Richard Scarry’s Busytown lies at the heart of the sustainability challenge. We lose sight of that fact at our peril.

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I’ve been reflecting a lot, lately, about Busytown, the cartoon city full of animals-standing-in-for-people that Richard Scarry created as the setting for books like What Do People Do All Day? and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. I first read these books as a small child in the 1970s, and they fascinated me. Forty years later I had the chance to read them, again, with my son, Jay. I still remembered many of the characters and the stories. Except I also vividly recalled stories that didn’t seem to exist, like a banana heist and work at various places like the water purification plant, coal mine, power plant, and airport. After some on-and-off detective work, I discovered, from 1974–2015, the only edition of What Do People Do All Day?that Golden Books printed was abridged. Fortunately, Ebay came to the rescue, and I was able to buy a used copy of the unabridged 1968 edition. My brain wasn’t just making things up. …


Richard Scarry’s Busytown lies at the heart of the sustainability challenge. We lose sight of that fact at our peril.

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Richard Scarry, What Do People Do All Day? Golden Books, 1968

I’ve been reflecting a lot, lately, about Busytown, the cartoon city full of animals-standing-in-for-people that Richard Scarry created as the setting for books like What Do People Do All Day? and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. I first read these books as a small child in the 1970s, and they fascinated me. Forty years later I had the chance to read them, again, with my son, Jay. I still remembered many of the characters and the stories. Except I also vividly recalled stories that didn’t seem to exist, like a banana heist and work at various places like the water purification plant, coal mine, power plant, and airport. After some on-and-off detective work, I discovered, from 1974–2015, the only edition of What Do People Do All Day? that Golden Books printed was abridged. Fortunately, Ebay came to the rescue, and I was able to buy a used copy of the unabridged 1968 edition. My brain wasn’t just making things up. …


Electricity can eradicate poverty. You just have to design for it.

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When people have a use for energy, they will go to great lengths, financial or otherwise, to obtain it. Here a woman in the Philippines carries a battery to a charging station.

Recently, The Economist ran a storyunder the headline, “Electricity does not change poor lives as much as was thought.” The article purported to demonstrate, drawing on a variety of recent academic studies, that bringing electricity and light to a community doesn’t lead to economic improvement in people’s lives.

Unfortunately, the research on which the article is based is flawed and leads to erroneous conclusions like the bold but incorrect proclamation in the article’s subtitle: “Getting a power connection to the poorest of the poor may be the wrong priority for a cash-strapped government [emphasis in the original].”


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Solar Energy (Veneto 19) by Collin Key

“We’re going to have a lot of solar panels.” — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Feb. 7, 2019, NPR.

She’s not wrong.

The world is moving rapidly in the direction of a Green New Deal.

McKinsey estimates, for example, that 64% of all new electric power generation built by 2050 will be solar energy. That’s 7.7 TW of new capacity, half the energy the world currently consumes, including transportation.

What’s more, as Bloomberg’s Michael Liebreich points out, every forecast of solar energy investment over the past decade has badly undershot the mark.

If you’re counting, that’s something like 30 billion solar panels: four per person on the planet. …

About

Clark A. Miller

Clark A. Miller writes and teaches about the design of inclusive techno-human futures at Arizona State University.

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