In “Signaux d’alerte” [in French], Frederic Keck analyzes global health crises through a socio-anthropological lens. His work focuses on the role of “sentinels” capturing early and weak signals of upcoming disasters. He explains how Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore have become sentinels for pandemics. There, health specialists work with veterinarians and bird watchers to track mutations and transmissions of viruses between wild, domesticated animals and humans. He also argues that signals associated with pandemics are warnings of upcoming environmental catastrophes. He shows how, historically, each transformation imposed by humans to their natural environment has been followed by an animal disease signaling this change. To be prepared for crises and disasters, he recommends that we pay attention to the quality of signals provided to us by nature and animals rather than to scientific rationality. He prefers foresight to probabilities. The last part of the book, following a first part on theory and a second on cases, intrigued me the most. He reviews how novels, movies, and exhibitions make us think creatively about crises and how artists can also help us prepare.
Late last year, two opinionated writers I follow moved to Substack. I did not look too much into it then but noticed that their newsletters now had a subscription option for long form articles. This week, I went down the rabbit hole exploring this trend, see here and here: journalists are leaving well-established news outlets to create their own fee-based independent newsletters. Like for many other trends, COVID accelerated the jump and Substack is hard at work to build a new community. As trust in all forms of news keeps dropping, this is the next big transformation for media. Drop me a line if you would consider paying $1 a week for What I Read …
The WEF Global Risks Report 2021 echoes UNDP’s earlier alert that poverty alleviation and human capital progress have declined in 2020, for the first time in the last 20 years. In the short-term, note the rise of “youth disillusionment” as a global risk as young people’s education, employment, and mental health have been affected by both the financial and the covid-19 crises. On the 10-year horizon, environmental risks remain at the top of the WEF ranking for the 4th consecutive year with climate action failure the most likely and impactful threat.
Anything from Amanda Gorman’s “The hill we climb” can be the quote of the week but watching her is what is really worth your time. So let me share a quote from an interview with actress and film director Agnes Jaoui: “Good girls to heaven. Others go … wherever they want”.