For months we are been bombarded with news reports about the crisis of the Euro. In the end we even believe that the Euro is in trouble. We should be very clear: the Euro is not in crisis. Excessive government spending is the culprit of the crisis, whatever currency is used. Outrageous government spending destabilizes the world economy. It does not matter if it is referred to in Euro or Drachma, Pesetas, or Deutschmarks. Let us be clear: European Governments spent money beyond their means. Unfortunately, the Old Continent is not the only one that reserved the right to mortgage the next two generations of citizens’ tax earnings.
While the excessive spending of governments cannot be condoned, time has come to propose a more solid assessment of “sovereign debt”, or the debt owned by the government. The risk of a loan is directly related to the capacity to repay that same loan. While expenses are one side of the problem, revenues represent the other side. The capacity of governments to pay debt, next to cutting expenses, depends on the capacity to generate revenue. There are some short term opportunities like selling assets and privatizing operations, however the key to long term success of balancing budgets depends equally on the capacity to secure tax revenue.
If we wish to assess the capacity to secure tax income, it is important to study first and foremost the accumulated debt of citizens and corporations as a percentage of annual gross domestic product. If the government is overspending, and the citizens are maintaining a solid savings ratio, while the corporations are not leveraging their balance sheet and investing in future activities as is the case with Germany, then there is no reason to worry (too much). If on the other hand consumer credit is at its limits, estimated at 100 percent of annual income, and if companies have leveraged their balance sheet to the extreme, maintaining a debt/equity ration in excess of three for debt and one for equity, then it is obvious that the government has little flexibility but to cut down spending dramatically, cause excessive pains to all members of society and generate social unrest.
I would like to suggest that instead of panicking over the pericles of the Greeks, we should worry over the American triple debt: the federal government plus the states have more than 150 percent of GDP in debt with the State of California hovering on the brink of bankruptcy. As a percentage of GDP, the US federal and state debt is equal to the Greek one. The real crisis of America (and not Greece) is in the huge accumulated debt of the individual Americans. The private citizens have assembled more debt than their total annual income. Greek individuals have but a fraction of the private debt as a percentage of their revenues and have maintained savings rates in excess of debt accumulation, a rather healthy indicator.
Perhaps the worst debt situation is the state of affairs with Corporate America which has leveraged its assets and mortgaged its cash flow carrying a massive debt. The debt has grown to such proportions with the largest corporations and banks, that these are now deemed too large to fail. Hence, business benefits from a safety net provided by the Government, or better said by future earning of its citizens who will be taxed to pay for the irresponsible decisions made by business and financial policies imposed by shareholders. Whereas a debt equity ratio of 3 to 1 is the norm, many companies have evolved to a ratio of 5 to 1. A 10 to 1 debt/equity ratio is no exception and even tolerated provided that there is cash flow to cover the interest payments. A company like Lehmann Brothers did not even have 3 percent coverage, meaning that its debt equalled 30 and its assets just one! However what is worse, is that publicly held companies that have a healthy one to one ratio will be pressed by shareholders strapped for cash, to either acquire additional assets (complemented with additional debt) or increase dividend pay, draining the money out of the company.
This dramatic triple level of debt (state, corporate and citizen) means that there is hardly any propensity to increases taxes in an effort to reduce government debt. This explains the allergy of Americans towards any additional levies. Everyone is so busy trying to pay off interest on debt that there is no room for additional levies. Whatever can be creamed off is already committed to the financial institutions. Under these circumstances, interest rates are comparable to taxes, the only difference is that these are paid to banks, which are guaranteed their operations through bail-out schemes with government. If citizens and corporations do not pay the interest anymore, then the banks will fold, and the government has to pay the difference - with tax payers’ money. So we are back to square one.
If we assess the European private and business debt (with the exception of the UK), we see a much healthier situation. While we all agree that taxing citizens when the economy slows down is not wise, continuing to bail out the financial institutions, and thus committing tax revenues for approximately two generations to non-productive investments which are not contributing to alleviating social stress in society. The Belgian Government finally reached an agreement on its budget deficit, cutting some €12 billion, but at the same time, it provided €90 billion guarantees to a defunct bank Dexia, compromising the future capacity of its citizens social security. After all the debt accumulated at this magnitude can only paid back by forcing future generations to cough up the cash. The great difference is that in Europe, there is a propensity to impose more taxes, since the capacity to generate income by private individuals and corporations remains strong due to their lack of massive debt. In America, none of that is available. The surprise came when Sweden surpassed America as the highest per capita investor in venture capital stimulating innovation. A country with the most generous social security scheme in Europe shatters the presumption of uninformed protagonists in America that social security in Europe is at the heart of the problem.
So who should we really worry about: the Euro zone, the Greek economy or the Americans? We should worry about them all. However, the latest report on poverty in the USA confirmed that already 24 percent of the population lives below the magic poverty line, and the number of poor Americans has been growing for decades. The American dream does not exist anymore for one quarter of its population. The American dream is the privilege of the one percent that enjoys the wealth of Wall Street. Everyone else is struggling to make ends meet, abate obesity and make end-of-month debt payments. Do you believe that children can imagine a future under these conditions?
Common practice in conflict resolution involves a third party, disconnected from the harsh realities of decades of aggression, to mediate in establishing an agenda that brings sworn enemies around the same table to discuss a common way forward. The agenda includes agreed subjects of conversation, and time to listen to the pain inflicted on each other. There is a great logic in this approach. Few, but convincing examples show how this approach can bring an end to long lasting conflicts, including the one in Northern Ireland and Namibia. However, as the recent statistics on conflicts indicate, we seem to add more aggressions than resolutions. Especially our record on fighting extremism seems to suffer from our incapacity to reconciliate. Politicians eager to impress an unimpressed electorate have a clear preference for the recourse to weapons. The key problem is that we fail to understand that aggression today is the seed of counter aggression in years or decades to come. Thus the question is how we can bring opposing parties together - who have paid for their survival, livelihood and dreams with pain and blood. My experience tells me: do not bring them together at all - but get action on the ground without any further delay.
Families who suffered acts of expropriation, expulsion, oppression, humiliation, extended periods of hunger and exploitation, indiscriminate incarceration with innocent children and mothers killed in collateral damage condoned by society on both sides have a hard time imagining ever sitting around the same table with the aggressor. And if they ever do, no one will trust the other, whatever the status of the mediator, whatever the financial and political prowess she or he brings along to entice the parties to talk about a possible agreement. Whenever there are two opposing parties who have two opposing dreams, it is indispensable to elevate the nightmare of one - which is the dream of the other - into a broader context while focusing on the simple basics of water, food, shelter, and health. If you have a problem, bring another one to the table that needs a resolution, and if there are three situations in need of out of the box breakthroughs, even better.
The strategy of bringing the core problems to an outsider for resolution, independent of a physical meeting with the arch enemies, could move societies in conflict towards a peaceful solution. Quick, creative and pragmatic solutions to immediate problems can be embraced by all. After all, a dream is more than a declaration of independence. A dream consists of the capacity to respond to basic needs, especially when it comes to water, food, housing, and jobs. Therefore, the conflict resolution that focuses on getting quick results to priority needs should be the first step in a long healing process. As soon as the hungry are fed, the unemployed youth has jobs, and shelter is provided, then self-confidence builds up. How else can be expect to find any agreement on the bigger picture.
As long as conflict resolution first relies on an agreement on the agendas as a pre-condition to meet, we are facing hostile responses and tedious negotiations with little chance of success. And while patience has always been preached in any resolution process, what we should need is impatience in getting key issues resolved immediately. People who have been neglected and mistreated for generations cannot be requested to take time. We know all too well that the buoyancy of the young generation that has seen its parents suffer beyond reason requires fast, clean and clear results on the ground and now. We have to celebrate that impatience, and work with this tremendous energy as a pre-condition to success.
While this blog on Conflict Resolution is detailed in a separate article with a few concrete cases, and a detailed methodology the bottom line is simple: imagine pathways forward where everyone realizes their dreams, step by step - here and now. And since words can never convince anyone that the only way to realize once’s dream is that the other achieves a dream, deeds though do convince. The attainment of the best for one is actually the precondition for the opposing party to also achieve the best. And when two parties are on a pathway to reach all of their goals, then these ancient enemies empower others who have not been part of the inter-generational conflict to also achieve their best. This creates conditions propitious for a long lasting peace.
Whereas I do not claim that this is the only way to achieve a peaceful society, experience teaches me that it is a novel form of getting things done on the ground, build up the confidence that peace at home and in our minds can be achieved, while spreading the enthusiasm that more can be done - even with the enemy. And when the opponents know that only in the end - when a few dreams have been achieved - there is a need to meet the enemy- that broader peace process can be put on track faster than we believe. We all know that the absence of war is not peace. What we should now realize it that conflict will always be part of reality. However, when a conflict emerges we should embrace it as an opportunity for societies to reach a higher level of common purpose in life, first and foremost within one’s own culture, religion and language.
Sustainability has been defined as “The capacity to respond to the basic needs of all with what we have”. If we apply this logic to energy, then we are forced to rethink our present model. Indeed, ever since the concept of a centralized production and distribution of electricity emerged over a century ago, potential local power sources have seldom been taken into account. If we neglect this portfolio of energies that can be accessed where we are and with what we have then we will continue pay high cost both in terms of price and pollution. If on the other hand we switch our mindset and integrate multiple local power and heat sources, then our energy balance could evolve from scarcity to abundance, at lower cost, increased flexibility, while we can finally cut back on contamination. The surprise effect may even be the lowering of local taxes.
Green energy has always been associated with increased costs. Somehow the system of generation and distribution of power convinced consumer and government alike that whatever is good for health and the environment requires a premium. How often are we not requested to perform a cost benefit analysis that amounted to business as usual? The classical management adagio of “core business and core competence” lead to the imposition of the economies of scale, based on few energy sources aimed to reduce the cost per kilowatt hour (kWhr) for the producer. The energy mix today is driven by the capacity to respond to base load and peak demand at predictable rates with guaranteed margins, passing the additional cost on to the client. This resulted in the adoption of nuclear, coal, fuel and natural gas as the core sources. Renewables were typically dismissed since - as the argument goes - the sun only shines 5 hours per day, and wind is unreliable. Then renewables need back-up and storage. This increases the cost borne by the customer or requires subsidies from (bankrupt) governments which in the end are also paid by citizens through higher taxes.
Time has come to reassess this logic. There are two guiding principles of The Blue Economy that determine the identification of a new energy mix beyond green power. First, use what you have. Second, search for multiple benefits. To succeed in this endeavor requires a change of the rules of the game. It has been widely overlooked that our grid today distributes power at 240 V in alternate current (AC). Nearly all renewable energy is generated in direct current (DC). The integration of DC into the grid requires additional capital. If we were to create local 12V DC grids, then many well known but little used renewables would immediately become economically viable without major investments.
The AC enigma made us neglect the potential of all renewables. Photovoltaic cells are only used on one side, even though these could generate more power when sun light is exposed on both sides, especially when concentrated solar is applied to the bottom. If this power were fed straight into a 12V DC local network, then it would outcompete the power supplied by the grid. Unfortunately, electric engineers have been groomed in the AC logic, and off-the-grid homes or communities have been equated with investments in back-up batteries, increasing the cost to the consumer beyond reason. Only the very green and wealthy could afford this option.
Anyone committed to renewable energy produces predominantly power in DC, then converts it to AC supplying the grid (sometimes with feed-in tariffs), only to reconvert it back to DC at the point of consumption. Do we realize the inefficiency and the cost of this? The electronic engineers, driven by energy efficiency have chosen DC as the standard. Over 80 percent of home and office appliances driven by micro-electronics operate in DC, which combines processing capacity with mobility and miniaturization. Suffice to check the number of chargers, which actually are AC/DC converters that are scattered through our homes to realize the inefficiencies that we tacitly tolerate.
Time has come to rethink the decision on the AC standard that has been made over a century ago. The creation of local DC-grids linked to local power sources that can easily supply power in DC represents a new competitive model with high efficiency reducing energy requirements up to 60 percent without compromising on performance or comfort. A local DC grid also influences health and safety. It reduces the risk of fire and electrocution, cuts wiring, metals and maintenance. The switch to local portfolio of DC power is only a first step, additional adjustments are required including a smarter exploitation of available sources. The first and foremost set of opportunities are embedded in a better management of water.
Home owners and office users will quickly agree: water is key. It always has come as a surprise how little effort building designers make to use the laws of physics to improve the quality of life in general and energy efficiency in particular. A fresh look at water could change that. For example, a thermosyphon functions all year, with hot water rising predictably to the top. Today, residential and office buildings rely on pumps - with increased cost and energy consumption. If on the other hand solar energy, or even just luminescence were used to generate electricity and to heat water, exploiting both sides of photovoltaic panels as provided by the Swedish innovation company Solarus AB, then four to six units are sufficient to provide electricity, hot water and cooling to a family home in Scandinavia. Multifunctional technologies provide multiple benefits, reducing the cost per kWhr.
Whereas the thermosyphon gets water to top of the building, the downward flow of water - predictable with precision of 6 liters per minute - could generate power while adding extra benefits. For example, the flow could power the production of ozone to purify water on site from dissolved oxygen in the water, and could destroy elemental chlorine at the same time. If the water were stored in tanks at 80 or even 90 degrees, then water can be delivered at 38-40 degrees, providing additional DC power through a solid state heat exchange exploiting the 40-50 degrees differential. This power source used to be considered negligible, since the amount of power that could ultimately be fed into the AC grid is trivial.
We can continue the logic of “use what you have to gain multiple benefits” to waste water, and solid waste management. Any building or block in a city hands over its waste to a service provider against a fixed cost per cubic meter or ton. Insights into the biochemical reactions of the slurry from black water and organic solid waste permitted to generate four times more methane gas than previously considered viable. These waste streams, guaranteed as long as people are present, now provides a stable and cheap source of methane. If one combines this smart chemistry provided by Scandinavian Biogas with the vortex technology of AgroPlas from the UK, one has on demand access to local hydrogen to power fuel cells, with solid carbon powder of commercial value as the sole residue. While this will be readily dismissed by the experts in the field since it sounds to good to be true, it is already reality. Better it is competitive, thus it will change the rules of the game.
The biggest challenge we face is that too few building designers and energy experts have been trained to think along these lines. In addition, the few who have this capacity lack access to off-the-shelf tools and equipment to implement this. The few opportunities and options described plus dozen others presented on <www.blueeconomy.de> are therefore understandably dismissed as unviable, futuristic or at least too costly. Time has come to navigate from fantasy to a vision based on science so that these opportunities can soon become mainstream. This requires leadership from a few, and a preparedness to leave our comfort zones. Then we can embrace the shared need to steer business and society towards sustainability - with what we have.
The Japanese government decided two weeks ago to undertake the biggest ever investment in solar with a plan for 100GW to be installed by 2015. This is in four years more than four times what Germany installed in 25 years! This policy decision is backed up by huge capital outlays provided by the government and a string of private investments including high profile commitments from Masayoshi Son, the founder of Softbank and one of the leading shareholders of Yahoo. This political decision combined with a strong business support from a select group of entrepreneurs will be the greatest boost in modern history to renewable energy.
At the same time, several major American solar companies filed for protection and shut down assembly lines adding to the doom and gloom in the US. The much heralded solar power industry that was part of a greening of the economy and the greening of jobs is clearly suffering. In a press release, Solyndra - the latest to fold after Veeco a month earlier - which had received over one billion dollars in venture capital funding and over half a billion dollar in government guarantees, stated that it could not compete with bigger overseas rivals. The company claims that cuts to generous solar subsidies in the number two market of the world, Italy stalled development of solar projects and led to a global glut of solar panels sparking a 25 percent drop in prices.
Experts go on to claim that "Chinese firms that have received billions of dollars in low-cost loans from state banks and have access to a well developed domestic supply chain for solar manufacturing" are root causes of the trouble for the US solar industry. However, one and a half billion dollars in VC funding and government guarantees is quite a generous outlay of cash. The real reason why Solyndra and Veeco had to fold is the choice of technology and the lack of a competitive business model. The copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) belongs to the thin film solar cells, competing with Cadmium Telluride (more toxic) and amorphous silicon. And yes in that narrowly defined game amongst three, CIGS is the best.
Moreover, the claim to success was spurred by a perceived shortage in Silicon which would drive up the prices, only to replace one material (Si) in limited supply with another few (In, Ga, Se) in short and uncertain supply, very difficult to handle, requiring lots of energy. Three years later, Silicon is cheaper, so that first promise did not hold up. When it comes to the Chinese, they only are 10-20 percent cheaper, thus efficiency and technology should be able to make up the difference, or? The bottom line is - it did not live up to the expectations.
The CIGS technology was the wrong bet. Instead of looking for variations to the same theme, it is time to change the rules of the game. The substitution of one material with another simply will not do the trick. Thin film technologies are too expensive, have too many manufacturing problems to resolve and cannot compete against simple and yet fundamental innovations like Solarus AB (Sweden) which bundles PV, concentrated solar using both sides of the silicon wafers (what a simple but profound invention), generate heat from the cooling, while providing combined heat and power (CHP). This three in one approach is three times more efficient in output than the most efficient stand-alone PV - wafer, silicon, CIGS, thin film whatever, at a fraction of its cost. With less than one percent of the funding of Solyndra, Solarus competes with nuclear in kWh and has a decentralized manufacturing philosophy, using many recycled materials that can be locally sourced.
The game is not technology alone, it is about an innovative and competitive business model. So it is not right to blush the Chinese, blame betting on the wrong horse of technology and sticking to an outdated business model that solely focuses on one core competence, and nothing else. Perhaps too much money could have been another core problem. After all any entrepreneur flush with cash is not an ideal change agent. Entrepreneurs often succeed without money and experience charting innovative pathways to the future with what they have.
As water scarcity increases, the push for recycling water gets a boost. While there is a certain logic in recovering water, the problem is that pharmaceuticals have made their way into our drinking system worldwide. While we do not yet understand the precise effects on human health, animal studies suggest that we are heading towards a new crisis. After intake and metabolism, drugs, antibiotics, and synthetic hormones for birth control end up into our surface and drinking water. Worse, many of the compounds are so persistent that 1,000's of tons flow annually into the sea, then accumulate in the fish we eat. When it comes antibiotics, we dispersing a multiple, since more than 50 percent of the world's consumption is not for making people healthy, but to grow cows fat faster. We thought it were only the heavy metals the fish absorb that should us worry.
Drugs are known to cause reproductive, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects in water life. Prozac residue causes male mussels to spawn; anti-hypertension drugs impact the reproduction of crayfish and crabs. The infiltration of antibiotics and anti-bacterials increases the resistance of bacteria. This has serious implications for treating infections in the future. Anti-tumor drugs used in chemotherapy are known to cause mutagenic and teratogenic effects. There is increasing evidence of endocrine disruption in wildlife even when only exposed to trace levels of synthetic hormones. Painkillers, like Ibuprofen and even nicotine are not removed during the drinking water process. We thought we finally handled the adverse effects of second-hand smoking by prohibiting smoking in public places. Now it seems that we are all smoking anyway - through our drinking water!
The conventional water treatment plants are incapable of removing pharmaceuticals. Studies demonstrated that coagulation, sedimentation and filtration eliminates only 10-12 percent of the active ingredients. This accumulates in sludge, which is often recycled as a soil additives, exposing our food chain once more to unwanted ingredients which can continue to cause havoc for years to come. Activated carbon filtration and ozone treatment can remove up to 75 percent removal. However, this still exposes the population to the remaining 25 percent. As water continues to be recycled - and re- recycled entering into closed loops, and consumption of both prescription and over-the- counter drugs increases, society and the ecosystems on which our life depends are overly exposed to a broad cocktail of pharmaceuticals. It would not be a surprise that whole sections of the population start suffering from mood swings and shifting sex behavior.
Officials in Philadelphia discovered 56 pharmaceuticals in treated drinking water. Nearly 20 million residents of Southern California are exposed to anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety drugs. San Francisco's drinking water contains a synthetic hard to break down sex hormone. Unfortunately, bottled water is filtered drinking water in a wasteful plastic container, and most water bottlers do not test for pharmaceuticals either. Even our home filtration systems only reduce - but cannot eliminate drugs. Your only salvation is your own well from your own watershed. This is available to very few indeed.
It is time to revisit health care and the search for effective medicine. Undoubtedly, in the wake of these legitimate concerns, traditional and natural medicine becomes more relevant than ever. The vision of the Bhutanese constitution to guarantee traditional medicine to all citizens now sounds like a visionary decision. As we are spreading medicine indiscriminately throughout the environment and society, it is urgent to provide new shelf-life guidelines to the pharmaceutical industry. Just like it took decades to realize that plastics do not disintegrate and build up of massive junk islands in the Pacific Ocean, pharmacological products do not degrade and thus accumulate in water bodies - with one major difference - those mood swing chemicals and chemotherapy residues are invisible to the human eye. It is hard to make the gross impact visible.
The typical response from the concerned economic interests is that there is no scientific proof that humans are affected. The problem is that when the full proof is delivered, then it is too late and remedy will be impossible. Actually, it is not the effect of one pharmaceutical product, it is the cocktail that does irreparable damage. Therefore it seems that three parallel initiatives are needed. First all medicine needs to include a trigger that secures the disintegration of the complex formulations after intake. Instead of only discovering new drugs and invent new delivery methods, research must identify triggers to disassemble these man-made molecules the moment they leave the human body. Second, water treatment must be equipped to measure the presence of pharmaceuticals in waste water. It is not possible that every city is now obliged to install a reverse osmosis facility that effectively removes 95 percent. Such an end-of-tube solution dramatically increases in costs that should never have to be borne by the tax payer.
Perhaps we should finally focus on tackling the root causes that lead to this massive consumption of pills. Time has come to search for a happier and less stressful life. Whereas the first two solutions can be decided by any responsible government, the third one is a decision we have to make, before it is too late.
Durante décadas la economía mundial se ha sometido a la ola de la globalización. La fuerza incansable de construir economías de escala más altas, de producir a costos marginales siempre más bajos, forzaba las industrias a estandarizarse, cortando gastos pasando la producción a terceros (Outsourcing) e imponiendo una disciplina feroz de compras y suministro mediante Gestión de Cadena de Suministro, limitando el número de proveedores a unos grandes, eliminando todo exceso de ejecutivos, forzando fusiones y adquisiciones, sacando capa por capa todos los excedentes para ofrecer a los inversionistas mejores rendimientos y mejores precios a los consumidores, reforzando el poder de compra que les permitiera formar parte de la clase media. Ese proceso de la globalización suponía un impacto gota a gota (trickle down) a una sociedad que nos conduciría al final a la aspiración de riqueza.
Observando la realidad de la economía globalizada, me parece que el único fenómeno sostenible de la globalización es la pobreza. Aunque uno podría reclamar que la economía creció y el mercado se expandió, la realidad dura es que nunca como hoy en la historia tanta gente en números absolutos vivió en la miseria absoluta. Muchos opinan que se necesita el control de la explosión de la población como uno de los factores centrales para llevar una distribución equitativa de la riqueza y lograr el desarrollo social para todos en la tierra. No considero viable reducir la capacidad de responder a todas las necesidades de todos al manejo del factor “ Control de la población”. Se necesita más, y el cambio más crítico y el menor debatido es la necesidad de cambiar el modelo de negocio.
Nuestro sistema económico está motivado por la eficiencia, sin considerar suficiencia. Nuestro mundo de negocios está inspirado por la ambición, no por la necesidad. Los riesgos -causados por especulaciones con el pretexto de generar liquidez en el mercado financiero o por la energía nuclear, propuesta como fuente energética básica y barata- son sin excepción asumidos por los ciudadanos para el rescate financiero y las garantías del estado, cuando los beneficios son acumulados por pocos. La brecha entre los más ricos y los más pobres nunca ha sido tan enorme.
La Economía Azul propone que respondamos a las necesidades básicas con lo que tenemos. Ha llegado la hora de que paremos de consumir más que la capacidad regenerativa de nuestra tierra. Y aún más, tenemos que adoptar innovaciones y técnicas diseñando cascadas de nutrientes, materias y energía tal como lo hacen los ecosistemas, que nos permitan salir de la trampa de la escasez y podamos acceder al mundo de la suficiencia para todos los seres vivos, no solamente los seres humanos.
Amory Lovins y sus colegas expertos en política energética del Rocky Mountain Institute han comprobado que la humanidad llegó al pico de producción y consumo de petróleo en el 2007. Eso implica que llegamos al máximo nivel de extracción de combustibles fósiles de la tierra y que de ahora adelante tenemos que aprender a vivir con reservas en disminución. La reducción del consumo y la búsqueda de fuentes renovables se impone. Ahora que llegamos al punto de no retorno y el acceso al petróleo ilimitado se terminó, el empuje para globalizar más tiene que confrontarse a la misma realidad. Llegamos al pico de la globalización! Eso implica que las empresas que han sufrido una transformación brutal como actores globales, tienen que prepararse a una recesión en sus dinámicas fundamentales de crecimiento. Los ganadores de esta nueva realidad son las pequeñas y medianas empresas, inspiradas por millones de emprendedores que están dispuestos a responder a las necesidades básicas de todos con aquello que está localmente disponible.
Este cambio permite el diseño de un mundo de negocios competitivo donde el libre comercio y la libre inversión internacional no sean los elementos claves para el éxito económico. El nuevo modelo de negocios ofrecerá oportunidades al emprendedor local capaz de crear coaliciones -agrupaciones de actividades sociales y económicas- con múltiples ingresos y beneficios que rebasa la camisa de fuerza y mantra del negocio central y la competencia básica como precondiciones de un mundo estandarizado y globalizado determinado por el concepto abstracto del flujo de caja descontado.
Un alejamiento del modelo del Harvard Business School obliga a la gestión de la empresa a enfocarse en un solo producto o proceso simultáneo, asegurará que los Davids derrotarán a los Goliats. David lo logrará no porque tenga un acceso privilegiado al mercado mundial de capital, trabajo, energía o minerales; lo conseguirá en primer lugar porque la lucha en pos de la globalización ha dejado los Goliats con tantas debilidades, que son hoy en día muy vulnerables. A diferencia de la lista del Fortune 500, pocos emprendedores aspirar a reemplazar los gigantes; ellos se satisfacen con el 2-3 por ciento del mercado local que podrán mordisquear de la torta de mercado de sus formidables oponentes.
El nuevo paradigma facilitará la llegada de sistemas descentralizados de producción y consumo que son hoy en día técnicamente viables, compitiendo en todos los sectores de la economía, incluyendo la minería, la agricultura, la agricultura forestal, la siderurgia, la generación de energía, pulpa y papel y muchos campos más. El portafolio de 100 innovaciones descritas en La Economía Azul y sus éxitos emergentes en las cuatro esquinas del mundo, no es un casos aislado, pero parte de una nueva tendencia que resumo como "El Fin de la Globalización".
Aunque la penetración completa del nuevo modelo de negocios en nuestro tejido social y económico podría requerir un par de décadas más, ya está conformando su fortaleza competitiva, impulsado por las necesidades y los recursos locales. Eso formará una nueva sociedad que generará empleo, donde lo mejor para salud y el medio ambiente sea más barato y donde se acumule el capital social simplemente siendo más productivo y más competitivo. Después de todo, eso es lo que esperamos del Homo Economicus: hacer mucho más con mucho menos.
Governments are bankrupt. The financial management of the state's household has not only derailed, bailing out banks, subsidizing uncompetitive industries, and generous hand-outs are risking to enslave the citizens of industrialized nations into excessive taxation for decades to come. We seem to forget that the trillion dollar spending sprees of the past years associated with massive national budget shortfalls all have to be paid back by the citizens.
It is the addiction to subsidies that drains economies, diverts resources from productive and social objectives, while it distorts our view of competitiveness. While energy is critical, we have clearly have lost touch with reality. If and when energy is widely subsidized, from nuclear to coal, fossil fuels and renewables, then we are not making it cheaper, we only delaying payment! What appears as a discount is only a temporary reprieve. And, payback time will include interest, and interest on interest. How come? Because our governments spend more, much more than they can reasonably earn as income.
The culture of subsidy has evolved from a temporary measure to a permanent addiction. Coal in Germany has been subsidized since 1965, and this drain on the state budget only ends in 2018 - 53 years later. The political measure to soften the social impact of the demise of coal mines turned into a permanent revenue stream for the corporate world with the associated cost passed on to the tax payer. Is this the route solar and other renewable energies should take? Let us be transparent: solar and wind energies need subsidies since these are not competitive. The forced return of 8 percent on investments for 20 years -the norm in Germany- generated a huge demand for silicon wafer panels, but it did not build up a creative and innovative solar industry which mainly imports its components and panels from China.
Imagine the latest solar systems that offer both electricity and heat, that concentrate light onto a wafer more than three times, using both sides of the panel, cutting wiring to 25 percent. Only 8 units produce enough ambient heating, cooling, hot water, purified water, and electricity for a household of five in Sweden, at a cost of approximately 1.5 cent per kW/hr. At this rate, solar needs no subsidy. The faster these innovations are adopted by the market the quicker all energy subsidies will become obsolete, releasing money to support the good - like meaningful labor and absolute resource efficiency, pensions and the social sector, or funding the exit from an overly risky nuclear energy.
The trilogy of disasters in Japan: earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power demonstrates the total failure of technology. The fury of nature, caused by moving tectonic plates annihilated every single defense that the most prepared nation in the world had established. Japan is facing black-outs and eats radiated food. The worst imaginable did not only happen, it could very well happen again, especially if many dismiss the failure of nuclear power and declare their pursuit of disaster in an unknown future.
Japanese society, stoic and heroic is rediscovering the human capacity to respond to the basic needs with what we have. Deprived of drinking water, heating, cellphones, internet, cars, roads and even their homes the Japanese show the world how even the worst can bring us to discover the best in the simplest. A roof, a candle light, a blanket, reflections on the past, reconciling pain with hope that the future will be better - together, trusting each other even those we did not know before.
On the other side of the world, the Bahrain Government enlisted the Saudi forces to quench an uprising of the majority of the population with casualties unaccounted for. Ivory Coast, a nation that elected an opposition leader to the presidency, faces a defiant outgoing president, unwilling to give up his post. He even ordered to shoot at unarmed women demonstrating on the street killing several. The West stays put with threats limited to words, and Bahrain does not even face a boycott of any sort. The word is that the American President is out to mend relations with the Saudi King.
At the same time, the West deploys its war planes in Libya without even knowing who the opposition really represents and what it stands for. The West shows its fury over a leader who all policy makers have embraced in recent years, and who was next to South Africa the only one to voluntarily dismantle his nuclear weapons plan. While the West turns a blind eye to Bahrain and Ivory Coast, it picks fights that clearly serve self-interest and not the wishes of the majority of the local population. If the pretext is the protection of the local people, why is there no protection in Bahrain or Ivory Coast - and so many nations where torture and oppression is the standard.
How will our children judge the double moral our politicians display? I hope our children will remember how Japanese society overcomes the worst predicament it faces since the second world war, and urges our policy makers to behave with dignity on high moral grounds on every occasion, not only the ones that serve their ego, power bases or constituencies.
The aim of this blog is to present a fresh look at realities around us. Whereas I do not pretend to present the truth nor a definite position, I do wish to push the reader to think beyond the obvious. After all, time has come to dramatically improve the plight of millions, and that requires more than the predictable. Sometimes it forces us into spheres of discomfort.