Declining snowpack, bird kills, inequality and carbon footprints, 1948 election vs 2024, Gaza war images, 2024 economic prognostications, is time an illusion?
January 22, 2024 - The Nett Report
Every other week, the award-winning Nett Report provides readers with thoughtful perspectives helpful to navigating life in a changing world. Past issues can be found here (recent) and here (past three years).
Lovins on nuclear power. "We're in the middle of a very adept and effective PR campaign, which has fooled a lot of people who should have known better. There is no operational need and no business case for nuclear power using any technology and any fuel cycle, and it is in global decline.” - Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, as reported on January 12, 2024, in Hot Globe by Samuel Lawrence Foundation Senior Fellow Steve Chapple.
Jassy on energy for AI. “These large language models are so power-hungry, and there’s just not enough energy right now. So we’re going to have the dual challenge as a group to find a lot more energy to satisfy what people want to do and what we can get done for society with generative AI. But we’ve got to do it in a renewable way, in a carbon neutral or zero way. It can’t be going back to coal.” - Amazon CEO Andy Jassy at Fortune’s annual Davos CEO dinner as reported in Fortune on January 18, 2024.
Declines in the West’s snowpack
One key measure of the impact of climate change is the trends in snowpack. Tatiana Schlossberg, in a January 17, 2024, News from a Changing Planet post, addressed those trends using a NOAA chart showing the decline in snowpack from 1955-2020 and telling stories of the change in locations around the planet. The chart is a partial explainer for the decline in water availability in the U.S. West.
Wind turbine bird study compares impacts with fracking
A January 11, 2024, article in the Los Angeles Times looked into the impact on bird populations within 5 kilometers of wind turbine installations and new oil and gas extraction in shale fields. The story acknowledges that birds are killed by wind turbines, but using the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count data “found that wind energy development had no statistically significant effect on bird counts, or on the diversity of avian species within five kilometers of a Christmas Bird Count site. Fracking, on the other hand, did have an impact. The drilling of shale oil and gas wells reduces the total number of birds counted in subsequent years by 15%.”
Addressing inequality necessary to reduce carbon footprints
Most approaches to changing behaviors to reduce an individual’s carbon footprint focuses on “targeting individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, or motivation,” according to a January 9, 2024, article in Anthropocene. “However, individuals don’t choose their behaviors in isolation.” Acknowledgement of the role inequality plays is essentially nonexistent. Here are few examples from the story:
Older, poorly insulated houses require more energy to heat than newer homes and are often occupied by renters, many with low incomes. In the UK, government subsidies to improve insulation are only available to homeowners.
Public transit services tend to be poor in rural areas, making low-carbon transportation less feasible for rural populations.
China to dominate renewable energy and coal power expansion
A January 11, 2024, story in Reuters reports that China will add more renewable energy and coal energy capacity than the rest of the world combined. The world’s second-largest economy will produce 2,060 gigawatts and “account for 56% of renewable energy capacity additions in the 2023-28 period … The European Union and the United States are the next biggest builders of renewable energy, at 429 GW and 337 GW, respectively.” Ironically, China has 53% of the world's 2,095 GW of operating coal-fired generating capacity and “is the world's biggest coal producer and importer and has more coal-fired capacity under construction than the rest of the world combined.” In addiiton, China “is building 136.24 GW of coal-fired generation, and has another 255.5 GW at the announced, pre-permit or permitted stage … This is 67% of the global coal-fired capacity currently under construction and 72% of the potential new capacity.”
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” - Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman.
Lincoln on democracy. “Historian Richard Hofstadter famously complained that the Emancipation Proclamation had ‘all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading,’ but its legalistic tone reflected that Lincoln was committed to achieving change not by dictating it, which he recognized would destroy our democracy, but by working within the nation's democratic system.” – Heather Cox Richardson in her January 1, 2024, newsletter Letters from an American.
Peace and security. “My biggest worry is that the global situation on peace and security further deteriorates and then affects all the other domains of global cooperation, such as climate, health, technology, and trade.” - World Economic Forum President Børge Brende, commenting on a joint WEF-McKinsey report in an interview with Fortune CEO Alan Murray in the January 17, 2024, CEO Daily.
1948 election runup has similarities to 2024
A New York Times article on January 4, 2024, takes a look at the similarities between the 1948 election (Truman won) and 2024. “But in the era of modern economic data, Harry Truman was the only president besides Joe Biden to oversee an economy with inflation over 7 percent while unemployment stayed under 4 percent and G.D.P. growth kept climbing. Voters weren’t overjoyed then, either. Instead, they saw Mr. Truman as incompetent, feared another depression and doubted their economic future, even though they were at the dawn of postwar economic prosperity.” An interesting read.
The Gaza War in images
The ultimate political divide is war, and the Gaza War is the most recent. A January 15, 2024, photo gallery from Reuters provides visuals that document the horror on both sides of the conflict. Not for the squeamish.
Chinese immigrants fleeing poor economy and restrictions in China
Three years of Covid-19 lockdowns, an increasingly restrictive regime, people out of work, a crackdown on free speech, civil society, and religion, and vanishing hope that business would fully rebound have led to a dramatic increase in the numbers of Chinese showing up on the southern border of the U.S. seeking asylum. This is according to a lengthy report by CNN on January 8, 2024. In 2013, nearly 25,000 Chinese sought asylum in the U.S. and elsewhere. In the first six months of 2023, the number had increased to 120,000.
Future of Work / The Economy
Taking advantage of AI. I think people are getting the hang of it, that if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Because of gen AI, they are looking at the architectural things that have to happen so they can take advantage of it.” - Bill McDermott, CEO, ServiceNow, in CEO Daily on January 18, 2024.
On tech and humans. “I think all of us are going to rely more and more on tech, and yet it’s going to feel more and more transparent, meaning you’re not going to realize you’re even using it. It’s just going to be humanly part of what we do every single day. And I think our responsibility collectively is to make that happen in a way that is fair, equitable, safe and responsible.” - Best Buy CEO Corie Barry in an interview by Alan Murray posted on the January 11, 2024, CEO Daily.
Compass Real Estate sees a brighter 2024 housing market
In its January 2024 newsletter, Compass National Real Estate Insights, the firm writes that “dramatically improving economic indicators suggest a brighter 2024 housing market.” These are the leading indicators:
In the last 2 months of 2023, the average weekly, 30-year mortgage interest rate dropped from 7.79% to 6.61%.
CPI inflations declined in 2023 from 6.3% in January to 3.1% in November.
After its end-of-the-year rally, the S&P index was up 25%, and the Nasdaq was up 45% in 2023.
According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, national home values hit a new peak in 2023.
The number of new listings coming on the market in 2023 was the lowest in decades, a dominant factor behind sales dropping to the lowest annual total since the great recession.
Millennials are co-buying to afford homes
Another view of the real estate market comes in a January 10, 2024, Fortune article that says, “Millennials are ‘carpooling for homes’ by teaming up with non-romantic co-buyers because of the disastrous state of the housing market.” A study in late 2022 found “that co-buying is, in fact, growing more common among first-time homebuyers, particularly millennials.”
Nevin annual economic forecast says “all systems go”
Yet another view of 2024 comes from San Diego economist Alan Nevin who provides an annual economic report. His national prognostications for 2024 are as follows:
The national economy will have smooth sailing in 2024, with all systems go.
The U.S. will add 2.0-2.5 million jobs in 2024.
The U.S. unemployment rate will be 3.0-3.5%.
The U.S. will add more than 3.0 million population.
The homebuilding industry will produce 1.6+ million units.
Inflation will be 2.0%.
Long-term interest rates will fall to 5.0-5.5%.
WEF points to AI election misinformation as biggest economic risk
The Guardian, on January 10, 2024, reviewed the World Economic Forum’s annual risks report and determined that “a wave of artificial intelligence-driven misinformation and disinformation that could influence key looming elections poses the biggest short-term threat to the global economy.” The report is derived from the opinions of 1,400 experts.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” - George Bernard Shaw.
How to reset your relationship with technology
Having a healthy relationship with technology is hard to do these days. The New York Times Well newsletter has some suggestions. Here are a few:
Work on “switching our default setting” to real life.
Make social media somewhere you go instead of the place you live.
Keep your phone at least 10 feet from your workstation during the day.
Keep your phone off your nightstand at night.
Turn off alerts and push notifications all the time.
Is time an illusion?
It’s one thing to worry about how tech is controlling our time, but what if time itself is an illusion? A January 15, 2024, article on NPR reports that “some scientists think time might not even be real – or at least not fundamental.” The examples they give are found below, but you’ll have to listen to the show to find out more:
Time ticks by differently at sea level than it does on a mountaintop.
The universe's expansion slows the passing of time.
There are periods of the universe's existence where time gets twisted beyond recognition.
The Nett Light-Side
“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.” - Conan O'Brien, television host and comedian.
Starstruck by the perspective: NASA estimates that the universe could contain up to one septillion stars. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, alone contains more than 100 billion, including our most well-studied star, the Sun.
Palestinians shelter next to animals in Gaza zoo
The subject isn’t light but I thought you would like to know that some Palestinians shelter in tents near and between cages at a zoo in Gaza where “starving monkeys, parrots, and lions cry out for food.” A story in Reuters Sustainable Switch newsletter describes how the Gomas family, who runs the zoo, have brought together their extended family to shelter at the zoo after their homes were destroyed.
About Carl Nettleton
Carl Nettleton is an award-winning writer, speaker, thought partner, facilitator, and subject-matter expert regarding 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 and organizations 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.
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