Weekly Selection 10 May 2019

Brad Plumer, Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace

(The New York Times, May 6, 2019)

The conclusions of the UN report on the decline in biodiversity across the globe are stark. Compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, it concludes that, with the human population exceeding 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history” which is exacerbated by global warming - a major driver of wildlife decline. The report makes obvious the links between biodiversity and issues like food security and clean water (reads in 7-8 min).

Daniel Gros, Don’t Fear the Euroskeptics

(Project Syndicate, May 8, 2019)

This is an important article to understand how the forthcoming European elections will pan out. It will also dispel widespread myths about Europe (whose political risks are vastly overestimated by some in the markets). The argument is this: even though the EU is almost more popular than it’s ever been (according to opinion polls), the next European Parliament will contain a large minority of forces skeptical or hostile to further integration. This doesn’t mean that a Euroskeptic party will advocate an exit from the EU: Europeans love both the EU and the populists! (Reads in 6-7 min).

Laura Entis, The Big Business of Loneliness

(Vox, May 6, 2019)

Loneliness is pervasive and increasing, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries – a tragedy and a trap for many people. Not surprisingly, companies and entrepreneurs now make it a business to sell an end to social isolation. From co-living apartments to co-working spaces to apps that help facilitate human connection, there is a lot of investment and infrastructure being built around services that help humans bond with other humans. Does it work? Does it create meaningful human interaction? (Reads in 10-12 min).

David Epstein, The Peculiar Blindness of Experts

(The Atlantic, June 2019)

In his latest book - “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” - Epstein argues that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. This is an excerpt highlighting how credentialed authorities can be comically bad at predicting the future. However, it also shows that reliable forecasting is now possible (reads in about 10 min).

Aaron Reuben, The Nature Cure

(Outside, May 9, 2019)

This is music to the ears of the Monthly Barometer and one of the tenets of our business model (working outside)! An increasing number of physicians are prescribing time outdoors as the best possible cure for a growing list of ailments. One of the doctors who is pioneering the movement says: “We are starting to think about nature not just as a place to recreate, but also as a social determinant to health”. The biggest challenge: big health care dislikes this free medicine… (Reads in 6-7 min).