🗺️ Picks of the Week — May 14

Chinese Population Growth Hits New Low, Climate Change Cup of Tea, Shark Magnetic Fields, Zimbabwe Elephant Culling, Junta Suspends Academic Staff Myanmar, Russia Mass School Shooting

Heyo folks, happy end of the week! We have a pretty light slate for you today as we ease into the weekend…

Today we’ll dissect China’s census results that show its slowest population growth rate in decades; a new report detailing how climate change will ruin the quantity and quality of the world’s tea; a new study confirming sharks’ use of magnetic fields to migrate around the world; Zimbabwe’s potential elephant culling; Myanmar’s teacher and student strike; and Russia’s mass school shooting.

And check out Saksha’s excellent explainer from yesterday of what’s happening in Israel and Palestine. Well worth the read. 👊

Okay, jobs and data below, let's do this!

Job Corner ✍️

A whopping 50 deadlines approaching in the next week at the likes of The Guardian, the AP, the BBC, and Global Investigative Journalism Network. Preview below…👇

If you’re a paying member, your jobs sheet link will remain the same. Interested in a free week’s trial? Reply to this email and we’ll hook you up!

Data Corner 🧮

A few datasets referenced in today’s edition…

  1. China Population: Yearly population data, from the World Bank

  2. Global Fertility: Annual fertility rates by country, also from the World Bank

  3. Myanmar Killings: Deaths and arrests data since the coup, from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

  4. Tea: Global tea production, from killgreen.io and FAOSTAT

China's Population Growth Stalls

This week we start in China, whose population is growing at its slowest rate in decades, according to the latest census. Last year 12 million babies were born, a 33 percent fall from the year before. Despite the communist government’s decision to abandon its 35-year-old one-child policy in 2015, the country’s population grew by an annual rate of just half a percent between 2010 and 2020, a small decrease from the decade before.

Possible reasons for the decline include rising living costs, low childcare funding, a fall in marriage and a decline in social mobility. However, population decline isn’t unique to China. Populations in 23 countries are expected to halve by the end of the century, including South Korea who last year recorded more deaths than births for the first time.

Shark Magnetic Fields

Next up we visit Florida State University, where scientists confirmed that sharks use the earth’s magnetic fields as a compass for their annual migration. The researchers found that some sharks make a 12,000-mile trip from South Africa to Australia (and back) in an almost entirely straight line. The theory was confirmed by capturing 20 young bonnethead sharks from a shoal off the coast of Florida. They then simulated changing magnetic fields using electricity, which confused the sharks.

It’s thought that sharks’ navigational abilities are shared by other marine animals who also follow seasonal migration patterns, such as salmon and sea turtles. But the installation of offshore wind farms, which use underwater power cables to transport converted wind energy back to shore, could disrupt magnetic fields in the ocean and confuse marine life, causing them to swim in the wrong direction.

Previous Picks of the Week 👀

🔎 Picks of the Week — May 7

🔎 Picks of the Week — April 30

🔎 Picks of the Week — April 23

🔎 Picks of the Week — April 16

Zimbabwe Elephant Culling  

Staying with biodiversity, for years the global elephant population has been in decline due to poaching over ivory tusks. But Zimbabwe is considering culling the trunked animals because of their impact on the environment, food chain and even on humans. Zimbabwe is home to the second-largest population of elephants of around 100,000, who can consume up to 300kg of vegetation daily. Besides destroying habitats for other species, they also put local farmers at risk of losing their lands and livelihoods.

Zimbabwe wouldn’t be the first to cull elephants, with Uganda, Zambia, and South Africa all doing so in the past. In fact, it wouldn’t even be the first time the Zimbabwean government has done do: Between 1965 and 1988, it killed approximately 50,000 elephants. For the Zimbabwe Professional Guides Association, mass killing is the only way to control the population, as other methods — contraception or relocation — are too expensive. In order to reduce PTSD culling causes surviving animals, entire herds tend to be shot at once.

Climate Change Cup of Tea

Some climate news now as a new report from Christian Aid warns of the changing taste of our morning brew. Rising temperatures, drought, erratic rainfall and flash floods are among increasing extreme weather phenomena that will affect the largest producers of black tea, including Kenya, India, Sri Lanka and China. In Kenya, where the majority of the UK’s tea originates, optimal conditions for production are predicted to decrease by more than a quarter by 2050.

The tea leaves are also expected to be weaker in flavor, which could impact the health benefits. They include boosting the immune system, fighting inflammation, reducing the risk of cancer and acting as a stimulant. Consequently, the report recommends more climate financing to help farmers in affected countries adapt to change, and carry out post-Covid debt cancellation to help poorer countries better respond to climate change.

Junta Suspends Academic Staff

To Myanmar where more than 11,000 professors and students have been suspended from their universities after striking against military rule. The strikers chanted “We don’t want to be educated in military slavery,” and have opposed the junta since February’s military coup. According to the latest data from the World Bank, Myanmar had more than 26,000 teachers in universities or tertiary education institutions in 2018.

The suspension comes right before schools and universities reopened after being closed for a year due to the pandemic. This week also marks 100 days since the coup, which is when the academic protests and strikes began. According to the Association for Political Prisoners, security forces in Myanmar have killed 788 civilians in that time, and almost 4,000 people remain in detention.

Russia Mass School Shooting 

We finish in Russia, where a fatal shooting at an elementary school in the city of Kazan killed seven children, one teacher and another adult worker. A further 21 people are being treated in hospital for their injuries, six of whom are in “seriously grave condition.” Videos show students escaping out of school windows using ladders and others jumping from the third story. A 19-year-old registered gun owner was arrested, though no motive has yet been confirmed.

While school shootings are rare in Russia — the last one happened in 2018 in Russian-annexed Crimea — President Vladimir Putin said the country will revise gun laws and school security protocols, claiming the entire country was “shaken” by the attack. Analysis by the BBC puts the attack down to poorly trained, unarmed security guards posted outside the schools, which raises questions over the country’s laws around civilian gun ownership.

That's all for this week. See you all Monday for another jobs update! 👋