Why you should care
Because dependence on fossil fuels — as well as gaining independence from them — can shift the balance of power.
Angola’s got oil and heaps of other natural resources. And while it’s no model democracy, it’s signaling that it’s willing to play ball with the United States and Europe on some key shared interests. The country’s capital, Luanda, has once again outranked Tokyo, London and even Moscow as the world’s most expensive city in 2013. It’s just one of many ways that Angola’s immense oil wealth has transformed this vast Central African country of 20 million, rocketing it from war-torn backwater to one of Africa’s foremost economies in less than a decade — and sparking a rush of energy executives to the capital city, driving up costs, creating snarls of traffic and generally putting a strain on the crumbling infrastructure.
China has been feeding itself from Latin America’s breadbasket and running off its oil fields for years now. But, surprise: Suddenly, the Asian giant is switching things up, turning instead to its own backyard. Commodities (in this case, iron ore, copper and soybeans) account for 92 percent of Latin America’s exports to its eastern trading partner. Which means the more China turns away from Latin America, the more the world is seeing shock waves on the southern continent — especially in Venezuela and Argentina, where soaring inflation and a shortage of dollars are already strangling people’s budgets. China’s repositioning is also testing Latin America’s economic long game. But with the spigot tightening, both of those nations’ economies seem to be reaching breaking points.
If farmers don’t figure out how to produce more with less, the Earth will face a major food crisis by 2050. Saltwater farming could be one answer. What if someone told you that in the next 10 to 20 years we could solve the planet’s most vexing environmental challenges — burgeoning water, food and energy shortages, and climate change — all in one fell swoop? Among the many arguments for these salt-tolerant plants, many exist in nature: They’ve been found to absorb and store carbon dioxide at a rate on par with or even higher than your average tree. And certain halophytes produce oils that have proven particularly promising for making fuel, which could potentially replace the fossil fuels that generate the carbon that’s heating the planet.