Tent cities, Greenland's independence, and cruise ship operations

in April 16th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of April 16, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Ever try to complete a task but end up with a handful of extra tasks? Turns out it’s human nature (sort of). A new study explains how we naturally approach situations by thinking about what we need to add to it versus what we can subtract from it. This often leads us to overload, overwhelm our schedules, and just do far more than we need to — even when financial incentives are in place! Less is more, but easier said than done.


Clearing out tent cities costs millions and doesn’t solve the problem 

Mon Apr 12

Unsurprisingly, homelessness in the U.S. grew for a fourth straight year in 2020. The pandemic’s impact led to new issues as well, such as an increase in homeless children and Black Americans. Meanwhile homelessness among veterans and families did not improve for the first time in many years. Potentially the most shocking? For the first time since the government began tracking these numbers, the number of single adults living outside (209,413) exceeded the number living in shelters (199,478).

Fueled by a lack of affordable housing, shelter options, and political attention, this growth has led to an increase in tent cities, aka temporary housing communities made using tents or other temporary structures. These outdoor encampments have lead to safety, sanitation, and other community issues but dealing with encampments isn’t straightforward:

  • Clearing these tent cities is expensive. A new report found that managing these encampments cost Chicago $3.6 million, San Jose $8.6 million, and even the smaller city of Tacoma $3.9 million. Even then, it’s not a permanent solution.
  • There isn’t a place for the homeless to go once the camp is cleared as many cities still suffer from scarce housing resources (which is why the outdoor camps are growing in the first place).
  • Police involvement is creating controversy, most recently in Los Angeles where police attempted to remove a large encampment along Echo Park Lark, leading to protests and division between residents, advocates, and city officials.
  • Local agencies, like sanitation or environmental departments, aren’t set up for serving encampments but bear the burden of doing so anyway.
  • Removing the camps removes community support. While Chicago piloted a model where a cleared encampment moves in its entirety into a shelter together, this often was at the expense of holding the shelter vacant, displacing others in need.

So what can be done? The aforementioned report notes the cheapest solution is to provide housing, but local governments have struggled to do so. Some cities have requested federal support. That said, while Biden signed an executive order his second day in office to reimburse municipalities for the cost of renting empty hotel rooms to shelter unhoused people safely, these options are already starting to disappear as regular customers return.  

Some additional resources... 


Greenland’s potential path to independence

Tue Apr 6

Greenland is in the midst of a potentially course-altering election. While the nation is self-governed, its currency, foreign relations, and defense policy are controlled by Denmark. The path to complete independence — which Denmark supports — is now in sight as economic independence begins to solidify as melting ice caps (due to climate change) expose natural resources. Problem is, that potential solution to independence can hurt as much as it helps. 

You see, there are two main revenue streams that can fuel Greenland’s autonomy: Mining and tourism. In fact, the mining possibilities are so attractive that Trump even considered buying Greenland in 2019. Over a year later Australian-based Greenland Minerals, which is backed by a major Chinese shareholder, got approval for Kvanefjeld, a large scale rare earth project. Proponents of the project look forward to its economic benefits, but while Greenland’s potential new mineral sources make Kvanefjeld (and other mining projects or contracts) possible, they simultaneously make Greenland a less attractive tourist destination. Residents living near Kvanefjeld have already complained about how black sand has taken over what was once all green slopes.

Kvanefjeld opponents also worry about the environmental impacts of mining, such as speeding up the effects of global warming and the creation of radioactive waste. So much controversy erupted around project hearings (which are ongoing until June) that some local government ministers stopped attending after receiving death threats and Greenland lost an entire party of parliament who were frustrated by indecision on the issue. This is leading some to believe Greenland is proving ungovernable for big projects. For now, the nation awaits the outcome of the upcoming Spring election.  

Some additional resources... 

  • For more on the rare earth project and environmental concerns, turn to NPR
  • For more how mining leads to independence, turn to France 24.
  • For context on Trump’s past interests in Greenland, turn to the Wall Street Journal


Should cruise ships be allowed to operate again?

Fri Apr 9

As the CDC eases travel restrictions, it seems one mode of transport feels left out: Cruise ships. Despite hotels, airlines, and even casinos being allowed to operate with Covid-19 protocols, the CDC’s sailing order has yet to be lifted. Now, Florida is suing health officials to restart cruises and claiming the order — which requires a phased approach to restarting service, mock sailings, and a certificate application 60 days before offering cruises — is unlawful.

Though the cruise companies and Florida aren’t exactly on the same page. While yes, they want to resume operations, many also want to enforce stricter guidelines. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line wants to require complete vaccination of guests and crew, however, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning vaccine proof, which would apply to cruise ships stationed there. Meanwhile Carnival Cruise has threatened to move its ships from U.S. ports since they’ve already resumed operations in Europe and other regions. 

Some additional resources...

  • For full coverage on the Florida lawsuit, turn to the Wall Street Journal.
  • For more reactions from cruise companies, turn to Travel Pulse
  • For a refresher on why cruise ships are high risk for Covid outbreaks and transmission, turn to USA Today.

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I don’t give a ship about the risks — get me to paradise!

Art Credit: Ascii Art Archive

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