Wednesday Night #1452

Written by  //  December 30, 2009  //  Cleo Paskal, Ron Meisels, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

market likely to be better in 2010

T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

The last Wednesday Night of the Oughties decade (or what Paul Krugman terms The Big Zero) and amidst all the ponderous year-end reviews, our favorite comes from Josh Freed, who muses on the acceleration of change, reminding us in his inimitable fashion that
“– In 2000, there was no such thing as Wikipedia, just a quaint thing called an encyclopedia.There were no iPods, no YouTube, no Facebook, no GPS and no wi-fi – while a BlackBerry was an ingredient in a fruit salad.
— A decade ago, only 10 per cent of people owned a cellphone … Now, 60 per cent of the world owns one, and it’s rising to 61 per cent while you read this.
— There also are 3.2 billion email accounts – and all of them are getting junk mail from former Nigerian princes.
— In the last year alone, we have lived through a Great Depression and a Great Recovery – and we all know that everything could crash again next week, then recover, then crash, then … This year, we also survived a Swine Flu panic-demic that never really arrived, while earlier in the decade we lived through Y2K, 9/11, the dot.com bubble, the Enron collapse, the GM near-bankruptcy, the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq-Afghanistan wars and the shameless demoting of Pluto from planet to space lump.”

We could, of course add all the new words we have resurrected (Ponzi, deforestation, Depression), adopted from science (ecosystem) or added to our vocabulary (Twitter, Madoff, TARP, even G20) –  and invented for what appear to be typical 21st century situations – we like “blamestorming”. There’s more Terms of Endearment — or Not — for 2009

What will the next decade bring? Our fondest hope is for new discoveries and related technologies in science and medicine. And new ways of thinking and acting on behalf of more than a limited community of interests.

What about the next year? Will Stephen Harper really prorogue Parliament again – just to get control of the Senate committees? [Update 30 December. He did – and on a Wednesday!  Parliament shut down until March]

Five years ago this week we were anxiously following the news of the devastation of the Asian Tsunami.
Today, while most of the communities affected have largely recovered and early warning systems are in place, most of the world is still either inadequately prepared or unprepared for similar natural disasters.  Call for Greater Disaster Preparedness Five Years After Tsunami and we all know that Canada is in the forefront of the ill-prepared.

Today, in addition to concerns about the economy and unemployment figures, we watch the continuing sad saga of events in Iran (please see “Bloody Sunday“, a message received from a young Iranian friend); worry about the spread of al Qaeda to a new stronghold in Yemen;  grimly accept new airport and airline security measures in the wake of the Christmas Day attempt on Flight 253;  deplore the harsh sentence given to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and, while absorbing the dismal state of Lake Chad and its impact on millions of Africans,  fret about the Copenhagen aftermath.

Related to the last topic, Cleo Paskal will introduce Jean-Louis Tiernan, who is Sr. Coordinator, Academic Outreach, CSIS, and Special Advisor, Innovation Partnerships, PCO.
Cleo suggests that relevant topics include How best to help policy makers make informed decisions; Role of intelligence services; How to do strategic foresight/scenario building (also relevant for business); Abrupt climate change/how to incorporate science into decision making; Security implications of environmental change. We would also add the news item:
Earth-Friendly Elements, Mined Destructively
Some of the greenest technologies of the age, from electric cars to efficient light bulbs to very large wind turbines, are made possible by an unusual group of elements called rare earths. The world’s dependence on these substances is rising fast.
Just one problem: These elements come almost entirely from China, from some of the most environmentally damaging mines in the country, in an industry dominated by criminal gangs.
Western capitals have suddenly grown worried over China’s near monopoly, which gives it a potential stranglehold on technologies of the future. In Washington, Congress is fretting about the United States military’s dependence on Chinese rare earths, and has just ordered a study of potential alternatives.

Ron Meisels, newly returned from Egypt and Jordan, certainly will understand climate change, at least as recently personally experienced. We will not spoil his account of his impressions which he will share with us, but will say that he will wax eloquent on the Pyramids, the Sphinx and Petra, which he reminds us last appeared on our radar in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“.

Abrupt climate change looks like an appropriate topic, given the forecast for a very abrupt chilling of Montreal air, but be assured that, as always, a warm welcome awaits you.

Abrupt as is climate change, news change is even more so, so please check the websites for new and improved versions of the proposed topics – or any others.

We do look forward to having you join us – and for those who are away and/or unable to be with us, we send our warmest wishes for a VERY HAPPY START OF THE NEW YEAR AND NEW DECADE, HEALTH, HAPPINESS, PEACE, ACCOMPLISHMENT AND SERENITY.

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