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Harm Reduction: a List

Harm reduction is an important concept with many instances available in the world we know. More may be added as we recognize this concept’s value.

This is a rather short list of instances of harm reduction in the world around you (there are probably enough instances that no one human could ever list them all).

Roadway Safety

  • Seatbelts
  • Airbags
  • Licensing of Drivers
  • Bicycle Helmets
  • Crash Tests
  • Guard Rails
  • Speed Limits
  • Medians and Divided Roadways
  • Signage
  • Reflectors
  • Middle Brakelight
  • Anti-lock Brakes

The safety of roadways has mainly focused on technological improvements, which are plenty, to both the vehicles and the roadways. This has undoubtedly influenced the direction of attempting to reduce pollution from road-based transport (at least in the USA) via technology (i.e., reducing mileage, rather than limiting driving).

Other technological progress has lagged, though. Making self-servicing easier has not been a priority, for example. Changing signal bulbs or the oil or brakes often requires special knowledge, tools, and equipment. This actually can increase harm, as the cost of vehicle maintenance (in both time and money) may deter some amount of otherwise-necessary work.

Building and Home Safety

The refrigerator door provides a nice counterpoint to roadways. Car companies have largely embraced technology-based solutions, where the refrigerator companies, at least initially, were opposed.

Some systems such as HVAC were initially designed for comfort, but nonetheless can be essential to maintain life under extreme temperatures.

Food and Drugs Safety

  • Child-resistant Containers
  • Lollipops with a Soft, Loop Handle
    See: Saf-T-Pops.
  • Cooking Attire
    • Hairnets
    • Gloves
    • Aprons
    • Mitts
  • Restaurant inspections
  • Drug Labeling
  • Dosage Utensils (e.g., specialized measuring spoons)

Many (most?) professions have some required or suggested garb. The older the profession, the more likely that the particulars were originally developed through experience rather than through particular association rules or governmental regulation.

It is noteworthy that child-resistant caps are not required to avoid 100% of opening attempts by children, but only some majority of attempts. Like many other things, the best harm reduction for children is keeping things away from them, rather than trying to lock them up enough that children can, e.g., play with dynamite safely.

Disease and Contaminant Prevention

  • Hand-washing
  • Attire
    • Surgical Masks
    • Face Shields
    • Scrubs
    • Gloves
  • Protocols and Procedures (e.g., counting implements before and after surgery)
  • Single-use Needles

There are often specialized procedures or protocols developed to avoid mistakes and prevent malfeasance. Imagine how different roadway safety would be with a two-driver minimum per vehicle.

On the other hand, how would outcomes change for medicine if a double-blind second-opinion system were instituted for at least some subset of ailments.

Occupational Safety

  • Attire
    • Work Boots
    • Eye and Face Protection
  • Protocols and Procedures
    • Chain of Custody
    • Two-man Rule

Some harm reduction techniques, such as chain of custody, are equally effective at avoiding malfeasance as protecting other properties (e.g., ensuring medicine maintains its conditions in transport).

Ideas: Oil conflict, parking, manufacturing

Three ideas to ponder: does OPEC have a reason to bait the US military? would moving parking away from everything be good? can the Midwest become the modular construction capital of the world?

The case for conflict

From the perspective of a country like Iraq or Iran (OPEC generally) there is actually a very good reason to desire ongoing conflict, be it regional or worldwide.  They make a lot of money from oil, and the largest stingle consumer of oil is the United States Department of Defense.  If you can increase the amount of oil needed by the DOD, you can effectively raise demand worldwide, and thereby make more money.

I’d be very surprised if this hasn’t been raised before, but I hadn’t personally encountered it.

Zoning for parking

One way to begin to reduce sprawl and increase exercise is to simply require new parking lots be built a sizable walk away from any structure and to disallow new structures to be built near the lots.  The tricky problem here is the accommodation of disabled persons that drive themselves, but that shouldn’t be too difficult if such a regulation allowed a few spots to be near the structure and fines for using them were increased.

I swear that it can’t be much of an exaggeration to claim that most suburban businesses and institutional buildings I can think of spend half of their land (plus or minus 10%) on parking.  It gets really bad when you’ve got two such buildings next to one another, with their parking lots separating them.  Simply relegating parking to a distance from anything would mean the actual buildings would be closer together, and it would allow for denser land use that would accommodate public transit in time.

Turn the Midwest into the Modular Construction Capital

One thing that’s ever-clear is that the US economy cannot forever depend on automobiles, and that we should begin to transition to other manufacturing.  The best way to do that is to plan for denser cities by growing a modular building industry.  Properly designed, building modules could be easily moved and reassembled.  If over a generation we replaced demolished buildings with module-based ones, we would soon find ourselves in a much more adaptable environment.  Density changes would be much less expensive, and efficiency improvements would be much easier to assimilate into existing structures.

There are already more cars than licensed drivers, we need to diversify the manufacturing centers in the Midwest, as well as the smattering of automobile factories spread throughout the rest of the nation.  Building small doesn’t get us the right balance of old economy and new, so we need to be building bigger things like trains and modules.