DAVOS’ CARBON FOOTPRINT?

I feel like Davos has started to turn into the White House Correspondents Dinner where it becomes — for many — just a place to see and be seen (started? some say it’s been this way for a while).  An opportunity to feel self-important and rub shoulders with world leaders and celebrities alike, all touting their causes.  Don’t get me wrong — if I got an invite of course I’d go. But it is a bit of a bubble, isn’t it? Who’s been invited to whose party? Did you see Bono? What about Justin Trudeau? Is Elton John going to Tina Brown’s party? What about the Clintons or Macron?

Participants would say there is a lot of good being done for the world at the World Economic Forum’s annual meetings nestled in this alpine Swiss ski resort town. Historically, they are right. There have been memorable moments or key policy breakthroughs: in 1992 when Mandela attended with de Klerk, or in 1994 when Arafat and Peres reached an agreement on Gaza and Jericho (which I remember as I was working for Gergen in the Clinton White House at the time and this was ahead of the Peace Treaty Signing on the South Lawn).  And WEF over the decades has contributed to huge policy changes globally.  But now, I get the impression that it’s more pomp and circumstance than real commitments and change.

Unknown-3

A private jet burns as much fuel in one hour as a car does in a year

But what really gets my goat is people not committing personally to causes they ascribe to globally.  Change starts on our own doorsteps. Stop talking about it and do it.  The climate change issue has been a big one with WEF for decades. But that doesn’t stop the 3,000 participants (plus all their entourages this bloats to around 15,000) from taking private jets, helicopters, limousines and SUV’s to get there.  The theme of the week, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, sorta says it all doesn’t it? So fractured that they cannot see how they are adding to the very problems they are discussing.

Grist analysed the estimated carbon footprint of all the participants in 2013 and how much each would have produced to get to Davos.  They used a figure of .21 kilograms per passenger per kilometre for a flight, and 22 kilograms for a three-hour train trip, per person. The total CO2 emissions just for travel by the participants to get there was estimated at 2,520 metric tonnes. Not a huge amount in the scheme of things, but with a global urge to reduce fossil fuels, this doesn’t jibe. And this analysis doesn’t include anyone else (entourage, travelling staff) or anything used outside of plane and train travel.

In 2015, it was reported that there were 1700 private jets flying to/from Zurich (closest airport). To put into perspective, a private jet burns as much fuel in one hour as a car does in a year. This year reports show that number is closer to just over 1,000 which, if true, is a good reduction.  But still the number of private jets arriving at local airports has spiked from an average of 65 flights/day to 218.

I don’t necessarily blame the participants, either.  WEF is as much – if not more so – responsible for changing this irresponsible personal habit (or luxury to the rest of us). Why not move the location to somewhere more easily accessible and not so tiny? They could require participants to carpool (or jet-share, if that’s a term). Hey! Cate Blanchett! Got room in your limo for one more? Prince Turki, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia needs a ride back. Could he hitch a ride on your private plane?

Unknown-2

They could work with Swiss authorities to charter special trains to bring the participants up the mountain en masse. They could ask participants who are renting SUV’s or limos to make sure they are FULL before heading up the mountain (full disclosure: I went to a conference once where the topic was environmental sustainability and everyone was driving their own individual SUV everywhere). They could move the whole event to an enormous field in Devon a la Glastonbury or California a la Coachella. They could do the whole event all online and tout it as the first global online videoconference and get tech geniuses from around the world to make it excellent quality.

We are all to blame for our own excesses, but we have to start somewhere if we are really going to change and save the world. My husband plunges us into darkness with his electricity saving techniques (he’s convinced the secret to financial success is going to be from the money we save as a result of low electric and heating bills).  The thermostat is a constant battle. The brain surgery precision that comes with separating (and washing) the recycling in West London will do anyone’s head in. But I can’t win with any arguments I throw at him and ultimately I’ve caved. He’s right. I’m culpable. We all have to do our little part to help. It’s likely going to inconvenience us all a bit, but these are 1st world problems, not 3rd.  If that means you drive an electric car, or take your canvas bags to the supermarket, great. Whatever it takes.

WEF leaders and participants could learn from Leo DiCaprio’s mistakes. Last July, he got called out for taking a private plane to accept an environmental award and realised the hypocrisy.  He has now ditched the private plane (I know, tragic, right?) and flies commercial. But bravo for starting somewhere. We are so used to having a choice, and these things are all luxuries, relatively speaking. Seriously. We all need to be inconvenienced a little more. Every drop in the bucket helps. And think about it, if you saw several world leaders sharing a ride in a Prius to go to one of these events, the power of the words and policies they deliver will be that much more effective.

We’ve Never Had It So Good

Are you sick and tired of bad news 24-7? Is the culture of fear paralysing you? Every time I turn on the news these days, my brain is about to explode. Someone turned the fear factor dial up to 11. Gets me seriously depressed. I start thinking what’s the point?

Facts and perspective. That’s what’s important, right? So, today I’ve compiled a list that will help you, well, just live and not be weighed down by all the gloom and misery. Guess what? We’re not all doomed! Repeat it over and over to yourself and you will start to feel better.

Also, what’s your favourite good news fact or statistic? Feel free to add/comment.

And yes, I have deliberately left out some numbers that are more pessimistic (homocide numbers up in the last few years in the UK and US).  The fear-mongering needs a break every once in a while, and although some things are having a downward trend, we are still living far better than any previous generation in the history of man.  My day job focuses a lot on those dire statistics and how much more we need to do to get things right, to make things better.

But, just for today, let’s set those aside. Let’s put things in perspective. Add some context. Cheer up, it could be worse, and it mostly was. Enjoy the weekend!

The Good News List*

*(List of sources below)

• We are living in what is arguably the best era in all of human history. On a global scale, in terms of economic security, poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality, health, social freedoms, incidents and exposure to war, violence or disease, we – as a planet – are living in a gilded age that is completely unprecedented.

LIFE EXPECTANCY, LITERACY & POVERTY

• In 1900, average world life expectancy was 31 years old; now its 71 years old.
• In the U.K., a new public health report shows life expectancy has risen to its highest level ever in 2016.
• In 1800, 43% of the world’s newborns died before their fifth birthday. In 2015, child mortality was down to 4.3 percent globally.
• By 2030, South Korean women will be the first in the world to have an average life expectancy above 90.
• Across all of Europe, life expectancy keeps increasing for both men and women, with France, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Iceland and Austria all in the top 20 countries with the highest life expectancy (those born in 2017).
• In the last 25 years, for the first time ever, extreme poverty has dipped below 10 percent of the population, mass famine has been wiped out and mass literacy has become more common than rare.
• In 1981, nine in ten Chinese lived in extreme poverty. In 2016, it’s 1 in 10.
• In 1820, only every 10th person was literate, in 1930 it was every third, and now we are at 85% literacy rate across the globe.
• By 2100, projections show that there will be more than 7 billion people with at least a secondary education.
• For the last 25 years, 285,000 new people gained access to safe water every day.

TERRORISM, VIOLENCE & DEATH

• Numerous studies show the world is becoming a less violent place. Warfare is on the decline. Anyone alive right now is far less likely to die a violent death (from either war or homicide) than in any previous era.
• Globally, the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack are about 1 in 9.3 million. (compared to drowning in a bathtub: 1 in 685,000, or being struck by lightning: 1 in 576,000 or a car accident: 1 in 18,565).
• In the U.S., being killed by a foreign-born terrorist is about 1 in 45,808. But being killed by heart disease (1 in 7), pneumonia (1 in 70), falling (1 in 133), assault by gun (1 in 358), motor vehicle incidents (1 in 113), drowning (1 in 1,183), choking on food (1 in 3,409) are far more likely.
• In Europe, terrorist attacks are up, but we are still far below the numbers we had in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.
• Terrorism is killing far fewer people in the UK now than in the 1980s. Between 2000 and 2017, 126 people have been killed in the UK in terrorist attacks (as of October 17, 2017). Although not on British soil, another 30 Brits were killed in Tunisia in a terror attack on a hotel. Compare that to 1,094 deaths from the previous 15 years (1985-1999) and a further 2,211 deaths between 1970 and 1984. The worst year for terrorism in the UK was 1988, due to a majority of deaths in the Lockerbie plane disaster when a bomb blew up a Pan Am flight with 270 aboard.
• In the U.S., violence against women and sexual assault is down. Also, violence against children has dropped dramatically from 1990 to 2012.
• Chances of being killed by an asteroid or meteorite globally are about 1 in 75,000. In the US, those numbers go up to 1 in 1.6 million. Compare that to 1 in 8 million death from a shark attack, or 1 in 60,000 from a tornado.

GLOBAL/COUNTRY ECONOMIES

• As of March, 2017, the US economy is the largest in the world, representing 24.3% of the global economy. China is second with 14.8 % of the world economy. Japan is 3rd, Germany 4th, the UK 5th, France is 6th and India is 7th. Brazil is 9th and Canada is 10th.
• As of January 2017, UK remains the fastest growing economy in the western world (“western” being key).
• Globally, in 2017, the fastest growing economy was Ethiopia. Followed by Uzbekistan. Nepal is #3, India is fourth.
• The fastest growing large economies are India and China, one and two.
• In September of this year (2017), Australia broke the record held by the Netherlands for the title of longest economic expansion on record, with 104 quarters of economic growth without recession.
• Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with GDP per capita steadily rising, and they are closing in on Canada for top 10th economy globally.

From The Business Insider: 

IMG_2317

(Courtesy of: The Business Insider. For the full article, click here)

LIST OF SOURCES

https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/09/economist-explains-3

https://www.salon.com/2014/01/15/were_living_through_the_most_peaceful_era_in_human_history_—%C2%A0with_one_big_exception_partner/

https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-10-23/world-actually-safer-ever-and-heres-data-prove

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/12/the_world_is_not_falling_apart_the_trend_lines_reveal_an_increasingly_peaceful.html

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/life-expectancy-at-older-ages-is-the-highest-its-ever-been

https://www.statista.com/statistics/274514/life-expectancy-in-europe/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39040146

https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/12/23/14062168/history-global-conditions-charts-life-span-poverty

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/worlds-biggest-economies-in-2017/

https://www.statista.com/topics/3788/terrorism-in-europe/

https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/2017-eu-terrorism-report-142-failed-foiled-and-completed-attacks-1002-arrests-and-142-victims-died

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/many-people-killed-terrorist-attacks-uk/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/world/a-history-of-terrorism-in-europe/

https://qz.com/898207/the-psychology-of-why-americans-are-more-scared-of-terrorism-than-guns-though-guns-are-3210-times-likelier-to-kill-them/

http://uk.businessinsider.com/death-risk-statistics-terrorism-disease-accidents-2017-1

http://www.lifeinsurancequotes.org/additional-resources/deadly-statistics/

https://www.techjuice.pk/a-data-scientist-explains-odds-of-dying-in-a-terrorist-attack/

https://www.vice.com/sv/article/dpkd4m/right-now-is-the-best-time-in-history-to-be-alive

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/01/26/uk-remains-fastest-growing-economy-western-world-growing-06pc/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explaining the Gun Culture Overseas

There are countless times in the past 10-12 years of living overseas that I have been forced to explain my country – or the actions of my countrymen – to virtually everyone I come across in my daily life. The check-out guy at Waitrose asks me to explain Trump. The coffee person at Starbucks questions me about the racial violence. In discussing sports at dinner parties, there’s always one person who asks “Why is it called the World Series? No one else plays in it but you Americans!!”.

After living in South Africa for 3 years and now London for more than 7, nearly everyone I know has asked me about the gun culture in the U.S. and how the heck do people put up with it. “What is going on in America?” people say.  “Why do you love guns so much?” “Explain this to us.” I can’t.  [Although, similarly, when I ask anyone here in the U.K. who is my age or younger to explain the Northern Ireland issue or Brexit, I’m met with uncomfortable shifting and clearing of throats.]  The U.S. gun issue is a phenomenon, and I’m as dumbfounded as they are. But for me, it’s personal. It hurts my heart. My eyes ache, my lips tighten into a thin line and I feel my brow knit into a frown. The grimace is obvious.

America is ahead by miles in gun ownership & mass shootings. The only country even remotely close to us is…Yemen.

In countless interactions I stammer to explain this. “The Democrats…” I start.  “The Republicans have….” I try.  “The polls show…”  “International statistics point to…”  “The Second Amendment…” I’m grasping at flimsy straws. “The NRA…” “After Sandy Hook…”  But the fact is no argument can explain the reality on the ground in the U.S. The horror that has become almost daily. The numbness to which everyone somehow – staggeringly — accepts this as their new reality.

And then there’s the all too familiar arguments that fall on deaf ears. The definitive statistics we’ve seen pointing out gun control in Great Britain or Australia and making those Before and After comparisons from when the laws went into place. The thread that follows how – after one shoe-bomber – laws were put into place to take off our shoes as precautionary measures or how, when seven people were killed by poisoned Tylenol bottles, new packaging made it nearly impossible to tamper with pills (I don’t remember anyone saying “Don’t worry about making safer pill bottles, it’s just the mental health of one deranged person”).

The charts, statistics, polls and studies are endless.  This one from the BBC is a good start.  And in the New York Times earlier this week with excellent charts and statistics, Max Fisher and Josh Keller methodically put forth and debunk every argument out there on why America has so many mass shootings. Mental health issues? No. Society more violent? No. Racial divisions? No. Violent video games? No. Bottom line is we have more guns – by a lot.

I found it particularly disheartening that we are ahead by miles in gun ownership and mass shootings, and that the only country even remotely close to us is…Yemen. That’s not a country you thought the U.S. would be in the same category as. Yemen? Imagine my next encounter with chatty Waitrose guy: “Hey, America and Yemen: more guns than any other country in the world! And a higher rate of mass shootings than everyone else. What’s up with that?”.  I will try to grab my groceries quickly and leave.

My first question to every single candidate who won on Tuesday “Where do you stand on gun control legislation?”

More worryingly, however, is how do I explain this to our daughter. She is of the age where these larger, more complicated issues are being discussed. She is in what Americans would call “Middle School” at a co-ed secondary institution brimming with multinationals:  Brits, French, Aussies, Indians, Russians, Italians, Spanish, South Africans, Greeks, Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Japanese, Nigerians, Senegalese and more. They all wear their nationalities on their sleeves and are starting to challenge each other in an intellectual but healthy way.  As a half-American, she is beginning to get the typical push-back and teasing that often comes from less powerful nations (an Australian boy needling her about Trump has become a fun joke between them).

So how do I explain to her that the country I love and grew up in has had 1745 deaths from mass shootings since January of 2013 (according to The Guardian)? How do I explain that our government stands by, idly, and does nothing? And that we, the people, elect those officials who do not vote as we would.  So far, no protest loud enough has changed this. But it must stop.

Would I raise our child in a place that allows someone to walk into a store with an assault rifle thrown casually over his shoulder?

 

America is getting a terrible reputation abroad for many different reasons, but the gun issue is front and centre as perhaps the worst.  Asked if I would ever move back to the U.S., I definitely pause and wonder whether I would want to raise our child in a place that allows someone to walk into a store with an assault rifle thrown casually over his shoulder while he does his shopping.  Closer to home, I understand the Concealed Carry Laws means that a citizen in Virginia can stand outside a polling booth with a gun. How do I explain that to our daughter? Of course, no place is perfect and certainly every place has its difficulties, its negatives, its issues that we all must put up with and deal with. In the US, I have to explain terrorism and Brexit to everyone. And both of those are somewhat unexplainable too. So there’s no nirvana. But I cannot comprehend doing some back-to-school shopping, squabbling over the last notebook on the shelf with another customer, followed by escalated pushing and shoving, and then the customer pulls out a LOADED gun on me. What?!? Here’s the full article.  Granted, no one comes out squeaky clean, but a Mom with her 20-yr-old daughter, shopping in Walmart with a loaded gun?? Just in case?? I worked and lived overseas in some dangerous places and I know that having a gun pointed at you can leave you with PTSD.  Or I would probably be somewhat traumatized if I took my daughter to a polling booth where a man is carrying a gun outside the door as voters go in and out to vote.  As one of the voters said “I had my 9-year old son with me. I felt intimidated…had to explain why a man with a 357 magnum is standing outside the polling station”.

No, this is not the country I know. The country I grew up in. Of course I have friends with hunting rifles and/or hand-guns, but all agree on stricter controls and bans of assault weapons.  I sincerely hope the tide is turning with all the election wins by Democrats countrywide earlier this week. History was made with many “firsts” from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Montana as candidates who are women, transgender, people of colour and part of the LGBT community won their respective races. My first question to every single candidate who won on Tuesday would be “Where do you stand on gun control legislation?”.  Let’s hope momentum is shifting and we can take that forward to insist on new measures and bans that will change the future history of the US that has yet to be written.