Publications on trends often focus on risks and threats, the depressing stuff. Inspired by the long week-end awaiting some of us, here is a selection of feel-good readings that came my way this week.
Ausubel’s “Nature Rebounds” presents positive trends with the combined effect of restoring nature. Farmland and forest use are reaching peaks; water, petroleum, and transportation uses are plateauing; and green vegetal cover expands. All this alongside a population growth slowdown. The paper concentrates on the US but Ausubel argues that “within a few decades, the same patterns, already evident in Europe and Japan, will be evident in many more places”. The only dark spot in this bright picture is oceans and fisheries damage. Technology optimism permeates the analysis. A little too much for my taste. Also it would have been useful to picture these trends vis-a-vis “planetary boundaries”. I asked myself: Is the rebound effect sufficient to stay within a safe environmental space? But overall this is a great read and a good reminder of the need to look back, to better look forward.
Roser’s “Visual history of the rise of political freedom and the decrease of violence” also takes the long view. The 19-slide presentation transports us from archeological evidence of widespread prehistorical violence when the share of people killed by other peoples was often more than 10%, all the way to today when the global rate of battle death is less than 1 for 100,000 people. The story, told through graphs and maps, links the decline of violence to improvements in education, literacy, political freedom and democracy. Like the rest of Roser’s work, this presentation exemplifies the power of good visualization.
My map of the week is from Bevington and al’s “A multitemporal, multivariate index to dynamically characterize vulnerability of children and adolescents in Nepal: Using science in humanitarian response”. While the title is a mouthful, the map distills all this complexity to show children vulnerabilities at the village level, in real time. You can zoom in and out, you can map specific vulnerabilities (children displaced, available schools, functional healthcare facilities) or specific hazards (landslide from rainfalls, landslide from earthquakes, landslide post-quake), or you can combine all this together in one map. The architecture behind the curtain triangulates data of different nature and frequency from the Nepal National Census to NASA’s high-resolution satellite imagery.
My quote of the week is from IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde’s Address at Grandes Conferences Catholiques: “If I had to pick the three most important structural tools to reduce excessive income inequality, it would be education, education, education.”[Emphasis in original]