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wildfire

Death Toll From Chile Wildfires Surpasses 130 With More Than 300 People Still Missing

Chile is currently in a massive rescue and recovery effort after the nation has been enduring what the United Nations disaster agency is calling the deadliest wildfires on record. The fires have unfortunately claimed over 130 lives with hundreds of others still missing. 

Officials have stated more than 30 bodies have been identified, and the death toll is expected to rise, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. 

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The wildfires have taken over central and northern Chile, and have destroyed thousands of homes, buildings, and neighborhoods which are now covered in ash. 

President Gabriel Boric on Tuesday stated that the wildfires have been the “biggest tragedy” in Chile since the deadly 2010 earthquakes, which had a magnitude of 8.8 that killed hundreds. 

“The inhabitants of Viña del Mar, of Quilpué, of Villa Alemana, have gone through and are experiencing a situation that has been tremendously catastrophic, exceptional, unprecedented and painful.”

President Boric also declared an official state of emergency on Sunday while coastal cities including Viña del Mar and Valparaiso were overtaken by smoke. The fires moved from forested areas to more of the urban landscapes of Chile. 

The president also declared Monday and Tuesday as days of national mourning for the victims of the wildfire as well as the devastated neighborhoods that have been burned down. 

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El Niño, a natural climate fluctuation that has a global heating effect, has been driving the major impacts of the wildfires in Chile. That, combined with the long term effects of global warming, which is fueling more intense and more frequent drought, heat waves, and general natural disasters around the world. 

For the last decade, Chile has been dealing with what’s been called a “mega-drought,” and according to reports it’s been the longest drought in at least 1,000 years, which has only further fueled the recent wildfires.

The nation has also been experiencing extremely high temperatures in combination with the wildfires. Capital of Chile, Santiago, hit 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of January, which is the third-highest recorded temperature in the nation in more than a century, according to the World Meteorological Agency. 

According to a study published in the journal Nature, a total of 1.7 million hectares have burned in Chile within the last decade due to increased wildfire activity.

Surfboards

Hawaii Tourism Authority Releases Guidelines for Vacation Behavior

Tourists have long been stereotyped as people who are rude, entitled, and cause trouble by failing to observe local customs and norms. While many tourists are respectful and responsible while travelling, this stereotype is unfortunately true for some, as anyone who lives in a heavily-touristed area can attest. The bad behavior of tourists in Hawaii has become enough of a problem that the Hawaii Tourism Authority has created a project designed to teach tourists about the appropriate way to behave on the island. The project, called the Kuleana Campaign, which translates to “responsibility” in Hawaiian, involves a collection of videos featuring interviews with inhabitants of the island who share their thoughts about the best way for visitors to behave.

The videos, which are just a few minutes in length, will be played on television screens in airports as well as on tourists’ social media feeds, taking advantage of geo-tracking technology that recognizes when people arrive to the island. The videos cover topics like ocean safety, ocean conservation, culture, and land safety. Rather than criticising tourists ignorant of rules and customs, the videos take a welcoming approach, and focus on explaining why the relevant rules and customs are present to help tourists understand their importance. The videos are available in a variety of languages, including English, Japanese, and Korean, reflecting the diversity of countries of origin of the state’s visitors.

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The project was funded by a state tax called the Transient Accomodation Tax, which is a tax placed on rental units like hotels and timeshare vacation homes in the state and is meant to fund programs that improve the quality of life for residents in areas affected by tourism. The project is specifically targeted at reducing behaviors that locals find the most problematic, which includes leaving the trail while hiking to explore the woods, which can lead to erosion and cause unsafe conditions. Additionally, tourists in Hawaii have been known to hike on private property, leading to annoyance from landowners and possible legal action against vacationers.

The videos are artfully shot, and are meant to showcase the natural beauty of the island so as to demonstrate the importance of taking care of and respectfully appreciating the environment. As they come from all over the world, visitors to Hawaii may simply lack the knowledge of what constitutes appropriate behavior when visiting the state. As such, the project’s directors take the position that people are mainly good and want to do the right thing, and will be self-motivated to follow instructions when they understand the justifications for doing so.

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One video, entitled “Ocean Safety,” encourages visitors to be mindful of the dangers in their environment when swimming in the ocean, as dangers such as rip currents and rocks aren’t always obvious, particularly for people who aren’t experienced with navigating natural bodies of water. In a similar vein, a video entitled “Ocean Conservation” teaches tourists about “travel pono,” which is defined as travelling in a way that is positive for the thousands of miles of ocean surrounding the island. The video specifically highlights the problem of microplastics, which collect in the ocean from disposable water bottles and other plastic items, and of sunscreen which contains chemicals that can harm the ocean’s reefs.

“Land Safety,” in addition to urging travellers to stay on trails, also advises them to wear appropriate footwear and clothing and to “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” And “Culture” stresses the importance of asking permission before entering a privately-owned place and having a general attitude of respect towards the native inhabitants whose home vacationers are visiting.

The videos can be viewed on the official Go Hawaii Youtube channel, alongside videos documenting tourist attractions on the island as well as local beliefs and activities. More information about travelling to Hawaii can be found on the state’s official website for tourists, gohawaii.com

Real Estate

How the Real Estate Landscape Will Change in 2020

A widely anticipated industry report, entitled Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2020, was just released by the Urban Land Institute and Pwc. According to the report, while real estate economists’ views on economic growth in the US are moderate, the real estate market should remain steady through 2021. The conclusions of the report are based on a survey conducted in August of 41 economists and analysts at 32 leading real estate organizations, who, despite warning signs of an impending recession and an escalation of the U.S.-China trade war, were generally optimistic about the future of real estate.

That being said, the report stresses the importance of adaptability to change and discipline as necessary factors for the industry to be able to remain strong in the face of a possible economic downturn and potential decreases in real estate demand over the next few years. Although blame for the last major recession was placed in part on the real estate industry for reckless lending practices and fraudulent activity, the report suggests that a future recession wouldn’t be the fault of the real estate industry. Over the past ten years the property sector has become disciplined, the report says, and any warning signs about an economic dip relate to factors that the real estate industry does not control.

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According to the report, a dynamic perspective on real estate and a rethinking of growth strategies are necessary for the real estate industry to thrive, and real estate prospects are highest in the cities of Austin, Raleigh, Nashville, and Boston. As housing needs for Millennials and Baby Boomers continue to change, multifamily and single-family housing will be in increased demand, and office spaces, hotels, and retail locations are likely to see a decline.

The report also observes the effects of the housing affordability crisis, which has the most impact in cities where the cost of living is high, including Washington, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose. Affordability is a problem not only for low-income households, but for the middle class as well, a section of the population which is rapidly shrinking as greater numbers of people fall into economic uncertainty. The effects of this crisis mean that multi-family households and co-habitation arrangements are likely to increase in popularity, changing the market somewhat.

Additionally, the report talks about the effects of climate change on real estate, and specifically points to the impact of extreme heat in urban areas. Rises in temperatures mean that cooling apartment buildings will become more expensive, and the threat of wildfires, droughts, and air pollution pose economic problems. Climate change is not the only cause of rises in extreme heat, the report claims, as increased urban development also contributes to the problem. For handling the problem, the report recommends the use of light-colored building materials and smart use of direct cooling from shade.

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As a result of difficulties with affordability, co-living is on the rise, not only for younger generations but for older ones as well. Though the trend is caused in large part by worsening economic conditions for most people, the report highlights the social benefits of co-living, which helps to create a sense of community among people, particularly in an age where technology has the power to make people feel more isolated.

The report claims the lifestyle enjoyed by young people in cities is spreading to suburban areas, which increasingly feature nightlife opportunities, and incorporate transit access, walkability, and abundant options for retail, restaurants, and recreations. As Baby Boomers are expected to live longer and stay more active than previous generations have, the implications for housing are positive. And as communities increasingly recognize the threat posed by environmental damage, they are developing a commitment to environmental and social principles including sustainable engineering and design and socially conscious business practices. 

As the federal government fails to update the country’s infrastructure, some individual states have announced a commitment to doing so instead, making them a more attractive opportunity for the real estate industry and laying the foundation for economic growth. Finally, the report finds that technology is having a strong impact throughout all types of property, as consumers increasingly demand technological solutions for productivity and efficiency.

Climate Change

Restructuring our Communities may be the Key to Fighting Climate Change

The real estate market of the future is bound to be impacted by the effects of climate change. Though no one can predict exactly how climate change will change the way we buy, sell, and live in houses, it’s likely that efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change will play a role in transforming our home lives. One proposal for adopting a more sustainable lifestyle involves rethinking the way we conceptualize our communities, and creating towns that are entirely self-sufficient, where the town generates its own food, electricity, and other commodities. Building communities in this way has a number of benefits: a town that is self-sufficient is resistant to changes in global and economic forces, and locally-grown food often tastes better and creates jobs for the community.

James Ehrlich, entrepreneur and founder of RegenVillages, intends to create communities of this nature in order to lay the groundwork for the sustainable living of the future. Unlike most typical real estate developers, Ehrlich has a love of farming and a deep concern for the environment, and the communities he envisions helping to create are nothing like the communities of today. Ehrlich envisions small, self-contained villages with abundant farms and fishing opportunities, and solar panels on the roofs of all of the houses. In these theoretical communities, residents do not drive vehicles, which pollute the atmosphere; rather, residents walk or bike, and taxis and autonomous cars serve as transportation. These communities are intended to be built on the outskirts of cities to which residents commute, and a specialized piece of software called “Village OS,” which will connect regenerative infrastructure to smart houses, is in development.

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Achieving sustainability is an essential component to adapting to life under climate change and mitigating its worst effects. Because of the environmental costs of manufacturing goods in factories and shipping goods by plane, boat, and truck, many environmentalists believe that a transition towards locally-sourced resource consumption will become increasingly necessary as time goes on to cut down on carbon emissions. Producing electricity locally also has environmental benefits, as the efficiency of energy production via solar panels or windmills near the source of consumption is greater than using electricity over long distances. Because Ehrlich’s communities are designed with walkability in mind, the houses do not even have driveways, and the communities’ design is meant to encourage environmentally-friendly means of transportation to the greatest possible extent.

Ehrlich is already planning to construct one of these communities on a 61-acre plot of land near Amsterdam. This community is planned to have 300 units, and the plans feature a number of greenhouses and other amenities for residents to enjoy. Ehrlich intends for his communities to allow residents to get back in touch with nature and develop a more grounded relationship with their environment and the resources they consume. As far as Ehrlich is concerned, urbanization is a trend that will begin to fade as people start to desire more quiet and peaceful lifestyles. Ehrlich has invested most of his life savings into the project, and has had difficulties with securing investors and managing land rights. Ehrlich considers the ultimate commitment to be one in which you invest your own resources in an idea that you believe in, and he has done exactly that, due to his conviction of the necessity of transforming the way we live in the face of climate change to allow prosperity for generations to come.