Weekly Selection 22 November 2019

Pablo Fajgelbaum, Pinelopi Goldberg, Patrick Kennedy, Amit Khandelwal, The return to protectionism

(VOXeu, November 7, 2019)

To get a precise and rigorous sense of the impact that the current trade war has on the US economy, this column is a must-read. It estimates a $51 billion annual loss to US consumers and firms from higher import prices, with an aggregate annual loss of $7.2 billion when producer gains and tariff revenues are factored in. It also argues that US tariffs protected politically competitive counties, whereas retaliations by other nations targeted strongly Republican counties (reads in 7-8 min).

Jayati Ghosh, The Growing Threat of Water Wars

(Project Syndicate, November 13, 2019)

Increasingly, the lack of access to clean water constitutes a potential source of future conflict. Since 1960, the amount of available fresh water per capita has declined by more than half, leaving over 40% of the world’s population facing water stress. By 2030, demand for fresh water will exceed supply by around 40%. Water-related tensions are on the rise between countries and within countries (between rural and urban communities). As with climate change, the most severe consequences of water stress disproportionately affect those in the world’s poorest regions – especially Africa and South and Central Asia (reads in 6-7 min).

Top 10 Emerging Technologies Of 2019

(Scientific American, December 1, 2019)

A diverse group of experts has identified 10 key innovations that may soon materialize and improve our lives. They are: (1) Bio-plastics; (2) Social robots; (3) Tiny lenses; (4) A special class of proteins for treating cancer and Alzheimer’s; (5) Smarter fertilizers; (6) Collaborative telepresence; (7) Advanced food tracking packaging; (8) Safe nuclear reactors; (9) DNA data storage; (10) Utility-scale energy storage (reads in about 10 min).

Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell, The Dark Psychology of Social Networks

(The Atlantic, December 2019)

The social psychologist and the strategist explain in an elaborate, yet accessible, manner “why it feels like everything is going haywire”. There are multiple reasons: (1) social media turns communication into a public performance and lures us into a new gladiatorial circus; (2) it has also become a powerful accelerant for anyone who wants to start a fire; and (3) platforms are designed with the intent of making outrage contagious. The article concludes by making a few suggestions so that social media regains the power to do good (reads in 8-9 min).

Elle Hunt, Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness

(The Guardian, November 3, 2019)

This is part of our campaign (of which we made a business case) to promote nature as a key component of greater wellbeing and better decision-making. We normally focus on green space, but this article explains why “blue space” (the sea, but also rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls, even fountains) has been proven to improve our health, body and mind. This is ‘health by stealth’ and further evidence that even a little nature goes a long way. Soon doctors could regularly be issuing nature-based prescriptions! (Reads in 7-8 min).