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A Goodhart isn’t enough

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After a month cycling in Malawi I am well accustomed to the phrase ‘give me money’, given subtle but punchy variation with the addition of my – ‘Give me my money’. I haven’t counted but would estimate it is shouted on 20-50 occasions ever day I ride. Not only is it irritating, it is also illustrative of dynamics within the country: a dependence on AID and a belief that muzungus (white people) are here to give.

My initial response was to reply ‘why?’ Sadly, this merely causes brief bemusement, for the chorus to resume moments later.  It does however feel like a valid question, not in terms of why money is wanted but why so many people ask for it. Am I expected to stop and give money to everyone who shouts? Is it serious or done partly because it is deemed funny? In the UK people might currently expect me to be selling a Big Issue (I am receptive to Facebook feedback), why is it so different here?

Speaking to a conservationist based in Malawi, he shares similar but more important worries. Part of his work involves trying to educate the local community about how to live in close proximity to spotted hyenas; covering topics like how to behave if approached and how to make livestock safe. Despite holding workshops, designed to benefit humans and hyenas alike, they are struggling to get people to attend. The reason for this is that no food or cash is offered to incentivise turnout; something offered by other charitable organisations in the area.

Former Bank of England advisor Charles Goodhart came up with a theory that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Dubbed Goodhart’s Law, this is the exact trap the charities have fallen into, as they become bigger and more bureaucratic, targets get put in place.  The argument would go that the number of people attending workshops is a good measure of a successful workshop. So the charity puts in place targets based on workshop attendance. However, the original measure (attendance) becomes meaningless because workers on the ground will focus on that target – by giving out food and money –rather than the actual point (running good impactful workshops). Not only is the focus on attendance likely to detract from the workshops, it is also damaging to the wider community, as my conservationist friend is discovering.

The importance of targets in the ‘giving’ world is significant and examples of badly chosen ones are not hard to find.  Another example is projects which are given funding – sometimes at significant levels, from taxpayer’s wallets – but are miles away from deserving a penny. AID organisations pre-allocate funds internally based on categorisation, for example $500 million for agriculture in Malawi, this then essentially becomes a target for allocation. If you don’t use it, you are likely to lose it; perhaps only getting $400 million next year. The creation of the quasi target then results in non-worthy causes being given funding, in order to protect next year’s pot.

A similar problem can occur with trophy hunting when licenses are forward sold. A hunter may buy a license for say $10,000 to shoot an adult male lion. After a long day tracking, he doesn’t see an adult male lion but on his way to camp crosses paths with a young juvenile male. Not something he would have wanted to shoot beforehand, he decides to shoot it, as he has already paid the $10,000.

Putting targets in place seems intuitively like a simple thing but good targets are actually fiendishly hard to achieve. One way to get around the problem is to have multiple targets which pull in different directions or to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative targets. This still might not help my friend though, who is talking to an empty room about the pros of not picking fights with hyenas. If you are going to give money, the best solution is probably to give small and give focused; those charities are less likely to require targets in the first place and be more efficient with money they do get.

Written by Douglas Drake

Aspiring adventurer, writer and environmentalist. Having sold his soul for a few years, Doug is now pursuing his true passions in life which revolve around animals and the natural world.  With a background in business and finance it is likely Doug’s articles will tilt that way.

Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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Environment

How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Rawpixel.com -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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