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I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. –Stephen Covey

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Sustainability is often described as a three legged stool: Economic, Environmental and Social. So, if Russia is reacquiring territories that were in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, how does that affect Sustainability that is based on Economic, Environmental and Social considerations? How will impact those agreement where Russia and US have collaborated for decades?

Russian incursion into the Ukraine is creating uncertainty and stress upon international relations that may very well last for decades. Geo-political rhetoric from EU, US and former Eastern Bloc countries are falling on deaf ears in Russia. Crimea is the treasure for the invasion and side liners are accusing Putin of antiquated Cold War tactics demonstrated  by incursions into Hungary and then Czechoslovakia.

Let’s move to the 21st century. Look how we have agreements that leverage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service1:

•    In 1972, the United States and the Soviet Union signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection
•    In 1994, the Agreement was renegotiated to replace the USSR with the Russian Federation as signatory.
•    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates implementation of nature conservation efforts under the Agreement in partnership with federal, state, local, non-governmental, Native and other partners.

From an environmental perspective, other agreements that utilize EPA’s main expertise with US-Russia include2:

•    Bilateral Presidential Commission Environment Working Group (EWG)
•    Bilateral Cooperation on Management of Legacy Waste
•    Bilateral Cooperation on Black Carbon Emissions in the Russian Arctic
•    Russian Arctic Research and Science
•    Global Methane Initiative

One issue, energy, is being raised by Sen. Lisa Murkowski to use oil and gas as a behavior changer for Putin. But, the consequences could be far reaching. If he is intransigent, as he has been in the past, EU and former Eastern Bloc countries could see near term energy shortages – during their winter months. Delivery time from US well heads to those countries are not established and replacement will delay much needed energy for heat and cooking usage.  As Sen. Murkowski insists; “We need to give them reason to move, and we also need to make sure the broader public comes along as well,” she said. “We need to recalibrate the thinking that America’s energy resources are a scarcity to where they are right now—an abundance.”3

Escalation of barriers and resurrecting old concerns and uncertainty may unravel countless agreements that were signed as common interests. The real uncertainty is how far will the West tolerate Russian aggression that includes violating international laws? Will Sustainability agreements be “deactivated” that impact economic, environmental and social bridges on both sides? From a EU and US perspective, it looks like a win-win end-game that mitigates Russia’s risk. From a former Eastern Block country and US perspective, it also looks like another win-win end-game that mitigates Russia’s risk and moves Western capitalism and Sustainability closer to the Russian border.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101462017

But with the “no agreement” meeting today, at what costs will both sides willing to go? US and EU allies may talk about banking and IMF constraints and there are talks about removing Russia from the G8 and G20.  There are also talks about restraining oligarchs from using there yachts in western ports and restrict travel by air.

So, when Stephen Covey said;  “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Perhaps he would give the same advice to those diplomats who yield to brinkmanship, rather than working on real international relations.

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1 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for International Affairs web site
2 EPA web site
3 It’s time to export ‘abundance’ of US oil: Senator; CNBC, Published: Monday, 3 Mar 2014

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The 21st century will be Renaissance of Sustainability, it will be the convergence of science, engineering, art and understanding of nature.

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21st Century Tragedy Pending
Sustainability is recognizing the need to better manage resources for survivability, while rethinking actual needs, and reducing waste of emissions, energy and water.  In the European Union, sustainability is implemented through government regulations and policies.  In other countries it is not national policy, but corporate leadership that understands needs for change. Sustainability is an American governmental policy, but is only mandated through environmental laws and regulations. Here, sustainability initiatives are voluntary and a choice for the individual and business concerns.  Not surprising, a recent MIT study suggests that  American leaders are motivated by significant tangible results that affect profitability for their enterprises.

Why are so many governments and so many corporations engaged in sustainability? Why are so many studies focused on sustainability? Simple, survival. Here is an example of a recent survey that shows world population growth has grown dramatically and will continue to do so:

  • 1800 less than 3 percent of the world population lived in large urban areas
  • 1900 about 150 million people lived in the largest urban areas
  • 2011 currently about half of the world’s population live in large urban areas, 3 billion (7 billion total)
  • 2050 it is estimated that over 65 percent of the world population will live in urban mega cities, the world’s estimated population will be 9 −10 billion

Additionally, according to KPMG, the 10 global sustainability megaforces that may impact business over the next two decades are:

  • Climate Change: This may be the one global megaforce that directly impacts all others. Predictions of annual output losses from climate change range between 1 percent per year, if strong and early action is taken, to as much as 5 percent a year–if policymakers fail to act.
  • Energy & Fuel: Fossil fuel markets are likely to become more volatile and unpredictable because of higher global energy demand; changes in the geographical pattern of consumption; supply and production uncertainties and increasing regulatory interventions related to climate change.
  • Material Resource Scarcity: As developing countries industrialize rapidly, global demand for material resources is predicted to increase dramatically. Business is likely to face increasing trade restrictions and intense global competition for a wide range of material resources that become less easily available.
  • Water Scarcity: It is predicted that by 2030, the global demand for freshwater will exceed supply by 40 percent.
  • Population Growth: This will place intense pressures on ecosystems and the supply of natural resources such as food, water, energy and materials. While this is a threat for business, there are also opportunities to grow commerce and create jobs, and to innovate to address the needs of growing populations for agriculture, sanitation, education, technology, finance, and healthcare.
  • Wealth: The challenge for businesses is to serve this new middle class market at a time when resources are likely to be scarcer and more price volatile. The advantages many companies experienced in the last two decades from “cheap labor” in developing nations are likely to be eroded by the growth and power of the global middle class.
  • Urbanization: By 2030 all developing regions including Asia and Africa are expected to have the majority of their inhabitants living in urban areas; virtually all Population Growth over the next 30 years will be in cities.
  • Food Security: Global food prices are predicted to rise 70 to 90 percent by 2030. In water-scarce regions, agricultural producers are likely to have to compete for supplies with other water-intensive industries such as electric utilities and mining, and with consumers.
  • Ecosystem Decline: The decline in ecosystems is making natural resources scarcer, more expensive and less diverse; increasing the costs of water and escalating the damage caused by invasive species to sectors including agriculture, fishing, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals and tourism.
  • Deforestation: Wood products contributed $100 billion per year to the global economy … Yet the OECD projects that forest areas will decline globally by 13 percent from 2005 to 2030, mostly in South Asia and Africa. 1

But why do we need to act now?
Political and Business leadership, mostly in Europe, and many multi-national organizations with revenues exceeding $1 Billion annually have recognized the global need for Sustainability and, in many cases, implemented initiatives to transform to 21st century realities.  Major players clearly understand the consequences of their actions, possible scenarios, and the need to manage potential threats or conflicts. The future of current societies will be based on keen understandings of what is required to be efficient, sustainable and promote policies of “zero waste” with long-term commitments from business, governments and citizens.
Many organizations are preparing for limitation of resources in the next three to five years. China has already demonstrated restraints on the export of rare earths or other commodities to the West. For this century, we need Sustainability Leadership that effectively orchestrates resources to preserve our planet for this generation and succeeding generation to meet their needs, whether East or West. Protracted trade wars would have little or no advantage to the global economy and could be a catalyst for a second recession.
To summarize, this man-made global situation, based on poor economic, environmental and social decisions were based on these criteria:

  • Scope: total Global impact (threat to entire biosphere)
  • Business: Involvement and engagement from a global perspective
  • Government: Multi-lateral, multi-country driven legislation and voluntary participation
  • Stakeholders: Consensus varied from Tier 1 – developed and Tier 2 – developing countries. There is no one leader or country that is  inspirational, promotes change and accepts long-term commitment. Responsibilities are unilateral and often centered on individual country priorities.
  • Mitigation: Diplomacy, treaties, government trade and economic policies
  • Result: On-going global discussions for the last thirty years has elevated awareness. Currently, there is no consensus regarding timeline, international sustainability,  or universal strategies to reach a sustainable economy in each country.

Comparing the 20th century to the 21st century, is a contrast in scenarios and outcomes. In the last century, lines were drawn across ideologies and almost produced a cataclysmic event that would have changed the world permanently, in just a few minutes.
Since the 1960s, we watched radical environmentalists confront business and government, to promote environmental and social issues. From the scientific community, environmental and social issues have been studies and shown that indeed our world is changing. Public skepticism has been a byproduct of radical self promotion and scientific bias. Public opinion is concerned about improved economic conditions, while it also has a growing concern over the environment.
Also, we are seeing the expansion of sustainable infrastructure into new areas, destined to build and restore our environment. Successes are often cited in articles about Sustainability initiatives improving business, education, government and the military. Measuring tangible results are posted by the Business Roundtable,  company Sustainability Reports and financial market indices. Sustainability is embraced as a smart choice for future, but it is not quick fix, and will be a long-term commitment.

Footnote:

1 KPMG, Sustainability “Megaforces” Impact on Business Will Accelerate, Finds KPMG, 14 Feb 2012; Retrieved: 14 Feb 2012

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English: Smokestacks from a wartime production...

Dear Journal, March 3, 2052: It continues to be overcast, dark, and hazy again. The weatherman announced that today is a “red” day and particulates are forecasted to be worse for the next eight days. I cough and think; “Why did it have to happen?” We made pollution a common daily event. It is now mid-21st century and where are we going to end up in the next ten years, the next twenty?  George Will once said; “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”

How does that impact us, now, today? Today, only interior design brings color to our lives by bringing color inside homes, while outside with the smog, we see only shades of gray. It is neither comfortable nor pleasant to open windows in the midst of summer. What the heat scorches, the pollution only amplifies. That layer of dust on the furniture also covers your body. Yes, air pollution has been linked to memory loss, respiratory ailments and heart failure. Remember “Mickie the Miner” said in an interview? He who was so annoyed of hearing people complain about city pollution? He said; “Nobody matters any more!” – is this what our urban culture has come to?

Environmental costs are affecting everyone’s discretionary spending. How many Americans can now afford to use their air conditioning and heating any more? More and more people are going to the “embrace nature” energy campaign where we open our windows and live more like our families did in the 19th century.

Today, we now have over 11 billion people on this planet. Forty years ago they used to say that the planet was not changing, not warming. All megacities continue to work with huge population problems, as well as, pollution that is so dense trees are gray with carbon particulates., Now, add to that megacities that are established on the coastlines around the world. Do you remember the flooding of major cities around the world like Hong Kong, London and New York City? Cities like New Orleans and Venice are either submerged or behind very expensive dikes.

Flooding in this sense is not a one time event. It is the consequence of rising coastlines. There is an estimated 100 million refugees forced out of their cities due to rising coastal waters. They had no potable water, food, electricity, and all fire, police, healthcare, telecommunication and transportation systems were overwhelmed by flooding. Australia and New Zealand have had to commit more defense forces to protect their borders from refugees fleeing from South East Asia. And still, not one country has a policy that addresses coastal flooding.

Transportation has changed, too. Look at the corner service station sign showing $25.00 a gallon for unleaded gasoline. We now have electric cars, fuel-cell powered vehicles, natural gas powered eighteen wheelers, bi-level articulated buses are now standard and mass transit programs have dramatically expanded. Ethanol has not made the impact once thought it could, it only increased food costs. What happened to alternative energy? I can remember when we could take vacations out of state, even out of the country. Those were great experiences. What happened to energy affordability and availability?

It is unimaginable, to see the excessive number of people who have starved in this century. A recent estimate is that the total number of people who starved the 21st century has surpassed the total number of people in the last 300 years. Africa alone has lost more than 90 million people due to lack of food and water. Weather changes in China, Pakistan, Brazil and Australia have created exaggerated cycles from drought to floods. The dwindling flow of water from K2 and Everest areas of Himalayas alone has impacted over a billion people. Those unprecedented cycles have caused extreme crop failures and restricted exports of various grains. Natural disasters that continue to hit US crops as well. I guess there is wisdom in the saying; ““Man has only a thin layer of soil between himself and starvation”.

Do you remember where you were October 13, 2036, when we had our first space crisis? Most people remember not knowing when or where the errant rocket would land. It was to be the first Asian space craft to set up mining operations on the moon. The rocket’s uncontrolled trajectory caused it to burn up in low orbit. The most serious problem was the on-board mining equipment. A nuclear reactor, that powered the extractor, ruptured over an area from Cairo to Tel Aviv. It was estimated that 1.2 million people were exposed to high levels of radiation. How many will die of cancer or radiation exposure?

In the early 2030s, we read and heard about cities on water rations, and various suburban and rural areas that no longer had access to potable water. Yet, industries are continuing to fight against communities over what? Water. One would think that government or industrial leaders could try to solve flooding and drinkable water problems. Communities around the world and industries alike are still dumping their waste, untreated, into lakes, rivers and oceans. Where are the results?

Recall the trade wars from 2021 to 2025? What unfolded when China reinstated their “Accession Protocol”? Their actions in 2021 caused a major trade war between East and West. China lost their economic policy, which many perceived as a loss of face (even with political support from India and Russia). The WTO decision and UN sanctions backed the European Union, Canadian, and US positions. The policy severely impacted trade balance among many countries and the ban on germanium, specifically, halted critical supplies of strategic material for energy and communication products. Fiber optics and photovoltaic solar panel prices increased three-fold in only two years.

In 2023, another strategic event escalated due to Lithium producers export restrictions. The “Lithium Wars”, led by Bolivia, Brazil and Chile, drastically limited electric battery production and eventually caused a global work stoppage for over two years. Only through the successful use of oilfield brine did the battery industry fend off economic collapse in the US.

A recent National Geographic article was about deforestation and its impact on our planet. I had no idea that the rain forests around the world had decreased by 30 percent in just two years . The article documented how laws in various countries were not enforced and farmers continue to eliminate the rain forests to produce crops for only 3 to 4 years. Clearing of forests, produce wood for lumber, but at the same time destroying ecosystems and varieties of plants that have been on this planet since the Jurassic Period. Just the value of knowledge about those rare specimens are unfathomable and forever lost. In 5 years, what remains of the land is often depleted of nutrients and left to erode.

Dear Journal, think about what is happening. Each problem is a global issue by itself. Each of these tribulations, alone, could impact the survival of humanity. But now, we are faced with a convergence of these ten major issues and realize the tremendous impact and severity each bring to our world.  Because of their interconnectedness, each of these issues, could be major problems that might escalate into an epic tragedy. Gandhi said in the 20th century; “Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

We should have started fifty years ago. Sad, after 50 years we still do not have anyone accountable. Looking back, one has to sit down and ask; “What have we done?” Then we must respond by saying: “This is not how the story is going to end. We must have the will to Lead Smart, with a vision, and create endless opportunities through Sustainability. It’s not too late! We can have a future and turn our needs into reality.”

 

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