Of course you can’t say that and keep your job. Sure, Donald Trump’s recorded comments boasting about sexual predation in crude, callous language are politically toxic. They’re also kryptonite to employment. It’s “hard to believe he could get past the human resources department of a Fortune 500 company,” writes Andrew Ross Sorkin (The New York Times). This issue is no footnote — it’s at the heart of the bitter rancor that marks this election season. Trump’s appeal to his supporters is in part a backlash against socially and legally enforced limits on bad behavior, inadequately and inaccurately lumped together under the label of “political correctness.” It seems that a lot of people still dream of being Lord of Trump Castle and hitting on the powerless wenches. (Sad!) Many Trump fans yearn to turn back the clock to an era when mad men could stalk and abuse their female colleagues, while making tons more money than them, without ever facing consequences. But clocks move in only one direction — away from the indefensible practices of our elders. Trumpism will be swallowed by a tide of younger workers for whom sexual harassment and assault are as plainly over-the-line as other crimes. It’s already happening. This election’s noisy eruptions are the desperate final spasms of a dying belief system.
Science tastes better with Coke. According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 96 national health organizations — names like the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health — took funding from Coke and Pepsi between 2011 and 2015 (Time). The soda makers, increasingly under attack for promoting obesity, are struggling to avoid the fate of the tobacco industry by plowing a chunk of their profits toward good relations with the medical establishment. They’re also lobbying hard to resist regulations and taxes on their product. This isn’t a simple story of quid-pro-quo corruption; the health organizations maintain they’re independent and unswayed by the source of their funds. Perhaps they’re turning bad money to a good cause. But when issues are as hotly contested as this one, researchers can’t just assert their integrity; their credibility demands a clean audit trail.
Davos by the bay. The World Economic Forum is known for its annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, that brings business and political leaders to a mountainside to speechify and hobnob. Now the WEF wants to bring tech companies and policymakers together in San Francisco’s Presidio to a “Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (Techcrunch). Here, 60 employees will study trends like drones, autonomous vehicles, and automation. “We’re bringing the rest of the world to Silicon Valley,” says the center’s leader, Murat Sönmez. Since the ’90s Davos has been filled with tech executives and luminaries, so this is not exactly a matchup of strangers. And there’s nothing wrong with bringing policymakers to the center of the tech universe. But maybe the WEF’s experts might learn more hanging out in less familiar places like Detroit, St. Louis, or Minneapolis.
Maybe there isn’t too much short-term thinking. So argues economist Tyler Cowen (Bloomberg). His message is not just that the short-term approach isn’t as bad as we think, but also that there’s more long-term thinking out there than we realize. Some of his points: It’s easier to plan for the short term; who knows where we’ll be in 20 years? A lot of ill-considered deals are based on assumptions of long-term synergies that never pan out. Revenue-poor tech startups get high share prices because of long-term bets that those companies will thrive. Is Cowen right? He admits that we probably won’t know for a long time.
Should nature have its own rights? If we’re going to survive the climate crisis, we need to find better ways of making nature count in our economic system. Here’s a novel one: give nature its own rights. “Corporations are people too” is a venerable and controversial legal doctrine in the U.S. Now New Zealand is trying out a version of the concept, applied to a wilderness area instead of a company (The Conversation). New Zealand’s Te Urewera, an 821-square-mile forest that’s sacred to a Maori tribe, now has “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.” The U.S. hasn’t yet taken such a step, though there are plenty of potential candidates. (The Zuni in New Mexico already believe Mount Taylor is a living being.) Right now Native Americans are protesting an oil pipeline in North Dakota that they believe threatens their water supply — and we’re going to see many more such conflicts. But the whole landscape might be different if the river itself could sue.
Featured in NewCo Shift: Green, Kind and Zero Waste: the Rise of the Ethical Supermarket. A look inside stores that are banishing plastic, fighting food waste, and feeding the hungry.
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