Digest: 4 August 2013

Abstract

Sir David Frost interviews Daniel Barenboim, the world-famous pianist and orchestra conductor. – Solar energy products for use in buildings and building materials and the private equity investment structure to fund their development are progressing. — The cooperative economy of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy includes sophisticated production co-ops that compete in international markets, and service co-ops offering innovative solutions to social and government problems. — Developments in 3D printing are exciting, but we should also adjust out expectations so as to avoid inadvertently creating a backlash against 3D printing of the sort that struck solar energy and electric cars after initial disappointments. — A new book discusses the role of central bankers, their decision-making processes, and the frustrating lack of international policy coordination. —  Climate finance suffers from a lack of established metrics or agreed definitions of the quality of such finance, a new report seeks to redress this weakness. — We have neglected the role of dreaming in our approach to solving problems, this prevents us from imagining new ways of what is possible, visions of what we should be working towards. – NSA methods are supported in the executive branch, and the legislative branch has failed to rein it in, hope for change now rests with the Supreme Court. –  The EU/China relationship suffers from the EU’s ongoing identity crisis, and from a lack of more strategic consideration of direction. —  We need to understand what makes people tick if we are going to engage them in progressive change, six biases keep progressives from effectively increasing their influence, and six countervailing truths could have profound implications for progressives. —  Increasing violence has often resulted from rising temperatures, this has taken place across all scales, individual, domestic, inter-group, regime, wars, and collapse of empire.

Highlight

In Daniel Barenboim: ‘Spaces of Dialogue, Sir David Frost (for Al Jazeera) interviews the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. Barenboim discusses his development as a musician, his family, the controversy that was raised as a result of his choice to perform music by Richard Wagner, and the political situation between Israel and Palestine.  In the context of the latter, he discusses the orchestra he set up of Arab and Israeli musicians as a model representation of the possibility of the two cultures getting along.  Unfortunately the orchestra, though achieving worldwide acclaim, has been unable to play in any of the countries represented in the orchestra.

Economics

In Foster’s Solar Skinned Buildings Signal Market Tripling, Louise Downing (for Bloomberg) discusses the growing use of of solar cells in buildings and building materials. The market is expected to grow to $7.5 billion in 2015 from $2.1 billion today.  Solar energy products, and the private equity investment structure to fund their development, are progressing. The use of solar allows the localization of energy production – this will increasingly compete with the cost of fossil-fuel power, potentially having a devastating effect on utility industry revenues.

In How Successful Cooperative Economic Models Can Work Wonderfully…Somewhere Else, Frank Joyce (for AlterNet) discusses the foundation of myths upon which capitalism rests. The myths are that capitalism invented entrepreneurship, that capitalism provides the only market economy, that only capitalism is compatible with self-reliance and individual responsibility, that capitalism is the model of efficiency, and that there is no alternative.  Joyce discusses the vibrant cooperative economy of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and its largest city Bologna. This economy includes sophisticated production co-ops that compete in international markets, and service co-ops offering innovative solutions to social and government problems.

In Let’s Curb Our 3D-Printer Enthusiasm, Folks, Vivek Wadhwa (for The Washington Post) discusses that while we should be excited by developments in 3D printing, we should also adjust out expectations.  By doing so we will avoid inadvertently creating a backlash against 3D printing of the sort that struck solar energy and electric cars after initial disappointments.  The development curves of new technologies generally run flat for some time after initial launch and before ultimate growth takes place. The greatest development will take place when those who are now growing up with the initial forays will apply the more advanced 3D technology later.

In The Myth of the Omnipotent Central Banker, Adam S. Posen (for Foreign Affairs) discusses Neil Irwin’s new book The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire. The review praises the work on a number of points, and describes in some detail certain aspects of the role of the central banker – how decisions are made in the face of inevitable uncertainty, and the roles of committees and of politics in that decision-making. He also discusses the problematic state of cross-border policy coordination – initial successes following the 2007-09 financial crisis has been followed by a series of more frustrating interactions.

Environmental

In First Steps Toward a Quality of Climate Finance Scorecard, Katherine Sierra and Timmons Roberts (for The Brookings Institution) discuss the lack of established metrics or agreed definitions of the quality of climate finance. Quality, taken as a subjective metric, means different things to different stakeholders.  The authors of the report are looking to enhance the development of common definitions and metrics.  In doing so, they hope to help in allowing better comparisons of the use of best practices across funding institutions, to outline the importance of assessing international climate finance contributions, and increasing awareness where data sets are lacking.

In A Republican Secretary of State Urges Action on Climate Change, David Biello (for Scientific American) provides an edited transcript of an interview with George Shultz on climate change.  Shultz was a key negotiator in the context of the Montreal Protocol that phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone depleting chemicals. While few Republicans seriously address the issue of climate change, Shultz is an outlier.  The interview covers his views on how climate change affects national security, how the military is addressing it, how we’ve missed chances along the way to improve national, economic and environmental security particularly in the area of R&D related to renewable energy.

Political

In Political Dreaming in the Twenty-First Century, Ira Chernus (for Nature of Change) discusses how in our approach to solving problems we have neglected the role of dreaming.  Chernus sees dreaming as freedom, the space in which we can imagine new ways of what is possible, in which we can develop visions of what we should be working towards.  By not dreaming we limit ourselves to the immediate space of problems that exist in the here and now, but we fail to see the context of those problems, how they relate to establishing our desired future.  The future will never look like what we have imagined, but at least it can set us in the right direction, give us a sense of what we are heading towards.

In The Supreme Court May Be the Best Hope to Stop the NSA, Shane Harris (for Foreign Policy) discusses the support of NSA methods in the executive branch, and the failure of the legislative branch to rein it in.  Hope for change now rests with the judicial branch, specifically the Supreme Court.  Challenges to surveillance efforts so far have failed for a want of evidence showing that the challenger of the behavior had suffered harm. With the release of classified documents by Edward Snowden, this problem may have been overcome, but it is too early to celebrate.

In Defining a Sino-European Vision, Wang Yiwei (for Project Syndicate) discusses the relationship between the EU and China and how the relationship suffers from the EU’s ongoing identity crisis related to whether it is a single superstate or a bloc of individual states. The EU and China consider each other strategic partners – for China the EU offsets US power, is China’s major trading partner especially in technology, and provides a model of harmonious development.  However, there are concerns about Chinese competition in the EU, the relationship between the EU and its Member States causes diplomatic complications for China, and differences in geo-political/economic approaches add to the strain. Possibilities exist for a strengthening of the relationship, and they should be pursued.

In Go Deep, Not Thin, to Win, Michael Bader (for AlterNet) discusses that we need to understand what makes people tick if we are going to engage them in progressive change. People do not make decisions based on objective self-interest and objective reality, they make decisions based on what they see and how it makes them feel at subconscious levels. The article describes six biases that keep progressives from effectively increasing their influence, and provides six countervailing truths that could have profound implications for progressives. To have a real difference, progressives must develop a deeper and more complex understanding of the human person.

Social

In Hot and Bothered: Climate Warming Predicted to Increase Violent Conflicts, Bob O’Hara and GrrlScientist (for The Guardian) discuss a new study that predicts increasing violence will result from rising temperatures in the context of climate change. The article describes the structure of the study and the question of causality and variables, and its  conclusion that increasing temperatures result in increasing violence and have consistently done so across all scales: individual, domestic, inter-group, regime, wars, and collapse of empire.

In America’s Two Most Troubled Sectors: Health and Education, Isabel V. Sawhill (for The Brookings Institution) discusses how similarities between the two sectors help to explain why they are not performing better.  These similarities include: fee for service and not pay for performance, low productivity, third-party payment, and entrenched interests that mitigate against change. Sawhill argues that unless these factors change, the United States will become a second-class nation – strong health and education are necessary to the strength of the nation.