Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘global problems

Shifting from Steady Growth to Economy of Sobriety?

Note: re-edit of “Economy of Sobriety (August 1, 2009)”

There is a growing political economics trend for substituting the traditional steady growth and productivity policies into an economy of sobriety.

The Slow Food and Slow Cities movements, along with many European communities exercising self autonomy in the economic policies of their districts, are practicing on a smaller scale the concept of “living better for less”.

The latest economic downturn (2008 crisis financial and current Covid-19 pandemics) is re-confirming that the previous policies are hindrance to global resolutions for global problems.

The middle class has increased 3 folds within less than two decades.

China and India have added over 300 millions to the 200 millions in the USA, Europe and Japan.

This quickly increasing middle class is demanding equal standards of living as in the USA ,simply because they can afford to purchase the same consumer goods for their comfort and are doing it.

World resources in minerals, rare minerals, oil, and wood .. are depleting and no longer accessible to sustain the current rate of consumption. 

Regular people are not interested in the concept of “faster is better” or “more performing is better”:

1. they would rather fly safely at more affordable fees;

2. they would rather that customs and airport regulations quicken the pace and alleviate faster the hassle.

3. The regular people would rather have moderately performing equipment that last longer and that are more robust under less than standard conditions in the developed nations.

4. Regular people cannot afford to re-invest for products considered obsolete within a couple of years.

5. Regular people would rather not to have to repaint or maintain their plumbing and electrical lines frequently.

6. Regular people would rather have potable water running on schedule;

7. Power utilities providing electricity less irregularly rather than the  increased rate for the luxury families of high consumption.

8. Regular people want public transportation arriving on schedule, accessible, and available in cities and in rural areas.

9. Regular people are not that interested in caviar and luxury items; they need flour, rice, sugar, and seasonal vegetables and fruits marketed locally and not exported overseas.

10. Regular people need a wider network of public libraries and public schools.

11. Regular people want the teachers to be paid right in order to be retained and compete with private expensive private schools.

12. Regular people need preventive health institutions.

The industrial nations have got to support sustainable economies in Africa, Latin America, and in the Middle East and desist from mass exploitation of natural resources and human miseries.

Kuwait, Qatar, and Libya (before the colonial powers decided to break it up) are already investing billions in agricultural businesses in Africa; they are renting lands for 99 years and hiring thousands of Africans in jobs they are proficient in and within their own States.

There is definitely an anthropological crisis: the traditional growth policies are uneconomical, anti-social, and anti-ecological.

Decentralized economies serving restricted regions are more sustainable and are solicited by citizens.

Institutions have to be revamped in that direction and up-down laws are no longer cherished.

In fact, less restrictive local laws are the best recourse to taming the monster of global totalitarianism in the making.

Catastrophic crisis are not teaching anything in behavioral change: they simply increase the level of fear, anxiety, and apathy.

Continuing in the same trend is tantamount of letting this monster of totalitarianism starting sniffing around for another round of human calamities (already all States are abusing of “emergency laws” during this pandemics).

Most probably, totalitarian regimes, established in order to control outbursts and uneasiness, will mushroom in industrialized States because

1) they can afford these kinds of institutions,

2) they have already the sophisticated and all encompassing control institutions, and

3) they have practiced it several times in many nations within the last decades.

Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union experienced it efficiently.  France applied it to spread its public secular system of education in order to unify its nation. The USA applied it during the two Administrations of George W. Bush.

Currently, China is the most effective totalitarian regime. 

Millions of workers are transferred and displaced by a simple order of the politburo; millions succumb to eugenic practices on simple obscure laws; millions die in mining accidents and famine; gigantic dams are disturbing millions of people without recourse or participation by the citizens.

The third world states will always enshrine dictators, state political parties, and oligarchies but they will never afford totalitarian regimes for lack of sustainable institutions.

The best you might expect of third world states is organized chaos and periodic clamping down on dissidents.  There will be time when the “industrialized citizens” will opt to immigrate to Third World States and live in sobriety just to recapture the taste of freedom and liberty.

Note: Remember this article was posted more than a decade ago. And nothing changed drastically enough to hope for a more sustainable world in economics and finance.

How Globalization can function adequately for the poorer countries? (Mar. 24, 2010)

            Joseph Stieglitz, Nobel Prize for economics, had written a book in 2002 “The great disillusion” where he critiques the function and ideological unilateral rules of the games of the international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.  I already published reviews in two parts of the book; this post focuses on Stiglitz’s recommendations for the international institutions (supposed to be public institutions) to reform in order to give a chance for Globalization to coming effectively to the rescue of the developing States. Thus, in order for world economy and financial stability be the norm then three urgent reforms are needed.

            First, the international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization have to focus on collective global problems that require collective participation.  For example, when global market economy is not running satisfactorily; when one State harms others and gets away with it (no indemnisation procedures) then there are over production of certain commodities and under production of others. We have to tackle defense spending that does not generate any public benefits.  For example, public education sectors must be financed by international institutions since private sectors have failed to consider that urgent facet in states’ economy.  For example, we have the environment, oceans, atmosphere, CO2 emissions and the other harmful gases, sanitary challenges and discharges, clean water sources, diffusion of contagious diseases, famine, and natural calamities are becoming global problems that require global resolutions and cooperation.  All the global problems are interrelated: poverty leads to degraded environment and deforestation which in return increases poverty.  There are financial interventions that are beneficial locally in reducing local pollution.

            Second, the mode of governance such as control, management, decision making and administration of international institutions has to be drastically reformed.  The economic and financial interests of developed States have established unilateral set of rules and regulations on how to be applied globally without any serious input from the concerned parties in the developing countries. Developing States were targeted for hegemony behaviors. For example, in the IMF administration it is the finance ministers of the developed States and their central banks governors who are presiding as decision makers. In the World Trade Organization it is the ministers of commerce in the developed countries that run the show: they have particular perspective in matters of global trade.  Who has the right of vote in these international institutions? The poor States and the workers have no representatives in these institutions to offer pertinent alternative feedback as to their difficult situations. The voting rules and representation around the table of decision makers have to be reformed drastically.  The fact is that the IMF is rich because it is the developing countries that are reimbursing their debts at high interest rates.

            At least, reforms in the structures of official direction in the IMF and WB can help in the short term. For example, African delegates should be allowed to participate and be listened to even if they still cannot vote. Participation in meetings can aid the developing State representatives gather pertinent information and intelligence on world problems may partially fill the gap in intelligence dissemination. The IMF and WB should invest in developing “think tanks” institutions in the developing countries in order for their representative to be at par with ongoing discussions.

            Third, transparency within the international institutions administrations have to be made public since they are public. Public pressures should be directed toward greater transparency in management and decision processes; on time data should be available for the concerned parties and not only for the multinationals and the developed State governments. There is urgent need to open the working environment to independent and free press and researchers of developing countries.  Transparency is best catalyst to encouraging democratic tendencies in developing States and fair availability of information in a timely fashion.

            Thus, favoritism in behavior and focus on the interests of the richer States must be examined and expressed by the public before conditions escalate to global problems. As deliberations in international institutions become accessed directly to larger audiences, instead of being held in closed chambers, then the environmental challenges and the interests of the poorer sections in world societies will be heard and discussed openly. The current decision processes are not critiqued and analyzed by the public on a timely manner: it is generally too late to critique wrong decisions before they are applied.  Public access to timely information and intelligence would pressure the IMF and WB to reconsider their debatable economic assumptions and ideology; so far, what is decided is restricted on “what is good to the financial institutions”.  Mass protests in World Forums were mainly targeting the secrecy and opacity of the decision processes. So far, the disseminated information by the current structures of the international institutions is viewed with great suspicion by the poor States; so far, reforms were lukewarm and basically the kind of talked intent for reforms but not effective in practice.

380.  Reactions to the genocide in the Sabra and Chaltila camps; (June 21, 2009)

 

381.  Women: Urban and Rural (Al Said, Egypt); (June 22, 2009)

 

382.  Modern Times Ulysses; (June 22, 2009)

 

383.  Women: Urban and rural (Cairo, Egypt); June 23, 2009

 

384.  The Bible of Global Problems: Global Resolutions; (June 23, 2009)

 

385.  Women in Foreplay; (June 24, 2009)

 

386.  Global Resolutions of World problems; (June 28, 2009)

 

387.  “A summer in Jerusalem” by Cochana Miller Boukhobza (June 28, 2009)

 

388.  The Days of Pardon; (June 29, 2009)

 

389. Another wave of assassinations readied: Bi-Weekly report (#26) (June 29, 2009)

The Bible of Global Problems: Global Resolutions; (June 23, 2009)

 

Note:  This essay was inspired by the manuscript “A World Adrift” by Amine Maalouf. I added and developed on more global problems.  The style is Levantine; Bible style because the problems are established and need urgent global resolutions.  I will mentions the facts separately and then undertake the analyses of the interactions of the global problems before considering viable global resolutions.  This post will focus on the problem. The follow up post will consider viable global resolutions.

 

Fact one:  Climate and environment quickly deteriorating.

Fact two:  Birth control is not efficient in the mostly under-developed States

Fact three:  Potable water and water for irrigation are dwindling fast.

Fact four:  The middle classes in China and India are expanding alarmingly.

Fact five:  The world economy is experiencing serious deflationary period.

Fact six:  The world is going through deep financial crisis and recession.

Fact seven:  Effective military spending should decrease but it didn’t.

Fact eight:  The identity crisis around the world is destabilizing order and security.

 

Fact One:  Climate and environment are quickly deteriorating.  The ten signs of alert are proven in the following evidences.

 

            Oceans are turning more acid.  At 8 kilometers of the Californian coasts shells and corals are being dissolved. In the Pacific Ocean, 30% of mussel has disappeared.  Planktons, the basic food chain for fishes, small and large, are no longer abundant; 30% has depleted since the industrial age.

 

            The Arctic is changing drastically. Ice field has melted by 27% in the last two decades. Temperature increased by 3 degrees in the last 5 years.  Thus, the more ice melt the larger the surface is exposed to direct sun rays and consequently the more the rate of ice melting increases. The level of oceans is increasing and covering more dry lands.

 

            The Amazon and tropical forests regions are drying up and liberating higher quantities of carbon dioxide.  This equatorial forest is liberating more CO2 than absorbing; absorbing CO2 was their primary function.  More trees are dying and thus liberating more CO2 by decomposition. The higher the concentration of CO2 the lesser trees “perspire” and the more reduced are rains in quantity and frequency.

 

            The climate in Antarctica, the main source of future potable water, is milder; temperature has increased by one degree since the fifties. Salinity of sea water in the southern globe is decreasing.  The Antarctic must be melting faster than observed.

 

            Seasons are in advance of schedule and migratory birds are suffering.  Spring is one week earlier in Europe: 75% of birds studied in Europe have declined in number and migrating further north and seek higher altitudes.

 

            Dry seasons are extending. Monsoons are rarefied; precipitations are decreasing and the desert in North Africa is expanding southward western Africa.  Deforestation might still be the main culprit but the warming up of the environment is catching up fast as the main factor.

 

            Methane gas, present as methane hydrate in maritime sediment, is escaping from oceans. The under layer of pergolas (pergelisol) used to act as a lid but more abundant hot water is being ejected in the Arctic seas; the concentration along the Russian coast is 200 times superior to normal.  Methane gas is far worse than CO2 (20 times more powerful in retaining heat) for the warming up of the environment.   

 

            Glaciers such as the Himalaya and the Quelccaya (Peru) are losing 0.85 meters in their thickness every year. Around 40 frozen lakes in Nepal and Bhutan are breaking up.

            Sea levels are climbing 3 mm every year on average; the levels in the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean Sea are reaching the alarming climb of 20 mm a year.

 

            The warming up of the climate is accelerating dangerously. Temperature increased 0.6 degrees just in the last 30 years while it took a century to increase 0.2 degrees before then.  The concentration in CO2 has increased to about 400 molecules per million; it was just 270 before the industrial age.

 

The liberation of methane gas and the drought of tropical forests are the two major factors that show evidence in the acceleration of environmental degradation.  The fast degradation has overtaken current research data that are no longer suitable for predicting the approaching calamity.

 

Fact Two:  Birth control is not efficient in the mostly under-developed States.

 

            China and India are supposed to have gotten birth rate under control but it is not because of higher educational level and better standards of living.  There are evidence of massive euthanasia practices on females and minorities camouflaged within laws interpreted very loosely and selectively. In the under-developed States political instability, poor security for law and order, unsustainable social institutions, and lack of financial and technical supports are exacerbating an already dangerous trend.  The UN is short on money and manpower in its specialized sections to counter this scourge. Over 50% of the population in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, and Iran for example are under 15 years of age. (Global viable and alternative resolutions will be developed in a follow up article)

            In Japan and many European States the trend is reversed; over 30% of the population is elderly (above 65 years) and draining the health budgets.

             

Fact Three:  Potable water and water for irrigation are dwindling fast.

 

            Climatic changes, heavy river pollution, accelerated urban centers, high rate of birth, and the early melting of mountain tops are depleting potable resources faster than expected.  Many States rich in rivers, especially those witnessing drought seven months per year, have not be aided in erecting dams for emergency seasons.  More States conflicts are centering on equitable potable water sharing.  The criticality of water supply is one of the main problems facing people in the coming decade.

 

Fact Four:  The middle classes in China and India are at least three times larger than the combined numbers in the USA and Europe and growing quickly.

            China and India are experience much better increases in their GNP than the USA and Europe during this downturn.  Consequently, China and India will focus on their internal markets to grow their economies in the same manner as the USA has been benefiting for over three centuries.  Middle classes demand to have consumer goods available since they have the money to purchase them.  They certainly have this right.  The problem is that purchasing cars is the first priority for middle class citizens with investment in infrastructures and facilities to abuse of these vehicles.  China has already surpassed the USA in the number of purchased car this year. India is making available inexpensive cars marketed at $2,000 in India. The kinds of energy sources that will drive these cars will have great consequences.  Consumerism can drive economies but depletion of natural resources requires a cultural change to accommodate a sustainable earth.

 

Fact Five:  The world economy is experiencing serious deflationary period.

            The world economy is struggling and the downturn is expected to last for at least 5 years.  This might be the best excellent news for a sustainable world production. There is the need for drastic diminishing of redundant and irrelevant consumer goods that can be substituted easily for human survival. Globalization created economic blocks with objective of exercising political pressures on the established developed nations.  The economic or trade blocks such as South-East Asian States, the Southern Latin American States, the Gulf Arab/Iranian States, and soon a few African States are struggling to stay above water and keep up with the fast moving globalization trend.

            The International Monetary Fund extended three quarter of its resources on the already industrialized states since its inception in 1944.  The G20 decided to triple the IMF fund to $750 billions.  The G20 will extended 44% of the funds, the other developed State a third and the over 55 poorer States will cover 17%.  It was hoped the restrictions and conditions for funding projects will be reduced from 17 conditions to 5 but nothing has been materializing so far.

 

Fact Six:  The world is going through deep financial crisis.

            Millions of workers and employees lost their jobs in a few months and that trend is increasing faster than expected.  The infusion of trillions of dollars into banks in order to facilitate the flow of trade transactions did not save banks from declaring bankruptcy.  The meeting of the biggest 20 financial markets that produce over 85% of the world economical transactions has not reached any consensus as to the financial basket reference for money fluctuation or the control of paper money issuing rights of individual power States. Consequently, the financial crisis is opened to dangerous more frequent reversals on a downward trend.  The USA is heavily relying on China for covering its increasing debt by purchasing US Treasury Bills.  China will be facing enormous capital investment inside because of the consequences of rapid economical strategies.  The rivers in China are over polluted, drought seasons are more frequent, and over 30 millions working in urban centers have been forced to relocate to rural areas where no job opportunities are available.  The moment China decides to cut down on financing US debt the dollars will be devalued (for printing more paper money than the economy can support) and another financial crisis will loom on the horizon.

 

Fact Seven:  Effective military spending at the increase.

 

            People expected a rational decision by States in this economic and financial troubled times; people were hopeful that military budgets should decrease to balance other more needy budgets such as health, the environment, creating productive jobs, and education.  The reverse happened:  every major State that exported military hardware increased its military budget and it skyrocketed. The USA expenditure is more than double China and Russia combined and the fields of military operations expanding around the world. Societies are far more unstable and experiencing high unemployment rates and lower quality jobs for the qualified graduates. 

 

Fact Eight:  The identity crisis around the world is destabilizing order and security.

 

            After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Europe had to face up to the identity and ethnic crisis in East Europe such as ethnic and religious “cleansing” and the drive for independence of tiny States within the disintegrating Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. The European Union (EU) is the best representative for projects of unification among States with identity crisis.  The EU is clearly the most advanced union in matter of forging ahead with ethical issues. 

            Gorbachev has declared recently that Europe squandered 20 years of potential opportunities for stabilizing the European continent after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the defeat of communist Soviet Union.  If we revisit the problems that Europe had to deal with in priority then Europe had plenty of excuses.  First, West Germany had to absorb the cost of the re-unification of the crumbling economy of East Germany; then the EU had to battle the consequences of the disaster of 9/11 of 2001 and the frantic pressures of the Bush Jr. Administration to rally Europe to the invasion of Iraq; then the pronouncement of the Christian Conservatives alliance of the US administration of the binary dicta “either you are with us or against us”; then the declaration of an old senile Defense Minister Rumsfeld lambasting “old and senile Europe” and getting hold of the European oil investments in Iraq.  The EU has now to come with a plan for the increased illegal immigration as the ideal destination location.  It must be that Europe was in a rejuvenation phase to have forged ahead in short time to a successful unification program.

 

            Global problems to whom?  These problems affect us all but the G20 something think that they are the only one concerned.  Solution to the G20 is lending money to more mega polluting mega projects.  So far, the UN did not propose a program to deal with global problems.  Not a single President of the G5 went public to remind us that there is such a program.  Life is going on leisurely as if dirt is swept under the carpet and that is worrisome; citizens of earth are not asked to contribute and share in the responsibilities. A follow up article will attempt to offer viable global resolution and will tackle the troubles with religious extremism and state ideologies.

Three Global Temptations (May 8, 2009)

At this junction of human development, the global problems we have to face attest to the successes and accomplishments of man, his mental scientia genius, his legitimate ambitions for acquiring what he can afford to, his quest for liberty and the reward for a comfortable life after a hard day work.  The global problems we have to resolve attest to man ethical and moral failures to catching up to his mental agility.  Man has proven his individual instinct capability for survival in a sustainable earth; man has now to prove that he developed enough collective instinct to survive, an earth on the way to depletion.

It is appropriate to consider the example of a team of rock climbers.  The team has the appropriate equipments tested scientifically and the proper training physically.  There are three main risks for the team to fail in the mission of reaching the top.

The first temptation is that a member of the team to go berserk and take a dive and thus carries the rest of the team with him. A few people have this urgent temptation to dive, and with available opportunities, they would try dangerous acrobatics.  Luckily, the two populous nations of China and India have taken off; they have the tools, the technology, and the means to care for their over 2 billion citizens if they don’t try to catch up in a few decades what took centuries for the USA, Europe, and Japan to reach in stable governments, and legitimate desires for comfort.

There are many more millions who have been humiliated for centuries and robbed of their basic dignity; they are not going berserk because of poverty:  They have individual means for survival.   They can become highly dangerous because of a collective sense of insignificance and desperation toward the policies of the superpowers; those same colonial powers resuming this process of humiliation in “soft” strategy of financial control, and denying them even diplomatic respect as recognized States.  Not all Moslem States feel this desperation: Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey have taken their destinies in their hand.  What the European Union and the USA have to focus on, right now, is to salvage the remnant of dignity among the Arab populations.

The second temptation facing the team of climbers is the wall, the rock face. Most team members might have the techniques of sheltering from falling rocks, slippery sections, brittle portions, and blowing winds.  Human kind has learned to take shelter until the danger passes over.  Most of us have developed the instinct of prudence, not interference, and keeping low levels. We are at a junction where danger is not to pass over on its own volition and no sheltering behavior can protect us for survival. Human kind has to move as a team of bold activists and turn out heavily to put their words, opinions, and actions at work.  We may hold to our tribal customs, our illusory identities, our comfortable life styles, our chimerical convictions and then, all is lost.  The team has to support the weakest member as difficulties surge and be confronted collectively.

The third temptation braving the team is deciding on the target of the mission and it has to be a collective goal. There are no tops to reach in human progress but there are defining phases.  We are at the dawn of Prehistory and a new kind of history has to be achieved and written. Tribal history has done its function but it is alive in many countries and is a danger to our current global problems. National wars, religious wars disguised as ethical values, ideological wars, cultural wars, or war of “civilization” have been tried and they all failed to bring reprieve and salvation. A new adventure for human kind is facing us boldly and we have to invent a new kind of history more appropriate to our survival. The new history should be focused on resuming our medical successes, eliminating pain and diseases, eradicating weapons of mass destruction, keeping us functional in old age, overcoming illiteracy, investing on continuing education, creating opportunities for various skills, desires, and achievements, preserving thousand of languages from certain death and many unknown literature, managing human rights, and salvaging the dignity of every human being.

Frankly, The European Union is actually the main laboratory for confirming that “Tribal History” is exhaling its last breath; that human dignity is not measured by fictitious apartheid scales based on color, religious affiliation or ethnic origins; that humiliating man is not a point of view or can generate any temporary benefit. If God has been angry for millennia then He has an opportunity to feel proud of his Creation.

The Blemish (May 8, 2009)

 

            The blemish is this emotional feeling that prevents sleep to visiting you.  It is being illiterate among a literate society.  Illiteracy is the surface fact but the deeper felt blemish is that you lacked the courage to overcome what keeps you miserable and mediocre.  You had the mental and physical capability to learn to read (forget writing), you had facilities that were instituted specifically for you but you failed to taking advantage.  The blemish is that you know that you have no credible excuses for failing to wipe out your degrading attitude that ruined your life and the loved ones around you.

            The German judge and author Bernhard Schlink published “The Reader” of an adolescent who used to read aloud to his older lover Hanna after making love. The lady disappeared and he discovered that she was being indicted for contributing to atrocities in concentration camps during the Nazi regime. Hanna turned down a promotion in the industrial complex she worked in and accepted to be a prison guard.  Hanna decided to confess that she wrote a report on a church burning that contained prisoners and nobody dared to open the doors. Hanna was ready to spend her life in prison instead of confessing that she was illiterate.

            Blemish and the feeling of culpability are different. For example, if you feel guilty that another person was indicted or punished because you failed to confess your responsibility is within the realm of your set of moral values.  There are instances where it is hard to distinguish between blemish and guilt when they relate to character flaws that can be rectified but instead degenerated into blemish for cowing to confront and surmount the difficulty.

            The feeling of blemish does not have to be that drastic.  It is any emotional feeling that pressure you to prefer sleeplessness to cover up temporary cowardly attitude in order to hide facts; facts that are benign most of the time and are due mainly to ignorance and archaic traditions.  Late author Mai Ghoussoub admitted not sleeping one night in Tokyo because she did not know how to take the metro there and refused to ask for guidance; Mai’s blemish was not allowing Japanese to thinking that she is not a cosmopolitan girl.

            The blemish must be more prevalent in our modern society.  Technology is progressing at the speed of a bullet train and many positions require that you keep up-to-date.  Catching up with modern consumers’ good and facilities is daunting and discouraging.  I blamed my inadequacy until I learned to email.  I blamed my incompetence until I was shown how to publish on wordpress.com and that this facility was available for free; I blamed my unfitness for socializing until I realized that I don’t have to and that I rather read, write, and publish because that is what I love to do.

I blamed my impotency for accumulating money because I could not suffer a life long job (just to receive retirement compensation) until I realized that I have a choice of switching one type of humiliation (covert real slavery) to another benign imaginary slavery:  lack of money is mainly a blemish in the mind of society that values greed and financial success over anything else.  My new societal blemish is not handicapping my productivity that suits me better mentally, physically, and emotionally.

At a certain age your range of choices are limited and you have to make the effort, while young, to experiment with the available opportunities to learn varied skills that one of them might turn out to be your consolation prize for living longer than expected. Continuing education is no longer a luxury; it is a new created value that refers to individual and nations with dignity.  Failing to pursue educating your mind and elevating your culture to global problems is becoming a serious blemish to mankind.


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