Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Est. Reading time: 7 minutes 40 seconds

If cities are molecules, streets are atoms. They are the most fundamental element in city-building. And I bet you thought they were merely conduits for cars. Everything stems from the guiding principle that cities exist to bring people together. Cities are places of exchange - economic, social, cultural - and opportunity, where residents share in a common good. Streets have two parts, the public realm and the private realm. Part 1 of this series details important design elements of the public realm. Part 2 will do the same for the private realm.

The first article I wrote was meant to be a primer on cities - what they are, what they're for, how they were mutated by the automobile, and why they are on their way back. If you haven't read it, now would be a good time to do so in order for us to be on the same page. It was meant to be a very high-level introduction, painted with a very broad brush. This two-part series will be the opposite. Instead of looking at cities from 30,000 ft in the air, we are going to go to street-level in order to better understand what makes cities either great people places or hostile people places. We are doing this because streets are the building blocks of cities.

The Public Realm

There are many examples of public space in cities. None is more important or more influential on livability than its streets. Streets represent the single largest public asset in a city. Urbanists often think of streets as the "public living room". They are places for people to come together and commune outside the privacy of their homes. Do you remember the scene in the movie "It Takes Two"? Remember the scene when the kids are playing pick-up baseball in the streets? That's what "living room" means. The importance of streets derives from the simple fact that they take up a lot of space - New York's streets are roughly 30% of land area, for example. With so much space devoted to streets, it becomes critical for a city to get street design right. 

Cars vs. Pedestrians

Incidentally, streets are the first place to look in discerning whether a city prioritizes pedestrians or cars. One quick glance is all it takes. If your city prioritizes pedestrians, its streets have the following characteristics:

  • They exist within a traditional gridded network, forming a logical pattern of streets and blocks.
  • Block lengths are 300 ft long or less.
  • Narrow streets, with lanes 10 ft wide or less, and no more than three lanes total (one travel lane in each direction plus a middle turn lane).
  • No crosswalk buttons

If a city follows these steps, they'll get streets that look like this:

You'll note Figure 1 also shows bike lanes and parking lanes in addition to the two travel lanes and middle turn lane. In general, biking lanes and on-street parking are good things. Bike lanes add another mode of travel and parked cars provide a buffer for walkers. But it is important to always orient one's thinking around the importance of street narrowness above all else. This is the single best tool a city has to make its streets people friendly. Because you make streets like this possible:

Why is narrowness so important? Because it is the best way to calm auto traffic and create a truly comfortable, safe experience for pedestrians. Narrow road with narrow lanes create "friction" for drivers - things that demand more attention from the driver, which makes them drive slower and thus help the street become more livable. This gets at a guiding principle that is crucial to the design of streets, but has sadly been a blind spot for departments of transportation across the country for decades: the principle of risk homeostasis. Risk homeostasis is the idea that humans adjust their behavior to maintain a moderate and acceptable level of risk. This is powerful for city streets because streets that feel the most risky to drivers (i.e. narrow, drivers passing closely in the other direction, people crossing, bicyclists nearby) turn out to be the safest streets for everybody. 

Unwalkable Cities

DOT's have historically gotten this exactly wrong. They have flooded cities with multi-lane, single-directional, overly wide streets not only to prioritize auto travel, but because they think this is the safest option. It simply isn't true. Why not? Because overly wide lanes and excessive number of lanes with few obstacles lead drivers to drive faster and be less attentive. Risk homeostasis allows you to predict this behavior; these wide, single-directional lanes feel less risky to drivers, therefore they adjust their behavior by driving faster. These types of streets lead to terribly unsafe and unwalkable cities. Take a look at a typical downtown block of one of the country's worst offenders, Salt Lake City:

That looks like at least six lanes, all very wide. Again, this is a typical downtown block, and the street has been designed to act as a highway. It is pictures like this that should cause traffic engineers to lose sleep at night as they lament their sins. 

Key Ingredients of Great Cities 

Now that we've seen the good and the bad, let's return to the key characteristics from above and quickly discuss why they are key. 

1. Streets exist within a traditional gridded network, forming a pattern of streets and blocks.

Having seen what good and bad streets look like from above, most of these steps should now be self-explanatory. Streets should exist within a grid because this creates the highest level of connectedness. There should not be any two points in a city that a pedestrian can't access easily in a straight (albeit zigzagging) line. A grid accomplishes this. 

The antithesis of a grid is the cul-de-sac that most Americans know all too well. It is our proudest invention of disconnectedness, and it looks like this:

This road layout is one of the main culprits in forcing us into cars. Pick two points that are geographically close but not directly connected. Now determine a route to get from Point A to Point B. That route is circuitous, long and thus only feasible in a car. And even if it were technically walkable, it wouldn't be a safe or pleasant walk because at some point, based on the hierarchy of suburban road capacity, you will be turning off of a quiet, residential street onto a bigger, collector road, then possibly onto an even bigger arterial with cars going 40 m.p.h. or more. The lesson here for designers of cities is: stick with the traditional grid. 

2. Block lengths are 300 ft. or less

Shorter blocks creates a finer-grained network, and not only gives pedestrians better A-to-B access, but creates walking options, and exposes the walker to more shops, restaurants and cafes, which leads to more interesting walks. Instead of having no choice but to walk down one of Salt Lake City's 600 ft blocks, what if you had Portland, Oregon's 200 ft blocks and could choose to turn right at a new block or continue straight? Your walking experience would be more interesting, safer and more useful.

3. Narrow streets, with lanes 10 ft wide or less, and no more than three lanes total (one travel lane in each direction plus a middle turn lane).

We discussed the importance of narrow streets and narrow lanes, and how they lead to safer, calmer and more walkable environments. We touched on the importance of multi-directional travel in the context of safety, but it turns out there's another reason smart cities are converting one-way streets into two-way streets: two-way streets are better for businesses. Imagine driving downtown in a network of one-way streets. Let's say you approach an intersection and to your left you spot a restaurant you'd like to patronize. The problem is the cross-street is a one-way, and that one direction is right. You quite literally can't get to that restaurant unless you are willing to make a complicated series of turns that ends up with you in front of the restaurant by way of an incredibly circuitous route. That's a major hassle full of lots of pointless driving, which probably led to you saying "screw it". Studies bear this out. When streets are converted from one-way to two-way, business revenue goes up. Cars drive slower. Urban congestion decreases. More two-way streets means easier access to businesses, and more cars stopped at intersections, which gives drivers more scanning time. And again, above all else, two-way streets are safer for drivers and pedestrians than one-ways.

4. No crosswalk buttons
The last key ingredient might seem a bit odd: great cities don't have crosswalk buttons? Why not? The answer is subliminal messaging. A crosswalk with push buttons for pedestrians sends the following message: "This street is for cars until you ask them permission to cross." Remember how we discussed that one glance can quickly tell you whether a city prioritizes cars or people? Cross walk buttons mean cars get priority. Since peds always have to push a button to cross a street, they are always guaranteed of waiting to cross the street. For cars, it's the other way around: they drive unimpeded through green-lit intersections until told otherwise. A city that puts people first has no crosswalk buttons; when someone gets to an intersection, sensors tell the stop lights to turn red and the walk sign lights up. No waiting. And brace yourself for this next part: the safest, most walkable cities have a culture of jaywalking. Jaywalking, widely adopted, as it is in NYC and elsewhere, sends the message that streets are primarily for people and cars better be on the lookout. This is a positive psychology for a city to have. Risk homeostasis once again helps explain this paradox. If a driver knows that pedestrians might cross in front of them at any point, they are going to drive slower and be much more attentive in order to maintain a comfortable level of risk. This is in fact what happens in cities all over the world, and helps explain why New York is a walker's paradise. The psychology of pedestrian priority is why car companies invented the term jaywalking and helped criminalize it. They knew it would send the message that streets are for cars first and everyone else second. Cities are beginning to understand the importance reversing that psychology.

The Next Chapter

Phew, that was tiring. If you made it this far, hopefully you have a better understanding of the importance of good design of the public realm in cities. This is possibly the most important element that city planners can get right, because it is the element they have the most control over. There is, of course, the other side of the coin: the private realm. This is where the city is actually built and where it ultimately takes shape. The private realm is the meat and potatoes of city-building, and as you can imagine, it has the power to change the form, function and feel of a city for better or worse. In Part 2 of this two-part series, we will discuss how the private realm is utilized to create great cities full of great streets. 

----Nick Etheredge

Nick Etheredge  is a new contributor to Hug The Rhino who writes about better living in cities, urban living, and how all of that relates to sustainability and social justice. Nick is a Mechanical Engineer who has a strong passion for cities and urban design . Live in or near a big city? You’ll love his articles.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Est. Reading time: 5 minutes 8 seconds

Understanding the problem 

Let’s start with the fact that we don’t even have a good name for our crap. Shit is considered vulgar, no one except medical professionals utilize the word feces, doo-doo, poo, poop and No.2 were created to cute-ify the experience, excrement feels slightly awkward when used in every day conversation, manure is reserved for animal waste, and human waste implies that there is nothing good about the excess matter that we excrete on a daily basis.

This is a problem. But, that’s not the only problem that we have when it comes to this powerful and valuable matter. In fact, we have so many problems when it comes to poop that it’s more of a crisis! And it’s a crisis that affects all of us. Yes - all 7.125 billion people that are currently breathing, eating and pooping.

The first step to solving any crisis is to increase awareness and start a conversation, so what are the facts? 

Fact #1: All animals poop (this includes all human beings). 

While the magnificent experience of defecating is not reserved specifically for human kind, the average human being excretes about 1 ounce per 12 pounds of weight at least once a day (depending on your metabolism, it can range from once every three days to three times a day)[1].

Even though this is a daily, natural and essential part of what it means to be alive – as a society, we really don’t like talking about it. It’s actually mostly looked down upon – unless, of course, you are at the doctor or talking about your baby’s or puppy’s poop around other parents or puppy owners. 

Fact #2: Poop is rich! (and a great source of information and energy). 

Human waste is made up of about 75% water, while the remaining 25% is a mixture of dead bacteria, living bacteria, proteins, fats, insoluble-fiber (e.g., corn, carrots) and extra nutrients that your body didn’t absorb. Feces are a great source of information about our bodies and health[2], because it is the left-over substance that our body doesn’t need. This means that when something isn’t working the way it should be, our poop can tell us why (or at least point us in the right direction).

If harnessed properly, feces can also be a great resource for methane gas production - which can be utilized as a sustainable energy source (e.g., Rwandan prison uses prisoner’s feces to produce its cooking gas). Human waste is also rich in diseases, viruses, good and bad bacteria, parasites and even worm eggs[3] – which is not necessarily a problem, unless you don’t have access to proper sanitation facilities (i.e., a toilet).

Fact #3: The current toilet is bad news! 

There are two main problems with the current ‘western’ toilet design that are having significant consequences on the environment.

The first problem is the reliance on water as a flushing mechanism. In the USA, federal plumbing standards specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons of water per flush (GPF). However, older toilets sometimes use up to 7 gallons with every flush.[4] (If you go to the bathroom three times a day, that means you are using somewhere between 4.8 gallons up to 21 gallons of water just by flushing the toilet). While there are new designs that aim at decreasing the water usage (e.g., high efficiency toilets that use up to 1.28 GPF), the water flushing mechanism is inherently wasteful.

The second problem is that the design doesn’t allow for the separation of liquids (i.e., urine) and solids (i.e., feces). Even though urine and feces can be processed to be recycled or repurposed, the current method of mixing them in the sewage system makes the separation and recycling process of these materials much more energy-intensive.[5] The only way to be able to efficiently take advantage of these resources is to re-invent the toilet.

But, wait! It’s not all bad news! The good news are that we can each individually address the first problem by updating our toilets to a high efficiency design, retrofitting our old toilets or simply reducing the times you flush on a daily basis. The other good news is that the Gates Foundation has created the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, which has brought significant attention and funding to the toilet problem. 

Fact #4: 2.5 billion people lack proper sanitation facilities[6] and 1 billion practice open defecation[7]

If you are reading this, the probability that you have access to a proper sanitation facility (i.e., a bathroom with a toilet) is pretty high. It’s a privilege that most of us take for granted, because we’ve never experienced otherwise. We are part of the lucky 65% of the world that doesn’t have to worry about finding a safe place to poop every day. The remaining 35% of the world (2.5 billion people) don’t have that commodity. And it gets worse – currently 1 billion people in the world (approximately three times the population of the USA) have no option at all, but to practice open defecation.

Open defecation is when people have no choice but to poop in public.[8] Lack of proper sanitation facilities lead to an exponential increase in the exposure that people have to diseases such as: cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhea, worm infestation, among others.[9] Open defecation also leads to contaminated sources of water, which in turn leads to a water crisis.

It is estimated that a child dies every 2.5 minutes from preventable diarrhea[10], largely caused by diseases related to open defecation or lack of sanitary facilities. This means that in the time it has taken you to read this article, two or more children have died victims to the poop crisis.

Yet, we don’t talk about it.

In an effort to end this silence, the United Nations has launched an initiative to end the practice of open defecation by 2025. The campaign aims at raising awareness on the reality of open defecation in parts of the world where it is not an issue. I encourage you to check out the campaign at http://opendefecation.org/ 

I get it. Now what?

When I was twenty-two, I had the opportunity of truly understanding how spoiled and privileged I had been my whole life when it came to going to the bathroom. I was living in rural Kenya and for the first time in my life I lived in place without plumbing or a western toilet, so I got to re-define the bathroom experience around a pit latrine. Although this was not the first time I had used a latrine, (in fact, most of us have had to figure out alternative bathroom experiences when camping or traveling) it was a transformative experience because it became part of my everyday life. Not only did I learn to appreciate the comfort of a toilet, but it opened my eyes to how interconnected it all is.

The poop crisis is a leading cause of the water crisis, which in turn is a cause of the education crisis, which affects social and economic development all over the world. (Yes, we live in a world ridden with crises and yes, this is an overwhelming thought). So what can we do? We can start by talking about it!

It is a lot easier and more comfortable to focus on the need for clean water or the need for education or the necessity for income generating activities in developing countries. It is not as easy to bring up the poop crisis in every day conversation with our friends and family. But the only way we will instigate change, is by instigating conversations first.

Starting this conversation will not only enable us to end the extreme results of this crisis (i.e., open defecation) and hopefully start to better harness the potential of human waste as an energy source, but it will also enable us as a society to openly start conversing about something that is important and essential to a happy life.

Plus, this is probably the only time that talking shit could actually help make the world a better place.

Happy poop-talking!


Kathya Acuña

Kathya Acuña (@acunamontana) is a new contributor to Hug the Rhino. Her topics of choice are as diverse and eclectic as her interests, but all aim at being a thought catalyst. Kathya studied economics and entrepreneurship, but categorizes herself as a lifelong student of the world and is constantly seeking progress toward a more significant life and a more sustainable world.

Want to learn more? Check out these resources:






[1] http://www.umass.edu/mycenter/documents/bb/poop.pdf
[2] To learn more about what your poop is telling you: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-9453/what-your-poop-is-telling-you-about-your-body-infographic.html
[4] http://www.conserveh2o.org/toilet-water-use
[5] http://theweek.com/article/index/268048/save-the-world-by-changing-how-you-pee
[6] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Report 2014 update)
[7] http://opendefecation.org/
[8] http://opendefecation.org/
[9] http://opendefecation.org/
[10] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/endopendefecation.shtml

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I spend a lot of time thinking about cities. I think about the way they look and feel, the ways in which we move through them, how they add or subtract from the common good. I don't know why cities fascinate me so much. But I do know why they are important to us as humans, and to the planet we inhabit. There is much at stake in the way that we inhabit the landscape, including economic prosperity, social and economic equality, physical health and environmental sustainability. For a long time, we got this right - we inhabited the landscape in a more natural pattern conducive to dealing with the issues above. Then, for a short period we went the wrong way (and we did so in our cars). Now, we are experiencing a national and international self-correction back toward better habitation.

A brief history of the evolution of cities

The modern city as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating back to the Industrial Revolution. However, the essence of what a city is has been around for thousands of years (here is a 4-minute synopsis of the evolution of cities). In the most basic sense, a city is a place where economic, social and cultural exchange takes place. It is the place where humans interact and connect on a daily basis to perform tasks. We grab a coffee and a bagel at the cafe before work. We meet a client for lunch. We get groceries on the way home, or grab drinks with a friend before catching a show. And ideally, we don't get in a car for any of it. This is why the city is often referred to as the organic response to the daily needs of humans. The most powerful feature of cities is that they mix uses - that is, they mix together activities in a central, compact and dense manner. Today, we think of mixing uses as clustering where we live, work, eat and recreate in close proximity to each other.

There is a singular tenet that is at the heart of the mixed-use, compact living pattern described above: walkability. Because more advanced transportation options did not exist hundreds and thousands of years ago, every task that needed to be accomplished had to be within walking distance of one's home. This led to a natural densification of communities; it wasn't practical for a city to take up a lot of space because it simply would have made it more difficult to walk between destinations.

Everything changed with the advent of the automobile and its partner-in-crime, suburbia. In 1908 Henry Ford's mass-produced Model T became the first affordable car accessible to the masses. The American love affair with the car began. With the advent of auto travel came the desire to spread out. And continue spreading. All of a sudden, we had a new living pattern, which peak-oiler and urban theorist James Howard Kunstler terms "entropy made visible." As more and more Americans were driving further and further, the need for a more robust road system arose. The federal government under President Dwight D. Eisenhower was more than happy to oblige, creating the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 and with it the dendritic, omnipresent freeway system we know today. This had terrible consequences. Especially one we know too well: sprawl.

The birth of suburbia and the American Dream

Though the federal government subsidized and incentivized driving and suburban home ownership (and still does), Americans didn't need much of a push. Industrial cities were not pleasant places; they were dirty, crime- and poverty-ridden, and certainly not suitable for human life. As such, with our cheap cars, cheap roads and cheap gas, coupled with the National Housing Act providing affordable mortgages to a ballooning middle class, Americans escaped the city and the country witnessed the birth of suburbia and the death of cities.

The American Dream soon became intertwined with suburban living; the detached home you owned in the country with the white picket fence enclosing a little front yard (read: nature), the car in the driveway that you drove to work and back, to the store and back...It was and is a very quaint notion, evoking a sort of 1950's Americana purity. The reality, however, is that this new living pattern has had very ugly environmental, economic, social and physical health consequences. In a later post I will delve into each of these factors and how they have been compromised by our unsustainable habitation.

For now, I will simply convey what the central tenets of suburbia are and how each tenet is at odds with urban living.

First Tenet of Suburbia: Separation of uses

This is perhaps the defining characteristic of suburban living. Separating one activity from another started with an innocent Supreme Court decision in 1926 to allow the town of Euclid, Ohio to zone its land according to activity so that its residents didn't have to live amongst the carbon-spewing factories. This decision had good intentions - people ought to have clean air where they live - but the precedent was set. Soon cities and municipalities all across the U.S. were adopting similar zoning codes, splitting their towns and cities into component parts. It was officially illegal to build mixed-use development; homes would be separate from work places, which would be separate from retail establishments and restaurants. These places would no longer be within walking distance so you would drive between destinations. Unless your destination was downtown, public transit would doubtful be an option as the country was getting too spread out to make transit feasible (and the majority of tax money went to new highways, not transit). As such, over time the country's landscape became auto-centric, which is the antithesis of walkable, mixed-use urban living.

Second Tenet of Suburbia:  Low densities

Cities emerged from the outset as very dense places; they had to be in order to be walkable. With the advent of the car, that relationship between human and city disintegrated. If you have a vehicle that can move much quicker than you can walk for much longer distances than you can walk, you will naturally travel further distances. This is exactly what happened. The population had a desire to escape urban life, stretch its legs in the vast expanses of the countryside and "commune with nature." And, being Americans, we prized our independence dearly, which we expressed through our privatized homes and neighborhoods. These two factors led to the sprawling across the landscape at very low densities. With so much land, it only made sense to give each person a lot of it and keep his lot far away from his neighbor's. This afforded us privacy, but like the first tenet had damning, unforeseen consequences.

Third Tenet of Suburbia: Car-dependence

It is the vehicle (no pun intended) that makes suburban sprawl possible. With walkable communities all but outlawed and low-density lifestyles putting each destination far away from every other destination, the only way the system can operate is to be reliant on the automobile. Until we remade out our cities with freeways, there simply wasn't room for cars. The streets were too narrow, land was used for buildings and not parking lots and movement throughout a city was done on foot or by streetcar. But car-reliance is at the very core of suburban existence. The government gave us the roads and freeways and every possible incentive to fill them up. This represents perhaps the most insidious consequence of sprawl. It destroyed our ability to inhabit the landscape in a healthy, sustainable way by forcing us into cars for every conceivable task in our day-to-day lives. And as soon as we fill up the roads and highways that take us to our big homes far away, we are forced to build even more roads and highways to take us to big homes even further away. Unlike the towns, cities and regions of previous times which developed organically at the human-scale, modern day suburbia was an artificial creation that encouraged (and mandated) car-use.

The rebirth of cities

There is a silver lining in this discussion, and that is that we are in the midst of a system-wide self-correction. As you are likely aware, the population is showing renewed interest in urban living. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is actually declining, as is car ownership, and suburban and exurban home prices are recovering slower than urban home prices.  These changes can be viewed through a number of different lenses: demographic shifts that have produced large Millenial and Baby Boomer generations, rising gas prices, societal changes in how we prefer to live and engage with the world. Ultimately, though, I think we are simply witnessing a system that is self-correcting. For hundreds of years we inhabited the landscape in a way that was a natural response to our needs. This created an equilibrium with the environment. That equilibrium was destroyed with the advent of the automobile and its sprawl-inducing effects. However, I believe we are beginning to understand that the artificial system (sprawl) was and is unsustainable. That is why we are seeing a shift back toward city-living. It represents a sustainable, equitable way of life in which we are better stewards of the land on which we live, as well as healthier human beings. In other words, it's better living.

Nick Etheredge
Twitter: @Nick_Etheredge

Nick Etheredge (@Nick_Etheredgeis a new contributor to Hug The Rhino who writes about better living in cities, urban living, and how all of that relates to sustainability and social justice. Nick is an ex-Mechanical Engineer who realized he had a passion for cities and urban design . Live in or near a big city? You’ll love his articles.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

How can I find more meaning in my life? 
How can I have a greater impact on the world?
How can I be happier?

In this article we've collected our favorite quotes and stories to attempt to answer those questions. These aren't bumper sticker quotes that sparkle and then wear off after a few days. These are banks of wisdom that endure over decades precisely because they are applicable to friendships, relationships, career choices, and many other pieces that determine the quality of our lives. These are quotes that apply every day for a lifetime. 

Every quote is linked to more information about the corresponding book. Given the feud between Amazon and Stephen Colbert/other writers, we changed the usual Amazon linking habit and instead directed them to Powell's Books of Portland's website. 

For a better life, Hug the Rhino.

1. How can I find more meaning in my life?


“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things that they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie

"I am only so beautiful as the character of my relationships, only so rich as I enrich those around me, only so alive as I enliven those I greet  ... We are inseparable from all other beings in the universe”

Derrick Jensen - A Language Older than Words


"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments."

Oriah Mountain Dreamer - The Invitation

"There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists."

Derrick Jensen - A Language Older than Words

2. How can I have a greater impact on the world?


“The typical cage for egg-laying hens allows each sixty-seven square inches of floor space — somewhere between the size of this page and a sheet of printer paper. Such cages are stacked between three and nine tiers high … in windowless sheds.

Step your mind into a crowded elevator, an elevator so crowded you cannot turn around without bumping into (and aggravating) your neighbor. The elevator is so crowded you are often held aloft.

This is a kind of blessing, as the slanted floor is made of wire, which cuts into your feet.

After some time, those in the elevator will lose their ability to work in the interest of the group. Some will become violent; others will go mad. A few, deprived of food and hope, will become cannibalistic.

There is no respite, no relief. No elevator repairman is coming. The doors will open once, at the end of your life, for your journey to the only place worse (see: processing ).”

Jonathan Safran Foer -  Eating Animals

"She shook my hand, loosely, like Indians do, using only her fingers. Not like those tight grips the white people use to prove something. She touched my hand like she was glad to see me, not like she wanted to break bones."

Sherman Alexei - The Lone Ranger and Tanto Fistfight in Heaven


“Chuang-tse was sitting on the banks of the P'ue river when he was approached by two representatives of the Prince of Ch'u. They offered him a position at court. Chuang-tse looked at the water, ignoring the question. Finally he spoke, “I am told that the Prince has a sacred tortoise, over two thousand years old, which is kept in a box, wrapped in silk and brocade.” “ That is true,” the officials replied.” Chuang-tse continued: “If the tortoise had been given a choice, which do you think he would have liked better – to have been alive in the mud, or dead in the palace?” “To have been alive in the mud, of course,” the men answered. “I too prefer the mud” said Chuang-tse. “Good-bye”.

Benjamin Hoff - The Tao of Pooh

An Inuit elder ... “The family took away all of his weapons and all his tools, hoping that would force him into the settlement. Did it? No. In the middle of an Arctic night with a blizzard blowing, the old man slipped out of the igloo into the darkness and simply pulled down his caribou hide and sealskin trousers and defecated into his hand. As the shit took shape he put a spray of saliva along one leading edge to create a sharp edge. When the implement was finally created from the cold, he used it to kill a dog. He skinned the dog and used the skin of the dog to improvise a harness and used the rib cage of the dead dog to improvise the sled, harnessed an adjacent dog, and then with shit-knife in belt disappeared over the ice flow.' The elder returned alive and well in the spring. Forty years later, the Canadian government relented and returned the Inuit lands, creating Nunavut, a territory the size of Western Europe."

 - Paul HawkenBlessed Unrest

Crazy Horse - "Even the most basic outline of his life shows how great he was, because he remained himself from the moment of his birth to the moment he died; because he knew exactly where he wanted to live, and never left; because he may have surrendered, but he was never defeated in battle; because, although he was killed, even the Army admitted he was never captured; because he was so free that he didn't know what a jail looked like. His dislike of the oncoming civilization was prophetic. He never met the President, never rode on a train, slept in a boarding house, or ate at a table and unlike many people all over the world, when he met white men he was not diminished by the encounter."

— Ian Frazier, Great Plains

“There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, "Business as usual." But they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.”

“These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.” 

Yann Martel - Life of Pi

3. How can I be happier?


“To the Taoist, Nothing is something, and something – at least the sort of things that many consider to be important – is really nothing at all." 

"The surest way to become tense, awkward, and confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard – one that thinks too much. The animals in the forest don’t think too much, they just are. To misquote an old philosopher, “I think, therefore I am confused.”

Benjamin Hoff - The Tao of Pooh

"More is good, more is good. We repeat it and have it repeated until nobody thinks otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by all of this, he has no perspective on what’s really important anymore. These people are so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes. They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back. But it never works. Neither money nor power will give you the feeling you are looking for, no matter how much of it that you have."

Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie


“I believe in being fully present. That means you should be with the person you are with. When I’m talking to you now, Mitch, I try to keep focused only on what is going on between us. I’m not thinking about something we said last week. I’m not thinking about what is coming up next Friday.”

Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie

"To be truly charming and socially effective you have to understand people, and to understand people you have to get outside yourself and immerse your mind in their world."

"The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us." 

Robert Greene, Mastery

"Step away from the isolation. There is a whole world waiting for us, ready to welcome us home. It has missed us sorely and we have missed it. And it is time to return.”

Derrick Jensen - A Language Older than Words

"You think this is just another day in your life – it’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life, and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well."

Louie Schwartzberg - Gratitude (Meant to be watched)

Now take these ideas, these phrases and stories, these kernels of wisdom and give them meaning. Apply them to your life, share them with others, and think of them often. It's an investment in yourself and your life with a guaranteed positive return. 

Hug The Rhino Team
edited by:Kurt Berning

If you'd like to read more but are limited on time, we recommend “Tuesdays With Morrie”by Mitch Albom and “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff. Both are short, fantastic reads

For a better life, Hug The Rhino

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Since Blackfish's premiere in January 2013 rapt viewers have flocked to the anti-SeaWorld cause, while SeaWorld has worked furiously to repair its reputation and dispute almost every minute of the documentary. So which side should you believe?