Human Impact

Apocalypse When?

Despite the Doomsday Clock hand remaining at two minutes to midnight for 2019, the imminent threats to humanity and the planet continue as world security enters a period of ‘new abnormal’. Most of the risks by likelihood and impact in the 2019 Global Risk Perception Survey are environmental, but weapons of mass destruction remain a risk in a world where fact is indistinguishable from fiction.

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Brexit’s Off

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Was Banksy’s wall premature?

“[Referendums are] a device of dictators and demagogues” – Margaret Thatcher, quoting Clement Attlee.

The story behind the wall on which Banksy painted the Brexit-inspired mural in Dover is almost as farcical as the bungled politics that got Britain to where it is today. In May 2016, our article imagined a world where the ‘Leavers’ won the Brexit referendum to point out what a truly terrible job Britain’s politicians were doing in leading a debate. Plus ça change?

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© Niki Natarajan

Economics of Happiness

“The greatest wealth is health” – Virgil

Two thousand years ago, Virgil made a very good point. Today, wellness—the quality or state of being healthy—is a significant creator of wealth. Funded by the stressed-out city-living executive and the youth-seeking ‘Silver Tsunami’, the wellness economy is now converging with the global health care industry, and, at a rate of 6.4%, the $4.2 trillion industry of wellness is growing faster than the global economy.

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Political Kryptonite

“Go you to France or Flanders, To any German province, Spain or Portugal, Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England: Why you must needs be strangers”.

In 1517, a group of writers including Shakespeare wrote a historical play where Sir Thomas More attempted to quell an anti-immigration riot with an impassioned defence of a compassionate refugee policy. Today, there are 68.5 million people displaced from their homes because of conflict, disaster and oppression, but immigration is political kryptonite.

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Impact of Insta Travel

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts” ― Mark Twain

Snap, crop, filter, geo-tag, share. Repeat. At more than 300 million Instagram posts, #travel is today’s postcard. It is hardly surprising therefore that millennials pick their travel destination according to ‘Instagram-ability’. But beyond the Clarendon filter, there is a darker side to those roads no longer less travelled to Insta-worthy places.

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Vive La France

© Niki Natarajan 2017

World Cup, What Next?

“The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane” – Marcus Aurelius

Allez Les Bleus! They won the world cup. Now, can Emmanuel Macron do for the country what Didier Deschamps has done for their soccer team?  If he can, he’ll be doing a favour for Europe and (possibly) for the rest of the world.

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© Niki Natarajan 2018

The American Nightmare

“The success of a civilization is measured not just in its aesthetic achievements but also, and surely more importantly, in the duration and quality of life of its citizens” ― Niall Ferguson

There is irony in Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics for American Dream “There’s treasure for the taking, for any hard-working man”, especially if you consider the rising rates of mortality and obesity among America’s blue-collar workers. The cohort that helped to build modern America is in the throes of a ‘deaths of despair’ epidemic. Has the veil of the ‘American Dream’ dropped?

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Fair or flawed?

“It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting” ― Tom Stoppard

The UK’s vote to exit the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory were not just signs of the demise of globalisation and the rise in populism; they were signals of a worsening ‘democratic recession’. In 2016, the US government got a democracy downgrade from ‘full democracy’ to ‘flawed democracy’. Today, only 4.5% of the world’s citizens live in fully functioning democracies, down from 8.9% in 2015. What are democracy’s flaws?

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To trust or to antitrust?

“To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always in the interest of the dealers” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Imagine a world without Google, Facebook and Amazon. Not easy. The world wide web turns 30 next year and more than half of the world’s population is now online. What started as an egalitarian and decentralised non-proprietary protocol is now monopolised by a handful of technology platforms. Is it time for the regulators to do their thing?

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Street Smart

“By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities” ― Socrates

Whether it is New York’s Greenwich Village or London’s Shoreditch, these neighbourhoods once home to artists and musicians are now gentrified for the Whole Foods-shopping neo-yuppie urbanite. Housing no longer affordable. But is the town planner with a dystopian Blade Runner vision a better solution? Is the future of cities a city of the future?

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