Issue 31: from Suez geopolitics to a COVID-19 lab leak

Suez, the black death, breakthrough tech, lab leaks and pollution mortality

Dear reader,

Welcome to this week’s issue of the Anti-Apocalyptus newsletter. Each week I send you five links about some of the most important challenges of our time such as climate change, weapons of mass destruction, emerging technologies, mass causes of death and great power wars. If you haven’t done so yet, feel free to subscribe at the button below, hit the heart button or share this email with anyone who could be interested.

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Bloomberg - The Suez Mishap Is a Foretaste of the New Cold War Stakes

Much of the world’s eyes have been focused this last week on the ship which, rather comically, got stuck in the Suez Canal. Yet beyond the memes, blockages and conflicts over key shipping lanes and nodes might become crucial elements of great power tensions in the future. This interesting article dives into what’s at stake, and which zones might provide future flashpoints.

Smithsonian Magazine - Did the Black Death Rampage Across the World a Century Earlier Than Previously Thought?

Interesting article about an academic paper released late last year by historian Monica Green about the plague. In it she traces back the origins of the black death, using both genetic and textual research, and concludes it might already have been spreading across Asia in the 13th century, instead of the 14th as commonly assumed. The disease could have transferred from marmots into rodents and then into humans. Interesting new perspective on the pandemic that killed around half of medieval Europe.

MIT Technology Review - 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2021

MIT Technology Review compiled a list of 10 key technologies to keep your eye on in 2021, and made separate articles on each one. Good overview, with some interesting trends popping up such as large natural-language models, mRNA vaccines and more accurate satellite positioning.

MIT Technology Review - Did the coronavirus leak from a lab? These scientists say we shouldn’t rule it out.

I’m a bit conflicted about this article. It profiles a number of scientists who say there are indications COVID-19 leaked from a lab, and that we shouldn’t rule out this hypothesis, even though it has been used in conspiracy theories before. It raises the, quite important, question of lab security. It has already been shown that a lot of labs have quite problematic safety standards, even when handling very dangerous diseases. Improving their safety standards is enormously important. Yet I’m doubtful that in the current US political climate, with both political parties anti-China, this theory can ever be separated from politics.

Harvard - Pollution from fossil fuel combustion deadlier than previously thought

In a recent academic paper scientists concluded that one in five global deaths can be linked to fossil fuel combustion, and the associated fine particle pollution. We of course already know pollution is a major killer, but this number is quite mind-blowing. Yet another reason why electrifying is a good idea.

I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Feel free to send me comments or remarks by responding to this email. If you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe at the link below, hit the heart button or forward this email to anyone who could be interested.