Friday, May 25, 2012

My Interview with Global Change Agent, Hunter Lovins

Hunter Lovins is a person I found about on a TED talk. She gave a passionate lecture on why we it makes business sense to adopt sustainable practices. Lovins is a polymath who is able to communicate clearly and simply her knowledge and understanding of how we now have the technology to correct the environmental imbalances we just need business to understand that it is now in their best interests to adopt the eco-friendly practices.  This is not a religion she says. It just makes pure business sense. You wish you could clone her so every CEO and policy maker work together to save the planet. As she quotes someone saying--'you cannot do business on a dead planet.'

As we talked for about 35 minutes you can get a glimpse as to the range of her expertise.  One interesting topic was the so called "happiness index" that might replace the GDP as a measure of a society's success. She mentions when you interview people making more money is about 4th on the list of wishes, ahead is happiness and health. We also touched on the power of social networking and how she is now engaged in putting a course together which would help people understand the nuts and bolts of sustainable development so the next generation will be able to get it and take advantage of the opportunity to correct our mistakes. She reminds us also during the course of the interview that we don't have very long to correct the imbalances that exist. Maybe we have until 2030 when some strange dynamics kick in if we don't do something soon to correct ourselves. We clearly need to act if not now, very soon. She will be attending the climate change conference in Rio this summer and has a full load of speaking engagements across the planet. Let us wish her the best as she works with many others to change the tide of history.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ross and Friedman DIscuss the Middle East

Tom Friedman and Dennis Ross are two friends who often speak together about their favorite topic Middle East politics. I attended one such recent event and jotted down some notes on their relaxed assessment of the issue du jour--whether Israel will bomb Iran. For Ross the calculation for the Iran Supreme Leader is whether the costs of the nuclear option are worth the economic sacrifice. Iran is currently losing one million barrels a day of oil it cannot sell. The only reason that the sanctions are so effective today is because Israel has made it clear they will not accept an Iranian nuclear threat. They view such a threat in existential terms and the world has to take them seriously on this point. There is much speculation whether the recent elections in Israel strengthens the chance of war with three former heads of the military in the government and a much strengthened majority. Ross felt it makes no difference. The only way to tell whether the Iranians are serious is whether they will agree to regular talks which so far have been sporadic. As far as Mid East peace--Ross said two state solution only solution but lack of belief that will work out. For example when questioned 78% of Israelis favor Clinton peace parameters that Ross helped negotiate but the same number don't think it can happen. What is needed is confidence building measures that would talk about the reality that the settlements are only 1.5% of the available land. Needs to be realistic talk about the peace settlement. Both sides have to own it. Friedman was concerned about the recent $1.3 billion dollar aid package for Egypt--essentially a gift to the Egyptian army when 56 percent of Egyptian women are illiterate and 25 percent of men. Friedman could imagine a better approach but did not spell this out. On the other hand he praised the Iraq democratic process as imperfect as it is and US role as "mid wife." His worry about Syria is that there is no midwife to bring that country to democratic government and that Egypt's spring will be similarly disabled because the immediate result of the Arab spring was to bring the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to power and that whereas the other Islamic dictatorships had oil money to buy off the other interest groups --Egypt does not have that luxury. He saw the master narrative in the Middle East as Islam's need to come to terms with modernity. It was going to be a protracted struggle. Turkey is the only model out there to follow. In a question about China's role recent discoveries of natural gas makes us less dependent on foreign oil but China's needs for oil and to therefore cozy up to dictators will increase, question will they align themselves with democratic forces?