Weekly Selection 20 December 2019

Ben Casselman, A Recession Hasn’t Arrived (Yet). Here’s Where You’ll See It First

(The New York Times, December 12, 2019)

This article offers a very simple framework that can be used to identify a possible recession before it hits. The key indicators to watch for (in the US) are: (1) the unemployment rate (falling unemployment is a quasi-certain sign that the economy is still growing; (2) the yield curve (it has un-inverted); (3) the ISM manufacturing index (still hovering around 50); (4) consumer sentiment (growing unambiguously gloomier since July; (5) Choose your favorite from amongst 4 more (reads in 6-7 min).

Jeffrey Sachs, Europe’s Green Deal

(Project Syndicate, December 13, 2019)

The US economist explains why the Green Deal announced by the European Commission is a new global benchmark and the demonstration of European social democracy at work. In his opinion, a mixed economy, combining markets, government regulation, the public sector, and civil society, will pursue a mixed strategy, combining public goals, public and private investments, and public support (reads in 5-6 min).

Sarah Holder, America After Climate Change, Mapped

(CityLab, December 12, 2019)

This article focuses on the US (it visualizes how the warming world will reshape the country), but most of its insights apply (almost) universally. The bottom line: temperatures will continue to climb; sea levels will continue to rise; and, by the 2060s, global migration patterns will bring 100 million new people into the country, who will settle from coast to coast (reads in 5-6 min).

Damian Carrington, Depression and suicide linked to air pollution in new global study

(The Guardian, December 18, 2019)

The science of air pollution, and what it does to our health, is progressing fast. A spate of new research shows a strong correlation between toxic air and depression and suicide (it falls short of showing causation because experiments cannot deliberately expose people to harm). A recent scientific article concludes: “The evidence is highly suggestive that air pollution itself increases the risk of adverse mental health outcomes.” As more than 90% of the global population lives with air pollution above WHO-recommended levels, this is of concern to all of us (reads in 7-8 min).

David Raichlen and Gene Alexander, Why Your Brain Needs Exercise

(Scientific American, January 1, 2020)

Having long argued that exercise favours better decision-making, this is music to our ears! The evolutionary biologist and the psychiatrist explain why the evolutionary history of humans dictates that physical activity is important for brain health. It is by now well established that exercise has positive effects on the brain (especially as we age) and proven that cognitively challenging exercise may benefit the brain more than physical activity that makes fewer cognitive demand. One of the best and most comprehensive articles in its genre! (reads in about 10 min).