Friday, January 16, 2009

Wéi Jí

This is the Chinese word for "crisis". It means both "danger" and "opportunity". Since the current global financial crisis is an opportunity, at least under some cultural parameters, how can we take better advantage of the situation while it lasts?

First, try to separate the issues that we cannot do anything about, like economic statistics that are fluctuating towards the negative end of the spectrum, from the issues that we can do something about, like public policy, innovation for processes, systems, goods and services, attitudes of proactivity and solidarity, and long-term vision for the future.

Second, seriously consider the options presented by the Doha Round for liberalization of global trade. The global economic system is wasting billions of dollars that could be redirected to other purposes. Of course, Free Trade must mean fair trade. Otherwise, no way, Jose.

Third, revise the human accomplishments that have not had virtuous results, for example efficient generation and use of energy and environmental sustainability of economic growth in most regions of the world.

Fourth, review the values and principles that should guide human action. For example, the meaning of quality of life; happiness; justice; peace.

Fifth, identify the least sustainable businesses in the world, like arms and military industry, production of beef, and all other businesses that either imply massive deforestation, indiscriminate deployment of natural resources, or that pollute air and water sources without compensating the environmental damage.

Sixth, remember the importance of education as an effective means to distribute knowledge more evenly, therefore, distributing wealth more evenly. Take advantage of such reminder to review how to make formal education more effective. Sending a human being to school for 12 years to become a hand-laborer is a waste of public resources educating this person. Some of the skills required by modern "mind-labor" are learned outside academic institutions. Identifying the skills that should be promoted or developed by modern employees would improve the diagnosis to solve the education and training problem of qualified "mind-labor" for today's working needs.

In 2000, I started thinking long-term about how I would have liked 2030 to look like. Although the vision has not changed much, we don't have 30 years to get there anymore. Nor do we have any sort of consensus -not even consideration- for such long-term future scenario. Ten years are gone. Before we know it, another ten will be gone. To make the conflict scenario a bit more complicated, if we continue the rate of natural resource extraction and depletion to feed our voracious industrial growth and consumerism, there won't be many resources left to think about the "next 30-year plan".

This crisis -opportunity- might be a good stop on the way to really think things over. Who's up for it?

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