23 October 2017   Leave a comment

Global Forest Watch is reporting a dramatic increase in “tree cover” loss in the world in 2016.  Tree cover includes “trees in plantations as well as natural forests, and “tree cover loss” is the removal of tree canopy due to human or natural causes, including fire.”  Major losses occurred in Indonesia and Brazil, but the entire number of trees lost would cover all of New Zealand.   Many of the fires associated with these losses come from fires due to drought likely caused in part by droughts–el Niño was an important factor in 2016.  The statistics suggest a worrying trend of an important resource indispensable to reduce the rate of CO2 emissions.

Global Forest Watch Tree cover loss 2016


Dani Rodrik is a prominent economist–one of my favorites–who once identified what he called the global “trilemma”.  He describes the trilemma in these terms:

“I have an “impossibility theorem” for the global economy that is like that. It says that democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.”

There is increasing evidence that Rodrik’s insight was spot on.  As we have witnessed the independence movements in Catalonia and Scotland, or the rise of right-wing parties in Europe and elsewhere, or the British decision to leave the European Union, it seems as if the three values cannot be realized simultaneously.  The intriguing question is which of the values seems to be the one that will suffer the most.  Sovereignty seems to be becoming stronger–witness President Trump’s speech to the UN last September.  Global economic integration is clearly fraying, but there are states such as China and Germany who by virtue of their economic power who continue to press hard for such integration.  At this point in time, it seems as if democracy is the value suffering the fastest decline.


Most economic growth in the US occurs in highly concentrated areas, with very few new investments in what are known as “distressed” communities.  The Economic Innovation Group has broken down news jobs in the US by zip code and found that only 1 in 4 new jobs occur in those zip codes that have a large percentage of poor individuals.  The growing discrepancy poses serious challenges to the democratic foundations of the US polity.  The green areas denote “prosperous” zip codes and the dark red, “distressed” communities.

Posted October 23, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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