MILANO OGGI NOTIZIE (Italy)
MILAN – In Italian restaurants, if you want to drink water with your meal, you have two choices: bottled still water or bottled fizzy water, each about 2 euros a pop. Tap water is rarely served, and when it is, you often have the bad surprise of being billed for it too, Milano Oggi Notizie writes.
But now, local representatives have asked the Mayor to make free tap water a right in city restaurants. Alessandro Papale, a 26-year-old ecologist and local city councilor, said he brought the idea from a trip in the United States, where he was served tap water before ordering food.
The proposition met with fierce opposition from business owners. Alfredo Zini, a chairman for a business organization, said it was up to him to decide what he could serve in his restaurant. "It's like offering liqueur at the end of the meal: some do it and some don't, but it's not up to politicians," he said to Milan Oggi Notizie.
Officials supporting the bill insist on the positive impact the measure would have on the environment. Naturally, they also try to set an example by drinking only tap water during council meetings.
Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.
PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?
In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.
This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.
Addictions to sex and social media
Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the 'pleasure hormone.'
Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.
No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.
Transverse section of striatum from a structural MRI image
According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.
Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.
Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.
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