The Rise of the South

We are looking at a future with fewer poor people, a growing middle class, and more children getting an education, all of which is due to the continued rise of “the south” – this according to the latest Human Development Report published by UNDP.

As you can see from the two charts below, there are already more internet users in the south than the north, and by 2030 we are looking at a projected global middle class of some 4.9 billion people – more than 2.5 times as many as we see today. That’s pretty amazing!

Global Internet Users

Global Internet Users

Growing Middle Class

Global Growth of Middle Class


Steven Pinker on why life is no longer nasty, brutish and short


The Peace Dividend

A great Ted Talk here by Steven Pinker on the ongoing decline in violence. Not only does he present the hard data to show that the decline of violence is a fact, but he also gives several plausible explanations as to why the decline is happening.

Two points in particular that stand out for me. First, as technology and economic efficiency make life longer and more pleasant, we are clearly putting a higher value on life in general. Second, Peter Singer’s thesis that our “circle of empathy” has evolved well beyond encompassing only family and friends (in part because technology is making it ever easier to “trade places” with other people’s feelings and emotions). Powerful stuff and well worth your time. Hat tip to Oliver Sycamore for this one.

Are fossil fuels greening the planet?


More provocative, disruptive and thought-provoking stuff from Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist. Are fossil fuels actually helping to green the planet? Are species really going extinct on the scale we presume? Are bio-fuels causing more harm than good? Is intensive farming the answer to better conservation of natural habitats?

Whether you find yourself enraged or enlightened, this video is well worth 20 mins of your time.

In the land of black gold

250px-Tintin_cover_-_Land_of_Black_GoldIs peak oil a myth?

Here’s an interesting piece from Fast Company on the idea of “peak oil”. Far from our supplies of black gold running out, we are in fact finding limitless supplies of the stuff. But can the climate absorb it? At current levels, perhaps not, but who knows what amazing innovation lies just around the corner to help us mitigate the effects? As the author says, “argue for climate change, by all means. But, be wary of using a cause for scarcity to do so”.

As market value is usually a good indicator of supply levels, I’ve taken the liberty of copying in a little historical crude oil price data below.

There’s also a good chart on The Economist that compares Hubbert’s initial 1950 apocalyptic predictions of oil running out by the 1970’s with what’s actually happening.

historic-oil-prices chart

© Copyright 2010

Chart taken from

Welcome to the world’s fastest growing continent

More wealth. More democracy. More Peace. Say hello to a new Africa.


This Special Report for The Economist by Oliver August throws Africa into a whole new light. Prepare to have some of those pre-conceptions you might be holding thoroughly dashed. Optimism is in the ascendant, life expectancy is rising, and freedom is spreading. Up with this kind of thing!