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Our planet
Environment, natural resources, geopolitics

11 June 2021

Flight of fancy
Boris Johnson’s decision to take a private jet 250 miles from London to Cornwall for a summit with climate change very firmly on the agenda raised some eyebrows. That’s just the start. Quartz has published a good piece about the financial commitments of G7 nations ($) to solving climate change, using analysis by the Overseas Development Institute. Yes, G7 nations have recently made a lot of noise about the new steps they are taking to tackle carbon pollution, but some of them are not yet fronting up the cash. When compared to the 2009 Copenhagen climate commitment for rich countries to raise $100 billion annually by 2020, all bar France and Germany fall short. One for the agenda this weekend?

10 june 2021

A feature, and a bug
A rather remarkable story: infecting mosquitoes with a bacteria that thrives inside them can stop the mosquitos being able to pass on Dengue fever. In effect, the helpful bacteria – Wolbachia, if you want to send them a thank-you note – compete for resources inside the mosquito. And the treatment cuts incidence of the disease by 77 per cent. For a disease that causes symptoms in 100 million people a year, kills thousands, causes agony and has been spreading around the world, this is a big deal.

9 june 2021

Lesotho power
A German solar company, Frazer Solar, began seizing Lesotho’s assets abroad in order to enforce €50 million in damages after the tiny mountain kingdom in the south of Africa reneged on its contract to build a power station. It appears that the deal collapsed because Lesotho’s finance minister at the time favoured a rival renewable project backed by Chinese investors. The country has a history of bribery and corruption. In part to address those types of problems, international asset seizures have become part of contract enforcement against African governments. They may provide investors with some comfort but, before they provide an incentive for reform in government, they first give countries a big economic blow. Lesotho, one of the poorest countries in the region, will now have to overcome it.

8 june 2021

What a ripper
Big news for six year-olds everywhere: a new dinosaur has been discovered in Australia, and it’s massive. The “Australotitan cooperensis” was 6.5m tall, 30m long and lived 92 million years ago. The discovery provoked a local museum leader to say that “Queensland is quickly cementing itself as the palaeo-capital of the nation”. Anyone interested in Australian politics will confirm that’s always been the case.

7 june 2021

Kim control
North Korea recently introduced a sweeping law that seeks to block out any kind of foreign influence. Under the law, the regime can harshly punish anyone caught with foreign films, clothing, hairstyles or using slang – what the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, called “dangerous poisons“. Those caught with media from South Korea, the US or Japan face the death penalty. Those caught simply watching foreign media face prison camp for 15 years. The regime has decreed similar laws in the past but, as millions of people are thought to be going hungry in North Korea, analysts think that Kim, who himself admitted that his people were facing “the worst-ever situation which we have to overcome” earlier this year, now wants to consolidate his control even further.