Kat Bohmbach

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EL TIEMPO

Green Colonialism: The New Face Of Environmental Hypocrisy

If you hated greenwashing, you'll be appalled by green colonialism.

PARIS — From renewable energy solutions to recycling innovations, everyone is busy touting their so-called "green" credentials. But as we've seen with the term "greenwashing," the vocabulary of the environmental movement can be turned around quite sharply on any would-be hypocrites. Among those accused lately of exploiting the banner of ecology (while actually causing it harm) comes another term: "green colonialism."

Around the world, echoing political and territorial colonialism of the past, there is a growing number of examples of countries and companies crossing borders to make the same mistakes that got us into this perilous situation in the first place: mismanagement of land, destruction of ecosystems in the name of "progress," and a general disrespect for the quality of life for indigenous communities.

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EL PAIS

Is Facebook A Threat To Democracy, Or Just A Platform?

The questions continue to pile up around the U.S. social media giant's role in undermining public discourse and the proper functioning of society.

Facebook announced this week it would be banning all pages, groups, and Instagram accounts linked to the conspiracy theory movement "QAnon." After months of criticism for delayed content moderation and removal, QAnon was labeled as a "militarized social movement," which is prohibited under its current rules, according to a Facebook spokesperson. It's just the latest attempt for the social media giant to walk the fine line of curbing the spread of violence and misinformation across the platform, while being careful not to slow down the constant flow of interactions that drives its billion-dollar business.

While it's a step in the right direction, Facebook has allowed to many of these fringe movement pages and groups to multiply, with many expanding exponentially during the pandemic. Indeed, like COVID-19 itself, controlling the ill effects of the social media is an always morphing global plague. And most agree that Facebook, estimated to have been used by 28% of the global population, still hasn't had a true reckoning with the ways in which it is becoming a tool to undermine democratic systems — both by opponents and governments themselves.

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Geopolitics

No Children By Choice, Where Feminism Meets Ecology

There's plenty of talk these days about forgoing children for the sake of the environment. But are people really opting out of the reproduction route?

PARIS — Reducing the amount of meat we consume, avoiding air travel… These are just some of the individual measures people can take to help reduce their carbon footprint and fight climate change. But of all the behavior changes people can make, one of the most effective, according to researchers at Lund University in Sweden and the University of British Columbia in Canada, is to have fewer children.

To put it into perspective, a baby produces roughly 58 tons of CO2 per year. In contrast, the combination of a vegetarian only diet (-0.8 tons), stopping air travel (-1.6 tons) and cutting car use (-2.4 tons) saves approximately 4.8 tons per year. And while not having children — or only having one — to save the planet may seem a bit of a drastic recourse, it's an idea that seems to resonate with a growing portion of environmentally conscious young people.

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BBC

COVID Recovery? End-Of-Summer Checkup On Travel Industry

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, no sector in the economy has been hit harder than the travel industry. Following rolling global lockdowns through last spring, and resulting border closures and travel bans, both tourism and business travel was at a virtual standstill, with an estimated 98% drop in the number of international tourists when compared with the previous year, according to the World Tourism Organization.


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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

A Door-To-Door Global Tour Of Delivery In COVID-19 Times

As the novel coronavirus races its way around the world, we are also witnessing a rush of changes in the delivery industry. No longer just an option, delivery has all but become a necessity during the pandemic, and the sector as a whole has proven itself extremely adaptive. From creative innovations to corporations venturing into new milieus, here is a global tour of how delivery is changing:

Organic growth: While countless businesses great and small are suffering in the pandemic period, others seem naturally suited for these turbulent times:

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Sources

Long Haul: Europe's Aviation Sector Needs More Than A Rescue

The pandemic has thrown the sector into a tailspin. But if European states are willing to work together, there's an real opportunity to revamp it  — and help the planet in the process.

-OpEd-

No other industry is suffering from the economic crisis quite like that of aviation, where a wide range of activities are at a standstill, from aircraft manufacturing and maintenance, to parts production, airlines and airports and technical and passenger services. The only exception has been air cargo, which conveys the seriousness of the situation.

Governments across Europe have already provided almost 15 billion euros in relief and even larger sums are under negotiation. Experts are debating what the best solutions would be; between providing unconditional support, imposing strict "green" measures or letting the industry collapse altogether.

Many experts anticipate that demand for flights will stabilize, but at a level lower below the pre-pandemic norm, and are convinced that the current cost levels, especially labor costs, will no longer be feasible. To cover all the externalities, the price of air travel will have to rise considerably, and that, in turn, will reduce demand even further. In other words, there is no returning to the prior status quo as we move into this uncharted territory.

Stakes for the EU and its member states are growing and strategic autonomy is being threatened. This huge economic sector could be thrown into disarray and, with it, infrastructure essential for the EU-wide service economy will likely be damaged.

Europe doesn't have a choice whether or not to save its aviation industry. It must. The question then is how to do it, and in a way that could protect workers while transforming the industry into a sustainable source of economic growth.

The fact that right now, member states are going it alone, negotiating bailout conditions individually, prevents the Union from working toward a coordinated restructuring of the entire industry. In fact, it's difficult to even tell where the "industry" begins and ends.

Europe doesn't have a choice whether or not to save its aviation industry. It must.

In Brussels and beyond, aviation is the perfect prototype for creating an "ecosystem," a key concept in hte EU "industrial strategy" that Commissioner Thierry Breton presented on March 10. Ecosystems embrace a holistic (albeit sectoral) approach that aims to transcend and improve upon the notion of industrial value chains.

Saving the aviation industry by reinventing it as an ecosystem would require focusing attention on groups of companies of all sizes and strongly interdependent institutions. But if the Commission wants to take its approach even further, by tackling the entire "mobility" ecosystem rather than focus only on aviation, the industry could be reduced even further to make room for other more sustainable modes of transport.

While the latter approach is more in line with the Green Deal for Europe, it's arguably less in line with short-term economic priorities. The EU's "new industrial strategy" prioritizes energy efficiency and sustainability. Hopefully, in the distant future, it will be possible to produce sustainable transport fuels from green hydrogen. In the meantime, our carbon footprint can only be reduced by flying less, with fuller flights and more efficient engines.

A perfect example of this mobility ecosystem approach is already being demonstrated in France, where the government promised 7 billion euros in state loan guarantees to Air France but only the condition that the company drastically reduce its domestic air traffic on routes that are served by alternatives such as high-speed trains. The cut back could amount to a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2024.

The EU can therefore choose to participate in the restructuring of the aviation ecosystem by promoting investment in new technologies while helping to mitigate the social consequences. Interestingly enough, the EU's aviation ecosystem could have competitive structural advantages, some of which are not easily anticipated.

An Air France Airbus A320 at Krakow Airport in Poland — Photo: Filip Radwanski/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Most of the world's air traffic is oriented from east to west, and the major EU hubs are well positioned geographically to exploit the flow of traffic — as a link between the eastern and midwestern United States and the Middle East, Africa and Asia. This is all the result of a collection of the most sophisticated air treaties in the world, negotiated by the EU to guarantee market access.

Europe's advantages are further amplified by the obvious superiority of Airbus, in terms of technical prowess and reputation over its historic rival Boeing. Europe is also fortunate to have a dedicated, highly professional and truly independent regulator in the form of the European Aviation Safety Agency. Finally, to compare the major carriers, U.S. airlines have never posed a serious threat (perhaps the average age of their fleet explains why) and with Brexit, the position of British Airways is also weakened.

Europe's advantages are amplified by the obvious superiority of Airbus, in terms of technical prowess and reputation.

Restructuring this ecosystem will take a mix of public policies, and the rules of the game will have to be reformed. Having at least two or three airline companies per line is no longer sustainable, and the inevitable consolidation will need new instruments in order to avoid market abuse.

Along the same vein, the rules on state aid need an update and measures need to be taken to counter unfair competition from subsidized non-European airlines. This way, the new industrial strategy creates an opening for a proactive use of European trade defense mechanisms that could reestablish a level playing field.

The recently announced, 750-billion euro "Next Generation EU" stimulus plan could take the restructuring of the ecosystems even further. The investments could potentially result in economic and social benefits, as well as boosting European integration which, lest we forget, has roots in the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

The crisis facing the aviation ecosystem is a test bed, it seems, for Thierry Breton's industrial strategy. Only time will tell whether the Commission will be able to take a forward-looking approach while still being able to support its existing actors. This balancing act will certainly face some turbulence, but if done right, we'll have bluer skies ahead.

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Sources

Animal Instinct: A Pragmatic Manifesto For Synthetic Meat

Synthetic meat is on the rise— and this shouldn't just be big news for vegans. Philosophers and activists agree that closing slaughterhouses is vital for our animals, our planet and ourselves.

-Analysis-

PARIS — By 2040, the majority of the meat we will consume won't come from animal flesh. According to a recent report by the firm by the firm AT Kearney, it will be cultivated in a laboratory or made from plant compounds.

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Geopolitics

Deng To Xi, The Troubling 'Sovietization' Of China

Beijing seems to be abandoning the very strategy that allowed it to not only survive the collapse of the USSR, but also prosper.

-Analysis-

In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and on the eve, 30 years ago, of the collapse of the USSR, Chinese leaders emphasized the fundamental differences between the choices of Moscow and those of Beijing.

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Coronavirus

New Zealand And Seven Other Nations Beating COVID-19 Odds

It was the kind of definitive piece of information that has been rare since the COVID-19 pandemic began: On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that coronavirus transmission has been officially eliminated in the country, since its appearance there in late February. According to the Director-General of Health, it has been at least 17 days since the last new case of the country was reported and the last person being treated for the disease has recovered.


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Coronavirus

Let The Games (Re)Begin? Sports In Post-Lockdown World

Sports are an important part of the fabric of local communities as well as a multi-billion dollar global industry, and their absence in recent months has been conspicuous.

The coronavirus pandemic shut down both professional and amateur athletes around the world, forcing viewers to watch replays of old championship matches and limiting weekend warriors to stationary bikes and living room jumping jacks.

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Geopolitics

After The Lockdown: Dreams Of A Simpler Life

For a number of French people, the two-month confinement period offered time to reflect and reassess priorities.

PARIS — The sales agreement was signed, and the plans — from the location of the hearth in the living room right down to the color of the tiles that would lead to the massive entrance —​ were nearly complete. "The house was going to look like something out of a design magazine," says 50-year-old Philippe, the manager of an automobile company in Toulouse.

The staggering price of the building — 1.2 million euros — wasn't really an issue. Philippe and his wife, a commercial director in the ready-to-wear industry who is "always between two planes," were used to the ins and outs of the real estate market. They deal regularly with capital gains. "Two months ago, we were sure it all made sense," says Isabelle.

Nicolas, 43, a multinational sales person with more than two decades of experience, also had a habit of performing, day in and day out, at a high level. His focus was to "sell more, produce more, get the maximum bonus," and until recently, there was no reason to think he wouldn't keep doing that. ​

Valérie, an executive in training, operated at her own grueling pace — and with no end in the sight. She woke up every day at 6:30 a.m., ran to catch a commuter train at 7:45 a.m., and returned home exhausted at 7 p.m., barely able to enjoy time with her husband and 14-year-old daughter.

But then, starting on March 17 — when France found itself in a nation-wide lockdown — everything ground to a halt. Valérie, for one, had trouble sleeping the first few nights. It was too quiet, she recalls. The commuter trains no longer rumbled by. She couldn't hear cars merging onto the RN3.

By being "withdrawn" from the world, people suddenly had the space to question their place in it.

Soon, however, the 40-something discovered the pleasure of breakfast without looking at her watch, exercising regularly and, for the first time seeing "the arrival of spring on the hills' overlooking her building in Seine-Saint-Denis. "It took the forced confinement for us to realize how trapped we were in our daily suburban subway-work-sleep routine," she says. "It's like we were already confined."

For Valérie, Nicolas and so many other French people caught up in their high-pressure, daily routines, the "pause" imposed by confinement acted as a powerful revealer. Nicolas says that by being "withdrawn" from the world, people suddenly had the space to question their place in it.

"Confinement is a breaking point. Things become more glaring. It's a test of truth. We can no longer lie to ourselves," says the philosopher Claire Marin, author of Rupture(s). "This situation can reveal the superficial or vain side of what we lived before. We discover our addictions and our helplessness. That's what makes you want to change your life."

For Laura, a young worker who has just finished her lengthy studies, confinement and working from home have made her question "the amount of work" she does and "the repetition of tasks." It all seems absurd now, she acknowledges. Laura realizes that she should have addressed these issues during her studies, and now dreams of "dropping everything for a more simple life."

Views of the Eiffel Tower are still visible outside the city limits. — Photo: Isaiah Bekkers/Unsplash

Phillippe and Isabelle had their moment of realization when their bank informed them that the terms of repayment on their loan would pass from 25 to 20 years due to the economic crisis. "We felt deep inside that we were doing something stupid. Did we want to continue this frantic and chimerical quest for bigger and more beautiful? Or was it time to listen to our gut for once?"

At the end of June, the family will move into a rental apartment, half the size of the house they were about to buy, but without going into deep debt with the bank. Their goal now? "A future without credit."

The vulnerability of the capitalist system in which Nicolas operated for so many years is just now bubbling to the surface. "With confinement, I had time to reflect, time that I'd normally have devoted to commercial purposes," he says.

Partial unemployment is giving him the opportunity to read further on collapsology. And it's all leading to a big decision: Nicolas has had enough of "force-feeding shareholders' and now plans to trade his corporate job selling jet skis for one with a smaller company, with more virtuous objectives. "Why not sell bicycles?" he says.

Confinement is a breaking point. Things become more glaring. It's a test of truth.

For Valérie and her husband —​ a commuter couple that has only ever known apartment life —​ the weeks of peace and quiet rekindled a long buried dream: to move to the coast. They want a home in Normandy, with a view of the ocean. "We have the impression of advancing —​ finally," she says.

"We're giving ourselves two years to make our transition, keeping a cool head and putting emphasis on finding work," Valérie adds.

Claire Marin calls this impulse to imagine another life — at a time when our real existence is so constrained — a "psychic need." It's understandable, in other words, but also a bit deceptive, she warns. "Confinement can be a distorting mirror. It distorts our representations."

Conversely, some projects that were already started have been halted abruptly because of the pandemic. Aline and her husband were due to drive around the world with their two daughters but decided, at the last minute, to call off the trip. "We didn't want to be stranded 5,000 kilometers from family." Not only that, but they decided to move in the complete opposite direction: Rather than be nomads, the couple from Ornais is looking looking to "root" themselves by purchasing a home in the countryside.

"The changes brought about by confinement will not necessarily be radical," says Rémy Oudghiri, sociologist and author. For many people, they'll be "simple readjustments," he adds.

For Philippe and Isabelle, readjusting means not only backing out of their million-euro house project, but honoring the "debt" they feel toward their nine-year-old daughter. "We realized that we didn't know her so well," her father admits. Isabelle agrees. "Half the time I'm away," she says. Now, both parents are determined to watch her grow.

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EL PAIS

Face Masks: Conflicting Science, Laws, Attitudes Around The World

After Italy, Spain was one of the first countries in Europe to feel the full, crushing weight of the coronavirus pandemic, and is currently approaching 30,000 deaths. Now, as governments around the continent lift their lockdown restrictions, Spain has also become a reference point for its stringent policy on the use of face masks: starting Thursday, they are mandatory for nearly everyone, and just about everywhere.

The new policy excludes children under the age of six, but applies to everyone else, Spanish daily El País reports. That means that approximately 45 million Spaniards are now required to cover their mouths and noses whenever they're in public spaces — indoors or outdoors — where maintaining a distance of two meters isn't possible.

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