Syndicate content

Blogs

Shades of grey in the global green movement

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Portrait of elderly man in Bhutan"Each new generation is reared by its predecessor; the latter must therefore improve in order to improve its successor. The movement is circular." - Emile Durkheim
 
How are Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Bill Mckibben, Pope Francis, and Al Gore alike? The answer is very simple: they are part of a 60+ cohort, which includes baby boomers and their predecessors. And they are all very effective and passionate about how to tackle the biggest threat of our times: climate change.
 
I vividly remember that the first person who drew my attention as a child to the environment was my grandfather who was a small farmer in my native Poland. Around twenty-five years ago, during my first visit to Siberia, tribal seniors raised the issue of the melting of the “eternal ice” as well. Neither my grandfather nor the seniors were highly educated, but they were able to observe the rapid changes in their own environment. Despite this, we did not heed their concerns as they did not possess academic credentials. Now that over five thousand researchers have agreed that climate change is occurring, we are suddenly starting to pay attention.
 
Older adults constantly address the issues involved in global warming to Millennials, youth or even children, fully aware that their generation’s irresponsible behavior contributed immensely to the current state of the Earth. But why exclude the culprits? What happened to resocialization and second chances? Even James Madison was aware of generational responsibilities when he stated: “Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.”
 
The baby boomers and the silent generation are reaping the benefits of the “longevity dividend”. Why don’t we start working together towards the survival of our kind not only as preachers, but also in the trenches of the global climate change movement?  Members of the grey generations are often bold, skilled, experienced, financially independent, and in most cases, are very active and sensitive to social inequity. As the old saying goes: the funeral shroud has no pockets. It is in their best interest to be part of this movement.

Quote of the Week: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala“I am misfit and a happy misfit.”

- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a world renowned Nigerian economist currently serving as Finance Minister of Nigeria. She is credited with developing reform programs in Nigeria that helped improve governmental transparency and stabilzing the economy.  Previously, she worked for the World Bank, including several years as one of its Managing Directors (October 2007 – July 2011). 

As quoted in the Financial Times on June 5, 2015, Lunch with the FT: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, by William Wallis

 

Why do we so often need to push back against ‘techie triumphalism’?

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

What are the limits of technology?  Are tech experts overreaching when they attempt to 'reinvent' our lives? Suvojit Chattopadhyay explains why power relations and context still matters.

Girls use laptop in Najmi, Muthanna province, IraqHere is Kentaro, on his usual beat:

Talented chefs don’t believe their sauteeing skills entitle them to reimagine Web browsers, but talented technologists feel entitled to reimagine cooking, education and everything else.

And on a more serious note:

It’s a world full of trained engineers — and many college dropouts — who cannot be expected to grasp human dynamics any more than political scientists understand Java code. Many brilliant technology leaders have stories of bullying and isolation in their youths that would leave anyone with abiding skepticism of human groups, institutions, cultures. If family dinners and school lunches were painful for you, “disrupting” eating with a venture-capital-backed protein drink like Soylent can seem like liberation

and…

Indeed, technology has become a kinder, gentler variant of so-called trickle-down economics, in which one gives poor schoolchildren iPads and a pat on the back, without altering the toxicity of their work-starved, father-starved, drug-war-ravaged environment

Needless to say, I agree with the larger point. While it may be unfair to call out the unhappy childhood of some prominent tech leaders, it does partly explain why their ‘abiding skepticism’ of human behaviour leads them to place their trust on machines, rather than humans.
 

How can big aid organizations become Fit for the Future? Summary of my new paper

Duncan Green's picture

My navel-gazing paper on the future of INGOs and other big aid beasts came out last week. Here’s a summary I wrote for the Guardian. Thanks to all those who fed in on earlier drafts. Oxfam’s Deputy CEO Penny Lawrence gives a semi-official response.

UK International Search and Rescue teamA miasma of existential doubt seems to hang over large chunks of the aid industry, even here in the UK, where I’ve argued before that a combination of government, NGOs, think tanks, academics, media, public opinion and history constitutes a particularly productive and resilient ‘development cluster’. The doubts materialize in serial bouts of navel-gazing, worrying away about our ‘value add’ and future role (if any).

So when asked to add to the growing pile of blue sky reports, I decided to approach the topic from a different angle: what does all the stuff I’ve been reading and writing about systems thinking, complexity, power and politics mean for how international NGOs and other big aid beasts function in the future?

The result, published this month by Oxfam, is a discussion paper, Fit For the Future? But if you can’t face its 20 pages, here are some highlights:

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Drones for Development
Project Syndicate
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental program called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.” With a name and a mission like that – and given the spotty ethical track record of drone warfare – it is little wonder that many are queasy about the continued proliferation of flying robots. But the industrial use of the lower sky is here to stay. More than three million humans are in the air daily. Every large human settlement on our planet is connected to another by air transport.

Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance
Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance
Today’s global challenges, from mass violence in fragile states and runaway climate change to fears of devastating cross-border economic shocks and cyber attacks, require new kinds of tools, networks, and institutions if they are to be effectively managed. Climate change, economic shocks, and cyber attacks are likely to have lasting and far-reaching consequences, and the marked and visible increase in mass atrocities in one country after another has reversed the trend of declining political violence that began with the end of the Cold War.  Dealing with each of these issues calls for policies and actions beyond the writ or capabilities of any state and threatens to escape the grasp of present international institutions.

Campaign Art: Children Share their Dreams for the Future

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Our Future World, a nonprofit organization aiming to inspire and connect young people, launched a global campaign using the hashtag #TweetaDream in more than 35 countries. The campaign asked children and youth across the world to share their dreams for the future by answering the question “What if every child was inspired to seek genius?”  In response, children and youth sculpted, painted, photographed and used a variety of other resources to visually demonstrate what they want to achieve. 
 
VIDEO: #TweetaDream


Cutting through the Gordian Knot: Analysis of conflict and violence

Bernard Harborne's picture

Alexander cutting the Gordian KnotA young Palestinian participating in a violence prevention session during a recent World Bank Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (GSURR) staff retreat, reminisced that not that long ago the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the only “hot-spot” in the Middle East. Now, the region is a complex mix of insurrection, armed conflict, political upheaval and displacement. Even for him, unbundling and explaining the drivers and implications of these dynamics can be overwhelming – and a full-time job.

Increasingly, development actors are asked to take on this task, yet many of the World Bank’s standard analytical approaches are not suitable for this kind of complexity. Meanwhile, academics including Ben Ramalingam (Aid on the Edge of Chaos), Thomas Carothers (Development Aid Confronts Politics) and Lant Pritchet (Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem-driven Adaptive Iteration) all highlight the dangers of external intervention in these “difficult operating environments” without sufficient understanding of the underlying context.

Ongoing work over the last few years in the Bank’s GSURR Global Practice, completed together with the Fragility Conflict and Violence (FCV) Group, has focused on in-depth analysis of why and how particular countries descend into conflict, the impact of violence, and the factors that can build resilience against these shocks. Some 25 of these “fragility assessments” have been completed and they are all part of an effort to strengthen the overall understanding of the “context complexity” in these countries.

The things we do: why we follow the crowd... and why we don't

Roxanne Bauer's picture

When do we follow the crowd and when do we think independently? Social science research offers some clues, starting with Solomon Asch's famous experiments exploring group conformity.

In 1935, Rudyard Kipling wrote, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you’ll be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
 
Line cards used in Asch's experiment on conformityWhile many of us read these words and think, ‘yes, I believe that, too’ we often do not follow through when put to the test.  Imagine yourself in this scenario: as a university student, you sign up to participate in a psychology experiment and on test day you are seated at a table with seven or eight others whom you believe to be fellow subjects.  The experimenter tells you are participating in a study of visual judgment and asks you to compare the length of a line on one card with a set of three lines of varying lengths on another card.  The experimenter asks you and the other test takers to choose which of the three lines on the right card matches the length of the line on the left card.  Several rounds of this are completed.
 
On some rounds the other test takers unanimously choose the wrong line.  It is clear to you they are wrong, what do you do?  Do you go along with the wrong answer to please the majority? Do you begin to doubt your eyes? Or do you trust yourself and select the correct line?
 

Quote of the Week: Milan Kundera

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Milan Kundera in 1980"When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object."
 
- Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and a recurring nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born in Czechoslovakia but has been living in exile in France since 1975, as his books were banned by the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia until the downfall of the regime in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

What happens when historians and campaigners spend a day together discussing how change happens?

Duncan Green's picture

woman offers a flower as a symbol of peace to a Military Police OfficerDuncan Green provides a series of lightbulb moments from a recent conference bringing together historians and campaigners.

Part of the feedback on last month’s post calling for a ‘lessons of history’ programme was, inevitably, that someone is already doing it. So last week I headed off to Kings College, London for a mind expanding conference on ‘Why Change Happens: What we Can Learn from the Past’. The organizers were the History and Policy network and Friends of the Earth, as part of its excellent ‘Big Ideas’ project (why haven’t the development NGOs got anything similar?) About 70 people, a mix of historians and campaigners. Great idea.

The agenda (12 UK-focussed historical case studies on everything from resistance to the industrialization of farming post World War 2 to municipal activism in Victorian Britain to why England (though not Scotland and Ireland) hasn’t had a famine since the 16th Century) was great, as was the format (panels, followed by table discussions, no Q&A).

Pages