Weekly Selection 13 December 2019

Dani Rodrik, Tackling Inequality from the Middle

(Project Syndicate, December 10, 2019)

The rise of populist movements and street protests around the world has made inequality a high priority for politicians; but what type of inequality should policymakers tackle? Based on the outcome of a recent conference he organized, Rodrik recommends focusing on the middle of the income distribution because a key part of the problem is the disappearance and relative scarcity of good, stable jobs. Reinvigorating the economy’s capacity to generate good jobs is therefore essential, and there are ideas on how to do this (reads in 7-8 min).

Jeff VanderMeer, It’s 2071, and We Have Bioengineered Our Own Extinction

(The New York Times, December 9, 2019)

This short work of fiction from a science-fiction writer is part of the Op-Eds from the Future series. The micro- and macro-organisms that saved us from extinction via pollution, carbon emissions and super-viruses are now changing us. They might even destroy us. This challenge is of course imaginary, but it illuminates today’s urgent questions and prepares us for tomorrow (reads in 6-7 min).

Zann Romanoff, The Decade The Kardashians Took Over Everything

(BuzzFeed, December 10, 2019)

This is a story that gives meaning to the word “influencer”. It explains how the Kardashians have become an omnipresent cultural force by taking advantage of the fast-evolving world of social media and personal branding and building an empire, which now includes a billion-dollar makeup company, at least five clothing lines, eight spinoff shows, and nine grandchildren who seem poised to carry the torch. The family is not just composed of major celebrities, but of cultural icons whose influence is felt far from their original spheres. This is a remarkable tale of American self-reinvention and self-definition in the digital age (reads in about 10 min).

Charles Foster, The Best of Nature Writing 2019

(Fivebooks, December 10, 2019)

The academic author of “Being a Beast” recommends and discusses five recent books about nature that break with the recurrent tropes he sees in the nature genre (First: ‘I go to a wild place, and I feel redeemed by it.’ And, second: ‘I go out into a wild place, and I feel sad at the thought that it’s all about to be destroyed by the evil machine.’). Wonderfully candid and full of intriguing insights – in particular on why nature makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves (reads in about 10 min).

Amy Fleming, Five ways to stop feeling tired all the time

(The Guardian, December 8, 2019)

Tiredness is a modern man’s disease. According to the chair of a Working Group at the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists, its main symptoms are a lack of energy and concentration, a lack of motivation and irritability. This short (reads in 3-4 min) article provides four very simple antidotes: (1) Resist box-set temptation, (2) Adopt a bedtime routine, (3) Don’t let your phone wake you up, (4) Eat protein with every meal and snack.