Digestable #19: Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know, Cognitive Reappraisal, Vaccine Efficacy, Selfie Time

Hey all,

Welcome to another edition of Digestable, the short, weekly email where I share information, ideas, and what’s new with me. This edition was emailed to subscribers on May 30th, 2021.

Check it out!

  • Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: Afew claims that stuck out to me from the book, “Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting,” by Dr. Marian Tupy. I’m not advocating for or against these claims, you’ll need to do your own research:
    • You would have been a farmer. The agricultural population in the US was 90% in 1800, had declined to 40% in 1900, and is 2% today. Though there is a decline in how many of us are farming, agricultural output is higher than ever before.
    • Rapid rise from poverty. In 1830, 95% of the global population was in absolute poverty. By 2010, it was down to 10%. From 1990 – 2010 global poverty dropped from 40% to approximately 10%.
    • Natural resources are cheaper than ever before. The 50 most important natural resources are 70% cheaper today than they were in 1980, even though the population increased 70% (adjusted for inflation and wage growth). This is opposite of what was expected. Population increase was expected to lead to resource scarcity and in turn drive up pricing.
    • Underpopulation: there are 7.8 billion people now, demographers now expect us to peak at 9.8 billion in 2060-2080, then decline to about 8.8 billion by end of the century. The expected decline in population will create its own sets of problems as there are fewer people to pay for and maintain the infrastructure that was built for the larger population.
    • The end of famine. There is no more starvation due to shortage of food (generally speaking), only forced starvation due to conflict. Today, access to calories in Africa is roughly 2400 per person per day, up from 1800 in 1960.
    • Greening of the planet. In the 1980’s the Sahara desert was expected to expand with disastrous effect. Instead, it has shrunk 8% since the turn of the millennium, and we have greened an additional 10% of the earth’s surface. The earth’s plants are producing more foilage due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tree coverage of the world has increased by the size of Alaska and Montana combined between 1982 and 2016. The US has added 35% more trees, and China, 15% during that time period. There is now more more square miles of protected lands and oceans than ever.
  • Use stress to your advantage using “Cognitive Reappraisal”: Dan Ariely’s advice to this stressed out public speaker is useful for so many situations:

    Dear Dan,

    Before giving any talk or presentation, I get incredibly stressed out. My heart starts pounding, I sweat, and I breathe much faster. Unfortunately giving talks and presentations on a regular basis is a big part of my job. What can I do?” – Kelsey

    Answer: “Changing how we think about stress can, by itself, make us less stressed and healthier. How? Instead of interpreting those physical changes—sweat, pounding heart, heavy breathing—as signs that you’re not coping well with the pressure, try to see them as signs that your body is energized for the task. Interpret your pounding heart as preparing you for action and your breathing as ensuring that more oxygen is getting to your brain. This strategy is known as cognitive reappraisal. Studies have shown that viewing stress in this way makes people less anxious and more confident. As a bonus, it brings about a healthier cardiovascular profile. How we think about stress affects both our behavior and our health.”
  • COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and effectiveness—the elephant (not) in the room: In Israel, it required vaccinating 217 people to prevent one case of COVID. This is called the NNV (Number Needed to Vaccinate). If you want to understand the difference between RRR (relative risk reduction) and ARR (absolute risk reduction), you can geek out on this paper published on the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Had enough acronyms yet? 😉 Hat tip to Jon Burton for the link.
  • More Surprising Trends: “the value of a two-parent, married family is more widely recognized as the best environment for children than it was a generation ago. The divorce rate is down, having fallen by more than 30 percent since peaking around 1980, and the long upward trend of out-of-wedlock births has now begun to dip as well. Since 2014, the share of kids in intact families has thus begun to climb . . . Poll after poll finds that millennials are trending considerably more pro-life than their parents, and the abortion rate has never been lower. And despite the decline in religious observance that has received a lot of warranted coverage lately, it is worth noting that faith is still a much more central part of American life than in other developed countries. More than half of American adults say they pray daily, compared with just 25 percent in Canada, and six percent of adults in Great Britain. Viewed historically, America today is likely more religious than it was at any point between its founding and about 1930.

    The Great American Freak-Out and What To Do About It is a long-form essay that identifies surprising trends like these, and, by pointing to examples from the past, suggests the best way to change today’s political landscape is NOT with politics. Hat tip to the Atheist Bible Salesman (Trevor McKendrick) for the link.
  • Quote I’m Pondering: “If Smith is elected…it can be interpreted no other way except a fulfillment of prophecy of the latter-day perilous times.” – Mordecai Ham, a well-known Baptist minister, speaking with regards to the 1928 presidential election. (I found this quote in the above-mentioned article, The Great American Freak-Out.)

    Paired with:

    “Culture is the root of politics, and religion is the root of culture.” – Richard John Neuhaus

Thanks for reading. If you know someone who would like to receive these types of updates I’d appreciate it if you shared it. Should you come across anything noteworthy this week please send it my way!

Yours truly,

P.S. On Tuesday, it is my 40th birthday and my Dad’s 67th birthday! To celebrate my birthday, this weekend Amanda whisked me away to Canmore for some mountain biking, and a scramble up EEOR (East End of Rundle). Here are a couple selfies from our adventures:

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