Monthly Archives: November 2012

GLOBAL CRISIS NETWORK (GlobCriNet)

A global coordination mechanism to address a global emergency: a network of local, national, regional, and global actors

During the past few years a lot of work and research was undertaken to establish a new type of a global crisis network with a coordination unit in New York and regional, national and local centers to be set up around the world. They would all be interconnected and jointly contributing to solving any future global crisis, a major topic of the book. So far funding has not been successful to move to the implementation phase except for the setting up of the Helsinki Sustainability Center (described separately in this blog) in September 2012. This entry below gives justifications for the establishment of this network.

The book tells in Chapter 8 that the Research Unit for Strategic Intelligence and Exploration of Futures at the Aalto University in Helsinki organized a seminar on the idea to establish the global crisis network in September 2010 so that the world would be really prepared for any major crisis of the future as described elsewhere in the book. The Social Science Research Institute of the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) sponsored another seminar in Honolulu, in November 2010 and the consultations were also conducted in fall 2010 with the Globalization Research Center of UHM, the East-West Center in Honolulu, the Research and Analysis Corporation of Finland, and the Stockholm Resilience Center in Sweden.

The seminars and consultations concluded that the world needs a new kind of institution for any massive, future crisis. It could be best described as a network of regional, national, and local centers as well as a global coordination unit to be established close to the UN in New York. The whole concept could be called a Global Crisis Network (GlobCriNet). Its main task would be the coordination of local, national, and regional initiatives with global policies, and catalyzing action. GlobCriNet should be based on the above centers at different levels and their own networks—whether physical or virtual (Internet or mobile-phone based)— and its New York coordination unit should also act as a crisis center, an operations room and a think tank

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability further tells that there already exists an example of a well-functioning regional-global interplay of centers in the area of political analysis and advocacy. The International Crisis Group (ICG) provides early warning on and monitoring of political crises, and advocates for action through a wide network in regions and conflict countries. The concept should be expanded and modified to deal effectively with interrelated global threats of the future.

Although local, national, and regional networks are key to providing a lasting impact on the ground, the proposed Global Crisis Network should ideally also function globally through its focal point in New York. The New York coordination unit, working in close cooperation with affiliated networks, would have three specialized functions according to the book:

1. First, the global coordination unit should work as a think tank. Traditional think tanks undertake research, organizing seminars, and give advice to decision-makers. The book refers to International Peace Institute (IPI) which, although operating independently of the UN, has acquired a semi-UN status over the decades, which enhances its legitimacy and impact—but as with ICG it only works in the political and security arenas. The IPI would be a good model for a Global Crisis Network and New York unit in terms of access and building the legitimacy of a network with a close connection to the Secretary-General, UN organs, and the UN system, but importantly, while maintaining its independence.

Second, the Global Crisis Network and its New York coordination unit should jointly act as a crisis center and early warning mechanism. Many Governments have crisis centers and the UN Peacekeeping Department a situation room, with similar crisis management functions, and there are several other such entities around the world that have been established to constantly monitor potential natural catastrophes.

Third, the Global Crisis Network and its New York unit should function as an operations room for practical, on-the-ground projects. Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room which the book described in Chapter 7, is a good model for this function but the concept should be expanded to cover all global threats, concerns, and their interlinkages beyond climate change. It should be a center bringing together such partners as the private sector, local and central government, foundations, the UN system and NGOs, with the help of the latest technology and appropriate funding.

The concept of the Global Crisis Network was also elaborated in the book from the perspective of climate change and the needs of Third World countries as follows:

1. Developing countries in particular face three major challenges and GlobCriNet could be instrumental in helping to find solutions to each. First, climate-change-related issues such as natural disasters, and food and water security are mostly felt locally but their solutions often require international funding and technology. However, such international assistance is often poor at identifying the most important local projects, as there are inadequate links between local, national, regional, and global efforts to combat climate change. A holistic framework is missing. The Global Crisis Network would address this concern by providing a framework for coordination and new possibilities for initiating badly needed projects in the field.

2. Second, seen from the global – or macro-perspective, the most critical problems are not necessarily addressed at the local level, as there is little awareness locally of their long-term impact on the globe and consequently inadequate political will, expertise, and funding for mitigation projects. GlobCriNet would work to acquire appropriate funding, technology, and expertise for such local projects. Working closely with the UN system it could be argued that the network will gain both the legitimacy and global expertise to make suggestions for critical national or local projects from a global, holistic perspective. Such recommendations would arguably have significant political clout and credibility.

3. Third, seen from a Third World perspective, at the moment there are inadequate links between, on the one hand, private and public sector financing of climate change projects, and those funded by international technical financial assistance. Again, a global framework is missing. Working closely with governments, the private sector, scientific organizations, and NGOs, a network could advise on the joint public and private financing of cooperative projects, or at least propose that a meaningful distribution of labor is established, in order to avoid duplication and waste. GlobCriNet could also propose funding important projects that existing financing ignores.”

The book notes that massive amounts of research, analysis, and data are already available around the world but a major problem is how to get the most relevant information to the right decision-makers in an understandable form. There needs to be a broker or facilitator between the knowledge and the user. During a rapidly evolving crisis this is especially important, stressing the importance of the coordination and brokering functions of the New York unit as well as the whole network. The function of seeking and suggesting cooperation with other institutions would make the network unique among institutions dealing with interconnected global, regional, national, and local threats.

Setting up the networks in the regions and countries

The book further describes how the Global Crisis Network could be built in practice in a given region with following phases:

“In the first phase, a comprehensive review and analysis of the all topical issues (such as climate change) should be conducted in pilot countries in a given region, including problems and vulnerabilities experienced or expected. The result of the review would be a mapping of all priority issues for each country to provide a holistic framework for deciding which institutions and universities should participate in the network once established (at least in the initial phase), as well priorities for monitoring and action;

In the second phase, a review of research and analysis of all relevant organizations, institutions and initiatives should be undertaken in pilot countries. The willingness of organizations to participate in regional or global networks—exchanging early warning, research and data as well as to undertake cooperative local projects—should ideally be clarified at this stage; and

In the third phase, a network of institutions in pilot countries should be established. The possibility of establishing a specialized regional center should also be explored. Operational conduct of a network (e.g. priorities of action) should also be set up and it might vary from a region to another”.
The Chapter 8 in the book concludes that the New York coordination unit could be established at any time but at the latest when the first regional network is operational. Climate change might be a good start for topical coverage by the first network, but in principle all relevant issues should be covered in due course. A feasibility study could and should determine the cooperative arrangements of the Global Crisis Network with other organizations, such as those listed in the beginning of this chapter, as well as whether linkages should be established to social forces and movements now spreading around the globe.

Those interested in the concept described above should send proposals to this blog how the network and/or its components could and should be established in practice, or even better yet, they could set up their own networks or centers which would eventually be connected to the Global Crisis Network once funding is secured for the feasibility study mentioned above and for the funding of the coordination unit in New York, Funding is an essential part of the establishment process and suggestions for concrete initiatives in this respect are welcome. No special fundraising is going on however at the moment. Some catalyst funding might be needed but essentially the setting of the Global Crisis Network is self-organizing, democratic, voluntary and transparent process without a central authority or command. Any coordination is based on suggestions and offers for assistance and ideas, not on command.

SPIRITUALITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION

Invitation to the The Temple of Understanding session (18 April 2013)

Second session on the spirituality and environmental action series

The Temple of Understanding and Interfaith Consortium for Ecological Civilization will organize the second session on the spirituality and environmental action on 18 April 2013 in New York. The first session took place at the Open Center in New York in late December 2012. See above the link to the invitation.

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In summer and fall 2012 some spiritual people of various faiths and religious associations, but also concerned about the deteriorating trends in our climate and environment, gathered in Finland and New York to discuss how spiritual people around the world should be mobilized to move things around. The men and women of faith and spirituality represent an overwhelming majority of people on earth and are therefore an important asset to change the planet toward a sustainable future. After these meetings and further consultations it was decided that an interfaith movement, a world prayer and meditation network for environment, climate, peace and our economic and spiritual well-being should be established.  Contrary to many other existing networks its efforts should be very practical, namely joint prayer and meditation should lead to concrete action as explained below.

World prayer and meditation network for environment, climate, peace and our economic and spiritual well-being

All religions and spiritual traditions share, at their heart, a common vision for preserving and promoting the well-being of both humans and nature and for an aspiration of continuous spiritual progress and peace through prayer and/or meditation.  We are all part of the same globe, and its climate and natural resources are making us all interdependent – a fact more evident today than it was decades and centuries ago.  Some call this universal unity-consciousness that we are all one, and the sustainability of the nature is part of our heritage and our ultimate destiny. Mother earth nurtures us and, on the other hand, we all have a responsibility for its health as well.  If the environment and the climate around us deteriorate we all ultimately also become sick.  When we are healing our human environment we are also healing ourselves and rising up the humanity and our collective level of consciousness.

The science tells us that the planet is exceeding its ecological limits and it urgently needs deep-healing that only humans working together and coming from all religions and spiritual traditions can give to it – indeed it is our highest and now even an urgent duty.  It is time to act together but with joint vision, purpose and action. Action is key as each one of us is instrumental for proposing and implementing concrete steps to improve our environment and thus creating the harmony and health that lifts our spirit and soul. The world prayer and meditation network for environment, climate, peace and economic and spiritual well-being is an interconnected forum for doing this together.  We need to get together for a joint, shared session as in the group we can achieve more that individually.  Therefore, we urge you to join us in a session ,or you can organize one yourself in your community.  This would not be as such a religious but rather inter-spiritual, inter-faith session uniting us for a common purpose.

To start with, we need a facilitator who is passionate about the above mission statement and can deal smoothly and friendly with very various kinds of people.  And we also need an expert on scientific facts on what is happening to our environment.  That’s all – this is a small-scale grass root event which will eventually change the world.

 

Suggestions for proceedings in a session:

1. The facilitator first explains the purpose of the session. A guided prayer for healing the planet for some 2-3 minutes follows but the facilitator might first very shortly explain the power of prayer and meditation (or maybe in some traditions a silence of mind with attuning it to God or the highest spirit) common in all religions and spiritual traditions.  Then we all sit in silence for some 3-5 minutes.  Each one of us can and should use the prayer or mediation according his or her own religious or spiritual traditions and beliefs during this time. No one will be converted to anything.  When we sit silently for a while in a harmony of a group we can achieve more once we start working together.

2. Secondly, there should be a power point or other type of scientific presentation for some 20 minutes or so about trends in our environment: climate, natural resources, water, pollution etc.  This should be a non-political talk for knowledge and understanding in a similar way as a medical doctor describes a diagnosis to a patient to the best and honest understanding of the doctor.  The presentation should be given in a spirit of humility as we do not always know everything as a scientific fact as science is evolving but we should be able to get a broad picture.

3.  There should be a short question and answer segment after the presentation with the facilitator and the scientist/statistician/expert giving the factual presentation.  During this time participants could be directed to study more in selected websites, books and other documents.

4. Then the facilitator breaks the participants into small groups where each one can take part and express his or her views.  One group could be on actions to be taken in one’s house/apartment and in one’s living style; another group could discuss what could be done in a neighborhood (complex of apartments or houses, or a village or suburban community); and a third one could be for actions on what could be done at city, county, national and international levels.

5.  After the work in small groups is finished the facilitator calls for a joint session where the groups report their findings (using blackboard or other facilities).  Then groups or individuals make commitments for action – either publicly or silently – and also brainstorm jointly how to monitor progress (including whether or not to organize a follow-up session or sessions, whether or not to report the results of the session in a website or a blog to spread the message, etc).

6.  The session ends with the facilitator calling for silence, prayer and meditation in two stages. The first part is a prayer and/or meditation during which each participant can think in his or her mind what one has committed of doing and asking God or other high spirit or entity – according to one’s spiritual or religious tradition or belief – to help him or her to implement the commitments given publicly or silently in order to help the environment and us all to heal and prosper.  Secondly, the facilitator asks for a general silent moment during which the participants harmonize their energies for well-being of all humans as well the mother earth.

 

First session

The first pilot session of the network is scheduled to take place in December 2012 in New York. Its results, to be reported in this blog, will give a useful model how future events could be best organized to get concrete results.

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GAMES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE

Computer and mobile application games are important potential tools for educating and training the young generation about climate and environmental change. Three special games could be developed as tools for education and social activism:

a) “Civilization Under Threat from Climate Change Game (CUT 2100 Game):
A new strategy game broadly based on a popular “Civilization” game dealing with our likely global civilization in 2100 and beyond; creating various alternatives attaining desirable or undesirable futures in the next decades;

b) Sea-level rise tracker

c) Angry Birds Environmental Game: birds coming back to politicians and industry executives who have destroyed their nesting areas; profits could go to a global sustainability fund.

Further thoughts on a) and b):

a) Civilization Under Threat Game (CUT 2100 game)

The “Civilization” game has been an extremely popular strategy game for decades. You build civilizations from some factual premises and with a lot of anticipated problems. These have always been ancient civilizations, although the game developers have now also started to look into the future. We need something similar but going beyond the original concept where young people can build world civilization alternatives for the coming decades which are really sustainable, moving from the past to the future as a game platform and using real data as a basis.

b) Sea-level rise tracker

Science:

1. There are a number of tipping points that can trigger an escalating global temperature rise and sea-level rise, as discussed in Chapter 5 of the book Crisis of Global Sustainability. The article referred to here talks about some 15 tipping points (see http://www.pnas.org/content/105/6/1786.full.pdf). These tipping points and their interaction, feedback, were not taken into account in IPCC projections in 2007 as they were considered too much of an unknown, an uncertainty (the next IPCC assessment report is only due in 2013-2014 – and as governments are involved it is always going to be a watered-down report). The IPCC and related mainstream scientific assessments expect a sea-level rise of about 0.2–1 meter within a century – so not a catastrophe.

2. James Hansen and Makiko Sato, however, tried to estimate the impact of tipping points from paleoclimate analysis in a recent essay and concluded that a much more drastic sea-level rise is likely: a 4–25 meter sea-level rise with business-as-usual trends within a century (See reference below). Cities like New York, London, Shanghai and Tokyo will be wiped out (see the discussion in Chapter 5 of Crisis of Global Sustainability). This view will most likely be contested by mainstream scientists. On the other hand, the stakes for humanity are huge if this science turns out to be correct. So even if there is only a 5% probability that the Hansen-Sato analysis is correct, this likelihood justifies the efforts to take it very seriously into account.

3. Evidently science will start modeling more and more the impact of tipping points in the years to come and a lot of data are and will be available. But with IPCC projections – on which climate change talks are based – already out of date when they are released, and even watered-down as compromises, climate change negotiations by governments are always behind the science. Therefore there is an opening and a real need for creating a democratic, transparent, on-time/real-time initiative like this Tracker.

Proposal:

Create an Interactive Sea-level Rise Tracker based on real-time data, which could be developed into a real-time application like Navigator, or a game, or both.

Tracker parameters:

1. Approaches in climate change science related to temperature rise and sea-level rise (modeling component):

a) Hansen-Sato approach/model (paleoclimate analysis in general)

b) IPCC projections/models

c) other models

2. Climate change targets and commitments by governments

CO2 and other greenhouse gas reduction commitments and targets by governments and their expected impact on global temperature are available; use e.g. http://climateinteractive.org/scoreboard as a basis

3. Actual data

Create a database using various online databases: the latest data from world monitoring sites on CO2, the rate of glaciers melting, etc.

4. Create an application

Using the application turn the above into estimates of the sea-level rise in any part of the world, with different assumptions, into a map of your locality;

Through the application high school and college students could test for themselves whether recent online monitoring data would support the Hansen-Sato analysis/hypothesis or other, more mainstream models;

Ideally, the younger generation would also use this Tracker application to follow climate change negotiations with their mobile devices like sport fans who currently watch sport events with a lot of data on players, or like stockbrokers who use Bloomberg News on their computer screens to make trade decisions. But this could go further. The younger generation could test and challenge the negotiation targets of their governments’ negotiators, in terms of sea-level rises, that various governmental negotiation positions would bring about – an exercise of grassroots democracy in action.

Please present your own comments or ideas on the above, or better yet start developing a commercial application (but devote part of your profits for sustainability causes such as a global sustainability fund – still to be established).

Some suggestions with regard to the above game ideas were presented by Alison Neale from the UK in the process of preparing the book “Crisis of Global Sustainability.” They are reproduced below as a model of what kind of comments and ideas – some tentative illustrations based on one’s own experience, some more elaborate gaming proposals – we would like to receive so that the concept could be developed further.

Comments by Alison Neale (14 August 2012):
I really like the Civilization game idea. My brothers were both totally addicted to this. I imagine there is an app already, but you could come up with something completely new that allowed people to try different solutions to environmental problems being identified. Thus you could have your domain – a village, city or county/state – and the game would tell you that an unusually large weather event is incoming. You would be able to plan to avoid it – do you use your limited pot of money to evacuate, build shelters, invest in something to prevent future events, etc? The game would be to work out what would be better in the long versus short term, including monetary, crop and human losses, and gauge reactions of all players versus actual events in history. It would be a bit like some of these research projects using Twitter at the moment, where you get to monitor people’s responses to policies and theories, and crowdsource solutions. You could even introduce the whole ‘dream team’ element of sports computer games, by having prominent environmentalists (or stereotypes of such), and form your local or state government using these, to see how well policies hold together under different theories. I know there are some very, very simple games on Facebook, such as Farmville, for example, that work along similar lines of starting with a small plot and a bit of money, and then you gradually expand. I’m not a games player, but my brothers, sister-in-law and ex-partner are all totally addicted to them, so (sigh!) I know the kind of thing that hooks people in. Oh, there are also fortress-style games, where you have to protect your maze-like base from invaders. The type of game has a particular name, which escapes me at present… That format could be easily adapted to invaders in the form of crises of different types. They are available as apps on the iPad, I know.

The sea-level rise idea is great, too, but of course does rather limit the uptake to those with access to sea. Rivers here are too well controlled to show drastic change unless there has been a dramatic amount of rain. Perhaps another app could monitor temperatures, rainfall, or proximity to average weather conditions. Or, more ‘fun’, extreme weather events: ‘spot the monsoon’, kind of thing. We had hailstones the size of golf balls in one city a few weeks ago – that is almost unheard of (the last time was apparently in the 1930s). Again, in a Twitter-esque fashion, you could have data fed in from all over the world, telling you what types of extreme weather are being experienced at any one time. With enough replication in an area, you’d be fairly certain what was true.”

References: James E. Hansen and Makitoki Sato, “Paleoclimate Implications for Human-made Climate Change,” in Climate Change: Inferences from Paleoclimate and Regional Aspects, ed. Andr Berger, Fedor Mesinger, and D. Šijački (Springer, 2012).

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THE SUSTAINABILITY CENTER CONCEPT IN THE THIRD WORLD: Globally, nationally and locally sustainable, peaceful Tanzania

A pilot project was planned for the establishment of a local sustainability center somewhere in Tanzania. The project had to be postponed; however, the concept paper prepared for the project could give useful ideas as to how any sustainability center could be established in any local area in the developing world, and is reproduced and updated here. The principles outlined in this entry could also be applied in the developed countries with necessary modifications.

Purpose: How could we create or rebuild communities to be ecologically sustainable, peaceful, democratic, healthy and happy? The purpose is that communities are both environmentally sustainable and socially peaceful but also that they can contribute to global sustainability, that sustainable employment could be created and maintained, and inhabitants in communities can get appropriate training, health and cultural services.

Basic problem: Each community can make a number of improvements to its living conditions. Often, however, improvements are conditional on decisions of other communities, and actions taken by county-level, national, regional and global decision-makers (public and private). As the globe will reach its ecological limits soon, or has done so in some respects, each community has a role and even a moral obligation to contribute to the global survival of the human race. This will, on the positive side, empower the poorest communities as they have an important role to contribute to a global strategy for survival and take immediate action. This mission will also need the creation of clusters of new humanity, renewal of the best religious, spiritual and humanistic values stressing that we are a global, interconnected village, and that the survival of the human race will depend on each of us, and that a change has to be peaceful, increasing happiness in us as well as in the world.

Tools: we need;

  • Knowledge of the global predicament (this kind of information is, for instance, given in the book Crisis of Sustainability and in its endnotes);
  • Know-how and technology: information about various ways to build ecologically sustainable buildings, infrastructures and whole communities as e.g. in the examples given in Blue Economy, the book by Gunter Pauli referred to in Chapter 3 of Crisis of Global Sustainability);
  • Intelligence and creativity: as you have to apply all of this knowledge and know-how to your community;
  • Social intelligence and activism: as you have to convince others that we need new models of social behavior and quick action – globally, regionally nationally and locally;
  • New humanity values which stress peaceful change through personal transformation and growth – this could be called neogrowth (concept by Prof. Pentti Malaska described in Chapter 3 of the book); a move away from quantitative economic growth measured by GDP to human growth and growth of sustainable villages, communities, cities and nations.

Possible steps to be taken in a locality such as Tanzania (and in any other communities – physical or virtual – around the globe):

1. Make an evaluation of the sustainability and survivability of the community, its weak and strong points, its connectivity to other communities and the rest of the world, as well as opportunities and risks involved.

How have climate change and other environmental problems affected the community and how are they likely to affect it in the future; how dependent is the livelihood of the community on trade, the prices of commodities and what is the availability (now and in the future) of oil or other energy sources?

What is the employment situation, particularly among the young?

What is the status of health of the population and what social and cultural services are available?

What is the state of democracy, participation, racial, tribal and religious relations in the community and in its surrounding communities?

What are the crucial elements in the life of the community that would need outside expertise and financial or other assistance

  • Create a local sustainability center (in some Western communities these could be virtual but in Africa mostly physical)

Functions:

Small start-up loans for sustainable employment;

Training for the management for small business in sustainable projects and initiatives;

  • Health advice and services;
  • Training for human rights, democracy, conflict prevention and peace-building;
  • Cultivation of arts and new humanity; and
  • Initiation, coordination and participation in conflict prevention and peace-building activities in creating sustainable societies.

Connectivity:

  • Establish electronic, wireless and multimedia links among people in the community as well in other sustainability centers and global networks; and
  • Provide analysis, early warning and networking services to local community, nationally and internationally.
  1. Start creating projects on sustainable employment, democracy, conflict prevention and cultural services. The best projects could combine many of the above functions.
  2. Start contributing to peaceful change for long-term sustainability locally, nationally and globally. Each community has different roles and opportunities. There are also non-local communities like professional associations, a group of friends on Facebook, etc. Make a list of possible options and opportunities, for instance:
  • Ensure that elections are free and fair and corruption is minimized;
  • Educate politicians, civil servants and corporations about their global and local responsibilities in creating sustainable business practices;
  • Take peaceful civil action (like peaceful demonstrations) against non-sustainable business practices and initiatives (those that pollute locally, nationally or globally); and
  • Create media and internet and social media campaigns for sustainability.

Start of a pilot project:

  • Select a village or other community (or a couple of these) for a pilot study. If it is feasible to select a few then one could be part of the city, as its problems and opportunities are different from rural areas;
  • Convince local and national politicians and civil society that they should help;
  • Seek assistance from a country team of the UN and other international or regional organizations;
  • Enlist support of local, national and multinational corporations and civil society organizations;
  • Make a project proposal and seek funding; and
  • Start implementing and report constantly to this blog/website.
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Helsinki Sustainability Center

Helsinki Sustainability Center (HSC) was established on 4 October 2012. The initiative is not a direct follow-up to the book “Crisis of Global Sustainability” but related to it. Dr. Mika Aaltonen, the founder of the HSC and head of the Research Unit for Strategic Intelligence and Exploration of Futures at Aalto University, has been conducting seminars and consultations in discussing and deepening the concepts and ideas promoted by the book (as explained in Chapter 8) and the author of the book Tapio Kanninen has on his part been giving continuous input for the establishment process of the HSC and is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Center.

The Helsinki Times reported on 5 October 2012 the following on the establishment of the HSC: “Former president Tarja Halonen has been appointed as the chair of Helsinki Sustainability Center, a company promoting sustainable development, Helsingin Sanomat and Talouselämä report. Founded by Mika Aaltonen, a research director at Aalto University, the centre is a non-profit consultancy firm, the task of which is to help countries and companies to combine their business operations with sustainable development. According to Halonen in Helsingin Sanomat, the chairpersonship is part-time and unpaid.”

Here is a short description of the Center’s main mission and major functions:

1. What?

Helsinki Sustainability Centre was established in order to make research and analysis related to global challenges (climate change, land system changes, water system changes, biodiversity), and their application in decision-making, truly effective. Helsinki Sustainability Centre will translate the scientific findings and policy realizations into detailed socioeconomic implications and assist Finnish and international actors in articulating and implementing actionable solutions.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre´s targets are:

1) to become a globally recognised knowledge provider an honest broker with full transparency in sustainability

2) to assist the Finnish people, whether in government or business, in finding and implementing timely and disciplined strategies towards an innovative and truly sustainable society, and 

3) to contribute to the international research, discussion and decision-making related to sustainability.

2. Uniqueness

Not research, but analysis

– to allocate R&D&I and education resources appropriately and in a timely manner,

– to identify rapidly and dynamically opportunities for innovation,

– to determine which opportunities are in our strategic interests and which are not, and

– to field innovations faster.

Not focused only on changes in physical landscape, but especially on the implications they bring along for social, political and economic domains

Such knowledge must be dynamic, both anticipatory of and rapidly reactive to changes across the global landscape of business. These are NOT the attributes of academic expertise. Nor can such knowledge be acquired in any single corporation.  Nor is such knowledge resident or dynamic in a traditional R&D organization. 

3. Why?

It will not be enough to generate more and better scientific data, or to develop more sophisticated models to reach a truly sustainable society. 

We need a much deeper, clearer analytical understanding of the interrelated developments and the relationships among their components.

It is not enough to define the problem; we have to show the implications of policies so that policy makers can find actionable solutions, taking the holistic and synergistic implications of their policies into account.

4. How?

Helsinki Sustainability Centre has multiple facets. It is an intelligence network, comprising trained analysts, software tools, and professionally established operational processes. It will develop connections to other relevant centers of excellence and contribute internationally to establish sustainability centers globally, regionally, nationally and locally, as feasible.

Briefly, it is a concrete step towards open source science. The pursued virtues are, according to the best traditions of science, critical engagement, open discourse, and cooperation – but the methods for achieving these goals are those of the 21st century.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre uses operational analysis as its main methodology. Operational analysis is similar to systems analysis, but transcends the technology and engineering relationships to include critical factors outside individual systems. It almost always yields new perspectives and very often highlights potential catastrophes.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre provides highly skilled, analytical capability for projects undertaken by universities and companies. It operates like a newspaper or media “desk” structure, with a desk for each major sector of global business.  

The model is a composite of MI5, the Financial Times, and a technical library/network.  No studies – online models comprising collaborative software linked to a large number of commercial and non-commercial  sources.

Helsinki Sustainability Centre is designed to be gradually developed, using efforts underway today as starting points. An important component of work is to develop connections to scientific and international organizations working on sustainability issues, contributing to their decision-making as well as using their results as input into the Centre’s own work.

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Transforming social movements for promoting long-term global and local sustainability

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability concludes in Chapter 9 that environmentalists, many scientists, and other scholars have spoken for a long time about an impending runaway climate change, the most urgent global issue that needs to be addressed by politicians, corporate leaders, and consumers. A good proportion of media and civil society actors, as well some statesmen, green politicians and businessmen, have become concerned about our planetary future as well. But the book concludes that the combined voice of the above forces has so far been too weak to move mainstream politicians, corporations and institutions for a radical change on a world scale.

Environmental NGOs were very active before the Copenhagen climate conference in 2007-2009, but the movement lost steam after a global deal was not reached. A new phenomenon is the protests in the developed world against austerity measures, socio-economic conditions, and inequality, in addition to food riots in the developing world. But the book concludes that a global emergency has not yet been embraced by social movements, mostly consisting of young people—although they will be the true victims of any future crises. So far proposals for a major change come from the older generation. Some 18 eminent scientists and scholars described the situation in early 2012:

Considering the stakes involved, it is disquieting that young people have not become more involved in the planet’s future and more insistent on intergenerational justice. The tentative efforts to pursue legal redress, for which our present paper provides scientific rational and qualification, are an effort of adults on behalf of young people…College-educated youth are equipped to understand the predicament and articulate their case, but their numbers so far have been too modest for their voice to compete against special financial interests.

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability says that the situation should change as young people become the decision-makers of the future. Understanding a global emergency and solving it at all levels—local, national, and regional, as well as global—would be the natural outcome of the evolution of the above-mentioned social forces, as long as they gradually move toward a shared agenda. Solving future global threats will require a bottom-up process. The Club of Rome that is described in detail in Chapter 1 of the book, was originally a non-organization—a network of people thinking and acting together, without bureaucracy, but with certain overarching concerns in mind and a determination, even a passion, to do good, finding solutions benefitting us all. And although small in number, they were able to achieve a lot, as described in the book. This kind of idealism could spread more widely and motivate various movements, initiatives, and projects taking place at a grassroots level but also inspire the younger generation working in international, governmental, national or local organizations as well as in the private sector.

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability focuses on creating new types of organizations and networking as tools for change as well stressing that voluntary coordination of action at all levels is another key ingredient for success. Using new methods of communication—mobile and smart phones, the Internet—could provide rapidly advancing technologies, tools, and platforms for change.

Proposed global and regional institutions—such as the Global Crisis Network (GlobCriNet), discussed in Chapter 8 of the book—have not yet been instituted. GlobCriNet should ideally be connected to village- and city-based sustainability centers or similar virtual initiatives that could be established at any time as further elaborated and discussed in this blog. Although we need new institutions, we also need people who think differently than those in past generations. Each individual could find his or her contribution at one or more levels. But all actions should ideally have a cumulative impact contributing towards a common and shared goal.

In a presentation at the Royal Society of Arts/Baltic Sea Region, on 6 February 2012 in Helsinki, Tapio Kanninen, the author of Crisis of Global Sustainability, concluded his talk with the following suggestions regarding the future and the role of social movements in shaping that future:

  • The globe will soon hit its limits, or has done so already, as the policies of governments and corporations have not changed much over the last decades
  • Early warning was given already some 40 years ago, e.g. in the “The Limits to Growth” study presented to the Club of Rome, and recent scholarly articles have reassessed that its projections were largely accurate
  • Some scholars are pessimistic, like James Lovelock, that no major policy change will come – and some are hopeful like Paul Gilding but in his view we need a Pearl Harbor moment, an event of the magnitude of Hitler’s invasion to Poland to really awaken humanity to the severity of the crisis
  • I believe the youth are the real victims of future crises – and using the social media will be the key; the “Occupy Wall Street” movement changed the presidential debate in the US in a matter of weeks – things can really change quickly
  • Occupy Wall Street and similar social movements should in my view refocus their ideology on the survival of the human race and enlarge the scope of their activities to embrace environmental and climate change action, in a peaceful way
  • Initiating green projects at the grassroots level is also essential as well as networking throughout the world.

Some leading climate scientists like James Hansen are convinced that with “business-as-usual” trends that both the governments and corporations alike are pursuing, a global sea-level rise would reach some 5 meters (18 feet) within a century or so (see Hansen’s March 2012 TED talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWInyaMWBY8 ). In Chapter 5 of Crisis of Global Sustainability a former Shell executive and the head of the climate change panel established by the Australian Federal Government, Ian Dunlop, cited even higher estimates for sea-level rise. If this kind of sea-level rise does take place, coastal cities like New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai would be potentially wiped out as estimated by Dunlop. Increased monster storms with higher intensity and other environmental calamities would precede that kind of sea-level rise. For social movements the key question should no longer be how long to occupy Wall Street but – as Wall Street in New York is next to the ocean – how to save them together with numerous other communities from ultimate destruction, and this might indeed need a fundamental business change in Wall Street. The hurricane and tropical storm Sandy, in late October 2012, showed how vulnerable Wall Street, New York and the whole coastal area of the US really are to climate change and extreme weather.

So far this issue has been a taboo subject, unthinkable and too distant in the future, but with many failures in official climate change talks (discussed in Chapter 4 of the book) this is becoming a rapidly approaching reality which will affect the generation in their 20s and 30s and certainly their children. As governments of the disappearing generation would not wish to acknowledge the implications of their decisions, it is high time that the true victims of such a sea-level rise – the youth , students and people at the beginnings of their careers and working lives – started to act and mobilize themselves.

What could be done? Concrete action now:

An American talk show host, David Letterman, asked James Hansen in December 2009 why the young people are not demonstrating on the streets to get governments to change the course of climate change talks as they did during the Vietnam War (see the interview at http://angrybirdsmission.com/video/KiJJgC7B_KY/James-Hansen-on-David-Letterman.html ). The answer was that at that time the Draft (compulsory enrollment for military service) made the war a very concrete phenomenon to all American families. But a sea-level rise of 5 meters or more will affect your life and your children’s lives very concretely as well – as concretely as the Draft. Those living on higher ground will also be affected, as the people in lower areas will migrate to higher-altitude areas. So here’s what you can do:

1. Start spreading awareness of the potential sea-level rise (see Chapter 5 in the book). If you listen to the above TED talk by Hansen, you’ll see a map of Florida after the 5 meter sea-level rise – half covered by water. Create your own map of your community if you are located close to the sea and post it on the Internet and on social media. Ask advice from specialists how to create such a map or create a study group on the matter. Maps could be for different sea-level rises of 2-3 meters, 4-5 meters, 6-7 meters and so on.

2. Create a “Sea-level tracker” like the “Climate active Scoreboard” that is tracking success in climate change negotiations (see http://climateinteractive.org/scoreboard; see also the entry in this blog on games). If climate change talks and following commitments succeed (or do not succeed) to limit the world temperature rise to 2°C, 3°C or 4°C, what kind of sea-level rise would this mean according to the latest science? Then transform the results for your community.

3. Ask how your community authorities are prepared for different levels of sea-level rise. Do they have contingency plans?
If you have other ideas on how “Occupy Wall Street” and other social movements could be transformed from a short-term focus of inequality to longer-term concerns for the survival of the human race, write to this blog, post it on your own blog or become otherwise socially active to promote the idea.