Around the world: Hotels on rails, probiotic trees and addressing inequality
From a French startup challenging the way we travel, to trees helping clean up America’s contaminated land and solutions to create a future that leaves no one behind—discover the stories that caught our eye this week.
Trees inoculated with probiotics
Trees that are used to clean contaminated soil often die from the toxins. Microbes could keep those trees healthy—offering a low-cost, low-energy way to clean hazardous sites across the U.S.
In 1980, a federal law identified the most hazardous sites around the United States, those that contained toxic contaminants in urgent need of cleanup. These “Superfund sites,” named for the initial funding allotted to the cleanups, are chiefly old industrial sites contaminated with pollutants from substances such as metals, oils, hydrocarbons, and explosives, and which are dangerous to human health.
Train rides have smaller carbon footprints than flights, but they take more time. A startup is hoping sleeper cabins and quaint bars persuade travelers to choose a longer, and less polluting, journey.
A train ride from Paris to Rome can take 13 hours, while a direct flight is just a little over two hours. But if you could make the journey overnight in a private sleeper car with a private bathroom—and easy access to a cozy bar if you don’t feel like sleeping—you might choose the experience over flying.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities within and across countries. The policy responses designed to mitigate them in the form of either relief and recovery packages or welfare protections have mostly proved to be short-term fixes. In the long-term, however, the distributional consequences of the pandemic between and within countries, as in during previous pandemics and recessions, are bound to widen inequality.