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For many years, humanity has been facing a slew of crises – environmental, economic, social and political – which call into question the basic tenets of the modern globalizing economy. The COVID-19 crisis in particular has revealed the inherent vulnerability of the global system, and now even the mainstream media is questioning the policies that lead countries to be so dependent on global trade.
At long last, there is widespread recognition that globalization is not an inexorable force of evolution, but an economic choice – and, most importantly, we can make a different choice instead. More and more people are waking up to the fact that smaller-scale, more localized economic relations fundamentally improve their own quality of life, while positively impacting the world around them.
Now, as we are faced with repairing our systems from this immediate crisis, we have an opportunity like never before to bring the many disparate positive local actions around the world into a powerful movement for global change.
Where globalization went wrong
To be clear, when we talk about globalization, we mean it in an economic sense. To many, the word may bring to mind a ‘global village,’ and there is certainly a need for us to come together globally to protect the environment and work for peace. However, the inexorable globalizing of economic activity—increasing trade distances, diverting wealth to multinational corporations, and deregulating big business and financial sectors has the opposite effect.
The globalized economy values corporate profits over all forms of life. It has a voracious appetite for natural resources, produces vast volumes of waste, and has put us on a path that systematically separates us from each other and the natural world. To make the system function, economic policies must be heavily skewed in favor of the biggest players. Lavish subsidies are funneled into large-scale production and the enormous infrastructure needed for global trade, while multinational businesses and banks are freed from taxation and regulation.
To a large extent, globalization continues because political leaders are so narrowly focused on abstract economic yardsticks – especially GDP growth – that they cannot see the real-world implications of their policies. GDP measures only the amount of money changing hands. This means that most kinds of healthy, non-monetary growth are ignored, such as the growth of native forests, of human knowledge and understanding, of meaningful livelihoods and resilient communities. Pollution, illness and crime, however, entail expense — and so they get added to the positive side of the GDP ledger.
Globalization and COVID-19
Many of the faults in this system have been laid bare by COVID-19. The pandemic has shown us that relying on mega-corporations using vast quantities of fossil fuel to import food, medicine, and other essential goods from across the world is a risky survival strategy. It has shown us that the privatization of medicine has only weakened already overburdened healthcare systems.
It has thrown wide open the gaps between rich and poor, with low income people suffering a far greater burden of disease. It has revealed that no livelihoods are safe in a system that focuses on the growth of multinational corporations and GDP. As an example, American billionaires became $282 billion dollars richer in the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as over thirty-three million Americans lost their jobs.
Although this time has been deeply frightening and tragic, it has also led many to wonder: how can we do better? How can we go forward from here, together, to build systems that have humans and nature at their center?
How going local brings us back into balance
Localisation has demonstrated its benefits time and again through on-the-ground initiatives ranging from farmers markets, CSAs and ‘agri-wilding’ projects to local business alliances, community banks and place-based education schemes – and they are happening in almost every country.
Such initiatives nurture our faith in human nature. It is both humbling and inspiring to imagine the possibilities, if our economic levers—taxes, subsidies and regulations—were redirected in support of the local. If the countless grassroots localization initiatives were systematically supported, we could see a flourishing of biodiversity alongside a geometric increase of human prosperity and wellbeing.
Rather than funneling more wealth into a shrinking handful of global monopolies, we could promote a multitude of place-based businesses and industries and grow the number of meaningful jobs. Rather than using GDP, we could value the growth of our real economy – the living earth—on which we ultimately depend for every single one of our needs. In localizing, decision-making itself is transformed.
Not only do we create systems that are small enough for us to influence, but we also embed ourselves within a web of relationships that informs our actions and perspectives at a deep level, enabling us to become both more empowered to make change and more humbled by the complexity of life around us. Join the conversation. Join the movement from global to local.
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For the first time in history, a major political party in the United States has several women who have declared their candidacy to be their party’s presidential nominee. But TV pundits have been questioning whether, despite the progress indicated by the huge influx of women elected into Congress last fall, the U.S. is ever going to elect a woman to the country’s highest leadership position.
This is baffling to us, especially in light of what we see in our corporate research. In two articles from 2012 we discussed findings from our analysis of 360-degree reviews that women in leadership positions were perceived as being every bit as effective as men. In fact, while the differences were not huge, women scored at a statistically significantly higher level than men on the vast majority of leadership competencies we measured.
We recently updated that research, again looking at our database of 360-degree reviews in which we ask individuals to rate each leaders’ effectiveness overall and to judge how strong they are on specific competencies, and had similar findings: that women in leadership positions are perceived just as — if not more — competent as their male counterparts.
Still, the disturbing fact is that the percentage of women in senior leadership roles in businesses has remained relatively steady since we conducted our original research. Only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women. And those numbers are declining globally.
There are of course many factors that contribute to this dearth of women at senior levels. For centuries, there have been broad, cultural biases against women and stereotypes die slowly. People have long believed that many women elect not to aspire to the highest ranks of the organization and take themselves out of the running (though recent research disputes that). Lots of research has shown that unconscious bias places a significant role in hiring and promotion decisions, which also contributes to the lower number of women in key positions.
Our current data presents even more compelling evidence that this bias is incorrect and unwarranted. Women are perceived by their managers — particularly their male managers — to be slightly more effective than men at every hierarchical level and in virtually every functional area of the organization. That includes the traditional male bastions of IT, operations, and legal.
As you can see in the chart below, women were rated as excelling in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty. In fact, they were thought to be more effective in 84% of the competencies that we most frequently measure.
According to our updated data, men were rated as being better on two capabilities —”develops strategic perspective” and “technical or professional expertise,” which were the same capabilities where they earned higher ratings in our original research as well.
Women are rated better than men on key leadership capabilities
According to an analysis of thousands of 360-degree reviews, women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones.
Drives for results
Displays high integrity and honesty
Inspires and motivates others
Establishes stretch goals
Collaboration and teamwork
Connects to the outside world
Communicates powerfully and prolifically
Solves problems and analyzes issues
Technical or professional expertise
Develops strategic perspective
Note: The t-values of all data are statistically significant.
Interestingly, our data shows that when women are asked to assess themselves, they are not as generous in their ratings. In the last few years we created a self-assessment that measures, among other things, confidence. We’ve been collecting data since 2016 (from 3,876 men and 4,779 women so far) on levels of confidence leaders have in themselves over their careers and we saw some interesting trends.
When we compare confidence ratings for men and women, we see a large difference in those under 25. It’s highly probable that those women are far more competent than they think they are, while the male leaders are overconfident and assuming they are more competent than they are. At age 40, the confidence ratings merge. As people age their confidence generally increases; surprisingly, over the age of 60 we see male confidence decline, while female confidence increases.
According to our data, men gain just 8.5 percentile points in confidence from age 25 to their 60+ years. Women, on the other hand, gain 29 percentile points. One note: This is what we see in our data though we recognize that there are studies that come to different conclusions on whether women truly lack confidence at early stages in their career.
These findings dovetail with other research that shows women are less likely to apply for jobs unless they are confident they meet most of the listed qualifications. A man and woman with identical credentials, who both lack experience for a higher level position, come to different conclusions about being prepared for the promotion.
The man is more inclined to assume that he can learn what he’s missing, while in the new job. He says to himself, “I am close enough.” The woman is inclined to be more wary, and less willing to step up in that circumstance.
It’s possible that these lower levels of confidence at younger ages could motivate women to take more initiative, be more resilient, and to be more receptive to feedback from others, which in turn makes them more effective leaders in the long run.
We see a similar trend in women’s perceptions of their overall leadership effectiveness, with their rating rising as they get older. This data is from a study that includes 40,184 men and 22,600 women and measures the overall effectiveness rating of males and females on 49 unique behaviors that predict a leaders effectiveness.
Again, women at younger ages rate themselves significantly lower than men but their ratings climb — and eventually supersede those of men — as they get older.
This data continues to reinforce our observations from our previous research — women make highly competent leaders, according to those who work most closely with them — and what’s holding them back is not lack of capability but a dearth of opportunity. When given those opportunities, women are just as likely to succeed in higher level positions as men.
Keep in mind that our data is mostly perceptions of current and past behavior and performance. That’s different than a promotional decision that involves movement to a higher position and involves taking a bigger risk. If 96 out of 100 people currently serving in comparable positions are male, and you are making the decision about who to promote, and you have a highly qualified female and a highly qualified male, what are you inclined to do? It may seem safer to choose the man.
Leaders need to take a hard look at what gets in the way of promoting women in their organizations. Clearly, the unconscious bias that women don’t belong in senior level positions plays a big role. It’s imperative that organizations change the way they make hiring and promotion decisions and ensure that eligible women are given serious consideration.
Those making those decisions need to pause and ask, “Are we succumbing to unconscious bias? Are we automatically giving the nod to a man when there’s an equally competent woman?” And, as our data on confidence shows, there’s a need for organizations to give more encouragement to women. Leaders can assure them of their competence and encourage them to seek promotions earlier in their careers.
Is the CEO of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy.
Es el presidente de Zenger / Folkman, una consultora de desarrollo de liderazgo.
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The past eight weeks of the global COVID-19 crisis have shed some light on a host of socio-political realities and brought to the fore many questions centered on economic existence. Beyond the catastrophe visited upon the public health sector, COVID-19 has facilitated broad community-centered, very public discussion and evaluation of financial systems but more importantly lively dialogue of economic sustainability.
Of particular merit is human capital and the pivotal roles it has played during this global event where, in the absence of some hard resources, human resources and accompanying skills-sets have been an invaluable commodity, which has helped to ensure the wellbeing of others during the crisis.
This mobilization of the overabundance soft resources in the social sphere are easily transferable in other sectors of the economy, where talent individuals can fully employ their competencies and skills sets in public sector and/or private enterprise.
Still many are forced to re-image a pre COVID-19 world whilst other view and even welcome this crisis as an opportunity to envision and create a new reality where a premium is placed on environmental and social justice issues within a new sustainable global model.
With an estimated 22 million jobs lost in the United States alone and another million through Europe within the eight weeks of the crisis, the ILO (International Labour Organization) and the European Employment Commissioner Nicolas Schmit agree with the forecast of 12 million full-time jobs being lost in Europe.
The projected global job loss of livelihoods looms greater, especially in the face of uncertainty which this crisis thrusts upon us collectively and in particular those in decision-making roles.
The term “career jumpers” originates from employers and HR professionals’ who hold assumptions of individuals with multiple short tenured and/or simultaneous careers failing to possess the staying power
Throughout the course of my professional career as international civil servant, entrepreneur, public speaker and consultant, I have had the opportunity to discover different cultures and to meet dynamic individuals, including leaders, innovators and human resource professional that those in hiring positions termed as “Job/Career Jumpers“.
The term “career jumpers” originates from employers and HR professionals’ who hold assumptions of individuals with multiple short tenured and/or simultaneous careers failing to possess the staying power.
For this reason untrained hiring managers/HR professionals fall short to identify and/or value the potential contribution of a “career jumper” since they themselves fail to recognize the immediate value of such individuals, which is outside of the average 3 to 5 year readied of rate of investment (ROI) per hire.
As a consequence, many organizations lose opportunities to fully harness resource untapped and associated competencies of these unique individuals. In spite of the fact that “job jumpers” are a dynamic human capital that can develop institutional capacity in relation to their professional experience, which is a byproduct of competencies developed through their professional and life experiences.
Further, whatever is the reason(s) for a job jumper, they have accumulated cross-sectoral exposure in different contexts and working situations is marked by their greater adaptability and flexibility periods of crisis, across specific subject matter and functional teams.
As result of their intrinsic curiosity and drive, which is enhanced by way of multiple careers, these individuals are poised to skillfully deal with fresh challenges in new roles where they use their professional competences, multidimensional talents and expertise across different sectors.
Moreover, since these “job jumpers” are able to identify and create new opportunities, see patterns and bring new insights, many have become consultants, advisors, project managers, innovators, entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and freelancers.
An example of on such person with multidimensional talents is Randy Komisar and Kabir Sehgal. Randy earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, he worked with Steve Jobs in the acquisition of Pixar and eventually assume the role of CEO of several companies and venture capitalists firms.
Kabir, who himself has authored the article “Why You Should Have (at least) Two Careers”, describe having four vocations: Corporate strategist at a Fortune 500 company, US Navy Reserve officer, author of several books and record producer.
Taking the above into consideration, the leaders and HR professionals must seize upon every opportunity to develop adaptable workforce by broadening their own insights and by developing initiatives, beyond the short sighted ROI per hire, that promote innovation among their workforce. It is through the just-in-time detection of dynamic and talented individuals that this can be achieved.
An example of a missed opportunity came 10 months ago during a market research that I was carrying out with one of my associates. The aim of the research was to help HR executives and business owners identify value, develop initiatives and build upon market’s opportunities.
During this research, we interviewed several executive and business owners with the primary objective to help them align their pain points with talent identification initiatives, acquisition and management process to our human capital success predictor solution.
After the meeting one of the executive expressed regret for not identifying (my) multidimensional skills during a job interview few years ago. Nevertheless, this recognition has positively impact our mutual appreciation of challenges in areas where we can effectively partner to develop sustainable solutions.
In aim of recognizing and nurturing the multidimensional talents of “job/career jumpers”, leaders and HR professionals must upskills their human capital abilities in ways that enable them to purposefully engage and utilize the skills of these unique individuals within their organization
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Future of Jobs Report highlights the importance of having a workforce with multidimensional talents to be competitive and able to identify new opportunities and value creation in the industrial revolution 4.0. In aim of recognizing and nurturing the multidimensional talents of “job/career jumpers”, leaders and HR professionals must upskills their human capital abilities in ways that enable them to purposefully engage and utilize the skills of these unique individuals within their organization.
An army of tech-optimists, innovators and developers are gathering and building up in time record some the best solutions to tackle this pandemic.
Hundreds of innovations are being developed worldwide due to COVID-19, and we would like to share our top 20 technological innovations:
1. Stay Home Tours:
Innovation that allows you to discover virtually a city of your choice such as: Berlin, Bangkok or New York. As well as museums in different parts of the world.
This initiative raises funds to combat COVID and could make the full contribution through the Facebook platform ‘COVID-19 Fundraiser’ at the World Health Organization to help combat the coronavirus. Click here.
2. Corona central:
Brazilian platform that offers a free service that connects people with possible symptoms of COVID with doctors through a chat application (WhatsApp or Telegram). A few questions will be asked to confirm if the call needs to be forwarded to a doctor. If so, the conversation is directed to a request queue, to which the volunteer doctors have access. Click here
3. Cool Plans to Stay at Home:
Bobo Choses is a clothing company in Barcelona that wants to help keep children happy, have fun and explore their creativity during the quarantine. <Cool Plan to Stay at Home> asks families to send photos and videos of their best plans through Instagram, to help inspire other families around the world. Click here
4. We eat together:
Help local restaurants stay open. Launched by a group of restaurateurs who want to help small restaurants like themselves by selling vouchers, pieces of merchandise, or any other special offer, and asking people to redeem them when they open their doors again. You can even register your own restaurant. Click here
5. Innovation for Now:
Wirecard offers a range of low-cost solutions for merchants from the leading technology companies in Germany, who have been affected by COVID and who want to implement digital solutions quickly and easily. Click here
6. Craft tent:
The US-based event tent company USA Use medical and health apps to survive. It leveraged its strengths in custom manufacturing and wide format printing to produce new mobile infirmaries and direct access stores for Covid-19 detection.Click here
Free and collaborative platform that preserves the most extensive knowledge about COVID for Colombia and the Latin American region. Combat fake news by centralizing all relevant information in one place.Click here
8. Mil Gracias
The Spanish agency Idear Ideas launched the #MilGracias initiative with the aim of exposing the small useful actions that other people do for us and giving them the opportunity to thank them in the way they want and to those they want during these times of crisis.Click here
Facebook launches its Tuned messaging app that allows couples to stay more connected, creating a digital scrapbook to help them better deal with social withdrawal and blockages. Click here
10. Did they Help?
The website classifies companies and celebrities who have made positive changes and actions to support employees and society during COVID as ‘Heroes’, and those whose actions may have had a negative impact as ‘Zero’. Click here
The company created portable devices with passive GPS location tracking to improve workplace safety for those who must be located in a physical workplace while using isolation and social distancing measures. Click here
12. Make way for books:
Through this free application, parents have access to electronic books in English and Spanish that give them the opportunity to read to their children. Additionally, each book that is in the app is attached to an activity that helps extend the learning that comes with each book. Click here
13. Antibacterial gel donated:
In view of the increased demand for raw materials necessary for the prevention of COVID, the Mar del Plata-based craft brewery and distillery took the initiative to set aside the commercial production of beverages and alcohol products available to health centers and municipalities in charge of distribution. Click here
14. Contactless technology:
Etihad Airways tests new airport technology to identify travelers with COVID symptoms. Contactless technology can monitor the temperature, heart rate and breathing of any passenger. Click here
15. Bakery creates a new bread:
This Vietnam bakery invented a new type of pink bread, to reuse the huge quantities of dragon fruit that were not sold due to COVID, as the country closed much of its trade with China due to the coronavirus. Click here
16. Hilton y American Express:
These companies teamed up to provide one million hotel rooms in the United States from next week to the end of May, to provide first-line personal doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and other medical practitioners a place to sleep. , recharge or isolate. Click here
17. The Russian Vkusvill supermarket:
You want to install vending machines in residential buildings. The vending machines will be placed in buildings of at least 100 apartments and will supply around 70 Vkusvill products to better serve buyers during the closure of COVID in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Click here
18. Happy Hours Virtual:
Molson Canadian launches virtual happy hours to support local bars and restaurants in Canada. The Canadian beer company is rewarding the hosts of its virtual gatherings with a $ 25 gift card destined for their favorite local bar once the restrictions set by COVID-19 are lifted. Click here
19. Your Local Delivered:
Is a free online community that connects local and independent businesses like UK pubs, restaurants, butchers, supermarkets with people who are quarantined at home. Click here
20. I give up my car:
Fundación Ibercaja and the Red Cross have launched the ‘#YoCedoMiCoche’ campaign in Aragon, Spain, turning automobile engines into repair fleets for home delivery of basic products, both food and sanitary, cleaning and hygiene. Click here
Can you recommend a great initiative worth to be part of this list?
Saudi Arabia’s bold, swift response to COVID-19 is a lesson to western countries, and means that there are – so far – minimal cases and only one death in the country.
Compare this with neighbouring Iran, where deaths are well into four figures, or Turkey, where some health professionals speculate that60% of the country is now COVID-positive.
Unlike some of its western allies, Saudi Arabia has taken the deadly coronavirus outbreak seriously from the very outset. The refusal to do the same in some governments in the West may have grave consequences for the public’s trust in their leaders, and even the protection of human rights.
Before the Kingdom had even recorded a single case of coronavirus, it banned foreign worshippers from performing pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, which no doubt halted the advance of the deadly disease. Compare this with, for example, neighbouring Iran which publicly claimed that God will protect their country and encouraged spiritual practices which allowed the spread of the disease in holy sites.
While some governments have been paralysed by the confusion, fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Riyadh has taken tough decisions for the greater good – and continues to do so. While many airports in Europe and North America remain open for flights, the Kingdom has gone further and faster by suspending all international flights into the country for two weeks. It is decisive acts like these which give Saudis confidence in their ability to fight this disease.
Further, the everyday reality for Saudis under the pandemic could not be more different to citizens of these western superpowers. Commentators have compared everyday life for Britons to those of refugees, and have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis if the outbreak is not dealt with properly. These concerns are based on rampant price gouging, panic buying and stockpiling, affecting people’s ability to purchase even basic necessities.
“Before the Kingdom had even recorded a single case of coronavirus, it banned foreign worshippers from performing pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, which no doubt halted the advance of the deadly disease.”
By contrast, Saudi Arabia has protected its people’s interests from day one, with citizens and residents finding themselves spoilt for choice in supermarkets, while shoppers in the Western world struggle, and sometimes fight, to secure basic food for their families. This is no accident: it is the result of the Kingdom’s timely and carefully managed response to the situation, including open and transparent communication with its people.
There has been a mass mobilisation of Saudi government, media and civil society to create the kind of overnight awareness, focus and solidarity that is essential during a global pandemic. And it is this mobilisation that is sorely lacking in some Western capitals.
For example, Jeddah-based Arab News, the largest English language newspaper in the region, has modified its logo on Twitter to be partially covered by a facemask. This is not a marketing ploy; it signals to the general public the importance of collective action to fight the disease at all levels of society. The equivalent in the UK would be to have a facemask covering the second “B” in the BBC’s logo, something that perhaps the broadcaster should consider.
Saudi Arabia’s version of the “lockdown” has protected the public while preserving daily life. It has acted quickly to close markets, shopping malls, beauty salons and gatherings in public places, following its suspension of schools in previous weeks. At the same time, supplies and services have been secured, and enforcement has not been heavy-handed, unlike in some parts of mainland Europe.
Contrast the response in Riyadh with that in parts of Europe and North America, where gentle encouragement rather than clear instructions, and mixed messages as opposed to coherent strategies, have undoubtedly cost lives.
“The fact that Saudi has responded so well – despite neighbouring one of the global epicentres of the disease – shows that the Kingdom’s leadership is more fluid and resilient than perhaps some outside observers realise.”
There are fewer challenges to a society and a government greater than a global pandemic, and the associated economic downturn. The fact that Saudi has responded so well – despite neighbouring one of the global epicentres of the disease – shows that the Kingdom’s leadership is more fluid and resilient than perhaps some outside observers realise.
Good governance is one of the key aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 – the country’s flagship policy for change in the region. It is a region that will be hit harder than most by COVID-19. Iran is burying its people in mass graves. Turkey is locking people up for even posting about it.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is showing that the complex mix of personal freedoms, public safety and public health can be balanced, even at the most difficult of times. And the Kingdom’s definition of human rights includes, above all, the right to human life.
Leading economists’ recommendations for business support during COVID-19
As governments around the world are coming to terms with the dire consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers are looking for expert advice on how to mitigate the health and economic shocks their citizens must face.
With impressive speed, the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and VoxEU responded to this demand by releasing a comprehensive e-book titledMitigating the COVID Economic Crisis: Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes. Edited by Richard Baldwin and Beatrice Weder di Mauro, the volume aims ‘to collect the thinking of leading economists on what is to be done’.
In this post, we collect insights from the book which we hope will be particularly useful for policy makers designing crisis support for businesses, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular, during this time.
The economic problems could persist well after the pandemic is contained
In the absence of an adequate policy response, temporary disruptions can have permanent effects, warn Christian Odendahl and John Springford:
‘A wave of bankruptcies would leave permanent scars on the economy if firms that would have been successful go under. There would be scarring effects on the future wages of unemployed workers and firm specific knowledge would be lost, dampening the level of output in the future.’
Nothing less than a bazooka
According to Pinelopi Goldberg, the tools of monetary policy are limited at this point and aggressive fiscal measures, especially to support SMEs, are inevitable. However, many of the usual policy measures are unavailable at this time: ‘social consumption’, which brings people together physically, should not be stimulated, and classical investment programmes’ time horizons are far too long to make an effective contribution (Bofinger, Dullien, Felbermayr, Fuest, Hüther, Südekum and Weder di Mauro).
Luis Garicano reckons that the adequate solution would involve a Europe-wide programme with the level of ambition of the German “bazooka”, a package that involves guarantees, credit lines, and working capital loans as well as massive tax cuts and the activation of Germany’s short-term employment protection programme.
Help businesses by helping people
We could not agree more with Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas’ point: ‘A modern economy is a complex web of interconnected parties: employees, firms, suppliers, consumers, banks and financial intermediaries… Everyone is someone else’s employee, customer, lender, etc’.
Beyond the very obvious fairness, equity and solidarity consideration, policies that smooth the dent in household consumption and reduce people’s uncertainty about their future income also limit the drop in the demand for businesses’ output and thus help avoid bankruptcies.
In Italy, the wage supplementation fund was broadened to provide income support to laid off workers.
In Shanghai, enterprises that did not lay off employees could deduct social insurance payments and receive subsidies for employee on-the-job training.
The South Korean government proposed to help low-income households with living expenses, consumption vouchers and childcare allowances.
Singapore introduced a care and support package of S$1.6 billion (£940 million), providing one-off cash payments to every Singaporean aged 21 or higher.
Recognising that precarious employees on temporary or zero hour contracts and the self-employed will be the worst hit, Christian Odendahl and John Springford call for quick and unbureaucratic support to these groups, possibly in the form of a coronavirus basic income.
Go beyond loans
Assistance to businesses will require the most creativity, acknowledges Jason Furman, who served as President Obama’s chief economist. To help firms resume their activity soon after the pandemic-related restrictions are lifted, we need to keep them out of bankruptcy while ensuring that they can continue employing people.
Singapore’s Stabilisation and Support package, described in detail by Danny Quah, provides an innovative example. It involves:
A jobs support scheme: the government pays 8% of the wages of local workers for three months, up to a set monthly cap;
A wage credit scheme: the government cofunds wage increases of approximately 30% for Singaporean employees, up to a set gross monthly wage;
The above-mentioned care and support package of one-off cash payments;
Corporate income tax rebates of up to 25% of total tax payable in 2020;
Faster write-down for investment incurred in 2021;
Government co-financing of working capital loans;
Increased flexibility in rental payments for commercial enterprises on government properties;
And retraining and re-skilling programmes in tourism, transport and other affected sectors.
Digital solutions can help with many of the pandemic-induced challenges: online shopping can mitigate losses in brick-and-mortar shops, telecommuting might allow employees to continue working even when self-isolating, and fintech applications can reduce the operational volatility and improve the survival rate of SMEs. However, as Shang-Jin Wei emphasises, this requires a broad reach of internet access, widespread acceptance of digital payments by merchants and households, and an efficient and inexpensive delivery system. Ramping up capacity in these areas should thus be a key policy priority, especially in Europe. In addition, ‘SMEs should also be incentivised and supported to improve their digitalisation so they can better take advantage of internet-based financial platforms to resolve their financing difficulties’, recommend Yi Huang, Chen Lin, Pengfei Wang and Zhiwei Xu.
Tailor the response to the sector
China’s example demonstrates that the crisis affects businesses differently depending on the sector they operate in. Due to movement restrictions during the crisis, service industries such as hotels and restaurants, and labour-intensive manufacturing industries have been severely affected (Yi Huang, Chen Lin, Pengfei Wang and Zhiwei Xu). Even between these sectors, we may expect differences in post-crisis recovery: manufacturing will probably experience a sharp rebound while the services sector may struggle for a longer period of time. As Christian Odendahl and John Springford put it: ‘If consumers planned to buy a new pair of spectacles but could not buy them when supply was disrupted, they are likely to do so once the epidemic is over. Consumers will not, however, make up for the meals out that they would have eaten while they were isolating themselves.’
Protect vulnerable small businesses
Small and informal enterprises are more vulnerable to the crisis as they tend to have limited financial, managerial and information resources, and they are also less likely to be able to respond to the crisis with technological solutions such as teleworking, warns Ugo Panizza. Even the comprehensive support package offered by the German government does not necessarily help the self-employed and owners of smaller companies. For these people, there is no automatic stabilisation mechanism available such as unemployment benefit or reduced-time work. As mentioned before, the solution could be short-term and administratively simple aid, either in the form of direct transfers or interest-free loans with very long maturities (Bofinger, Dullien, Felbermayr, Fuest, Hüther, Südekum and Weder di Mauro).
Cut the red tape
Many experts emphasise how crucial it is to provide support quickly and with as little bureaucratic burden as possible. A cautionary tale comes from South Korea’s ‘emergency management’ fund for small business owners worth $1.4 trillion won (£960 million). According to Inkyo Cheong, the evaluation criteria for the funds are very strict and the procedure for preparing an application, the evaluation of the application and the confirmation of a guarantee may take more than two months, followed by another week to actually receive the funds. Unsurprisingly, only 4% of the government budget has been dispersed to date. To avoid such outcomes, agencies delivering the programmes need to ensure that support is not just made available, but can be used in a timely fashion by businesses.
Enlist the private sector
This recommendation also comes from Jason Furman, who points out that ‘the private sector has an existing infrastructure, can be nimble, and can form a diversification of the response’. For instance, private sector innovation and loans can be critical to the disaster response, but require additional incentives or guarantees from the government. Yi Huang, Chen Lin, Pengfei Wang and Zhiwei Xu provide an excellent example from China, where the Alibaba Group is leveraging its technology and experience with the 2003 SARS crisis to support SMEs through cloud computing, IT and QR health coding systems, as well as AI virus diagnosis and communications. The company’s Ant Financial and its virtual bank MYbank are working with other financial institutions in China to provide financial support to around 10 million micro-and-small enterprises.
Our bite-sized recommendations certainly cannot do justice to summarise the 227-page book. For those who have more time, we highly recommend reading Chapter 9 (Saving China from the coronavirus and economic meltdown: Experiences and lessons by Yi Huang, Chen Lin, Pengfei Wang and Zhiwei Xu) for its excellent case study of how the outbreak has affected SMEs, and Chapter 21 (Protecting people now, helping the economy rebound later by Jason Furman) for specific and practical policy recommendations.
The book’s subtitle, Act Fast and Do Whatever It Takes, provides a great guiding principle for designing the appropriate policy response. When it comes to implementing these policies, we urge government agencies to be as agile, flexible and evidence-driven as possible. An experimental mindset that involves setting out testable hypotheses, collecting data, evaluating progress, building on lessons learned and changing course if needed remains as relevant as ever, and we continue to offer our support and share insights with our policy partners and the public.
5 ways coronavirus could help humanity survive the ecological crisis
This pandemic is a further wake up call things need to radically change and many of the emergency measures help the planet too
The human tragedy of the coronavirus is immense. So far over 3,000 have died and more than 90,000 have been infected globally and millions have been affected. Whilst infectious disease has always been a part of the human experience, the expansion of industrial civilisation has inexorably amplified the risk of new diseases.
Uncontrolled industrial expansion also dangerously heats the planet and drives the collapse of ecosystems worldwide. Experts like Professor Jem Bendell and philosopher Rupert Read have argued that societal collapse is near inevitable and that up to 6 billion people could die. Dr Nafeez Ahmed argues the collapse of civilisation may have already begun. That human civilisation itself is at risk is an increasingly accepted reality of our times. More than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have declared a climate emergency warning – “chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable”
Coronavirus is both a symptom of the problematic globalised economy and an important signal that things need to change. Emergency short-term measures to contain the virus also have a positive impact on decimated global ecosystems. Crisis can be an opportunity and adopting some of these measures in perpetuity could help to avert the worst case runaway climate scenarios and help to maintain the planetary conditions that humanity is adapted to.
1. Demonstrating a less industrial future is feasible
Currently, a slowing economy is a lower-carbon economy. In China, coronavirus has slowed industrial production, prompted longer holidays and the introduction of travel restrictions, all of which result in lower CO2 emissions: China’s emissions alone are down by a quarter or 100 million metric tons. The decrease in output mean less material being shipped across the world, and less disposable products ending up in landfill.
The sort of precipitous and unmanaged decline coronavirus has forced on global economies can devastate people’s livelihoods and living standards. However it is possible to implement such measures in a steady way, and forge societies less dependent on industrial production that not only protect livelihoods but simultaneously increase citizens’ well-being. This is what economists and sustainability experts call degrowth: a ‘phase of planned and equitable economic contraction in the richest nations eventually reaching a steady state that operates within Earth’s biophysical limits.’
While coronavirus has resulted in a very sudden scale down in industrial production due to a public health emergency, living through this spasm may allow citizens to imagine, and policy-makers to plan, how it is possible to live differently in response to the ecological emergency. Reducing economic activity and industrial output is a means to enable global ecosystems to regenerate.
Nasa images show China pollution clear amid slowdown
2. Driving a massive contraction in demand for cruises and aviation
With the Diamond Princess now as synonymous with the virus as Wuhan province, the last place people are dreaming of being right now is on a cruise ship, bookings for the $45 billion a year cruise industry are down 40%.
Each day one cruise ship can release as much pollution as one million cars
Cruise ships emit extreme pollution in some of the world’s most beloved and fragile ecosystems such as the arctic, caribbean and Galapagos Islands. Burning the world’s dirtiest oil (bunker fuel) they pollute the air and cause sickness among coastline communities. The European fleet of the world’s single biggest cruise company, Carnival Corporation, creates more air pollution than all of Europe’s cars.
Until these giant corporations address their impacts a drop in bookings for this monstrously polluting sector can only be a good thing for planet earth.
Similarly, air travel is down due to coronavirus, declining for the first time since 2009 with an estimated cost to airlines in excess of $29 billion in revenue this year. Campaigners have been calling for limits to air travel for years highlighting the sector’s massive and increasing climate impact. It seems that the coronavirus is driving the sort of reduction in air travel that lawmakers and the industry itself have thus far failed to enforce. In the face of a climate emergency and political dithering an overall reduction in unnecessary travel could promote shifts to the enhanced local economies that may help avoid the most dangerous runaway climate models.
3. Shifting towards more resilient local economies
More and more of us live in cities and eat food that has been industrially-produced elsewhere and trucked, flown or shipped in using fossil fuels. Intensive food production and perpetual long distance shipping makes the spread of disease more likely. Furthermore, the loss of nature and spread of monocultures enable “disease pathogens to thrive.” A shock such as coronavirus or surges in oil price reveals just how precarious the globalised economy on which many of us depend is. For example, if fuel supplies are interrupted, London will run out of food within days. Tim Lang, a Professor of Food Policy says, “It is all on the motorway. We have a just-in-time system of food.”
Community gardens, like this one in San Francisco, can help achieve sufficiency. Kevin Krejci/Wikimedia Commons
Massively boosting local food production slashes fossil-fuel emissions and reduces our dependence on this complex and precarious flow of global trade. What’s more, it will make us radically happier too. Our current economic system, which maximises how much we all work and consume, has failed to translate into a rise in wellbeing: instead it has created a raft of new afflictions, running from obesity and eating disorders through to depression and a suicide epidemic in young men.
A future sustainable society would mean most of us working and commuting less, being more involved in our local communities and growing food near to where we live, with more time with our friends and families—all things found to increase human happiness. Helena Norberg-Hodge the director and founder of Local Futures said –
“By shifting towards more localised, diversified food economies around the world, we’d not only reduce the risk of diseases infecting our food supply, but we’d also keep more wealth within communities instead of siphoning it away to multinational corporations. We’d be providing livelihoods for people who are getting squeezed out of jobs by the mania for mechanising and centralising food production. And we’d be pushing back against the climate crisis as well, by reducing the need for fossil fuel-powered global supply chains to get our monocrops from place to place. Local food economies are a win-win from every angle.”
4. Ending the trade in wild animals
The calamitous decline of wild species is at least as great a threat to human survival as the climate emergency. Every species that goes extinct is an irreplaceable loss. In January this year, China banned the wildlife trade nationwide in markets, supermarkets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms due to the coronavirus outbreak. In a joint statement, the country’s market watchdog, agricultural ministry, and forestry bureau also said any places that breed wildlife should be isolated, and the transportation of wildlife should be banned.
It is widely reported that the outbreak of Covid-19 may have started in a wild animal market in Wuhan. Pangolins, in particular, have been proposed as a possible host of the virus before it jumped to people via bats. Pangolins or scaly anteaters are extraordinary animals – the only mammals with scales. They are also the most trafficked creatures in the world mainly for use in Chinese traditional medicine. As with the rhino horn, their scales are believed to have medicinal properties. They don’t. Banning the wildlife trade could put a brake on the relentless and pointless persecution of these animals allowing them to recover from the brink of extinction.
5. Highlighting the horrors of factory farming
Factory farms, which raise billions of animals per year in squalid, cramped and unhygienic conditions, are ideal breeding grounds for infectious diseases. The deadly 2009 swine flu pandemic sprang out of a massive pig farm in Veracruz, Mexico, where hundreds of pigs died in an outbreak that eventually moved into people.
Mandy Carter, Global Senior Campaign Manager at Compassion in World Farming, said: “Intensively farmed animals live in crowded, barren conditions deprived of even the most basic natural behaviours. Given the number of animals involved and their lifelong suffering, factory farming is one of the biggest causes of animal cruelty on the planet. And not only does it harm animals – it hurts the natural world and us too.”
Cage farming is a nightmare we can end. Join the campaign today
Wendy Orent, the author of “Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World’s Most Dangerous Disease” writes –
“If we want to forestall the evolution of ever-newer, and possibly deadlier, human-adapted viruses, live animal markets must be permanently shut down… until factory farms housing millions of animals are eliminated, until we take the inevitable logic of disease evolution into account, novel, and potentially deadly, human diseases will continue to arise. Again. And again. And again.”
Factory farmed animals are fed feed grown in the habitats of the world’s last wild animals such as the Amazon rainforest. Factory farming animals is increasingly seen by scientists, health experts and ethical commentators as an abomination that has to be stopped.
The future is a new relationship with food and farming
The best way to prevent pandemics and avoid the scale human suffering we are seeing unfold in the world due to coronavirus is not self-isolation, handwashing or facemasks, but the jettisoning of our moribund economic, food and transport systems, and replacing them with structures that put nature and planet first. A world where factory farming and wildlife trade is outlawed. Where economic growth is not pursued at all costs, where our capacity to feed ourselves from one day to the next is in our own hands, rather than those of gigantically polluting multinational corporations.
Coronavirus and the ecological crisis are linked symptoms of an unjust and unsustainable global system. Steps we can take to prevent another coronavirus spreading are the same steps we need to take to tackle the ecological emergency: to live more locally, with due respect for our biosphere’s limits and reverence for the precious wild creatures within it. Overall, this virus may be an important signal that human health cannot be treated independently from the health of the natural world; the two are inextricably linked.
Human civilisation can protect itself from future shocks and become more resilient by shifting to become more in tune with the natural world it is a part of. Degrowing the global economy, regenerating natural systems and ending the systematic mistreatment of animals are key.
Could the global outreach of Covid-19 lead to the next major shock to the Global System? This was the question I asked myself in January while observing the developments as regards the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. Later on, I published an article claiming that the disruption of the global supply chains due to the outbreak of Covid-19 is to be seen as the canary in the Global System mine.
Furthermore, I stressed that the markets had not anticipated the long-term disruptions of global supply chains, nor had they priced the real stress on the globalized networks as well as on the global flows of goods, people and services prior to the global outreach of the Covid-19. I concluded in mid-February that the Covid-19 pandemic would further aggravate the ongoing economic slowdown and trade stagnation and might even result in a yet unprecedented major shock to the Global System.
What happened next?
First, the Coronavirus has spread much quicker to other parts of the world than any government had anticipated or prepared for. Meanwhile, most of the seriously affected countries have introduced very restrictive measures to slow down any further Covid-19 spread. These measures and actions are well documented and data is available on the Internet. I will particularly focus on the concrete effects on the Global System as outlined in my article from February.
First, it is important to emphasize that the Global System was already put under pressure due to the systemic decoupling between the USA and China as well as cyclical processes such as an ongoing global economic slowdown, trade stagnation, and liquidity crisis prior to Covid-19 crisis. Systemic risks show multiplicative dynamics that are often ignored or misunderstood due to their higher-order effects. Against this background, the Covid-19 became an accelerator of the sum of various minor shocks to the system and thus the global virus outreach exemplified another systemic risk emerging from the interconnectedness of the Global System.
“Unlike 2007/08, this is not a financial implosion that threatens the economy and society. It is not a shock from within the economy that threatens the stability of the financial system. It is a devastating shock to people’s health that threatens their livelihoods, the businesses in which they work and invest savings, the wider economy, and therefore the financial system. Weaknesses in the financial system are exacerbating the potential feedback loops, which risk deepening the downturn and impeding eventual economic recovery.”
“As we resign ourselves to the inevitability of a large and broad-based shock to global growth, the key issue is whether we can avoid a traditional and longer-lasting recession event.”
Other key financial institutions presented even grimmer prognoses for the second quarter of 2020 and pointed to global recession trends. Deutsche Bank assessed the situation as follows:
“substantially exceed anything previously recorded going back to at least World War II.”
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard even outlined an unprecedented 50% decline in the US GDP. It is obviously no longer about the confirmation of the global recession prognoses that were made prior to the Covid-19 crisis. We are potentially sliding into a global depression in a much more interconnected Global System than during the Great Financial Crisis 2007/08, let alone the Great Depression in 1929. In fact, Nouriel Rubini referred to these forecasts as “depression growth rates”.
“In the face of the most serious global health crisis in more than a century, fiscal and monetary policy makers around the world will have to pull out all the stops to prevent what currently looks like an inevitable recession from turning into a depression,” according to Joachim Fels of Pacific Investment Management Co.
The global financial and economic system witnessed coordinated monetary stimulus and bold fiscal responses by the Central Banks and the Governments of the developed economies on both sides of the Atlantic that were not seen before. The European response came from both layers — the institutional (ECB) and the national (the member states). The European Central Bank (ECB) launched a Pandemic Emergency Purchase €750bn ($820bn) package to mitigate the Covid-19 shock. The president of the ECB even stressed that there were no limits to the ECB commitment to the Euro. The European Commission announced further €37bn under its regional funding programmes to combat the impact of the pandemic. The major European economies disclosed massive financial packages too (Germany — €500 billion, the UK — £350 billion, France — €345 billion, just to name a few).
At the same time, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to almost zero and launched a $700bn stimulus program. Furthermore, the Federal Reserve announced the establishment of temporary U.S. dollar liquidity arrangements (swap lines) with other central banks — the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Banco Central do Brasil, the Danmarks Nationalbank (Denmark), the Bank of Korea, the Banco de Mexico, the Norges Bank (Norway), the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden). Finally, the Federal Reserve even pledged asset purchases with no limit to support the markets as part of a massive new package. This was described as “QE infinity” territory and it remains to be seen whether other Central Banks will follow suit with their QE programs.
One conclusion that may be drawn from this first stage of unprecedented measures and actions is that it is not about the Too Big To Fail (TBTF) banks this time but the Too Many To Failsmall businesses, entrepreneurs, working-class and middle-class people, who will be the target of the bailout programmes first and foremost.
We are just at the beginning of the greatest uncertainty in the last hundred years cycle, particularly as regards the future of the Global System coupled with potential major shocks to its main socio-economic systems due to the unforeseen disruptions and cascading effects within the interconnected networks, occurring with much higher speed and greater scale than any government or institution could respond to.
To conclude with the final statement by The Systemic Risk Council:
“If things deteriorate a lot more, whether quickly or slowly, governments may find themselves facing the question, not seen outside major wars, of whether to steer the economy’s production priorities, whether to support household spending with subsidies and welfare payments much higher than in normal circumstances, and whether to fund themselves via their jurisdiction’s monetary authority. Obviously the threshold for steps of that kind should be very high given the interference with normal freedoms and constraints. But governments should be conducting contingency planning to think through the issues in advance rather than, however remote it seems, being overtaken by events.” (SRC, 19. March 2020).
My main long-term Global System scenarios remain as follows: 1) either a “violent” systemic decoupling encompassing all socio-economic systems (currency, trade, financial, diplomatic, etc. networks) or a systemic co-existence between US-led and China-led blocs in the long run. But this will be the topic of another input.
Velina is Head of Institute at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) in Vienna.
It goes without saying that the mess our world is in right now is one of our own making. We all knew this would happen one day and there have been a plethora of data-backed warning interventions, like the oneBill Gates brilliantly pitched in at TED in 2015. Yet, with very few exceptions, near to zero effort has been made globally to effectively mitigate this risk. What. A. Shame!
Although I am a Medical Doctor, I am not one of the millions of self-proclaimed internet virology experts, or other COVID-19 nut-cases — I’d like to focus on verified, available evidence, and try to figure out some lessons we can all learn in the face of this global uncertainty. If air travel has become this safe today, it is mainly due to the fact the industry has effectively implemented the lessons learned from blackboxes and crash investigations.
I’m henceforth leaving a blackbox here, so maybe one day, our kids will avoid making the same mistakes. So far, in this current saga, only very few nations like Singapore and Hong Kong have effectively implemented their lessons-learned from the previous SARS wave that hit them. But as the global health system has crashed on us everywhere else today, I would like to offer five elements of reflection and a question for discussion and future reference:
A- Five Lessons:
Lesson #1: Despite the distances separating countries and continents, we remain heavily interdependent. However, the balance between the individualism of certain nations and common international good is increasingly tipping toward the former. As Prakash Sethi put it so beautifully in his 2003 book: ‘The economic and sociopolitical problems of the twenty-first century will be largely connected with the interdependent nature of the world and its people, a world in which individual goodwill is not possible without thought for the common good’.
Lesson #2: The Public Health interests of Nations are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, in the face of public health threats, the health interests of one nation shall be aligned with that of all other nations. By effectively mitigating these risks for their populations, Nations are by default protecting one-another too. The WHO guidelines in this regard have always been quite comprehensive and clear. A few nations implemented them. Many ignored them. Some are still pointing fingers.
Lesson #3:In the case of an epidemic, our whole human race is as protected as our dumbest proxy (including so-called ‘political leaders’). Therefore, the consumption of medical information should be factual, not emotional: stick to verified health experts’ facts, not politicians’ blabber or your next of kin’s stupid post. In times of a public healthcare crisis, only read and listen to the official experts recommendations through their official channels. Learning this lesson or not is a matter of life and death.
As the internet has unfortunately become a garbage bin of ignorant content, the sources replicating that garbage have become contaminated. For the record: social media are not official sources of information until you check on the authenticity of the real source of publication. Unfortunately, through these channels, ignorance is spreading as fast at the virus itself, and you don’t want to take any advice based on ignorant people’s opinions either, because it makes you ignorant yourself.
There’s a reason why medicine is a science where uninformed individual opinions have no place. If you struggle to get access to reliable evidence-based sources of information, I’m suggesting some for you at the end of this article.
Lesson #4:The tax imposed on the global economic activities by a globally very poor health disaster preparedness is quite high. As we can observe, the wealth of nations is linear to the health of their populations. Adding insult to injury, the next silent healthcare killer wave is already hitting the shores via obesity and smoking and there’s a very little window to act. Back in 2015, I have publisheda paper on this topicurging responsible governments for action.
If we ignore this crucial relationship between population health and economy, and do not urgently capitalise on the visit our microscopic ‘Corona’ Nemesis to drive sweeping societal changes, then why bother about the climate altogether?
Lesson #5:Short-termism kills: A message to all apprentice politicians out there: long-term planning means a plan that spans longer than one electoral cycle, and in public healthcare, these plans are altruistic by nature. Both concepts of altruism and long-termism are something most politicians are paid to not understand.
Also, unlike building new hospitals for the communities, preventive medicine policies are not as sexy because laymen are unable to appreciate them at face value. But now, look back! If they were implemented, don’t you think those policies might have saved more lives and economies than all hospital beds and medical resources the world is unable to mobilise right now?
B- The Big Question:
In the past 2 weeks I have been approached by at least three instances to help put together an effective track-and-trace software solution to tackle the current pandemic problem in a more timely fashion. The common denominator of these solutions is a question to all of us: How much private information are we individually willing to make public, for the sake of enhancing public health and safety?
All your contact details, your last location and related time stamp, the identity of people you had physical contact with in that particular location, etc. — There’s no silver-lining, and there lies the whole complexity of public healthcare and safety.
Finally, as promised, here are some free evidence-based and regularly updated scientific resources on COVID-19:
These are THE references and fact-checkpoints for 99% of the stuff you read out there on COVID-19. If the information you read or heard is not in one of these links, then it’s likely to be fake and it’s your responsibility to help redress it.
What Can the Events Industry Learn From the Coronavirus Crisis?
The global health emergency presents an opportunity for us to rethink the industry’s messaging around the importance of face-to-face meetings.
Over the last few months, the meetings industry has been impacted by a global health issue which has had the power to cancel massive events such as the Mobile World Congress Barcelona and has left people around the world questioning their interest in attending events.
While many of us may be hoping that an increased understanding or containment of coronavirus will mean a back-to-normal approach to face-to-face meetings, it is worth asking the question: Could coronavirus be the first of several sustainability issues the event industry faces in 2020?
There are many definitions of the term sustainability — confusingly, many dictionaries offer separate definitions of economic and environmental sustainability. Coronavirus will likely be one of many economic sustainability threats our industry faces in the near future.
So, can we learn something from the industry’s response to coronavirus that will help us as we face similar challenges down the road related to climate change (flooding, rising sea levels, food scarcity, etc.)?
Time is of the essence when responding to crises. A study released in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009 concluded it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a norm. Based on government reactions to coronavirus around the world, it would seem that the next 66 days are likely to bring further regulations designed to stop large gatherings.
As travel regulations increase and panic spreads, could it become the norm for people to want to meet via technology during this uncertain time rather than face-to-face?
Only time will tell, but as Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” So, what can event professionals learn from the challenges we are currently facing? Is there any action we could be taking as an industry to help communicate the importance of meeting face-to-face and ensure that event attendees understand why health risks are taken and carbon footprints are made?
If there is one obvious lesson to be taken from the last few months, it is that choosing to attend events is an emotional decision made by each attendee. As an event professional passionate about the potential of face-to-face collaboration, I often forget that most people take time to consider why they should attend an event.
But I was reminded of this last December, when I had a fascinating conversation with a journalist who told me his 8-year-old son had cried the night before he left for a trip. The reason for the tears? The son knew his father was going to be flying the next day and didn’t want to see him polluting the planet.
The coronavirus is another emotional reason why average event attendees and their families could have concerns about meeting face-to-face. But the current crisis also presents an opportunity for the events industry to reevaluate its messaging.
For too long, we have been relying on an “economic impact” narrative to justify meetings. It is becoming clear that coronavirus and sustainability concerns, coupled with the next generation’s tech-savvy ways and demand for ethical choices means it is time to revisit this messaging.
As an industry, are we telling the story of the importance of meeting in a way in which Gen Z will understand? (Remember, their ethical and transparency values means the traditional, economic-impact messaging won’t necessarily connect with them.) Are we ready as an industry to tell a story beyond this?
The second obvious lesson to be taken from the coronavirus outbreak is that the World Health Organization’s guidelines on large gatherings are being used globally. In times of unexpected crises, governments and businesses around the world often look to organizations such as the United Nations for guidance. This presents an opportunity for the events industry.
Since 2017, Positive Impact Events has had a number of memorandums of understanding with different United Nations bodies, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. One of our responsibilities within this memorandum of understanding is to encourage event industry alignment with UNFCCC work (e.g., getting feedback from the industry on measurement tools).
Another responsibility is to collaborate, so UNFCCC are able to focus more on the event industry; the fact of the matter is that governments focus on tourism — so the UN has a mandate to act on tourism, not events.
Seeing the use of the WHO guidelines is an example of what could happen to our industry as climate change issues increase. It likely won’t matter what guidelines we produce as an industry via our associations because businesses and governments don’t know our industry associations; they know the United Nations.
So, it’s in our industry’s best interest to create a strategic relationship with the UN and work together to address major issues, reaching beyond individual associations or experts to develop guidelines.
There’s no better time to start than right now — 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. To mark this, the UN is delivering a year-long initiative which they describe as “the largest, most inclusive conversation on the role of global cooperation in building a better future for all.” The UN75 initiative will spark dialogues throughout 2020 in diverse settings across the world.
Any event professional reading the outline of that campaign will see it as a direct reflection of our job description — bringing people together for a global, inclusive conversation.
So how will we use 2020 to align with this major UN campaign and raise the profile of events? Will we start using language and context that businesses and governments will understand?
Will we tell a story of how events can be used to provide education and inspiration, which is vital to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals? Or will we continue to talk only about economic impact and assume that people will continue to meet face-to-face simply because they always have in the past?
If this has inspired you to act — which is the purpose of “Better Meetings, Better Future,” the Positive Impact Events and Northstar Meetings Group initiative — please sign up to become a Positive Impact Events ambassador and use your voice to champion a more sustainable event industry. If you do, we will send you materials at least four times a year. Consider also asking your peers, clients or associations how they are communicating the role of events to create a more sustainable world that works for everyone.
This week looking for interesting readings, we find this piece that has motivated us to publish in our blog, the author Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the Convention on Climate Change of the United Nations, Founding Partner of Global Optimism, Co-host of Outrage And Optimism podcast and Co-author of “The Future We Choose”. In this post Christiana, gives an interesting analysis about the situation of climate change and the effects it will have for the year 2050.
“The only uncertainty is how long we’ll last’: a worst case scenario for the climate in 2050″
It is 2050. Beyond the emissions reductions registered in 2015, no further efforts were made to control emissions. We are heading for a world that will be more than 3C warmer by 2100
The first thing that hits you is the air. In many places around the world, the air is hot, heavy and, depending on the day, clogged with particulate pollution. Your eyes often water. Your cough never seems to disappear. You think about some countries in Asia, where, out of consideration, sick people used to wear white masks to protect others from airborne infection. Now you often wear a mask to protect yourself from air pollution.
You can no longer simply walk out your front door and breathe fresh air: there might not be any. Instead, before opening doors or windows in the morning, you check your phone to see what the air quality will be.
Fewer people work outdoors and even indoors the air can taste slightly acidic, sometimes making you feel nauseated. The last coal furnaces closed 10 years ago, but that hasn’t made much difference in air quality around the world because you are still breathing dangerous exhaust fumes from millions of cars and buses everywhere. Our world is getting hotter. Over the next two decades, projections tell us that temperatures in some areas of the globe will rise even higher, an irreversible development now utterly beyond our control.
Oceans, forests, plants, trees and soil had for many years absorbed half the carbon dioxide we spewed out. Now there are few forests left, most of them either logged or consumed by wildfire, and the permafrost is belching greenhouse gases into an already overburdened atmosphere.
The increasing heat of the Earth is suffocating us and in five to 10 years, vast swaths of the planet will be increasingly inhospitable to humans. We don’t know how hospitable the arid regions of Australia, South Africa and the western United States will be by 2100. No one knows what the future holds for their children and grandchildren: tipping point after tipping point is being reached, casting doubt on the form of future civilization. Some say that humans will be cast to the winds again, gathering in small tribes, hunkered down and living on whatever patch of land might sustain them.
More moisture in the air and higher sea surface temperatures have caused a surge in extreme hurricanes and tropical storms. Recently, coastal cities in Bangladesh, Mexico, the United States and elsewhere have suffered brutal infrastructure destruction and extreme flooding, killing many thousands and displacing millions. This happens with increasing frequency now. Every day, because of rising water levels, some part of the world must evacuate to higher ground.
Every day, the news shows images of mothers with babies strapped to their backs, wading through floodwaters and homes ripped apart by vicious currents that resemble mountain rivers. News stories tell of people living in houses with water up to their ankles because they have nowhere else to go, their children coughing and wheezing because of the mould growing in their beds, insurance companies declaring bankruptcy, leaving survivors without resources to rebuild their lives.
Contaminated water supplies, sea salt intrusions and agricultural runoff are the order of the day. Because multiple disasters are often happening simultaneously, it can take weeks or even months for basic food and water relief to reach areas pummelled by extreme floods. Diseases such as malaria, dengue, cholera, respiratory illnesses and malnutrition are rampant.
You try not to think about the 2 billion people who live in the hottest parts of the world, where, for upwards of 45 days per year, temperatures skyrocket to 60C (140F), a point at which the human body cannot be outside for longer than about six hours because it loses the ability to cool itself down. Places such as central India are becoming increasingly challenging to inhabit. Mass migrations to less hot rural areas are beset by a host of refugee problems, civil unrest and bloodshed over diminished water availability.
Food production swings wildly from month to month, season to season, depending on where you live. More people are starving than ever before. Climate zones have shifted, so some new areas have become available for agriculture (Alaska, the Arctic), while others have dried up (Mexico, California). Still others are unstable because of the extreme heat, never mind flooding, wildfire and tornadoes. This makes the food supply in general highly unpredictable. Global trade has slowed as countries seek to hold on to their own resources.
Countries with enough food are resolute about holding on to it. As a result, food riots, coups and civil wars are throwing the world’s most vulnerable from the frying pan into the fire. As developed countries seek to seal their borders from mass migration, they too feel the consequences. Most countries’ armies are now just highly militarised border patrols. Some countries are letting people in, but only under conditions approaching indentured servitude.
Those living within stable countries may be physically safe, yes, but the psychological toll is mounting. With each new tipping point passed, they feel hope slipping away. There is no chance of stopping the runaway warming of our planet and no doubt we are slowly but surely heading towards some kind of collapse. And not just because it’s too hot.
Melting permafrost is also releasing ancient microbes that today’s humans have never been exposed to and, as a result, have no resistance to. Diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks are rampant as these species flourish in the changed climate, spreading to previously safe parts of the planet, increasingly overwhelming us. Worse still, the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance has only intensified as the population has grown denser in inhabitable areas and temperatures continue to rise.
The demise of the human species is being discussed more and more. For many, the only uncertainty is how long we’ll last, how many more generations will see the light of day. Suicides are the most obvious manifestation of the prevailing despair, but there are other indications: a sense of bottomless loss, unbearable guilt and fierce resentment at previous generations who didn’t do what was necessary to ward off this unstoppable calamity.
This is an edited extract from The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, published by Manilla Press (£12.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15
In October 2019, following a landmark legal case, Mexico’s tax administration was forced to publish information on almost every case of tax rebate and cancellation issued from 2007 to 2015.The publication of this data, which included cases involving many of Mexico’s wealthiest and well-known personalities, sent shockwaves through Mexican society. Outraged citizens flooded social media with images of the ostentatious spending of tax-rebate recipients. The public outcry had swift results: later that month, in a sweeping move, the Mexican parliament passed a bill nullifying all tax rebates and cancellations going forward.
This process was a victory for transparency and accountability—and an example of how civil society can play an effective role in advancing an agenda of equality and inclusion.
The NGO Fundar, the key force behind the campaign to release the tax data, has been a longstanding advocate for increasing citizen access to information on public finances. Fundar was established following the Mexican peso crisis and economic recession of 1994-1995. As Fundar activists recall, at the time it was impossible for the public to tell with any degree of accuracy how much money was being collected and spent by the public sector.
Driven by a demand for greater transparency and participation, Fundar has spent the following decades serving as a bridge between society and the public sector, strengthening public desire for accountability and emphasizing the value of citizen engagement in fiscal oversight. With limited available resources, Fundar had to anticipate what they could do to make a telling difference, and decided to engage in strategic litigation to seek the publication of tax data.
Fundar’s victory in the legal case came at a fortuitous moment, given the changing political environment in Mexico. The new administration of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO, as he is popularlyknown) has made the fight against corruption as a political priority. Crucially, the definition of corruption has been expanded to encompass tax evasion, a shift that has been captured and formalized in new anti-corruption legislation. These concrete steps to address widespread corruption complement a broader vision of building popular support for fiscal reforms.
At just 13 percent, Mexico has the lowest tax-revenue-to-GDP ratio among all OECD countries. That figure will have to increase to allow for sustainable implementation of the government’s ambitious social spending agenda. However, the political scope for increasing tax revenues is limited. Upon entering office, Obrador’s government formulated a three-prong program:
No new taxes
No new debt
“Republican austerity of the state” (reduction of privileges associated with political power)
As a result, the only source of new revenue will come from clamping down on corruption, tax evasion, and individual tax privileges. The public outcry following the publication of the tax exemptions in October has bolstered the government’s case for focusing on this approach.
The disclosure of tax privileges was an NGO-led initiative, but it helped create widespread political support among Mexican citizens for the removal of unfair tax distortions. Fundar’s success shows how NGOs can prove to be valuable allies for governments that are pursuing inclusive, pro-social agendas. Another key lesson from Fundar’s work is the importance of messages that are both clear and vivid. The arresting images of the lavish lifestyles of the rebate recipients was more effective in changing public opinion than any dry text or decontextualized numbers could be.
Like the recent successful campaign to increase the minimum wage in Mexico, the removal of tax exemptions demonstrates the constructive overlap between a reformist government’s agenda and the complementary work of civil society actors. Fundar’s success at leveraging strategic litigation, public outreach, and the changing political environment provides another model for how civil society can play an effective role in winning future reforms—both in Mexico, and beyond.
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I spent the last few days in the mountains celebrating X-MAS with my dear ones and while relaxing I finally managed to read one of the best books I have read in ages- ” Doughnut Economics ” by Kate Raworth. I wanted to take some time offline but I have to share this as I hope it inspires some of you to take a different look at economics in 2020.
Finally, I found the book that brings together all the hypothesis and concepts I was drawn to over the past years and puts them into a holistic picture how we can look at economics in a 21st century way.
When researching about the author Kate Raworth- an economist at the University of Oxford, who calls herself a “renegade” economist- she is sometimes referred to as the “John Maynard Keynes of the 21st century”.
From my point of view, her simple and brilliant book Doughnut Economics offers a game-changing analysis of our current economic system and is an inspiration for thinkers how to look at our world in a different way. She presents a very convincing concept on how to create economies that are regenerative and distributive by design- a subject very dear to my heart.
The basic principle of Doughnut Economics:
Kate Raworths economic theory is based on the picture of a doughnut. The doughnut has a social foundation and human well-being in the middle, and is itself ‘the safe and just space for humanity’ and for a ‘regenerative and distributive economy’, surrounded on the outer edge by the ecological ceiling of ‘critical planetary degradation’.
The overall target should be to remain within the doughnut to ensure that we neither fall into conditions of social inequality and suffer shortfalls, such as in water and food, nor allow growth to overshoot into threatening environmental collapse. In her words, this model ‘draws on diverse schools of thought, such as complexity, ecological, feminist, institutional and behavioural economics’.
Kate Raworths research on the history of economics and where our guiding concepts originate from was the most appealing element of the book for me. As a person educated in economics I “grew” up with the paradigm of economic growth. The thoughts of the neoliberal Chicago School and their concept dominated my way of thinking about the economy. And most of you who studied economics for sure came across Samulsons “Economics” textbook.
The way we learned economics then still dominates our decision-making for the future, guides our investment decisions, and shapes our responses to climate change, inequality, and other environmental and social challenges that define our times. However, those concepts do not suit the challenges we are facing today.
“The fundamental ideas that guide our economy today are centuries out of date yet are still taught in college courses worldwide and still used to address critical issues in government and business alike!”
This is dangerous and the effects can be seen in the in rising inequality and the environmental challenges we are facing nowadays. That’s why it is time, says Kate Raworth, to revise our economic thinking for the 21st century. She proposes 7 ways of thinking – that in her view should guide 21st-century economists. With those seven ways, I can very much relate. How about you?
The 7 Principles of the Doughnut Economy…
… and my thoughts on them
1. Change the goal—from GDP to the Doughnut. Doughnut Economics
The continuous growth of the gross national product (GDP) has been the goal of mainstream economics’ ever since the mid-20th century. Raworth argues economic growth cannot by itself solve all other problems our societies are facing and it cannot last forever, due to the scarcity of resources. Delivering well-being for people and the planet (our “planetary household”) as laid out in the picture of the doughnut should be the main purpose of economics instead of growth and profits.
Ever since I got in touch with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development goals they are a guiding star for the impact I want to make in the world. The Sustainable Development Goals provide a blueprint for the transition to a healthier planet and a more just world — for present and future generations. Those goals are reflected in the inner and outer dimension of the doughnut. They are a powerful concept interlinking the social, ecological and economic aspects of sustainability.
When I started my first activities in the social business world my major concern was inequality. But studying migration management I more and more learned about the interconnectivity of social and ecological aspects, which led me to support Fridays for Future and join Entrepreneurs for Future and actively advocate for stronger political action on climate-related issues as social issues can only be really solved if ecological and economical issues are also taken care of.
As a social entrepreneur, I feel that running a business on more KPIs than just financial growth by adding the social and ecological impact is very satisfying and I am deeply convinced, that this could also be a motivating way for all players in our society.
2. See the big picture—from self-contained market to embedded economy. Doughnut Economics
In neoliberal economics, the market rules. It’s supposed to most efficiently allocate resources when left to its own devices. The regulation ought to be minimal, the state’s role restricted to providing security to its citizens and protecting private property. Society is irrelevant, and the Earth’s resources seen as unlimited and thus left out of the equation.
Kate Raworth advocates stepping back and taking a broader view to see the economy how it really is, embedded within Earth’s natural systems and within human society. Within the economy itself, households, the market, the state and the commons all have an equally important role to play in meeting human needs. None should be given primacy over the others, but they should all be supported to serve human welfare in mutually complementing ways. I could not agree more to this holistic picture
3. Nurture human nature—from rational economic man to social adaptable humans. Doughnut Economics
Neoclassical economics bases its theories on a limited view of human nature, the notorious endlessly rationalizing and self-maximizing homo economicus. Kate Raworth tries to draw a picture of him: Standing alone, with money in his hand, ego in his heart, a calculator in his head and nature at his feet. He hates work, he loves luxury and he knows the price of everything.
The whole concept was brought up to make it easier to argue economic models. Raworth argues that we need a new picture of the person we picture as a base for our economic models taking into account our capacities for solidarity, empathy and reciprocity.
How I hated the model of the “homo economicus” when studying economics! I remember long arguments then up to now that humans are not selfish and ego-driven. The really bad part about “homo economicus” is that studies show that the more we learn about it the more selfish we become so it is more than time to come up with a better picture – we are so much more than a dollar hunting animal. Why would we set out and found charities, help others, found social businesses and the like if men would just be selfish?
4. Get savvy with systems—from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity. Doughnut Economics
The book brings up the historic context of how economics as a science was shaped. Economics became a science when economists started to introduce diagrams and concepts resembling Newtons diagrams and mechanic thinking. Economists have for a long time strived to simplify economic models to resemble linear mechanical models.
However, our world gets more and more complex day by day and the only way to master this complexity is system thinking. Thinking in terms of systems can do a far better job helping us understand how our world works and what actions we could take to reverse negative developments. I think this is especially true if you look at fast technological developments that will shape our future
5. Design to distribute—from ‘growth will even it up again’ to distributive by design. Doughnut Economics
Raworth says inequality is neither good for growth nor a necessary stage of development. On the contrary, more unequal societies are shown to be less healthy and happy and to face a higher degree of environmental degradation. Redistributing income is not enough to address the situation, for most of the rise in inequality we see today is due to wealth concentration resulting from returns on capital.
When we started our venture goood network we were lucky to work with Karl Wagner, former director of external affairs of the Club of Rome. The discussions we had when working on our manifesto were very inspiring and I learned a lot about how to look at the world in a different way.
Karl co-authored a discussion paper of the Club of Rome- The Values Quest where he argues in the line of Kate Raworth that our theory and practice of economy do not rest on natural laws but on the underlying values.
To have an unequal society instead of an equal one is our choice, it is not a given by nature. To change the world for the better we need to address values and the narratives they are embedded in. Based on his thoughts I started to rethink what I can do to help change the current system and this is why I started to speak publicly and advocate for purpose and sustainability.
Karl Wagner at the goood Launchparty holding a keynote about values for our society
6. Create to regenerate—from ‘growth will clean it up again’ to regenerative by design. Doughnut Economics
As regards the environment, our current economic setup is eating up Earth’s resources at one end and spewing out waste from the other. We should instead strive to design a circular economy with all the energy and resources in constant flow – reused, renewed, returned to the planet’s life cycle where the “waste” of one process can be turned into input for another process.
The circular economy is rather a new concept for me, but I think it is super fascinating. As a consumer, I am drawn to intelligent products based on circular concepts and as an innovator and entrepreneur, I see opportunities emerging from new collaborations. One of my goals for 2020 is to learn more about the concept and how we as a network of system-thinkers can contribute. I am looking forward to an interesting exchange and discussions on the topic with all of you.
7. Be agnostic about growth—from growth addicted to growth agnostic. Doughnut Economics
So my wish for 2020: Let´s break free of our old picture of economics and transform to a 21-century concept of economics. Even if you are on a New Years diet- get involved with the Doughnut- I am convinced it will serve us and our world well.
The Centre for Public Impact (CPI) use the mechanics of a card game to explore how the rules of power within government should change. The game contrasts the rules of ‘old’ power – hierarchy, control and targets – with those of ‘new’ power – subsidiarity, relationships, and learning. It draws on a wider body of work from the CPI which argues that spreading and sharing power as far as possible is essential for the government to remain effective and rebuild public trust. Below is the CPI’s pitch explaining the importance of the ideas and concepts which inform the Shared Power Principle game.
Shared Power Principle card game illustration by Joe Wilson
Government is no child’s play, it’s serious business because the stakes are so high.
So why is it that we’ve been playing the same tired, worn-out cards?
We use target-driven managing — even when we know full well that making people accountable for results they don’t actually control inevitably leads to all kinds of gaming and dysfunction.
We insist on knowing ‘what works’ — even though for complex problems knowing ‘what worked’ somewhere else won’t tell us much at all about whether it will work here.
We build transactional services — despite the fact that we know that it’s relationships which make many services work.
And we, of course, use hierarchy as the ultimate trump card.
These cards, these patterns are failing us but we still hear many calls for more of the same.
But doubling down on hierarchy and control won’t get us out of the mess that we’re in.
Let me be clear. We are not saying that these cards are always wrong. What we are saying is that there is an entire set of different cards that we ought to play much more often.
“These are not based on control but they are based on the idea that we do better when we share power.”
Instead of target-driven managing, we redefine governance to include much richer notions of accountability and to change the role of leaders from heroes to stewards.
In the place of insisting on understanding “what works” ahead of time we choose continuous learning where we use data for learning, and not for control.
We replace transactionality with relationships understanding that for complex services we need to create the space for meaningful personal interactions.
And instead of hierarchy, we choose subsidiarity — instead of assuming that power needs to sit at the centre of government and at the top of organizations we assume the opposite. We push authority to where the knowledge, expertise and wisdom sits — rather than carrying information to where authority sits. We believe in radically redistributing both power and accountability across the system.
This is radical but it’s not ‘our’ vision — because this is real, these cards are being played by pioneers like Wigan Council, by Gateshead Council, by the Dutch home care provider Buurtzorg and by many more here and abroad.
It’s fun to talk about this in the language of games and to be creative with it but the backdrop to this is serious. Something profound needs to change and hopefully these Radical Visions, this one included, can help catalyze that.
If you are interested in playing the actual game, please contact theCPIvia their website or find them on Twitter@CPI_foundation. The game’s illustrator isJoe Wilson.
Our harvesting session was facilitated by Fyodor Ovchinnikov of Institute for Evolutionary Leadership, and Naomi Joy Smith, designer of the Digital Hikoi and coordinator of the Beyond Us community engagement.
Also participating in this harvest, was:
Screenshot of the ‘Wedding Table’ data visualization model developed by Lauren Moore Nignon — eventually each participant will be able to connect all the conversations they’ve taken part in, track notes, follow up on action items, side discussions, missed connections and context from conversations that they missed.
Indigenous leaders, Educators and Storytellers Starting the Learning Journey
We would like the world to know that the Cobra Canoa is the beginning: it’s the beginning and it’s happening. It’s happening during a time when humanity is talking about the sixth mass extinction, when nature is actually in an evolution of falling apart due to the popular term called “climate change”.
It’s a shared story that was co-created during a learning journey initiated from Rio de Janiero to São Paulo, and it was given the name Cobra Canoa as a symbol of regeneration of a cosmology that connects humans back to nature and back to the we-ness or belonging to a community — a community of happiness, joy, and companionship, not only between humans but between all life that is part of the bigger cosmology of being human.
This new story happened when a group of people from different places on the planet, disconnected from each other, started using technology to have live interactive learning journey and actively co-creating new stories and new patterns for understanding life better. Life in itself was a classroom, nature was a classroom. The purpose of this in terms of our mission is to inspire people to create more learner centered schools, to empower students.
In co-creating a new story, the networks are like a forest. The power of a story is really telling a story that is beyond us, where we are enmeshed with one another again — collective humanity rediscovering our belonging in the web of life, reawakening to our tribe activated and alive.
This united narrative was stated by traveling teachers, travelling storytellers who are connecting languages and people coming from different parts of life, learning as much as we possibly can from every encounter and accelerating this educational shift as a radical emergency call by people who are connected to nature — not only indigenous people, but people from all cultures of the world that are really feeling compassion and love for all life on the planet.
It was fascinating to discover many intersections: perpetual learning, learning journeys, indigenous wisdom, connective storytelling, networked movements, collective leadership. Some of us have been working in these and other related intersections in theoretical, practical, and creative community contexts for the last decade and it was nice to find others — not as isolating.
Reconnecting to indigenous leadership on climate change at CCC19 — a catalyst for Beyond Us
Decolonizing, Grieving, Healing, and Reconciling
One of the words that kept coming up as a pattern was “decolonization”. We talked about what that process really entails, how specifically the Xucuru people are experiencing this, and that even these calls that we are doing are a part of that decolonization for them and a service to them as well as ourselves.
They spoke a lot from a spiritual aspect where pretty much everything that they do is rooted in their spirituality and the wisdom of their ancestors. This is definitely something that we have lost in the Western culture and forget about a lot. It was a great reminder. It felt like something that was being remembered or gained is lost and forgotten in a lot of the ways that we work in Western culture.
How are we going to get back in touch with that even if our science these days is almost catching up with this mystery of what we are all doing here and what we need to do in the future?
There is a healing, there is grief, there is a reconciliation process that really has to tap our emotions into grief, sadness, even madness for the chaos we have created on the planet. Above us, the stimuli of the environment moves us like starlings in murmuration; as we connect to the dark parts of ourselves, our shadows, our grief, and our trauma, our collective patterns move us like the mycelium under the earth connects the roots of the trees.
Last month 195 world leaders once again met in New York for big speeches and grand events. But on inequality, when all is said and done, more has been said than done.
Four years after governments across the world committed to fighting inequality as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, far too little has been seen in the way of government action. That’s not the verdict of critical NGOs – that’s the official assessment of UN Secretary-General António Guterres himself.
As Guterres told countries, adding only the thinnest diplomatic coating, “the shift in development pathways to generate the transformation required to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required.”
Indeed, he noted, “the global landscape for Sustainable Development Goal implementation has generally deteriorated since 2015”. It is in this context that the UN has called for a “decade of delivery” following five years in which we the people have been able to feast on words whilst fasting on action.
For years, grassroots organisations have been sounding the alarm about the damage being caused by widening inequality. More recently, the formal debate on inequality shifted and the accepted mainstream normative position has become that inequality is dangerous and needs to be reduced.
The UN has also stepped up in providing coordination and advice. But governments have not shifted in recognition of the new consensus. Cynicism about whether anything will be done has taken root amongst even the most hopeful observers.
And the big headlines from this year’s UN General Assembly did very little to counter that cynicism, dominated as they were by the world’s loudest leaders, who seem to make up for an absence of substance with a surfeit of bombast.
Quietly, on the sidelines, however, another group met to plan not a communique on the stage but a series of actions at home. It was not a huge group of countries, just a dozen, but it included countries from every region of the world and every income level.
They met not because they think they have the answers, but because they are keen to learn from each other and to act. From Indonesia to Sierra Leone to Sweden to Mexico, they and others gathered in the first heads of state and government meeting of the Grand Challenge on Inequality, a new multi-stakeholder initiative to support vanguard governments, committed to tackling inequality, in finding the path by walking it.
Then, even more crucially, these same leaders mandated senior leaders and officials – the doers – to gather just after the New York meetings in Mexico City, and then in a few months in Jakarta, and onwards, to plan the implementation of a series of practical country-specific policies to narrow the gap between the runaway few and the many pushed behind.
You haven’t heard about this meeting because the leaders don’t believe that they have yet earned the right to declare themselves the leaders. Saint Francis of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel, and if you must, use words.”
In a similar spirit, the country leaders in the Grand Challenge on Inequality recognized, in the New York and in Mexico City meetings, that the power of their commitment to tackling inequality will be shown not in what they say but in what they do.
They recognized that there is no single policy that on its own can beat inequality, and so a series of complementary policies year on year is needed. They recognized that tackling inequality means taking on vested interests: that it means progressive tax and universal public services, it means protected workers and regulated corporations, it means designing policy from the bottom-up not the top-down, and it means tackling the wealth and power of the very wealthy.
As part of that, they opened themselves up to forthright challenge from grassroots social movements and trade unions, and shared what they as leaders were finding most challenging and the lessons they had learnt from their mistakes. It was, I’ll confess, something of a shock to hear leaders start off not with justifications but with self-criticism.
It was a world away from the (in)famous “Big Men Who Strode New York”. In a world saturated by the fake, to witness sincerity was disorientating.
It is early days for the pioneer governments Grand Challenge on Inequality, but, as a witness and as someone who has spent years bluntly challenging governments for their failures, here’s why it matters: social transformation doesn’t happen when people recognize that ther society is unfair – it happens when people also recognize that it can be fairer.
And that depends on people witnessing change, somewhere. Cynicism and despair are ultimately tools of the status quo. There is nothing more dangerous to those who would keep things as they are than the threat of a good example.
And, quietly, this group of countries, of leaders who do not call themselves leaders, are starting to build that good example. Oxfam have started to call this group of governments the “axis of hope”. Perhaps these governments could be more prosaically named the “axis of action”.
Grassroots organising will remain essential to help foster leaders’ determination and to push back against the pressures that will continue to be exerted by economic elites. There is no certainty that change is coming. But there is no longer certainty that it isn’t. And the sound that accompanies this change is not the bang of fireworks. It is a quiet whirring of hard work.
I don’t want to simply dismiss Greta haters as a bunch of old white guys who taunt her “weird looking face with weird voice” like bullies on a playground.
There are also many serious environmental advocates who worry that Greta is simply projecting “anti” messages. That “resistance is futile.” That the strikes around the world, inspired by her, are wasted effort. That only direct change in “The System” matters.
In my career as an environmental activist at JUCCCE, I have decided very consciously not to protest anything. Not to strike. Not to be against people.
Only to provide solutions and align incentives, like a management consultant working with decision-makers. This has worked well for me in China. So to-date, I was both in admiration of Greta’s persistence and also not very engaged in participating in the strikes.
Today, as we head into UN Climate Action Week, I want to make a stronger stand to support Greta by helping people understand the deeper consequences of what she has activated in the world.
What people see as organizing “resistance,” I see as Greta tapping into her extraordinary inner strength to “draw strong boundaries.” She is holding her own to show that she does not subscribe to the current system, to the false hope of capitalism, to false practices that separate us from nature.
She is at once allowing these to exist, and at the same time creating an unbreakable container of her truth.
Her truth is her knowledge of the Earth we could be living on, and of the world, she wants to live in. This truth, like a jar full of fireflies, shines brightly and transparently. This brilliant light is what has attracted the attention of people around the world.
Some people see her as a “tool being used as a puppet” by billionaires. I see that her light has attracted a lot of unwelcome bugs, but that her truth jar is impenetrable from outside forces. I see a human whose belief in her essential nature has allowed her to say “NO” very clearly to these forces.
She is teaching us how to say “NO” while allowing these people to exist. Greta knows exactly what she is doing. We need not worry about her falling prey as a victim to corporates or bullies or puppeteers. Nor do we need to be her savior.
These people say she is not advocating for “real” change, but instead supporting light solutions that tweak, but do not transform the System. They say she is just a greenwasher.
But Greta is not responsible for our reality. Only you are responsible for your reality. Only I am responsible for creating my own reality. We are all culprits in creating this collective reality.
Greta is simply holding up a lighted magnifying mirror to our own faces, to trigger us into more action ourselves. Instead of asking “is Greta doing enough of the right thing?” let us ask ourselves “our we doing enough of the right thing?”
Some people see a child who is ungrateful for education, and they wish that she would have more respect for teachers. I see a human who is practicing the pinnacle of life education: teach learn, learn teach.
She has started a global conversation that children are now having as peers with adults, and that adults need to learn to have with children.
That’s why I love watching Greta and George Monbiot side-by-side, as child and elder, putting out a call for all of us to protect “the magic of trees”.
What some people see as a child, I see as an old soul who has tapped into the very nature of the Universe. She is a very grounded old soul who, despite her Aspergers, is anchored enough in her body to communicate and relate to regular human beings.
In fact, I surmise it is exactly due to her Aspergers that she is able to see more clearly than the majority of humans. Being on the spectrum has definitely allowed her to channel her tremendous energy in a focused manner.
If I were to have one wish for the continued rise of Greta, it would be to have all further dialogue with her in spaces of nature. Forests are her stadiums.
Animals are her cheerleaders. Oceans are her magic carpet. She needs to regenerate her strength from nature, and Nature draws strength from her.
Nature is the only protector she needs from negative forces. Earth is the conductor of her light. Let us continue to commune with Greta in nature.
The inner strength she has shown in holding space for all of us is magnificent. By activating herself, her truth, her light, she has enabled other humans around the world to activate each other.
More children will start to use platforms in this way and command their own space. At the end of the video “Nature Now,”
She ends with the most important lesson for all humans: that “Everything counts. What you do, counts.” She’s trying to get us to “wake up” to the fact that all humans matter. Young or old, humble or powerful, we can manifest the world we want.
By Peggy Liu with Chloe Hudson
Peggy Liu is an environmentalist. www.juccce.org, www.foodheroes.org
Chloe Hudson is an intuitive healer. www.worldpeaceprojects.global
“A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of selected and optimized activities that strongly support things that you value, and then happy miss out on everything else” (p. 28).
The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Marcelo Ebrard, announced on Wednesday, June 19th at the UN the creation of a Comprehensive Development Plan for Central America, which seeks to address the causes of migration in the area, and 2 days later announces a pot of 100 Million USD and a comprehensive plan where 17 UN agencies will participate in strong cooperation.
This project was prepared by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, with the participation of the Governments of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, and aims to put into practice the idea that people should not be subjected to conditions of forced migration due to poverty or insecurity.
In fact, he stressed, they should have development options in their places of origin and that is the purpose of the plan.
Mexico will provide resources for several million dollars to the initiative, and it is expected that Spain and Germany will also support it with financing, said Ebrard.
The plan is aimed at creating immediate employment options and address problems such as the Central American dry corridor which caused one of the first forced migrations due to the consequences of climate change.
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