Water Wars, North Carolina Starts to Crack, and Etsy Isn’t a Joke


The Water Wars
 Water is the resource we most count on, and, in the First World at least, it’s been the one we most take for granted. When it’s scarce, food runs short, political unrest becomes the norm, and the world’s diplomats send classified cables that make for scary reading. The Center for Investigative Reporting has reviewed many of those cables, and perhaps the most intriguing insight in this summary report is how civil wars in Syria, much of it now controlled by ISIL, and Yemen, where 14 of 16 aquifers have run dry, ladder to water shortages in 2008–9. And water shortages in one place can create more elsewhere. The report spells out how Saudi Arabia’s lack of water led to the draining of Arizona’s water tables — the Saudis bought land in Arizona to farm wheat for the kingdom — exporting “virtual water” through farming atop one of the US’s driest climates. It’s a new front in the inequality wars. As one classified 2009 cable reads, “the rich always have a creative way of getting water, which not only is unavailable to the poor but also cuts into unreplenishable resources.”

Is the Wall Starting to Crack in North Carolina?
 North Carolina governor Pat McCrory, who signed anti-LGBT measure HB2 into law, has issued an executive order “clarifying” some of the elements of the law. The order doesn’t change any major element of the bill and, as an executive branch official, McCrory has only limited power here anyway. But it does seem that the outrage against the law is starting to garner activity, if not yet meaningful action. The ongoing business response may be what makes that inevitable: Deutsche Bank announced yesterday that it is holding off on bringing 250 new jobs to the state, joining PayPal and others. Meanwhile, one adult-oriented company has found an unexpected but perhaps effective way to focus its North Carolina customers’ attention on the problem, hitting people’s entertainment needs in a far more primal way than even a Springsteen concert cancellation.

Etsy Is Not a Joke
 It’s easy to be ironic while profiling Etsy, which if it were a television show most definitely would be Portlandia. But while this New York feature is worth the read for the detail, it’s clear the writer had already made up his mind about the company: Etsy doesn’t conform to traditional stereotypes of business, it doesn’t act like a typical unicorn, and therefore, it’s probably doomed to be irrelevant. We disagree.

Knight Plants the Seeds
 Design firms, maker spaces, and individuals with a passion from around the U.S. shared more than 4,500 ideas to bring neighbors together and spur economic activity as part of the Knight Cities Challenge. On Tuesday, Knight announced 37 winners of the competition (we’ve covered the finalists previously). Knight will spread $5 million among programs like one in Columbus, Georgia, that trains people to become small-scale urban developers on underutilized land. In Boulder, Knight will fund training to transform diseased trees into furniture and art. Detroit is the city with the highest number of winners, among them a shipping crate marketplace for entrepreneurs. Viable projects from the winners will then be offered to investors. The winning ideas come from community groups, cities, redevelopment agencies, foundations, and business associations; this is what collaboration looks like.

When Getting a Billion People To Sign On To Your Service Every Day Isn’t Enough
 The world is bigger than tech. And tech leaders are wading into policy, as the lines between product launches, TED Talks, and political speeches continue to blur.

Detroit Medley
 We’re here in Detroit with many of you today for the NewCo Festival. At last night’s VIP kickoff, we hosted a fascinating fireside chat with TechTown Detroit’s Paul Riser during which he talked about the special considerations for fostering Detroit’s entrepreneurial community — and what’s the same for NewCos everywhere. And, for those of you who are enjoying our new series of Video Spotlights, we presented some live-action Spotlights from companies that are opening up to festival-goers today. Meanwhile, while we’re here, one of Detroit’s bellwether car companies is all over Silicon Valley.

Photo: Oregon Department of Agriculture

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