A good holiday read is Rutger Bregman’s “Humankind: A hopeful history”. His argument is simple: “Most people, deep down, are pretty decent”. One story at a time, he debunks pessimistic views of humans as inherently bad. Bregman is an entertaining writer. He explains history, theory, and philosophy in compact and witty ways. The history of life on earth, for instance, is laid out in two paragraphs and one graph. The book also has weaknesses. Two bothered me. One: a collection of illustrations does not make a theory. Two: I could have done without his simplistic concluding “ten rules to live by”. But overall, the book does the job. It makes the reader think differently about human nature and leaves her more hopeful.
Systemiq’s “The Paris effect: how the climate agreement is reshaping the global economy” documents how the low carbon economy has expanded since the Paris agreement. To be sure, the problem has not gone away: carbon emissions are rising despite the COVID-induced recession. But solar and wind are the cheapest source of new energy generation, electric vehicles will beat combustion cars in cost and efficiency by 2024, and the alternative protein industry grew by 29% in the past 2 years. Adoption of net-zero targets is spreading across actors and sectors: 20 countries plus the EU; 1,500+ companies worth $12.5 trillion; and institutional investors representing $5 trillion. All those numbers are better than anticipated back in 2015. So for Lord Stern, net zero is the new north star, and for UNSG Guterres, “climate action is the barometer of leadership in today’s world” [5’16”].
Here is a hopeful graph from “Safety and efficacy of BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 vaccine”. It shows the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine efficacy when tested on 43,448 people in 6 countries, half of which receiving a placebo. Results seem to be similar for the Moderna vaccine. My new screen saver.
And a quote from Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed “Kamala Harris deserves a more important job”: “Harris is too smart and energetic to be just the vice president, a position with few official responsibilities. I’d love to see President-elect Joe Biden give her a more important job: his de facto secretary of rural development, in charge of closing the opportunity gap, the connectivity gap, the learning gap, the start-up gap — and the anger and alienation gap — between rural America and the rest of the country.”