Freedom in the world and George Carlin on baseball
March 13, 2023 - The Nett Report
Every other week The Nett Report provides readers with thoughtful perspectives useful to navigating life in a changing world. Past issues can be found here (recent) and here (past three years).
Readers say to replace Covid-19 section with Health
Reader Sanjeeet suggested that we eliminate the Covid-19 topic, so we asked readers what they thought. Here are the results:
Should we eliminate or replace the Covid-19 section? Check all that apply.
13% - No, leave it as is.
22% - Yes, and don't replace it.
35% - Add Health.
13% - Add Border and Immigration.
17% - Add Water and Ocean.
Because 35% suggested we add health and 13% said leave Covid-19, (48% in total), we will add Health and include Covid-19 stories as appropriate. Thanks for the feedback!
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The Political Divide
"Once you stop believing that we're all in this together, the whole house of cards begins to fall apart … Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and here I am, stuck in the middle with you." From a thoughtful essay, "Crossing the Rubicon," by David Todd McCarty on Medium.
“I am in Los Angeles to attend the Women of the Year Award. In Iran, we are fighting against dress codes to allow us to take off our hijab, and now I learn there is a dress code for the awards ceremony. I have to wear a cocktail dress.” (Paraphrased for length) - Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist, author, and women's rights activist.
Democracy's global decline slows and might hit a turning point
The annual Freedom in the World report from Freedom House concluded that “the rise of authoritarianism and the erosion of democracy have been among the most notable global trends of the past decade. The "Freedom in the World" report suggests those trends continued in 2022, but it also finds cause for optimism, according to a story in Axios on March 9, 2023. The report scores countries on the political and civil rights of their citizens and categorizes them as "free," "partly free," or "not free." Some highlights:
84 of 195 countries are currently considered free, up from 44 of 148 nations in the first edition in 1973.
The scores of 35 countries declined, while those of 34 countries improved, the narrowest gap since the global democratic downturn began in 2005.
Finland, Norway, and Sweden all received perfect scores.
The least free were North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, South Sudan, Syria, and Tibet. China and Saudi Arabia were among the "worst of the worst."
The U.S. is less free than 59 other countries, on par with Panama and Romania, and far behind G7 democracies like Canada or Japan.
Global press freedom continued its worrying decline in 2022.
There "were signs during the past year that the world’s long freedom recession may be bottoming out."
Three new clean power sources being developed
Triple Pundit on March 7, 2023, described three types of clean power development being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Concentrating solar power plants. Not a new concept, but these plants have been slow to catch on in the U.S. What's new is using ceramic particles instead of molten salt to capture the energy. This allows storage at up to 800 degrees Celsius. This is more efficient, and the process also has the ability to better store energy, making 24/7 power possible. A $100 million DOE research effort begun in 2017 is expected to be completed in 2024. The pilot includes partnerships with Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Electrofuels from the sea. This uses technology that pushes hydrogen gas from water with electricity from wind turbines, solar panels, or other renewables. With significant efforts underway to develop wind turbines offshore, this complementary technology puts energy from wind turbines generated at night to good use when energy demand is low. A $650,000 DOE ARPA-E grant funds this work.
Enhanced geothermal systems. The current capacity of geothermal power in the U.S. is 3.7 gigawatts. The DOE has launched a $74 million grant program to create enhanced geothermal systems that would unlock at least 90 gigawatts of geothermal energy by 2050 using enhanced geothermal which involves engineering human-made reservoirs in subsurface formations.
China uses as much cement in two years as the U.S. did in 100
According to Sustainability by Numbers on March 5, 2023, China uses as much cement every two years as the U.S. did in the 20th century. “From 1900 to 1999, the US produced 4.2 billion tonnes of cement. China produced 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020, and 2.5 billion tonnes in 2021. A total of 4.9 billion tonnes in those two years.” This is important because cement accounts for about the equivalent of 4.5% of global CO2 emissions from coal, oil, gas, cement, and flaring. Sustainability by Numbers is a Substack publication by Hannah Ritchie, a researcher Oxford Martin Programme in Global Development, at the University of Oxford and deputy editor and lead researcher at Our World in Data – an online web publication focused on research and data to understand and make progress against the world’s largest problems.
BP slows oil and gas cuts, scales back renewables
British Petroleum, which had the most aggressive renewables investment strategy of its competitors, is slowing proposed reduction in oil and gas development and scaling back investments in renewables, according to a March 7, 2023 story in Reuters. BP said the moves come in response to changes in the energy market. “While BP's move to produce more oil and gas for longer puts it more in line with its peers, its 25% (from 40%) annual reduction goal is still more ambitious than any of its global rivals.
What it might take to stop people from driving gas cars
A story in Electrek on March 9, 2023, reported on a study by George Mason University which found that “EV subsidies rolled out in China – similar to the US’s new $7,500 EV tax credit – incentivized people to buy EVs as second vehicles, but they kept buying and driving gas cars as well.” It appears that the car market for both EVs and gas cars is expanding overall, “and there’s no observed decrease in traditional vehicle purchasing. Instead, it looks like consumers are either buying an additional vehicle, or buying a vehicle when they otherwise would have relied on alternate transportation options.” More research needs to be done on the efficacy of subsidies, but because most people buy used cars, the change to electric will come when the used electric vehicle market is large enough and gas cars are traded in for EVs.
Future of Work / The Economy
"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it." - Henry Ford
Silicon Valley Bank explained
The big news over the weekend was the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and the federal government's role in rushing in to make customers whole and reassure the economy. Rather than try to explain it here, since the story has been widely reported in the press. please see the resources below if you wold like more background.
What happened at Silicon Valley Bank, in plain English, Karen Finerman, HerMoney, March 12, 2023
The real story behind the Silicon Valley Bank debacle, Robert Reich, March 12, 2023
Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson, March 12, 2023
"The Fed has made clear its determination to keep raising interest rates until it gets inflation under control. But fear of a financial crisis is the one thing that could shake that determination," - Alan Murray, CEO Daily, March 13, 2023
Goldman Sachs sees job market slowing but still strong
According to a March 10, 2023, item in Goldman Sach's Briefings newsletter, job openings are "still elevated in many developed market economies, led by the U.S. and Australia. More than a dozen countries have a job openings rate that is higher than before the onset of the pandemic." The report says "it's likely going to take a sustained period of below-trend growth to reduce them to a sustainable level."
FemTech, a new subsection of the technology sector focused on women
CNBC reported on March 6, 2023, that a whole new technology sector valued at more than $1 trillion has emerged. Coined FemTech, it includes "all types of technology and innovation designed to address health issues that solely, or disproportionately, impact women's health, from menstrual cycle tracking apps and sexual wellness products to cardiovascular medical devices and mental health therapies." The term came from Clue founder Ida Tin who had created a menstrual health app, and realized "there wasn't much of a community around women's health services and products." She felt that other entrepreneurs creating women-focused technology were kindred spirits. The name, "FemTech" was born to "pull it all together under one umbrella."
Neurons in the throat makes you feel crummy when you have the flu
A March 8, 2023, article in Science says "when you come down with the flu … you lose your appetite, you feel sluggish, and your mood takes a hit. The infection itself doesn't cause these symptoms—your brain does." Scientists have determined "a cluster of nerve cells in the back of the throat that detects a virus' presence and sends signals to the brain, triggering symptoms that respond to the infection."
The Nett Light-Side
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Looking at earth from three billion miles away
See the dot in the upper half of the diagonal beam coming through the center of the image. That's earth from 3 billion miles away taken by Voyager 1 in 1990. Makes you feel that the politics on earth are not so important on a universal scale. Image credit: NASA.
New MLB baseball regulations: if you care, you like the changes
In the last issue we asked readers if they liked the new major league baseball regulations.
46% - yes
0% - no
54% don't care
That means 100% of the people who care about the new baseball regulations like them. I wish they weren't needed, but I think they will make the games shorter and more exciting. The stats at the end of the year will tell us! And if you want more about clocks and baseball, read JoeBlogs March 3, 2023, article, and don’t miss George Carlin's irreverent video about the difference between baseball and football recorded 14 years ago.
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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