Weekend reading

  1. A really great essay on the bourgeois roots of privilege.
  2. A software engineer calls for less bloat more smart.
  3. Blame consumers or manufacturers when tons of new clothes are burned?
  4. How to become great at anything? Deliberate practice
  5. Maybe Japan’s economy has been doing better than we think?
  6. How Jane Jacobs turned from pro-planner to pro-neighborhood
  7. All of life is suffering — the evolutionary edition
  8. USAID is running a comparison to see if cash helps people more than “programs,” but there’s a lot of resistance from its bureaucrats 🙁
  9. The “people’s canteens” at the center of China’s mass starvation.
  10. The President of the World Bank is pretty impressive.

Weekend reading

  1. Watch “why every social media site is a dumpster fire” as it’s the best concise analysis I’ve seen in awhile.
    My gym needs to shut one of these doors…
  2. When are you really Dutch?
  3. The WikiTribune (a crowd-sourced news website) is looking for water stories(and thus writers). At the moment, the proposed titles look more like opinion than journalism, but hopefully they will do an objective job.
  4. A fascinating history (one in a long series) on the rise of the telegraph.
  5. Cities are trying to get access to data on “scooter shares” because they don’t want to get “Uber’d” again. I don’t think they need the data, as much as a policy on parking/using common spaces.
  6. “YouTubers are not your friends” — they’re selling you stuff — or themselves.
  7. Want less frustration and more effectiveness? “Stick with first impressions. Don’t extrapolate.”
  8. The real potential of AI.
  9. The best (short) explanation of the financial crisis I’ve read.
  10. A Neanderthal warns Sapiens of our folly.

H/T to GC

Weekend reading

Now THIS is Upcycling!
  1. Some insights from the people Trump hates: Farmworkers and Abortionists.  Let’s thankful they’re helping us.
  2. Name and Praise? Cape Town’s water map shows houses that are meeting use targets.
  3. Correlation is not causation, but maybe we don’t understand causation?
  4. Looking back at 1968: “Antiwar radicals, recoiling from soullessness, challenged the church of technocratic rationality.” At some point, this goal was lost, and we’re still suffering the consequences.
  5. Design thinking: “Solving the problem without addressing the people, or focusing on the people without truly resolving the problem will only lead to frustration, alienation, and failure.”
  6. Psychoanalyzing Americans’ insecurities: “Trump’s deepest appeal lies in an unspoken promise… to undo the Enlightenment, to free us from the burdens of living rationally in a world where nothing is settled and where everything—economic well-being, national borders, gender identities, domestic arrangements—is up for grabs, let the strongest prevail.”
  7. Are the Poles taking advantage of Dutch labor laws or are the laws flawed?
  8. So maybe humans will not vanish in nuclear war or climate disruption catastrophe but because they cannot reproduce? Chemicals in our environment have already reduced male sperm counts by 50%, and it’s still dropping!
  9. “If you work a job with payroll, get products delivered from Amazon, or own a smartphone assembled from parts, you are a beneficiary of the relational-database industrial complex. And a victim of it, too…
  10. A fantastic analysis of the Trump Administration’s failures in Puerto Rico

H/Ts to FD and AM

Weekend reading

  1. The first “Nigerian scammers” were French prisoners from 100 years ago.
  2. A conversation on triggers, political correctness and free speech
  3. Fail fast for happiness.
  4. A look back from a future in which we only talk to others in our bubble.
  5. “Fox News has normalized racism, lying, scapegoating and corruption”
  6. How is (maybe) Tesla disruptive?
  7. A 1989 report from the Berlin Wall, on the future…
  8. A modern What Color Is Your Parachute? (thoughts on career)
  9. How technology will be used to control us: “In the 20th century, the masses revolted against exploitation… Now the masses fear irrelevance, and they are frantic to use their remaining political power before it is too late. [Thus]… Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump.” 
  10. “There is no controversy in calling Winston Churchill a white supremacist or in noting that the British Empire was predicated on racism.

H/T to FD

Weekend reading

Social media is not a good place to lose your cool
  1. Corruption facilitates smuggling rosewood from Madagascar to China 
  2. Can China “police the commons” with top-down, data-driven methods (rather than encouraging bottom up community self-policing?)
  3. China’s “Belt and Road” program is not just about logistics, but collecting a group of countries that is economically indebted and politically subservient. The irony is that China was abused in the same way in the past (Opium wars, etc.) 
  4. These guys are giving a second chance to the people Trump wants to ruin
  5. Cyber warfare inflicts massive collateral damage (an update on my fears)
  6. Great visualization of US/USSR(Russia) arms sales ($ for death) since 1950.
  7. How to be a “good” troublemaker.
  8. A great essay on jobs that are “useful” (creating value) vs jobs that are “bullshit” (transferring value).  Which is yours?
  9. John Oliver does economics proud explaining Trump’ ignorance on trade.
  10. How are we evolving with and changing Nature?

Weekend reading

  1. An appeal to the Dutch to accept migrants, brown, black and white.
  2. How feminism made me a better scientist.
  3. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of SF estimate the financial crisis “cost every American $70,000.” This result is based on the permanent loss of production — roughly equivalent to the type of loss from war.
  4. LA’s palm trees are not native. They’re marketing.
  5. A Japanese working class woman writes about her life.
  6. US Wildfires are getting worse, on several dimensions
  7. I used to say that climate change would mean faster atmospheric circulation, as a means of distributing warmer air from the equator to the polls, but faster polar heating means that circulation is slowing down, bringing a different problem of stronger stationary weather. #cantwin!
  8. The US criminal “justice” system is awfully close to a mafia designed to rip off the poor. This article mistakes that system for “neoliberal capitalism” when it’s really just the State taking advantage of its citizens, i.e., corrupt politics.
  9. The legal case against advertising makes similar claims to my social case against it.
  10. Cool shit: Schrodinger’s hula hoop and the ultimate “interactive wall”

Weekend reading

  1. The Street Debater (the “yes-no-on-Brexit”-scale in the photo) gives beggars a way to engage passers-by on topics. Much better than a sign and a hat, and the design is open-source to download.
  2. Dog cloning: rich people and entrepreneur-scientists are pushing technology and ethics to the limit. Human baby cloning? When, not if.
  3. Students from poorer backgrounds can’t just use “grit” to succeed. What they need is agency, which is in short supply in the US.
  4. Americans view “economic health” through the lens of their political affiliation, a tendency that’s common in poorer corrupt countries. Bad sign.
  5. Good competition helps everyone; bad competition harms the powerless.
  6. The end of the liberal order means a return to the power politics, exploitation and conflict of the 19th century, except this time, it may be the (formerly) colonized dealing the pain and taking the gain.
  7. A fascinating discussion of autism between 1.25 autistics.
  8. John Oliver on Astroturfing (i.e., the lie behind “Americans for Prosperity”, “Latinos for water,” et al.) and the identity politics of mayonnaise (!)
  9. The real people of IAmsterdam, a city whose charms continue to seduce me.
  10. Americans “pay” an average of $1,600 per year in “the costs of sprawl.” The  worst offenders are in band from Arizona to Florida. High housing prices in SF and NY may reflect their low “costs of sprawl.”

 

 

 

 

Weekend reading

  1. All too true.
    A useful look into the statistics on cancer and how the “war on cancer” is going…
  2. Great podcast/interview with an economist who writes for The Economist on trade and tariffs. 
  3. Mr Money Mustache explains cost accounting, i.e., why avoiding is better than renting which is better than buying.
  4. China’s ban on “contaminated” recyclables (see my prior post) wrecks ambitious plans of American cities that didn’t count on paying much to recycle.
  5. Some useful insights on improving airline efficiency (I wasn’t so convinced by the big data sales pitch at the end).
  6. Physicists provide insights into GDP growth by ignoring misleading details and sticking with basic theory.
  7. Private entrepreneurs are helping Yemenis get drinking water as their government and public systems fail.
  8. Youval Hariri: “As a species, humans prefer power to truth” so some of us “speak truth to power” people have a hard job…
  9. Residents of Amsterdam’s Red Light District fight for priority over tourism.
  10. Americans view “economic health” through the lens of their political affiliation, a tendency that’s common in poorer corrupt countries. 

H/T to MV

Living with Water Scarcity in Farsi

Iran also faces dehydration problems!

I published Living with Water Scarcity in 2014 and made it free to download shortly thereafter. In 2015, I published  Vivir con la escasez de agua, the Spanish version of the book, which was translated with the aid of volunteers and is also free to download.

Now I am very pleased to announce the Farsi-version of my book [PDF], which was also translated by volunteers. I hope  this version makes my political-economic ideas on water management more accessible to Farsi-speakers in Iran and elsewhere.

For the introduction, I wrote:

Dear Reader,

You are now holding the Farsi translation of my book, Living with Water Scarcity, which contains — I hope — many ideas that may be useful to you and your communities.

I was born and raised in California, an American state whose weather and water patterns sometimes resemble those of Iran. California’s agricultural industry specializes in fruits, vegetables and nuts (almonds and pistachios).

I didn’t know very much about water management in California before studying for my PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics (University of California Davis, 2002-2008), but I quickly learned that California has many problems. Farmers use 80 percent of the water but they always want more, so they have dried out rivers and emptied aquifers. In cities, there are problems with breaking pipes and poor water quality because too little money is spent on maintenance. Many cities have too little supply for local demand but price their water so cheaply that people waste it. Some cities are spending billions of dollars on desalination plants to get more supply while farmers flood desert fields with water that costs less than one percent of city prices. Politicians and water managers have talked about solutions for decades, but most of their ideas involve taking more water from ecosystems rather than reducing demand to sustainable levels. Climate change (which I call “climate disruption”) is making everything worse.

I’ve never visited Iran, but I have visited many countries in the region, and I am eager to learn more about your people, your land and your culture.

I am also eager to learn more about water in Iran: where it is, how you use it, and how you will live with water scarcity in the next 100 years.

In preparing this introduction, I did a little reading to learn more about water in your country. I already knew about qanats, but I was surprised to read that some of these systems are still working after 2,500 years. Sadly, I also learned that many qanats have fallen into disuse as communities have lost the traditions of collectively maintaining and repairing damage. One reason this has happened, I read, is that it has been easier and cheaper to pump water directly from the ground — a system that seems better in the short run but takes so much water that some land is forever dead.

I also read that farmers use around 90 percent of Iran’s water, with the rest going to municipal and industrial uses. These basic statistics make me wonder: who gets how much of that water? I suspect that larger industrial farms use more water. That’s what happens in California.

Those human uses add up to 100 percent, which makes me wonder how much water is left for the environment? I read that your Lake Urmia [see cover image above] is dying as its water is taken and its rivers dry out. Did you know that California used to have the largest freshwater lake in the western United States? Farmers dried out Tulare Lake with the help of government subsidies and laws that let them take as much as they wanted. Today, those same farmers are using groundwater so fast that their land is dropping by 10cm per year in some areas.

I read that some Iranians think that new dams and longer canals will bring enough water to allow “business as usual” to continue. In my experience those costly solutions don’t help because they increase water stress and risk for communities losing their water without encouraging sustainable use in the places receiving it.

As an economist, I know that my ideas (raise prices to reduce use, for example) are not very popular because nobody likes paying more for anything, but I am sure that you agree that it’s better to pay more to get a reliable supply instead of paying less to get nothing at all. Price increases, of course, have different impacts on rich and poor, so it’s important to try to protect the poor from those increases, just as it’s important to protect them from shortages.

Climate disruption will complicate all water management as it brings higher temperatures, stronger storms, and longer droughts. I moved to the Netherlands because the Dutch are good at managing their abundant water, but we are now struggling with a drought that is killing crops, drying rivers and increasing costs. Even here, it takes work to manage water for the benefit of all, today and in the future.

The bottom line is that increasing water scarcity means that people need to change their laws, habits and institutions of water management. This book will give you some ideas of how to do that.

I hope you enjoy it, and please do contact me (in English) if you have ideas, news or information that will teach me about your unique country. One day, I will visit.

Khoda hafez [Goodbye :)]

David Zetland Amsterdam (25 July 2018)

Weekend reading

  1. China’s Big Brother surveillance has locked down its Uighur people
  2. Some American governments are slowing retreating from the coasts, as climate change makes “rebuild stronger” impossible.
  3. Academic economists are catching on to the idea that people work for reasons besides money. Read this, this and this.
  4. Taking experiments outside the lab and into policy testing
  5. Gender quotas for politicians are strengthening in Latin America. I endorse this policy as a means of improving women’s rights and policy in general.
  6. Climate change’s non-linear impacts: collapsing Australian ecosystems and (holy shit) the misery of whales (and other species) suffering from constant human impacts. 
  7. Sci-hub circumvents paywalls, making academic research available to everyone. Aaron Swartz fought for this.
  8. Institutional innovation under climate change: A global survey of 96 cities
  9. Using blockchain to track and reward farmers for sustainable practices
  10. The Economist goes back to its liberal roots to defend society against the tyranny of the majority. First up: John Stewart Mill, who supported women’s suffrage (etc.) 50 years before it became fact. My favorite is his defense of free trade (and migration): “It is hardly possible to overrate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar.