Hawaii’s car rental shortage and teen heroes tweeting in India

in April 28th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of April 28, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

How can we reduce the fashion industry’s energy usage? Spiders are in on the secret: Since 2018, researchers have been working to hack and mimic how spiders make their silk, known for being tough, versatile, and biodegradable. So far they’ve used water to create a hydrogel that — if they can figure out how to weave into clothing — could provide a new biodegradable textile that can be made with a fraction of the energy used to produce most of today’s synthetics. In the meantime, here are some stories we discovered on the web.


U-hauling around Hawaii

Wed Apr 21

There are more flights to Hawaii than ever before — but you might not be able to get around once you land. Rental car shortages means inventory is completely booked, and even when you can find options, the prices are astronomical: Vans renting for $500 a day, a Toyota Camry went for $722 a day last month, and convertibles for at least $1,000 a day. 

Why are there so few cars? As the early days of the pandemic saw traveling plunge, rental car companies sold off their fleets as a means to stay in business. Flashforward to higher rates of vaccinations paired with Spring break travel plans, and demand continues to exceed supply. In fact, tourists are renting out U-Hauls too, leaving Hawaii locals unable to rent one for their intended purpose. U-Haul has started denying multiple requests to rent their trucks for up to a month for visiting tourists. 

Why don’t these companies just buy new fleets? Well, they’re trying. The auto industry as a whole is dealing with a slowdown of car production due to a global shortage of microchips (computer chips used to control everything from engine timing to cabin temperature). While Hertz has been resuscitated thanks to $4 billion in financing, it remains unclear how this shortage will impact their plans. 

Some additional resources...

  • For more on the U-Haul overhaul in Hawaii, turn to Hawaii News Now here and here.
  • For more on the rental car shortage across the U.S., turn to the New York Times.
  • To better understand the microchip shortage, head to USA Today.


In a suffering India, these teens shine a ray of hope

Fri Apr 23

Gen Z is helping the world again, this time in India. The surging number of coronavirus cases in the country has shocked the world, breaking a world record no one is striving for: 332,730 cases in a single day. At the frontlines of relief efforts? Thousands of Indian teens on Twitter who are banding together to track down and broadcast vital supply information. Here’s what they’re up to:

  • Working round-the-clock for over two weeks, these teens are actively contacting hospitals and suppliers to see who has oxygen, medicine, or open ICU beds.
  • As this information is crowdsourced and verified, it’s posted to Twitter. A search for “COVID Delhi ICU” or “COVID Delhi Plasma” will return a tweet storm of Gen Z-ers offering assistance.
  • One group of 70 teens (with members as young as 16) have built a bot that retweets verified data from an online spreadsheet where the group is recording available resources.

Though Twitter is being used for alternative motives as well. While these teens are inundated with praise from families they’ve helped, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces growing criticism for holding large election rallies despite the deadly wave of COVID-19 cases. His administration’s response? Getting Twitter to remove over 50 tweets criticizing his handling of the pandemic, including photos of the country’s overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums. On top of all that, the social media platform has become home to a black market for hospital beds and COVID drugs.  

Some additional resources... 

  • For more on these Indian teens, turn to CodaStory.
  • For the criticism of Modi’s re-election campaigning, refer to Bloomberg
  • To learn about the tweets Twitter removed or the growing black market, head to the Daily Beast here and here, respectively. 

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When it comes to silk, we’re practically web designers!

Art Credit: Ascii Art Archive

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