Spend $1.7 trillion on climate adaptation and make four times that much back

They never stop, do they? This time its the Global Commission on Adaptation, a nongovernmental organization led by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Give us your money and we will make it grow for you. There will be no money in your pocket, of course. Instead the:

“benefits include the losses that don’t occur when cities are better equipped to withstand extreme weather events. But there would also be positive benefits such as increased economic productivity and technological innovation, as governments and businesses make the investments to build better, modern infrastructure and tools.”

Sounds a bit vague to me and, once again, the cities grab all the money. Cities are insatiable. The mass suicides of about 60,000 farmers in India over the past 30 years attributed to climate change and the resulting indebtedness mean nothing to these people. If it did, there wouldn’t be 60,000 dead Indian farmers.

The Swedish billionaire Johan Eliasch (worth £1.35bn), the owner of global sporting-goods group Head NV, offers an explanation, this time for Africa:

“Thirty years ago, there was a lot of deforestation in the Congo Basin. That led to rain falling in the wrong places, so people in Darfur got displaced and had to move because they couldn’t feed themselves, and that led to land-grabbing, and that led to conflict. It also had the effect of raising food prices, which triggered the Arab Spring. And after the Arab Spring, there was another crisis in Syria. Because of the Syrian conflict there was a refugee crisis that was confused with the EU’s immigration policy, which led to Brexit. And that’s not a joke, though it sounds farfetched. There is cause and effect to everything we do.”

The deforestation in the Congo basin is caused mainly by small-scale farming, contributing to around 84 percent of deforestation. This kind of farming is primarily done for subsistence by families that have no other livelihood options due largely to poverty stemming from political instability and conflict in the region.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) holds the largest share of Congo forest – 60 percent. The DRC is also one of those places in the world where nobody can win, ever:

More than one hundred armed groups are believed to operate in the eastern region of the DRC. Despite the presence of more than sixteen thousand UN peacekeepers, these groups continue to terrorize communities and control weakly governed areas. Millions of civilians have been forced to flee the fighting: the United Nations estimates there are currently 4.5 million internally displaced persons in the DRC, and more than 800,000 DRC refugees in other nations.

How do you fix this kind of dread? With “Technological innovation, as governments and businesses make the investments to build better, modern infrastructure and tools”? I don’t think so. These kind of solutions only work in politically stable societies, if at all.

What to do with these wasted lives? Can they be saved? How do we stop society from producing them in the first place? If we threw $1.7 trillion at this problem, what would change?

Tourism contributes 10.4% to the global GDP. Too bad.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), “a United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism”, reports that destinations worldwide received 671 million international tourist arrivals between January and June 2019, almost 30 million more than in the same period of 2018 and a continuation of the growth recorded last year. The drivers of these results have been a strong economy, affordable air travel, increased air connectivity and enhanced visa facilitation.

First, who knew there was a United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism? I wonder if the UNWTO sanctioned the rape of Venice by mega cruise ships floating up the Canale Grande? Or are they the ones responsible for the closing of Maya Bay in Thailand due to over-tourism? I mean, everywhere you look these days there’s a bloke dashing at you on a mountain bike, or Instagrammers or YouTubers or Selfie-takers getting in your way and ruining the best spots, sometimes forever. One would think the UNWTO would have a handle on these things.

The solution: virtual reality. Everybody stay home and put on your VR gear and go on the trip of a lifetime, just like in the Total Recall movie. Or build fake Venices and Hallstatts and go there, like the Chinese do.

Even better: sensory suits worn by expert travelers that you can dial into live via your VR suit. Experience what they experience, from free-style mountain climbing to burning your bum on Sichuan hot pot.

Stay home. You don’t have to go everywhere. And if your home sucks use your travel money to make it better. That will raise the GDP too.

Vienna, Austria: World’s Most Liveable City. But For Whom?

Vienna, Austria was voted the world’s most liveable city by both the Economist and Mercer. As to the validity of such rankings I point you to this article by Citylab which dissects the ranking of Zürich over Vienna by Monocle.  Economist, Mercer, Monocle. Do these firms speak for the man on the street or for a specific elitist clientele? I quote Citylab:

This brings us to the larger problem of city rankings in general, issues that reflects the problems of technocracy itself. By using data as a driver, such rankings present themselves as dispassionate and impartial, as if they are simply removing the lid on a machine to reveal objectively how the engine beneath is functioning. They nonetheless represent a worldview taken from a highly specific angle, one that is full of scarcely acknowledged assumptions about who the imaginary citizen they address is.

They assess, broadly, how much potential a city possesses when seen from a privileged point of view: that of a straight, affluent, mobile, and probably white couple who works in something akin to upper management and has children. Remove even one of those characteristics from the equation and the results often seem way off the mark.

I lived in Vienna for 25 years and was happy to escape back to the USA in 1985. I just couldn’t put up with all the restrictions anymore. It was suffocating. Having a Slavic last name didn’t help either as one morning the Austrian immigration police came knocking on my door demanding to see my papers. My American passport and my United Nations badge sent them off but left me wondering how my day would have ended without them.

I still have relatives and friends in Vienna. One of them recently shared an email he wrote to his father who had left Vienna over 30 years ago to retire in southern California. Now ageing and alone, his father was getting homesick for Vienna and was contemplating moving back there to see his life out. This is what my friend wrote to his father about life in modern Vienna and Austria:

You are understandably homesick, but there are a few things about Austria you need to be aware of:

Vienna has changed a lot. Two families I know have moved out from Vienna as they don’t feel welcome here anymore.

It is full of refugees. I tried talking to a sales person yesterday to find out the price of something and he didn’t understand a word. So I had to leave.

Baden is full of Russians. Hallstatt and the vicinity are full of Asians. The Salzkammergut is full of Arabs.  The signs in the shop windows there are now either in Russian, Chinese or Arabic.

I don’t want to travel to my beloved Salzkammergut anymore. I don’t feel welcome there. They complain of roosters crowing so the farmers have to get rid of the roosters. They complain of church bells ringing so the churches have to stay silent.

The Vienna and Austria of before have long gone. Everything is terribly expensive. I hardly go out anymore.

Medical treatment of the elderly is not very good here. Thomas had four bypasses, three of them have clogged up again. The Austrians will not operate on him anymore with the reasoning that he is old and his heart won’t make it anyway. He is 75. The doctors won’t even try anymore.

You can‘t live in a senior home as they are too expensive now. There was an article in the newspapers that they treat the elderly horribly there now. They are not well controlled as they are private.  You will have problems getting around with your walker.

On the surface everything is like the old Austria you know. But below the surface things are terrible. I feel like living in an expensive Austrian Disneyland. You are only welcome if you can pay your way to everything. For instance, there is a hospital that is like a baby factory for rich Russians, who come for artificial insemination and gender determination of their children. This is not allowed for Austrians. But if you are a rich foreigner, then there is no problem.

No comment. The email speaks for itself.

Vienna and Austria have sold out, as have other small and not so small European cities and countries. It is hard to say no to so much money, especially if tourism is a major part of your GDP. But silencing church bells for the sake of tourism goes too far.

Samsung, Apple Exiting China for India, Vietnam

Samsung to close key assembly base in Guangdong, while Foxconn may cut production of iPhones. Samsung is said to be in the midst of shifting production to Vietnam and India. It opened arguably the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturing facility on the outskirts of New Delhi last year, with an annual output of 120 million units when fully operational. Zhengzhou, known as the “iPhone city”, is also grappling with falling exports and revenue. Foxconn already has sufficient capacity outside China to accommodate all production of Apple products at least for the US.

The dark side of the Caribbean

The Spanish daily El País and the Central American Internet journalism project El Faro have teamed up for a large-scale multi-part report on Mexico’s southernmost frontier, “the Latin American dividing line that is crossed by most people on a daily basis, as one of the most-crossed borders of the world.”

The coastal area shared by Mexico, Guatemala and Belize is one of the most porous and little-known regions in the southern America border. Via three feature articles – in Xcalak, a remote Mexican village that lives off the cocaine that washes up from the sea; in Blue Creek, the powerful economic engine of the Mennonites; and in Puerto Barrios, the dark Guatemalan port in the Atlantic – this special report describes the enigmatic reality that exists just a stone’s throw from some of the biggest tourist attractions in the world.