Seattle Week in Review: Blue Angels, Smoke, and Surveillance Above
As the Blue Angels streak across Seattle’s smoke-filled skies preparing for this weekend’s Seafair, we’ll review some of this week’s news, including some of the latest dire climate change forecasts; the race for mayor; Amazon’s ongoing hiring and real estate sprees; odd flight patterns; and a Periodic Table of haiku.
—It’s impossible not to think about climate change as temperature records fall around the region and forest fire smoke blown south from British Columbia stings eyes and makes throats ache, and sends vulnerable populations indoors. (The weather finally matches former MTV VJ Kennedy’s description of Seattle as a socialist hell hole.)
As carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated—and even if they don’t—we can expect more extremely hot days and drier, fire-prone forests. So this week might serve as a preview of conditions we’ll be experiencing more frequently in the decades to come. Climate Central says that Seattle will have 12 more days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, under current emissions trends.
University of Washington researchers found a very slim chance that global average temperature increases could be held below 2 degrees Celsius this century.
As temperatures rise, life and work for people in lower-skilled professions—outdoor manual labor in particular—becomes untenable and dangerous, as this New York Times report on landscapers in Texas explores.
—The looming reality of climate change should cause us to interrogate dubious claims of environmental sustainability. This week’s came from Booster Fuels, a startup with Seattle roots that delivers gas to cars parked in corporate lots. The company noted in a news release announcing its $20 million Series B funding round that this saves drivers a trip to the gas station, and the associated greenhouse gas emissions of that travel. That savings of 234 tons of emissions pales in comparison to the 49,000 tons of emissions generated by the 5 million gallons of gas the company says it has sold. When asked, Booster Fuels said it is considering offering customers carbon offsets for their fuel purchases.
—Seattle mayoral primary: With 170,870 votes counted, former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan led the field with 28.7 percent of the vote. Her opponent in the primary looks to be urban planner Cary Moon, who had 17.4 percent, extending her lead over Nikita Oliver, who polled in third place with 16.1 percent (having closed the gap with Moon somewhat with the Friday afternoon count). The top two finishers face off in the general election on Nov. 7, ensuring Seattle’s second woman mayor. Its first was Bertha Knight Landes, who held the job from 1926 to 1928, giving Seattle the distinction of being the first major U.S. city with a woman mayor. [Numbers updated as of 5 p.m. Friday.]
The Washington Technology Industry Association evaluated the mayoral candidates for the first time in its history. Durkan fared the best in the evaluation, checking boxes in six of the eight criteria WTIA looked at. Moon checked only two of the eight.
—Everyone works at the everything store, or will soon. Amazon sought to hire up to 50,000 people on Wednesday to work in its U.S. warehouses—part of a previously announced 100,000-person hiring push. The event was dubbed Amazon Jobs Day. (We’re going to need a separate calendar to keep up with Amazon’s self-declared Days. I hadn’t even finished putting away my “Prime Day” decorations and already they were playing “Jobs Day” music in the stores.)
The company was seeking applicants for positions in a dozen U.S. fulfillment centers and made on-the-spot offers to qualified applicants.
For context on the latest hiring spree: Amazon had 382,400 employees at the end of the last quarter.
The U.S. economy as a whole added 209,000 jobs in July, according to the latest Labor Department figures. The national unemployment rate stood at 4.3 percent.
—While most of the Jobs Day hires will work at Amazon fulfillment centers, the company continues to hire like crazy at its corporate headquarters, which is expanding relentlessly. Amazon is about to snap-up yet another Seattle building. The company reportedly has nearly finalized a lease for all of the 710,000-square feet of office space in the planned Rainier Square project, according to GeekWire.
It also has leased 180,000 square feet of space in a downtown San Francisco skyscraper, the San Francisco Business Times reports.
Meanwhile, would making your home in a flexible, co-living space developed by one of the leading co-working space providers improve or worsen work-life balance? Seattle people will soon have a chance to find out: New York-based WeWork has inked a deal with Martin Selig Real Estate to develop 23 floors of its WeLive brand communal housing in a new 36-floor tower slated for the city’s Belltown neighborhood. WeLive furnished apartments offer flexible leasing arrangements. The project, which will also feature WeWork shared office space, is targeting a 2020 opening, Bloomberg’s Ellen Huet reports.
—We covered a new funding round for Azuqua, which raised $10.8 million to continue its work helping companies integrate their cloud apps.
—In news from the wild blue yonder, people were excited to see that a Boeing 787 flew a route across the country that traced its own outline as part of an endurance test.
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) August 4, 2017
In other unusual flight paths, “A very unique USAF surveillance aircraft has been flying highly defined circles over Seattle and its various suburbs for nine days now.” That’s how journalists Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick introduce their post at The War Zone on the unusual flight patterns of an aircraft called “SPUD21”. It’s a detailed and fascinating read, even if they’re ultimately unable to determine who the surveillance plane belongs to and what it’s doing. H/t to Steven Hsieh at The Stranger where I first saw this.
—Finally, something a little lighter: Mary Soon Lee at Science magazine presents the Periodic Table in haiku. An early favorite, very relevant to tech:
Locked in rock and sand,
age upon age awaiting
the digital dawn.