It was Davos week…without Davos. The World Economic Forum (WEF) ‘Davos Agenda’ offered 100+ online sessions on 7 themes. Based on number of events (21%) and WEF staff votes (36%), “Saving the planet” events got the most exposure on the organizers side. Based on numbers of views, Greta Thunberg’s address on climate change (26K) got the most traction on the audience side, Heads of State apart. The environment is at the top of the global agenda. And the power of non-elite non-expert people is alive and kicking. Anandita Sabherwal and co. analyze that power in “Greta Thunberg effect” published this week in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Surveying 1303 US adults, they show that people familiar with Greta Thunberg have higher intentions of taking collective actions to reduce global warming. As expected, this effect is higher if people share her political ideology but, surprisingly, the effect is the same across age groups. Now, that’s impact.
The 2021 online WEF had a feeling of UN General Assembly déjà-vu with many speakers reading scripted notes on the need for more international cooperation. CEOs dropped the tie and dialed in from their living rooms with cozy chairs, lamps and carefully curated bookshelves in the background while heads of states and international organizations kept a formal attire and connected from the office in front of official flags. The global elite struggled with online meetings glitches familiar to all white collars now working from home – bad connections, painful echo, muted speakers, and frozen faces. I fully watched a session on the looming mental health crisis. I looked up UCL cognitive neuroscience professor Tali Sharot after she shared interesting data from a US survey held early in the 2020 lockdown. Month #1 saw drops in happiness and increases in stress. In month #2, happiness levels went back up. The top factor increasing people resilience was their having a sense of agency.
While I was 2Xspeed watching WEF videos, something else happened on the people power front this week. Online amateur traders challenged professional investing firms by short squeezing GameStop stocks. NYU Stern finance guru Aswath Damodaran nailed the phenomenon: “It’s the first crowd squeeze in history” [10’26’’].
For the 8th consecutive year, Oxfam released its inequality report. For the 8th consecutive year, its methodology received criticisms. But it still grabs headline news with powerful taglines: “It took just nine months for the fortunes of the top 1,000 billionaires to return to their pre-pandemic highs, while for the world’s poorest, recovery could take more than a decade.” Oxfam also surveyed 295 economists from 79 countries. They expect income inequality (87%), racial inequality (66%) and gender inequality (56%) to increase in their country as a result of the pandemic. Two third also feel that their government does not have a plan to fight back.
My quote this week is from Leonardo Di Caprio and co: “President Biden: You can be the climate president”.