Rich countries failed to deal with the pandemic. They failed to prepare for or deal with ice storms & hurricanes. They can't even protect their citizens from poverty. We should stop chasing economic growth and find other aims. My latest for @ForeignPolicy…
Remember that map of the countries considered best prepared for pandemics? And how it looks next to the map of pandemic statistics?
That first map is based largely (though not entirely, see on which countries were putting money towards preparedness.
MONEY IS NOT ENOUGH. Too much money might even be counter-productive (which I've written about in the context of response here:…). In this context, believing you can buy yourself out of anything leaves you unprepared to do the work.
Yes, some rich countries have done well. But so have places like the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, one of the poorest and densest places in the world...…
As well as the ENTIRE CONTINENT of Africa (to varying degrees, but all of it better than US/UK)…
GDP is clearly not an indicative factor in dealing with a pandemic. Recent events have shown it's not particularly indicative for managing ice storms, power outages, wildfires, hurricanes, or other disasters either.
Nor does GDP indicate the countries with the lowest poverty levels. Living in a wealthy country won't save you from bigotry or state violence. WHAT IS ALL THAT MONEY GOOD FOR ANYWAY??
The international community needs to stop acting like wealth and economic growth are the ultimate goals for statehood. We need to stop imagining that rich countries are necessarily the best countries to live in. We need new indicators to aim for.
It's a little early to figure out the key indicators for pandemic success, and in any case that is hardly the sole basis for good governance. But we MUST start focusing on characteristics other than wealth and growth as we consider the countries we want to build into the future.
The failures during the pandemic have highlighted what even economists have been telling us for some time now: the current measurements for what makes a country successful are inaccurate.…
GDP or economic growth rates are not a useful proxy for good governance or good quality of life. Sometimes they are, if anything, inimical to it.
The desperate chasing after growth replicates patterns of environmental damage and increasing inequality, with the promise of wealth and ease, safety and prestige, glowing always ahead like a Hollywood-powered mirage.
It's not possible for every country to reach that phantasmagorical state of plenty. In some places there are physical barriers to trade or production; more importantly, in the current system that wealth is predicated on other places being poor.
But even if it were possible, is it desirable? Do we want more natl economies structured around extractive service industries like tourism & gambling; or on manufacturing where the competitive advantage is entirely based on the willingness to exploit people and natural resources?
Where financial, real estate, and labor structures amplify inequality and legitimize wealth year after year?
The promise has been that economic growth will trickle down, leading to better policies, better quality of life for all. But we’ve seen that such claims don’t work even in “developed” countries…
Such benefits as do exist come at a dire human and environmental cost. And apparently, they do not leave national governments enough budget or political will to protect their citizens from disasters. SO WHAT GOOD IS ALL THAT MONEY?
To be clear, I think everyone should have access to clean water, excellent education, modern health care, leisure time and disposable income. I think wealthy countries should be offering more assistance to poor countries than they currently do, and
middle-income countries should be dedicating resources to reducing poverty. But macro-economy growth is not the only way to get there - may not, in fact, get us there at all.
We need a change. Some of it starts with the metrics we use, the indicators we talk about, the goals we set for ourselves.
Instead of growth or GDP let's talk about equality, governance, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, human rights, environmental protections. We can look directly at happiness, livability, and satisfaction indexes.
True, these informal measurements don’t have the accreted academic rigor, or legitimacy, of economic indicators. But that can be built up.
We need to start aiming in the right direction.
p.s. if you liked this you can find links to my other articles, as well as novels, short stories, academic work, and more, at

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More from @m_older

6 Apr
doing some research on poverty rates and wow the data is sketchy AF
gosh for a global hegemony that's all about 👋🏼economic growth👋🏼 and 👋🏼 markets👋🏼 the State sure isn't trying very hard to see poverty with any accuracy
Read 6 tweets
5 Mar
To prepare for my talk at @BelferCenter in a few hours I'm reviewing the literature on technological disasters…
I'm reviewing them through my own article about disaster responses as human-made disasters in Disaster Research and the Second Environmental Crisis edited by Kendra, @USofDisaster, @ProfDisaster…
I adapted my main argument in that paper for @newhumanitarian here:…
Read 14 tweets
4 Mar
reminds me of the absolutely sanitized annual ritual of People's (Time's? Newsweeks? IDEK) "sexiest man alive" which is always, like, the cleanest whitest most symmetrical except for his hair man we could find and has literally nothing to do with sexiness.
and it's not ONLY visual media either! a lot of written romances lean very heavily on chiseled jaw-broad shoulders to make someone "sexy."
Read 6 tweets
4 Mar
(I have other things I should be doing but much easier to live-tweet a report I wrote 7 years ago so) let's talk about reactor 3!
procrastination is not the real reason I'm doing this (although it might be the reason I'm doing it *now*...). It's a story and people want to hear what happens next, that's one reason. I want more people to know about this, that's another. It's been ten years, and the impact
of the accident on the nuclear industry is still felt, but maybe it is starting to fade…
Read 74 tweets
3 Mar
There was so much interest in this thread tracing the Fukushima Dai-Ichi crisis as it happened with reactor 1 that I'm going to do the same for reactor 2 and maybe 3. It's a lot, so I'll be adding to it sporadically. But it's an important story to tell.
I'm drawing from this report I researched and co-wrote for the French nuclear safety institute in 2013-2015 (note there's a page or two in French but after that it is in English)…
The report is drawn largely from official Japanese reports: Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station (ICANPS); Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC); TEPCO reports; & this book by Kadota…
Read 72 tweets
1 Mar
Later today I'm giving a talk on Fukushima Dai-Ichi as part of @UniLeiden's very cool semester-long study of a crisis, with different sector-area specialists invited to talk. I'm in mainly because of this report I co-wrote years ago for @suretenucleaire…
so as I prep here are a few details about the unfolding of the crisis you may not be familiar with
The operators, and the rest of the plant, did not know right away that a tsunami had hit. How would they know? They were in windowless rooms and communications were down or jammed because of the earthquake.
Read 118 tweets

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