Digest: 11 March 2014




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In A New Progressive Political Economy, David Sainsbury (for Project Syndicate) discusses the absence of a sufficient progressive political economy in the aftermath of the financial crisis and what such an economy would have to entail. Sainsbury argues that three defining beliefs must underpin any economy going forward if it can be said to have learned from the neo-liberal capitalist mistakes of the past thirty years. First, a belief in the potential of capitalism to produce good results; second, the institutions that allow a healthy economy do not grow spontaneously, they must be crafted and employed; and third, GDP growth and freedom are insufficient measures of economic performance. Unless western economies adopt this framework they will find it increasingly hard to innovate and grow.


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In Behind the Brands: Food Companies Do Care What Consumers Think, Oxfam discusses the importance to companies of their reputation. Oxfam undertook to see if it could leverage that interest to influence large chocolate companies to address issues of inequality and injustice in the cocoa supply chain.  It went on to focus on land grabs by large companies such as sugar companies, which result in the eviction of local communities in favor of the corporate interest. Oxfam found success in both cases.  Next it will look to use the same tactic to influence companies to take action in regards to the climate.   

In Investing in the Clean Trillion: Closing The Clean Energy Investment Gap, Ceres discusses the broad gap between how much we are actually investing in clean energy and how much it is estimated we must invest if we are to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees C. Current spending is approximately a quarter of what it should be. Ceres provides recommendations on how governments and companies can sensibly increase their investment.

In REmap 2030: A Renewable Energy Roadmap, IRENA presents their study into renewable energy options.  A bottom-up analysis of 26 countries, the study includes consideration of technology, financing, political will, skills, and planning.


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In Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming, the Yale Project for Climate Change Communication presents their report on their survey of Americans’ political and economic decisions related to global warming. They provide insight into Americans’ views of joining campaigns to influence elected officials to take action or pass laws related to climate issues and energy efficiency, and their views on taking comparable action as consumers in the market place.

In Bamboo: The Secret Weapon in Forest and Landscape Restoration?, the World Resources Institute discusses bamboo’s potential usefulness but that outmoded policies are undermining its full implementation. Bamboo grows fast and can be valuable in undoing the damage done when land is cleared for crops, cattle, cities and roads. Small scale bamboo farmers are having trouble adhering to the sometimes complex requirements for gaining sustainability certification. As in the case of other crops, bamboo must be implemented as part of a larger system so as to not undermine regional biodiversity, but employed sensibly it can be very valuable.


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In Sovereignty vs. Self-Rule: Crimea Reignites Battle, Peter Baker (for The New York Times) discusses the background of sovereignty vs self-rule discussions between the US and Russia. Last time (in the case of Kosovo) it was the US that was pushing for self-rule and Russia that was opposing it. In general decisions as to whether to support self-rule are made on an ad hoc basis, no doubt based on the particular interests of stakeholders. The US itself, as the article points out, is the result of a region choosing to break away from a ruling power, and the result later of not allowing the South to secede. Baker discusses the various recent occasions in which the issue has come up, including Catalonia, Quebec, Georgia, Palestine, and Scotland, which will soon vote on whether to secede from the United Kingdom.

In You Can’t Occupy This, Dahlia Lithwick and Raymond Vasvari (for Slate) argue that what seemed only a minor tweak in the law pertaining to protesting was in fact a significant blow for free speech and the right to protest. The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act passed through the House with an almost unanimous vote. Lithwick and Vasvari point out that while the law makes it illegal to protest anywhere that the Secret Service is guarding someone, the scope of what the Secret Service is used for these days is broadening. In addition, because the law makes the restricted area fluid, it is much easier for a protest to be deemed criminal.


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In Why You Should Give a Damn About When You Say ‘Fuck’, Emma Brockes (for The Guardian) discusses the importance of swearing and how its efficacy is under threat as a result of overuse. Brockes pleas with the reader and with society at large to consider carefully when swearing is used, so that it may be savored, instead of devalued and made simply offensive as it is when emitted by the lout, the lazy, or the uninspired.