Good Time to Be Under Five, Polluted Minds & Polluted Skies, and Pokemon Kills Mickey

A couple of jerks traveled around the world with recording equipment from California to Nepal, from Bahrain to Austin, Texas, and a dozen other far-flung places, spewing who knows how much climate change gases into the atmosphere. They took a fifty-year-old song inspired by the Mississippi Delta written by some Canadian half indigenous, half-Jewish dude culturally appropriating others’ musical heritage and forced a bunch of other musicians from different cultures to play it. Then, to make matters worse, for you and I to access it, server farms were built, again using lots of energy, and it was placed on social media platforms such as Facebook and Youtube where the damn Russians and Chinese spied on us listening and bobbing our heads to the beat. Or, rather perhaps, in yet another week of people dooming and glooming us, we should simply thank our friend, Kris Edmonds, for pointing us to a wonderful video displaying what’s right about our current globe which you can view below. And to remind all of us that modern technology enables all sorts of wondrous moments and connections even as with everything in life, there are trade-offs, and that the worst trade-offs can be mitigated, if we’re smart about it. And so while we catch the cannonball to take us down the line, we remind you about progress in the under 5 mortality rate, why authoritarian governments aren’t so good for pollution and what are the highest grossing media franchises of all time. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, taking the international load off Fanny and putting it right on me.

The Weight | Featuring Robbie Robertson | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

Watch the Video
1,686,363 views

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

No Better Time to Be Under Five

As others ditch rose for cyanide colored glasses seeing nothing but doom, we do not have to look far for news from the rosaceae family. Last week, the UN released a new report on child and maternal mortality estimates. In the last 28 years, while many continued to bemoan the state of the world, and many more are calling for revolution, or a return to once discredited ideas due to how bad the world is, the mortality rate of children under 5 dropped by 59 percent. Further, “the reduction in the under-5 mortality rate has accelerated and nearly doubled since 2000. It now declines by 3.8% annually, compared to 2% between 1990 and 2000.” Meanwhile, the maternal mortality rate dropped by 38 percent the last 17 years. Now that’s the good news. The less than good news is the world is not yet on track to meet the goal of reducing maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 births by 2030 and even the goal of reducing the under 5 mortality rate to 12 per 1000 births is not quite on track. Nonetheless, amazing progress has been made and if Sub-Saharan Africa sees the economic gains we expect over the next ten years, these goals might yet be achieved.

Can Polluted Minds Clean Polluted Skies?

Here in Seattle at the much needed climate protests last week, the local organizers invited noted socialist Kshama Sawant to speak, one of the only local politicians asked to do so. We wish the well-intentioned organizers had read the new paper on The Political Pollution Cycle which found that “top prefectural leaders in China ordered laxer regulation of pollution towards the end of their tenure so that the delivery of social stability and economic achievements boded well for their career advancement. Such regulatory forbearance came unintentionally with tremendous human costs.” In other words, incentives matter, and democracy matters. Socialism, not Democratic Socialism of a Nordic nature, but the actual socialism Sawant advocates, should remain on the ash heap of history. It will not help with climate change and will harm people’s lives. As we’ve noted before, solving climate change is a global problem, will take technological advancements and smart incentives, not ideological relics of a bygone age.

Pokémon Kills Mickey

Walking down the broken sidewalk of District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City a few weeks ago, we saw a gaggle of youthful Vietnamese grouped together staring at their phones. We stopped to figure out what was going on. One of them turned to us and said, “Pokemon.” Ah yes, the giant Pokemon game which we’ve never played. But as the list of the highest grossing media franchises published by Title Max of all places shows, we are one of the few who haven’t. Pokemon ranks number one all time with over $92 billion in revenue, two-thirds of which is derived from merchandise, not from video gaming. Hello Kitty comes in second and undoubtedly much to President Xi’s chagrin, Winnie the Pooh is third. Mickey Mouse and Star Wars round out the top five. As you see below, merchandise provides the large majority of revenue for these media franchises. Our distant descendant archaeologists will know us from our landfills.

Managing Tawain, Most Censored Countries, and Age of Peak Child

My colleague and I walked into the pharmacy in Vietnam and I typed “constipation” into the translation app on my phone. It translated it to… “constipation,” which was very unhelpful. Let’s stop here and note the medicine was for one of the students on the Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad trip we were co-leading. I don’t want you thinking there is anything wrong with our digestive system. But back to the story–since neither my colleague nor I speak Vietnamese, she wrote down on a piece of paper the word, “constipation,” and showed it to the Vietnamese pharmacist. The pharmacist looked at the piece of paper and started giggling which while it might be unprofessional I found very endearing. I pointed to my colleague and said the medicine is for her. Strangely, our colleague did not find this very funny, but the pharmacist kept giggling, gave us some medicine, which we in turn gave to the student and mission accomplished. 16 students from four colleges participated in the study abroad program and they were the sweet sixteen—smart, engaged, asking great questions throughout the program, fun and helping each other and even their leaders out when needed. We have organized many business and public officials overseas in a past career and these students were more mature and asked better questions. The future is in good hands. So as you eat bananas, prunes and sweet potatoes, we serve up the future of factories in Vietnam, the world’s most censored countries and the age of peak child. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, the giggling pharmacy of international data and information.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Managing Taiwan

The factory in Vietnam hummed as we chatted with one of its Taiwanese managers. Vietnam has been the beneficiary of China’s higher labor costs and the U.S.-China trade war, both of which leading to numerous factories of many types moving to Vietnam from China in recent years. Indeed the one we stood in moved from Shenzhen in 2015. But Vietnam is not as populous as China and will likely soon cycle to a higher labor cost level meaning manufacturing will move somewhere else. The manager we chatted with said they will be moving on from Vietnam, like they did from China, within ten years. Already they are looking at Indonesia with Africa a possibility too. The challenge with Africa for this particular factory line is it stretches the supply chain because most of the materials for the products made here are sourced from Asia. But Africa’s time is coming, sooner than people realize. We didn’t just talk about factories. When the Taiwanese manager expressed concern for the protesters in Hong Kong, we asked if they were worried about what China will do in Taiwan. They said no they weren’t worried, that Taiwan is friends with the U.S. and the U.S. will protect Taiwan. They have more confidence in America than we do.

World’s Most Censored Countries

While in Vietnam, I came across the Committee to Protect Journalists list of the ten most censored countries in the world and discovered I was sitting in one of them. Yes, Vietnam is number six on the list even if we were not censored from learning this fact while on the Internet in Saigon. The Committee found that “These 10 countries flout the international standard by banning or severely restricting independent media and intimidating journalists into silence with imprisonment, digital and physical surveillance, and other forms of harassment. Self-censorship is pervasive.” North Korea surprisingly is only number two on the list, behind Eritrea, which helps explain the Eritrea immigrant on our Vietnam trip talking so harshly about its government. The list is a who’s who of countries afraid of information getting out to their populations, so really a portrait of leadership cowardice. China, which seemingly now aspires to be a 21st Century leader of the world, should feel a little silly being grouped with Turkmenistan, Belarus and, well, North Korea.

The Age of Peak Child

You’ve probably heard someone say “the world is getting smaller all the time.” They’re talking about how connected the world is but sometime this century, this will also be true about population. According to OurWorldinData,  “Peak population growth was reached in 1968 with an annual growth of 2.1%. Since then the increase of the world population has slowed and today grows by just over 1% per year.” After amazingly large increases the last two centuries, the world’s population growth has slowed to a crawl. Or as OurWorldinData notes,  “The world is approaching what the late Hans Rosling called ‘the age of peak child’.” Population growth is not slowing because of more people dying but rather because fewer are being born. This will have great consequences in the coming decades as more and more of the world is old. There will be less innovation, for example, more people telling you to get off their lawns and many more who think they should run for president. It’s a dystopic future for sure.

Decarbonizing Belt and Road, Where Hong Kongers Flee to and Esports rise

Dear Jeff Bezos:

We know others may have different complaints about you and your company, and perhaps they feel theirs are more important, but once you read this we’re sure you’ll move ours to the top of the priority list. Our concern is the types of ads that display on our Kindle screen (we are too cheap to buy the non-ad Kindle). Here is a list of what we have recently bought and/or read on our Kindle—a device we love and have used daily for years:

Belt and Road, a Chinese World Order by Bruno Macaes

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Xi Jinping: The Backlash, by Richard McGregor

The Proncane Chonicle by Ross Thomas

On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 by Robert Whitaker

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

There are many other books on our Kindle, of course, but none, we assure you, are bodice ripping romance novels full of lurid tales of desire and passion (although we haven’t finished Xi Jinping: The Backlash and maybe there will be steamy scenes in its final chapters). That being the case, why are the ads on our Kindle almost always romance novels featuring strong jawed men and usually less clothed than the ones in the ad I photographed from my Kindle below? Please take a break from creating a very powerful company, national newspaper and pretty darn cool outer space company, and fix the advertisement algorithm for the Kindle. But save a little attention for the Belt and Road’s carbonization of the world, where Hong Kongers may flee to, and how esports is taking over the world. It’s this week‘s International Need to Know, the Nora Roberts, the Fabio, of international information and data.

We are headed back to Vietnam tonight with 16 students who are participating in a Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad Mission (thanks to our sponsors: Boeing, Lynden Logistics, UW CIBER program and the Federal Way Chamber). We’ll be back on September 19th.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Decarbonizing the Belt and Road

We saw a headline recently about whether parents should tell their kids about all their drug use in their youth. A tough decision we’re sure but even more difficult is asking up and coming developing countries not to make the same polluting mistakes developed countries did. The U.S., Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China and others all developed while emitting huge amounts of climate change gases into the atmosphere. The new kids on the block want what those countries have and it’s a bit awkward to tell them no, or at least that they have to do it in a more expensive, more difficult way. And, of course, it’s not just Europe and the U.S. helping developing countries anymore, China is a big part of the game with its Belt and Road Initiative. A new study, Decarbonizing the Belt and Road, quantifies how emerging countries that develop economically under conventional methods will affect climate change efforts. It’s not good news. The study finds that if they follow the usual carbon intensive development pathway these countries will account for 66 percent of global emissions by 2050 “and result in global carbon emissions double the 2-Degree Scenario, the upper limit of the Paris Agreement temperature target.” Determining policies to prevent this from happening is the most important policy challenge of the climate change debate, and one we see most U.S. politicians ignoring, even and perhaps especially those most concerned about climate change. The report also provides recommendations on how to decarbonize the Belt and Road. Get to work policy makers.

Where Hong Kongers Want to Move to

As the situation in Hong Kong becomes ever more perilous for Hong Kongers, both those fighting for freedoms and your average person, some are contemplating moving away. But where to? According to the Wall Street Journal’s Daily Shot via Noah Smith’s tweet, fifty percent of Hong Kongers want to move to Taiwan. That seems like potentially a hot pot into the fire situation given China’s statements on Taiwan but it’s easy to see how the people of Hong Kong would be interested in moving to a place where both Chinese and democracy live. Perhaps just as interesting, as Smith points out, is how far down the U.S. is on the list. Perhaps it’s time the U.S. hands over its statue of liberty to Taipei?

The Esporting Life

Here in the United States the NFL American football season starts tonight. It’s a big deal but not when compared to esports. Next Big Future points out that the NFL has approximately 100 million viewers around the country and world. The audience for esports, according to newzoo (which has much better data than oldzoo), is 198 million occasional viewers worldwide with 245 million “esports enthusiasts.” Asia, and especially China, makes up the largest percentage of those enthusiasts and viewers.  And those figures will only grow larger with newzoo calculating that 2.5 billion people will play video games in 2019—many of these couch loungers, especially the youthful demographic, will be prime targets for watching esports. So, yes the first NFL game is tonight and it’s a big deal, but a mere opossum to esports’ giant panda.