No. 95: Decisions, Decisions

State legislatures are writing new laws to disclose the use of AI in critical decisions like hiring and loan approval, and landfills slip under the radar in the fight against climate change.

No. 95: Decisions, Decisions
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros / Unsplash

Hope you enjoyed the long weekend and had a chance to reflect on Memorial Day. I'm back with a slew of social impact goodies this week, starting with a story about legislation designed to spotlight when artificial intelligence is used in critical decisions – like deciding who to hire.

We're also digging into a handful of nonprofit job opportunities and a series of short interviews from people who have walked that path before. You might be surprised by what a nonprofit job can offer. Shall we sally forth?

~ Greg

What we're reading

Colorado has passed a first-in-the-nation law that requires companies to disclose when AI was used in a consequential decision concerning them. (CBS News)

  • Consider cases like making hiring decisions, determining whether to award a home loan, or assessing whether or not to recommend medical care. These are life-altering decisions informed by software.
    • When algorithms are trained on data with existing bias, they can adopt those biases themselves – that's the concern here.
  • Other states are pursuing similar laws, but they're not a slam dunk. Even Colorado's governor noted that he would like lawmakers to revise this law before it goes into effect.
  • My perspective: this was a thing before everyone started paying attention to generative AI. AI/ML – the "ML" is for "machine learning" – have been around for many years and already used in the types of decisions targeted by the law.
    • Arguably, that means we should start to see disclosures as soon as the law goes into effect.
    • The European Union has been more aggressive in going after tech companies, and the companies have changed their products in the E.U. Notably, they have not made similar changes elsewhere, so a privacy decision in the E.U. doesn't necessarily benefit those of us in the U.S. Could the same be the case here, where only people in Colorado are notified of the use of AI?

The regulatory environment for polluters has changed rapidly in the past few years as efforts to combat climate change have accelerated. Landfills have gone overlooked, however, despite contributing nearly one-fifth of methane emissions in the U.S. (Grist)

  • You're probably already familiar with the idea that food breaking down in landfills releases methane into the environment. There are a number of social impact companies working to address food waste because of its intersection between hunger and climate change.
  • What you may not realize is that those emissions are barely regulated. Only landfills of a certain size and estimated emissions are regulated by the EPA, meaning smaller landfills go overlooked.
    • When they do measure emissions, they do so from the perimeter. Intuition would suggest that these numbers will necessarily be lower than if someone measured methane from a more central location.
  • The regulations haven't been updated since 2016. In the past few newsletters, I've shared a bunch of EPA-related updates – part of a rush to put new rules in place before the election – so I'm hopeful that the EPA plans an update for landfills as well.

Job of the week

If you have your sustainability druthers about you, you'll definitely want to check out this week's featured role.

thinkPARALLAX is hiring a Director of Sustainability Strategy to lead a series of sustainability and ESG-related projects. They're a sustainability strategy and communications agency, so this is the bread and butter of their mission with a variety of ways to get involved, from client interaction to project management to business development. I also spied a paid volunteer day – love those – and you'd get to work remotely. Sounds like a winner to me!

Community roundup

  • Solar power has caught on in Puerto Rico as a more reliable form of energy, but a law for net metering – where residents sell electricity back to the grid – is being challenged as a threat to its energy regulatory agency. (Grist)
  • Midwestern states known for manufacturing – think Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana – have received nearly $30 billion to date from Inflation Reduction Act funding for clean energy projects. (Inside Climate News)
  • Massachusetts is flirting with free community college after its Senate passed a budget that includes tuition paid for by a 4% tax on millionaires. (Business Insider)
    • Even more exciting: 20 states offer tuition-free community college already.
  • Abortion has already found its way to state ballots since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and new efforts are underway to get constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall. Nebraska stands out among them, because they may have two abortion-related amendments in play – and they contradict each other. (NPR)
  • The first Black astronaut candidate, Ed Dwight, has made it to space at age 90. Originally selected in the '60s to for the astronaut training program, he was sidelined until taking part in Blue Origin's seventh human spaceflight last week. (Axios)
  • Electric vehicle charging stations are popping up all over if you believe the numbers: 183,000 fast charging ports so far. The goal is 500,000 of them by 2030, which appears to be on track if you assume the count accelerates as companies become more familiar with installs. (Electrek)
    • The number of charging ports is one thing, but it matters where they are located. Consumers are concerned with range on a full charge – so called "range anxiety" – but I'm not sure that's addressed unless you provide sufficient infrastructure along the major freeways. City driving isn't usually a range problem.
    • Personally, I'm more concerned with charging time than availability, but even that is improving.

Hot job opportunities

Hiring for mission-driven talent? Post a job for free on our job board.

Looking for a job? Submit your resume to our talent pool, and let social impact companies come to you.

Resource of the week

I tend to pull most of the job opportunities in this newsletter from for-profit social enterprises and companies whose product or service drives social impact. if you're looking for mission-driven work, however, you really ought to check out nonprofits as well.

If the thought of working at a nonprofit stirs thoughts of low pay, that's often not the case. I tend to find a lot of senior-level roles as well, meaning you can use your considerable experience in another capacity without necessarily compromising on compensation. Check out this overview from The Muse – they specifically interviewed people working at nonprofits with the kind of insights that can shape your job search.

Test your knowledge

Last week, I challenged you with a story from the news about a National Park visitor who toppled a salt tram tower trying to rescue a vehicle stuck in mud. The National Park in question was Death Valley National Park – admittedly, not the first place you'd think of for muddy driving.

I'm thinking it's time for an old favorite this week – no surprise if this comes to you right away:

What was the first state in the U.S. to give women the right to vote?

It was a territory at the time, but let's omit that teensy tiny detail, shall we?

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!

I just started watching a show called The Big Door Prize where a town is upended by a machine that tells people their life’s potential, and I have to say, that’s some philosophical heavy lifting coming from a comedy show. You can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.

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Jamie Larson