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On the heels of Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday, we lead with stories about the role of gratitude and generosity in boosting our health. At Building H, we are grateful -- grateful for all of you who have subscribed to this newsletter, who’ve sent us stories and companies to watch, who’ve made introductions and connected us with wonderful people, who’ve shared our work with friends and colleagues, who’ve taken our calls and answered our questions, who’ve given us feedback and advice -- and grateful for our collaborators who’ve rolled up their sleeves and engaged deeply in project work. We're grateful for everyone who’s reached out to us because our mission inspired them in some way.

Thank you. 

- Steve & Thomas

"It's easier to reform the environment
than it is to attempt to reform people."

—Buckminster Fuller


Gratitude Can Make Your Brain More Charitable, Generous, and Altruistic
Giving Tuesday inspired two pieces in Vox from Sigal Samuel on the links among gratitude, altruism and health. In the first, she notes the connections between altruism and both mental and physical health, and then describes research that shows that consciously practicing gratitude can change the ways that the brain perceives giving and getting. Read more.

Is the Pandemic Making People More Generous — or More Selfish?
In her second piece, Samuel looks at the data on charitable giving and volunteering in 2020 -- and they’re both up, consistent with research over the years that the narrative of people coming together in a time of crisis has generally held up. Read more.

Laughing is Good for Your Mind and Your Body – Here's What the Research Shows
Psychology professor Janet Gibson, author of the book An Introduction to the Psychology of Humor, gives a nice overview of the physical, mental and cognitive health benefits of laughter and humor. Read more.

Why You Need to Get Off Your Butt Right Now
Robert Roy Britt reports in Medium’s Luminate about new research on the benefits of physical activity -- and, conversely, the harms that come from sitting -- that form the basis of WHO’s new recommendations on physical activity. Sitting 10 hours or more a day significantly raises the risk of premature mortality -- but the risk can be attenuated with increased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Read more.

Sedentary Pandemic Life Is Bad for Our Happiness
Arthur Brooks, in his column for The Atlantic, illustrates a paradox that lies at the heart of our perspective at Building H -- that our instincts often lead us to adopt behaviors that exacerbate our poor health and unhappiness: “If you have a penchant for potato chips and the couch in times of trouble, consider an “opposite signal” strategy that requires little mental effort. When your mind tells you to numb yourself, come to life, instead: Exercise precisely when you most want to cocoon; eat nutrient-dense foods when you most crave junk.” Brooks believes we need to overcome these tendencies. We believe that asking people to try harder, has, at a population level, been inadequate (to say the least). Read more.

Local Logic: It's Not Always a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Ethan Zuckerman and Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci go deep on local, neighborhood-oriented platforms by contrasting Nextdoor with Front Porch Forum, a less famous platform that serves towns in Vermont and parts of New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. They analyze the different features that distinguish local platforms and their influences, noting how Front Porch Forum’s strong approach to moderation has a significant influence on the tone of discussions. Read more.


Teens Lead the Way in Adapting to Online Public Space
Alexandra Lange, writing for CityLab, explores the online spaces, like Discord, where teens are finding opportunities to hang out privately with their friends and discusses how the narrative is shifting from a monolithic perspective on screen time to a more nuanced recognition of the need for social interaction. She also profiles the work of the nonprofit Connected Camps, which offers supported, moderated, online discussions and gameplay for young teens and tweens, using popular games and platforms. Read more.

‘An Overnight Success 10 Years in the Making’: Atlanta Is the Future for Black Leaders in Tech
Protocol’s Anna Kramer profiles the rise of tech investment and a growing tech community in Atlanta. A number of factors, including a pipeline of Black engineers coming from area universities, Atlanta’s long-standing cultural role in the Black community, and commitments by big tech companies like Alphabet to increasing the diversity of their workforces, have led to a critical mass. Read more.

A National Research Agenda to Support Healthy Eating through Retail Strategies 
Healthy Eating Research, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported research initiative, has released a research agenda around the opportunities to support healthy eating through engaging retail outlets such as supermarkets and grocery stores. The agenda outlines research questions aiming to better understand current food retail practices and consumer behaviors and to identify potential retail strategies to support healthy eating, while reflecting changes in the food retail landscape. Read more.


The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson, Is the Most Important Book I've Read in 2020
… says Vox co-founder and future New York Times columnist Ezra Klein. In this short column, Klein teases his podcast interview with Robinson about his book, which imagines a world beset by a climate catastrophe. “Eco-violence arises as people begin to experience unchecked climate change as an act of war against them, and they respond in kind, using new technologies to hunt those they blame. Capitalism ruptures, changes, and is remade. Nations, and the relations between them, transform. Ultimately, humanity is successful, but it is a terrifying success — a success that involves making the kinds of choices that none of us want to even think about making.” Read more.

The Future of Food Is Being Farmed in a Warehouse Down the Road
Where does your lettuce come from? Protocol’s Mike Murphy asks this question and profiles two vertical farming companies -- Bowery Farming and Eden Green Technology -- that are leveraging urban spaces to grow pesticide-free produce that can be delivered locally, rather than shipped across the country (or across oceans). Read more.


Tech Must ‘Get Uncomfortable’ with Its Impact on Society: An Interview with Swati Mylavarapu
Alex Kantowitz interviews activist investor Swati Mylavarapu on the tech industry’s role in our society, and how it can be a force for good moving forward. Mylavarapu focuses on the need to deal with hard questions about value, values and purpose. Key quote: “We’re living in this moment in America where the idea of market fundamentalism and unfettered capitalism is increasingly in question...Tech is very much caught in the crosshairs of all of these conversations. And I think the best way for us to grapple with that is to start grappling with these hard questions about what we’re building and why. And [asking] who it benefits; where it concentrates power, and who loses out as a result of it.” Read more.

The Future Was Supposed to Be Better Than This
David Sax, the author of The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matterreflects on how the pandemic has brought us more rapidly into the future that many has previously predicted -- education going online; Peloton replacing gyms; ghost kitchens and delivery apps replacing restaurants -- and that it’s just. not. that. great. Key quote: “Learning, playing, socializing and spending all our time on the same screen, in the same pair of sweatpants, in the same house, day after day after day, isn’t the desirable utopian future we had hoped for. It’s a prison of digital luxury.” Read more.

Electric Vehicles Receive Rebates. Why Don't E-Bikes?
John Stout, writing for the advocacy group US PIRG, eloquently makes the simple case for extending the policy of giving tax credits for the purchase of electric cars to the purchase of e-bikes. Read more.


When we come across events that look relevant for this community, we’ll pass them on. If you know of any you’d like to share, please let us know.

Wise and Compassionate Action: Creating Tech Worthy of the Human Spirit (December 15, Mobius)
Mobius, a collective of technologists, scientists, spiritual teachers, and activists -- and a Building H ally, is hosting a fundraiser that will include meditation with the renowned teacher, Jack Kornfield, reflections on the future of tech, and conversations with tech leaders putting our well-being at the center of their products. More info.


Building H is a project to build health into everyday life, led by Steve Downs and Thomas Goetz. We believe that in order to reverse the epidemic of chronic disease in the United States, we need to reimagine the fundamentals of everyday life — how we eat, sleep, get from place to place, socialize and entertain ourselves — with health and well-being as explicit goals. We are calling attention to the need and the opportunity; building a community of innovative thinkers and doers who believe in the vision; spotlighting companies that are building health-positive products and services; and creating tools to help companies assess the impacts of their products on the health of their customers. Please visit our website to learn more.


We’re always looking to hear from you and to grow our community. Please share feedback, ideas, and your recommended reading and please consider forwarding this newsletter, connecting with us on Twitter and on Medium, and sharing your favorite content from our website.

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Building H · 449 Bryant St · San Francisco, CA 94107-1302 · USA