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North American heat: climate change right in front of you 

One of the difficult things about climate change is that it’s easy to think of it as an event that’ll arrive soon, which will need to be dealt with, and then we can return to normal. It’s human nature to want to return to normal, and there are a lot of political and commercial interests that reinforce thinking like that. But it can obscure the truth that climate change is an era rather than an event, that we’ve been living in it for years now, and that there’s no longer a “normal before” that we can wind back to because too much change is already in motion.

But every so often you see it happening visibly. In the West of the US and Canada this week, temperatures are hitting all time highs and communities are scrambling to cope. There are fears that the wildfire season will be terrible. The temperatures are alarming, but the scary thing is that this is likely to be the coolest decade in future. When you put more heat into a system, everything changes more rapidly and less predictably. There’s more disorder.

An early, leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says that “current levels of adaptation will be inadequate to respond to future climate risks” and “systemic and cascading risks”, which are coy ways of saying that things are going to be bad. (This report isn’t actually due to be finalised and published until early 2022, which is a shame because it’s after COP26 in Glasgow.)

Climate change will play out differently depending on geography: in the UK it generally means rainfall and flooding - this week parts of Somerset saw a month’s rain in 3 hours.

This means some obvious and fairly mundane things at one end of the scale: companies should make their supply chains greener, carbon neutral or negative, more robust and resilient, more local, more sustainable. At the other end of the scale, society needs to be readier for abrupt change, and it needs to act. There is nothing more ethical than survival. 

Retail: tsunami of closures?

Retailers face “tsunami of closures” over unpaid rent - “Two-thirds of big retailers expect to face legal action from their landlords when a suspension of aggressive debt collection ends in June”.

Shopping bills set to rise this autumn - “consumers face rising bills in the autumn as costs climb and Brexit red tape increases”.

Tesco says the Covid sales boom is over. UK sales (excluding fuel) up 9% and online sales up 81% versus 2 years ago, so it looks like online sales are settling at a new, higher level.

Morrisons rejects £5.5bn offer from US private equity firm. Compared to other supermarkets, it owns more stores and food manufacturing capability (and these aren’t necessarily fully valued on the books, which may be of interest to a buyer). It also has a fair bit of IT to overhaul. You wonder if Amazon is having a think about it.

Amazon opens 5th “Just Walk Out” Go store in London.

Up and coming Direct To Consumer brands.

Ocado loses U.K. injunction bid against bitter rival AutoStore - Brittain Ladd always offers entertaining rantanalysis.


Networks of smarter packets

An interesting idea about packet-switched drone delivery networks. Packet switching allows a communications network to “break a message into parts, and also self-healing routing where packets can adaptively avoid network congestion”. Perhaps the first step would be making the existing 3rd party logistics networks (DPD, Hermes, Yodel etc) more “packetised” so they’re more interoperable. Or maybe they work like that already - the newsletter’s uncertainty about that is characteristic of enabling infrastructure layers: how they work is a bit invisible, they just... work. You can imagine a future in which a package knows that it needs to get from A to B, and it does deals with courier companies to make that happen.

Related: here’s a 10-minute video tour of an Amazon UK fulfilment centre. Look how many times products, containers and packaging things get scanned by humans and machines that want to know “what is this thing?” and “what’s next for it?”. The packages know what they are (they have a barcode) but not where they are in Amazon’s random stowed warehouses. And later when they’re packaged and labelled they’ll know where they need to go, but that’s about it. The smart bit is mostly in the pick and pack systems, humans and machines. But they can’t “see” very well, so they need to use special cameras the whole time (screens, scanners) to identify tasks and packages. You wonder what the fulfilment centres will look like when the packages know what and where they are, and can say “yep, I volunteer to fulfil that job” when an order comes in.


Digital government

Open source in government: creating the conditions for success.

Vietnam: Every citizen to have QR Code by 2025 in an effort to develop digital Government.

State in a smartphone: Inside Ukraine’s effort to replace bureaucracy with an app.


Football clubs as engines of renewal

“We want to show that “levelling up” means recognising the myth of meritocracy and levelling the playing field, rather than assuming that opportunities trickle down. This can only work if it starts from within the community, with a shared identity that a 143-year-old football club is uniquely positioned to play a huge part in shaping.” - We bought Grimsby Town FC to help renew the place we love.


Various things

Google is halving its app store fees to 15% for developers who integrate with their video/TV and wearable platforms. Which suggests that Google sees video and smartwatches as the next big thing. Or that its existing businesses in those areas need some extra support?

WD My Book Live users wake up to find their data deleted. The explanation is that their service got hacked, but this feels like the kind of problem that happens when you try to turn your product into a service. You know it's bad when the manufac - sorry, service provider - suggests your best course of action is to unplug your backup hard drive.

Facebook is starting a newsletter platform.

The oldest company in each country - in the UK Royal Mint and Bank of Scotland, although opinions on “oldest” vary.


Thank you for reading

Thank you friends, readers and contributors. Please continue to send ideas, questions, corrections, improvements, etc to @rod on Twitter. If you have enjoyed reading, please tell a friend! If you want to find out more about Co-op Digital, follow us @CoopDigital on Twitter and read the Co-op Digital Blog. Previous newsletters.

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