What We’re Reading is a roundup of current news and commentary on the challenges and opportunities of aligning business decisions with the long-term health of society. This month, July 2023, is likely to have been the hottest on record. It’s also a month of encouraging economic news in the U.S. Does it also hold signs that policies can forge a more hopeful future from the climate crisis?
Economic Data Bolster Soft Landing Hopes (Ben Casselman and Jeanna Smialek, The New York Times) “Falling inflation. Moderating wage growth. Resilient consumer spending. This is what a soft landing would look like.” Could policymakers really have achieved that long-sought-after goal?
Why Did Economic Forecasters Get Their Recession Call Wrong? (John Cassidy, The New Yorker) Of course, this is hardly the last word on the early 2020s economy. We’re also reading Why the Drivers of Lower Inflation Matter (Nick Timiraos and Tom Fairless, The Wall Street Journal) and Sticking the Soft Landing (Joseph Politano, Apricitas Economics). The latter article includes this particularly resonant quote: “To stick the soft landing, lots of growth indicators will not need to return to pre-pandemic ‘normal’—and in many ways, we should hope they do not.”
‘It Feels Like It’s Strike Summer’: US Unions Flex Muscles Across Industries (Steven Greenhouse, The Guardian) This piece makes many bold claims about why there is so much labor activity this summer—ranging from the tight labor market to the influence of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Readers of What We’re Reading know that the trend of rising worker voice has been building for years. For more on the obstacles workers and organizers face, see: The Consultants Behind ‘Union Busting’ (Dave Jamieson, HuffPost Impact).
The WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes Are Hollywood’s Reckoning With AI (Justin Charity, The Ringer) “Notably, the unions haven’t exactly taken a doomer stance on artificial intelligence. The WGA dedicated a working group to develop the union’s stance on AI and came to a relatively nuanced consensus in favor of preserving the right to use it as a tool, but not a replacement, for writers.”
BlackRock’s Shifts in Governance Leave ESG Foes Hungry for More (Clara Hudson, Bloomberg Law) A topic much discussed at this month’s Aspen ESG Summit was whether a tactical retreat from the acronym “ESG” might be useful. Would such a shift promote progress on environmental, social and governance considerations during the anti-ESG backlash? What does this article suggest, and how much do labels matter?
Extreme Heat Is Hitting Companies Where It Hurts (Justin Worland, TIME Magazine) Whether or not the acronym “ESG” continues to be used, it does seem that companies will have to factor environmental considerations into future decision-making, if for no other reason than that the economic damage of extreme heat will demand it.
Thirsty Data Centers Are Making Hot Summers Even Scarier (Clara Hernanz Lizarraga and Olivia Solon, Bloomberg Businessweek) Impressive reporting that frames potential tradeoffs between high-paying tech jobs and water consumption using real quantitative data. “We tend to think of the internet as immaterial, but websites exist in the real world as rows of servers that never turn off, filling data centers that need to be cooled to prevent technical failures.”
One Year Old, US Climate Law Is Already Turbocharging Clean Energy Technology (Isabella O’Malley and Michael Phillis, AP News) Your What We’re Reading editorial team couldn’t leave you without one last reason for hope in this scary, scorching summer. Take your pick of the encouraging quotes in this piece, like this from one scholar at Princeton: “We’ve been talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America for my entire life. We’re finally doing it, right? That’s pretty exciting.”
For more on our work to align business with the long-term good of society, sign up for our publications and visit our website. (Please note, the purpose of this newsletter is to highlight what Aspen BSP staff are reading, and is not intended as advertisement or endorsement of content or viewpoints.)
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