Category Archives: people & places

Towards an Empathetic Civilization

In this thoughtful RSA presentation professor Jeremy Rifkin talks about what ultimately motivates human beings from the moment they are born. Contrary to previous visions of society and humanity, he dispels the view that newborns are first and foremost motivated by utilitarian desires, the will to survive and the need to extinguish their libido. He suggests that our first drive as humans is the drive to belong and that we are naturally softwired towards empathetic behaviour to feel another’s plight because of mirror neurons in our brains. We are not softwired for aggression and materialism rather we are softwired for attachment, companionship and sociability. When talking about an empathetic civilization we are not talking about Utopia or heaveb where there is no such thing as suffering; because in order to feel empathy one needs to experience frailties, pain and weaknesses.

Rifkin also makes it clear that if we are not able to extend our empathy beyond the human species, we have no future on the planet. He also asks the audience to consider how empathy has changed across history and how it has affected consciousness. And as a species can we shift our consciousness?

View it here

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Eco-Resorts of the Future in Tanzania

Tomorrow some of the Foresight team heads to Tanzania for a workshop on ECO-RESORTS OF THE FUTURE with our sustainable host Habitaem. Participants will be joining us from as far as San Francisco and as near as down the road in Tanzania. Through the course of our few days in Arusha we will review some of the previous eco-models for resorts and attempt to define a vision for a new sustainable model for resort and tourism in developing regions of the world like Tanzania.

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Sometimes clearing up your desk uncovers important facts. Today a March 8th 2006 Independent newspaper was uncovered by a colleague in the Foresight group. The front cover “This Is Your Life (If you are a woman)” was in honour of International Women’s Day.

The following statistics (still topical in 2008) were included:

  • 70% of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty are women and children
  • 67% of all illiterate adults are women
  • 85, girls worldwide are unable to attend school compared with 45m boys
  • In the US 35% of layers are women but just 5% are partners
  • Women in full-time jobs earn an average 17% less than British men
  • 62% of unpaid family workers are female

The Women and Work Commission released a report almost two years ago in February 2006 to explain why the pay gap is not only bad for women, but also bad for Britain. Some of the key reasons identified for the pay gap include human capital differences (differences in educational levels and work experience), part-time working (the pay gap between men and women’s part time hourly earnings and men’s full time hourly earnings is large), travel patterns (on average women spend less time commuting than men and this can impact on women’s pay), occupational segregation (women’s employment is highly concentrated in certain occupations and these occupations are often the lowest paid), workplace segregation (high concentrations of female employees are associated with relatively low pay at the level of individual workplaces). Other reasons included job grading practices, appraisal systems, reward systems and retention measures, wage-setting practices and discrimination. The UK government is currently trying to addres the Pay Gap by improving the skill levels of current workers and by helping companies to optimize their female workforce.

For more stats the original Independent article can be found here.

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International PM and Vegan Day

Today is officially International Project Management Day and World Vegan Day. International Project Management day suggests putting some time aside to recognize the contributions of project managers to organisations, and World Vegan Day tries to raise awareness around the benefits of veganism and its positive relationship to the environment. The WVD website even goes as far as to say that by “2050 the world’s livestock will be consuming as much as 4 billion people do… when many were doubting whether such human numbers could be fed at all.”

When you consider that human population projections for 2050 are approximately 9.3bn, an extra set of 4bn mouthes to feed is a little disconcerting.

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Demographics and the built environment

The podcast I did on demographics is now available online. My focus was on population growth, ageing populations and urban migration.

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Do Suburbs Make for More Religion?

I am starting to wonder whether the increase in religion in the United States has anything to do with the fact that so many Americans live in the suburbs. Does the resulting lack of contact and sense of community drive people to jump into their cars and head to regular Sunday meetings with other humans? It’s just a thought. Living in London, I have grown to appreciate the community feel of former London villages, which now serve as high streets populated with retail and amenities. I can’t imagine ever living in an isolated suburb. The beauty of the city neighborhood is that you can reach out and connect whenever you want to. One is not forced to use a cup of sugar as a pretext to make contact. Although religious services may not strike some of us as community-feeling, they are definitely community-oriented. What is a church, temple or mosque, but a communal place for people to feel part of something meaningful.

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Flying Kites in Africa

I just heard from Patrick who is manufacturing kites in the urban slums and refugee camps of Chad, and as he writes in his own words “then passing out a good number of them to orphanages and schools where all those HIV orphans need a good dose of loving child psychology.” My heart goes out to all those with bigger hearts, restless souls and endless supplies of bravery.

As I told him I can just imagine those little faces light up as the great big blossoming kite hits the sky. Wonderful potential.

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Drivers of Change: Demographic Roundtables for Australasia

Today marked the end of the Drivers of Change demographic roundtables. It was a bit of a quiet start last week with the Americas, but we picked up a little steam with the EU and by the time Australia and East Asia came around this week, it seemed like a more global perspective on the issues. It made me realize in some ways how much I have learned through the process, and how much more there is to learn.

Some of the key points that roundtable chair Tristram Carfrae raised for emphasis::

- Population stabilisation by 2050

- There are huge differences in terms of population growth: where it is happening (developing regions), where it isn’t happened (EU)

- Can the development and growth in poor, urban areas be matched by much needed infrastructure

- The ratio of the working to the dependent is set to decrease. How are we going to handle that?

- Demographics affects us as individuals and as a firm

And finally, there are local issues in every country, region and city, despite some of the clear overlaps.

The next step will include meeting with business sectors in order to determine the business imperative for the research agenda. I am looking forward to this phase. It would give me great satisfaction to integrate the facts into out business in a way that makes sense for all of us.

As I seat here in Hong Kong’s quiet room 1 (freezing due to the overactive AC) I can’t help but wonder where the next chapter of demographic research will lead.

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Arup at Tokyo Design Week

Jennifer sent me some links she came across by Googling the Japanese translation of the Envois installation she created on behalf of Arup. First came Googling in your native language, now comes Googling and Flickring globally …Care to keep up?

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From the Inside: A Romanian perspective on joining the EU

I asked my Romanian friend Stefan for his perspective on the induction of Romania into the EU. It was a little less rosy than the press would have you believe. The fireworks seemed orchestrated more for and by the media than by the people who will actually be affected by the new year’s change. As Stefan pointed out, while joining “any union might be problematic, the trouble is that the UNION obscures the more pressing plight of a real planetary union – without super-block or super-powers”. Add to this the fact that friends who were formerly welcomed into Romania (Moldovians) will now need a visa to enter. Stefan sounded more resigned to the change than eccstatic.

However he was quick to point out that national prode is booming. There is the sense that FINALLY after all of these years, Romanians are finally being recognized and invited to join after years of suffering and neglect. Stefan also pointed out that the issue is twofold: while Romanians are now technically equals, they have also not lost their sense of mission. There is the sense that while their nation is being made “proper” by its due acceptance into the EU, it will not obliterate the creative spirit that is fomenting within Romanian and driving them to fully achieve a sense of self after years of suppression.

And last, one cannot help but note the somewhat ironic emptiness of having one’s nationality made real by a union’s symbolic acceptance. As Stefan notes: “The plethora of national symbols is now made proper and right by the new EU flag. I know it sounds grim – but it also incredibly funny and ludicrous. ”

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