The world’s supply of coconut water—along with the myriad foods, oils, cosmetics, fibers and fuels made from coconuts—could be under threat. The United Nation’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Nov. 1 that global demand for coconut products is outpacing the rate of production in Asia, where about 85% of the world’s coconuts are grown. ... As world-wide consumption of all things coconut has jumped over the last decade, Asian countries have seen their exports of the commodity explode. At one point last year, exports from the Philippines, the world’s second biggest coconut producer, had grown over 400% from the year before. Between 2009 and 2012, exports of coconut oil from Asia have grown about 3% a year, according to the Asian Pacific Coconut Community, an Indonesia-based organization that represents coconut growers. Now, coconut water and milk, used in drinks and health products, make up 30% of global coconut consumption, according to the UN.
America’s dominance of the global helium market is ending … NOT every commodity contributes both to the gaiety of existence and life-saving technology. Helium does not just fill balloons and render voices squeaky. In gaseous form the inert, lighter-than-air gas is used in a range of applications from welding and fibre-optic technology to deep-sea diving. Super-cold liquid helium is essential to making and running the superconducting magnets for MRI scanners and to manufacturing electronic devices from TVs to phones. The world stands on the edge of a “helium cliff” precisely because the gas has always proved so useful. ... Unless American politicians can come to an agreement by October 7th, supplies could face a sudden and dramatic shortfall. A third of the world’s helium comes from an underground reservoir in Texas built up under government auspices and run by the Bureau of Land Management. Such was the supposed strategic value of helium, a by-product of natural gas, that a reserve was created in 1925 to supply the gas to inflate airships. So jealously did America guard its helium that other countries had to fill dirigibles with flammable hydrogen—the Hindenburg was one of dozens that went up in flames as a result.
I entered the industry in the way many do: with a sense of complete personal abandon and lack of direction. No one enters out of high school, because they can't, so everyone goes in because something else didn't work out. Layoffs, breakups, and prison stints are popular notes of inspiration. I graduated journalism school tens of thousands in debt, and I needed fast cash with minimum expenditures. Craigslist, I noticed, was overrun with trucking companies making desperate pleas. So I spent three grand, earned a commercial driver's license at a community college, and applied to nine trucking jobs. ... The American Trucking Association famously claims that the trucking industry is forty-eight thousand drivers short of demand. Then again, there are 1.7 million large truck drivers, which makes the shortage sound less impressive. What is impressive is the industry's 87 percent turnover rate. The average driver age is in the upper forties. Poaching is rampant, and companies are constantly trying to replace drivers as fast as they're leaving. ... The day after applying, seven companies hired me.
With greater oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, Venezuela should be at least moderately prosperous. Instead, it has the world’s fastest contracting economy, the second highest murder rate, inflation heading towards 1,000% and shortages of food and medicine that have pushed the poorest members of its 30 million population to the edge of a humanitarian abyss. ... It takes just five minutes to cross from the porous border at Pacaraima. Locals say the government in Caracas lifted food import tariffs from Brazil two months ago in a sign both of its desperation to ease shortages and its weakening control over the economy. There is now a steady stream of traders buying sacks of rice, sugar, wheat and spaghetti for resale in Venezuela. ... Life could be made easier if the authorities printed notes with higher denominations than 100 Bolivars, which is worth less than 8p, or 10 cents. But the central bank appears reluctant to make a move that would confirm a level of hyperinflation not seen in Latin America since the crises in Brazil and Argentina in the 1980s and 1990s. As a result, locals have to pay for everything in the equivalent of dimes. Even when made of paper, that can be cumbersome and heavy. ... The government’s tendency to subsidise many products below the cost of production is a major reason why the economy is in such a mess. ... Even in the midst of crisis, the government still hands out free or massively discounted homes, cars, DVD players and microwave ovens.