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LA STAMPA

Modern Slavery? Lessons From A Young Banker's Death In London

What the death of an overworked young German financial trainee tells us about the drunken carousel of the 21st century economy.

Moritz Erhardt was a trainee at Bank of America's London HQ
Moritz Erhardt was a trainee at Bank of America's London HQ
Massimo Gramellini

Perhaps, a balanced world was never possible. But what lurks behind the glorious banner of global progress looks ever more like a merry-go-round piloted by a drunk. In London, a fresh-faced German kid, just 21, named Moritz Erhardt, died in the shower of a dormitory after having worked in the City from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning: twenty-one consecutive hours — for three days straight, feeding himself with only coffee.

At this young age, one can typically survive even worse hardships, and it is believed that Moritz may have suffered from epilepsy. Nevertheless, his death has turned the spotlight on a reality: While the majority of young people cannot find a job, those who do find a good position wind up being squeezed to the extreme by their employers. Trainees in the City work on average 14 hours a day and earn the equivalent of 3,000 euros a month — good money in many places but not in London, where renting a studio can cost 1,800 euros; indeed, Moritz slept in a hostel.

This striking contradiction between the few who work too much and the many who work too little, if at all, appears to be the result of a system devoid of government. Human history, which is a story of slaves often unaware of being such, has always been like this, with the exception of a short period — from the end of World War II to the 1970s — when, at least in the Western world, it was possible to distribute work and wealth, and thus create a middle class. But that period is over, and the drunk's carousel is running again. Only political leaders could stop it, but they've long since lost the keys. Or sold them instead.

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Green

China Can't Kick Its Coal Habit

China has endured two months of scorching heatwaves and drought that have affected power supply in the country. Spooked by future energy security, Beijing is reinvesting heavily in coal with disastrous implications for climate change.

The Datang International Zhangjiakou Power Plant shown at dusk in Xuanhua District of Zhangjiakou City, north China's Hebei Province.

Guangyi Pan and Hao Yang*

Two months of scorching heatwaves and drought plunged China into an energy security crisis.

The southwest province of Sichuan, for example, relies on dams to generate around 80% of its electricity, with growth in hydropower crucial for China meeting its net-zero by 2060 emissions target.

Sichuan suffered from power shortages after low rainfall and extreme temperatures over 40℃ dried up rivers and reservoirs. Heavy rainfall this week, however, has just seen power in Sichuan for commercial and industrial use fully restored, according to official Chinese media.

The energy crisis has seen Beijing shift its political discourse and proclaim energy security as a more urgent national mission than the green energy transition. Now, the government is investing in a new wave of coal-fired power stations to try to meet demand.

In the first quarter of 2022 alone, China approved 8.63 gigawatts of new coal plants and, in May, announced C¥ 10 billion (around $1.4 billion) of investment in coal power generation. What’s more, it will expand the capacity of a number of coal mines to ensure domestic supply as the international coal market price jumped amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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