Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sustainable Freedom

We reach 2008, eventful year of many lessons. The scar we shall bear in our foreheads to remember always is that freedom, as we understood it, came to a drastic end. Not only in terms of global, corporate and personal finances, but also, and most urgently, in terms of environmental impact.

There is no virtue in exercising freedom in such a way that we run out of it. For what would we do in the future if we realized we have lost it because we enjoyed it improperly?

More than a proper use of freedom, it shall be sustainable. Not only shall we assure we maintain the same degree of freedom we have enjoyed so far, but we shall also ensure that seven generations after this one, our descendants will still have similar degrees of freedom to realize their dreams and enjoy life as plentifully as we have.

Let us not be remembered as the generation that exhausted freedom. Our ancestors fought for us to have this freedom we enjoy. Let us keep in mind how we want our descendants to remember us when we are gone. Is our legacy one of solutions or one of problems?

Will we leave a better world than the one we found when we were born? It is already a tough challenge, but not tough enough to let it fall.

2009 will be the year for transformation. We must mend the conflicts we have created, most of which have manifested their gravity in this 2008 that breathes its last breaths. Let it not be forgotten.

Brother Killing Sister

Peace seems to be out of the mainstream geopolitical vocabulary lately. The explanations that intend to justify Israelstinian fighting does not seem to include the concept of peace or the way to peace building at all. It is, yet again, a constant mutual accusation of who shot first.

One lesson to learn from politics is how humble you become when you realize we all have glass ceilings, therefore we shouldn't throw rocks. Trying to establish a moral argument behind throwing rocks increases the risk of having your own ceiling shattered by somebody else claiming moral authority as well.

Another lesson to learn from diplomacy is that it is better to think twice before speaking and in the end say nothing, than to offend or insult or to come up with lies to tilt public opinion one way or another. Humans are persuasive beings. Aristotle referred to us as "zoon politikoon", or political animals. Being persuasive does not imply being manipulative. That is expected of children, who know nothing better than manipulating adults emotionally, through a very scarce verbal language, and with an understanding of the world a few inches beyond their noses. From adults, instead, who have the capability of voluntarily increasing their intellectual understanding of the Other and of the world we all share together, manipulation is an immoral, unethical lack of virtue.

I don't know if the few concentration camps I have visited in my life are part of a myth that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian President, says was the Jewish Holocaust during Second World War in Europe. From what I have witnessed, those gas chambers seemed real, the amount of shoes and clothes and teeth collected at mass graves seem real. They constitute sufficient scientific evidence to make a solid, irrefutable historic claim.

If the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 seems to be the beginning of the last phase of the Israelstinian conflict of the last 60 years, it is imperative to understand that it was also the end of the most horrific phase of civilization's attempt at annihilating the Other. And we vowed never again. It was not too late to intervene, as it was not too late in Rwanda or in Kosovo, despite the damage that we, the human civilization, suffered from witnessing brother killing sister.

There is also no justification to attack a severely maimed population that has reduced access to clean water, to energy, to food, with very few opportunities for development of their population, without even much possibility to migrate abroad. The disparity in strength between both parties, and the disproportionate use of force of the attacks of one and the other, makes it impossible to legitimize such an attack.

I empathize with my Palestinian friends, the loving and friendly professors from the University of Gaza I have met in peace conferences around the world. Despite the sorrow and the stress, they still have faith and energy to stay up until late at night trying to work out a solution for the conflict that would bring peace, development, and justice to their nation.

I empathize with my Israeli friends, the hard-working and easygoing men and women who wanted to organize a conference in Israel so we could see what they had made of the desert. Despite the hostility from their neighbors, they are still proud to present what they have been capable of, and they never halted or failed to make us feel their warm hospitality.

Brother killing sister is not the way to peace. It has never been. It will never be. It is never too late for both parties to go to bed at night and think if there is any virtue in what they have achieved, launching a rocket to a neighborhood or bombing a university. Peace is a chain of virtues.

One sad reminder: Hiroshima. Japanese soldiers kept fighting, kamikazes kept flying their planes into allied targets, and Japan was not surrendering, despite there was nothing more at stake for them, except honor, of course. The war was over, and Japan kept on fighting. The US, out of a very limited number of options, chose to drop an atomic bomb in Hiroshima, and three days later in Nagasaki, to force Japan's surrender, which came immediately.

The good news is that anyone, in any conflict, no matter how violent, can take the initiative to stop aggressions and start thinking seriously, constructively, creatively, empathically, harmoniously, about peace.

Israelstinians, you are giving shame to us all. You are behaving as civilization at its worst and most primitive. Grow up, evolve, clean your act, wipe your tears, bury your dead, shake hands, move on, apologize, forgive: reconcile. There is no trace of morality or development in acts that are not virtuous. Brother killing sister is no virtue at all.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mitigate Climate Change: go veggie

Did you know that nearly 70% of all grains grown in the US are used to feed animals?

Did you know that this amount of grains in one year can feed 800 million people in a same period of time?

Can we really say "development" when millions are growing sickly obese eating meat fed with grains while other millions are starving because they don't even have grains?

No one is to blame. We are just not yet globally aware of our interconnectedness, which leads to global conflicts and eventually to global transformations. And we are not yet individually conscious that money and the material possessions that can be acquired through it are not the essential aspects of life on Earth or humankind's sustainable development.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-laureate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated:
"The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. So I want to highlight the fact that among options for mitigating climate change, changing diets is something one should consider."

Stop eating meat. That's my New Year's resolution.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Costa Rican sustainable development

On July, 2007, the Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace laureate Oscar Arias launched the program “Peace with Nature”, intended to help Costa Rica become the first neutral country in carbon emissions by the year 2021. This ambitious and visionary proposal has become part of Costa Rica’s foreign policy, and several environmentally aware nations around the world have praised and vowed to follow Costa Rica’s leadership in this field.

Thanks to many key decisions taken during the last 35 years towards conservation awareness and education on the importance of protecting its biodiversity and natural resources, Costa Rica now ranks fifth on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Costa Rica’s position is only behind Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, outranking major environmental powers such as Germany, New Zealand, Japan and Canada.

The EPI is a well-deserved recognition for a country that has doubled its forest coverage in the last 20 years and has more than 25% of its territory protected by conservation laws. Moreover, it is a country home to the National Biodiversity Institute, a worldwide leading institution dedicated to the protection of wildlife biodiversity as a sustainable way to develop rural and urban societies in harmony with the surrounding natural environment.

In times when Climate Change becomes a serious global challenge, leadership in the field of environmental conservation, sustainability and the preservation of biodiversity is welcome worldwide. Precisely, Costa Rica wants to prove to the world that there is a way to develop and to reach high levels of human development whilst protecting and making a sustainable use of natural resources.

Costa Rica, a country roughly fifty thousand square kilometers in land surface, hosts nearly 4.5% of all biodiversity found on the planet. Additionally, its territorial waters occupy a surface area of nearly half a million square kilometers where a wide array of plants, animals and microorganisms conform richly diverse ecosystems.

The state has also implemented an important measure providing a Certification for Sustainable Tourism. This certificate rewards socially and environmentally responsible companies that also maintain high levels of consumer satisfaction, carefully distinguishing companies and agents that are genuinely sustainable.

Regarding energy development, Costa Rica produces nearly 90% of all its electricity from renewable sources, namely hydroelectric, wind and geothermal. In times in which oil dependency is very costly for the planet’s environment and increases the pressure of Climate Change, our country is positioned as an example in its sources of alternative, clean and renewable energies.

Costa Rica’s geographic location, only nine degrees latitude North of the Equator line, makes it a very suitable country for solar energy harvesting. Also, 1500 kilometers of coastal line represent very rich potential for tidal energy generation. Additionally, there are nine active volcanoes in our small territory, which represent endless resources for geothermal energy generation.

Today, the new frontier for Costa Rican development has to do with leadership towards environmental awareness, conservation and sustainable development of its people and resources. Neutrality in carbon emissions, organic agricultural production, biodiversity research, promotion of alternative, clean and renewable sources of energy, reforestation and conservation of ecosystems are among the components that form Peace with Nature, the Costa Rican campaign for global leadership.

What Costa Rica needs for its further sustainable development is more sources of investment and technology transfer. These are times when creativity and innovation are necessary to find answers to the global problems we have created. It is in the pursuit of synergies and international cooperation that we will manage to shift environmental and energy paradigms into a more prosperous future for all humankind.

As Van Jones, author of The Green-Collar Economy suggests in his book, "If we are going to beat global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of buildings, install millions of solar panels, manufacture millions of wind-turbine parts, plant and care for millions of trees, build millions of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and construct thousands of solar farms, wind farms, and wave farms. That will require thousands of contracts and millions of jobs-producing billions of dollars of economic stimulus."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Green Collar Economy

Some extracts from the book by Van Jones:

"If we are going to beat global warming, we are going to have to weatherize millions of buildings, install millions of solar panels, manufacture millions of wind-turbine parts, plant and care for millions of trees, build millions of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and construct thousands of solar farms, wind farms, and wave farms. That will require thousands of contracts and millions of jobs-producing billions of dollars of economic stimulus."

"Though the need for a clean-energy revolution will be the main driver in revamping the economy, we will also need well-trained, well-paid workers in a range of green industries: materials reuse and recycling, water management, local and organic food production, mass transportation, and more."

"My definition of a green-collar job is this: it is a family-supporting, career-track job that directly contributes to preserving or enhancing environmental quality."

"Here's more good news. Most green-collar jobs are middle-skill jobs. That means they require more education than a high-school diploma, but less than a four-year degree. So these jobs are well within reach for lower-skilled and low-income workers, as long as they have access to effective training programs and appropriate supports."

"Even better news. Much of the work we have to do to green our economy involves transforming the places we live and work in and changing the way we get around. These jobs are difficult or impossible to outsource."

"We can connect the people who most need work to the work that most needs to be done-we can fight pollution and poverty at the same time."

"The green-collar economic revolution cannot succeed without a corresponding realignment in the public sector."

"The growth we seek will be in steadily improving the quality of life, not steadily increasing the quantity of goods consumed."

An idea worth supporting.

Poesía del Universo

El Universo es silencio, espacio, oscuridad.
Rara vez, un impulso de energía.
Cuando se juntan algunos impulsos de energía -suficientes- y se empujan hasta alcanzar el perfecto orden de la materia, surge la percepción de que el Universo es de cosas, de materia.
En realidad no ha dejado de ser silencio, espacio, oscuridad.
En un parpadeo de quinientos años en la eternidad del Universo, la humanidad, dotada de razón, quiso creer que la riqueza estaba en el Tener.
La razón no alcanzaba para entender que en un Universo de silencio, oscuridad y espacio, la verdadera riqueza está en el Ser.
Es ahí, sólo ahí, donde nuestra grandeza individual y colectiva no tiene límites.
Esa grandeza y esa riqueza la podemos tener todos por igual, sin envidias, sin límites, sin complejos.
No se agota el Universo porque algunos o todos alcancemos la grandeza de la riqueza del Ser.
No se agota lo que somos.
Sí se agota lo que tenemos.
Y ciertamente no alcanza para todos.
Ni siquiera el dinero, la gran ficción del Siglo XX, alcanza para que todos pensemos que somos algo más que pobres.
No alcanza toda la ficción para que podamos tener toda la riqueza que queramos sin que se agote la materia -aquel improbable encuentro de impulsos de energía que le han dado forma a lo que de cerca parecen ser objetos, pero que no dejan de ser más que improbabilidades energéticas en el Universo, infinito silencioso y oscuro espacio.