Future

Latin America, The Next Mecca For Digital Nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend.


LIMA — Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all.

Olson recently tweeted that the average freelancer based in New York City could lower standard monthly costs from $4,000 to $1,000 by setting up shop in Ecuador.

Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

To this end, he says, the government of President Guillermo Lasso is preparing a temporary residency visa for such workers. It "allows foreigners to work remotely for foreign firms in Ecuador. How does it benefit our country? By bringing foreign exchange into our economy and creating jobs," Olson stated.

Ecuador wants to be the first Latin American country to issue such visas, and the timing could not be better. While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050.

A remote worker on the beach in Mexico

A remote worker on the beach in Mexico — Photo: Wonderlijk Werken

Latin America wants to compete with Europe 

Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work.

It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the legislator promoting this law, says it will be a stimulus for Costa Rica's "economic reactivation. With this legislation, which is pioneering in its area, Costa Rica has a great tool to boost the country as a choice destination."

Neighboring Panama is also creating short-term residencies for remote workers and plans to extend tourist visas. The nation hopes to use the foreign cash spent on hospitality, retail and local services to revive an economy that shrank 17.9% in 2020.

Mexico offers temporary residencies to attract digital nomads

Mexico, meanwhile, offers no particular visa for digital nomads but remains one of their favored destinations, with 20 Mexican cities and towns currently hosting remote workers.. At the moment, the country simply offers temporary residencies for applicants able to show financial solvency (either $1,650 in monthly income or a bank balance with at least $27,000).

In Colombia, the government approved a Law of Enterprises that includes special migratory rules. It stipulates that the "Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Relations, shall expedite a special regimen for the entry, residence and work of digital nomads [...] with the purpose of promoting the country as a center for remote work."

When it comes to choosing a destination, taxes are often a decisive factor for digital nomads. Foreigners must consider facilities and infrastructure provided by host country, says Valeria Galindo, People Advisory Services Partner with the accounting firm EY Perú. But no less important in the choice of destination are " the tax consequences moving to a foreign country can have for themselves and their firm. Let's remember, many countries work on the basis of territoriality, which can generate taxes both in the destination country and in terms of the firm's settlement arrangements."

AirBnB partners with the city of Buenos Aires

Why are various Latin American countries courting digital nomads as residents? A study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, called "Work and Wander: Meet Today's Digital Nomads," found that 87% of them earned around $4,500 a month, and spent around 36% of these earnings wherever they reside. Their work profiles were a mix of writing, sales and IT programming.

The website Nomadlist also finds these workers are generally young and more disposed to try different experiences and visit new places.

Their disposable income — and their willingness to spend it — makes digital nomads a boon to the continent's battered travel sector. The Mexican government found that a single person's stay for three months or longer translates to thousands of dollars poured into the local economy.

Victoria Bramati, Airbnb's communications chief for South America, says "the pandemic is changing the way we work, live and travel. People want to live anywhere," and technology is making this possible. This, she adds, is "happening in real time." In June 2021, the company came up with Live Anywhere on Airbnb, a pilot program where 12 people shared various Airbnb lodgings for 10 months. She said it was an opportunity for people to "make the world their home" for nearly a year, with most of the costs at Airbnb's expense. The firm recently signed an agreement with the Buenos Aires city government to jointly promote the Argentine capital as an international destination, particularly for remote workers.

Between its low costs, exotic destinations and colorful cultures, Latin America has a major potential to become the next digital nomad hotspot. And the moment is ripe to entice travelers who don't need — or want — to return home.

Pokemon, Magic As NFTs: How Tech Fuels Trading Cards Market

The heroic fantasy universes of the 1990s have become a new focus of investment. One card in the mega-popular Magic series recenty sold for more than $500,000, and with the introduction of blockchain technology, the market looks to expand even more.

Playing cards illustrated by the greatest science fiction and "heroic fantasy" artists of the moment, the blockchain to make them unique digital works, and a series of novels to accompany the story… Welcome to the fairytale universe of Cross the Ages.

Conceived by the young Marseille-based startupper Sami Chlagou, who is already behind a video game distribution and production company, this project aims to turn a generation's passion for trading cards and role-playing games into a business as disruptive and speculative as the cryptocurrency market.

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Why Can't India Win More Nobel Prizes?

Winning a Nobel Prize can't be the only criterion by which we measure a nation's scientific achievement — but it is a matter of pride, like winning a gold at the Olympics. Lower funding on R&D alone doesn't explain India's abysmal show at the Nobel Prizes. Some key elements seem to be missing, beyond funding and infrastructure, vis-à-vis our scientists' ability to produce path-breaking work.

NEW DELHI — As expected, Indians are euphoric about their country's success in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympic Games, and for all the right reasons. However, India's share of seven medals – including the first individual gold in athletics by Neeraj Chopra – has stirred the hopes of many towards a similar accomplishment in another area of human activity: winning Nobel Prizes.

The Olympics and the Nobel Prizes have similar historical significance. Modern-day Olympics started in 1896 in Athens, Greece, while the first Nobel was awarded five years later. India first participated in the Olympics in 1900 in Rome – and won the first Nobel Prize in 1913. Both the Olympics and the Nobel Prizes are the highest awards in each of their categories.

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9/11, Bin Laden's Unlikely Gift To China And Russia

The September 11 attacks both mobilized America and showed its fragility. Twenty years later, the United States is withdrawing from the Middle East. The greatest beneficiary is not the Muslim world, as Bin Laden dreamed, but two powers reborn in the East.

-Analysis-

PARIS — "Men make their own history, but they do not make the history they please." Twenty years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, could Karl Marx's old formula help us understand the upheavals that have occurred in the world during the last two decades?

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Future
Sol Park

Latin America's Copycat Startups: Thieving Or Innovation?

Across the region, entrepreneurs have been hailed for taking innovative ideas inspired elsewhere and applying them nationally or regionally. But the business and ethical dynamics involved are not so simple.

SANTIAGO — When Chazki, a Peruvian courier startup, entered the market in 2015, its founders described it as "the Uber of logistics." It made sense. The firm initially recruited freelance collaborators, not to carry passengers, but deliver purchased items in their "last mile."

The Uber tag stuck though, as tags have done with other regional startups: Mercado Libre was "Argentina's eBay," Nubank the "Revolut of Brazil," and Rappi was the WeChat of Colombia. Indeed, many Latin American firms are termed copycat startups for replicating successful business models conceived in developed hubs like the Silicon Valley.

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Future
David Larousserie and Alexandre Piquard

AI, Translation And The Holy Grail Of "Natural Language"

Important digital innovations have been put into practice in the areas of translation, subtitling and text-to-image.

PARIS — When asked about advances in language management through artificial intelligence, Douglas Eck suggests pressing the "subtitle" button on Meet, the video conferencing service used for the interview, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The words of this American engineer, who had come to Paris to work at Google's French headquarters, were then displayed in writing, live and without error, under the window where we see him, headset on. This innovation, unthinkable until recently, is also available for most videos om YouTube, the Google subsidiary. Or on the dictaphone of its latest phones, which offers to automatically transcribe all audio recordings.

These new possibilities are just one example of the progress made in recent years in natural language processing by digital companies, especially giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA). Some of these innovations are already being put into practice. Others are in the research stage, showcased at annual developer conferences, such as Google I/O (which took place May 18-20) and Facebook F8 (June 2).

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Society
Carlo Pizzati

Aging Influencers, Chinese Grandmas Are Social Media Hit

Old age is trending in China for reasons of culture, technology and demographics.

BEIJING — Imagine a 70-year-old Chinese version of Chiara Ferragni. Now multiply these "senior" Asian influencers by a dozen and you will have a snapshot of the new phenomenon that has hit social media in China. The aging divas are the stars of the feed dedicated to "Fashion Grandmothers" on the Chinese social network Douyin, the national version of TikTok.

They call themselves "fashion_grannies' or "Glamma Beijing," playing on the Chinese pronunciation of the English words grandma and glamor. And they are quite something to see, wrapped up in traditional damask cheongsam, buttoned all the way up their neck or hopping in casual clothes of the latest fashion brands.

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Future
Stefano Lupieri

Seeing Green: How Algae Can Change Our Diets, Health And the Climate

Algae could bring solutions to major challenges such as carbon sequestration and world hunger, provided we succeed in building an industrial sector.

The installation is a little artisanal, but the spectacle is no less fascinating. Specimens of Palmaria palmata twirl around in large columns of water, fed by a forest of flexible pipes, and unfold their amaranth-red tentacles following the bubbles that agitate the environment.

Arranged in a dark room, these vertical aquariums are surrounded by LED ribbons that focus the light on the wall of the tubes and attract the eye. The transparency and colorful shades of this algae, better known by the name dulse, are intensified. It might look like an art exhibit, but it's actually the Roscoff Biological Station, one of the most advanced research centers on algae in Europe, with around 100 scientists dedicated to studying the aquatic organism.

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

Kabul Blast Aftermath, Nigerian Students Freed, Hummingbirds Vs. Harassment

Welcome to Friday, where evacuation flights resume at Kabul airport after yesterday's deadly attack, dozens of kidnapped Nigerian students are freed, and female hummingbirds evolve so that males get off their feathers. We also boldly explore the surprising crossroads between science fiction and real-life military strategy.


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Future
Meike Eijsberg

Why The World’s Military Leaders Are Drafting Science Fiction Writers

The year is 2056. Decades of war have resulted in constant advances in weapon technology — including one such novelty dubbed the "hypervelocity missile." Moving at six times the speed of sound, these weapons have changed the rules of combat. In order to protect themselves against attacks, armies have designed a sophisticated shield that can protect an entire city. Still it is not impenetrable, and the simmering war worsens when one government tries to break through the shield of another.

What sounds like the premise of a new binge-worthy series is instead the beginnings of an intricate scenario developed by science fiction writers hired by the French military. As Le Monde reported recently, the unusual collaboration between the French Ministry of Defense and the University of Paris Sciences and Lettres (PSL) has just launched the second season of this project.

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Green
William Ospina

Will Climate Woes Spell The End Of The "Western" Lifestyle?

The global warming we have been warned about is here, and it will, with its calamities, change so many ideas about what we need to live well.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ - The climate is the new chief actor of world history. Gone are the days when humans would set the agenda. It will now be imposed on us. Our time here is brief, but planetary phenomena gestate patiently. What we are about to live through has been simmering for centuries: the years of the industrial revolution, and of the transport, communications and technology revolutions. They arose from our desire to make this a more comfortable world for ourselves, though their result is to have made it increasingly uncomfortable, if not unlivable.

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Future
Johanne Courbatère de Gaudric

The Latest Cosmetic Innovation? 3-D Bioprinting Beauty

L'Oréal and other French cosmetic brands are delving into the creepy realm of printing the equivalent of human flesh.

PARIS — The days of rusty, old inkjet printers from the 1970s are long gone. At the inkjet's inception, the thought of printing "flesh and blood" would have been the stuff of science fiction. Today, however, 3-D bioprinting has become a reality, both in technological and economic terms. The proof is in the pudding: The market, which represented $1.4 billion worldwide in 2020, is expected to grow to $4.4 billion in 2028. For the cosmetics industry, which often relies on "artificial" skin to test products, this cutting-edge technology is of particular interest.

3-D printing skin has two primary objectives: the first is to gain a more precise understanding of human skin and its biological mechanisms, and the second, for the cosmetics world, is to accelerate the production of skin samples in order to test new products. Christophe Masson is the CEO of Cosmetic Valley, a high-technology cluster specializing in the production of consumer goods in the perfumes ands industry of perfumes and cosmetics.

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Future
Elyn Saks*

Her Prerogative? A Unique View On The #FreeBritney Movement

A California law professor with an expertise in mental health and ethics, and who suffers from chronic schizophrenia, takes a look beyond the headlines at the case of Britney Spears, who has been fighting to free herself from the conservatorship of her father.

Britney Spears' impassioned remarks in court have raised many questions about conservatorships, including when they're necessary and whether they effectively protect someone's best interests.

When one loses the capacity to make decisions for oneself the court appoints a guardian, or conservator, to make those decisions. Appointing someone to make decisions about personal and financial matters on another's behalf has been part of civil society since the ancient Greeks. Today, all jurisdictions in the U.S. have conservatorship laws to protect people who lack the ability to make their own decisions.

As a distinguished professor of law at the University of Southern California, and as a person who was diagnosed over four decades ago with chronic schizophrenia, I have a personal and professional interest in issues at the intersection of law, mental health and ethics. I believe that conservatorships are warranted in certain rare cases, such as someone experiencing severe delusions that put them at financial and bodily risk. But because conservatorships are a serious intrusion into a person's sense of self, they might not always be the best option.

Here are four myths about decision-making capacity, and ways to address them:

Myth 1: The inability to make one kind of decision means an inability to make any kind of decision

Historically, lack of decision-making capacity was thought of in a global way. That is, the inability to make a single significant decision meant that a person lacked capacity to make all significant decisions.

Making "bad" decisions, or decisions others do not agree with, is not the same as making incompetent decisions.

Today, U.S. law tends to view decision-making capacity more granularly. Different kinds of decisions require distinct capacities. For example, whether people are capable of making decisions about their finances is seen as legally separate and distinct from whether they're capable of making a decision to marry or refuse medical treatment. Not being able to make one kind of decision may reveal little about whether someone lacks the capacity to make other important decisions.

Making "bad" decisions, or decisions others do not agree with, is not the same as making incompetent decisions. People, especially those with considerable resources, often have family members and associates who are eager to provide a court with examples of an individual's poor decision-making that may be irrelevant to determining competence.

People sometimes make decisions that others strongly disagree with. That is their prerogative.

Myth 2: Once someone loses decision-making capacity, it never returns

As someone who lives with schizophrenia, I can say from personal experience that decision-making capacity waxes and wanes. At times, I unquestionably lack the capacity to make certain decisions because I have false beliefs, or delusions, about the world and how it works. Thankfully, those psychotic states are not permanent. With proper treatment, they pass and I soon return to my usual self.

Although certain conditions, like severe dementia, can permanently render an individual incapable of making decisions, many conditions do not. Research is increasingly demonstrating that there are ways to help people regain their decision-making capacity sooner, including psychotherapy and medication.

Myth 3: People who are declared incompetent are indifferent to having their decision-making abilities taken away

As Spears made powerfully clear in court, being deprived of the ability to make important decisions about one's own life can be one of the most deeply distressing circumstances a person can endure. It leaves one feeling helpless and unheard, and can reinforce and prolong mental illness.

Consider what it might feel like to not be able to write a check or use your credit card without asking for permission. Or consider how a parent reacts when an adult child takes away the car keys. In law school I wrote a paper on the use of mechanical restraints in psychiatric hospitals based on my own excruciating experiences as a patient. On reading my paper, a well-known professor in psychiatry unwittingly remarked that "those people" would not experience restraints as he and I would. I've always regretted not telling him in that moment that my article was about myself.

Britney Spears supporters in Los Angeles on July 14 — Photo: Ringo Chiu/ZUMA

For most people of childbearing potential, the ability to make decisions about reproduction is often an important part of their identity. A state action depriving someone of the ability to reproduce is incredibly intrusive, and the stress this causes may itself exacerbate the conditions that interfere with decision-making capacity.

There are other options that ensure a child's needs are met while respecting the parent's autonomy. One possibility includes having the parent identify individuals who can care for the child until decision-making capacity returns.

Myth 4: Mental illness or involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital indicates lack of decision-making capacity

Under the law, neither a mental illness nor involuntary psychiatric commitment renders a person incapable of making decisions. People who suffer from major psychiatric disorders may be perfectly capable of handling their personal and financial matters and would justifiably be outraged if they were declared unable to do so.

There are cases when someone's ability to make decisions is so compromised that others need to step in.

Those whose ability to make decisions appears to be deteriorating can designate a trusted person to make decisions on their behalf. Supported decision-making allows individuals to choose who they want to help them in decision-making while they retain the final say. Similarly, a pychiatric advance directive documents an individual's mental health treatment preferences and enlists a proxy decision-maker should decision-making capacity be lost in the future.

Respecting autonomy

U.S. law honors individual autonomy by presuming that everyone has decision-making competence unless proved otherwise. There are certainly cases when someone's ability to make decisions is so compromised that others need to step in. Conservatorships are one way to do this. But there are also less restrictive alternatives that take into account the fact that decision-making capacity waxes and wanes. Keeping Britney and others safe does not mean that they cannot be free to make decisions about their own lives.The Conversation

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Green Or Gone
Terry Hughes, Jon C. Day and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg*

What Is The True Risk Level For The Great Barrier Reef?

In case you missed it, the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO recently revealed its draft decision to list the Great Barrier Reef as "in danger" — a decision that appeared to shock the Australian government.

In an opinion piece published June 30th in The Australian newspaper, Environment Minister Sussan Ley acknowledged climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and that it "has been through a few rough years."

She has also suggested, however, UNESCO's draft in-danger decision is a surprise and was politically motivated. Neither of these claims is credible.

So let's look at Australia's reaction so far, and why criticisms of UNESCO's draft decision don't stack up.

The poster child for climate change

An in-danger listing of a World Heritage property recognises a decline in the "outstanding universal value" that makes the site internationally significant. It sets off alarm bells to identify the underlying causes of decline, and triggers stronger interventions to prevent further damage.

Ley foresees a negative effect of the proposed in-danger listing on reef tourism. However, there's no evidence from the Galapagos Islands, the Belize Barrier Reef or the Everglades National Park — all World Heritage properties and tourism hotspots — that an in-danger listing led to any discernible impacts on tourist numbers.

Most tourists, international or domestic, are already well aware of the pressures facing the Great Barrier Reef, but they are still keen to see it. From 2015–2018, more than two million visitors each year used a tourism operator to visit the reef. During 2020, COVID led to significant decline in visitor numbers so this period has been particularly difficult for the tourism industry.

Ley also claimed Australia, and the reef, didn't deserve to be the poster child for climate change perils. But why can't they be? The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most obvious examples of the costs of inaction on anthropogenic climate change.

The Great Barrier Reef was inscribed as a World Heritage Area in 1981. And for the past two decades Australia has meticulously documented its ongoing deterioration.

According to Australia's regular reporting to UNESCO, the major causes of the reef's decline in outstanding universal value is pollution from agricultural runoff, which has now been eclipsed by heat stress from climate change.

Extreme summer temperatures in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020 have reduced coral cover and changed the mix of species, altering the biodiversity and other World Heritage attributes of the reef for many decades to come.

Clown fish in the Great Barrier Reef; a World Heritage Area since1981 — Photo: David Clode

Unless global warming is stabilised soon, the reef will become unrecognisable. Indeed, in 2019, Australia's latest five-yearly Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report projected the future of the reef as "very poor."

Is Australia doing enough?

Ley also suggests Australia is doing everything it can to protect the reef — but is it really?

UNESCO certainty doesn't think so. The draft decision from UNESCO, which will be considered next month by the World Heritage Committee, noted that interventions to reduce inshore pollution over the past five years have been "largely deficient."

There have been some positive achievements in reducing water pollution levels. But the slow progress in meeting many of the water quality targets is documented clearly in the 2017–2018 and 2019 reef Water Quality Report Cards, produced jointly by the federal and Queensland governments.

UNESCO cites Australia's poor progress on reducing emissions as an additional area requiring considerable improvement, to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement and Australia's responsibilities under the World Heritage Convention.

Australia's record on protecting ecosystems and people from climate change is very poor.

UNESCO has also asked Australia to work with it to develop corrective measures and to ensure the revised Reef 2050 Plan — the overarching framework for protecting the reef to 2050 — addresses the threats.

An in-danger listing is a call to arms to all countries to work together to save the reef from human-caused heating. So the ongoing collaboration between Australia and UNESCO could then enable the Great Barrier Reef's removal from the in-danger list.

Is Australia suddenly being singled out?

Ley wrote that the Great Barrier Reef was suddenly and unexpectedly "singled out" for an in-danger listing, which she interpreted as a suggestion that "Australia can single-handedly change the emissions trajectory of the whole world."

However, the dialogue between UNESCO and Australia on the Great Barrier Reef's protection has a long history. And in making its in-danger recommendation, UNESCO acknowledged Australia "on its own cannot address the threats of climate change." But UNESCO does appear to have concerns about Australia's record on emissions reduction.

For example, in 2011 the World Heritage Committee expressed "extreme concern" over the approval for liquefied natural gas facilities on Curtis Island within the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area. A year later, it asked Australia to ensure coastal development isn't permitted if it effects the outstanding universal value of the property.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014, prior to the annual meetings of the World Heritage Committee, UNESCO raised the possible inscription of the Great Barrier Reef on the in-danger list.

There have been some positive achievements in reducing water pollution levels around the Great Barrier Reef — Photo: Axiom/ZUMA

Significantly, in 2017, the World Heritage Committee emphasized the importance of state parties (countries adhering to the world heritage convention, such as Australia) undertaking the most ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement. This is an important pathway to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change on World Heritage properties.

UNESCO invited all state parties to act on climate change under the Paris Agreement "consistent with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."

So what are Australia's responsibilities?

Ley is correct to point out that all 29 World Heritage listed coral reefs, scattered throughout the tropics, are extremely vulnerable to human-caused climate change.

However, Australia is responsible for the world's largest coral reef system, and has far higher capabilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than other, less wealthy countries.

But Australia's record on protecting ecosystems and people from climate change is comparatively very poor. And despite being responsible for 20 World Heritage Areas, we have one of the highest per capita emission rates in the world.

The federal government continues to spruik a fossil-fuelled, gas-led COVID recovery, with ongoing subsidies for new coal mines. This support for coal and fossil gas is inconsistent with Australia's commitments to the World Heritage Convention.

Rejecting the science-based assessments by UNESCO is further damaging Australia's reputation as a laggard on addressing climate change. Surely, Australia can do better.

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Future
Amanda Baughan*

Social Media And Fruitful Conversations: It's Complicated

Good-faith disagreements are a normal part of society and building strong relationships. Yet it's difficult to engage in good-faith disagreements on the internet, and people reach less common ground online compared with face-to-face disagreements.

There's no shortage of research about the psychology of arguing online, from text versus voice to how anyone can become a troll and advice about how to argue well. But there's another factor that's often overlooked: the design of social media itself.

My colleagues and I investigated how the design of social media affects online disagreements and how to design for constructive arguments. We surveyed and interviewed 257 people about their experiences with online arguments and how design could help. We asked which features of 10 different social media platforms made it easy or difficult to engage in online arguments, and why. (Full disclosure: I receive research funding from Facebook.)

Having discussions on social media is difficult — Photo: Chris Yang/Unsplash

We found that people often avoid discussing challenging topics online for fear of harming their relationships, and when it comes to disagreements, not all social media are the same. People can spend a lot of time on a social media site and not engage in arguments (e.g. YouTube) or find it nearly impossible to avoid arguments on certain platforms (e.g. Facebook and WhatsApp).

Here's what people told us about their experiences with Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube, which were the most and least common places for online arguments.

Facebook

Seventy percent of our participants had engaged in a Facebook argument, and many spoke negatively of the experience. People said they felt it was hard to be vulnerable because they had an audience: the rest of their Facebook friends. One participant said, on Facebook, "Sometimes you don't admit your failures because other people are looking." Disagreements became sparring matches with a captive audience, rather than two or more people trying to express their views and find common ground.

People also said that the way Facebook structures commenting prevents meaningful engagement because many comments are automatically hidden and cut shorter. This prevents people from seeing content and participating in the discussion at all.

WhatsApp

In contrast, people said arguing on a private messaging platform such as WhatsApp allowed them "to be honest and have an honest conversation." It was a popular place for online arguments, with 76% of our participants saying that they had argued on the platform.

The organization of messages also allowed people to "keep the focus on the discussion at hand." And, unlike the experience with face-to-face conversations, someone receiving a message on WhatsApp could choose when to respond. People said that this helped online dialogue because they had more time to think out their responses and take a step back from the emotional charge of the situation. However, sometimes this turned into too much time between messages, and people said they felt that they were being ignored.

Overall, our participants felt the privacy they had on WhatsApp was necessary for vulnerability and authenticity online, with significantly more people agreeing that they could talk about controversial topics on private platforms as opposed to public ones like Facebook.

YouTube

Very few people reported engaging in arguments on YouTube, and their opinions of YouTube depended on which feature they used. When commenting, people said they "may write something controversial and nobody will reply to it," which makes the site "feel more like leaving a review than having a conversation." Users felt they could have disagreements in the live chat of a video, with the caveat that the channel didn't moderate the discussion.

Unlike Facebook and WhatsApp, YouTube is centered around video content. Users liked "the fact that one particular video can be focused on, without having to defend, a whole issue," and that "you can make long videos to really explain yourself." They also liked that videos facilitate more social cues than is possible in most online interactions, since "you can see the person's facial expressions on the videos they produce."

YouTube's platform-wide moderation had mixed reviews, as some people felt they could "comment freely without persecution" and others said videos were removed at YouTube's discretion "usually for a ridiculous or nonsensical reason." People also felt that when creators moderated their comments and "just filter things they don't like," it hindered people's ability to have difficult discussions.

Redesigning social media for better arguing

We asked participants how proposed design interactions could improve their experiences arguing online. We showed them storyboards of features that could be added to social media. We found that people like some features that are already present in social media, like the ability to delete inflammatory content, block users who derail conversations and use emoji to convey emotions in text.

People were also enthusiastic about an intervention that helps users to "channel switch" from a public to private online space. This involves an app intervening in an argument on a public post and suggesting users move to a private chat. One person said "this way, people don't get annoyed and included in online discussion that doesn't really involve them." Another said, "this would save a lot of people embarrassment from arguing in public."

A comic displays five tiles in which people are arguing in a comment section, and the app intervenes suggesting the users move to a private message instead.

One way social media platforms can intervene: move squabbles out of public discussions. "Someone Is Wrong on the Internet: Having Hard Conversations in Online Spaces', CC BY-ND

Intervene, but carefully

Overall, the people we interviewed were cautiously optimistic about the potential for design to improve the tone of online arguments. They were hopeful that design could help them find more common ground with others online.

Yet, people are also wary of technology's potential to become intrusive during an already sensitive interpersonal exchange. For instance, a well-intentioned but naïve intervention could backfire and come across as "creepy" and "too much." One of our interventions involved a forced 30-second timeout, designed to give people time to cool off before responding. However, our subjects thought it could end up frustrating people further and derail the conversation.

Social media developers can take steps to foster constructive disagreements online through design. But our findings suggest that they also will need to consider how their interventions might backfire, intrude or otherwise have unintended consequences for their users.

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Green Or Gone
Christian Jakob, Michael Reeder*

Hot Canada! How Climate Change Impacts the Weather

Professors Christian Jakob and Michael Reeder explain how heatwaves form ... and why they weather is a part of climate change we should pay closer attention to.

Eight days ago, it rained over the western Pacific Ocean near Japan. There was nothing especially remarkable about this rain event, yet it made big waves twice.

First, it disturbed the atmosphere in just the right way to set off an undulation in the jet stream - a river of very strong winds in the upper atmosphere - that atmospheric scientists call a Rossby wave (or a planetary wave). Then the wave was guided eastwards by the jet stream towards North America. Along the way the wave amplified, until it broke just like an ocean wave does when it approaches the shore. When the wave broke it created a region of high pressure that has remained stationary over the North American northwest for the past week.

This is where our innocuous rain event made waves again: the locked region of high pressure air set off one of the most extraordinary heatwaves we have ever seen, smashing temperature records in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and in Western Canada as far north as the Arctic. Lytton in British Columbia hit 49.6℃ this week before suffering a devastating wildfire.

What makes a heatwave?

While this heatwave has been extraordinary in many ways, its birth and evolution followed a well-known sequence of events that generate heatwaves.

Heatwaves occur when there is high air pressure at ground level. The high pressure is a result of air sinking through the atmosphere. As the air descends, the pressure increases, compressing the air and heating it up, just like in a bike pump. Sinking air has a big warming effect: the temperature increases by 1 degree for every 100 metres the air is pushed downwards.

High-pressure systems are an intrinsic part of an atmospheric Rossby wave, and they travel along with the wave. Heatwaves occur when the high-pressure systems stop moving and affect a particular region for a considerable time. When this happens, the warming of the air by sinking alone can be further intensified by the ground heating the air – which is especially powerful if the ground was already dry. In the northwestern US and western Canada, heatwaves are compounded by the warming produced by air sinking after it crosses the Rocky Mountains.

How Rossby waves drive weather

This leaves two questions: what makes a high-pressure system, and why does it stop moving?

As we mentioned above, a high-pressure system is usually part of a specific type of wave in the atmosphere – a Rossby wave. These waves are very common, and they form when air is displaced north or south by mountains, other weather systems or large areas of rain.

A man cools off in Lynn Creek in North Vancouver during Canada's heatwave — Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/ZUMA Press

Rossby waves are the main drivers of weather outside the tropics, including the changeable weather in the southern half of Australia. Occasionally, the waves grow so large that they overturn on themselves and break. The breaking of the waves is intimately involved in making them stationary. Importantly, just as for the recent event, the seeds for the Rossby waves that trigger heatwaves are located several thousands of kilometres to the west of their location. So for northwestern America, that's the western Pacific. Australian heatwaves are typically triggered by events in the Atlantic to the west of Africa.

Another important feature of heatwaves is that they are often accompanied by high rainfall closer to the Equator. When southeast Australia experiences heatwaves, northern Australia often experiences rain. These rain events are not just side effects, but they actively enhance and prolong heatwaves.

What will climate change mean for heatwaves?

Understanding the mechanics of what causes heatwaves is very important if we want to know how they might change as the planet gets hotter.

We know increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing Earth's average surface temperature. However, while this average warming is the background for heatwaves, the extremely high temperatures are produced by the movements of the atmosphere we talked about earlier. So to know how heatwaves will change as our planet warms, we need to know how the changing climate affects the weather events that produce them. This is a much more difficult question than knowing the change in global average temperature.

How will events that seed Rossby waves change? How will the jet streams change? Will more waves get big enough to break? Will high-pressure systems stay in one place for longer? Will the associated rainfall become more intense, and how might that affect the heatwaves themselves?

Our answers to these questions are so far somewhat rudimentary. This is largely because some of the key processes involved are too detailed to be explicitly included in current large-scale climate models.

Climate models agree that global warming will change the position and strength of the jet streams. However, the models disagree about what will happen to Rossby waves.

From climate change to weather change

There is one thing we do know for sure: we need to up our game in understanding how the weather is changing as our planet warms, because weather is what has the biggest impact on humans and natural systems.

To do this, we will need to build computer models of the world's climate that explicitly include some of the fine detail of weather. (By fine detail, we mean anything about a kilometre in size.) This in turn will require investment in huge amounts of computing power for tools such as our national climate model, the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS), and the computing and modelling infrastructure projects of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) that support it.

We will also need to break down the artificial boundaries between weather and climate which exist in our research, our education and our public conversation.

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