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Democracy man away, woke defined, changing global demographics, EVs at a turning point, buildings designed for a warming earth
July 31, 2023 - The Nett Report
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The Political Divide
“The first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.” – President George Washington, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Magazine, July/August 2023.
“Is there a common good? Or are we just self-seeking individuals who happen to live within the same borders?” – former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, in his July 21, 2023, newsletter.
What does “woke” really mean?
According to Elaine Richardson, a professor of literacy studies at Ohio State University, in a KPBS Morning Edition interview on July 19, 2023, woke comes out of Black culture. Here’s what she says it really means.
In simple terms, it just means being politically conscious and aware, like “stay woke.”
It was used in Black protest songs dating back to the early 20th century.
It comes out of the experience of Black people of knowing that you have to be conscious of the politics of race, class, gender, systemic racism, ways that society is stratified and not equal.
It came back into popular use in 2008 after Erykah Badu's song "Master Teacher."
Now the word has been co-opted as a political slogan on the right to promote anti-Blackness, stratification, and fear.
Future of Work / The Economy
Business has to lead in transitioning to a zero-carbon future
“This century’s businesses won’t thrive unless society and the Earth also thrive. The global enterprise I call Humanity Inc. needs to evolve aggressively for everybody’s survival, which is why adopting and embedding ESG metrics is minimal table stakes of a business’s license to operate in the twenty-first century.” - Andrew Liveris, former CEO of Dow Chemical and author of Leading Through Disruption
The above quote appeared in the July 31, 2023, edition of CEO Daily. Liveris uses “a succession of Ds to describe the evolution of business thinking on this subject during his time at Dow, particularly on environmental issues.” He says the company went from:
“Denial” in the 1960s to,
“Defiance” in the 1970s to,
“Debate” in the 1980s to,
“Dialogue” in the 1990s to,
Today, companies must move to a fifth D – “Do.”
On issues like transitioning to a zero-carbon future, Liveris says, “business has to lead.”
Developed nations will have older workers, developing nations younger
A July 16, 2023, story and infographic in the New York Times shows how the demographics of the world’s workforces are changing. Some observations from the story:
By 2050, people aged 65 and older will make up nearly 40 percent of the population in some parts of East Asia and Europe. That’s almost twice the share of older adults in Florida, America’s retirement capital.
Extraordinary numbers of retirees will be dependent on a shrinking number of working-age people to support them.
To cope, aging rich countries will need to rethink pensions, immigration policies, and what life in old age looks like.
The opportunity for many poorer countries is enormous. When birth rates fall, countries can reap a “demographic dividend” when a growing share of workers and few dependents fuel economic growth.
But without the right policies, a huge working-age population can backfire rather than lead to economic growth.
What the society will look like depends enormously on policy choices and behavioral change.
The price of crude oil could rise as the market tightens
According to a July 16, 2023, story in Fortune, the price of Brent crude broke $80/barrel for the first time since April 13. Fortune says “as demand in China and elsewhere recovers from the pandemic to reach new highs … production cutbacks by Saudi Arabia and its OPEC+ allies are set to rapidly drain storage tanks around the world.” While there is still skepticism that prices will continue to increase, the head of oil markets at the International Energy agency expects “a sharp tightening of the market.”
Can building design help adapt to heat and disasters while saving energy?
According to a July 16, 2023, story in Insider, “Extreme weather driven by the climate crisis forced 3.3 million Americans out of their homes last year. So some are seeking a new type of house designed specifically to withstand the consequences of a warming Earth: geodesic domes.” The homes can withstand flooding and hurricanes and cost little more than a similarly sized home using traditional techniques. Another story, this one in Time on July 27, 2023, suggests the U.S. should “ditch air conditioning and use Middle Eastern techniques to cool its cities.” The story says wind towers called barajeels can cool buildings without electricity. In tall buildings, wind can be funneled through chimney-like structures called chases, which cool the air using the mass of the walls and then bring the air back into the building. High domed-shaped roofs can also “improve the ability of a building to cool itself.”
Are electric vehicles at a turning point?
The replacement of gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs) is a key strategy for addressing climate change. However, recent stories are indicating the transition will not happen as quickly as hoped. Some examples.
“EV demand is not keeping up with production … Right now, with EVs, If you're making, at least initially, life more difficult for consumers, they usually take the path of least resistance." - former Ford CEO Mark Fields, The Street, July 25, 2023.
The two main ways that EVs are just more difficult than combustion engines are cost and charging infrastructure that, though improving, is still cause for concern among potential adopters.
“Price is the primary barrier among buyers that Cox surveys, because EVs remain generally more expensive than a similar gas-powered model.” - Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive, Grist, July 14, 2023
“When I read about dealers (who are not exactly pro EV in general) having a hard time moving EVs and consider the shameful state of American charging infrastructure, and the natural geographic challenges we have, I have to wonder if we’re starting to see the limits for EV adoption without intervention.” - Rory Carroll, Los Angeles-based sports reporter, Jaloponik, July 21, 2023.
VW – four innovations in EV technology
If EVs have hit a bump between demand and production, that isn’t stopping innovation from moving forward. VW has made four innovations in EV technology at its University of Tennessee Innovation Hub, according to a July 18, 2023, story in Electrek.
AI-optimized EV battery pack frame. These new material structures reduce vehicle weight, which helps to increase the range of EVs. The is to replace the steel frame that houses the EV battery pack with something lighter.
EV interiors made of paper. VW is using paper as a recyclable alternative to plastic parts and foils for EV interiors by preforming and hot-pressing cellulose fiber-reinforced thermoplastics into durable interior parts.
Lightweight fiber composite body parts. Making the liftgate of a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas using a type of fiberglass-reinforced plastic instead of metal, cut 13 pounds of weight, a savings of more than 35%. The change doesn’t affect the assembly sequence and can be produced in high volumes.
Wireless EV fast charging. VW has patented a coil and charging pad design with silicon-carbide materials. In early trials, the research team has been able to increase the charging power level up to 120 kW with this prototype from an earlier 6.6 kW prototype, and the goal is to reach 300 kW.
Harvard study says U.S. lacks strategy to mitigate zoonotic risk
A new study by Harvard Law School and New York University has concluded that “human-animal interactions have given and will again give rise to zoonotic outbreaks that claim American lives.” Zoonotic diseases are infections that are spread between people and animals. The study found that the U.S. “has no comprehensive strategy to mitigate zoonotic risk.” According to the study, U.S. concentrated animal feeding operations, otherwise known as factory farms, present a “risk in terms of both scale of production and the production practices employed, putting workers and surrounding communities at risk.”
The Nett Light-Side
Some useful life lessons from Steven Jobs
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs, Apple Founder. Here are some lessons he shared (from Inc.).
Trust your intuition (or higher power). Sometimes our instincts lead us down paths we never knew existed, bringing us to the most unexpected yet rewarding destinations.
Hindsight leads to better choices. By reflecting on our past experiences, we gain insights into the consequences of our actions, allowing us to make better choices in the future.
Embrace failure as a part of success. Every setback provides an opportunity to grow and refine our approach.
Be open to the small things. Every decision, every experience, no matter how small, can lead to life-altering moments and opportunities that shape our journey.
Find your why. Believing in something beyond ourselves gives life a sense of direction.
Overcome fear and doubt. Let go of these inhibitions, have faith in ourselves, and step into the unknown with confidence.
Learn resilience. Life may not always unfold as we expect, but having faith that things will work out instills resilience within us.
Cornell bird app uses AI to identify birds from their songs
If you love watching birds like I do, it would be cool to identify the species by their song as well as their appearance. “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Merlin Bird ID app uses artificial intelligence to name that tune.,” according to a ZDNET story on July 19, 2023.
White-tailed eagle hatches in England for the first time since 1780
According to a story in The Messenger News on July 18, 2023, conservationists have worked to return white-tailed eagles to England after they were forced out of the country or killed by hunting in the late 18th century. In 2019, four of the eagles were released on the Isle of Wight. Four years later, the first eagle was born in England since 1870.
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 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.