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Civil war, China and Starbucks, a world without fossil fuels, climate and household income, orcas eating sea otters
October 9, 2023 - The Nett Report
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This issue comes to you from Page, Arizona
Last issue we were on the Big Island of Hawaii. This issue we are in Page, Arizona, near the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. On the way, it was Indigenous Peoples' Day, and we had the opportunity to honor that with a visit to the Wupatki National Monument, an area first inhabited in the 11th century.
The Nett Report honored with two Excellence in Journalism Awards
The Nett Report earned two second-place awards in last week’s San Diego Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism Awards. One award was for PR, PIO, and Trade Publications, and the second was for a blog by or for journalists. OpenOceans Global’s newsletter, The Transition, also produced by Carl Nettleton along with Shauna Buffington, took first place in the category Blog by a Corporation or Group. Please encourage friends and associates to subscribe for free!
The political divide continues to concern many of our readers. Here are some thoughts from some leading voices on the issue.
“Character is destiny. We can either try to elect people who try to embody the highest standards of honesty, kindness, and integrity or elect people who shed those standards.” - David Brooks, The Atlantic, How America Got Mean, August 14, 2023.
“To many watching at home and abroad, the American way no longer seems to offer a case study in effective representative democracy. Instead, it has become an example of disarray and discord, one that rewards extremism, challenges norms, and threatens to divide a polarized country even further.” – Peter Baker, The New York Times, October 5, 2023.
“Truth is the most basic of common goods. As the late senator and professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. When we accept lies as facts or illogic as logic, we lose the shared reality necessary to tackle our common problems. We become powerless.” - Robert Reich, Truth as a Common Good, in his October 6, 2023, newsletter.
“We had a war over slavery. We knew slavery was inhumane and immoral, but somehow, we couldn’t solve slavery peacefully. It was an evil. But one side refused to acknowledge that it was evil because it was too big of an admission for them to make. Doesn’t it feel that way now that this defiant refusal to reverse this decline argues against the survival of a country?” - Greg Gutfeld, Fox News, The Five, October 6, 2023.
Billionaire investor Ray Dalio on moving toward civil war
Ray Dalio, American billionaire investor and hedge fund manager, in his October 5, 2023, monthly newsletter on LinkedIn, writes that there are “five major interrelated forces that are now driving most everything in ways that have never happened before in our lifetimes but have happened many times in history.” Those forces are listed below.
Very high levels of debt and debt creation in the US and other reserve currency countries;
Intense levels of conflict within countries (most importantly the US) due to large wealth and values gaps and populist extremists of the right and the left fighting to win at all costs;
Intense levels of conflict between countries (most importantly between the US and China and those aligning with them) in a classic great power conflict;
Significant damaging acts of nature (droughts, floods, and pandemics) and;
Mankind’s learning and deploying new technologies (most recently and notably, AI).
Dali says, “the two parties are squaring off into monolithic blocks that are controlled by uncompromising, win-at-all-costs extremists and that most everyone will be forced to pick a side and fight for it,” While he sympathizes with those concerned about debt, he is “even more concerned about who has what powers and the choices that are being made to fight rather than to cooperate across party lines and view this development as another step away from democracy and toward civil war.”
Dalio imagines “that states will inevitably and increasingly go in their own directions. People will increasingly go to states that suit their beliefs and circumstances, and states will fight the central government about what they will do.” He believes the “path of moving to a strong bipartisan middle that coincides with what the majority of Americans want, working in bipartisan reforms to the system, and allowing more federalist state rights would be the best path forward.” The story includes an eye-opening chart showing the policy views held by more than 60% of Americans.
Akexa claims the 2020 election was stolen
An October 7, 2023, story in the Washington Post reports that when asked about fraud in the 2020 election, the voice assistant Alexa said, “’it was stolen by a massive amount of election fraud,’ citing Rumble, a video-streaming service favored by conservatives.” Alexa continued by saying the 2020 races were “notorious for many incidents of irregularities and indications pointing to electoral fraud taking place in major metro centers,” referencing Substack. Alexa has been positioned as a reliable source for election results using credible sources, but apparently, the process is fallible.
Starbucks is building bridges with China over coffee
On a more positive note, Starbucks has a strategy for doing business in China at a time when tensions abound. In the October 6, 2023, edition of CEO Daily, Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Starbucks, said, “China is ten percent of our business and growing. We are opening a store there every nine hours …We have a real belief in the long-term potential of our business in China. We believe we are building bridges over coffee.” Starbucks' strategy aligns with that of the U.S. government. In another issue of CEO Daily, this one on October 3, 2023, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, said this about U.S. – China relations: “no one is talking about decoupling. To pretend that we could decouple our economies…it’s not a reasonable thing to even say. We’re too intertwined. But we shouldn’t do business in ways that hurt our national security.”
Future of Work / The Economy
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.” - Dhirubhai Ambani, Indian businessman who founded Reliance Industries.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 20,000 ways that won’t work.” - Thomas Edison.
Understanding how AI really works
As artificial intelligence continues to make headlines, the Financial Times, on September 11, 2023, published a very readable story explaining how generative AI “Writes, Works, Learns, Thinks and Hallucinates.” It's all about The Transformer.
ChatGPT is Getting More Impressive
A September 21, 2023, story in Mind Matters provides some stunning examples of how AI is improving. The article reports that despite progress, “human intelligence remains qualitatively different from artificial intelligence.”
About Generative AI
It’s what economists call a general-purpose technology. I put it on the scale of the steam engine or electricity.” —Erik Brynjolfsson, academic and author, Stanford
“Literally every meeting I go to with a CEO, I ask the question: ‘Who in your organization is responsible for Responsible AI? And can they tell you when you call where AI is being used, what the risks are, and how they’re being monitored?’ And right now, it’s about a 90% hit that they don’t have that person.” —Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture
Mighty Mississippi River Loses Its Might
According to Monarch Weather Weekly's October 8, 2023, issue, “the Mississippi River at Memphis hit an all-time record low stage of -10.97 feet on September 14th. This broke the previous record of -10.81 feet last year during the month of October. The extended 2023 drought has significantly reduced the water levels in the Mississippi River, causing disruptions in transportation, driving up shipping expenses, challenging the U.S. agriculture industry, and posing a threat to Louisiana's drinking water sources. Numerous other locations along the Mississippi River are reporting water levels that are at or below low water thresholds.”
What would the world look like without fossil fuels?
Environmentalists call for an end to fossil fuels, but what would that look like if oil production could be instantly stopped? A September 30, 2023, article in the Washington Post provided some answers.
It would be catastrophic, and the world would quickly grind to a halt.
Where a large portion of electricity is run on renewables, firm power from fossil fuels provides on-demand power as needed. Without that power, electricity grids would see widespread blackouts.
Within a few weeks, a lack of oil for transportation would impede deliveries of food and other essential goods.
There would be no food in grocery stores.
The U.S. petroleum reserves would only last 17 days. If used internationally, 3.5 days.
Nobody expects the production of fossil fuels to stop all at once, even environmentalists. However, the Post reports that “as the world transitions to clean energy, the build-out of renewables should be balanced with the phase-down of fossil fuels. But timing those two difficult, complex processes is easier said than done.”
The impact of climate change on American household finances
A September 29, 2023, report released by the U.S. Department of the Treasury “evaluates the various impacts of climate change on American household finances, with particular attention to those households and individuals that may be most adversely affected.” Among the many impacts listed, these seem most noteworthy:
Loss of income. Physical damage from climate events can force interruptions and closures of normal operations of businesses, governments, and other critical services. As a result, households can face financial strain from lost income and higher costs or reduced access across a range of consumer goods and services.
Gasoline costs. Climate events can increase gasoline prices by causing shortages or increased demand.
Property damage. Climate events like floods can cause significant damage to household property. Households may lack the financial resources needed for repairs or replacement.
Healthcare costs. Climate-related hospitalization or medical services can lead to an overall increase in healthcare expenditures.
Utility costs. Climate events can cause additional expenditures on utilities. For example, households exposed to heat waves are more likely to use air-conditioning, which could increase their energy consumption and associated expenses.
Divisions still problematic in the leadup to November UN climate conference
While climate-vulnerable nations continue to push wealthier ones to eliminate fossil fuels and invest in alternatives, a number of countries hope to solve the problem by capturing greenhouse gas emissions. A September 25, 2023, story in Reuters highlighted the division as nations of the world prepare to meet in the UAE from November 30 to December 12, 2023, at the COP28 United Nations climate summit. The story quotes UN Secretary-General Antonio Cuterres as saying, “humanity has opened the gates of hell” in regard to the warming of the planet.
Nothing to report this issue!
The Nett Light-Side
“For me, success is not about wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.” - Ted Lasso
“Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment. or the smallest act of caring, all of which the potential to turn a life around.” - Leo Buscaglia - known as "Dr. Love", was an American author, motivational speaker, and professor.
“The world connects not [merely] by molecules. It connects through ideas, hopes, dreams, actions, stories, and memories." – Barrie Stanford Greiff, a psychiatric consultant to Harvard University Health Services.
Wildlife photographers showcase their funniest photos
Bering Island orca suffocated after eating too many otters
An orca that washed up on the beach on Bering Island is suspected of dying from asphyxiation after scientists discovered a sea otter stuck with its head down in the orca’s throat. The orca had been on a sea otter field day. Six other otters were found in its stomach. This was only the second incident confirming some orcas prey on sea otters. The story was published on October 5, 2023, in ScienceAlert.
About Carl Nettleton
Carl Nettleton is an award-winning writer, speaker, thought partner, facilitator, and subject-matter expert rin 2013egarding water, climate, sustainability, the ocean, and binational U.S.-Mexico border affairs. Nettleton Strategies, the consultancy he founded in 2007, is a trusted source of analysis and advice on issues at the forefront of public policy, business, and the environment. He helps people to think strategically about their options for change. He is also the founder of OpenOceans Global, a nonprofit addressing ocean plastic in a new way.