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Economy

The Crises Of The Central Banker, Existential And Otherwise

There was a time when Central Bankers were just supposed to look out for rising inflation. The 2008 financial crisis and the ongoing European debt crisis is forcing them to search for a new identity.

Outgoing European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet
Outgoing European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet
Jean-Marc Vittori

PARIS - It doesn't take long before those unanswerable sorts of questions start popping up. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our existence? Is there a hereafter? Existential angst can strike without warning, and it may soon affect a very special group of economic actors: the central bankers of the world. In normal times, this category of people should not be vulnerable to this kind of doubt. They are chosen for their highly rational -- and rigid, some might say -- minds. The most eccentric of them all was a former journalist who became the deputy governor of the Bank of England, and who was shown the door for rolling around with someone else's wife right on the thick carpets of the "Old Lady" -- quite a fantasy indeed.

But today, the Central Banker has some radical soul-searching to do. He is accused of having provided the oxygen money that inflated the biggest speculative bubble in a century. Charles Goodhart, a venerable British economist who was a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, went as far as asking whether "a Central Bank that manages both liquidity and financial stability should also be given the task of setting interest rates."

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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