Tomer Avital in the wake of the approval of the 2023-24 budget For the sake of the journalists and presenters…
Wednesday Night #1443
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // October 28, 2009 // Aid & Development, Arts and culture, Canada, Catherine Gillbert, China, Economy, Education, Environment & Energy, Government & Governance, Health & Health care, Herb Bercovitz, India, Kimon Valskakis, Montreal, Reports, Wednesday Nights // Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1443
See Wednesday-night.come for photos and more
Professor Paul Shrivastava, Director and Distinguished Professor of the David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise at the John Molson School of Business was introduced by his colleague at Concordia, Felix von Geyer, who, in outlining Paul’s many interests and activities mentioned that he had recently turned down an invitation to chair a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative “because he was too busy”.
Paul proved to be a welcome and wonderfully engaging guest, who ably defended his sometimes surprising views in an erudite and entertaining manner. He seems to have enjoyed himself as he wrote the next day: “I felt instant kinship with the whole group, even though we did not agree on so many points.” An interesting footnote raised during the evening’s discussion of India and education is that Concordia has for some time been looking to India as a partner (much in the same way that McGill has targeted China). Hitherto India has not permitted the presence of foreign universities, but the Law is being changed in the next few months, thus Concordia is well positioned to take advantage of a situation in which 600million people are striving for higher education.
The most widely accepted definition is that offered by the Brundtland Report 20 years ago “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Others point to newer thinking including William McDonough’s “Cradle to cradle“, printed on polymer, that points the way toward the day when many products, can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality -in cradle to cradle cycles.
The ultimate energy source is the sun -not simply in terms of solar energy panels – but overall energy, thus another definition offered is the use of resources only within the limits of what is generated by the sun. Following on this thesis, water is the ultimate renewable resource. If polluted, it still goes back into the system and all that is needed to refilter it is energy. Future generations will be able to gain access to even the most polluted water, using new energy sources.
Although there are justifiable quibbles with the Nicholas Stern report and all the others, it remains clear that we are over-consuming at an unjustifiable rate and our current lifestyle is not feasible for nine billion people by mid-century.
Climate Change/global warming
Is climate change a science?
Are we passing through a cyclical atmospheric phase or are we are being slowly suffocated by our own ingenuity and affluence?
The Western World continues to debate the relative impact of Nature and Man on physical and social evolution, the relative importance of divine and human intervention, the ability of human beings to influence their physical, social and monetary environments and, above all, the accuracy of climate change science.
Bill Clinton has noted in speaking to the issues of the Clinton Global Initiative, it is some two to three percent of the world’s scientists who question climate change/global warming – as one Wednesday Nighter notes, “I wouldn’t want to bet my children’s future on the odds of that handful being right”.
Much of what is called climate change science is really basic chemistry. But there are also philosophical implications when considering that, for instance, Canada will thrive with global warming. But at what costs to the rest of the world?
Although soundly based in science, climate change modeling is similar to economic modeling, but far exceeds it in terms of complexity.
Despite alarming documented reports of the warming – more accurately, the dramatic changes in climate – of the Earth over the past century -including the melting of Arctic ice, the undeniable increase in volume of greenhouse gases and the devastating effect on animal and plant life (disappearance of species) of human expansion in both numbers and longevity, many intelligent, thoughtful humans point to long-term dramatic changes of the distant past. In the era of nomadic hunters following the wanderings of their prey, human migration is claimed to have occurred across an ice bridge from India to the Australian continent and back to Europe, Asia and across an ice bridge to Alaska. Geologists, Palaeontologists and Zoologists take their students on field trips showing them the evidence of the edges of a prehistoric ocean in the area of Mirabel at the edge of the Laurentian shield. Why, it is reasoned, in the light of these dramatic climatic changes that have taken place without human intervention, should we attempt to interfere with what is considered to be a cyclical event driven by the forces of nature?
The answer to that question lies in the increasing numbers, affluence and longevity of the human population and their rate of consumption of fossil fuels, resulting in the alarmingly rapid disappearance of animal species on which we depend for food; human population growth at the expense of farmland; and the degradation of the atmosphere on which all animal and plant life is dependent.
Global warming, as a concept, is difficult to understand when some parts of the world are actually cooling or when the effect on the globe of volcanic eruptions has not been adequately explained. If, as is becoming more evident, global warming is a man-made phenomenon and as five summits since 1972 have failed to find a solution, it is reasonable to believe nothing short of a global government would be in a position to halt or reverse the process.
India & China
Although in different ways, the rise in affluence of both India and China in the present generation has been spectacular. The development of excellence in such areas as health, engineering and business in India in a relatively short time has been a story of success. However, one may question the wisdom of India’s adoption of development plans that essentially ape the West and can affect only a thin layer of the total population (example: the software industry employs less than 1% of the total work force, while 70% is in agriculture doing back-breaking work). If the entire world is living through a Crisis Society, experiencing economic, social, poverty and climate crises, India has all of these in a complex, over-laid web that is difficult for outsiders to grasp.
India’s great challenge is to develop a sense of national discipline. The colonial heritage, while in many ways, not one to be lauded, has provided this incredibly culturally diverse nation with an excellent bureaucracy and a common second language. However, the tradition of privilege, fostered by the independent principalities and maharajahs also encouraged a fractured system with few if any common rules or discipline. Although the caste system is disappearing faster in the urban areas, it still exists in rural India (70% of the population) and cultural identity remains more important than national identity. Poverty is widespread in the midst of the great affluence of the relative few, and in the past, a large proportion of the excellent, educated professionals have emigrated to the Western World (this trend appears to be changing). With a great proportion of the economy being black market and impenetrable by the government -although presumably growing at an equivalent rate to the official economy – it is impossible to raise sufficient tax income to adequately spread the affluence enjoyed by the educated to the rest of the country.
China has chosen to become the manufacturing platform of the world, with inevitable consequences of carbon overloading, which will be costly to reverse. However, China’s modern infrastructure bears witness to the efficiency of the top-down system of governance which holds out more hope for solution of the big problems and gives that country an edge over democratic India (or for that matter, western democracies) in the area of economic development.
Of equal or greater importance than global warming may be the interrelated problem of energy consumption, or misuse. The global economic crisis has presented the world with an opportunity to scale back. The U.S. and European economies will shrink. Managed reduction in the size of the economies – ‘planned shrinkage’ – is not only possible but desirable. Today, in the West, we waste almost 75% of our energy – if we were to cut back by 30% and use the remainder in the right way, there would likely be no discernible impact on our quality of life. Energy supply is more important than climate change. If you don’t have enough energy, there is no way that you can adapt to climate change. Even if we halt the CO2 emissions today, the warming will be with us for one thousand years. Energy supply is what we must focus on.
The importance of this issue is highlighted by the World Energy Congress which will be held in Montreal in September 2010. Wednesday Nighters are encouraged to seriously consider submissions of papers.
Management and creativity
When a baby is born, it accepts any stimulus to its five senses without question. As it grows, there is no question about the feasibility of Santa Claus and his reindeers simultaneously visiting the homes of billions of children around the world on Christmas Eve. During the process of socialization, the child learns to filter and censor these stimuli, to question them and reject most. The label of each item on a supermarket shelf, each sound, each texture, each odour, constitutes a stimulus that must be recognized, ignored or dealt with. The complexity of human life has taught us to do much of this automatically.
Until recently, Business Schools have emphasized only cognitive development, teaching paradigms to be used as shortcuts to filter information for the purpose of making optimum decisions, the bottom line being the score card measuring success in following the game rules. There is now, however, a new generation of academics in the field who believe that people learn better if they also engage both physically and emotionally- using the body to learn. One successful approach has been the use of events management, involving the student in every aspect from designing, budgeting, marketing and managing the event to participating in it – thus becoming physically engaged in every aspect.
There are four major international networks, each with between 300-1000 people who are either teaching management or artists working as consultants to corporations helping people to learn routine managerial skills through the arts. [Linda Naiman of the West Wing of Wednesday Night, founder of Creativity at Work is one of the early and successful proponents of the marriage of management and the arts.]
One of the effects of globalization has been to force companies that employ managers and workers in a dozen different countries to produce products for customers with many more cultural tastes and requirements to redefine management techniques to adapt to different cultures, values and approaches in lieu of hitherto western paradigms. They are forced to think outside the box- even question the structure of the box.
Until recently, for obvious safety reasons, airplane manufacturing has been totally dependent on engineering considerations but aircraft manufacturers, notably Bombardier, while not sacrificing engineering principles now include the human needs expressed by potential clients in planning new aircraft. Creativity has spread from the realm of the arts to the realm of business and successful Business Schools now include the creative arts in training future business executives.
There are some industries in which the need for creativity is particularly intense, especially the knowledge industries. An example is Disney whose entire business model is based on creativity and whose principal consultant is the artist who created Dinotopia and whose expertise is in creating a world that has never existed and will never exist.
Roméo Dallaire is now leading the Will to Intervene project at Concordia. While essentially focused on human rights, one can easily draw parallels with the issues raised under the climate change banner – habitat, health, poverty, hunger, internal and external migration, destruction of ecosystems and species. And in both cases – as in many others – a successful outcome will depend on a form of global governance to ensure global implementation of the necessary measures.
T H E I N V I T A T I O N
We have a new and special guest this Wednesday: Dr. Paul Shivrastava, the David O’Brien Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the John Molson School of Business, who is introduced by Cleo Paskal. Dr. Shivrastava has an impressive biography, which in addition to academic and entrepreneurial credits, includes two quirky notes: “He was co-organizer of the Steelman Triathlon races and DJed the World Tango Music show on WVBU, 90.5FM, Lewisburg, PA.” We are not sure whether there is a relationship between triathlon and tango – and have an uncomfortable vision of They Shoot Horses Don’t They – but look forward to learning more.
More seriously, he has 30 years experience in management education, entrepreneurship, and as a consultant to major multinational companies. In 1976 he was part of the management team that launched Hindustan Computers Ltd., one of India’s largest computer companies. In 1985 he founded the non-profit Industrial Crisis Institute, Inc. to mediate the industrial crisis between Union Carbide Corporation and the Government of India, and published the Industrial Crisis Quarterly. In 1998 he founded, and was President and CEO of eSocrates, Inc., a knowledge management and online training/education software company. He designs and presents strategic summits and training workshops for upper management focused on corporate and competitive strategy, sustainable management, and crisis management.
Paul’s presence is particularly appropriate in light of the ongoing debates centered on the last-ditch efforts to make a Global Treaty on Climate Change happen at the December Copenhagen meeting and some of the declarations – and news (definitely not always the same) in the Canadian press. These would include, but not be limited to:
— The ‘news’ that more Americans believe in haunted houses than global warming, as evidenced by the results of the latest Pew poll on global warming which shows a large drop in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising, from 71% down to only 57% in the last 18 months. And global warming due to human activity? The overall numbers have declined from 47% to 36%. To put this in perspective, a Gallup poll found that 37% of Americans believe that houses can be haunted. This contrast is particularly dramatic among conservatives: Only 18% of republicans believe that there is evidence of global warming caused by human activity, while 28% of conservatives believe in haunted houses. More
— Ottawa dashes hope for climate treaty in Copenhagen
But Canada will continue to insist that it should have a less aggressive target for emission reductions than Europe or Japan because of its faster-growing population and energy-intensive industrial structure, Mr. Prentice said.
It does appear that in general Canadian business and institutions exhibit a far more responsible attitude towards climate change issues than our government. Could it be that shareholders are listened to more often than taxpayers? That the private sector is both more responsible and more responsive than government? Maybe voters should insist that their governments at all levels embrace the Triple Bottom Line?
Some of the sceptics around the table will question the cost to the economy of embracing sustainable business (as they always do) – we look forward to hearing Paul’s views, not only with reference to Canada, but also on India’s progress towards a greener economy.
All have certainly noted the continued and possibly accelerating interest of foreign investors in our oil patch and mining companies – is this good or bad? Does it warrant reviving our public policy debate regarding Nortel – or are we happy to have someone else invest in our natural resources? Aside from lawyers, accountants and management consultants, who profits from the takeovers?
Montreal’s municipal elections loom along with the crisis over allegations of influence peddling, unsavoury fundraising practices and collusion/price fixing in the construction industry. Leaders are scrambling to deny everything. Julius Grey is presumably in his element as ethics czar for Mme Harel. John Gomery is asking for an Inquiry ; soon there will be calls for a new Cliche Commission – who better to head it than Brian Mulroney? And we are truly sad for those dedicated, honest citizens who run for municipal office in the hope of improving their citizens’ lives. Contrary to our expectations, turnout figures for the advance polls were twice those of four years ago; we cannot imagine any citizen in a hurry to vote for the dubious entities that call themselves municipal parties. Certainly, they are all full of promises , but, one has to believe that either the leaders are corrupt, or blind and stupid. What a choice. The Gazette editors agree: It’s not a great choice, just the only choice
It seems that there will be no power sharing in Afghanistan and the run-off will be held on 7 November. The situation in Pakistan continues to be extremely volatile and worrisome, thus we are puzzled by tonight’s news that President Zardari has offered to help Iran hunt down terrorists. Meanwhile, there’s encouraging news from Burma where, according to the BBC, the Prime Minister has told Asian leaders that Aung San Suu Kyi can contribute to national reconciliation. What precisely this means is uncertain, but it seems to be an improvement in her treatment.
Health care – a topic of interest on so many levels. Everyone continues to watch and debate the process of health care reform in the U.S. , trying to keep tabs on who is voting how in which committee and what influential lobby group seems to have gained the upper hand. With five health care bills under consideration in both branches of Congress, we can hardly be blamed for not keeping track. However, the most recent news appears encouraging: Democrats are optimistic that public option will be approved .
The predominant healthcare issue for Canadians remains the H1N1 pandemic (or not) and whether to respond to the cattle call for vaccination. Wednesday Night’s physicians are divided on the advisability of vaccination. Meanwhile the Montreal Health Agency (which we trust has no affiliation with any municipal political party, or the construction industry) has announced that Montreal will open special flu shot centres for mass vaccinations in such places as the Olympic Stadium, Palais des Congrès and shopping centres. Weren’t we all supposed to stay away from crowds? We try to keep our page on H1N1 timely and appreciate any contributions.
Speaking of healthcare, a note to all to check out Robert Galbraith’s photo essay on the Paediatric ICU at the Montreal Children’s in the Sunday Gazette (unfortunately we have no on-line link – yet).
We enjoyed The Warning on PBS Frontline last week about the efforts of the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency — the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – – to regulate derivatives. One WN reviewer says “Unfortunately TV is not a very good medium to elucidate economic issues, the complexity of the issues simply exceeds the ability of the medium to convey them. The viewer is left with the impression that there is something called “regulation” that would have and if adopted, will deal with financial bubbles and panics. The good guys want to establish regulations, the bad guys oppose it. To deal with any of this seriously, you have to devote a lot of resources to discover what you want to regulate and how.” Glenn Goucher, did you watch it?
The Economist suggests that It is high time to abolish the concept of ethnic minorities – a concept we heartily endorse, but as one politically astute friend points out – “Before we could even consider adopting the concept Canadians would have to accept that the whole concept of multiculturalism-with its attendant generous government subsidies for festivals; community centres; newspapers; and so on and so one– would have to be abolished as a preliminary step— and woe betide the political party that would dare to advance that heretical notion in this oh so politically correct country”, while another comments “It is no more possible to abolish the concepts of ethnicity and group identity than to abolish religion. All these things meet human needs, are established by heritage, and reinforced by associating with other folks similarly inclined. Once you have group identities, nation states, and arithmetic, ethnic majorities and minorities emerge as a given. What flows from their existence is usually up for debate. Many such debates have proved to be costly in treasure and in blood.”