If you only read one thing this week…

Unintended Consequences of Poverty Reduction by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
May 20, 2008, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Articles, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins, Megatrend

Read on for a summary of The Risks of Fighting Poverty too Well by Mark Lange, first published in the Christian Science Monitor. Or read the full article and see video footage here.

It is ironic that China’s stunning success in reducing poverty brings unintended consequences for the rest of the world. China’s breakthrough has created an explosion in greenhouse gases; it has triggered intense competition for resources which has led to China’s sponsorship of the world’s most savage and dysfunctional regimes. China’s enormous supply of workers makes it harder for other nations to contribute labor and trade in world markets. Within China, as poverty in declines, inequality is rising rapidly.  Continue reading

Attempting to better define fragile states by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
May 20, 2008, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Articles, Development theory, If you have 30 mins, Megatrend, Uncategorized

The Brookings Institute has just published a report that presents an Index of State Weakness in the Developing World, measuring weakness in 141 developing countries (as defined by the World Bank) against four categories: economic, political, security and social welfare. Each category has four indicators and each country received a score for each indicator and a subsequent average. The complete, beautifully color-coded table can be downloaded and printed here. Somalia scores lowest across all four categories and ranks at the bottom of the charts. The 24-page report shows some interesting correlations and between the different data sets.  For example, not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between poverty and overall weakness which means that most of the world’s weakest (and failed) states are also the world’s poorest. Also, states that are more successful at political governance also tend to provide better social welfare. The report is easily accessible and at only 24 pages is an interesting read. Download the full report here.

Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Poll of the Muslim World by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
March 5, 2008, 2:46 am
Filed under: Development theory, If you have 30 mins, Megatrend

The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies is a nonpartisan research center dedicated to providing data-driven analysis, advice, and education on the views of Muslim populations around the world. Their polls ask Muslims about their beliefs regarding education, religion, democracy, culture, financial prosperity, and the media.Their latest report has some interesting findings – it is broken into five main sections:

1. Ordinary Muslims

2. Islam and Democracy

3. Muslims and Americans: The Way Forward

4. Moderate vs. Extremist Views in the Muslim World

5. Perspectives of Women in the Muslim World

All the reports are available in Arabic and English. Some of the more revolve around the commonalities between opinion in the US and the Muslim world – the things that both groups like and dislike about the western world are strikingly similar, as is the importance of religion in society and the concern at the breakdown of family structure.Another interesting finding is that Muslims holding radical views about the west are no more likely to be deeply religious than their more moderate counterparts. Indeed, they tend to be better educated, wealthier and politically active – a profile that more closely fits political revolutionaries than radically religious activists. Read the full report here.

‘Greensumption’? A closer look at shopping to save the planet by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

The New York Times .earth section is covering a new video from the International Forum on Globalization that looks at “absurdity of the notion that the way out of this planetary crisis — which is deeply rooted in overuse of scarce resources – is to go out and “shop to save the planet”.  Among many “false solutions” now coming at us, it is surely the most peculiar, but so American: every crisis viewed as a new business growth opportunity.  Obviously the better answer is less use of energy, materials, consumption, not more.

It’s a fun five minute satire on the idea that planetary crisis is a great new business opportunity.

Read the interview and watch the video here, and read the transcript of the interview here.

[The IFG] believes that modern economic globalization will not survive the current set of planetary crises, even if all of us naysayers offered no protest at all. At least it cannot survive in anything approaching its current forms and scale. You cant have globalization without digging up the last resources on the earth to feed corporate growth, and to engage in a staggering amount of transoceanic shipping (as the video showed) using fuel which is getting constantly more expensive and dangerous to our survival. The modern economic globalization model (since the 1946 Bretton Woods meetings) depends upon four impossible conditions:  First and foremost, continuous rates of high economic growth for global corporations, and for the overall system itself. That idea is itself preposterous on a finite planet.  The growth itself depends on:  Second, ever-increasing access to supplies of (inexpensive) natural resources, especially cheap energy and inexpensive global transport, arable soils, and water.)  Third, always increasing new markets.  And, Fourth, always expanding supplies of cheap labor. Global corporations had a field day over the past five decades, while all of those things were in abundant supply. But we live on a finite planet: limited resources, limited sinks, limited rates of recovery, limited carrying capacity.  To sustain the voracious appetites of global corporations, at anything like the rate of development over the past half century is impossible on a planet with such clear natural limits.

Powering down for the future by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

Jerry Mander of the International Forum on Globalization is the editor of the new Manifesto on Global Economic Transitions, subtitled ‘Powering down for the future – towards a global movement for systemic change, economics of ecological sustainability, equity, sufficiency and peace’. This 30 page document distills much of the thinking from the IFG on the three core threats to development and sustainability:

1. Catastrophic Climate Chaos

2. The end of the era of cheap energy – peak oil and gas

3. Global resource depletion – Fresh water, forests, oceans, soil and wildlife extinctions.

IFG’s thesis is that the solution to each of these threats is the same: technological ‘solutions’ to these problems are not working – we must live within our ecological means, and we must re-localize, and return local democratic control to economic systems.

If you can’t get enough, check out “Alternatives to Economic Globalization – A Better World is Possible” where you can download the ‘what you can do’ section of the book free.

Global Public Opinions on Climate Change by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 25, 2007, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Environment, If you only have 15 mins, Megatrend

The BBC has just conducted a poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries to ascertain opinions towards Climate Change. Not surprisingly perhaps, given recent reports and media attention, an average of 79% now believe that human activity is a significant cause of climate change. The biggest skeptics are in the US, India, Kenya, and (surprisingly to me) Canada. There are some interesting graphs and it is interesting to see which countries are the most supportive of immediate action and those which are less inclined to jump in immediately. I found it positive to see where public opinion is currently at. However, I also feel the need to balance it with another poll I read recently in Britain in The Week which says that the vast majority of Britains feel the need to pretend to be greener than they are and that most people don’t a) trust the government to be really making effective legislation or b) believe that they need to cut down on their own energy consumption.

The perils of unregulated trade and globalisation by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

If you only read one thing on globalisation this week, Scott London’s interview with Jerry Mander, one of the most articulate and outspoken critics of technology and economic globalization, is worth a look. His books include Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, In the Absence of the Sacred, and The Case Against the Global Economy (co-edited with Edward Goldsmith). “In this interview, Mander makes a forceful case against economic globalization, arguing that we need to examine the hidden costs of free trade and deregulation and search for more enlighened economic models to guide us into the twenty-first century“. Read it here.