Thursday, March 30, 2017

When those who are supposed to lead fail us, and fail us badly!

The Economist published this below back in 2010, in cooperation with their Comment Vision and EuropaView news sites. Here we are 7 years later and not only have we in the U.S. done very little, but now we are "leading" the world backwards. What can I say...

Enjoy the read... (apologies for formatting issues, if any--it is machine generated from original in Word/PDF--the Economist site is now defunct... another telling story in itself)

“What would it take to really speed up the transition to a carbon neutral society?”
Adrian S. Petrescu
Brussels, Belgium, December 1, 2010


This is at first sight a very complicated question.  It is also not very clear, or specific, on internal assumptions.   The question, in its present formulation, does assume a few things.  It assumes (1) that a carbon neutral society would be a good thing, hence a desirable thing[1], (2) that transition to such a society is first of all possible, and (3) that speeding up same transition is both desirable and possible.  With these (quite strong) assumptions in place, one can then proceed to trace solutions to this quite complicated problem.  I dare say complicated, since it seems to be a problem that needs to take into consideration a systemic view of the world--the one we live in which overall is at this current time rather accelerating its carbon production, hence still moving quite fast away from a carbon neutral society.  Complicated however, doesn’t necessarily imply or mean complex, nor does it imply or mean that a solution absolutely needs to be complicated as well… In fact, many seemingly complicated “problems” have found themselves over time radically simple solutions.

Setting the Stage

Metaphorically, from simple classic physics/mechanics, we know the simple answer to this type of problem.  As with stopping anything that speeds and accelerates out-of-control, we seem to need a three stages process.  First, decelerating the current acceleration, reducing the movement towards constant speed.   Second, continuing to decelerate towards lowering growth speed as we are reversing the trend.  Third, ensuring that as the “braking” body moves past origin it will have the change in dynamic of influencing driving forces that will induce a/the new equilibrium to occur around the origin this time.  This is intended to ensure that we shall not allow the next time around a repeat of the “out-of-control acceleration away from origin” we have been inducing/experiencing since/with the industrial revolution.

However, if one were to bring this simple process argument in front of seasoned famed economists, s/he may be chased out of the room with a vengeance.  The core reason has to deal with the implicit assumption an economist is most likely trained with that growth is always good, and that we need to seek and sustain it at all cost.

For an economist, it is rare to conceive of equilibrium processes outside the notion of economic general equilibrium (which is in its essence market equilibrium).  Hence, the “origin” (as used above) positioned at a natural equilibrium between humans and Earth (or nature in general, which is to mean beyond simply Earth), a systemic state whereby carbon production and consumption is at equilibrium, is hard to conceive inside the discipline of economics.  Just as it is equally hard to conceive inside any sub-discipline of business or of engineering.  These difficulties are nothing when compared to the added intricacies that stem from bringing the issue up in international political negotiations.  Producing less carbon means after all exactly a slowing down of economic industrial growth.  Hence, to the developing world this means yet another unethical barrier that the North and West (as it were) put on the rights the South and East have to develop.  We do not question or endorse the validity of the claims, we simply point out their existence.  Nonetheless, when it all boils down to stating “but we have the right to emit CO2”, aside from all the other errors with any such reasoning, to what extent are we committing a grand fallacy of composition?  The fact that we emit CO2 naturally by breathing, along with the entire animal world, doesn’t make the “right” for humans to industrially emit so much more in orders of magnitude CO2 that it dwarfs any planetary natural capacity of compensation either a “nature endorsed” possibility or a natural right.  (Inside our legal and political systems we can declare it nonetheless a natural right, but such declaration would most probably hold little water if any in the face of objective natural tests over future history)

However, maintaining a somewhat philosophical approach on the issue, we dare ask away yet some other framing questions. 

From a knowledge perspective, are we actually ready to address the issue fully and with necessary seriousness of purpose?  May we dare suggest that we may not be ready at all. Pragmatic problem solving interdisciplinary scientific approaches may be required beyond our (societal) internal readiness or ability to “engineer” (or simply allow) them.

Psychology, maybe together with some alternative economics, wrapped in philosophy and epistemology, and not at all natural or engineering sciences alone, may be holding some answers for us in the quest to find a practical way to “really speed up the transition to a carbon neutral society”.

Barriers (especially the not seen or not so easily traceable ones) to our very ability to address fully the issue may be higher than we imagine.

Yet, we take an optimistic stance, assuming that a simple solution to this complicated problem does exist, and that we are able to look for it and find it.

Necessary (Maybe) Conditions for a Solution to Speed up the Transition to a Carbon Neutral Society
The politico-socio-economic system we live in develops in the direction it does in a “natural” way.  Our desire to have more, own more, build and consume more self-sustains itself.  Without any scientific evidence, the simple advertising catch phrase “everything is bigger in Texas” has some time ago already reached as far a place as Slobozia Romania where an investor made and showcases a Southfork Ranch even larger than the Dallas based Ewing “original”.  What would it take to reverse this perception?  In other words, to allow for (or induce) the viral self-propagation of yet another old “Texas truth”, micro-sizing instead various things, notwithstanding the microprocessor chip, replacing thus the above megalomaniac slogan with a new more responsible catch phrase “everything can be smaller worldwide”?  Even Texas’s carbon footprint can.

From the stage setting step above about psychology, we ask the question of “coolness”.  What drives almost instant (viral) dissemination of things?  What made the replacing of gas lamps with electric light possible and fairly rapidly adopted?   What established the mass-produced horse-less vehicle king over just a slightly faster six horses-driven carriage?  What made Elvis and the Beatles best selling bands and thus famous?  What made the iPod an instant success?  Why do so many consumers like so much larger vehicles?  What makes the person descending from their Porsche Cayenne look down on the Renault Twingo driver coming to get in their car parked just behind?  And why would both these drivers question the sanity of the bicycle rider trying to just use the bicycle lane occupied temporarily by the drivers’ vehicle doors, while the drivers didn’t see the bicycle rider coming at all.  Better yet, why does everyone in China wishes for a motor vehicle to feel accomplished in life?  Ooops… fallacy of composition again, anyone?  Simply because 1 person or 1 billion people can own vehicles, can 8 billion?  What about 16 billion?  Here, let us note that the original question we are answering did not specify by when should we achieve the goal.  In other words, in the time it may take to achieve it, population may have doubled or more in the meantime already.  Doubled?  This brings another issue to the framing of the problem.  Are we solving the problem of an accelerated path towards a carbon neutral society for an ever exponentially doubling in population size world?[2]

A solution may need to come naturally. 
This means that it has to be desired, as opposed to being imposed.  This means that it has to self-propagate, just as the current way of life and values we share self-propagate.  Only the solution should actually self-propagate faster, and in doing so also counter the effect of the “natural” self-propagation of currently held dear values and beliefs.  The person who says with much pride “it is my right, and hence the government has no place to tell me how many gallons of water I flush down the toilet” is today praised for their “no nonsense” straightforwardness. A solution to our problem may be present when this person will become truly fearful for his life or being (socially—not literally) lynched by the community for holding such an irresponsible, ignorant and uninformed opinion. 

How often do we ask ourselves though, or ask our co-workers, friends and family: “You say you drove ‘green’ here.  How many orangutans had to die for that palm oil made biofuel?”  “Say what?”  “Have you seen the movie ‘Green’?”[3]  What is a solution to that problem?  Would labeling our gasoline help?  One wonders… Could the distance have been covered in any other way than driving?  Was the carbon footprint of the action of driving even considered?  Was offsetting said footprint by the person ever an issue?  What about the offsetting of the carbon footprint of every person’s driving every day, every year, for how many years to come?

A naturally occurring solution may have the embedded benefit of “going with the flow”.  What we mean is connected to a perception of fundamental difference between natural laws and man made scientific laws.  While we rely quite often on many of the latter—principles of economics belonging here--, they may be closer or not to achieving internal and external consistency and compliance of their axiomatic system with natural laws (discovered or not already).  “Going with the flow” is not used here solely as an idiomatic expression.  We used the phrase intending to accomplish two things.  First, to suggest a necessary reference to constructal theory of flow[4].  And second, to suggest a meta-, or self-recurring-level application of the constructal law itself, namely onto itself.  Huh?  Let us clarify… Human knowledge is a system with flows.  Of this system, the constructal law is definitely a part.  No particular logic would prevent the constructal law from being applicable to the system of human knowledge.  Claiming therefore that an element of knowledge residing in some branch of economics is not connected with, affected by or affecting another element of knowledge residing in some branch of biology or of chemistry would most likely be arrogant or pretentious for economists, biologists or chemists alike. 

We dare to add to the above a bit more hay to the fire.  The long time held belief that only humans use tools, or in other words that conscious tools use is inherently human, was disproved as we all know by Jane Goodall’s study of chimpanzees.  This becomes extremely interesting and important when one thinks that one assumption of bioeconomics (Georgescu Roegen 1971) is that endo/exosomatic instruments usage may distinguish qualitatively in fundamental ways man run systems from natural systems, or from natural systems in/with which humans interact.

A solution may need to have boundaries-free internal strength and internal self-replication power
We can start with Adam Smith’s classic argument of relativity of value, opposing the comparative value of diamonds and water in two separate very different environments. The first time, where water is abundant and diamonds are scarce, diamonds by far overvalue water.  Yet, in the second case where both diamonds and water are scarce… virtually no quantity of diamonds can truly still purchase water.  Our natural physical dependence on water makes this classic case of scarcity driven exponential value rising possible.  Please note that the exact same issue of dependence holds true with our natural need to live in a Earth-like environment, with our body temperature maintained at around 37 C and the surrounding pressure maintained at around 1 atm, or 760 mm Hg (Torr).  Can we then think of assigning an economic value to maintaining these external conditions within acceptable (by our bodies) limits around these values?  How sizeable riches of the world would be necessary to buy back the return to such conditions once they have naturally (or not exactly, but rather man influenced) slid away?  Would any size of riches be sufficient enough? 

We have a small problem though… Much of the strength of the barriers to the self-replication of solutions may come from ignorance of facts coming from the fallacy of composition.  In other words: the argument “Look, I am doing fine.  Why doesn’t everybody simply follow what I am doing?” does not work at all well when the first person expressing it is one of 300+ million living in the US and the would be followers referenced in the opinion are one of 5 times more people living in China.  It gets even trickier when looking at any person in the Western world (NATO+UE approximated here) compared to about 7-8+ times more people living elsewhere on the globe other than in the Western world.  It doesn’t work very well at all even inside the US or any Western nation alone, when one deconstructs averages into what extremes in terms of lifestyles these averages are actually made of.  With this in mind, how does one explain fallacy of composition in a simple way, in a way whereby people—regardless of walk of life--understand (and in fact feel) it well?  Are we willing to do it?  Can we find a way that will be self-powering without the need for much energy or effort to be dedicated from the outside (exogenously) to the globally wide-spreading of understanding desirable process.

So far, we had limited to almost no success… “Compost your garbage and you’ll save money” (please note, save money, not the planet’s future) has not managed to spread beyond our next door neighbor, forget virally.  In fact, all of our efforts at convincing about the values of composting the other 16 out a total of 18 neighbor families have failed, and that over a period of the last two years.  This is not a situation whereby people are asked to pay anything, on the contrary, people were simply alerted that they could save money and reduce greenhouse gases emissions by composting some of their household waste.

A solution may need to be integrated.  Integrated in how many ways?
With carbon reduction policies or in general with actions meant at preventing climate change, do we have a case of policy fragmentation, both horizontal—meaning across domains—and vertical—meaning across layers of governance--?  This is to say nothing about policy fragmentation (or inertia) over time… I.e. bringing in the by now classic Lindblom-ian disjointed incrementalism (otherwise simpler known as the “muddling through” tendency of all policy making institutions as a whole)

A solution may need to be “K-, or S-revolutionary”
Many if not all phenomena in nature evolve in a four stages pattern, from initiation, through accelerated growth to limited growth and saturation, making an S-shape curve evolution described as such by Volterra when studying populations growth. 

Scientific paradigms evolve the same way according to Thomas Kuhn, the author of “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, hence the K- above.  We can call these processes S-revolutionary.  Most marketers would know that any product and most services have a similar cycle as well.

We shall think that examples of this abound.  So many new views have been initiated rather hard, only to later make an absolute behavioral norm, or a must have product.  After all, in the beginning, the motor vehicle needed at first to be preceded by a walking signaler waving a red flag, walking at no more than 5 km/h, to alert the people of the incoming danger.  Nobody was considering that women would ever be wearing pants before Levi Strauss.  Thomas Edison was often pictured in cartoons as the evil person wanting all new Yorkers electrocuted by his dangerous buried cables.  The S curves are seemingly everywhere.  Their being at work may be proven inductively to be even more so in such fields as environmental awareness or renewable energy technologies and markets, or carbon emissions reducing conservation and economizing awareness or simply adopting daily small personal actions and the huge impact of all of these things combined.

Together with the few above, another few potential good metaphorical models we could rely on and learn from are:

(1) the Levi Strauss initiated (from 1853) “jeans revolution”, changing clothes wearing sociology for women,
(2) Henry Ford’s own market revolutionary innovation in making the automobile an affordable commodity and hence expanding the market to its fullest potential and away from the limiting luxury only market niche self-powered vehicles were in prior to Ford.
(3) Thomas Edison’s own initial strategic thinking and development of the original “electricity market”, as well as a future as of today needed “return to origins” on HVDC energy transport (as we remember, Edison was arguing in favor of DC transport due to its lower loss factors at high voltages—which were not easily socially acceptable or technologically very feasible at the time, but today this has changed--),
(4) Apple Computer’s consistent development of “revolutionary” technologies (original Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad) that achieve unprecedented market penetration where markets either didn’t exist or were by far not as penetrable as after Apple’s involvement, while ensuring a quite engaging broad organizational structure that includes both indirectly and directly customers, fans and evangelists in product research and new product design[5],
(5) comprehending the ways in which achieving the benefits of interdisciplinary analyses can be affected strongly by organizational structures, both favorably and not so[6],
(6) understanding complexity of (social, political, economic—that means beyond simply technological) “barriers of entry” of/to new eco-technologies and behaviors in general, and factors which may positively affect the removal of such barriers, such as “coolness” factors, or “Alessi” (or Bang and Olufson, or designer luxury status/image driven in general) factors[7].

Hence, we may need a more thorough understanding of consumer psychology and particularly of (factors affecting) social phenomena evolving most probably in Voltera-Lotka S shaped curves fashion.  Seemingly, both new technologies and social values deemed of importance at one point in time or another most often evolve in this way.  A look at the interplay of competing technologies and “competing” social cultures in different stages of their placement on the respective S shape curve[8] may also proof quite useful.
We may also need a good understanding of Thomas Kuhn’s work and what it means when applied to advancements in technologies, policies, and social behaviors, connected to explaining how can new “paradigms” become the norm in social humankind carbon footprint reducing social behaviors.
To say nothing about the implications of the figure below, showing how in fact a current state of affairs is probably nothing more than exactly that… today’s state of affairs.  Tomorrow will be so much different, evolving ever so often into new paradigms, and then again even newer future paradigms, and so on for ever.

Discussing seriously a reduction of humankind’s total carbon footprint becomes then naturally intertwined with lessons to be learned from any and all of the above (and more) examples of phenomena that we can take as knowledge sources.

S-revolutionary phenomena seem to all need successful initiation stages.  One example of a potentially successful initiation-inducing factor for reaching a carbon neutral society could be socially responsible eco-friendly early childhood education.  While seemingly a must to address, this factor doesn’t usually make the object of sufficient attention--proportional to its very large potential impact on future benefic changes in social values.

A solution may need to come from and cut across domains
A solution to achieving carbon neutrality may take accelerated research on the evolution of science and technology and society and economics at the frontier of Kuhn-ian paradigm shifts, and of the application of such shifts to socio-economico-technological advancements based massive socio-economic changes in our perceptions.

Additionally, we need to truly view the world we live in and a vision of an ecologically sustainable human presence on the planet with the eyeglasses of the possible—and transforming what seems impossible into possible.  Furthermore, we need to find the champions of change able to convey and ensure a buy-in and implementation of such a vision when faced with the numerous barriers in their way.

A solution may require new approaches to accountability and democracy alike
This can be a whole different discussion in itself.  Yet, for starters we can all remember in this context the well-aged words of Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the “air-boat” and of course of the helicopter:
“What wonderful progress would humanity make if foolish and false ideas in philosophy of life and political economy eliminated themselves, with their creators, as completely as the mistakes of a pilot-designer eliminated him and his machine.” (Igor Sikorsky, 1941)

Indeed, if only policy makers would end up testing the policies they implement on themselves first before they test them on others, on the issues herein the majority of these others not being even born yet… Responsibility, accountability, and ultimately the strengths of democracies worldwide could then multiply seriously.

Being an optimist, this is not only possible, but quite feasible.  An easy way to allow such a situation to build itself is in fact through understanding thoroughly the implications of the great words of Abraham Lincoln… just read along to see which ones below…

A solution may need to be found by, and target, and be embraced and promoted by children, young children
Can we draw a cause-effect line between children going to hands on science museums and lowering humankind carbon footprint?  If we cannot, maybe we should go search and read a great book: Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner[9].  We should then understand the middle to long range effects of events, and some factors of good education as well…

If we think about it, the "wow" factor of children's weekly parents guided visits to a Hands-On Science and Technology Museum can change everything in terms of societal action on carbon footprint reduction.[10]

Starting early may be key.  Explaining some connections, then expecting and asking children to make their own connections... Since the Hands-On Museums new trend in the eighties, we have already done things better than before. Early childhood hands on passionate (self-driven by the "Wow!" factor) learning of science, technology, art, the environment etc. empowers children in truly using their nascent desire to know, and in turn changes by pressure from below on parents and educators the very nature of their future educational experience.

More often than not schools do not do enough of this--allowing or facilitating children's own self-growth as knowledge seekers.  All too often school gets to be felt as an exercise in disciplining and all around boring too. There are exceptions, but few and far between. But children started off on the right track, empowered by adults around them to continue to ask their ubiquitous "why?" when they are 3-4 y.o., will continue to grow as self-driven knowledge-seekers.

If school doesn't force children into boxes and pre-existing patterns, and into non-critical thinking based learning. That balance between knowing what needs to be known, and honing critical thinking skills is extremely important. And it is shifting daily towards needing less of the former and more of the latter.

The difficulty comes from the amount of knowledge a child needs to learn today and do it so much faster than those 20 years before them, and so much slower than those following them 5 years from now. Many things that 35 years ago I learned in highschool, my daughter has started learning in first grade. But also what not all my college students do all too well, my daughter did much better in second grade (a proper creative use of Powerpoint for a simple example).

One problem is that “Wow!” solutions as above are not available everywhere... Nonetheless, fueling a Global initiative on _"A Children's Museum in Every Town"_ (meaning really within 100 km or less reach to any child, transportation feasible) can _surprisingly_ go a long way on accelerating reduction of humankind’s carbon footprint.  If only we had all read Freakonomics and connected all the dots… Either way, what would it cost to try it out?  Especially when compared to would be benefits? 

Can we think of all the benefits of an initiative that would have as the net effect the facilitation of having worldwide thousands (or even more) of carbon conscious inventors of the future fame of James Watt or Thomas Edison?

Some things that may not work as preached.  Some which might.


A few of the highly praised solutions may not be solutions after all…

* Cap and trade?  Maybe we can understand it better if we watch here:

* A green fund from developed to developing countries to help the developing world through the costs of their compliance to climate change initiatives? 

In what ways are these not almost the same as the Spanish inquisition and buying indulgences? Just as Kyoto didn’t truly register with people beyond the creation of a market in carbon offsets, it is improbable the green fund is sufficiently large or will truly represent an incentive. 

There are so many things and ideas that are probably not working… we will not spend a lot of time on them. What works well is when people think for themselves what truly works and what probably doesn’t.

Plant a tree day?
It turns out we have had one for quite some time.  In the US it originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska, in 1872, when J. Sterling Morton held the first Arbor Day on April 10, 1872, when an estimated 1 million trees were planted that day.

Conserve energy?

Need we say more?  “A penny saved is a penny earned” rings any bell?  Better yet, mildly shame others when they don’t do it and when they waste.  Try it for change.  It does work.

Reduce consumerism to a halt

We would be really cool.  Now, seriously… Let us think about it for a second… Can you consume not so much, in fact can you be rational and quite measured in what you truly need, and to limit your purchases to things you absolutely need, and of good quality bought much less often as they will last longer, and still be cool?  I bet.  Think of a hundred dollars bill… Who is on it?  It is in fact the person who printed dollars first ever, and who also wrote this:
“We have an English proverb that says, "He that would thrive, must ask his wife." It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos'd to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the papermakers, etc., etc. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a long time bread and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a two penny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark how luxury will enter families, and make a progress, in spite of principle: being call'd one morning to breakfast, I found it in a China bowl, with a spoon of silver! They had been bought for me without my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three-and-twenty shillings, for which she had no other excuse or apology to make, but that she thought her husband deserv'd a silver spoon and China bowl as well as any of his neighbors. This was the first appearance of plate and China in our house, which afterward, in a course of years, as our wealth increas'd, augmented gradually to several hundred pounds in value.”
(Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, available at

One can live their entire life with the values of frugality, one can choose not care for “keeping up with the Joneses”, and one can in fact support frugality for generations to come in their autobiography, and one can still arrive centuries later on the hundred dollars bill.  Maybe it can be “cool” to halt consumerism after all…

Or can it be?  If we think again at the same author as above, we learn that upon his inventing the subscription public library in Philadelphia, the invention was copied in many other town and reading became fashionable, and spread across people who previously were not accustomed to reading… Sounds pretty much something of a known nature… an “S-revolutionary solution” as above?  Can we conceive our lives without (online these days) public libraries?  Hence, Benjamin Franklin may know a few things about those issues he chooses to advise about… he even “stole” electricity from storms…

Buy local

We should not insist on this one, as it is a no-brainer.  Nobody says we should never ever have a glass of good Bordeaux wine, or an Argentinian Malbec, or some good Australian wine.  But we can make these an exception, rather than the norm.  Intentionally lowering global trade may seem against David Ricardo’s norms and principles of functioning of healthy capitalism, yet it isn’t exactly.  First of all, Ricardo may never have thought that his law of comparative advantage can be brought to the degree of extreme it is today used, and besides, in Ricardo’s time transporting a good several times across the world in the production stage was not exactly possible.  Nor were known costs to the environment of the free international trade principles taken into consideration as deep and dangerous limitations to the survival of economic systems and practice.  Our knowledge has evolved.  Our actions may need to follow.

Divest away from high carbon emitting non-responsible enterprises

Markets generally make or break our lives, and those of politicians and investors too.  But we are consumers and investors in those markets.  Hence, we can influence them with our choices, no question about it.  It has happened many a time before.  After all, we ride in automobiles, even though at first we were much scared by them, we use electricity even though at first it was unconceivable and much dangerous to give up gas lamps in our (well, our grand-grandparents’) homes, and so on and so forth.  What we called above the S-revolutionary condition on a solution.  Except of course, we make the S curve start.  Divesting away (in all of the known forms) from firms and enterprises that do not comply with our values will change their behaviors, and they will adjust to our values.  We have that power, it would be a pity to not use it.

Educate children—plant seeds of behavior early
This has always worked.  It will work this time too.  If we plant early the seed of responsibility, and we act on that message, it will raise further into becoming the new norm in practice.  Just as in this little story:

Knowing that, if only we had more children like Severn Suzuki in every school… Wait a second… who is Severn Suzuki?  Just read along…

International Negotiations and Organizations: Barriers, or Opportunities?

Since Cancun is happening just as we write, about a year after the failed Copenhagen UN Conference on Climate Change, we thought we could bring up a little “theory”.

Robert Putnam, reputed expert in international bargaining and negotiations (of the type happening at the UN, within the European Union, at Copenhagen last year or this year in Cancun just as we write) wrote about how national leaders act in negotiating and securing international agreements.  His “double-edge diplomacy” is also known as the ‘Putnam
“two level games approach’, [which] begins by assuming that statesmen are typically trying to do two things at once; that is, they seek to manipulate domestic and international politics simultaneously.  Diplomatic strategies and tactics are constrained both by what other states will accept and by what domestic constituents will ratify.  Diplomacy is a process of strategic interaction in which actors simultaneously try to take account of and, if possible, influence the expected reactions of other actors, both at home and abroad.  The outcome of international negotiations may depend on the strategy a statesman chooses to influence his own and his counterpart’s domestic polities.  By exploiting control over information, resources and agenda-setting with respect to his own domestic polity, the statesman can open up new possibilities for international accord or bargaining advantage.  Conversely, international strategies can be employed to change the character of domestic constraints, as in the case of ‘synergistic issue linkage’, which Putnam defines as an international deal that creates ‘a policy option… that was previously beyond domestic control’  The statesman can also target polices directly at domestic groups in foreign countries, seeking allies ‘behind the back’ of his international counterpart” (Evans, Jacobson and Putnam 1993, 15)

The authors above go further and find an interesting artifact of the Putnam two level games explanation, namely, that:
“taken alone, either the international or domestic view may remove real initiative and discretion from the chief executive [meaning head of state and/or government].  In domestic, “constituency-driven” models, leaders become passive political registers, summing the franchise-weighted vectors of domestic interests and moving in the indicated direction; while in international, “systemic” models, chief executives must respond to the manifest dictates of the international system.  The international and domestic logics are elegant and parsimonious in their own terms, but, as we have seen, they are often tricky to combine.  The assumption of this project is that if the two logics do not correspond, an area of autonomy is created in which the chief executive must choose how to reconcile them.  “Statesmen in this predicament”, writes Putnam, “face distinctive strategic opportunities and strategic dilemmas.” (Evans, Jacobson and Putnam 1993, 15)

Indeed, it seems that strategic leadership can then originate quite well in—or from-- the “vacuum” predicament argued by Putnam, a strategic “place” where neither domestic interests dictate action, nor systemic international “barriers” block a leader’s actions…

However, with pandering becoming more and more a form of democratic “leadership” lately, it could be the case that from the top of leadership pyramids we may not have as much creativity and responsibility as needed to take advantage of this Putnam advocated opportunity for creative strategic action.  Yet…

…maybe such necessary leadership exists though…

As a great leader once said:
“A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started.
[S]he is going to sit where you are sitting, and when you are gone, attend to those things which you think are important.
You may adopt all the policies you please, but how they are carried out depends on him.
[S]he will assume control of your cities, states and nations.
[S]he is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities, and corporations…
the fate of humanity is in [her] hands.” (Abraham Lincoln)

It seems that there is certainly such leadership today, at least in children…

In 1992, Severn Suzuki, then a 12 years old girl, decided to go and tell the United Nations Earth Conference in Rio de Janeiro how she and her friends felt:

Her words then and her actions since come not at all far from what type of leadership Abraham Lincoln—a great leader of all times—was trying to inspire with his words above.  If only we’d listened eighteen years ago, or if we would have listened last year in Copenhagen, or if we would listen this year in Cancun.

Can we then imagine what a modern Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) type of leader (as US President--1901-1909--was a conservationist, and promoter of a “square deal” in business practice) can do armed with the Severn Suzuki speech as inspiration for acting creatively when placed in Putnam’s above options enhancing predicament?

Return to Stage-Setting: Can you stop a Police Lamborghini?--or metaphorically rephrasing the question

The question we started with seems at least somewhat equivalent with this one below:

Can you truly decelerate this vehicle—in the picture below—when it drives at full speed,

then bring it to a stop, and then make it go backwards at least as fast as it was driving forward before?

Add to the Lamborghini power that it is the Police itself… Hardly conceivable as possible, let alone a simple task.

Maybe it really depends how it is done.  While nobody would advise hundreds and thousands of children to stand in front of the racing Lamborghini, hundreds and thousands and more than that children like Severn Suzuki can stand on the sides of the Lamborghini and boo the driver(s), having all of their parents boo the driver(s) as well… It can be as powerful a message as a message can ever get.  “I do not want a Barbie anymore, Daddy, since I know that a 14 y.o. girl in China who never had one is making it.  If only all of my younger colleagues would stop wanting Barbie dolls, I know that the girls making them could go to school too instead of at the plant, and the plant will close.”


Instead of conclusions, maybe these thoughts below can synthesize what we were thinking about above:
* When watching (or even reducing drastically) your carbon footprint gets to be seen (by society—meaning the neighbors and the on-watchers alike) more and more as cool,
* when children get educated and self-educate too into a carbon conscious energy consumption life and saving habits, and
* when (ashamed) people start divesting away from carbon heavy non-responsible enterprises, and as more and more people divest further,

three essential factors will then play in favor of success in “stopping and reverting the Lamborghini” from that moment on… (1) viral self-propagation “iPod style”, (2) children power, and (3) “cooperating” markets leaning in the desired direction. 

In other words, we “hedged our bets” on decelerating the out-of-control ever increasing carbon emissions.  These things can by far beat hands down in the middle term and long run whatever is achieved at Cancun as we write, no matter how many good things are achieved there, late as it may already be.

[1]           We have no answer to whether this point is justified or not.  However, considering the plausible cause-effect claim that “rising out-of-control CO2 levels may influence climate change--as in global warming”, one (society) would rather take action as opposed to not taking action.  For an interesting easy-to-grasp approach justifying this, please see, or better yet, start with "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See" at (accessed November 27, 2010), and then “graduate” to the book, “What's the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate”, by Greg Craven, Perigee Trade; Original edition (July 9, 2009)
[2]           An interesting resource here may be “Arithmetic, Population and Energy”, by Prof. Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, viewable here: (accessed November 27, 2010)
[3]           The movie, having won several awards, is available at (accessed November 27, 2010)
[4]           “The constructal law of design in nature is this: for a finite size flow system to persist in time (that means to live), its confirguration must evolve (that means to change in time) such that it provides easier and easier access to its currents.” (Adrian Bejan, founder of constructal law)
[5]           what we mean here is much better expressed here:
[6]           On this point, of special interest could be an understanding of how was it possible for the European Commission to enact simultaneously separate policies that on the one hand were meant at (and achieved) reducing tailpipe vehicle emissions, while on the other led to the number of vehicles in circulation simultaneously multiplied many fold, and hence the overall combined effect of the policies was an actual massive increase in emissions.  Only a systemic lack of internal horizontal communication and integration of policy initiation and steering processes can explain such outcomes.  Process audits may be necessary and organizational adaptations may need to be designed and enacted to purposefully and systematically avoid such mistakes in the future.  An important factor here could be relying at least in part on the implicit natural strength in potential growth and adaptation of allowing characteristics of complex adaptive systems to be in use and to sufficiently drive policy outcomes.  Tight hierarchies are highly unnatural systems and tend to be highly inertial and not very creative in their outputs.  In contrast, loose networks with multiple parallel entry points for ideas usually lead to producing much more creative solutions with better effectiveness when applied.  In part, this is where the implicit strength of policies built with broad range of stakeholders’ involvement comes from.  Yet, it may be that the practice is not sufficiently well utilized in initiating or facilitating and enacting environmental policies.
[7]           I refer here to the potential social change impact that the notion of “have you installed your Stirling co-generation machine yet?” questions traveling by word-of-mouth may have on the population’s buy-in in distributive (co-generation based eventually) generation, an effect potentially similar with some of the basis for Apple’s or Levi’s Jeans’ successes.  These are usually hard to trace and model in rigorous econometric forecasting models.  If one studies however, for example, the culture of using public transportation across very different regions and socio-political cultures, and what factors are limiting the “take-off” of such habit in certain places with certain characteristics of their population, one can find very interesting (and usually hidden from what we usually see easy at first sight) correlates of social norms and values with embracing environmental friendly habits and/or supporting environmental efforts.  If we seek an understanding of the person who prefers to drive their Porsche Cayenne to their office five-ten kilometers away every day for a one hour drive in heavy traffic instead of taking the subway or bus if available, we may find that “image” could be a determining factor of such choice.  “Who, me?  To come to work by bus?  No way.  I am sooo much past that stage in my life/career.”  At the other extreme, if we could eventually conceive an instant self-updating “carbon footprint meter” tattooed on one’s forehead, in a social culture praising eco-involvement, the “image” factor above would work exactly in reverse, making people feel ashamed of their oversized daily carbon footprint, just as many people often are “ashamed” today of arriving at work by bicycle, public transportation or simply on foot.
[8]           See for example Modis and Debecker (1992), and/or Modis 1998.  There are many more similar cases beyond these here that can easily inform the debate.  The hard times the GPS technologies (now ubiquitous) had in their initial stages in “convincing” key players (US military) are but one other example.  For a detailed account of those hard early days, see Richard Garwin’s speech at AAAS Conference April 30-May 1, 2009, available here: (scroll down to “The William D. Carey lecture”), or directly here:
[9]           More about the book here:
[10]          To help the mind draw the connections, I want to tell these two little stories...

            * My daughter was 4-5 at the time... We have been to the Toledo COSI science center recently...  (We were already regular visitors to quite a number of hands on museums--I guess we've been simply lucky that way.)
            One day she didn't want to wash her hands, and she was playing with the water instead... I asked "do you like to let the 'fishies' dye?"  She seemed puzzled at first, but she stopped playing with the water... then I helped her connect by herself little by little how the cycle of water in nature which she saw at the Toledo COSI science center was showing that the more water she lets run down in the sink, the less water is left in lakes and rivers where the fish live...  Not only did she never again let the water run uselessly, but a few weeks later it was my turn to be puzzled... The neighbors upstairs were taking shower after shower (they did have five children)... so my daughter says to me "the neighbors let the 'fishies' dye"... "How so?" "They use a lot of water, Daddy!  This can make the 'fishies' dye"

            * The other story is when she was already seven... and is with the red t-shirt...
            At her school in S Texas she had a uniform... she could use a red, blue, or white t-shirt.  She had already used the red and white in the previous two days, and it was now the turn of the blue one, which was clean.  But she wanted to wear the red one again instead...  her idea was very simple... "you can wash it, Daddy!"  "There will be not time for it to dry over night." "But you can dry it with the dryer while I sleep.  It only takes about thirty minutes." "So, you want me to use the dryer only for your red t-shirt?" "Yes" "Let's see, why wouldn't that be such a good idea?"... of course it turns out she had to figure that the dryer uses electricity, which comes from coal, which lets many polluting particles in the air etc., and when you can dry the clothes in sun light there seems to be no need to use/waste that electricity... with props from many children museums exhibits the connections were easy to make... and my hope is that she would think twice before she would put one t-shirt alone in the dryer... just as with not letting the water run in waste... Needless to say, she was proud to wear the blue t-shirt the next school day, and from there on to follow the rule that we wash all the t-shirts every other day and let them dry naturally.
            I know... maybe a long shot... but I do believe that children being subjected early to all the lessons learned from a children's hands on museum may have a "change the world" in the medium-long run effect.