Wednesday Briefs – 28 April 2021

THIS WEEK: Where the Pandemic Endures; US 2020 Census; Space Colonization; You Are What You Risk.

Where the Pandemic Endures

Current trends in the United States, Europe and a few other places suggest that the pandemic will fade to negligible levels in the coming months. Just as numbers declined sharply in April 2020, they are now in free fall in these countries, pushed downward by warmer temperatures and widespread inoculation.

Unfortunately, the reality is different elsewhere. The global number of daily confirmed cases has been making new highs every day. And global daily deaths are currently racing up towards their January highs. New waves in Brazil and in particular India largely account for this new surge that started in late February. In the last few days, India has recorded nearly 350,000 daily confirmed cases or about 40% the global total, and nearly 2,500 daily deaths or 17% of the global total. Brazil’s daily confirmed cases are around 70,000 and its daily deaths near 2,500. (Charts from Our World in Data.)

Although both countries have cumulative pandemic totals that remain well below those of the US, it is a fair assumption that they are undercounting cases as the US did in the early months of the crisis. It is also probable that they are undercounting covid-related deaths especially in rural areas.

This situation should be a matter of great concern not only on humanitarian grounds, but also because the persistence of the virus in other parts of the world could facilitate the emergence of new variants that would come back to our own shores. With the supply of vaccines soon exceeding demand in the US, the surplus would be well directed if it was sent to the most covid-afflicted countries. Here, logistics play an important role and some countries may require the assistance of others in distributing the vaccine to their populations.

US 2020 Census

US Census results are out and they show for 2010-20 a slowdown in the pace of growth in the US population vs. the previous decade 2000-10. This was largely expected, as were the faster growth in Southern and Mountain states and the slower growth in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

The total US population grew from 309 million in 2010 to 331 million in 2020, or 7.24% or approximately at a 0.7% compounded annual growth rate. The fastest growers were Utah +18.5%, Idaho +17.5% and Texas +16.1%. Florida added 14.7% and Arizona 12%. Every state in New England and the Mid-Atlantic region grew at a slower pace than the national average except for Massachusetts which was in line at 7.4%. New York’s population grew at 4.3%. Three states West Virginia, Mississippi and Illinois had fewer people in 2020 than in 2010. The upper Midwest grew faster than the lower. Colorado was solid at +15% but California, the most populous state, grew 6.2%, below the national average.

Looking at gross numbers, Texas was the big winner adding 4 million people, accounting on its own for 18% of the entire US population gain over the decade. Florida added 2.8 million and California 2.3 million.

These figures are only slightly below the medium-variant trend that we highlighted in America Without Immigration: 2015-50. It is already known that 2020 saw a deceleration in new births due to the pandemic but it is possible that post-pandemic years 2022-23 will see a reverting mini baby boom.

This NPR page examines the political implications of the new Census figures. New York, California and a few other states each lost one congressional seat, while Florida and some others gained one, and Texas gained two.

Space Colonization

How likely is it if you are a baby boomer that you will one day travel into space. Quite likely if you are wealthy and born in the later years of the baby boom. How likely if you are a Gen X-er or millennial? Progressively more likely for those with more recent birth dates and deeper pockets, as space travel becomes safer and less expensive.

How likely if you are a millennial that you will one day spend a month or longer in orbit or on another planet? It is perhaps unimaginable today but it is possible, given that a young millennial would still be alive in the latter decades of this century.

An important milestone of this ambition was passed this week when a crew of astronauts were launched on a previously used SpaceX rocket for the first time. The cost of space launches will be rapidly declining in coming years and decades.

Source: NASA

As to likely destinations, the Moon and Mars are the obvious candidates. The table above is from this NASA page. Mars has an average temperature of minus 81 degrees, beyond frigid but not as insurmountable as Venus’s 900 degrees. Mars’s astmosphere is nearly saturated with carbon dioxide and is too thin to hold much heat.

Venus is too hot and and Mercury too close to the Sun. The outer planets from Jupiter outward are made not of solid rock but mainly of gases (though some their many moons are made of rock) and are for other centuries to ponder.

You Are What You Risk

Readers of this page will recall our podcast last year with author Michele Wucker about The Pandemic as a ‘Gray Rhino’ Event. Michele is back with a new book You Are What You Risk, and we spoke to her about it in this new podcast:

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