Happy Spring! I hope your rekindled allergies aren't nearly as ruthless as my mom's.
This Week, Summarized:
The SEC's new climate rule, summarized
J&J's COVID shot, redeemed?
How to protect food workers in the climate age
PTSD and ecstasy
Russia's lack of cyber warfare, hypothesized
Reminder: You can read this issue on the website, or you can 🎧 listen to it on the podcast (shortly).
🕛 Reading Time: 9 minutes
The SEC's new climate rule
The news: The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally revealed plans to require all publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and the climate risks their businesses face.
Shit's about to get real (well, after it's challenged in court for forever).
TLDR: Net-zero plans are bullshit greenwashing and they're about to end.
To date, measurement of emissions and exposures has basically been, let's say, less than standardized, and reporting of those sums hasn't even been required.
With a real set of standards and requirements, and listed in SEC filings (probably modeled on the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures or TCFD), companies can actually be held liable for their emissions/contributions to this mess, and for their subsequent exposures to real-world impacts like drought, flooding, fires, and more.
Understand it: A recent CDP report calculated the risks of 200+ big companies at about $ trillion, sooooo. Here we go.
You're going to hear a lot about "stranded assets" in the months to come, meanwhile, the most impactful remaining question is whether big companies will be required to list "scope 3" emissions (pollution from you using their products).
Keep in mind where we are today: Half of meat and dairy companies don't even bother counting.
Will it hold up in court? With this court? Potentially not. But it's a start!
The good news? The potential value of climate-related market opportunities (EV's, electrification, power, loans, etc) is way, way bigger than any costs of transitioning to a clean economy.
Let's talk potatoes: We, the people, have never paid the true costs of the energy we produced. As such, massive wealth has been created on the backs of a devastated climate and ecosystem, and so pervasive "carbon inequality" transcends national borders.
Corporate power players and policymakers can have an outsized impact on systemic business and policy changes to create a cleaner world -- for everyone.
⚡️Action Step: The Stop the Money Pipeline campaign will spend April and May (shareholder season) demanding the world's largest banks stop providing financial services to any corporation expanding its fossil fuel operations. Join the chorus here.
Vaccine equity update: Just 14.4%of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, and35.8% of people worldwide have received zero doses.
J&J's COVID vaccine, on the rebound
The news: The popular but maligned Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine seems to be increasingly faring just as well as the heralded mRNA shots.
The jury's not in, per se, but the data are growing and the accumulated real-world results of this more old school vaccine may not only vindicate the shot and folks who worked on it, but re-open opportunities to vaccinate the world and much quicker (reminder: it's just a single shot and doesn't require crazy cold storage).
"As of Jan. 22, the latest data available, unvaccinated people were 3.2 times as likely to become infected as those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine; they were 2.8 times as likely to become infected as those who received two doses of the Moderna vaccine and 2.4 times as likely as those with two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech.
Overall, then, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine appeared to be somewhat more protective against infection than the two alternatives."
Understand it: One problem with "trust the science" is a misconception that science is a result, not a process.
We've been doing this thing live, all 7.9 billion of us, and while coronaviruses aren't new, this particular one is, and so are the vaccines we created to prevent transmission, sickness, and death.
The case isn't closed, and the results aren't crystal clear, so we need more data, but you know what? We always want and need more data, and the situation on the ground is profoundly more complex than it was a year ago.
Instead of 7.9 billion people with no immunity and no vaccines, billions of (but not all) people have received a variety of different vaccines, and sometimes a combination of them, in a variety of sequential doses, many but not all of us have been exposed to a growing variety of variants, killing some, making many more sick, and leaving others mostly fine, meanwhile antibodies are spiked and then diminish in each of us on literally billions of different timelines.
And it's important to always take a step back, too, and understand that in the grand scheme of things, we're just in the beginning of the COVID era:
We barely understand what it may do to bodies long-term, and how our society will effectively deal with millions of people suffering from Long COVID, from diminished mental health, and more.
⚡️Action Step: Official case counts mean very little now. You're going to hear a lot more about "wastewater surveillance." It's super rad. Get educated here.
FOOD & WATER
Farmworkers are essential workers
The news: Food and farm workers are embracing unions at a time of great change.
Why? A 2016 report found workers all the way down the food chain have:
The lowest average wage compared to basically all other industries
Are more likely to be food insecure
More likely to rely on public assistance programs
And then, well, it continued to get hotter, and then there was this pandemic where those workers were still all of those things but also forced to continue working in field, factories, and kitchens.
Understand it: The path to union organizing and worker protections isn't an easy one. Many food workers are undocumented and to say the industry is consolidated into Thanos-like corporations would be an understatement.
And unions didn't do enough to protect meatpacking workers during the early pandemic.
One answer? Consolidating union power across the food system, from farms to factories (not unlike the recent Hollywood IATSE proposed crew strike that united 150k "below the line" but essential workers to demand vastly more sane and safer work conditions).
As Civil Eats reports, "at the federal level, farmworkers are still excluded from protections in the National Labor Relations Act that prevent employers from firing a worker for joining or supporting a union."
Temporary migrant worker visas have tripled in recent years, and with water disappearing from so many farms in California, and heat and floods threatening all the rest, protecting the workers toiling in our breadbaskets is only going to become more essential.
⚡️Action Step: Support the awesome Food Chain Workers Alliance efforts to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food
HEALTH & BIO
Relief from PTSD is ecstasy
The news: People suffering from PTSD -- which may be a hell of a lot of folks in coming years -- may soon be offered a new combo meal: traditional talk therapy plus ecstasy.
"Last year, a team led by University of California, San Francisco researcher Jennifer Mitchell published the first results from their Phase III trial of 90 patients with severe PTSD.
Compared to placebo, MDMA-assisted therapy was highly effective and well tolerated, they found, even among patients with other relevant health conditions, such as depression and a history of substance use disorder.
Specifically, two months after the last therapy session, about two-thirds of patients who took MDMA no longer fit the criteria for active PTSD."
Why does it help? Because it's an empathogen, Mitchell said this week. "It causes the release of oxytocin in the brain, which creates feelings of trust and closeness that can really help in a therapeutic setting."
There's still a ways to go, and Mitchell and team are trying in earnest to replicate their results -- especially in light of how politically fraught MDMA's history is, and with so many past studies having failed the replication test.
⚡️Action Step: This is not medical advice and I am very (very) clearly not a doctor. There are at least 24 studies recruiting participants for MDMA/PTSD clinical trials. If that's you or someone you love, talk to your/their actual doctor, and if it makes sense, you can check the trials out here.
Where's Putin's cyber hackers?
The news: One open question in Putin's illegal and devastating war on Ukraine is: Where's all the cyber warfare?
As so many other parts of Putin's strategy come up short, he has resorted to more desperate, brutal tactics, including bombing and shooting civilians and children, and taking over Chernobyl.
Understand it: Years after successive cyber attacks in Crimea and Ukraine (and the United States), Russia's vaunted cyber abilities remain relatively silent. They attack the legendary nuclear power plant by armed force, not from hundreds of miles away like in 2017.
That doesn't mean the status quo will remain. As sanctions expand, questions about exit ramps percolate, and worries of nuclear retaliation grow, the odds that Russia -- backed into at least an economic corner of their own making -- lashes out at everyone involved.
A key tenant of President Biden's strategy has been to declassify intelligence data nearly on the fly, revealing Putin's plans before he can execute them.
And after a briefing this week, there are increasing concerns Russia is considering striking coalition and/or US critical infrastructure (like our ancient grid, pipelines, or financial institutions), which I probably don't have to tell you are not super-duper prepared (see the charges filed just today).
But preparing for and responding to these threats are fundamental pieces of Biden's overall plan to improve America's cybersecurity, the upkeep of which has been mostly voluntary, to-date.
A significant, pervading obstacle: Companies seemingly can't justify the costs of cyber defense, despite the far larger costs if they're hit.
If that sounds like our climate and pandemic preparedness models, well, then you've been paying attention.
⚡️Action Step: Protect your business, for the rest of us. Find the SEC's proposed cybersecurity riles for investment advisers and funds here, and for public companies here.