We’re All in This Together, We Need to Talk about Sweden 3 and Shorter and Younger Trees

It occurs to us that too often we mistake good events for bad. For example, the protests in the street* about the murder of George Floyd. Like everyone else, our initial reaction was unrest in the streets is a sign of how bad the year 2020 is. But protests in towns and cities across America are not a sign of more bad, but of good. It’s like the MeToo movement when every week another sexual harasser or assaulter was revealed. Many of us were horrified. In truth, what was horrific was the many years of previous hidden sexual assaults and harassment. The revelations were the beginning of trying to solve the problem. So, too, are protests against police violence. Since Ferguson in 2014 (which we write about in our upcoming book about China—how is Ferguson relevant to China, you ask? You will have to read the book to find out!), in big cities there has been a reduction in the use of police force, as Samuel Sinyangwe details in his Fivethirtyeight.com article. This is partly due to the greater attention given this issue over the last 6 years due to the protests in 2014. Of course, that same article points out there has been a rise in police violence in the suburbs and rural areas–there is much, much more to do. Sinyangwe, who given his first name, is obviously wise, is the co-founder of Campaign Zero. This organization has created a list of research-backed, evidence-based policy solutions for reducing police violence. At the website, you can even track where your state and city are in implementing these policies. Here is a Twitter thread briefly listing and explaining these policies. If you are feeling gloomy about the last week’s events, I highly urge you to read the links. They provide a rational path forward and a way for all of us to get involved in walking down that path. As we roll up our sleeves, we kneel on bended knee while remembering we’re all in this together, reexamining Sweden and pondering why trees are getting younger and shorter. It’s this week’s International Need to Know trying to understand what it means around the world and here at home.

*The looting and destruction of businesses is wrong but they are a separate issue from the largely peaceful protests. But since we raise the issue,we point out we are concerned at how many city officials are imposing curfews to deal with the violence and looting. Curfews are not needed. There are already adequate laws in place allowing for the arrest of people stealing and committing violence. Curfews, on the other hand, are pernicious and allow for further corruption by the authorities as you see in this video where an American citizen is detained for breaking curfew while exercising his inalienable right to assemble and express free speech. Mayors should stop reflexively using curfews during the continued protests and unrest. 

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

Reminder: We’re All In This Together

A former elected official Facebook friend of ours keeps clamoring for Washington’s governor to re-open the economy. We try to remind him you can lead a pandemic citizen to a three martini lunch at their favorite restaurant but it doesn’t mean she will drink or eat. A nation’s economy won’t fully recover until the world’s economy recovers which means the world as a whole must successfully contain the virus. On March 26th in this space, we noted that we’re all in this together when it comes to the pandemic, both health-wise and economically. More evidence of this comes this week as Barron’s examines two countries that have successfully contained Covid-19 but whose economies nonetheless are severely affected by the pandemic, South Korea and Taiwan (Yes, CCP, Taiwan is an independent country—a very successful one at that–no matter what you want the rest of us to think). The article observes “Taiwanese consumer spending has plunged at the fastest rate on record even though the virus has been contained and the government never imposed lock downs.” The same is true in South Korea which since largely containing the initial large outbreak of Covid-19, has also seen retail and service sectors sales plummet. Now it’s true that both South Korea and Taiwan’s economies are doing better than in countries such as the U.K. and U.S which have not contained the virus. Job losses in those two countries are about twice what they are in Taiwan and South Korea. There are two lessons to be learned from this. An individual country’s re-opening doesn’t save the economy; containing the virus does. All countries’ economies do not recover until the virus is contained. In the current pandemic, the economic problem is a health problem.

We Need To Talk About Sweden Part 3

Like a Norwegian nationalist in 1814, we’ve been keeping an eye on Sweden. In our case because of Sweden’s limited shut-down policies. Now two and a half months into the epidemic, data shows they really are doing much worse than most other European countries. In Sweden, deaths per million people continues to rise while other European countries have bent that curve and in some cases are well on their way to zero. Sweden’s approach, at least through the first two and a half months of the pandemic, seems to be achieving much worse mortality results than many other European countries. That being said, we will note the caveat of their nursing home situation. We reported a few weeks ago that Sweden has many more nursing homes than its neighbors of Finland and Denmark. Professors from the University of Stockholm and George Mason University give Sweden a D for their elderly care but a B- for their overall response to Covid-19. Putting aside that professors seem to think they can grade everything, including countries (we didn’t know it was a test!!!), the two professors note that “upwards of 70 percent of the COVID-19 death toll in Sweden has been people in elderly care services, primarily the nursing homes.” For us to be convinced of the nursing home theory, we would want to see nursing home deaths pulled out of the data for all these countries and compare the results of non-nursing home deaths. If they are similar, than perhaps Sweden is onto something. If not, then Sweden’s approach is reaping much worse morbidity results, at least at this stage of the pandemic.

Trees Are Getting Shorter and Younger

As time passes, inevitably I will get older and shorter. Unfortunately for humanity, trees are getting shorter and younger. According to a new study published in Science last week, “The world’s collective forests have become shorter and younger overall in the past 50 years.” This is problematic for a number of reasons, including that taller trees sequester more carbon and provide more shelter for a whole host of species. The report determined that in North America and Europe, tree mortality is doubling over time. The reason for higher tree mortality is multifold but massive wildfires, invasive species, logging and encroaching development are among the main factors. Interestingly, one place where tree mortality is decreasing is here in our little neck of the woods, the Pacific Northwest. Around the world, there are efforts to plant multitudes of tree, which is good, but we also need to do a better job of protecting our old forests.  

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