Welcome to my round-up of recent causes for optimism, as noticed in the media. Plus occasional links to debunking of alarmism, and general discussions of the optimism vs. pessimism gap.
* The ultimate techno-optimist Elon Musk has founded the new Carbon Removal XPRIZE. With a reported $100m prize purse it is the largest ‘incentive prize’ in history. To win it inventors are asked to devise a viable and reliable way to do carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere, and to do so at the gigaton scale.
* Elon’s SpaceX Starlink has opened pre-orders and is already set to supply parts of the UK which until now had had very patchy broadband Internet. In the U.S. there are still “about 60 million people in rural areas” who lack viable Internet, many of whose voices are now set to come online by 2022.
* There’s a fine new video documentary of the life and eminently sensible work of veteran U.S. economist Thomas Sowell. It’s been available for a while now, but of course has been totally ignored by the media. There is however a major biography forthcoming in May 2021, that will be harder to ignore.
* “Millennials of Color Are Optimistic About the American Dream”… More than 4,000 [USA] respondents ages 13 to 23 (Gen Z) and 24 to 39 (Millennials) were surveyed in late June 2020 by Echelon Insights … The most striking attitude of these young people is their faith in the work ethic [and that] it allows them to move up the economic ladder. Nearly eight in ten believe their individual lives will be better or the same as their parents”.
* Bitcoin has passed $50,000 for the first time, defying the nay-sayers.
* The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s India department anticipates a record wheat harvest in India in 2021-22. This is also good news for the India poor, as booming wheat production has led to lower domestic wheat prices.
* 15 year Japanese government study finds genetically-modified crops safe for soil. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) have found “no sign of any impacts” on the health of places where GM oilseed or soybean crops were planted. Their study has been ongoing for 15 years, and confirms other recent findings on the lack of harm to surrounding ecologies.
* In the UK, the University of Sussex has discovered that adding a kink to graphene makes it a transistor. We’re still very far from a god-like graphene-powered gaming PC which is the size of a USB stick. But the researchers claim the method… “can create a smart electronic component, like a transistor, or a logic gate” and that the manufacturing process is an environmentally friendly and room-temperature one.
* And finally, The black-footed ferret has been cloned at last, and from a long-dead animal too. There are said to be less than 500 of the animals in the wild, and they are so dangerously in-bred that cloning them is required to get better genes.
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