The Human Journey
The Axemaker's Gift

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The New York Times, How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food
September 16, 2017. As growth slows in wealthy countries, Western food companies are aggressively expanding in developing nations, contributing to obesity and health problems.
National Geographic, Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why.
August 2017. As long as population densities were low and the earth could safely absorb human wastes, it caused few problems. But as more people gathered in towns and cities, we gradually learned the link between hygiene and health and, in particular, the importance of avoiding contact with feces.
The Guardian, Breaking the code: how women in Nigeria are changing the face of tech
August 14, 2017. The Nigerian tech scene is booming. Within this growth, women are emerging as influential forces, and changing the face of technology in Africa.
The New York Times, If Americans Love Moms, Why Do We Let Them Die?
July 29, 2017. A woman in Texas is about 10 times as likely to die from pregnancy as one in Spain or Sweden.
Devex, The world's first solar-powered refugee camp
June 20, 2017. At the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan IKEA invested 8.75 million euros ($9.75 million) into creating an onsite solar plant. The plant now saves United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees more than 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million) per year in energy costs and reduces carbon dioxide emissions from the camp by 2,370 tons per year.
The Economist, Why the war on poverty is about to get harder
May 3, 2017. The steep decline in poverty is unlikely to continue. Extreme poverty will probably not fall as quickly in the next few years as it has done for the past few decades. Why?
The Economist, A Class Apart
April/May 2017. Architects from Denmark to Japan are rethinking school design to foster new ways of learning.
The Economist, An innovative cure for broken water pumps in Africa
February 28, 2017. Villagers in Africa are beset with problems related to the maintenance of water wells. eWATER, a British startup, aims to solve many of these problems.
The New York Times, The Future of Not Working
February 23, 2017. As automation reduces the need for human labor, some Silicon Valley executives think a universal income will be the answer — and the beta test is happening in Kenya.
The Economist, A cardboard centrifuge separates blood cells from plasma
January 14, 2017. Now Manu Prakash and his colleagues at Stanford University have, with a few nifty modifications, turned a children’s whirligig toy into a cheap, lightweight medical centrifuge.
The Guardian, India plans nearly 60% of electricity capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2027
December 22, 2016. The Indian government has forecast that it will exceed the renewable energy targets set in Paris last year by nearly half and three years ahead of schedule.
The New Yorker, Greenland is Melting
October 24, 2016. The shrinking of the country’s ice sheet is triggering feedback loops that accelerate the global crisis. The floodgates may already be open.
The Economist, Better and better
September 3, 2016. Human life has improved in many ways, both recently, according to a Swedish economic historian, and in the 19th century.
RSN, The Anthropocene Epoch: Scientists Declare Dawn of Human-Influenced Age
August 16, 2016. Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared, according to an official expert group who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town on Monday.
The Economist, Misplaced charity: Aid is best spent in poor, well-governed countries. That isn’t where it goes
June 11, 2016. Foreign aid can work wonders. It set South Korea and Taiwan on the path to riches, helped extinguish smallpox in the 1970s and has almost eliminated polio. Unfortunately, as Malawi shows, it is liable to be snaffled by crooks. Aid can also burden weak bureaucracies, distort markets, prop up dictators and help prolong civil wars. Taxpayers in rich countries dislike their cash being spent on Mercedes-Benzes. So donors strive to send the right sort of aid to the places where it will do the most good. How are they doing?
The New York Times Magazine, What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?
January 28, 2016. An unexpected bond between damaged birds and traumatized veterans could reveal surprising insights into animal intelligence and the role of empathy.
The New York Times, Is Humanity Getting Better?
February 15, 2016. The 20th century marked an inflection point — the beginning of humanity’s transition from its ancient crises of ignorance to its modern crises of invention. Our science is now so penetrating, our systems are so robust, that we are mostly endangered by our own creations.
The New York Times, What Data Can Do to Fight Poverty
January 29, 2016. If social scientists and policy makers have learned anything about how to help the world’s poorest people, it’s not to trust our intuitions or anecdotal evidence about what kinds of antipoverty programs are effective. Rigorous randomized evaluations of policies, however, can show us what works and what doesn’t.
The Economist, Leaving it behind
December 12, 2015. BRAC, a large aid organization, came up with a scheme to help the ultra-poor. It gives them a small stipend for food, followed by an asset such as a cow or a few goats, which they are expected to manage. Field workers visit weekly for the next two years to teach recipients how to care for the animals. The aim is to help women “graduate” from extreme poverty to the normal kind. BRAC’s graduation programme has proved to be highly effective.
Wired, Solar or Coal? The Energy India Picks May Decide Earth’s Fate
November 2015. “India is the biggest piece of the puzzle,” says John Coequyt, Sierra Club’s director of federal and international climate campaigns. “Is there a way for that rapid growth to happen quickly and pull people out of poverty using a lot more renewable energy than has ever been used before? Or will they build more of what they have—huge coal plants with almost no pollution controls?” The latter course, he says, would be “a disaster for everyone.”
The New Yorker, In 5 Minutes, He Lets the Blind See
November 7, 2015. Dr. Sanduk Ruit, a Nepali ophthalmologist, may be the world champion in the war on blindness. Some 39 million people worldwide are blind — about half because of cataracts — and another 246 million have impaired vision, according to the World Health Organization.
New York Times, What Angus Deaton, the Latest Nobel Winner, Says About Foreign Aid
October 12, 2015. Mr. Deaton recieved the Nobel Memorial prize for his work on “analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare.” What has made his research particularly noteworthy is that he used data from household surveys, rather than aggregate national economic statistics, to show that people often do not behave as economic theory would suggest.
New York Times, In West Africa, a Mission to Save Minds
October 11, 2015. Global health officials have long focused on deadly infectious diseases like malaria and H.I.V. But last month, the United Nations made its first commitment to “promote mental health and well-being,” pledging to slash rates of premature death from mental disorders by a third by 2030.
BBC, World Bank: Extreme poverty 'to fall below 10%'
October 5, 2015. The bank said it was using a new income figure of $1.90 per day to define extreme poverty, up from $1.25. It forecasts that the proportion of the world's population in this category will fall from 12.8% in 2012 to 9.6%.
The New Yorker, The Hypocrisy of ‘Helping’ the Poor
October 2, 2015. Every so often, you hear grotesquely wealthy American chief executives announce in sanctimonious tones the intention to use their accumulated hundreds of millions, or billions, “to lift people out of poverty.” Sometimes they are referring to Africans, but sometimes they are referring to Americans. And here’s the funny thing about that: In most cases, they have made their fortunes by impoverishing whole American communities, having outsourced their manufacturing to China or India, Vietnam or Mexico.
BBC, UN Global Goals: Five lives the world wants to change
September 25, 2015. Five children tell the BBC about their hopes and dreams for the future - as the United Nations unveils an ambitious new set of Global Goals. The 17 goals build on the progress made by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of this year. They aim to eliminate poverty and hunger and help fight climate change over the next 15 years.
Aeon, What do they want?
September 10, 2015. Just like words on a page or paint on a canvas, data illustrate the world. The numbers we use to measure economic output, or school attendance, or births and deaths, are ways of telling stories about what is happening in people’s lives. They paint a picture of what societies look like. And the picture can be surprising.
The Economist, The 169 commandments
March 28, 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are supposed to set out how to improve the lives of the poor in emerging countries, and how to steer money and government policy towards areas where they can do the most good. But the efforts of the SDG drafting committees are so sprawling and misconceived that the entire enterprise is being set up to fail.
New York Times, Did Earth’s ‘Anthropocene’ Age of Man Begin With the Globalization of Disease in 1610?
March 11, 2015. Scientists are in a bit of a tussle over what date marks the dawn of Earth’s “age of us” — a.k.a. the Anthropocene. Candidates for the starting point for the age of humans range from the dawn of agriculture to the age of plastics and fallout and the “Great Acceleration” of greenhouse gas growth and other environmental impacts. Now a new candidate is in the mix.
The New Yorker, Home Free?
September 22, 2014. In 2005, Utah set out to fix a problem that’s often thought of as unfixable: chronic homelessness.