What we learned this week

Given how many decades it has taken to negotiate, the UN’s new High Seas Treaty didn’t make much of a splash in the news. Perhaps we’re too aware of the gap between promises and action in global agreements at this point. Still, historic – this is a treaty that covers international waters for the first time, and the BBC have an explainer.

I’ve written with scepticism about vertical farming a couple of times (here and here), questioning whether they will ever make economic sense outside of growing hipster micro-greens. The answer is a predictable no, and a string of hyped pioneers of urban vertical farming have now gone bust.

An interesting security story from Inside Climate News: Thule in Greenland is the only US air base that can monitor missile movements across the whole of Russia, and it is sinking into the ground because of melting permafrost.

The Straits Times invited primary school children in Singapore to tell them a story about climate change, and they’ve collected them in this rather neat website.

Flight Free are running a petition to encourage the BBC to stop offering flights as prizes in competitions. I could (not) get on board with that.

The US government’s Inflation Reduction Act – I guess we have to keep calling it that – has billions of dollars in funding for community solar projects. I look forward to seeing a whole lot more of this, and perhaps a rise in interest over here as it gets more attention.

A book shout-out for this week to A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers, who I have mentioned before as a thoughtful sci-fi novelist. My wife bought me this one for my birthday, and it’s a short and entertaining story about a monk and a robot. The monk’s job is to travel from town to town, serve tea and listen to people’s problems. When they lose faith in this calling, they run away into the wilderness, where they meet a robot who has never met a human and is fascinated to learn their ways.

The book serves as a gentle philosophical enquiry into purpose and what it is to be human. It’s set in an imagined world where the ills of industrial society have been overcome, though at a price. A slower and simpler way of life has emerged, in a distinct and unusual example of a positive future. I found it wise, kind and very funny.

Highlights from this week

How much inequality is acceptable?

Inequality matters. Inequality is also inevitable. So how much of it is acceptable? It’s a question I don’t hear very often, but it’s a pretty important one. I’m not sure I know anyone who advocates absolute equality, and history suggests its a doomed idea. But even if it was possible, is absolute equality something we…

Science fiction at the Science Museum

The Science Museum in London has an area for temporary exhibitions, and their latest is called Science Fiction. We visited as a family recently. It’s a particularly imaginative and playful exhibition that asks a range of questions that are pertinent to the themes of the Earthbound Report. Visitors are allowed into the exhibition hall in…

Five psychological barriers to climate action

Among the 100+ essays in Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book, one that I rather liked was Per Espen Stoknes on overcoming climate apathy. He’s a Norwegian psychologist and Green Party politician, and he describes five psychological barriers to climate action. They all start with D, if you’re being generous: How do we overcome these barriers?…

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