The Amazonian rainforest wildfire was the hot topic in August as vast media coverage featured the “lungs of the earth” on fire at a nearly 80 percent increase from 2018. The reason behind this catastrophe was no accident—rather, the fire was set by illegal loggers and ranchers in order to clear more land for beef cattle due to the overwhelming global demand for beef. In 2018, Brazil exported 1.64 million tons of beef, bringing in $6.57 billion in revenue.
And the global demand for beef is rising, not falling. “A joint report predicted global production would increase 16 percent between 2017 and 2027 to meet demand.” While beef and meat consumption generally falling in developed countries is due to an increased understanding of the health benefits of a more plant-based diet, it is actually rising in developing countries, like Brazil and China. The situation parallels the rise of demand for tobacco products in developing nations as demand for tobacco dropped sharply in developed nations.
Not only does the beef industry affect the local Brazilian environment and ecology, it also contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions. A new study published in the journal Science revealed that meat and dairy production is responsible for 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. It suggests that eating a plant-based diet could be the “single biggest way” we could reduce our environmental impact on earth, bigger than reducing air travel and recycling trash. The study “is one of the most comprehensive analyses to date into the detrimental effects farming can have on the environment and included data on nearly 40,000 farms in 119 countries.”
As an added personal benefit, a plant-based diet is also the single best way to reduce your chance of the leading causes of death—stroke, heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
“The Amazon is burning because the world eats so much meat,” CNN, www.cnn.com, Aug. 23, 2019. “Veganism is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce our environmental impact on planet, study finds,” The Independent, www.independent.co.uk, June 1, 2018.
A Christian hymn became the anthem for the series of protests that have rocked Hong Kong for months. The echoes of this praise song made of five simple words, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” has rippled through the streets, settlements, and public places. The protests are a cry against the bill that would allow the extradition of suspects to mainland China from the semi-autonomous city. The amendment aims at ensuring the city does not become a “haven for international fugitives.”
The Hallelujah song was adopted when the demonstrations were labeled “organized riots” by the Hong Kong government, which used batons, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas to disperse the crowds. This gave them protection since religious gatherings are legal under law and communicated to the police that the demonstration was peaceful.
The hymn is evidence that though only one in every nine Hong Kongers is Christian, Christians have had a great influence on the protests. Their unrelenting struggle against what would bring them under the mercies of China’s unjust judicial system is partly because of the Chinese government’s attempts to control and Sinicize the mainland Chinese Christian church in the recent past, especially the persecution of unregistered “house” churches. “Hong Kong Protesters ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,’” The Stream, stream.org, June 20, 2019.
Japan sustained a three-strike disaster on October 12, 2019, when a tornado, an earthquake, and the worst typhoon since 1958 made landfall, all within a 10-hour window.
Typhoon warnings had been raised for several days due to a westward-moving storm from the Marshall Islands that formed in early October. As the storm moved, it gained momentum, and by October 7 it became Typhoon Hagibis, headed for the east coast of Japan at category 5 strength. Storm surge and flooding began even before Hagibis made landfall, prompting many Japanese to evacuate early.
At around 9:30 am on October 12, forward winds from Hagibis triggered a deadly tornado ahead of its landfall in the Chiba prefecture, killing one and devastating the city of Inchara. The Chiba prefecture is located on the southeastern peninsula and forms a protective bay into Tokyo Harbor. At 6:22 pm, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck just offshore of Chiba, further rattling residents. At 7 pm, Hagibis made landfall in the Chiba, somewhat lessened in strength as a category 2 typhoon, yet still sustaining winds at 112 mph with gusts to nearly 150 mph.
Hagibis was downgraded to a tropical storm as it swept across Japan, but this merely slowed the progress of the storm and dumped more torrential rains, 37 inches in 24 hours in some regions. Coupled with the storm surges, the stalled storm caused massive flooding. Bullet trains were underwater, as were numerous residential areas.
Around 110,000 rescue workers were enlisted to assist Hagibis victims. But the unprecedented rains and the landslides they caused complicated rescue efforts.
In terms of flooding and wind speeds, Typhoon Hagibis is considered the worst typhoon to hit Japan since 1958. As of this writing, 60 people are confirmed dead, 20 are confirmed missing, and many scores are wounded. “Typhoon Hagibis Update,” The Evening Standard, www.standard.co.uk, Oct. 14, 2019.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Is the U.S. On Its Way to Becoming a Cashless Society?” explored the current attitudes and practices of Americans towards digital payments and cash.
According to statistics obtained from the FDIC, cash payments represented only 30 percent of all financial transactions in 2017. The rise of digital payments include the use of debit and credit cards, as well as other forms of cashless payments such as PayPal and smartphone payment apps.
Americans are carrying less cash with them and are more willing to use digital forms of payment for small purchases, such as coffee. However, business models that marginalize customers who prefer cash have prompted states to push back with laws that ban cashless businesses.
While the use of cash isn’t likely to ever totally disappear, the digital payment model will continue to grow. Businesses will need to continue to accommodate both. “Is the U.S. On Its Way to Becoming a Cashless Society?” Harvard Business Review, hbr.org, July 23, 2019.