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February 2011

A therapy pool for the bears

Some of where Cali's money went.

Among the projects the borrowing funded were a bowling alley in Stockton, a bee colony and otter pond in San Mateo, and a dinosaur plaza in Santa Ana, complete with a giant replica Tyrannosaurus rex. About $1.2 million went to buff up a bear exhibit at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary near Sacramento. Caves were retrofitted with heated concrete because the cold "gets a little tough on the bones of the animals as they age," said Robert Goss, the city's parks and recreation director.

An 8-foot-by-20-foot therapy pool was also installed so the bears could "swim against the current to force them to exercise an injury or arthritis," Goss said.

It's a world of scarcity, folks: almost everything we do has a cost. If you want to help the bears' arthritis, there will be a price. And the bills are coming due in California.

(Not that I'm at all in favor of animals' suffering. I'd have freed the bears and closed the zoo. What purpose, in the 21st century, do zoos serve?)

Don't look now but big business is internalizing another important externality

From "Why Wal-Mart Is Making Our Health Its Problem" by Julia Kirby, editor at large for the Harvard Business Review:

[Wal-Mart] has a plan to reduce the salt, sugar, and saturated fats in its private-label products, and to encourage its suppliers of branded goods to do the same. The goals it has established it expects to take five years to reach. Is the retailer legally obliged to take on this challenge? Not at all. Are its customers demanding it? Sadly, no. With no impact expected on profitability, it's hard to imagine shareholders are exerting pressure for the change either. So what's behind the initiative?

In a word: scale. In a recent article in HBR, Chris Meyer and I argued that we'll see companies taking more and more ownership of externalities they could ignore because of changing sensibilities and better sensors (meaning detection and reporting of impacts by third parties). But we also identified a third driver: the scale of modern business. Whereas in the past, a single grocer could not have much impact on society, in today's highly consolidated market, Wal-Mart touches a significant percentage of the nation's food intake. Once you reach a scale where your decisions have ramifications for millions, it is hard to pretend that the impacts, even as distant ripples, are not your problem.

Sweet story

UCLA upset Arizona in men's basketball yesterday. The game was the last in the UCLA's famed Pauley Pavilion. The late John Wooden's great-grandson, Tyler Trapani, an end-of-the-bench guard, was put in for the last bit of the game. 

With 25 seconds left, a UCLA player launched a three-point shot.


Recovered by Trapani. Put back. Basket. The last basket scored in old Pauley Pavilion was by John Wooden's great-grandson.

The crowd "roared in delight". UCLA's coach cried.