Archive for March 2012

Meet the man who quit money – The Globe and Mail   Leave a comment

An facinating human interest story with thought provoking questions of some of the assumptions we have about life….

In the first year of the 21st century, a man standing by a highway in the middle of America pulled from his pocket his life savings – $30 – laid it inside a phone booth, and walked away. He was 39 years old, came from a good family, and had been to college. He was not mentally ill, nor an addict. His decision appears to have been an act of free will by a competent adult…..

“I know it is possible to live with zero money,” Suelo declares.


I had met Suelo long before he gave up money, in Moab, Utah, a haven for seekers and dropouts. We ran in the same circle, worked a stint together as cooks, and squatted on public lands. But over the years, we drifted our separate ways, geographically and otherwise.

I had heard of Daniel’s attempt to live without money, and I’d assumed he had simply lost his mind. For my part, I was no longer an itinerant river guide, but a professional writer. I had acquired a second car and a second house, contributed to a retirement account, and filed 53 pages of tax returns.

Then came 2008. Twenty trillion dollars in world assets were incinerated by bad mortgages and speculation. The real-estate bubble splattered into foreclosure and bankruptcy, taking down with it the pensions and savings and jobs of millions of people.

My paltry retirement account became paltrier.

Suddenly that big monthly payment on my home didn’t seem like money well spent. No number of trips to Home Depot would make the house worth what I had paid for it. Those naysayers who forecast that my generation, born in the 1960s and 1970s, would be the first in America’s history to be worse off than their parents: Maybe they had a point.

Suelo meanwhile had gained a little notoriety, thanks to stories in Details magazine and the Denver Post, and an interview with the BBC. His blog and website got tens of thousands of hits. As I pored over the writings he had compiled, from Thomas Jefferson and Socrates, I began to think about the choices he had made. Here was someone who had said all along what the rest of us were being forced to contemplate for the first time, now that our bubble of prosperity had burst: money was an illusion.

“I simply got tired of acknowledging as real this most common worldwide belief called money,” cried this voice in the desert. “I simply got tired of being unreal.” …..

Daniel had opted out entirely, rejected what I had pursued. What was I missing out on?

Finally I decided to find out.

via Meet the man who quit money – The Globe and Mail.

Posted March 11, 2012 by arnoneumann in Human Stories

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BRIIC is a better BRIC |   Leave a comment

Back in 2001 when tech weary investors first started noticing the allure of the emerging markets, Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O’Neill coined the acronym “BRIC” to collectively refer to Brazil, Russia, India and China, then considered the top tier of the emerging economies. The BRIC countries became a symbol of the shift in economic power from the G7 countries to the developing world. For much of the first decade of the 21st Century, the BRICs lived up to their billing. They largely led the world in GDP growth and delivered rock solid returns to those wise enough to invest early. See our current analysis of Latin American rail in our latest Global Investor Newsletter

Over the years, with investors continuously seeking the next wave in emerging markets, other clever acronyms came and went, but none caught on quite like the BRIC. In the investment world nothing is static, and at Euro Pacific Capital we feel it’s time for a change. But the BRICs don’t need to be abandoned, just expanded. In particular, it needs another “I” as in Indonesia. In other words, we think the “BRIC” bloc should now be the “BRIIC” bloc. For a variety of reasons, Indonesia has earned the right to be considered as a premiere destination for emerging market investment.

Most investors don’t realize that Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world, with more people than Brazil or Russia, two other charter nations in the BRIC club. They also may be unfamiliar with Indonesia’s enormous under developed natural resources, including oil/gas, coal, tin, gold, wood and rubber. Indonesia’s economy is well-balanced, with a large consumption component and limited reliance on exports to the developed world. Impressively, retail sales in Indonesia doubled from 2009 to 2012 (yes, doubled in three years) which we attribute to an improving labor market, favorable demographics, strong growth in wages and high consumer confidence. Meanwhile, developed markets struggle with high unemployment, an aging workforce, stagnant wages, and low consumer confidence. It’s no wonder retail sales in the US and Europe, struggling to grow 1% per year, create a stark contrast to Indonesia.

While Indonesia’s economy is still small relative to the other BRICs (roughly half the size of Brazil and Russia), it does have an economic growth rate that puts it well into the mix. According to the IMF, for the 17 year period between 1990 and 2007, Indonesia grew at an annual rate of 7.54%. While this is less than China (13.3%) and India (7.6%), it is more than Brazil (6.1%) or Russia (4.92%). The country is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and is a member of the G-20 group of the world’s major economies. ”

via BRIIC is a better BRIC |

Posted March 10, 2012 by arnoneumann in BRICS, Economic, Uncategorized

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The Science Of Storytelling – Forbes   Leave a comment

“Why storytelling?”

“Simple: nothing else works.”

That was the rudimentary answer that I gave to cynical left-brained managers back in the 1990s and early 2000s when I was introducing them to the power of leadership storytelling. Slides leave listeners dazed. Prose remains unread. Reasons don’t change behavior. When it comes to inspiring people to embrace some strange new change in behavior, storytelling isn’t just better than the other tools. It’s the only thing that works.

A more scientific answer can be found in Brian Boyd’s wonderful book, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, (Harvard University Press, 2009)

This elegantly written book assembles a mass of scientific evidence, drawing on evolutionary theory, ethology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, game theory, anthropology, economics, neurophysiology, analytic and experimental philosophy, epistemology and psychology, and shows–scientifically–why storytelling is so important.

The eclipse of storytelling in the 20th Century

Anthropologists always knew that storytelling is a universal feature of every country and every culture, even if, for most of the 20th Century, storytelling got very little respect. As so-called scientific approaches to life became dominant, mechanistic, machine-like thinking was everywhere triumphant. Analysis was king. Narrative was seen as either infantile or trivial.

The phenomenon didn’t just affect storytelling. In retrospect, the 20th Century can be seen as a giant experiment by the human race to find out what could be accomplished if organizations treated people as things and communicated to them in abstractions, numbers and analysis, rather than through people-friendly communications such as stories.

Employees became “human resources” to be mined, rather than people to be minded. Customers became “demand”, or “consumers” or “eyeballs”, to be manipulated, rather than living, feeling human beings to be delighted. Storytelling was only one of many elements that suffered “collateral damage.”

The whole experiment can be seen as a success to the extent that the material standard of living of a proportion of the world’s population for a time improved. But the experiment was an abysmal failure in most other respects. It made human beings people miserable. And organizations steadily became less and less productive, as the need for innovation grew.

In any event, the effort to suppress storytelling was unsuccessful: storytelling, though despised, lived on in the cracks and crevices of society—in the cafeterias, the corridors, around water-coolers, in bars and restaurants, living rooms and bedrooms. Throughout the 20th Century, storytelling got little respect, but it could not be suppressed. It turned out to be central characteristic of being human.

It also turned out that storytelling was a central component of leadership. Want to understand why Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama became national leaders? A big part of it lay in their ability to tell effective leadership stories.

Now, the ongoing reinvention of management to transform workplaces from the boring, sterile, dispiriting  cubicles of the 20th Century into the lively centers of inspiration and creativity that are needed for the Creative Economy of the 21st Century has storytelling at its core.

Why stories are so powerful

Boyd explains what is it about the apparently frivolous activity of storytelling that makes it so powerful. He helps us see why storytelling is central to innovation, the critical performance dimension of 21st Century organizations: stories are a kind of cognitive play, a stimulus and training for a lively mind.”

via The Science Of Storytelling – Forbes.

Posted March 10, 2012 by arnoneumann in Uncategorized

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Business Line : Opinion : Biodiversity not adequately understood   Leave a comment

It is the lesser known of the two framework conventions that emerged at the Rio Earth Summit of 1992; it also deals with a concept more difficult to comprehend. But the Convention on Biological Diversity is the international agreement that protects life on earth, and thereby, should be the base for all environmental discussions.

In 2012, India will host the most important meeting relating to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) — the 11th Conference of Parties (COP-11) — at Hyderabad, from October 8-19. This fact is hardly known outside environment circles.

This is the first COP of the CBD process, after the United Nations declared 2011 to 2020 as the ‘Decade for Biodiversity’. Judging by past records, COP-11 and its preceding meetings can attract as many as 5,000 participants, including around 100 environment ministers. In addition to chairing the current COP, India will retain the presidency of the CBD process till the next COP in 2014.

Unlike the build-up to the COPs of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there is less media and public attention for COPs related to CBD. Each of the COPs related to the Climate Change Convention gets significant media and public attention. The Climate Change COPs in the recent years — held in Bali in 2007, Copenhagen in 2009, Cancun in 2010, and Durban in 2011 — got universal attention.


Though scientific opinion is still shying away from making conclusive connections between extreme weather events (which have been increasing in frequency in the recent years) and climate change, public opinion across countries has started making this connection. For instance, in August 2010, there were two major events happening simultaneously — floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia. The events were heavily reported, and there were references to climate change in the public discussions.

Public perception on biodiversity is much less clear. Though there is a vague understanding of the multiplicity of species on planet earth, there is no clarity on how this diversity gives stability to life, and also provides ecosystem services to villagers and city-dwellers. In India, this situation is ironic, since the country was the first to have a Biodiversity Act in 2002.

Starting almost immediately after the Rio Summit of 1992, the process of developing India’s Biodiversity Act went through much public discussion. It legislatively reaffirmed that the biological diversity in the country was its sovereign property. It was built on the three goals of the CBD — conservation of biodiversity, encouraging its sustainable use, and making sure that the benefits arising from its use are equitably shared with those who helped in conserving the biological wealth in the first place.

The Biodiversity Act also put in place a three-tier structure to manage the biological diversity. The National Biodiversity Authority was established in Chennai in 2003. There are 26 state biodiversity boards, and biodiversity management committees in many local bodies.

In comparison, the institutions on climate change are more recent in India. The National Action Plan on Climate Change was released in June 2008 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to work on eight national missions.


Only in January 2010 did the Government of India constitute an expert panel to develop low-carbon strategies for inclusive growth. The panel, headed by Planning Commission Member Kirit Parikh, was supposed to submit its interim report by April 2010, and the final report by September in that year. However, its interim report was made public only in May 2011, and the final report is still awaited.

Perhaps, the reason why biodiversity isn’t so well-discussed as climate change is because the economic linkages of the biological wealth aren’t so well articulated in the public domain. The economic costs of a flood or drought are visible, measurable. Deforestation in the Western Ghats, leading to the loss of a few species that are seen only in that location, isn’t so tangible.

There have been international attempts at measuring the economic benefits from biodiversity. The report of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review process estimates benefits of US$ 3.7 trillion from avoiding greenhouse gas emissions through the conservation of forests. And this is just one ecosystem service function from biodiversity.

Even without complicated economic analysis, it is possible to feel the ecological and economic services from biodiversity in our day-to-day lives, wherever we are….

Please read the full article….

via Business Line : Opinion : Biodiversity not adequately understood.

Sustainable is not enough: a call for regenerative cities | The Global Urbanist   Leave a comment

“Since the industrial revolution the process of urbanisation has become ever more resource-intensive, significantly contributing to climate change and to the loss of soil carbon, the natural fertility of farmland, and the world’s biodiversity. Our ravenous appetite for resources from the world’s ecosystems has severe consequences for all life on Earth, including human life. Cities have developed resource consumption and waste disposal habits that show little concern for the environmental consequences.

Fortunately in some places this seems to be changing. In the past decade concepts that capture the idea of how to future-proof our cities have arisen worldwide: smart cities, liveable cities, sustainable cities, intelligent cities, resilient cities.

Each concept implies different solutions. Sustainable cities is often the umbrella term as it includes environmental, economic and social dimensions and is in line with the wider discourse of sustainable development. However it is often criticised for being too nebulous and vague.

Because so much damage has already been done to the world’s ecosystems, and solutions need to be found to reverse it, the challenge today is no longer just to create sustainable cities but truly regenerative cities.

Smart or intelligent cities focus on technology solutions. By implementing highly efficient technological systems that use fewer resources for the same service it tries to reduce the ecological footprint of a city. A major concern here is the danger of a rebound effect, where efficiency gains in resources are counteracted by a behavioural response to thus use much more of them again.

Resilient cities is a rather passive terminology that looks at how cities can build resistance against future shocks and stresses, such as from climate change and peak oil. It is about lasting and making it through a crisis rather than trying to stop the development that causes the crisis.

Finally liveable cities primarily aims at replacing sprawl with compact, human scale urbanisation. It recognises and tries to combat the negative impact of our built environment on physical, social and mental health. The focus is very much on the quality of human life that has to be secured against the challenges ahead.


However because so much damage has already been done to the world’s ecosystems, and solutions need to be found to reverse it, the challenge today is no longer just to create sustainable cities but truly regenerative cities: to assure that they do not just become resource-efficient and low-carbon-emitting, but that they positively enhance rather than undermine the ecosystem services they receive from beyond their boundaries. A wide range of technical and management solutions towards this end are already available, but so far implementation has been slow and slight.

This concept seeks to redress the relationship between cities and their hinterland, and beyond that with the more distant territories that supply them with water, food, timber and other vital resources. We need to re-enrich the landscapes on which cities depend, including measures to increase their capacity to absorb carbon.

Creating a restorative relationship between cities, their hinterlands and the world beyond means harnessing new opportunities in financial, technological, policy and business practices. The transformative changes required call for far-reaching strategic choices and long-term planning rather than short-term compromises and patchwork solutions that characterise most of our political decision-making systems.”

via Sustainable is not enough: a call for regenerative cities | The Global Urbanist.

Posted March 3, 2012 by arnoneumann in Cities

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TED and Meta TED: On-Scene Musings From the Wonderdome | Epicenter |   Leave a comment

“Susan Cain is a lawyer and negotiations consultant. She is also an introvert who has noticed that institutions like business and education are stacked against people like her. So for the past seven years she has been writing Quiet, a book on that subject which was  published earlier this year. She knew that to promote it she would have to undertake something difficult for introverts: lots of public speaking. She braced herself for “a year of speaking dangerously.”

Her dream venue was scariest stage of all: TED. Over the past few years, a TED talk has become for intellectuals and artists the equivalent of what Johnny Carson’s couch once was for comedians.  Like winning an Oscar, writing the great American novel, or getting a front-row seat at a fashion show, doing a TED talk is now an aspirational peak for the thinking set.

So as intimidating as it was, Cain sent information about the book to the TED-cretariat in New York that picks the speakers for the annual conference. They asked for a record of her in action, and she sent them a video of a session where she coached negotiation tactics.

She was in………

The introvert aced the talk.

But the kudos Cain got from the audience at Long Beach Performing Arts Center last Tuesday will only begin her rewards. That TED talk was not only crafted for the 1,500 people with big wallets who attend the elite conference, but many millions who view TED talks, free, on the web and through apps on a variety of devices (viewed by 700 million to date). To the world at large, TED is not an annual gathering where people drawn by the talks spend four days in each other’s company, but a deep collection of videos bound by that conference’s motto, “Ideas Worth Sharing.”


Cain’s talk will now be watched easily hundreds of thousands of times, and it will be her virtual calling card for years.

via TED and Meta TED: On-Scene Musings From the Wonderdome | Epicenter |

Posted March 2, 2012 by arnoneumann in TED Talk, Thinking

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