This forum is intended to be a creative marketplace for exchange of new ideas, insights and per­spectives. The views expressed in this forum are those of their authors and are not intended to repre­sent the official position of the World Academy. All Fellows are invited to send in contributions (500-1000 words) for publication in WAAS Op-Ed or on the Academy’s SEED IDEAS website. Comments by Fellows on contributions will be published on the website and in subsequent issues of WAAS Op-Ed. Mail to op-ed@worldacademy.org

 

Call to Minds by Ivo Slaus 

Corporate Social Responsibility by Domenico Romeo 

Infoglut Management by Michael Marien 

Sustainable Future by Karl Wagner


Call to Minds

Ivo Šlaus, President, World Academy of Art and Science; Dean, Dag Hammarskjold University College for International Relations & Diplomacy, Zagreb

World is in crisis. Of far greater concern than the trillions of dollars of lost money, human capital and natural capital are being destroyed at an alarming rate - destroyed by inadequate, obsolete solutions leading to greater poverty, unemployment, insecurity and instability. The Greek financial and economic crisis is the tiny tip of a huge iceberg. Rising levels of unemployment and inequality on all continents constitute the icy infrastructure of the current world economy, which is melting faster than the artic glaciers. But the real causes lie deeper still. It is time to admit that all efforts to address the current crisis have failed dismally. Today, we face a multidimensional global crisis that encompasses financial, economic, political, military, environmental and social issues. The security of all humanity is at stake. It is time for a change of course.

The enormity of change required is nothing less than the radical departure which US President Franklin Roosevelt made during the Great Depression. Roosevelt affirmed for the first time the rights of all American citizens to employment and economic security. He even proposed a new Bill of Economic Rights, but died before it could be adopted. Today's problems necessitate change at that fundamental level. Anything else will be mere tinkering with an irreparably broken machine. Instead of monkeying with the rules and procedures of the game, it is time to move the goalposts and change the objectives. It is time to question fundamental premises, challenge sacred beliefs, re-examine prevailing theories and reject superstition masquerading as science. More than what Roosevelt did and aimed to do is required today!

Today we live in a world that discards human capital as a disposable resource and wastes natural capital as if there were no tomorrow; a world where speculators have the freedom to destabilize the world economy, while tens of millions of workers have no assured right to gainful employment and a growing proportion of our youth see no opportunity to acquire the security every human being aspires for. Today we live in a world where a tiny minority controls the vast majority of the world's wealth and where plutocracy rules in the name of democracy. The economic barbarism that now prevails can and must be abolished as surely as feudalism, colonial imperialism and slavery were eradicated in the past. Surely we can do better!

Adam Smith was a moral philosopher who never forgot that the aim of economy is to promote the maximum security and welfare of all human beings, not the disproportionate wealth and power of a privileged few. He warned repeatedly of the danger of letting business direct the economic policy of governments, but underestimated the power of money to usurp political power in a democracy.

What is needed is the founding of a human-centered economics that recognizes human capital as the most precious of all resources - the real Wealth of Nations - and human security and welfare of all humanity as the indispensable objectives of economy and governance. The failure of prevailing economic theory is demonstrated by its gross inability to effectively harness the unlimited potential of human beings. Focusing on people decreases excessive inequalities, enlarges trust - the essence of social capital - and strengthens the institutions which constitute the fabric of modern society.

New ideas-out-of-the-box solutions-are urgently needed. The World Academy was founded to evolve fresh approaches to global issues. One such is a strategy to solve the Greek financial crisis. The euro crisis cannot be solved by rude austerity measures that destroy human capital. Introduction of a dual currency system in Greece combining the Euro and drachma could stimulate domestic growth and job creation without undermining the future of the Eurozone. Other innovative approaches are discussed by Fellow Bernard Lietaer in a new report Money and Sustainability - The Missing Link.

When enemies threaten, nations issue a call to arms to combat aggression. Today we need a call to minds for fresh thinking and innovative approaches focusing primarily on the security of people rather than investors. This is a call for leadership in thought that leads to action.

Crisis and Corporate Social Responsibility

Domenico Romeo, Fellow, World Academy of Art and Science; Form er Chancellor, University of Trieste

In ancient Greece the word crisis (krisis) meant hazard but also decision. It is amazing that in ancient China one used an ideogram with a double meaning (weiji) to write this word: hazard and opportunity. Also in Japanese the word "crisis" and the word "opportunity" are represented by the same ideogram. A crisis is thus seen in a similar way in the eastern and western wisdom: when a crisis is showing up we should always remember that this word/situation always includes the meaning of oppor­tunity (in Latin opportunus was the wind that led the ship into the harbour). The word "crisis" thus points to the extreme condition when we must take a decision, set up new strategies, seize the opportunity, come to construc­tive decisions.

The strategic capabilities of a society must innovate con­tinuously to be winning. One has to focus on missions and leading values. The mission may very often be the age-old struggle of man against the scarcity of resources. Any society must continuously create values, having full knowledge of the risks and complying with a set of rules. The values in general are: vision of the future/aims, inde­pendence from external conditioning, ceaseless research of excellence, culture of competence, uprightness, dignity, respect of the stakeholders.

Missions and leading values may include Corporate So­cial Responsibility/CSR, which is essentially a concept whereby companies, on one side, and Governments, on the other, decide to contribute to a better society and a cleaner environment.


The fundamental principles of CSR are:

  • Ethics and responsibility (application of ethical or environ­ment respectful principles to any decision)
  • Respect  for the stakeholders (employees, business part­ners and suppliers, customers, public authori­ties and NGOs representing local communities)
  • Observance of the law
  • Due respect for standards of international behav­iour and for human rights.

Governments can consider adopting some of the existing CSR standards as part of regulatory initiatives, turning hitherto volun­tary standards into mandatory requirements. In addition, they can consider offering incentives for compliance with CSR standards or for investments in sustainable industries (e.g. renewable energy).

The universal principles underlying the most prominent and au­thoritative CSR standards are also recognized by international declarations and agree­ments. The three main sources of these international instruments are the United Nations, the ILO and the OECD. In addition, the Interna­tional Organization for Standardi­zation (ISO) launched in 2010 the ISO 26000 standard "Guidance on Social Re­sponsibility", which serves as a significant reference point for defining the terms of "social responsibility".

As for the near future of global economy, one might recall what the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has under­lined in the World Investment Report 2011 of the UN Conference on Trade and Development: "increas­ing­ly, transnational corporations are engaging with developing and transition economies through a broadening array of production and investment models, such as contract man­ufacturing and farming, service outsourcing, fran­chising and licensing. These relatively new phenomena present opportunities for developing and transition economies to deepen their integration into the rapidly evolving global economy, to strengthen the potential of their home-grown productive capacity and to improve their international competitiveness".

Infoglut Management: Essential Change for the Global Megacrisis

 Michael Marien, Fellow, World Academy of Art & Science;  Director, Global Foresight Books http://globalforesightbooks.org 

The "world problematique" of the Club of Rome (1) has morphed into an approaching "perfect storm" of ecological challenges, energy shortages, and economic destabilization (2). Reflecting in 1978 on the Club of Rome’s 10th anniversary, Aurelio Peccei stated that "the progressive degradation in the state of the world and the human condition is continuing, and is probably accelerating. Not one major problem has been resolved or attacked effectively, while others are arising ceaselessly, making the whole problematique…much more complex and deadly" (3). Arguably, despite progress in many areas (4), the overall human condition continues to darken, with the addition in recent decades of global terrorism and criminality, unforeseen and widespread economic woes, and, especially, the growing reality and threat of climate change (5).Where should we be headed? The generalized vision of sustainable low-carbon or no-carbon societies is widely articulated, albeit in varied forms. And there is growing support for new & appropriate economics (arguably the top priority), extending human rights, promoting human security (especially by abolishing nuclear weapons), full & decent employment, ending poverty, and good governance and respected laws at national & global levels. But progress toward these ends is slow. What essential changes are needed to accelerate progress in green directions?

Are we missing something very basic—a new "operant paradigm" (6) that guides our course into the future? I think that a major element of any new paradigm must consider the rapidly changing realm of information & communications, where huge increases in information are crippling necessary processes of learning, dialogue, debate, consensus, and understanding of citizens and policymakers—all necessary for agreement on any new paradigm and thus for substantial progress toward sustainability.

The growth of information overload, or infoglut, parallels Paul Ehrlich’s I=PAT formula (Environmental Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology) that explains much of the problematique. I propose a modification to I=POT (Societal Impact=Population x Occupation x Technology) to enable a quick grasp of an increasingly literate and growing world population, multiplied by more information-oriented occupations in the service sector (both in knowledge industries & entertainment) and greatly amplified by new information technologies enabling a plethora of websites, blogs, tweets, e-mails, Facebook postings, cell phone apps, games, and cable TV audiences (7). We’re driving ourselves nuts! (8) Despite many manifest benefits of IT, it also increases complexity and fragmentation, perhaps fatally (9). As recently chronicled by science writer James Gleick (10), information has grown to a "deluge" along with widespread "information fatigue, anxiety, and glut," and much information lost. Gleick warns that "old ways of organizing knowledge no longer work," but doesn’t offer any new ways.

We must face the infoglut problem arising from our dysfunctional industrial-era knowledge system rooted in academia. Serious rethinking of "scholarship" and of "information management" should be pursued in the name of global and national security-the only way to garner necessary resources. Without doing so, "promoting leadership in thought that leads to action" would be an empty slogan.  

Consider five large pieces of the very large puzzle-new ways to organize knowledge and promote authentic intellectual leadership and informed action: pursue a "New Information Paradigm" to promote a combined metascience (11); construct a "World Brain" for the 21st century (12); update "Operation BASIC" (bibliographies, abstracts, surveys, indexes, communication) to capture missing information (13), promote equity among 4 types of scholarship, with much more emphasis on the scholarship of integration & the scholarship of application /outreach (14), and radically improve the capacities to govern, including "public affairs enlightenment"  (15).

It won’t be easy to rethink knowledge-into-action, but what else is more essential?

Please click here to read the article with references.



How can we create a sustainable future?

   by Karl Wagner, Director of External Relations, International Center of the Club of Rome

In May this year, in the run up to the Rio Conference, a new report to the Club of Rome was launched, entitled: 2052 – A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, in which author Jorgen Randers tries to answer the question about the state of the world in forty years’ time. The Report raises fundamental questions about the challenges facing humankind, and whether the planet can survive if we continue to over consume, the same question behind the Rio negotiations.

The report 2052 is pragmatic, but its predictions are sufficiently unsettling and startling to start the debate about the need for fundamental change, and this is what we should be talking about at the Rio Conference.

Humanity’s systems, which uphold "business-as usual" are very resilient towards real change. Rapid change does not happen until people’s patience caused by the negative consequences of "business-as-usual" (climate change effects, inequity, resource depletion) runs out. The challenge is that society’s main institutions democracy and economy are based on short-termism, resulting in a slow societal response to challenges. However, what we need are long-term solutions and investments.

Randers believes that

  • Humanity is in overshoot (mainly climate-related) and while the results will not be as hard as some had feared, we are still in for a bumpy landing. Humanity has a forty-year window to avoid the most serious negative consequences of its decades-long overconsumption splurge.
  • The process of adapting humanity to the planet’s limitations may be too slow to stop planetary decline. Currently, human demand on the biosphere exceeds global bio-capacity by some 40%.
  • Global population will grow, peaking at 8.1 billion people in 2042 because of rapid decline in urban fertility.
  • Global GDP will grow, but much slower than generally expected because of slow productivity growth in mature economies, and lack of take-off in the 186 poorer countries.
  • Global GDP will peak after 2052, and investment share of GDP will grow as society is gradually forced to handle issues of depletion, pollution, biodiversity decline, climate change and inequity. Growth in consumption growth will slow down, with  fall in disposable income in some places.
  • Global energy use will reach its peak in 2040 because of continued increase in energy efficiency.
  • CO2 emissions will peak in 2030, because of a shift toward low-carbon sources of power and heat. Nevertheless, CO2 concentrations will grow, and the global average temperature will pass the danger threshold of +2 C by 2050, and peak at 2.8 C in 2080, which could trigger self-reinforcing "run-away" warming with a possible collapse in the second half of the 21st century
  • The United States will experience the greatest stagnation, while the process of stagnation will occur more gradually in other OECD countries. China, Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and ten leading emerging economies will progress, but this will still leave 3 billion people in severe poverty.

The need to fundamentally change our ways

Today’s cataclysmic climatic effects demonstrate that regardless of modern society’s many achievements, we could be on a path of un-managed decline. We have the opportunity to fundamentally change our ways, but it seems that rather than controlling our destiny, we are merely drifting into our future.

The fundamental questions are

  • Where is the world heading?
  • What world do we want to live in and how do  we get there within the time available?
  • Are our main societal systems capitalism and democracy capable, in their current form, of leading us into an equitable and sustainable world? Are they truly fit for our purpose?

Over the next 18 months, when the Rio conference becomes just a memory, the Club of Rome will be holding a debate on the future of the planet. It will be asking: What will the world be like in 40 years’ time? Where will the current dynamics lead us? Will it be the sort of world in which we want to live? What world do we want to live in and how can we make it a reality? 

The debate will address the root causes of the systemic crisis from a number of important aspects: the need for a different set of values underlying society and economy; the need to change economic theory and practice and safeguard resources; the need to create a more equal society, which also produces near to full employment; and the need to redesign governance systems that put people at their centre.

 To learn more, to contact us, or to share your ideas/feedback, go to www.clubofrome.org