Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose
Doing Business By Respecting the Earth
Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, talks about his efforts to
transform his waste-generating commercial carpet company into one that has
no environmental footprint by 2020.  Mr. Anderson spoke at Barnes & Noble
Booksellers in Atlanta.

Ray Anderson founded Interface in Georgia in 1973.  He has been the co-chair
of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development and the Presidential
Climate Action Project.  For more, visit: rayanderson.com.

http://www.booktv.org/Program/10961/Confessions+of+a+Radical+Industrialist+P
rofits+People+Purpose+Doing+Business+By+Respecting+the+Earth.aspx

————————

Ray Anderson is founder and chairman of Interface Inc., the world’s largest
manufacturer of modular carpet for commercial and residential applications
and a leading producer of commercial broadloom and commercial fabrics. He is
“known in environmental circles for his advanced and progressive stance on
industrial ecology and sustainability.” Since 1995, he has reduced
Interface’s waste by a third, and plans to make the company sustainable by
2020.

He defines sustainability as “taking nothing from the earth that is not
rapidly and naturally renewable, and doing no harm to the biosphere.”

For instance, under his leadership, Interface seeks to reduce and then
eliminate “petroleum from its manufacturing processes.” He is pioneering
recycling efforts with nylon and polyester which “is recyclable, leading to
more closed loop technologies for the future.” However, Anderson wasn’t
always a friend of the environment. He had his epiphany in 1994 when he read
The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken, who argues that [the] industrial
system is destroying the planet and only industry leaders are powerful
enough to stop it.

Anderson is featured in the documentaries The Corporation and The 11th Hour
as well as an interview in The Day After Peace.

Ray Anderson is the author of Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable
Enterprise: The Interface Model. Inspired by Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael,
Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, and many others, Ray Anderson has
successfully composed a piece that covers his personal journey towards
sustainability in his work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Anderson_(entrepreneur)

Key segments and analysis of Obama’s MIT speech

 

I want I want to thank all of you for the warm welcome and for the work all of you are doing to generate and test new ideas that hold so much promise for our economy and for our lives.

 

Note priority. Economy. Of course we need an economy, the question is, which one?

 

 

Now, Dr. Moniz is also the Director of MIT’s Energy Initiative, called MITEI. And he and President Hockfield just showed me some of the extraordinary energy research being conducted at this institute: windows that generate electricity by directing light to solar cells; light-weight, high-power batteries that aren’t built, but are grown — that was neat stuff; engineering viruses to create — to create batteries; more efficient lighting systems that rely on nanotechnology; innovative engineering that will make it possible for offshore wind power plants to deliver electricity even when the air is still.

 

It’s the early part of the speech. Good ideas, but not systemiccally embedded. What of manufacturing and sdistribution costs, and converting solar to heat?

 

And it’s a reminder that all of you are heirs to a legacy of innovation — not just here but across America — that has improved our health and our wellbeing and helped us achieve unparalleled prosperity.

 

Standard aren’t we great speech, but, as we know, it is those achievements that have got us in the climate and financial crisis, and wars.

 

 it’s the legacy of daring men and women who put their talents and their efforts into the pursuit of discovery. And it’s the legacy of a nation that supported those intrepid few willing to take risks on an idea that might fail — but might also change the world.

 

Are we talking love of truth, love of profit, love of fame and power? This muddling up of concepts is pure political rhetoric, looking to keep everyone happy with the speech.

 

Even in the darkest of times this nation has seen, it has always sought a brighter horizon. Think about it. In the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln designated a system of land grant colleges, including MIT, which helped open the doors of higher education to millions of people. A year — a full year before the end of World War II, President Roosevelt signed the GI Bill which helped unleash a wave of strong and broadly shared economic growth. And after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, the United States went about winning the Space Race by investing in science and technology, leading not only to small steps on the moon but also to tremendous economic benefits here on Earth.

 

The payoff expected of these, land grants, GI Bill and "space race" were military and economic, in ways that created the current problems with climate. The argument here appears to be, "we did great things, and we are going to do great things." I wonder if this is to get the headline for the speech so he can deliver more critical thoughts without press attention?

 

So the truth is, we have always been about innovation, we have always been about discovery. That’s in our DNA.

 

Mixing truth, which it isn’t, innovation, which was rare and market driven, and declaring it DNA rather than character is to really muddle concepts.

 

 The truth is we also face more complex challenges than generations past.

 

Note the repeated use of "the truth is" from rhetorical level to analytic level.

 

 A medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures is attached to a health care system that has the potential to bankrupt families and businesses and our government.

 

There is also the problem of population gowth through medicine. That is, the solutions create the problems, not just economic, but sustainable. Too ugly to mention.

 

 A global marketplace that links the trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street to the factory worker in China — an economy in which we all share opportunity is also an economy in which we all share crisis.

 

So we share opportunity and crises but not profit or jobs. Correted by

 

We face threats to our security that seek — there are threats to our security that are based on those who would seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness that’s so essential to our prosperity.

 

Bu tnote that it is our security that is threatened, not our  distribution of wealth. He is trying to appeal to the wealthy, not alienate them.

 

The system of energy that powers our economy also undermines our security and endangers our planet.

 

So again security is put first, then planet. 

 

Now, while the challenges today are different, we have to draw on the same spirit of innovation that’s always been central to our success. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy. There may be plenty of room for debate as to how we transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels — we all understand there’s no silver bullet to do it.

 

What’s missing in that paragraph?  It is clear he is making a transition to the "we must" part of the speech.  Our success was built on waves of economic and military reality: wining the civil war, the shift toward the US after Europe died in two world wars. These are not questions of policy,b ut of historical circumstance larger than under the control of any nation.

 

 There’s going to be a lot of debate about how we move from an economy that’s importing oil to one that’s exporting clean energy technology; how we harness the innovative potential on display here at MIT to create millions of new jobs; and how we will lead the world to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. There are going to be all sorts of debates, both in the laboratory and on Capitol Hill. But there’s no question that we must do all these things.

 

This looks pretty good.  The problem is, what do we need to get there and can we get it? My view is that he leaves out, at this point, the finance community and the  control of congress through money. Let’s see how the rest of the speech deals with this,

 

Countries on every corner of this Earth now recognize that energy supplies are growing scarcer, energy demands are growing larger, and rising energy use imperils the planet we will leave to future generations. And that’s why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century.

 

Is competition the way to go? What happens to the losers How will they respond? The current corporate regime concentrates wealth continuously. What would happen to that economy in the new competition?

 

 From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation. It’s that simple. (Applause.)

 

That’s why the Recovery Act that we passed back in January makes the largest investment in clean energy in history, not just to help end this recession, but to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity. The Recovery Act includes $80 billion to put tens of thousands of Americans to work developing new battery technologies for hybrid vehicles; modernizing the electric grid; making our homes and businesses more energy efficient; doubling our capacity to generate renewable electricity. These are creating private-sector jobs weatherizing homes; manufacturing cars and trucks; upgrading to smart electric meters; installing solar panels; assembling wind turbines; building new facilities and factories and laboratories all across America. And, by the way, helping to finance extraordinary research.

 

All these projects are costly in terms of energy and transportation and materials. System effects? Who does the calculations? What if they are very discouraging? Can such analysis get into the pubic debate, and acknowledged by the White House? Alos ‘tens of thousands" Watch outsourcing of those efforts. Note that we have an unemployed of 6 million or more . Does the new economy scale up for workers, or only for owners?

 

In fact, in just a few weeks, right here in Boston, workers will break ground on a new Wind Technology Testing Center, a project made possible through a $25 million Recovery Act investment as well as through the support of Massachusetts and its partners. And I want everybody to understand — Governor Patrick’s leadership and vision made this happen. He was bragging about Massachusetts on the way over here — I told him, you don’t have to be a booster, I already love the state. (Applause.) But he helped make this happen.

 

Hundreds of people will be put to work building this new testing facility, but the benefits will extend far beyond these jobs. For the first time, researchers in the United States will be able to test the world’s newest and largest wind turbine blades — blades roughly the length of a football field — and that in turn will make it possible for American businesses to develop more efficient and effective turbines, and to lead a market estimated at more than $2 trillion over the next two decades.

 

This grant follows other Recovery Act investments right here in Massachusetts that will help create clean energy jobs in this commonwealth and across the country. And this only builds on the work of your governor, who has endeavored to make Massachusetts a clean energy leader — from increasing the supply of renewable electricity, to quadrupling solar capacity, to tripling the commonwealth’s investment in energy efficiency, all of which helps to draw new jobs and new industries. (Applause.) That’s worth applause.

 

Now, even as we’re investing in technologies that exist today, we’re also investing in the science that will produce the technologies of tomorrow. The Recovery Act provides the largest single boost in scientific research in history. Let me repeat that: The Recovery Act, the stimulus bill represents the largest single boost in scientific research in history. (Applause.) An increase — that’s an increase in funding that’s already making a difference right here on this campus. And my budget also makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent — a tax credit that spurs innovation and jobs, adding $2 to the economy for every dollar that it costs.

 

And all of this must culminate in the passage of comprehensive legislation that will finally make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America. John Kerry is working on this legislation right now, and he’s doing a terrific job reaching out across the other side of the aisle because this should not be a partisan issue. Everybody in America should have a stake — (applause) — everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that’s far more efficient, far cleaner, and provide energy independence for America — making the best use of resources we have in abundance, everything from figuring out how to use the fossil fuels that inevitably we are going to be using for several decades, things like coal and oil and natural gas; figuring out how we use those as cleanly and efficiently as possible; creating safe nuclear power; sustainable — sustainably grown biofuels; and then the energy that we can harness from wind and the waves and the sun. It is a transformation that will be made as swiftly and as carefully as possible, to ensure that we are doing what it takes to grow this economy in the short, medium, and long term. And I do believe that a consensus is growing to achieve exactly that.

 

From a technical point of view do thee initiatives add up to a real lessening of the dangers of greenhouses gases? And are the impacts on income and wealth. These all require private investment, and the biggest pile of private investment is coming from the rise in the stock market. Middle class people bought into the last bubble just before it collapsed. The more knowledgeable got out, Now as the market comes back it is the profits from the last bubble driving expansion – and a new bubble, according to Reich

 

The Pentagon has declared our dependence on fossil fuels a security threat. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are traveling the country as part of Operation Free, campaigning to end our dependence on oil — (applause) — we have a few of these folks here today, right there. (Applause.) The young people of this country — that I’ve met all across America — they understand that this is the challenge of their generation.

 

Leaders in the business community are standing with leaders in the environmental community to protect the economy and the planet we leave for our children. The House of Representatives has already passed historic legislation, due in large part to the efforts of Massachusetts’ own Ed Markey, he deserves a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’re now seeing prominent Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham joining forces with long-time leaders John Kerry on this issue, to swiftly pass a bill through the Senate as well. In fact, the Energy Committee, thanks to the work of its Chair, Senator Jeff Bingaman, has already passed key provisions of comprehensive legislation.

 

None specified, hard to critique. Is he right?

 

So we are seeing a convergence. The naysayers, the folks who would pretend that this is not an issue, they are being marginalized. But I think it’s important to understand that the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we’ll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to the much needed action that we’re engaged in.

 

There are also the naysayers from the more progressive side, the folks that see private interest being served so that solutions cannot emerge that are not self-serving – increasing wealth concentration.

 

 There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy — when it’s the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs. There are going to be those who cynically claim — make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.

 

So we’re going to have to work on those folks. But understand there’s also another myth that we have to dispel, and this one is far more dangerous because we’re all somewhat complicit in it. It’s far more dangerous than any attack made by those who wish to stand in the way progress — and that’s the idea that there is nothing or little that we can do.

 

Should the very possibility be explored? I hear from many business leaders that they think it is too late. And I hear it from scientists and technical people.  If they are acting on that surmise, what do we do?

 

 It’s pessimism. It’s the pessimistic notion that our politics are too broken and our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal with this energy issue that we’re facing. And implicit in this argument is the sense that somehow we’ve lost something important — that fighting American spirit, that willingness to tackle hard challenges, that determination to see those challenges to the end, that we can solve problems, that we can act collectively, that somehow that is something of the past.

 

Lots of us are right there. But the conclusion? Is there any politics that can change this? Are "interests" too powerful to yield. Historical analysis Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies suggests no. So, the next word is revolution. I hear it in private from people on all sides.

 

I reject that argument. I reject it because of what I’ve seen here at MIT. Because of what I have seen across America. Because of what we know we are capable of achieving when called upon to achieve it. This is the nation that harnessed electricity and the energy contained in the atom, that developed the steamboat and the modern solar cell. This is the nation that pushed westward and looked skyward. We have always sought out new frontiers and this generation is no different.

 

Those were each exploitative moves in the name of empire on the large side and private wealth on the other.

 

Today’s frontiers can’t be found on a map. They’re being explored in our classrooms and our laboratories, in our start-ups and our factories. And today’s pioneers are not traveling to some far flung place. These pioneers are all around us — the entrepreneurs and the inventors, the researchers, the engineers — helping to lead us into the future, just as they have in the past. This is the nation that has led the world for two centuries in the pursuit of discovery. This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow, so long as all of us remember what we have achieved in the past and we use that to inspire us to achieve even more in the future.

 

He doesn’t say how hard this will nor that the real systems innovation of late has been financial.

 

I am confident that’s what’s happening right here at this extraordinary institution. And if you will join us in what is sure to be a difficult fight in the months and years ahead, I am confident that all of America is going to be pulling in one direction to make sure that we are the energy leader that we need to be.

 

We do need to be an energy leader. In the background is China saying we can do better if we cooperate. What strikes me is the low level of rhetoric in this speech, the few real concepts, the lack of analysis – and this is MIT! And the core word is "fight".

 

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Soros sets some pace

COPENHAGEN Reuters – Billionaire George Soros said on Saturday that he would invest $1 billion in clean energy technology as part of an effort to combat climate change.The Hungarian-born U.S. investor also announced he would form and fund a new climate policy initiative with $10 million a year for 10 years."Global warming is a political problem," Soros told a meeting of editors in the Danish capital where governments are scheduled to meet in December to try to hammer out a new global climate agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

"The science is clear, what is less clear is whether world leaders will demonstrate the political will necessary to solve the problem," he said, according to a brief email statement.

but, defining it as a apolitical problem implies that politics – or green energy – can solve the problem. Way too narro for he current understanding.

via Soros aims to invest $1 bln in green tech| U.S.| Reuters.

the real struggle with health care is the cannibalism between health and other businesses. Business claims health takes too much, health wants to expand what it takes. Note, there is no reference to health in this struggle.

An economy in real decline (especially when environments are  included along with bad distribution of incomes) will lead people to struggle at the gutter level for scraps. This is completely inevitable with a  culture that stresses money wealth as core value.

Only careful attention to the quality of the whole culture can prevent this scrambling at the margins, and into the core.

green initiatives map

July 26, 2009

This map is a draft rendition of the conversation of July 23

http://byteeoh.com/?p=329

Aging 1

Woman are Displacing Men

Two trends are converging and may wreck havoc with how we work and who we employ: the rise of women in the workplace and the disappearance of work traditionally done by men.

Let’s start with men first.  Every economy in the world (except for perhaps a handful of small ones) are run by men, for men. The traditionally “good” jobs — those that pay a decent salary and command respect — have been overwhelmingly held by men. These include farming, manufacturing, and construction jobs. Also many of the jobs that require quantitative skills – mathematics, physics, financial services, stock brokerages, engineering, and so forth have been dominated by men.

But the recession over the past 2-3 years has displaced millions of men – mostly in these kinds of jobs.  Construction work has dried up and manufacturing has been automated, shipped abroad, or just made more efficient resulting in the loss of millions of jobs. Farming is automated and the financial services industry has shed thousands.  For the first time in history there are more women working than men.

Why should this bother us?  Unemployed men have always been a problem.  Idle men turn to alcohol, violence and crime.  Russia has a chronic alcohol problem, exacerbated by unemployment.  Nazi Germany rose due in part to massive male unemployment. In the U.S. the rise in crime and alcoholism an be traced to unemployment and the consequent loss of purpose and worth.  Every politician knows that political unrest and violence are the byproducts of a weak economy.  To reduce crime and keep men employed governments have used “make-work” projects to get men back to work. The United States did this during the Depression and China is doing it now by sponsoring massive public work projects that require construction workers and laborers.

However, in the United States this time around only a small amount of stimulus money is going to construction and other male-dominated fields. A larger portion is earmarked for green energy, research, education and other areas that employ fewer men. It is very likely that the traditional male occupations will never return to anywhere near their pre-recession levels.  Manufacturing will never be a major employer again. There will be growth in quantitative work, but women are increasingly more likely to be educated and qualify for those jobs.

This means that potentially millions of men may remain unemployed and the political question of this century will be what to do with not only unemployed men, but more significantly, unemployable men. Unemployable men are those whose age, education and experience make it difficult for them to learn a new skill. Thousands of men over 40 who have worked in the auto industry their entire lives are an example.  For them to find new jobs will require them to move to a city where jobs are available, get re-educated or learn a new skill, and start at the bottom of the salary scale. It is virtually certain that only a tiny percentage will do that.

At the same time women are receiving two-thirds of all college degrees, are filling the rising number of jobs that require creative thinking, collaboration, and teamwork, and are quickly moving into positions of power and influence where they can help their fellow women.

Right-brain skills are more and more in demand. Creativity, risk taking, entepreneurism, and the ability to live with ambiguity are fast becoming skills that corporations are seeking. Richard Florida has written a book describing such people — those with a mix of creative and analytical skills — as the Creative Class. This group is rapidly growing and will, according to Florida, become the dominant economic group. Women generally excel at these skills and that puts then into a favorable position for employment opportunities.

Given this scenario, it is highly palusible that organziations will have a majority of employees who are women and that the people – men or women – who have a balance of analytical and creative skills will gain a disproportionate amount of wealth.

The challenge for society will be to find a way to navigate through this without a rise in violence, crime or disenfranchised men.

Review by MICHIKO KAKUTANI

THE AGE OF THE UNTHINKABLE
Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us
and What We Can Do About It
By Joshua Cooper Ramo
280 pages. Little, Brown & Company. $25.99.

The philosopher Isaiah Berlin famously divided thinkers into two categories:
hedgehogs (like Plato, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen and
Proust), who know one big thing and tend to view the world through the lens
of a single organizing principle, and foxes (like Herodotus, Shakespeare,
Montaigne, Goethe, Balzac and Joyce), who know many things and who pursue
various unrelated, even contradictory ends.

According to Joshua Cooper Ramo’s provocative new book, “The Age of the
Unthinkable,” one study — in which hundreds of experts in subjects like
economics, foreign policy and politics were asked to make predictions about
the short-term future and whose predictions were evaluated five years later
— showed that foxes, with their wide-ranging curiosity and willingness to
embrace change, tended to be far more accurate in their forecasts than
hedgehogs, eager for closure and keen on applying a few big ideas to an
array of situations.

It’s a finding enthusiastically embraced by Mr. Ramo, who argues in these
pages that today’s complex, interconnected, globalized world requires policy
makers willing to toss out old assumptions (about cause and effect,
deterrence and defense, nation states and balances of power) and embrace
creative new approaches. Today’s world, he suggests, requires resilient
pragmatists who, like the most talented Silicon Valley venture capitalists
on the one hand or the survival-minded leadership of Hezbollah on the other,
possess both an intuitive ability to see problems in a larger context and a
willingness to rejigger their organizations continually to grapple with
ever-shifting challenges and circumstances.

With this volume, Mr. Ramo, managing director at the geostrategic advisory
firm Kissinger Associates and a former editor at Time magazine, seems to
have set out to write a Malcolm Gladwellesque book: a book that popularizes
complicated scientific theories while illustrating its arguments with
colorful case studies and friendly how-to exhortations.

In drawing upon chaos science (explored in detail in James Gleick’s 1987
book, “Chaos”), complexity theory and the theory of disruptive innovation
(pioneered by the Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen),
Mr. Ramo does a nimble job of showing how such theories shed light on the
current political and economic climate while avoiding the worst pitfalls
(like an overreliance on suggestion and innuendo and the use of
unrepresentative examples) of Mr. Gladwell’s clumsy last book, “Outliers.”

But if Mr. Ramo is adept at assessing the precarious state of today’s
post-cold-war world — in which nation states face asymmetric threats from
the likes of terrorists, drug cartels and computer hackers — he proves much
less convincing in articulating practical means of grappling with such
daunting problems.

The central image that Mr. Ramo uses to evoke what he calls this “age of
surprise” is Per Bak’s sand pile — that is, a sand pile described some two
decades ago by the Danish-American physicist Per Bak, who argued that if
grains of sand were dropped on a pile one at a time, the pile, at some
point, would enter a critical state in which another grain of sand could
cause a large avalanche — or nothing at all. It’s a hypothesis that shows
that a small event can have momentous consequences and that seemingly stable
systems can behave in highly unpredictable ways.

It’s also a hypothesis that Mr. Ramo employs in this book as a metaphor for
a complex world in which changes — in politics, ecosystems or financial
markets — take place not in smooth, linear progressions but as sequences of
fast, sometimes catastrophic events.

Real-life sand-pile avalanches, like the collapse of the Soviet Union or the
1929 crash of the stock market, Mr. Ramo declares, demand “a complete
remapping of the world”: policymakers must junk a lot of their old thinking
to cope with this unpredictable new order.

For instance, many of the assumptions of the realist school of
foreign-policy making — which focused on nation states, “assumed countries
were rational, and made the bet that pure power was the solution to any
problem” — have been undercut by the irrationalities and contingencies that
have recently multiplied on the world stage.

As Mr. Ramo observes, “Theories that involve only armies and diplomats don’t
have much use” when “confronted with the peculiar nature of a financially
interconnected world, where danger, risk and profit are linked in ways that
can be impossible to spot and manage.”

To make matters even more complicated, Mr. Ramo continues, complex systems
“tend to become more complex as time goes on”:

“The systems never get simpler. There was no moment at which they would
evaporate or condense into a single, easy-to-spot target such as the
U.S.S.R. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, for example, was a single very
knotty event that, in turn, gave birth to hundreds of jihadist groups, each
of which developed different methods of terror, particular techniques of
attack and destruction, which themselves were always changing and evolving.”

In this sand-pile world, a small group of terrorists armed with box cutters
can inflict a terrible blow on a superpower — as Al Qaeda did on 9/11, just
as bands of insurgents in Iraq managed to keep the mighty United States
military at bay for three long years.

Iraq, Mr. Ramo astutely notes, is a war that showcased all of America’s most
“maladaptive” tendencies. It was inaugurated on the premise of flawed idées
fixes: that it would have “a clean, fast end” and would lead to a democratic
regime that would transform the Middle East in a positive fashion. And the
certainty of Bush administration officials not only led to incorrect
assumptions (like the bet that “the ‘ecosystem’ of Iraq would settle into
something stable that could be left to run itself”) but also resulted in an
ill-planned and rigid occupation that was “incapable of the speedy
refiguring that life in a war zone” inevitably requires.

So how should leaders cope with the sand-pile world? How can they learn to
“ride the earthquake” and protect their countries from the worst fallout of
such tremors? Mr. Ramo suggests that they must learn to build resilient
societies with strong immune systems: instead of undertaking the impossible
task of trying to prepare for every possible contingency, they ought to
focus on things like “national health care, construction of a better
transport infrastructure and investment in education.”

He suggests that leaders should develop ways of looking at problems that
focus more on context than on reductive answers. And he talks about people
learning to become gardeners instead of architects, of embracing Eastern
ideas of indirection instead of Western patterns of confrontation, of seeing
“threats as systems, not objects.”

Though Mr. Ramo sounds annoyingly fuzzy and vaguely New Agey when he tries
to outline tactics for dealing with “the age of the unthinkable,” he’s at
least managed, in this stimulating volume, to make the reader seriously
contemplate the alarming nature of a rapidly changing world — a world in
which uncertainty and indeterminacy are givens, and avalanches, negative
cascades and tectonic shifts are ever-present dangers.

April 28, 2009
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/books/28kaku.html