Let's see if we can grasp the so-called agreement reached in Copenhagan.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Corporations are supposed to pay attention to environmental, health, safety, labor, tax, consumer protection, information disclosure, and human rights laws wherever they set up shop. But, we've all seen and heard stories about multinationals guilty of violations in far-away places. They have been charged with allowing unsafe working conditions, blocking legitimate unionization efforts; ignoring environmental and health standards, bribing officials, and turning a blind eye to human rights violations. Developing countries are often ambivalent about holding violators to account: they can't afford to lose the investments and the jobs, and they often lack enforcement muscle even if they want to act.
Posted by Lawrence Susskind at 3:23 AM
Saturday, October 24, 2009
At MIT, we are training Science Impact Coordinators (SICs) willing to put themselves in the middle between experts, advocates and regulators. Unless someone is able to manage these difficult interactions, we will miss crucial opportunities to protect dwindling natural resources. What does a graduate student with an undergraduate science degree, a passion for environmental improvement and an interest in managing constructive dialogue in politically-stressed situations need to know to facilitate such interactions? That's what we are trying to determine.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I'm trying to make my way through John Keane's massive book, The Life and Death of Democracy (Norton, 2009). He reviews three "epochs" in the evolution of democracy: Assembly Democracy, Representative Democracy and what he calls Monitory Democracy. He then tries to make sense of where we are headed next by jumping forward and looking back at our current situation (Memories from the Future). He's not optimistic (although the book was written before President Obama was elected and America's foreign policies and international engagements shifted radically). The failure of political parties, the use of mass media to control political communications, the "cross-border squeeze on democratic institutions," resurgent nationalism triggered by "the powerlessness of joined-up global government and market forces;" terrorism, uncivil wars and nuclear anarchy; the failure of the "law of democratic peace" (that assumed democracies would not go to war with each other), America's failed efforts to "promote" a global transformation to democracy," the rise of new enemies of democracy, including hypocrisy, fatalism and ignorance; and the return of bipolarity (US-China tensions) are all to blame.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
There's a lot of confusion about the best way to respond to a lie spoken in a public context. One strategy is to ignore it and act as if the statement was never made. I guess folks who take this tack hope they'll avoid giving a false statement any traction. A second response is to suggest that the person making the statement probably didn't realize what he or she was saying. This approach presumes that its always best to give someone the benefit of the doubt and presume there's just a misunderstanding on their part. I don't think so. From my standpoint, the most effective response to a lie is to name it, frame it, and claim it.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Imagine you are one of the members of Congress running a "town hall" meeting to discuss pending health care reform legislation during the current legislative break. You are confronted by some very angry citizens. They are shouting at you!
Posted by Lawrence Susskind at 12:15 PM
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I was thinking about the reds and the blues. You'd think they'd be able to reach agreement once in a while without bashing each other. But, the more I analyze it, the more I realize that the reds and blues are probably doomed. Some of the time, it's not in one side or the other's interest to reach agreement. They have more to gain by holding out for some extreme proposal, even if it throws them into deadlock. And, often, something or somebody stands in the way. It's hard to have a constructive conversation if there's too much background noise or by-standers are trying to sabotage things. And, finally, I keep forgetting that most of the reds and blues have no relevant negotiation training or consensus building experience.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
MIT does not have an undergraduate or a graduate major or minor in environment and sustainability. The 75 members of MIT's Faculty Environmental Network for Sustainability (FENS) are trying to do something about this. You can see our preliminary proposals for an Undergraduate Minor in Environment and Sustainability and a Graduate Certificate of Advanced Interdisciplinary Study in Environment and Sustainability at fens.mit.edu or web.mit.edu/fens. In the fall of 2009, these proposals will be thoroughly vetted by groups across the campus. By the spring (2010) we hope to have a curriculum package to put before the MIT faculty for a vote.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
At a recent Burlington, Vermont meeting hosted by Robert Costanza (the leader of the ecological economics movement) and the Seventh Generation Corporation, we tried to figure out how to measure progress in combatting climate change over the next five years. (http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/game-plan-america) I'm of the school that says "If you can't measure it, you can't fix it." So, five years from now, what do we have to measure and how do we have to measure it to know that we were making progress in the fight against climate change?
Posted by Lawrence Susskind at 3:43 AM
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Think about it from their perspective. Assume you are part of a group that has inhabited a place for at least a thousand years. Your ceremonies and traditions date back a lot farther than those of the interlopers who now control every aspect of your life. Your people have been connected to that particular place for all of recorded history. Yet, now, the national government that surrounds you wants to dictate what you can and cannot do with your land and how your children should be educated.. That national government has sold the mineral rights out from under you (and kept all the money), polluted the waters you depend on, and stripped the forest that has always been your primary source of food. Wouldn't you be angry?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Population growth is increasing. Efforts to raise the standard of living of the many billions of people living in poverty should also continue. Therefore, the only way to achieve more sustainable development in the face of all that growth is through technology innovation. More people spending more money on more things will surely use up our finite resources and create unmanageable waste streams. Only if we can figure out how to house, feed, hydrate, transport, employ, heat, cool and nurture billions of people more efficiently will we be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain acceptable quality of life levels.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
There is a substantial risk that the continued release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will cause a range of adverse impacts including global warming, sea level rise, intensification of storms, changes in historical patterns of rainfall (and drought), threats to endangered habitats and the possible spread of infectious diseases. Even if the countries of the world agree to take aggressive steps to stabilize or reduce CO2 emissions over the next twenty to fifty years, there is still a strong possibility that the cumulative effects of past greenhouse gas emissions will cause sea level to rise and storms to intensify for at least the next several decades, and probably longer. Think about the worst storm you or your family can remember and the damage it caused. What if storms like that occurred every ten years instead of every 100 years?