Religion and the political divide, business leaders overwhelmed by data
April 24, 2023 - The Nett Report
“The more you stand up for others, the easier it is to stand up for yourself.” - Megan Rapinoe, American professional soccer player.
The Political Divide
“The owners of the country don’t want this ... They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking … That doesn’t help them. It's against their interests.” - George Carlin on “the reason education sucks and why it won’t be fixed.”
Religion and the political divide, a look at America
The role that religion has played in the political divide has become increasingly apparent, particularly with the emergence of evangelicals as a political force. An April 12, 2023, article in Religion News Service reviewed a report by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies analyzed religion at the county level. Here are some key findings:
The share of Americans with no religious affiliation has risen dramatically over the last few years.
Large swaths of New England are dominated by mainline Protestants and white Catholics, while parts of South Florida have large Jewish enclaves, and Utah is the base for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Faith is particularly strong in what has traditionally been known as the Bible Belt. In many counties in states like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, over half of the county-level population is aligned with a religious tradition.
Between 2010 and 2020, many counties across North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan saw drops in total religious adherents of at least 10%. That same decline appeared in Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.
South Florida and many of the least-populous counties in Texas close to the border with Mexico saw notable growth, as did parts of New Mexico and Arizona.
There is no obvious relationship between the growth of religion in counties and political parties at the county level.
Image credit: Religion News
Climate deniers and doomers create the same outcome of doing nothing
Writer Hannah Ritchie, who publishes Sustainability by the Numbers, makes a compelling case in the April 18, 2023, edition of her newsletter that “climate deniers and climate doomers are more alike than they’d like to think and their messages might be different, but both lead us to inaction.” Both deniers and doomers see themselves on opposite ends of the spectrum, as in the top of the image below, but Ritchie writes that deniers say the climate isn’t a problem while doomers say the situation is behind hope. “In the end, doomerism is no better than denial. And from my experience, outright climate denial is shrinking while climate doomerism is on the rise. That’s why we need to focus as much – if not more – attention on tackling the latter.” Image credit: Hannah Ritchie
Fossil fuel emissions may decline, but get worse before they get better
According to a story in Reuters on April 12, 2023, the think tank Ember released a report revealing that 12% of global electricity was generated by renewable resources in 2022 and “declared that fossil fuel emissions may soon steeply decline as more renewable supply capacity emerges.” However, “power emissions may still get worse before they get better thanks to the synchronized revival of economic activity in China and Europe this year.” Because of constraints on natural gas markets by the war in Ukraine, “power producers in China and Europe are likely to struggle to raise electricity generation totals without resorting to the increased use of coal. Image credit: Ember Electricity Data Explorer, ember-climate.org / Reuters
Future of Work / The Economy
“To try effectively to wipe out hard-core inflation by squeezing the economy is […] burning down the house to roast the pig.” Economist Robert Solow’s criticism of a similar Fed policy in the 1960s.
“People are drowning in data. They are tempted to throw out the confusing, and sometimes conflicting, data and just do what feels right.” - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, data guru author of Don’t Trust Your Gut.
Oracle survey says business leaders are overwhelmed by data
According to a CEO Daily post on April 19, 2023, “the original promise of artificial intelligence was that powerful algorithms and speedy computers would take vast amounts of data and spin them into useful intelligence. Business decision-making would get better.” A survey of 14,000 business leaders by Oracle found the opposite may be happening, resulting in a rise in decision distress, decision delay, and even decision paralysis.
74% of those responding say the number of decisions that they have to make every day has increased more than 10X over the last three years.
78% complain they are being bombarded with more data than ever before.
86% say the volume of data is making decisions in their personal and professional lives more complicated, not less.
72% admitted there are times when the sheer volume of data, and lack of trust in that data, prevent them from making any decision at all.
The debt ceiling, a holdover from the past
As the U.S. approaches yet another deadline to increase the debt ceiling, Historian Heather Cox Richardson provides background in the April 19, 2023, edition of Letters from an American. “The debt ceiling is not about future spending; future spending is debated when Congress takes up the budget. The debt ceiling is a curious holdover from the past when Congress actually wanted to enable the government to be flexible in its borrowing rather than holding the financial reins too tightly. In the era of World War I, when the country needed to raise a lot of money fast, Congress stopped passing specific revenue measures and instead set a cap on how much money the government could borrow through all of the different instruments it used … skyrocketing debt means that Congress repeatedly has to increase the amount that the Treasury borrows to pay the country’s bills. That is, it must lift the debt ceiling. Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times since it first went into effect.”
Business travel remains depressed, according to Deloitte
A study of business travel by Deloitte on April 10, 2023, concluded that ”leisure travel in the United States and Europe reached pre–COVID-19 levels months ago … corporate travel, however, has been slower to return.” Key findings, as summarized by CEO Daily on April 11, 2023, include:
Corporate spending on travel will reach 57% of its 2019 levels in the first half of this year and is expected to reach two-thirds of 2019 levels in the second half.
71% of U.S. companies expect a “full recovery” by the end of 2024.
International business travel is on the rise, accounting for 33% of all U.S. business travel in 2023, up from 21% in 2022.
Travel to conferences and live events returned in force, becoming the biggest trigger for increased spending in 2023, up from fifth place in 2022.
Climate concerns continue to be a damper on business travel. A third of U.S. companies and four in ten European companies say they need to reduce travel per employee by more than 20% to reach their 2030 sustainability targets.
The travel managers said they expect the “new normal” for work-from-home days to settle at about 2.2 per week, down from 3.9 at the peak of the pandemic but three times the pre-pandemic average of 0.7.
Younger generations say digital media creates community
Another Deloitte study summarized in CEO Daily on April 16, 2023, said we all know how the pandemic provided a major boost to the consumption of digital media. “Less well-known is the degree to which the very nature of media consumption changed, providing not just entertainment but “real meaning and fulfillment.” The Deloitte study shows the dimensions of that change, especially for younger people. Some highlights:
50% of Gen Z and Millennial consumers in the U.S. (ages 14-40) agree with the statement: “online experiences are meaningful replacements for in-person experiences.” Only 19% of Gen Xers, Boomers, and older (ages 41 and up) feel the same.
48% of Gen Z and Millennial consumers say they “spend more time interacting with others on social media than in the physical world.” Only 20% of older consumers say the same.
Watching TV shows or movies remains the most enjoyable activity for the majority of the 41-year-old-plus crowd (55%), but not for younger consumers. Only 30% say they enjoy TV shows and movies most, compared to video games (19%), user-generated content (19%), and music (16%).
Younger consumers say they feel “most connected” to a community of people when playing video games (19%) and watching user-generated content (27%), while much smaller numbers of older consumers (5% and 11%) say the same.
While 88% of consumers have paid for a video subscription, half of those (44%) have also canceled one in the last six months. And cancellation is much more common among Gen Zers (57%) and Millennials (62%) than Gen Xers (43%) and Boomers (24%).
Does retirement mean stop working or keep playing?
“Most people who “retire” usually stop what they call “working” and begin what they call “playing.” But what if your work is also your play? What if it’s your calling? What if it’s deeply meaningful to you? What if you don’t want to do less of it? Most Americans don’t especially enjoy what they do on the job. Retirement is often confused with aging, but I think the relationship is the reverse. Meaningful work — work that’s more play than work — can lead to a longer life. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. — poet, writer, educator, and physician — once said, people ‘do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.’” – Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, about stepping down from his teaching position.
Retirement age – should “health-span” be the key?
According to an April 3, 2023, article in the New York Times, average life expectancy has risen by 16 years since the national retirement age was set at 65 in 1935 when less than 60% of Americans lived that long. Now, U.S. life expectancy is 76. Experts are asking if the retirement age should be raised for the economic benefit of both retirees and the government. Data suggests that “people’s maximum working life expectancy, on average, is age 73.” The article says that “one way to answer this question (at what age should retirement be set?) is to look at changes not in life span but in health-span — the number of years people are healthy and disability-free. Think of it as your work-span.”
At 100, the world’s oldest practicing doctor reports things he never does
Dr. Howard Tucker has been practicing medicine since 1947. At age 100, he is the oldest practicing doctor in the world. The Cleveland, Ohio, physician told NBC’s make it the 5 things he never does to live a long, happy life:
I don’t spend my days retired.
I don’t let myself get out of shape.
I don’t smoke.
I don’t restrict myself.
I don’t let my knowledge go to waste.
The Nett Light-Side
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” - Marcel Proust, French novelist, literary critic, and essayist
Early results are in about baseball’s new rules
According to the New York Times, The Morning newsletter on April 23, 2023, three weeks into the major league baseball season, early results show the games are shorter and produce more hits, runs, and stolen bases. Games last 29 fewer minutes than last year, 2 hours and 40 minutes vs. three hours and 10 minutes. Batting average is up to .247 vs. .231 last year. Image credit: Retrosheet; Baseball Reference | Data is through the first three weeks of each season. | By The New York Times
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 the ocean plastic crisis in a new way.
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