Better Markets

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The scoop: Biking connects billions of people from around the world. It can be a great tool to reduce personal carbon footprints too. But not all bike companies focus on ethics and sustainability.

The manufacturing problem: Since the 2000s, most bikes are manufactured in Asia, where workers’ rights are less transparent. It is difficult to track worker conditions in these parts of the world.

Steel requires energy: Metal itself can be sustainable, but certain forms of steel require lots of energy to extrapolate. It is important to look for sustainably-sourced steel.

Read below for a full list of ethical bike manufacturers.

Dig deeper → 4 min

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The scoop: NFTs went mainstream. Now more people are starting to realize Ethereum has a sustainable energy problem. There is a solution.

Not all blockchains are the same: Bitcoin uses about 1% of the world’s electricity. Ethereum is the second largest coin and runs on a similar model as Bitcoin. Neither are energy efficient.

Still, blockchain technology as a whole operates under many different consensus algorithms. Bitcoin and Ethereum’s proof-of-work model is just one version.

Sustainable proposals: Convert mining facilities to use more renewable forms of energy. That’s a good place to start.

More effectively, big coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum can operate using a proof-of-stake model to be more sustainable. This would allow fewer nodes (computers) to validate transactions on the public ledger and increase the energy efficiency of their blockchains.

Finally, emerging coins should look to more efficient consensus algos like Ripple as a model for sustainable crypto. That would propel the industry forward.

Bottom line: Progress is happening. There are existing solutions. The blockchain industry just needs a little nudge to do better.

Dig deeper → 3 min

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  4. Tech
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The scoop: Uphold, a digital trading platform, released a digital carbon credit coin called UPCO2.

On a mission to democratize carbon: Think of corporations and governments as the gatekeepers of carbon credit markets. Using blockchain technology, UPCO2 hopes to ease the barrier to entry for ordinary people. UPCO2 can also help standardize carbon prices on a global level using voluntary carbon credits (VCUs).

Should you buy one? UPCO2 coins help reforestation efforts in areas like the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Indonesia. Carbon prices (like any commodity) are pretty volatile, but I predict durable demand for this asset. Everyday people want more ways to take climate action. This is one.

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  1. Better Markets
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
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The scoop: Overpopulation is a myth because Jack Ma and Elon Musk said so.

Some talking points for your New Years rant:

  1. Overcrowded cities ≠ overcrowded planet. The entire world population can fit in the state of Texas with the same population density as Manhattan.
  2. Lopsided populations will inevitably occur in modern advanced nations. That means young workers will be unable to support aging populations, causing population declines.
  3. 'Malthusian traps' refer to eventual food shortages as a population grows. Either Malthus was right and some of us go hungry naturally (as in we don't need to artificially halt population growth), or he's wrong and the population keeps growing sustainably through innovation.

Bottom line: The Earth has plenty to offer for 9 billion mouths. We just need to spread out more.

Dig deeper → 2 min

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  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking
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Big picture: Every influential organization and leader around the world (besides Trump) is telling us to Build Back Better. What are we trying to fix?

A little context: History shows how major global resets can fail poorer nations. Bretton Woods perpetuated inequality behind the veil of humanitarian activism. If the status quo changes the status quo, did the status quo really change?

Some talking points:

  1. Governments caused the COVID debacle, not the people. Yet, the people face the consequences.
  2. Governments (and international organizations), perpetrators of the broken system, want to fix it.
  3. Suggestions from big orgs are abstract and ambiguous, rather than tangible like term limits.

Bottom line: As we watch world leaders discuss recovery options, let’s prioritize tangible change rather than utopian fantasies.

Dig deeper → 2 min

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The scoop: the IMF published a statement calling the pandemic recovery plan a ‘new Bretton Woods moment’.

What is Bretton Woods? Bretton Woods was an international conference that took place in 1944 with the goal of preventing another World War by establishing a new international monetary framework.

The legacy of Bretton Woods: Although the agreement no longer serves a purpose in the modern world, its effects are still being felt; there is more negotiation between nations both economically and politically and the global market is more interconnected than ever before.

Lessons for coronavirus, globalization:

1. Make politics people-oriented

Leaders and policy-makers of international organizations are motivated by self-interest and private sector pressure. Likewise, they propose policies that favor private interest and hurt the average worker.

2. Make international finance fair and equal

Loan conditionalities from the IMF are often attached without serious consideration for the interest of the borrowing nation or its citizens. Recommendations by the World Bank and IMF don't always resolve economic hardships for developing nations.

Bottom line: If this is a new Bretton Woods moment, perhaps we can learn a thing or two about our convoluted past of international do-good. Rather than just hit the reset button, we should consider how poverty alleviation requires more than a paycheck.

Dig deeper → 8 min

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The scoop: Last week, Ripple’s CEO made an ambitious commitment to go carbon net-zero by 2030 in collaboration with conservation Rocky Mountain Institute and REBA, and pressured other crypto companies to do the same.

Talking points:

  1. Unlike Bitcoin, Ripple (XRP) was built with a finite supply (100 billion) at its inception, making it easier to control mining activities and mitigate its environmental footprint.
  2. Compared to Bitcoin’s 4.51 billion lightbulb hours needed to mine it, the XRP Ledger uses just 79,000.
  3. A lot needs to happen to make do on that claim, but Ripple is the first crypto looking to go carbon net-zero, and they have a plan (see below).

Bottom line: I don’t know if Ripple, Ethereum, and Bitcoin will one day replace Euros, Dollars and Yuan. With that said, why not bet a dollar on the possibility that they one day could?

Dig deeper → 3 min.

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
  3. Energy
  4. Energy and Environment
  5. Profit

The International Energy Agency (IEA) rolled out its annual World Energy Outlook report with a bombshell. Solar power is expected to replace coal as the #1 source of energy production by 2025.

The backstory: In the last few years, governments and corporations flooded billions of dollars into the renewable energy space. Wind & solar energy have become cheaper than gas & oil as a result. It is now easier to manufacture and install solar panels than ever before.

By the numbers:

  • The IEA thinks 80% of new power generation will come from renewables.
  • We need to boost up investment in the energy grid by at least $460 billion in 2030 to hit our goals.
  • The global economy will return to pre-covid levels in 2021, but 7% smaller over long term compared to 2019 projections.

Between the lines: China alone will account for 40% of global growth for electricity demand over the next ten years. Southeast Asia and Africa will see major demand increases for energy over the next few decades.

Meanwhile, IEA's report found that global CO2 emissions will not return to 2019 levels until 2027, due to energy mix with renewables and coal's big drop in 2020.

Zoom out: We need a structural transformation of the global energy sector to hit on sdg's (those UN-sanctioned green goals we keep talking about), and that requires a lot of clean capital stock.

The report makes it clear that low growth of emissions ≠ a climate change solution. It's a means to an end.

Bottom line: Solar will replace coal as king sometime this decade.

Dig deeper → <2 min

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  4. Thinking

The scoop: The world uses a lot of materials to produce a lot of waste.

By the numbers:

  1. Asia accounts for 60% of mineral extraction and 67% of freshwater use.
  2. The world disperses 28.7 billion tons of fossil fuels and biomass energy.
  3. Europe, Asia and N. America account for 78% of fossil fuel output.

Key takeaways:

  1. It takes <resources to produce >materials.
  2. A lot of freshwater, an increasingly scarce resource, turns into wastewater every year.
  3. Most raw materials and natural resources end up in the land, air or water.

Bottom line: The current production process outweighs Earth's production capacity. To solve that, we need to maximize the life-cycle of products, treat natural resources carefully, and minimize waste.

Dig deeper → <1 min.

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