Last year I had the absolute privilege to spend a year abroad through the go global program at UBC. I studied in Leiden, The Netherlands and spent much of my time exploring and travelling around continental Europe. While travelling, I always thought about what I was doing and how it would compare if I were to stay at home. I always wondered what the real point of travelling or being abroad was. Turns out I’m not the only one who has been thinking about this and there is a wealth of research to suggest the benefits travel can provide.
The first benefit that may surprise most is ones overall health. Many studies have compared those who travel often with those who do not finding that well travelled individuals are in an overall better health condition. For example, a study by Chun-Chun Chen and James Petrick reviewed past literature on the overall health benefits of travel and found there to be a lower risk of diseases such as heart attacks. They also found that stress levels were lower among those who travel which can help reduce many other complications. It is also interesting to note that these health benefits were observed to gradually diminish after returning from a trip.
Video: TEDx Talks
The benefits of travel do not stop at ones health and wellbeing it can also extend to peoples work lives and overall career success. This may seem counter intuitive since travel is often viewed as the opposite of work but many studies show that time off results in a more productive work ethic. Lots of evidence points to the need to relax and clear your mind to be able to produce better work. This is applied to many work offices at Google. Other studies also point to a correlation between university degree completion and higher incomes with those who travel more.
The last point I want to make is actually one I realized myself while being abroad. I think it is one of the more important points. Through my experiences in different countries and from simply reading the news its not hard to notice the many conflicts that exist between people around the world. I noticed that those who remain isolated and out of touch from other countries and cultures have more negative thoughts and stereotypes towards others which often results in meaningless conflicts with big consequences. Travel provides people with a real experience to which they can base their beliefs on and the ability to realize that we are all in the world together. This can ultimately overcome many ideological differences and create a better understanding of one another pushing towards a more peaceful and meaningful population.
Every so often a huge technical development comes along that revolutionizes the way we operate on Earth. In the 1800s that was the development of the coal driven engine pushing us into the industrial revolution. In the late 1900s the internet came along and propelled us into the information age. What might be next you may ask? Its almost impossible to guess what the next great innovation of our time will be but one prospect that has huge potential is under way right now, the autonomous car (driverless car). Currently, Google is leading the way with their work on the autonomous car.
Image From: Wired
The first thought many people have when thinking about the benefits of an autonomous car is the safety aspect. It is well known that humans are not perfect and are often the primary liability in any process that contains some risk. For example in 2010 there were a total of 170,629 reported injuries related to driving accidents in Canada. Google has had a prototype of its car in operation now for a number of years and reported a grand total of 14 minor traffic accidents. The most interesting part about this statistic is that Google claims all 14 accidents are from human error of other drivers such as rear end hits, or cars disobeying stop signs and traffic lights. Therefore that puts Google’s car at zero accident faults. Autonomous cars also eliminate the possibility for impaired drivers to cause harm to others. Imagine if all cars on the road had this level of safety. The amount of lives that could be saved as well as stress taken from social services like hospitals or police could be immense.
Video from: Google Self-Driving Car Project
Any driver knows the frustration of road congestion when trying to make it to a destination on time. Believe it or not there are some who study traffic congestion and conclude that it too is a result of human driving errors. Often when you are on the highway a bizarre traffic jam occurs that clears up shortly after. This is due to a traffic wave from someone suddenly pressing their brakes and causing a growing domino effect. The implementation of autonomous cars has the ability to reduce congestion and increase fuel efficiency to the point of decreasing our road infrastructure needs.
Video from: Google Self-Driving Car Project
The autonomous car has the potential to revolutionize they way we operate in our society. Our level of safety on the roads can reach unimaginable heights reducing costs in areas such as healthcare, policing, infrastructure damage and social damage. The elimination of human error also opens the possibility for an unimaginably new level of car efficiency dampening our growing dependence on fossil fuels as well as saving valuable time and expenses in road infrastructure. When will this revolution come? Google anticipates to have a fully working prototype with all their current kinks solved by 2020!
The human population on earth is growing out of control. The effects of this growth can be seen with our growing demand for resources and the environmental effects of using them at an increasing rate. The most frightening part about our population growth is that its has an exponential character meaning that every year it grows at a faster rate than the previous. The UN World Watch releases population reports every year showing a range of predictions that our growth will take but all of them show increases with a low chance of levelling off anytime soon. The idea that our population will expand beyond our technological capabilities is becoming real and intervention needs to happen fast before its too late. Luckily there are many ethical and non invasive methods that can help overcome this problem. If implemented correctly, we can reduce many issues we face today including,poverty, food shortages, climate change and quality of life.
Image from: Dss Research
One of the most commonly known population growth controls is China’s one child policy. This was enacted in 1979 with the intention to reduce the social and environmental problems within China. This method is very effective and credited to have prevented 400 million births. This method is however subject to many ethical issues as the penalty for failing to abide by the law is a fine. Often, families who are poor and less educated are the ones burdened with higher birthrates. An additional child, matched with a heavy fine could result in very poor living conditions and a drive to terminate pregnancy in an unethical and dangerous way.
Video from: Thomson Reuters Foundation
To control our population growth in a more ethical and effective way we must go beyond the birth process and target the actions leading up to it. It is known that sex education systems and contraceptive resources have helped control birthrates while avoiding to harm or interfere with peoples lives. The education and empowerment that comes from these systems helps both women and men make educated and wise decisions regarding their sex life and ultimately avoid unintended births which help further decrease population growth.
Ted Talk by Mechai Viravaidya.
Another effective way at controlling population growth is the empowerment and equalizing of both male and female rights and opportunities. Part of the reason why more developed and equal countries have lower population growth rates is because women are attending school at the same rate as men and given the same work opportunities delaying marriage and often childbirth.
Image from: Vox.com
Despite the looming dangers of our population growth on earth there is still room for improvement and the capabilities of controlling population growth in an effective and ethical way can have large effects on the stability and endurance of the human race.