Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sustainability And Collier And Ending The Homo-Defictus Age

Paul Collier is an economist with a vision of raising the economic viability of people at the bottom of the world's scale of wealth - 4 ways to improve the lives of the "bottom billion".

Around the world right now, one billion people live in poverty because of a simple piece of bad luck: they were born in a poor or failing country. What can be done? Economist Paul Collier lays out a bold, compassionate plan for closing the gap between rich and poor -- and makes the case that we must. Watch this TED talk >>

Several hundred million Chinese residents are expected to move from rural areas into cities over the next quarter-century. Dongtan, in Shanghai, will be one of those destinations. Arup is working with local officials to add the necessary homes and infrastructure while integrating sustainable practices and technology. Dongtan is designed to generate its own energy, using a variety of sources, from wind to recycled trash. Public transportation will run on hydrogen fuel cells. The city's three villages will be surrounded by land reserved for farming.

Arup built the Bird's Nest for the 2008 Olympics and other icons of global architecture. Their approach to this effort brings to mind the work of William McDonough of William McDonough & Associates who will be working with Arup on some of the China projects.

diigo tags: community-planning, design, cities, architecture

Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution gives us further insight into Collier on the Food Crisis

Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion was my pick for best economics book last year (not written by a dear friend), it was smart, hard-hitting and unconventional. Collier hasn't lost his touch as a great comment, more like an op-ed, on the food crisis over at Martin Wolf's Economic Forum illustrates.

diigo tags: economics, poverty, global, economicpolicy

The challenge is how to implement these changes on a global basis.While many may be working towards this lofty goal, one major institutional resource in this effort has been MIT.

We can't afford to think of business as the enemy. Businesses in many cases are realizing the importance of sustainability more quickly than the public sector which too often defines its view by outdated political philosophies. This video provides a great deal to think about.

MIT World » : Implementing Sustainability Strategies ---
    Companies sometimes regard sustainability as “metaphoric low-hanging fruit,” says moderator Peter Senge, and reach for a few easy targets to achieve cosmetic improvements. His three panelists describe how their corporations are attempting to embrace sustainability as more than just another high-profile, low-impact initiative that “goes right into an overloaded bucket.”
    "Environment is not a special, short-term project, not a fad or flavor of the month," says Balta. IBM pursues opportunities in and out of the company, including "making brown green:" reducing waste in its business and industrial processes around the world; designing intelligent networks to improve the efficiency of electrical utility operations; developing systems for mitigating traffic congestion in cities; launching a Big Green innovation business unit; and creating an Eco Patent Commons, enabling users the free and unrestricted use of IBM technologies that help solve environmental challenges.
    "We're trying to find the sweet spot between social, economic and environmental areas that define sustainability, because at the end of the day if any one of those three legs of the stool aren't available then the model itself falls down." says Mark Buckley.
    British Telecom is tackling three interdependent areas, says Kevin Moss: sustainable economic growth, climate change and creating a more inclusive society.

    diigo tags: sustainability, environment, business, management, leadership

Energy And Politics Bio-Fuels And Barack

I wrote, more like groused, just a few posts ago about getting into writing repeat posts on various subjects like energy and bio-fuels. Well, here I am creating a post on energy and bio-fuels. The primary purpose of this weblog is to be a medium for self-education. It helps me find informative links on various subjects. It also helps me to combine and synthesize the information found in those links. The writing of the post is a means of finalizing the process of learning for this set of related links. Once the information is gathered, organized and made meaningful for myself, there is also a certain pleasure in sharing it.

These issues have particular importance as we are about to elect a new president who will set the energy agenda for the next four to eight years.

The weblog Earth2Tech provides a look at both the Obama and McCain energy policies.

One of the comments in reaction to the article raised an issue with Obama's position on bio-fuels. Barack Obama has, as have many of us, changed his view on bio-fuels according to this Wired Magazine article.

To better understand the impact that these decisions are and will have on our world, the website Breathing Earth illustrates the acceleration of pollution in developed and developing countries. The link goes to a StumbleUpon site which comments from others who agreed or disagreed.

BreathingEarth - StumbleUpon --- - diigo Tag: environment
  • The site provides an effective visualization of the impact of carbon emissions on the environment across the globe. The use of energy always has a cost. This originates from another social tagging community StumbleUpon providing different perspectives on the site - post by brianddrpm

Finally for this particular learning component, and with the objective of providing different points of view, is a video snippet from FORA-tv featuring a debate between Newt Gringrich and Jeffery Sachs on Iraq Oil. The full video is far more informative. To see the entire video on their conversation regarding a Contract With The Earth click on the FORA-tv icon at the bottom right of the video

Friday, June 13, 2008

12 Hacks 6 Myths And Other Ways On Amping Your Brainpower

As the title and tags of this weblog would indicate, there is a strong interest in endeavoring to ensure that the personal paradigm shifts that life has in store be positive

Modern science continues to provide increasing hope that life will continue to be interesting and inspiring.

Alexis Madrigal told us back in April that we could Forget Brain Age: Researchers Develop Software That Makes You Smarter via Wired Top Stories.
Brain researchers for the first time claim to have found a method for improving the general problem-solving ability scientists call fluid intelligence, otherwise known as "smarts."
Fluid intelligence was previously thought to be genetically hard-wired, but the finding suggests that with about 25 minutes of rigorous mental training a day, healthy adults could improve their mental capacities.

"The most important point of our work is that we can show that it is possible to improve fluid intelligence," said Martin Buschkuehl, a psychology researcher based at the University of Bern, Switzerland. "It was assumed that fluid intelligence was immutable."
And that's where Buschkuehl's research, which appears today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, claims to be groundbreaking.

A very simplified DIY version of the n-back described here also leads to an interesting article on looking at the brain with an MRI.

Wired Magazine also provided other ways to Get Smarter: 12 Hacks That Will Amp Up Your Brainpower via Wired Top Stories back in April 08.

If your IQ is hardwired, how can you get smarter? Lots of ways, and our guide to better brain power shows you how. Think of it as a software upgrade to maximize your "functional intelligence."

It also helps with exposing 6 Intelligence Myths via Wired Top Stories

We've all used the arguments to get away with playing Brain Age or doing crosswords. But how many of these "exercises" really sharpen your wits or fend off senility?

Right now I am testing out the hypothesis that keeping a weblog is a good way to exercise your brain.

Einstein The Dharma Of Science

A Buddhist Thought of the Day

The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science. Since, however, sense perception only gives information of this external world or of "physical reality" indirectly, we can only grasp the latter by speculative means. It follows from this that our notions of physical reality can never be final. We must always be ready to change these notions - that is to say, the axiomatic basis of physics - in order to do justice to perceived facts in the most perfect way logically.

-Einstein ...

Stephen Hawking Raises The Big Questions And Some Answers Of The Universe

A TEDBlog Stephen Hawking Asking Big Questions about the universe: on

In keeping with the theme of TED2008, professor Stephen Hawking asks some Big Questions about our universe -- How did the universe begin? How did life begin? Are we alone? -- and discusses how we might go about answering them.(Recorded March 2008 in Monterey, California, and in Cambridge, UK.

Watch Stephen Hawking's talk on, where you can download it, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances.

Read more about Stephen Hawking on

The TEDBlog was also kind enough to point out that the answer was there all along


In his TEDTalk released today, physicist Stephen Hawking asks Big Questions about life, the universe and everything. His talk was recorded at Cambridge, in a borrowed classroom -- whose well-used blackboard happens to contain the Answer to life, the universe and everything. It's visible in the upper-right-hand corner of the shot above, and in this inset:


Thanks for the tip, Robert Todd!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dealing With 10 things Hated About Web 2.0

The following misanthropic musings were made by gaping void creator Hugh McLeod. He is , somewhat ironically, another source inspiration and sometimes information for this weblog. He is, of course, at a whole different level web 2.0 social pecking order than I am, but he raises some interesting challenges to the ongoing creation of this weblog.

10 things I hate about web 2.0 via gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" by hugh macleod on 6/6/08


1. Reconciling the huge gap between how interesting and important you tell your clients it all is, versus how interesting and important you actually find it all yourself.

Since this weblog has no clients and no money (except for 14 cents for charity through Squidoo), this is not a problem. Sometimes others find the sites found here interesting and sometimes they don't. It only deals with what I find interesting, even if nobody else does.

2. The endless train of online armchair quarterbacks endlessly trying to engage you with endless rounds of mental masturbation.

This is admittedly annoying. From a self-reflective point of view, spending a good portion of my free time typing this, well mental masturbation might stick but it is for the most part solitary and there is no attempt to pass myself off as an expert.

3. The same usual suspects whining endlessly on about the same usual suspects.

This weblog actually jumps around a lot, presumedly making it less viable as a potential money maker. The question for this weblog is whether and how to deal with past issues. Once a post is created on say bio-fuels is there any reason to worry about doing more? For whatever reason, I sometimes feel like I should be.

4. The idea that spouting endless hyperbole about the latest doohickey widget is actually an interesting, compelling and worthy way for a grown man to spend his free time.

Sprouting no, but having others sprout, especially through video - that's different.

5. The well-intentioned but misguided belief that anonymous loser douchebags are actually entitled to an opinion.

One lonely anonymous loser douchebag arguable, a million anonymous loser douchebags that's your market.

6. People at conference panels, pretending that the only reason they're attending is to offer valuable insight to their fellow man, as opposed to just pimping their wares and/or scouting for consulting gigs.

This is true of all conferences, not just Web 2.o. You can, however, get valuable insights from your fellow man even when they are just pimping their wares and/or scouting for consulting gigs.

7. The pervasive use of the term, "2.0" to describe anything other than internet software e.g. "Love 2.0", "Women 2.0", "Breakup 2.0", "Food 2.0", "Religion 2.0", "Music 2.0", "Poetry 2.0", yak yak yak...

There should be a term that describes the opposite of innovation, which would be what most of us are doing most of the time.

8. Any blogger with higher traffic than my own.

OK, this one is definitely not a worry.

9. The popular but mistaken belief that there is a vast, unstoppable army of people in the world who actually care about this shit.

No, there are just a whole lot of people who care about a whole lot of different shit.

10. The sophomoric conceit that "The Conversation" is two-way. To quote Fran Leibowitz, "The opposite of Talking is not Listening. The opposite of Talking is Waiting".

These are, at a minimum, all two-way conversations. What's different is that everybody is carrying on their own two-way conversation with themselves, adding others just serves to scale up, sometimes exponentially. Placing your words upon the screen and judging your words by your own standards is a form of self-reflective communication. Most times we passively invite others to join in. The fact that they do not does not stop the conversation.

Finally, while mediocrity may be a hallmark of the untold masses, there is never any intention to allege moral failings in others.

I Am Evolution We Are All Evolution

I Am Evolution via NPR Series: This I Believe back on 5/11/08

Listener Holly Dunsworth says she doesn't need faith or hope to believe evolution. The Penn State paleoanthropologist says evolution "just is" — and helps her understand how she came to be and how humans are connected to all living things.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Economic Facts And Striving For Fair Play for Kenya Farmers' Market

In the effort to understand the principles of economics and how they constrain efforts to bring about positive change through social-entrepreneurship, Africa has been a major educational source since its has been the arena of greatest challenge and opportunity for those engaged in such efforts.

One means of endeavoring to bringing about positive change is through "Fair Trade". Back at the end of March, the TEDBlog ran a post on Fair play for Kenya farmers' market

Ode Magazine : Small farmers, bigger markets write of the inspiring efforts of TEDGlobal Fellow and agriculture activist Thomas George to build fair-play marketplaces for poor farmers in Kenya. His organization, Vipani, is a resource for workers on small farms -- people without credit, connections or know-how -- to access networks of other farmers, buyers, suppliers and lenders.

George's work -- which he plans to expand to Rwanda and Uganda -- will resonate with fans of Eleni Gabre-Madhin, who spoke on Ethiopian commodities markets at TEDGlobal Africa in 2007, and Iqbal Quadir, who talked about empowering communities by connecting farmers with mobile phones.
"A thriving rural economy," says George, "will benefit not only farmers, but everyone in the community." -- Matthew Trost

diigo tags: farmers, economics, social-entrepreneurship, global, fairtrade

Professor Tyler Cowen via Marginal Revolution has also weighed in on the economic challenges facing Kenya through fact of the day.

The two women carried on about liquidity and profit margins, and recalled with pride attending the first shareholder meeting of KenGen this year, an event so huge that it had to be held in the city's largest soccer stadium. About 200,000 people from all corners of the country came like so many newly minted executives.
"I felt so good," Kariuki recalled. "It was just normal, common people. People dressed well. What impressed me was the number of old women -- they were coming in their traditional clothes. They were telling me, 'Yes, we bought!' "
Professor Cowen provides the full story that ran in the Washington Post.

More on the debate from a European perspective. The links below were tagged Kenya under the EUFORIC tagging account. There are more links available. The way this post was set up to use all of this weblog's tagging systems, you can save theoretically save to StumbleUpon or to, as always, this is an experiment.

Does Fair Trade contribute to sustainable development? - Audience reactions

  1. stumble / save this to

    2008/04 - Brussels Development Briefings

About the briefings « Brussels Development Briefings

The ACP-EU technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the European Commission, the EU Presidency, the ACP Group, Euforic, Concord, and other partners plan to organize regular development briefing sessions in Brussels on key issues and challenges for rural development in the context of EU/ACP cooperation.

These issues are complicated even more with concerns over diverting crops for use as bio-fuels and farm subsidies in developed countries. I gave my two-cents at a past Marginal Revolution comments section discussing Kill the Farm Subsidy Bill.