Effective Altruism and Hope for the Planet
December 5, 2022 - The Nett Report
Every other week The Nett Report provides readers with thoughtful perspectives useful to navigating life in a changing world. Links to past issues can be found here (recent) and here (past two years). Please use the share, comment, and like buttons above!
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Poll Results. Last week we asked readers: “Will climate change be addressed in time?” The results were underwhelming.
73% - I can only hope
27% - No
0% - Yes
Thanks for the responses! Here’s this issue’s poll.
Steven Jobs on death
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart ... Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.” - Steven Jobs, Stanford University graduation speech, 2005
1,200 possibilities for the planet’s future
Image courtesy of: Washington Post
Despite the results of our reader poll, there is still hope for addressing climate change. Working with experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, the Washington Post produced a fascinating and extensive article on December 1, 2022, looking at the possibilities for achieving the goal of keeping global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The article looked at these scenarios: “how fast the world embraces clean energy, how quickly we can remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere — and how these, in turn, affect the planet’s temperature over the course of the century.” Many of the pathways include “overshooting” the 1.5 C barrier and then going back down below it later in the century.
Is oil investment a must for a just transition?
“A lot of models are showing that even by 2040, if you tried to do your best in terms of building renewables and other alternatives, the demand for oil would still be around 60 to 70 million barrels. We’re at 100 million today. Unfortunately, if you don’t invest in the oil industry, by then, the supply would be 27. So when we talk about a just transition, we have to remember that there are places around the world that have tremendous oil and gas resources. But if they can’t develop those, they’re the ones that will get left behind, and they’re the ones that will suffer.” – Vicki Hollub, CEO, Occidental Petroleum
Are junk carbon offsets falsely making companies carbon neutral?
A November 20, 2022, piece in Bloomberg Green questions whether carbon offsets purchased by companies “function like an accounting maneuver that allows more greenhouse gas to enter the atmosphere.” The story says that buying credits for the development of renewables like solar and wind “sounds good for the climate. But experts consider these offsets largely bogus … selling offsets for small sums as a way to support the economics of renewables doesn’t provide any real benefit if it’s already cheaper than building new coal or gas power plants.”
The Political Divide
“The forest was shrinking but the trees kept voting for the axe, for the axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was made of wood, he was one of them.” - Turkish Proverb
Image courtesy of: Andy Marlette, Pensacola News Journal
Was Macron dinner party a model for bridging the divide?
Just like the holiday seating chart above, a strategy is needed to make Washington, D.C., a place where political leaders can again work and socialize together as human beings, rather than as party missile throwers. The official state dinner on December 1, 2022, honoring French president Emmanuel Macron, might be a model for that strategy. According to a December 2, 2022, article in the New York Times, the dinner party went on until after midnight and included leaders of both parties, drinking, eating, dancing to the music of Jon Batiste, and socializing together. Maybe similar events should be calendared monthly. How could a little more humanity hurt?
Midterm results could lead to a strange atmosphere for CEOs
With a Senate ruled by Democrats and a House ruled by Republicans, a December 2, 2022, quote in CEO Daily projected a potentially bizarre atmosphere for CEOs who might “get subpoenaed by Senate Democrats asking ‘Why are you so slow in decarbonizing when the planet is melting,’ and then the next day get subpoenaed by House Republicans asking ‘Why are you so woke that you put ESG BS ahead of shareholders?’”
Future of Work / The Economy
“I view empathy as a hard skill. It’s not soft. This isn’t about being nice. This gives you a competitive edge. Empathy in our workforce has enabled us to attract and explore and retain an extraordinarily diverse group of people in our organization. We’ve become an employer of choice. People want to work here because of the positions that we’ve taken.” - Jane Fraser, CEO, Citi
Goldman Sachs says tech layoffs not a sign of a weakening economy
Image courtesy of: Goldman Sachs
Recent layoffs by tech giants Twitter, Meta, Amazon and others seemed worrying for the economy. However, a November 30, 2022, report by Goldman Sachs says mass layoffs by tech companies don’t signal troubles for the economy. Here are three reasons why:
Employment in the tech sector is small relative to the entire U.S. labor market. The unemployment rate would rise by less than 0.3 percentage points even in the inconceivable event that all workers employed in (this industry) are immediately laid off.
Laid-off workers won’t stay unemployed for long because tech job openings remain well above their pre-pandemic level.
Tech layoffs have not historically been a leading indicator of a deterioration in the overall labor market. Job cuts in the sector have spiked from time to time without a corresponding increase in total layoffs.
Global energy prices mapped
Image courtesy of: Visual Capitalist
Visual Capitalist, on December 3, 2022, published three maps of current energy prices around the globe and included a list of those prices for gasoline, natural gas, and electricity, a handy reference for understanding where the U.S. sits on the global scale of energy costs. While the United States is on the map, it doesn’t make the list of the top countries ranked by cost of gasoline, natural gas, or electricity.
Housing prices stay elevated because of interest rates
A December 1, 2022, article in New York Times The Morning newsletter shed light on why housing prices are staying elevated and how U.S. and U.K. homeowners face different scenarios with rising inflation and interest rates. In the U.S., most homeowners have a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, likely financed somewhere near 3%. This insulates them from both housing inflation and interest rate increases but also makes them reluctant to move, meaning fewer houses are on the market, keeping prices high. In the U.K., the typical homeowner has a fixed rate for only two-to-five years or variable rates that automatically change when the Bank of England raises rates, resulting in higher payments, with some being forced out of their homes.
Effective altruism – get right to it or make money first?
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, in his November 29, 2022, newsletter and podcast, focuses on effective altruism. He discusses Oxford Philosopher William MacAskill's argument that “a young person concerned about the world’s poor could become a doctor in a poor country and possibly save the equivalent of 140 lives in their medical career. But if they took a job that paid them hundreds of millions of dollars, and then donated a big portion of it intelligently, they could save ten times as many lives.”
No Covid stories for this issue that you don’t already know. Get your booster and flu shots and be safe!
The Nett Light-Side
“Golf is assuredly a mystifying game. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But such is certainly not the case.” - Bobby Jones
Danish artist builds a community of giant trolls
Image courtesy of: Thomas Dambo // Good News Network
Some people have imaginations that go beyond the pale. According to a November 21, 2022, story in the Good News Network, Danish artist Thomas Dambo has built the Giants of Mandurah, a cultural tourism attraction in Western Australia. about an hour south of Perth. The giant trolls are all made of recycled wood, just like the dozens of other giants that Dambo has built in forests around the world.
Edible drones to save lives
According to another story in the Good News Network on November 15, 2022, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) has developed drones with edible wings to be functional for flight and deliver life-sustaining nutrition or medication.
Listening to farts to benefit public health
Farts say more about your health than you might imagine, A November 30, 2022, story in Inverse says David Ancalle, a mechanical engineering student at Georgia Tech,” is currently working to demystify the acoustics of urination, flatulence, and diarrhea. His team is training AI to recognize and analyze the sound of each bathroom phenomenon.” Ancalle thinks tracking the flow of our excretions could benefit public health.
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.