About People, Roads and SAFETY

It will take you 2 minutes to read the hole article but at the end it will change the way you look at everyday traffic.

Transfagarasan_twisty_road

 

Transfagarasan picture from Wikipedia

We have one of the most beautiful roads in the world (picture above) according to Jeremy Clarkson and everyone who has been there can probably confirm this.

We also have according to statistics from www.worldlifeexpectancy.com one of the highest death rates related to car accidents from the E.U. countries. From every 100 000  people approx. 13 die in car accidents every year in our country. That means that more than 2000 people die every year just because they took a chance to go somewhere, twice as much as the average in E.U. This number does not include the ones who are badly injured and have to suffer all their life the consequences of a terrible accident. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road traffic accidents kill more people around the world than malaria, and are the leading cause of death for young people aged five to 29 – especially in developing countries.

In order to better understand this worrying phenomenon, I would like to look a little bit about what seem to be the main causes of car accidents.

According to official reports excessive speeding or speed unsuited to road conditions (25 %) pedestrians crossing the street in unmarked places (18%) and vehicles hitting pedestrians on crossings (12 %) are the main factors that lead to accidents.

In my opinion speeding and speed unsuited to road conditions are 2 different things, because the first one is caused mainly by irresponsible people who either want to show off thinking they are Fernando Alonso driving at the Monaco Grand-Prix or by people who are late for something, most of the times because of poor infrastructure or because they left too late in the first place. Off course this 2 situations can easily be avoided if we know that we are not Fernando Alonso, Monaco is not in Romania and that in average we will get every morning to work in approximately the same time so if we include a 10 min buffer into our program we will be never be late.

However for the second category, speed unsuited to road conditions, the answer is not so simple because most of the times this conditions are not known by the drivers, yes we can see it is cold or raining outside, but we can’t see how big is a hole filled with water or the thin ice formed on the surface of the road at night. On the same note it is hard to say that pedestrians and drivers that hit them are the only ones responsible for these accidents if they do not have sufficient crossings or the ones that exist are not clearly marked. Off course they should have been more careful but maybe it is also our job to make them aware of the dangers they face.

So what actions are being taken around the world to reduce this number?

The UN launched in 2011 its “decade for action” on road safety to cut the 1.3 million deaths on the road each year. The European Commission lunched last year a public debate concerning the future strategy for road safety. The Romanian Government will also lunch this year new driving regulations with increased fines and penalties especially for speeding and not stopping at pedestrian crossings.

This are all good actions and I fully agree that penalties should be applied to those who drive irresponsibly and put their life an others at great risk. I am also confident that some improvement will come out of this actions however I don’t think that the improvement will be significant or sustainable.

The reason for my skepticism is the research in behavioral psychology. As Daniel Kahneman, winner of Nobel prize, said in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, it has been proven in years of research that rewards for improved performance work better every time than punishment of mistake. The explanation why punishment SEEMS to get results it’s because, most of the times, when we punish someone the person who has been punished was already doing something very bad so whatever he does after that will seem like an improvement to us. In fact this improvement is not dew to the punishment but it is just a regression to the mean, a normal part of life that would have happened without our intervention.

Another statistic that supports my skepticism towards penalties is the correlation between the fines amount, speed limits and number of deaths per year.  As an example we can take Germany (5,7 Deaths/100k), Denmark (5,4 Deaths/100k) France (6,6 Deaths/100k) Holland (4 Deaths/100k) and Romania (13 Deaths/100k) (Data from 2011). The speed limits in this countries are almost the same with Germany as an exception because on many highways it has no speed limits. Since Germany is the only exception we cannot conclude with 100% certainty that in fact speed limits alone do not make the road safer and are required only in certain driving conditions but it sure seems that way.

So if speed limits are not the main reasons maybe the difference is in the amount of the fines: All countries have relatively high fines, compared to average income in that country, with Denmark and France fining more drastically speeding, however the difference in the fine amount is not reflected in the number of deaths as Germany has almost the same rate of mortality as Denmark. Also if we look at Netherlands, which has one of the busiest traffic networks in Europe and average fines, it’s one of the safest place to drive according to statistics, similar to Switzerland with (3,8 deaths/100k).

This long list of statistical data can give us a clue about the results of higher fines and increased punishment. But if punishment is not the main solution what other things are the West E.U. countries doing better than us to get almost 3 times less fatalities on their roads? While driving in many different countries across Europe I noticed 2 main differences and I would like, with your help, to raise awareness about this things so in the future we can all drive on SAFER roads. This differences are related in my opinion to infrastructure and public awareness about safety.

Road surface quality plays a big role in a safe driving environment but also the lack of road signs can have an equally important role. The missing road markings create so many near misses and dangerous situations which I am sure you are all familiar with. For instance when you try to avoid an obstacle on the road and almost hit the incoming traffic, because of a missing triangle to show the obstacle, when the lines on the road do not exist and you realize suddenly you are too close to the edge, when there is someone crossing the street on a place where used to be a road crossing but now the signs on the tarmac are not visible and you have to break suddenly forcing the cars behind you to do the same and the list can go on…All the West European countries have very good road markings especially on dangerous area because if nothing is there to warn us about an upcoming dangerous situation how can we prepare for it?

We don not have good road markings but we can look on the bright side and be happy that we have the chance to install the newest and safest technologies available.

1. Glow in the dark paint for the roads. In Britain Pro-Teq has developed Starpath which is a sprayable coating of light-absorbing particles that harvests ultra-violet rays from the sun during the day and dramatically lights up like a starry sky at night. The veneer is non-reflective, anti-slip and waterproof, and can be applied to cement, wood, tarmac or other solid surfaces. In Holland designers at the Dutch firm Studio Roosegaarde are the architects behind the country’s new transportation redesign. Their first measure is to paint roadway lines over with photo-luminescent powder, making lanes glow brightly in the dark.

2. Traffic signs that can absorb shock from a crash where developed in Britain and road signs for pedestrians crossing  powered by solar energy are already being installed in many parts of our country, signs that can be easily produced in Romania also and that make the crossing much more visible and safer.

This are just a few examples but the other part that needs to be improved in order to reduce the number of people dying is public awareness. We have deep in our culture routed the true belief that health is the most important asset we have however we seem to forget this every time we get behind the wheel of a car. We always wish someone for good health on special occasions and we always pray for it for our self and for our family but we still drive irresponsibly and we put in danger not only our health but also others people health. God can only help us to a certain extent.

So how can we be the change we want to see in the world, next time we drive?

1. Leave 10 min earlier so you don’t have to rush.

2. Remind your colleague who is running late, stuck in traffic, that the world will not end if he is 5 min late and he should take his time to get to you safe rather than fast.

3. Call 112 when we see a dangerous situation on the road with no marking, so that the road authorities can take action, even if it will take them months to do it think about how many people will avoid a crash because you placed a phone call.

4. Remind people that are driving irresponsibly they have someone waiting for them at home.

5. If you are receiving a fine remind yourself that if the fine is the only thing that makes you drive slower in a dangerous area, the fine is preferable instead of a large bill for an expensive car repair, or for hospital care.

We cannot build highways without the Government but we can make the roads a little safer for us, for our children and for others by being just a little more careful next time we drive.

Please help us raise awareness about this topic by sharing with us your suggestions on how can we increase safety on roads and by talking about it with friends, family and officials.

LIFE and HEALTH are the greatest gifts we have and it’s a shame to lose them on the road.

The choice is always yours.

Until next time drive safe,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

 

For interesting comparisons between countries you can check:

http://www.maki-car-rental.com/rent-a-car/international-car-fatality.html

 

 

 

 

Why should we believe in renewable energy?

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  A very intense debate about the future of renewable energy in Romania has started at the beginning of this year, with numerous voices claiming that it only brings cost not value to our country.

  Before we decide if renewable energy is good or bad let’s first see WHY the EU ( European Union) and IEA (International Energy Association) care so much about this type of energy?

  So WHY are these organizations promoting renewable energy an WHY should we believe in it ?

  1. Does it bring value to the economy?

   According to the debaters from our country it seems that renewable energy is only increasing the cost of energy, so economic growth is not the reason, but IEA seems to disagree, so let’s have a look at some facts about energy subsidies.

   IEA (International Energy Agency) in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET :

  Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $409 billion in 2010 while global renewable-energy subsidies increased from $39 billion in 2007 to $66 billion in 2010, in line with rising production of biofuels and electricity from renewable sources. In a global survey covering 37 countries where subsidies exist, at least 15 have taken steps to phase them out since the start of 2010. Without further reform, the cost of fossil-fuel consumption subsidies is set to reach $660 billion in 2020, or 0.7% of global GDP while phasing them out completely by 2020 would result in savings in oil demand in 2035 of 4.4mb/d. Global primary energy demand would be cut by nearly 5% and CO2 emissions by 5.8%. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions. “

   I agree that the subsidies for renewable energy are now bared by the population and that leads to an increase in the energy bill but no one speaks about the subsidies for fossil-fuel generation?  As we can see from the IEA report these are far more expensive world wide then the subsidies for the renewable energy and in the long term they will only increase so we might be saving 1 Euro now but it will cost us 4 Euros in the future. 

After looking at the facts it seems that one reason for investing in cleaner technology might be that it brings economic value.

  2. Does it create more jobs?

  According to the debaters the answer is again No. Renewable energy leads to job losses in coal industry, steel industry and does nothing in return but IRENA seems to think differently so lets again look at some facts :

  According to IRENA ( International Renewable Energy Agency)”Renewable Energy Jobs: Status, Prospects & Policies” when we look at the job market for renewable energy there are 3 types of jobs:

“Direct jobs are relatively easy to measure and understand. These are jobs related to a sector’s core activities, such as feedstock conversion, manufacturing, project development (including site preparation and installation) and operations and maintenance.

 Indirect jobs include all those involved in supplying the renewable energy industry. these are jobs in the industrial input sectors in the production and the operation and maintenance of renewable energy technologies. Examples might include the labour required to extract and process raw materials, such as steel for wind turbine towers as well as positions in government ministries, regulatory bodies, consultancy firms and research organisations working on renewables. 

Induced jobs are created when wealth generated by the renewable energy industry, directly or indirectly, is spent elsewhere in the economy, thus stimulating demand in industries that may be entirely unrelated. Renewable energy technicians, for example, may spend part of their wages on a holiday, thus inducing jobs in the tourism industry.”

  It seems that actually renewable energy creates a variety of jobs across all sectors of the economy. Also according to the same study it creates better jobs also.

“Many essential jobs in the renewable energy industry require a skilled workforce. Industry surveys in Germany have suggested that on average renewable energy jobs are relatively high-skilled, across both fuel-free and fuel-based technologies: 82% of employees in the industry have vocational qualifications and almost 40% of these have a university degree, compared to an average for the whole industrial sector of 70% and 10%, respectively (Lehr et al., 2011).”

After seeing these facts maybe the better question to ask is:  Do we really want to keep doing jobs that have a low income, high accident rate and provide bad health after a few years of activity, for example coal mining, or we want to have jobs that are safer, provide more income and require more qualification?

3. Does it make us independent?

 To answer the question lets look again at some facts:

   In 2007, the EU was importing 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas, which then made it the world’s leading importer of these fuels. 

   The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 legally includes solidarity in matters of energy supply and changes to the energy policy within the EU. The European Commission has proposed in its Renewable Energy Roadmap a binding target of increasing the level of renewable energy in the EU’s overall mix from less than 7% today to 20% by 2020 and a minimum target of 10% for the use of biofuels by 2020.

  Romania produces now in average more then 45 % of its power from fossil fuels. If we achieve the target of 20 % renewable energy by 2020 that means we will only have space for 25 % fossil fuels left in the energy mix making us almost independent of imports from other countries. 

    So maybe we can become independent by using renewable energy.

4. Does it make the grid better?

At the present moment no. The wind and the sun cannot be controlled and that provides challenges to the grid. This has been the problem at the heart of many sustainable-energy systems: How to store power so it can be delivered to the grid all the time, day and night, even when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining? 

One example is the use of large water reservoirs that can be filled by pumping water when there is excess energy from the renewable sources, water that can be used to produce energy when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.

Another example is the use of high capacity batteries developed at MIT, where Donald Sadoway has been working on a grid-size battery system that stores energy using a three-layer liquid-metal core. 

So it is only a meter of time until the renewable energy will become also grid friendly.

5. Are we doing it to create a better, cleaner, safer world?

The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 also includes some other proposal like :

A cut of up to 95% in carbon emissions from primary energy sources by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

A cut of at least 20% in greenhouse gas emissions from all primary energy sources by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels), while pushing for an international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol aimed at achieving a 30% cut by all developed nations by 2020 this means limiting temperature increase to 2⁰ Celsius which would require the long-term atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to be limited to 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent.

 IEA (International Energy Agency) states in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET: 

 ” If internationally co-ordinated action is not taken by 2017, we project that all permissible emissions in the 450 Scenario would come from the infrastructure then existing, so that all new infrastructure from then until 2035 would need to be zero-carbon, unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically”

So it seems that in order to not increase the global temperature with more then 2 degrees Celsius all the investments in energy from 2017 need to be 100% green.

Maybe 2 degrees Celsius does not seem like allot but think about the damages that would bring to wildlife, crops, climate and even landscape. Desertification is happening as we speak, Alan Savoy addressed the problem and provided a proven solution to reverse this, but it must be collaborated with the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Renewable energy is at a starting point, it has problems and is expensive but when we ask WHY do we believe in renewable energy and the facts lead us to answers like:

 “Because it brings economic value, because it provides better jobs, because it makes us independent and because it makes the world a better place where we can actually live and not melt” maybe these are things worth paying extra for…

  Spread the word and ask WHY?

 Sincerely yours,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Reconstructing our foundation

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Even in today’s tough times, I still believe in people’s ability to change and develop. I believe that anyone can become great in time if he or she has a true desire to improve, and I believe that only with the help and enthusiasm of these great people we can one day reconstruct our world.

If we look closely there are many similarities between building a house and building a personality.

For instance when driving in the countryside if we take a look at the houses, we will see that, a lot of times, when reconstructing something we tend to start from the outside. The first thing we change is the envelope: we put a new layer of insulation, we paint the walls, we put new windows and although these are all good changes, without a good foundation the first cracks appear in no-time revealing the old building.

We do the same with ourselves, we start by changing our clothes, our cars or our jewelry but we rarely think of changing our thoughts or our values.  You might say that any improvement is better than no improvement, which could be true, the only problem with improving only on the outside is that it doesn’t last.

So next time you start renovating your home, check first if you have a strong foundation. The most obvious signs that the answer is no are cracks in the plaster, walls, and at corners of the doors or windows. Curling and tearing of new repairs or doors and windows that don’t close properly can also be a sign of a weak foundation.

Traditional methods of improving a building foundation include over-excavation or additional concrete but a good solution is also the use of mechanically stabilized earth or MSE, composed of cohesionless soil and Geosynthetics, components that interlock in order to create a stiff platform over weak, compressible soils creating a structure that distributes loads widely and uniformly over underlying soils. This solution can be used also for stabilizing unstable slopes instead of concrete walls. The main advantages of MSE walls is their ease of installation and quick construction. Of Course the best solution depends on the specific soil conditions that is way it is very important to get an expert opinion before doing any repairs.

In building a personality we can look at our values as our foundation. Without strong values it is hard to build a good personality, however we should never stop evaluating if our values are helping or hurting us. They define the way we think and that defines the way we speak and the way we look. How can we pass something to the next generation if our foundations are weak? If our values change every time someone offers us a 10% raise, if we only want the easy fix to our problems, if working hard for something scares us, if we don’t care about the environment and the people around us, how can we hope that our children will behave in a different way? It is in our power to change not only our future but also the future of others.

The same goes for buildings, if we want to pass something sustainable to our children then we need to start building better houses, that are friendly to nature, consume less energy and have a strong foundation. This will ensure they will withstand the test of time, the same as great personalities do, long after they have passed away.

So next time you want to build something ask yourself this question: Do I want to make something for a moment or for a lifetime? The decision is only yours!

With best regards,
F.M.B.
reconstructromania@gmail.com