German expat.
The country on the Nile scores among the worst three in all of the survey's categories. There seems to be "no care for the environment," says a Polish expat. A French expat in Cairo laments the absence of "organic or pesticide-free foods".
Only 12 perent of expats are pleased with Kuwait's natural environment. That the emirate's worst result, but not the only bad one. "Poor sanitation and inept waste management" are among the worst things in Kuwait, says one Australian expat.
India is the worst destination for all three categories. 87 percent of expats are dissatisfied with India's waste management and recycling efforts, 82 percent rate the air quality poorly (with 55 percent saying it's "very bad"), and 69 percent are unhappy with the quality of the water and sanitation infrastructure.
World Bank data suggests India's output of renewable energy is 15%, significantly lower than the global average of 23 percent. However, in terms of the ubiquitous rubbish in India, it should be noted that the country has been used by western countries as a dumping ground for plastic waste.
Strange Maps #1053
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
After former U.S. President William Henry Harrison delivered his inaugural speech on March 4, 1841, he posed for a daguerreotype, the first widely available photographic technology. It became the first photo taken of a sitting American president.
As for the eight presidents before Harrison, history can see them only through artistic renderings. (The exception is a handful of surviving daguerreotypes of John Quincy Adams, taken after he left office. In his diary, Adams described them as "hideous" and "too true to the original.")
But a recent project offers a glimpse of what early presidents might've looked like if photographed through modern cameras. Using FaceApp and Airbrush, Magdalene Visaggio, author of books such as "Eternity Girl" and "Kim & Kim," generated a collection of convincing portraits of the nation's first presidents, from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant.
Modern Presidents George Washington https://t.co/CURJQB0kap— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611952243.0
What might be surprising is that Visaggio was able to generate the images without a background in graphic design, using freely available tools. She wrote on Twitter:
"A lot of people think I'm a digital artist or whatever, so let me clarify how I work. Everything you see here is done in Faceapp+Airbrush on my phone. On the outside, each takes between 15-30 mins. Washington was a pretty simple one-and-done replacement."
Ulysses S Grant https://t.co/L1IGXLI3Vl— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611959480.0
"Other than that? I am not a visual artist in any sense, just a hobbyist using AI tools see what she can make. I'm actually a professional comics writer."
Did another pass at Lincoln. https://t.co/PdT4QVpMbn— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611973947.0
Of course, Visaggio isn't the first person to create deepfakes (or "cheap fakes") of politicians.
In 2017, many people got their first glimpse of the technology through a video depicting former President Barack Obama warning: "We're entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time." The video quickly reveals itself to be fake, with comedian Jordan Peele speaking for the computer-generated Obama.
While deepfakes haven't yet caused significant chaos in the U.S., incidents in other nations may offer clues of what's to come.
The future of deepfakes
In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.
But the video is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real.
The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a 2020 report from The Brookings Institution. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes.
As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:
"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."
Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.
- People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
- They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
- Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Ancient mining areas below Paris for limestone (red) and gypsum (green).Credit: Émile Gérards (1859–1920) / Public domain
"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Francisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless."
China Miéville's fantasy novel Un Lun Dun is set in an eerie mirror version of London. In it, he hints that other cities have similar doubles. On the list that he offhandedly rattles off, Paris stands out. Because the City of Light really does have a twisted sister. Below Paris Overground is Paris Underground, the City of Darkness.
Most people will have heard of the Catacombs of Paris: subterranean charnel houses for the bones of around six million dead Parisians. They are one of the French capital's most famous tourist attractions – and undoubtedly its grisliest.
But they constitute only a small fragment of what the locals themselves call les carrières de Paris ("the mines of Paris"), a collection of tunnels and galleries up to 300 km (185 miles) long, most of which are off-limits to the public, yet eagerly explored by so-called cataphiles.
The Grand Réseau Sud ("Great Southern Network") takes up around 200 km beneath the 5th, 6th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements (administrative districts), all south of the river Seine. Smaller networks run beneath the 12th, 13th, and 16th arrondissements. How did they get there?
Paris stone and plaster of Paris
It all starts with geology. Sediments left behind by ancient seas created large deposits of limestone in the south of the city, mostly south of the Seine; and gypsum in the north, particularly in the hills of Montmartre and Ménilmontant. Highly sought after as building materials, both have been mined since Roman times.
The limestone is also known as Lutetian limestone (Lutetia is the Latin name for ancient Paris) or simply "Paris stone." It has been used for many famous Paris landmarks, including the Louvre and the grand buildings erected during Georges-Eugène Haussmann's large-scale remodelling of the city in the mid-19th century. The stone's warm, yellowish color provides visual unity and a bright elegance to the city.
The fine-powdered gypsum of northern Paris, used for making quick-setting plaster, was so famed for its quality that "plaster of Paris" is still used as a term of distinction. However, as gypsum is very soluble in water, the underground cavities left by its extraction were extremely vulnerable to collapse.
Like living on top of a rotting tooth: subsidence starts far below the surface, but it can destroy your house.Credit : Delavanne Avocats
In previous centuries, a road would occasionally open up to swallow a chariot, or even a whole house would disappear down a sinkhole. In 1778, a catastrophic subsidence in Ménilmontant killed seven. That's why the Montmartre gypsum quarries were dynamited rather than just left as they were. The remaining gypsum caves were to be filled up with concrete.
The official body governing Paris down below is the Inspection Générale des Carrières (IGC), founded in the late 1770s by King Louis XVI. The IGC was tasked with mapping and, where needed, propping up the current and ancient (and sometimes forgotten) mining corridors and galleries hiding beneath Paris.
A delightful hiding place
Also around that time, the dead of Paris were getting in the way of the living. At the end of the 18th century, their final destination consisted of about 200 small cemeteries, scattered throughout the city — all bursting at the seams, so to speak. There was no room to bury the newly dead, and the previously departed were fouling up both the water and air around their respective churchyards.
Something radical had to happen. And it did. From 1785 until 1814, the smaller cemeteries were emptied of their bones, which were transported with full funerary pomp to their final resting place in the ancient limestone quarries at Tombe-Issoire. Three large and modern cemeteries were opened to receive the remains of subsequent generations of Parisians: Montparnasse, Père-Lachaise, and Passy.
The six million dead Parisians in the Catacombs, from all corners of the capital and across many centuries, together form the world's largest necropolis — their now anonymized skulls and bones methodically stacked, occasionally into whimsical patterns. The Catacombs are fashioned into a memorial to the brevity of life. The message above the entrance reads: Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort. ("Halt! This is the empire of Death.")
That has not stopped the Catacombs, accessible via a side door to a classicist building on the Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, making just about every Top 20 list of things to see in Paris.
An underground economy
However, while the Catacombs certainly are the most famous part of the centuries-old network beneath Paris, and in non-pandemic times draw thousands of tourists each day, they constitute just 1.7 km (1 mile) of the 300-km (185-mile) tunneling total.
Subterranean Paris wasn't just used for mining and storing dead people. In the 17th century, Carthusian monks converted the ancient quarries under their monastery into distilleries for the green or yellow liqueur that still carries their name, chartreuse.
Because the mines generally keep a constant cool temperature of around 15° C (60° F), they were also ideal for brewing beer, as happened on a large scale from the end of the 17th century until well into the 20th century. Several caves were dug especially for establishing breweries, and not just because of the ambient temperature: going underground allowed brewers to remain close to their customers without having to pay a premium for real estate up top.
Overview of the Paris Catacombs.Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain.
At the end of the 19th century, the underground breweries of the 14th arrondissement alone produced more than a million hectoliters (22 million gallons) per year. One of the most famous of Paris' underground breweries, Dumesnil, stayed in operation until the late 1960s.
In that decade, the network of corridors and galleries south of the Seine, long since abandoned by miners, became the unofficial playground for the young people of Paris. They explored the fantastical world beneath their feet, in some cases via entry points located in their very schools. Fascinated, these cataphiles ("catacomb lovers") read up on old books, explored the subterranean labyrinth, and drew up schematics that were passed around among fellow initiates as reverently as treasure maps.
As Robert Macfarlane writes in Underland, Paris-beneath-their-feet became "a place where people might slip into different identities, assume new ways of being and relating, become fluid and wild in ways that are constrained on the surface."
Some larger caves turned into notorious party zones: a 7-meter-tall gallery below the Val-de-Grâce hospital is widely known as "Salle Z." Over the last few decades, various other locations in subterranean Paris have hosted jazz and rock concerts and rave parties — like no other city, Paris really has an "underground music scene."
Hokusai's Great Wave as the backdrop to the "beach" under Paris.Credit: Reddit
Cataphiles vs. cataphobes
With popularity came increased reports of nuisance and crime — the tunnels provided easy access to telephone cables, which were stolen for the resale value of their copper.
The general public's "discovery" of the underground network led the city of Paris to officially interdict all access by non-authorized persons. That decree dates back to 1955, but the "underground police" have an understanding with seasoned cataphiles. Their main targets are so-called tourists, who by their lack of knowledge expose themselves to risk of injuries or worse, and degrade their surroundings, often leaving loads of litter in their wake.
The understanding does not extend to the IGC. Unlike in the 19th century, when weak cavities were shored up by purpose-built pillars, the policy now is to inject concrete to fill up endangered spaces — thus progressively blocking off parts of the network. That procedure has also been used to separate the Catacombs to prevent "infiltration" of the site by cataphiles.
Many subterranean streets have their own names, signs and all. This is the Rue des Bourguignons (Street of the Burgundians) below the Champs des Capucins (Capuchin Field), neither of which exists on the surface.Credit: Jean-François Gornet via Wikimedia and licensed under
The cataphiles, however, are fighting back. In a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, they are reopening blocked passages and creating chatières ("cat flaps") through which they can squeeze into chambers no longer accessible via other underground corridors.
Catacomb climate control
Alone against the unstoppable tide of concrete, the amateurs of Underground Paris would be helpless. But the fight against climate change may turn the subterranean labyrinths from a liability into an asset — and the City of Paris into an ally.
The UN's 2015 Climate Plan — concluded in Paris, by the way — requires the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. And Paris itself wants to be Europe's greenest city by 2030. More sustainable climate control of our living spaces would be a great help toward both targets. A lot of energy is spent heating houses in winter and cooling them in summer.
This is where the constant temperature of the Parisian tunnels comes in. It's not just good for brewing beer; it's a source of geothermal energy, says Fieldwork, an architectural firm based in Paris. It can be used to temper temperatures, helping to cool houses in summer and warming them in winter.
One catch for the cataphiles: it also works when the underground cavities are filled up with concrete. So perhaps one day, Paris Underground, fully filled up with concrete, will completely fall off the map, reducing the city's formerly real doppelgänger into an air conditioning unit.
Cool in summer, warm in winter: Paris Underground could become Paris A/C.Credit: Fieldwork
Strange Maps #1083
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meconium contains a wealth of information.
- A new study finds that the contents of an infants' first stool, known as meconium, can predict if they'll develop allergies with a high degree of accuracy.
- A metabolically diverse meconium, which indicates the initial food source for the gut microbiota, is associated with fewer allergies.
- The research hints at possible early interventions to prevent or treat allergies just after birth.
The prevalence of allergies arising in childhood has increased over the last 50 years, with 30 percent of the human population now having some kind of atopic disease such as eczema, food allergies, or asthma. The cause of this increase is still subject to debate, though it has been associated with a number of factors, including changes to the gut microbiomes of infants.
A new study by Canadian researchers published in Cell Reports Medicine may shed further light on how these allergies develop in children by examining the contents of their first diaper.
The things you do for science
The research team examined the first stool of 100 infants from the CHILD Cohort Study. The first stool of an infant is a thick, green, horrid-looking substance called meconium. It consists of various things that the infant ingests during the second half of gestation. Additionally, it provides not only a snapshot of what the infant was exposed to during that time, but it also reveals what the food sources will be for the initial gut bacteria that colonize the baby's digestive tract.
The content of the meconium was examined and found to contain such varied elements as amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, and myriad other substances.
A graph of the comparative, summed abundance of different elements in a metabolic pathway after scaling to median abundance of each metabolite. The blue figures are those children without atopy, the yellow ones show the data for those with an atopic condition. Petersen et al.
The authors fed this information into an algorithm that used this data, along with the identities of the bacteria present as well as the baby's overall health, to predict which infants would go on to develop allergies within one year. The algorithm got it right 76 percent of the time.
A way to prevent childhood allergies?
Infants whose meconium had a less diverse metabolic niche the initial microbes to settle in the gut were at the highest risk of developing allergies a year later. Many of these elements were associated with the presence or absence of different bacterial groups in the digestive system of the child, which play an increasingly appreciated role in our overall health and development. The findings were summarized by senior co-author Dr. Brett Finlay:
"Our analysis revealed that newborns who developed allergic sensitization by one year of age had significantly less 'rich' meconium at birth, compared to those who didn't develop allergic sensitization."
The findings could be used to help understand how allergies form and even how to prevent them. Co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey commented on this possibility:
"We know that children with allergies are at the highest risk of also developing asthma. Now we have an opportunity to identify at-risk infants who could benefit from early interventions before they even begin to show signs and symptoms of allergies or asthma later in life."
A model for early childhood allergies
Petersen et al.
As shown above, the authors constructed a model of how they believe metabolites and bacterial diversity help prevent allergies. Increased diversity of metabolic products in the meconium encourage the development of "healthy" families of bacteria, like Peptostreptococcaceae, which in turn promote the development of a healthy and diverse gut microbiome. Ultimately, such diversity decreases the likelihood that a child will develop allergies.