Marram grass, or beachgrass, grows on and stabilizes coastal sand dunes on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. Grasses, whether terrestrial or submarine, tend to be undervalued but have influenced the trajectory of human history through their domestication as food staples, as well as natural ecosystems worldwide. If restored and conserved appropriately, grasslands can benefit climate change mitigation efforts. See the special section beginning on page 590.
Lebanon is now going through the worst economic crisis in its history. 80 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. In one year, food prices have jumped 500 per cent due to galloping inflation. Lebanon was long regarded as the Switzerland of the Middle East.
But those days are gone. A series of crises have plunged the nation into the abyss. And its people are suffering. For Riad, who runs a grocery store in the suburbs of Beirut, business has become hellish. Every morning, calculator in hand, he changes the labels of his products according to the day’s exchange rate. An operation made all the more complex by the fact that his store is plunged into darkness, due to a lack of electricity.
The Lebanese government no longer provides more than two hours of electricity per day in the country. It is impossible for the population to heat, light or use their refrigerators. Taking advantage of the situation, a network of private generators has emerged. The Lebanese pound, the local currency, has lost 90 per cent of its value.
The only people unaffected are those paid in dollars. The greenback, which can be exchanged for a small fortune against the local currency, has created a new privileged social class in the country. A salesman in an international pharmaceutical company, Joseph lives like a king in a ruined Lebanon. Thanks to his new purchasing power, he repaid his mortgage in two months, instead of… twenty years!
In a bankrupt state, plagued by corruption, six out of ten Lebanese now dream of leaving the country. In Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, Mohammed and his son set out for Germany by sea. Even though the trip was cut short off the Turkish coast, the young father is still ready to take all possible risks to reach the European Eldorado.
“Tier Drops,” by Lisa Owens Viani. Regulations and apportioning that were set up 100 years ago are under pressure as the Colorado River shrinks. As climate change accelerates and record-breaking drought worsens, cities, tribes, and industries must prepare for a future with less water. (Online August 10)
It’s past time to get real about the Southwest’s hardest-working river.
About 40 million people rely on the Colorado River as it flows from Wyoming to Mexico. But overuse and climate change have contributed to its reservoirs drying up at such a rapid rate that the probability of disastrous disruptions to the deliveries of water and hydroelectric power across the Southwest have become increasingly likely. Now the seven states that depend on the river must negotiate major cuts in water use by mid-August or have them imposed by the federal government.
Those cuts are merely the beginning as the region struggles to adapt to an increasingly arid West. The rules for operating the river’s shrinking reservoirs expire in 2026, and those seven states must forge a new agreement on water use for farmers, businesses and cities.
An individual’s social network and community — their ‘social capital’ — has been thought to influence outcomes ranging from earnings to health. But measuring social capital is challenging. In two papers in this week’s issue, Raj Chetty and his colleagues use data on 21 billion friendships from Facebook to construct a Social Capital Atlas containing measures of social capital for each ZIP code, high school and college in the United States. The researchers measure three types of social capital: connectedness between different types of people, social cohesion and civic engagement. They find that children who grow up in communities where people of low and high socio-economic status interact more have substantially greater chances of rising out of poverty. The team then examines what might limit social interactions across class lines, finding a roughly equal contribution from lack of exposure — because children in different socio-economic groups go to different schools, for example — and friending bias, the tendency for people to befriend people similar to them.