Questioning Existing Theories
As an economist by education and a data scientist by profession, I love to question existing theories and find connections and interpretability in problems using experiments and data intelligence. Today, I want to reflect on how to work on your social capital.
“How are you doing today?”
This is a question that has forever haunted me. Not only because I am an introvert and I feel awkward at social gatherings, but I honestly felt that I did not have a cool answer! It is so difficult to initiate a conversation with random people on calls, or conferences or at networking events. As a result of my lack of social skills, I have lost many opportunities to build relationships and fallen prey to miscommunication. However, over the years, I have found my own versions and have slowly adapted to such situations. I have read and gone through gazillions of articles and videos where experts have shown correct body language, eye contact and the exact right words to be used when you face this daunting question during a conversation. But something that I stumbled upon recently just blew my mind away!
Simple always works
It is important that you are aware of your own emotions and feelings. For starters, get comfortable with your own self to become socially comfortable. Keep it simple. Stay authentic. This was a revelation to me and I read lot of books, articles in order to understand further. Finally, I attempted what I do best. I created an experiment to learn how I am really doing internally and measure the state of my mind.
A measurement question
So let me help you understand what I mean. I structured a measurement question for myself
“How are you doing today?”
This is how it works. Measure yourself on a scale of 1-10 how are you feeling today.
1 being extreme crisis and you have hit the panic button. 10 being you are awesome, there is nothing stopping you!
The above scale above gives me clarity, direction and helps me identify my plan of action for the day. I have been a 1-2 and now I feel I am a 6-7. There is no need to panic if you find yourself on the lower end of the scale. I regularly try to stay connected, and seek feedback from my close network. Now, question is how do I rate myself? No, it is not based on guesses. Remember, humans are believers of logic and evidence.
The article I read summarizes the below questions to help you get to a rating for your “form” on a particular day.
Remember this is a guided scale and interpretations could be subjective. Note down results and monitor your patterns for a week to understand your “form”. Keep at it until it is internalized. This daily ritual has helped me stay true to myself and improved my authenticity.
Reflect and share
Stay inspired. Say hello to the warrior within you!
Why Imagination is the Currency of the 21st Century
At the age of 16, Einstein imagined chasing after a beam of light, and this thought experiment played a memorable role in his development of special theory of relativity. The theory says ‘motion of anything in this universe faster than the velocity of light is impossible’.
Einstein cherished what he called Gedankenexperimente, ideas that twirled around in his head rather than in a lab. Of course, your school teacher will call it daydreaming. If you are Einstein you get to call them Gedankenexperimente.
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein
Einstein's thought experiments should give an inner call for action to teachers/educators to foster imagination. If we hope to inspire our kids to solve the challenging problems of 'climate change', 'pandemic','energy crisis' we need to do more than drill them in math and memorize formulae. We should stimulate their minds’ eyes and encourage them to emerge as thinkers and visionaries.
Because, Einstein dared to culture a wandering mind, scientists of of the 21st century are making a living by expounding and writing papers on terms like big bang, black hole, gravitational waves, expanding universe and many others.
Again, quoting the genius, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Imagination leads to an experiential science. Science paves the path for technological invention
GPS (Global Positioning System), a multi-billion dollar growth industry with applications in airplane navigation, oil exploration, bridge construction, sailing etc. are experiential science in action. GPS is based on 24 artificial satellites that contain atomic clocks to provide very precise time data which is ultimately converted to the position data. It is a radio location technique for accurate position determination used by us even when driving a car. Because of relativistic gravitational potential (as the satellites are in orbits 20,000 km above the ground), the atomic clocks in satellites of GPS system get advanced by 38.2μs every day with respect to the identical clocks in the ground station. Thus the clocks in the satellites need relativistic correction of 38.2μs per day, otherwise position determination will be erroneous by several kilometres.
Einstein’s famous mass-energy equation: E = mc², where E is the energy equivalent of mass m of the body being multiplied by square of the velocity of light (c = 3 x 10^8 m/s), gave the clue to generate nuclear power with fission process. Planck-Einstein relation: E = hν, where h is Planck’s constant (6.626 x 10^-34 J-s) and ν is the frequency of oscillation of the radiation. This together with Einstein’s relativity theory forms the basis of particle accelerators of high energy physics-that is capable of producing energy of the order of tera i.e. trillion electron-volt.
Einstein also established that light consist of particles called ‘photon’ through his photoelectric effect. He received Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 primarily for this photon concept (that paved the way for the development of quantum mechanics) in addition to his theoretical works on relativity. The phenomenon of photoelectric effect has plethora of applications including those in solar cells, in sensors of digital camera and so on.
Imagination fuels the concept of Black Hole
In 1930s Indian born American scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar based on Einstein’s relativity theory and quantum mechanics came up with ‘Chandrasekhar Limit’—stars with 1.4 times the solar mass. It so happens, on a long sea voyage from India to England in 1930 at the age of 19, he worked it out. According to the science of quantum mechanics, there are forces that develops —known as ‘electron degeneracy pressure’— within the very atoms of the white dwarf star that counteract the force of gravity. Chandrasekhar determined that any star having 1.4 times solar mass after its death (i.e. when its nuclear fuel is exhausted) settles as a stable ‘white dwarf’.
It was established subsequently by other researchers that stars with 1.4 to 3 times the solar mass would settle after death as ‘neutron star’—some of which as observed from Earth are known as pulsar (pulsating star).
However, supermassive stars with 25 solar mass or more (after its ‘death’ i.e. when its nuclear fuel is exhausted) settles to a black hole. It was not possible at that time to prove the existence of black hole. Chandrasekhar got the recognition of his work with award of Nobel Prize in Physics only in 1983 after the first black hole was experimentally observed in 1972.
Nothing, even light can ever escape from the pull of the monstrous gravity of a black hole. Thus, the name coined by relativity expert, John Wheeler. The gravity’s stupendous grip is so inexorable for a black hole that it curves space and warps time to extreme extent according to Einstein’s general relativity. Anything and everything (planet, star and even a whole solar system or galaxy) that comes close to its ‘event horizon’, a point of no return, get swallowed by its inescapable gravitational attraction.
Inside a black hole there is only one thing—singularity—where all physical laws including relativity theory (from which the possibility of black hole was predicted) fails.
As imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT): The first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow- M87* is a black hole at the centre of the massive galaxy M87, ~55 million light-years (one light year equals 9.46 trillion kilometres) from Earth. The black hole is 6.5 billion times more massive than our Sun.
Prior to 1971, all theoretical studies of black holes had been based on Einstein’s general relativistic laws, and those studies were unequivocal: It is a hole and cannot radiate. Black holes are now known to spin, and as it spins it creates a tornado-like swirling motion in the curved space-time around it when it radiates; not only gravitational waves, but also electromagnetic waves, and all other forms of radiation that can exist in nature.
The black holes were catalogued at the initial stage of their experimental studies only indirectly through their gravitational tugs on stars in their neighborhood and fireworks left behind by the superheated matter being sucked into it by its monstrous gravitational pull.
Like the Cheshire cat in Alice’s Wonderland, the black hole disappears from the view (in the optical sense), leaving only its “smile”—the signature of the distortion of space-time (based on the theory of general relativity) caused by super-intense gravitational field.
In 1972 radio astronomers identified the first black hole in distant space: Cygnus X1, 6000 light years from Earth, by studying the X-rays that are generated very close to the hole’s event horizon. In 1994, the Hubble telescope first discovered that the galaxy Messier 87 (55 million light years away from the Earth) contained a black hole M87*.
In 2019 EHT (Event Horizon Telescope) has imaged black hole M87* located at the heart of the supergiant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 in the constellation Virgo.
EHT—an Earth size virtual aperture radio telescope, sharpest astronomical instrument ever assembled on Earth, consisted of eight radio telescopes, operating at millimeter-wave frequency: 230 GHz i.e. 1.3 mm wavelength spanning the Antarctic, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America.
The image of black hole obtained by EHT matches very well with the predictions worked out by theoretical physicists on the basis of general theory of relativity.
Wrapping up with Einstein's Gedankenexperimente
Years later, when his younger son, Eduard, asked why he was so famous, Einstein replied by using another simple thought experiment to describe his insight that gravity was the curving of the fabric of space-time. “When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of a curved branch, it doesn’t notice that the track it has covered is indeed curved,” he said. “I was lucky enough to notice what the beetle didn’t notice.”
In fact, Einstein did more than just notice what the blind beetle couldn’t see. He was able to imagine it by conjuring up thought experiments. That ability to visualize the unseen has always been the key to creative genius. As Einstein later put it, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Former Professor of Radio Physics and Electronics, Calcutta University
Author of a forthcoming book 'Knowledge about Universe-Down the Ages'
Working with women prisoners familiarised me with the concepts of lockdown and social isolation
If you have ever visited a prison you will know 'lockdown' is a concept that accompanies the daily routine of the prisoners and 'social isolation' is a part of their everyday monotonous prison life.
In 2008, as a student social worker, I began working in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, in a prison, for under trial women. Thereafter, my journey continued in two women’s ward/prisons in Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, for my doctoral research under JU-SYLFF programme in 2010-11.
In India, there are specific periods of time when the prisoners are allowed to move about in the prison campus, while the rest of the time is spent locked within their cells. Life in COVID19 lockdown has several resonances.The pain and desperation caused by lack of freedom and meaningful human connections was represented by the women through their narratives and body language. Working with women prisoners brought me to realise the the burden of stigma and the distress of isolation .
Living lockdown life in COVID-19 pandemic brings back powerful memories of women inmates I met in prison
68% of the foreign national prisoners in India are there due to the profound ignorance exhibited by a certain British lawyer, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who had never been to India, or anywhere else in Asia, and was unmindful about the psycho- graphics and demographics of British India.The legacy of his acts continued in post-independence India.
Women, I researched for my doctoral thesis, were from the neighbouring country Bangladesh and were charged under the Foreigners Act 1946. They were in prison for having crossed the India-Bangladesh border without valid official documents. I spoke with 40 Bangladeshi women in two prisons of Kolkata. According to the Correctional Services, West Bengal, “Report of BD Nationals including UT, Convict and Released (JK) as on 01.06.11 of different Correctional Homes”, there were 2160 Bangladeshi prisoners housed in 33 different correctional homes in Kolkata in June 2011. According to the data furnished by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), it has been found that at the end of 2018, out of the 5,168 foreign national prisoners in India, 68.8% were Bangladeshis.
The high percentage of Bangladeshi prisoners in India must be taken note of in the context of the shared history between India and Bangladesh and the everyday interaction across their porous borders. Here, it must be brought to notice that British colonial rule partitioned one community into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (was erstwhile East Pakistan). The Radcliffe line which was artificially drawn between India and Bangladesh divided people’s homes and neighbours. It imposed a sense of estrangement between communities which were historically attuned to living in close proximity with each other. While the scars of partition continue to be passed on from one generation to the next, so do the socialities between people across the Indo-Bangladesh border. People continue to maintain relationships across the borders and this is evidenced through, kinship ties and border markets. The Bangladeshi women I met in prison also stated the historical relationship between India and Bangladesh as one of the reasons why they decided to migrate to India.
First as an area of curiosity and then as a humanitarian issue which needed the attention of civil society and policy makers, I went on to explore and understand their journey from Bangladesh to being a prisoner in India.
Researching with the Bangladeshi women in prison on issues which impacted their life opened new areas of my limited conceptual understanding. I started with three research questions:
- How do they negotiate, manipulate and resist both societal and institutional norms?
- How do they challenge the notion of ‘honour’ which is integral to the male-dominated South Asian society?
- How do they make meaning in their everyday existence, living in incarceration?
The narratives of the Bangladeshi women in prisons in India ‘answered’ my research questions and brought to my notice how their lives were shaped not only by violence but also an experience of love with other male and/or female prisoners. They challenged my normative understanding of their mundane prison life and brought me to understand how they resisted and negotiated the institutions and structures they were confronted with in their everyday life. Being in love in prison enabled them to recast themselves and re-imagine their lives and sense of self. It provided them with a sense of hope in an otherwise uncertain future. The women utilised every opportunity to imagine and express a feeling of love and being loved. They wrote love letters to male prisoners, exchanged glances with men when they went to court or other parts of the prison outside the female ward. They carved the names of their lovers on their arms with the help of henna from a plant in the female ward. Their love went beyond the heteronormative ideas of monogamy and love as an end to reproduction.
Aalia, 30-year-old Bangladeshi woman in prison sang:
Manush jibon e prem ache (there is love in human life)
Tai toh shobai bhalo bashe (this is reason people get attracted to each other)
Prothom jaare lagey bhalo (the one who appeals to you at first sight)
Dekhte mone ichcha kore (you want to see them again)
Aalia, like many other women in the prison often recited or wrote songs about love.
Riya, an eighteen-year-old married woman, said in a moment of rage: "You are also a young girl. We are younger than you. Don’t you do what you want to do and when you want to do it? Think about us...we cannot do anything that we want...Can you do me a favour...when you go out and tell people about us please also tell them that these girls want to come out of prison because winters are approaching and they cannot stay in the prison without a man. I hope you understand what I am trying to say."
The women’s expressions of love made their bodily desires visible as well as constantly invisible, by virtue of a lack of space or opportunity to enact those desires. They encountered the pain of imprisonment through imagination, language or bodily expressions of love. The idea of being in love enabled them to recast themselves and hope for a better future.
Practitioners, scholars, and activists were invited to discuss the plight of women prisoners in India
What the love stories of Aalia and Riya have to offer us in this time of crisis?
The Narratives of Aalia and Riya demand that we look at various ways for sustaining the emotional lives of the prisoners. There is an urgent need to re-imagine the world order and re-build it on an ethic which ensures emotional sustainability. Recovery of the economic and political life, or the 'physical bodies of humans' and 'physical structures of society' is not enough. There needs to be a strong co-existence of the mind/body and reason/emotions for sustainable living. In addition, any policy and institutional framework designed for humans, needs to take into account the complexity of this co-existence and the intersectionalities of caste, class, race and gender which confine them. Politics of emotion needs to be an integral aspect of understanding society. An understanding of the politics of emotion opens the door for co-feeling with those who may not occupy the same echelons of power, thereby, fostering a space for power sharing and empathy.
Re-imagining Recovery Package with Radical Empathy
-The 21st century industrial society needs to shift gears and understand diverse aspects of human life
-The recovery packages cannot be transformative by focusing on only physical and economic well-being
-Human well-being and justice in all its multiple dimensions need to be in consideration, not just economic recovery
-Invest in building social capital to stay engaged in eradicating despair and isolation from society
-Social Scientists, Social Workers, Humanitarian Action Workers need to lead the way forward through knowledge generation and dissemination
-Investment in inclusion of social work and humanitarian action in the region as a required course in curriculum of each educational institution
Society as a whole can only thrive when we focus on emotional well-being and a sense of self worth amongst it's participants. It can only be sustained if the essence of radical empathy is incorporated in our everyday understanding of social-political institutions and the functioning of the market : from the micro to the macro. Connectedness, not isolation, is the way ahead.
Author of Women, Mobility and Incarceration: Love and Recasting of Self across the Bangladesh-India Border (Routledge 2018).
COVID-19 Communication: Fuel for Social Distrust
If you watch closely from within the society you can see the world is in an utter state of confusion and disarray.
Volatility, disbelief and fear are the three essentials that are ravaging our society. That is, if you are a part of the suffering society.
However, if you are a bureaucrat, your experiential landscape is completely different. Governed by the diktats of donors (and/or political leaders ) the pressure on bureaucracy is to produce quantifiable results!!!!
The Need for Effective Communication
The world witnessed HIV and AIDS. In 1981 first case was reported in USA and then over decades spread to several countries. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS, 2002-2003) originated in China and spread to nearly 29 countries, Swine Flu (2009-2010) appeared in Mexico and then spread to atleast 30 countries and Ebola (2013-2014) appeared in Africa and spread to at least 10 countries. It was the geographical spread of the virus which earned them the title of a pandemic. People affected by these viruses did not reach the proportion of either HIV or the current COVID-19.
In the absence of a vaccine, communication with focus on risk communication forms an integral part of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). In 2005 the International Health Regulations underscored the importance of risk communication as a health intervention. Later on, risk communication became central to WHO’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework.
The Learning from Previous Pandemics
1. HIV demanded the shift in discourse to risk communication;
2. SARS taught us the need to address mental health issues of people in isolation and healthcare workers.
3. MERS, Ebola highlighted the importance of real time monitoring of health data, importance of usage of advanced technology in healthcare.
How WHO (World Health Organization) Handled the Communication During COVID-19?
A dedicated webpage was designed on COVID-19 to tell the world on how to tackle the pandemic to reduce risk of getting infected. Graphic designers got in the game. They actively participated in spreading COVID19 awareness
In fact, there are quite a few similarities between HIV and COVID-19:
1. Both started with no vaccine for cure.
2. Both the pandemics have created social and moral panic.
3. HIV was slow onslaught and took nearly four decades to cause disruptions but similar to COVID-19, HIV had unprecedented impact on public health, human development and individual lives.
4. HIV made it evident that individual-centered risk reduction strategies have limited success since they discuss risk in a social vacuum.
HIV encouraged bottom-up approach in health communication.
The emphasis was on the need for communication for social change - ‘process where “community dialogue” and “collective action” work together to produce social change’.
In reality, the perception of risk is intertwined with the social context of the individual. Hence, health communication should understand and address the lived realities of individuals.
Driving COVID-19 Awareness Becomes A Bureaucratic Tool of Control
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in India developed officially a plethora of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials related to COVID-19. Along with print and electronic media; social media was used extensively to connect with the people. There was a dedicated webpage on COVID-19 on the website of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
The Ministry of Health ensured greater stakeholder engagement in risk communication by networking with different departments such as department of telecommunication, postal services etc.
The IEC materials addressed various issues - health risks, mental health, empathy, care and support, stigma and discrimination. There are messages such as ‘Do not stigmatise patients and family members’, ‘Do not stigmatise Covid-19 survivors’, ‘Standing together against Covid-19 stigma’. A psycho-social toll-free helpline has been created for better community engagement. For the first time, there is a series of communication materials talking about the contribution of the front line workers, their need for protection and the responsibility of the society to be respectful towards them.
A FEAR MONGERING POSTER!!!
Glaring Blind spots in COVID-19 Communication
Communication 'materials' with no community connect. Notwithstanding the positive endeavour of MoHFW, several challenges still remain.
Bridging Gaps or Deepening Inequalities?
By upholding the globally coined language of 'social distancing' but not WHO health advisory of 'physical distancing' as key to risk reduction communication existing inequities in the pre-COVID society in India is only deepening . Social discrimination, stigmatization of social classes, COVID positive patients are becoming ground realities of extremely added pain in the state of utter confusion in the economically shattering society. The Indian caste system thrives on the idea of "social distancing" !! . The practice of purity and pollution is through the exercise of social distancing between castes. The upper caste maintains its purity by socially distancing themselves from the impure, lower caste. As history shows the concept of socially distancing is inherently divisive. So, for such a society insensitive communication material is deepening the crisis to the extreme.
Globally coined "Social distancing" also implies people have the requisite resources and the enabling environment to adopt such preventive strategies. As yourself, can a daily wage earner, migrant labourer and countless homeless; who jostle for space, living in urban slums afford to practice social distancing when they need to depend on larger society for their livelihood by providing domestic help and running errands, selling what little skills they have?
No Bureaucratic IEC materials address the vulnerability of groups such as migrant labourers, homeless people, sex workers and others. As if it was to protect only urban rich.
STAY HOME, STAY SAFE WORKS ONLY IF YOU HAVE A PLACE TO LIVE IN
The approach remains top-down, 'control and convey', rather than being bottom-up. Moreover, given the socioeconomic realities of millions of people in India, as they try to navigate through survival, hunger and health; do you think it is possible for them to actually practice such elaborate norms of hand wash, sanitization practices and social and physical distancing.
In reality, COVID-19 communication highlighted a human society that has been blind to the basic needs of clean water and clean living spaces. The biggest cause of concern in the Indian context has been the uncritical acceptance of the global framework of "social distancing" risk communication.
1. Governed by the diktats of donors the pressure on bureaucracy is to produce quantifiable results.
2. Official reports are on headcounts.
3. National achievements are shown in Counting numbers of IEC materials produced, new media used, number of NGOs supported in communication materials preparation, people to whom these have been told.
If we observe the pattern of risk communication in India, it becomes apparent that the exercise is an attempt to respond to the bureaucratic targets of preparing information book, reports rather than to uplifting the lives of people. Failure to connect to societal dire needs is the recipe for social distrust with very long term negative impact on sustainable progress.
HIV had clearly shown that health communication is effective only when social norms and cultures are honored. National strategy can be stronger if it is NOT donor driven. Community practices, socio-cultural wisdom can enrich risk communication. Health communication will be inclusive, empowering and sustainable only when there is greater community involvement, articulation of local knowledge in health messages, existing power structures and inequalities are challenged. Sustainability depends on a hyphenated relation between global and local; we cannot let one overpower the other.
Take home messages from Covid-19 for way forward ?
a. Customize locally appropriate health messages
b. Local words, visuals and faces from the community should find a space in health-related materials.
c. Decentralize the process of health promotion
d. Health sector experts, workers to take lead rather than the standard bureaucracy
e. People need to be proactive even when this Pandemic is over and prepare dos and don'ts.
f. Investment and Wider engagement on a continuous scale in community health promotion and training.
g. Health and hygiene provision and training at all scales as basic human right
h. Local institutions to be engaged in documentation and dissemination of local/traditional practices of good health.
i. Information, communication and Education (IEC) materials need to be continuously taught to the society.
i. IEC should consciously highlight the healthy practices already in place and practiced by diverse communities.
j. Health exhibits at the community level in the local language to sensitize people.
We should not forget that in India, despite vaccines, every year seasonal measles attack is an annual phenomena. Family level Quarantine of the patient is a common family practice. The individual remains in self-isolation for three weeks. Such practices neither arouse stigma nor do they create any panic in the society. Instead of blindly following the global hype, we need to dip into our cultural intelligence and our sub-conscious wisdom. In doing so, we need to resort to messaging that uses local art forms to connect with community better.
Sreerupa Sengupta, works in the space of gender, media, public policy and human rights
COVID-19 Indicates the Essentials of Dignified Living
The recent worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has placed us face to face with the ferocity of Gaia, prompting us to introspect — to reverse the wanton way of our life in enjoying the material world. Can 7.8 billion population sustain in the culture of consumerism, with unbounded material production activities in the pursuit of 'go as you like' actions, putting pressure on the ecological and environmental balance of the earth?
The appearance of the virus at this juncture hence came to be termed by many ( Gatti, 2020; Poudel et al 2020; Gourinchas, 2020) as the nature’s negative feedback to turn the things right. In the words of R.C Gatti –the planet has become sick of us and now it tries to make us sick. The pandemic is the aftermath of Gaia’s pro-activeness to self regulate its system or a mere coincidence at this rat race and restless competitive human existence.
Gaia —The Natural Capital
“Gaia” is the ‘mother earth’ named after the Greek Goddess. The Gaia is the super ecosystem, a composite of diverse micro ecosystems like oceans, rivers, ponds, forests, mountains etc. containing diverse biotic and a-biotic resources. GAIA is self regulating and self perpetuating mechanism. The entire ecosystem is governed by the delicate balance of carbon, water and other gases. The fine tuned natural law produces ideal conditions that make life on earth possible.
Natural Law dictates the interconnected actions and reactions of the living organisms. This results in a dynamic process of balancing, interaction and feedback loop operating among different species of living objects. Back in 2003 Lenton et. al. wrote (a) although there is a state of thermodynamic atmospheric disequilibrium owing to the activities of life, the aspects of its composition are remarkably stable (b) the conditions at the surface of the Earth are usually at the near optimal state for the dominant organisms (c) life has persisted for over 3.8 billion years despite increasing solar luminosity and variable exchange of matter with the inner Earth. (d) the Earth system has time and again revived through self regulating mechanisms from enormous disturbances.
The Present Imbalance — Why Gaia is Sick?
Carbon captured in fossil fuels burnt, released, and overloaded the atmosphere. Hence, the imbalance. Over loading of chemicals manufactured in the processes since the 18th century, without regard to nature’s self regulating law has resulted in deforestation, disposal of wastes from human activities, poisonous natural water bodies, destruction of land’s fertility. Human intervention has led to loss of species, locust invasion, diseased plants, arsenic and fluoride infested ground water aquifers, vector borne disease, toxic air pollution— all leading to a sick eco-system.
In the words of Picasso “If we can relearn to value and respect Gaia, God the Mother, we may know the honour of contributing to the balance that supports life rather than instability that threatens it”.
We are the last generation that can still reverse the course. Education, investing and repairing the damage rests on this generation and this generation only.
Post COVID-19 Recovery Can Reduce Consumerism and Revive Gaia
COVID-19 brought into limelight one unique, but common realization for those who are living the life of plenty — non-essential material possessions is not essential for living a dignified life.
The post- COVID-19 conversation should hail the encouragement of resource re-direction towards meeting the essential needs of meeting of 50% of 7.8 billion who are deprived of the essentials of a dignified living.
While traditional mass knowledge producers are looking for putting old wine in a new bottle, the wisdom of Gaia provokes us to re-imagine and produce COVID-19 Societal Self-regulatory Recovery path.
According to living planet report (2010), myopic vision of nature, deposits of carbon rich fuels and blindness to all other bounty has led to all undesirable consequences:
(a) Habitat loss due to rampant conversion of forest land for agriculture, aquaculture, industrial or urban use .
(b) Depleted stock of biodiversity through over exploitation. between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) of forest, according to the World Bank—an area larger than South Africa ( Nunez, 2019)
(c) Pollution from excessive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, mining waste, urban and industrial effluents etc
(d) Crop loss due to invasive species, infestation of predators and parasites
(e) Climate change due to burning of fossil fuel and massive deforestation
(f) Indigenous communities and many local communities who lived with nature for ages are retaliating the colonization impact
(g) Ground water extraction has been at the rate of 982km3 /year (NGWA, 2020).
Biodiversity has declined by about 30 per cent between 1970 and 2007; and with business usual practices, 2.8 planets will be needed by 2050 to provide for consumption and to store carbon generated from combustion of fossil fuels, land use change and chemical processes. Humanity’s footprint had been about 2.7 gha per person while biocapacity only 1.8 gha per person with resulting in ecological overshoot by about 50%. Current projections indicate a CO2 concentration between 600 and 1000 ppm by the year 2100 which is likely to change the biology of invasive agricultural diseases, insects and weeds (IPCC, 2007). Big question is how long can we afford to neglect this scale of adverse natural phenomena that threaten our sustainability?
At this rate of extraction the balancing mechanism is considerably lost and in her urgency to bring about balancing mechanisms, we experience her fury in the form of adverse natural events like wild fire, flood, pestilence, famine, storms, global warming etc.
The Pathway Forward
1. Re-build and educate a larger society aware of the regenerative capacity of Gaia.
2. Re-think of Natural Capital that needs servicing to maintain clean air and clean water.
3. Re-define the use of Natural Capital that provide minerals, woods, food.
4. Re-develop the science of Natural Capital that regulates daily temperature and rainfall patterns.
5. Re-imagine the amenity services of Natural capital with its mountain peaks like Himalayas, Denali, Alps, ocean and coasts provide.
Need of the hour is to educate economists and researchers with environmental economics, ecological economics, bio-economics, but also urgently needed for company executives, NGOs, decision makers, policy makers, bankers, investors, national accounts departments to know how to correct distortion in economic progress accounting, greening of GDP accounting, correct distortion in market prices, government regulations and work with communities to empower them for keeping Gaia healthy and productive with natural regulatory mechanism.
Soumyendra Kishore Datta
Christina Nunez(2019) Climate 101, Deforestation, National Geographic, Feb 7
National Ground Water Association (2020) Facts About Global Groundwater Usage
Padam Bahadur Poudel*, Mukti Ram Poudel1 , Aasish Gautam, Samiksha Phuyal, Chiran Krishna Tiwari, Nisha Bashyal, ShilaBashyal, (2020), COVID-19 and its Global Impact on Food and Agriculture, Journal of Biology Today's World ; 9(5): 221.
Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas2020) Flattening the Pandemic and Recession Curves, Policy Brief 23:econfip,
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti (2020) Coronavirus Outbreak Is a Symptom of Gaia's Sickness, Ecol Modell.
Timothy M. Lenton and David M. Wilkinson(2003), Developing the Gaia Theory. A Response to the Criticisms of Kirchner and Volk, Climatic Change 58(1) · May
US energy Information Administration www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/global_oil.php(2020), Short-term energyoutlook.
Power of Observation and Unbridled Imagination Results in Discoveries and Innovation
21st Century Needs More Creative Minds
Human civilization has sustained itself through ‘creative’ thinking that leads to discoveries which ultimately translates into innovative technology. From antiquity the knowledge about universe is evolving for many centuries, so are our technologies leading to the progress of human civilization. To usher into a new world of sustainability, the journey from illusion of obscurity to the effulgence of reality need to continue even at this trying time of 21st century.
17th Century: Great Plague Leads to Great Scientific Discovery
It was 1665 during Great Plague of London one quarter of population died. Students were sent back home. Newton in his 20s came back home. During 1665-1667, young Newton’s creative mind made the base work on calculus, experiments on prism that paved the way for the foundation of optics, and most importantly propounded the concept of gravitation that resulted in first unification in science—the unification of the laws of Earth with that of Heaven. Falling of apple from tree caused by the force of acceleration due to gravity acting on the body (apple) was found to be exactly the same force that keeps planets to go around the Sun—his ‘little moon’ calculations established that the natural law of gravitation is true at every nook and corner of the universe. Newton’s laws of motion and the concept of acceleration (rate of change of velocity/speed) are experienced in our everyday life. When driving a car we press the ‘accelerator’ to increase the speed or more precisely the rate of change of speed of the car to run it faster. Newton’s universal law of gravitation makes planets to go around the Sun in specified orbits.
20th Century: Golden Period of Scientific Discoveries in the midst of War and Chaos
Leaping Beyond the Horizon—Einstein’s Legacy. Einstein came-up with his famous theory of relativity; special theory of relativity (free of gravitation) in 1905 and general theory of relativity (where gravitation was included) in 1915. He was then a technical assistant -second grade at the patent office of Bern, Switzerland, Einstein taught us to think out of the box but with reason.
It is the engagement of a thoughtful, creative, and revolutionary but rational mind that matters. Einstein once said: “I am not particularly intelligent but I am curious”—and thus we have been bestowed with the most beautiful of theories, theory of relativity; that has totally changed our view about universe from its predecessors like Aristotle, Ptolemy, including Newton. Albert Einstein was visualizing a ‘new physics’ through Maxwell’s electrodynamics that shook the foundation of Newtonian understanding of cosmic world. With Einstein’s theory of relativity we have come across the terms like ‘big-bang’, ‘gravitational waves’, ‘black hole’, ‘expanding universe’, and so forth.
Just before the great depression of 1930s, back in 1929 Hubble’s experimental observation of the motion of galaxies established the concept of expanding universe and in 1940s George Gamow propounded the big-bang theory based on Einstein’s expanding universe as the origin of universe that was verified in 1965 on the basis of experimental observation of the existence of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation.
On the TV screen the ‘static’ or the so called ‘snow’ we see when there is no TV signal is due to Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation left behind by big-bang explosion that happened at the beginning of the universe when it was born 13.8 billion years ago.
20th Century Vision of Einstein Leads to 21st Century Marvels of Technology
Einstein’s great vision of 20th century and theory of relativity led to the development of marvels of technology in 21st Century.
Einstein, unlike Newton and all his predecessors, visualized that space and time are not different entities. They together form the fabric of the universe known as space-time.
According to his concept, gravitation is not at all a ‘ghost force’, as was predicted by Newton.
It is a manifestation of the space-time curvature near a body having mass. Larger the mass of the body more curved is the space-time around that body and more is the gravitational force.
A ‘black hole’ having ideally infinite mass has extreme extent of space-time curvature around it with stupendously large gravitational pull. It does not allow even light to escape from it’s monstrous grip.
Hence came the name black hole. The term ‘black hole’ was coined by relativity expert John Wheeler in 1967.
According to Einstein’s relativity theory a moving mass , stupendously large ones like black hole can generate gravitational waves. A moving charge generate electromagnetic waves. Both electromagnetic wave and gravitational wave travels with the velocity of light. In nature gravitational waves are extremely feeble compared to electromagnetic wave thus need extremely sensitive instrument to detect it.
Here comes the marvel of technology LIGO that was capable to detect the presence of ‘gravitational waves’ after a century of Einstein’s prediction from his general theory of relativity.
In 2016 gravitational waves have been detected by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) experiment.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Investment in Science and Technology is Always the Way forward
On September 14, 2015, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded LIGO. Scientists made it possible to first-ever directly observe gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years earlier.
The public announcement took place on February 11, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Each of the twin LIGO observatories—one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana—picked up the feeble signal of gravitational waves generated 1.3 billion years ago when two black holes spiraled together and collided. The information of that collision was there in the nature and was carried to Earth by ripples of gravitational waves. They have traveled a distance of 1.3 billion light years riding on the shoulder of space-time curvature with the velocity of light. This took 1.3 billion years.
The instrument LIGO which could receive this gravitational waves converted them into audio signals and the sound resembled the noise of chirping birds.
Barry C. Barish with Rainer Weiss, and Kip Thorne who led the team to build and experiment with LIGO were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 2017. Barish commented: “The detection of gravitational waves is truly a triumph of modern large-scale experimental physics”.
Author of a forth coming book 'Knowledge about Universe-Down the Ages'
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Whether it is COVID19, AMPHAN, LOCUST several sub-national and national leaders failed miserably despite their consistent Global Commitments
They failed to coordinate, they failed to involve the necessary agencies, they failed to involve people and follow inclusive process in preparation of risk management plans prior to the disasters to face disasters fearlessly and minimise the losses. It clearly shows lack of understanding of the science behind disasters, technological, social and humanitarian approaches and a clear disconnect between integration in Multi-level governance, Risk communication, Science policy interface.
In a disaster especially in a double disaster like situation as was Kolkata in Amphan, two way flow in both vertical and horizontal risk communication is a must in monolithic government. It is no longer an issue to get political mileage but a complex crisis situation to be solved collectively. One way instructions from top without being sensitive to bottom up feed-backs outside the formal chain of command creates chaos and disorder. Trained manpower with capacity to face extreme risks is the key to keep the disaster risk governance functional and effective. Be it Cyclone Amphan, Public health emergency like COVID-19 or Dengue. While the early warning in Amphan was not responded with necessary preparedness , in Covid-19, delayed communication without enough risk framing by epicenter China created confusion for Global Preparedness.
Since 2015, the landmark UN agreements (e.g., the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction [SFDRR], Paris Agreement, and Sustainable Development Goals have set the Goals, targets, priorities for practical actions to reset and preset the developmental actions on Sustainable Development Path by 2030.
Governance Priorities in multi-hazard contexts in SFDRR
What is multi hazard add couple of sentences please
1. Understanding disaster risk
2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk
3. Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience
4. Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Who is the Main actor identified by SFDRR
Governments have been given the power to take proactive actions to coordinate, involve people and follow inclusive process in preparation of risk management plans prior to the disasters to face disasters fearlessly and minimise the losses.
History of Global Governance for Disaster Preparedness traces back to 1994
It started in Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World: Guidelines for Natural Disaster Prevention, Preparedness and Mitigation and its Plan of Action in 1994. Aim was to protect persons and their property, health, livelihoods and productive assets, as well as cultural and environmental assets, while promoting and protecting all human rights, including the right to development.
In 2005, United Nations General Assembly convened World Conference on Disaster Reduction, in Kobe, Japan. As a result, the Hyogo Framework for Action [HFA] was adopted to frame risk reduction. It was endorsed by 168 countries. HFA was the global blueprint for disaster risk reduction efforts between 2005 and 2015 with a goal to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015 - in lives, and in the social, economic, and environmental assets of communities and countries.
As a sequel, in 2015, 193 UN Member States adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR 2015-2030) endorsed by UN General Assembly.
What makes us to frame COVID-19 as a Disaster?
The UN defines disaster as:
• a sudden or major misfortune calamitous event
• seriously disrupts the normal functioning of the community or society
• when a hazard caused by nature/ human action exposes and makes people vulnerable
• causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources.
COVID19 and Other Hazards
Exposure to COVID-19 as a disease became a global hazard because it infected in first half of 2020
~6.8 million people (with about 3.0 million active infected patients),
~3.05 million suffered mild
~53,000 suffered severe
~0.4 million lost life
Fact check also show global disasters on a yearly basis:
~1.6 million people get infected lungs due to indoor air pollution
~200 million people suffer from malaria; But Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Global Burden of Disease (GBD) puts this estimate at 620,000 in 2017.
~390 million get dengue;
~0.65 million die of influenza
In Post COVID19 World How to Get Long Term Accelerated Bottom up Demand for Actions and Accountability?
In 21st century it is people: individual, family, community will be confronting the hazards of natural fury and man made developmental mistakes due to unfinished agenda. To successfully thrive with a rapidly changing climate in this decade and coming decades will depend on:
• How to interpret risk information flowing to us through market, government, institutional and social media sources.
• How we decide on our own coping capacity and strategies.
• How to educate and train ourselves to enhance our power of observation through a thinking mind and acquired research skill, integration with indigenous wisdom.
There is clear need for knowledge creation and human capital building through regular updates and participation in course work, student training, researchers, scientists, technology developers, relief workers, recovery managers, policy makers, financial institutions, to get introduced and ready for a new 21st Century job market for disaster risk study, risk reduction and risk mitigating services.
Promotes interdisciplinary higher education for disaster risk managers
"Same, But Better" Is Designed for Your Inevitable Demise
The business of the 20th century was about 'fitting in' — being a 'cog' in the production value chain. Keep your head down, don't ask questions, do as you are asked and you will be set for your life. Passive complacency was the name of the game.
The business of the 21st century is about mind expanding creativity, imaging a sustainable world by fusing form, function and profit. The 21st century is about competing in a 'flat world'. Technology has flattened the barrier of entry, allowing a new era of competition, where the winning is all about 'imaginative fusion'. Even long-standing brand leaders are exposed to this inevitable risk from new competition that is cropping up everywhere and anywhere.
The game has changed. The game changers who wishes to survive the business landscape of the 21st century will actively create and re-create their business mind for relevance, purpose and profit.
To exist in this 'flat world', commerce is now demanding new mindset, new thinking, and new doing. For this, entrepreneurs and CEOs ought to inculcate a strong, observing mind — a mind that will never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by fear or distrust, and never give way to regretting.
In this new century, the age old competitive dictum — 'same, but better' is the destiny that is bound to lead you to your demise. In this new century, creativity is the mind of your business and relevancy is the beating heart of your brand. "Never feel comfortable where you're now, get stuck, complacent, and stagnate in one spot; be always relevant, dynamic, and multi gifted. This is one of the rules of the 21st C."
Fusion of Commerce and Creativity
Why the product selling companies are no longer selling products?
These brands are in the business of creating and expanding eco-system for the survival of their business and growing their market share. Of course, these are just few of the many examples that are defining trade and commerce in the 21st century.
Here are few examples.
Philips is no longer in the home-lighting business. It has creatively transformed into a “connected business” to improve sustainability, cost of ownership, and creative control by integrating smart applications such as scene personalization, home automation, security services, and sleep quality into its core product." Moreover, this brand is continuously using it's status to leverage generosity and gain relevance in the 21st century market place.
Rolls-Royce, some time ago moved beyond merely selling jet engines to selling engine hours and locking customers in a lifetime service relationship. Now, they are laying down the blueprint for the the next hundred years.
Elevator operators, such as KONE, emphasize the number of floors their products will serve over time, not just their physical products They are well on their way to transform themselves into sustainable city builders.
Thanks to COVID-19, they are now expanding in health and safety brand. No missed opportunities here.
The ride sharing company, Uber partnered with Bell to showed off a second-stage concept of its flying car that both companies swear they will begin testing in 2020. A full-scale model on the CES 2019 floor promised to fly five people at speeds reaching 150 mph. Of course, Bell is an established aircraft developer that makes the propulsion technology behind the V-22 Osprey (the crazy-expensive military helicopter plane thing).
Again, thanks to COVID-19 Uber is now well positioned to highlight another aspect of it's brand — UberEats. The brand was proactive and had mapped out various aspects of it's offering under different scene settings when the going was good.
Why the digital service companies are going beyond 'Freeium' and 'Premium' modes of conducting business? How, they are branching out into selling products and making 'sustainability' relevant in their business model?
These brands are being driven by the urge to try something new and stay relevant in the minds of their clients. They are charting out unexplored routes, having no reason to hope for success, but merely being willing to risk the experiment of finding whether the expansion they seek lies there.
Creative Mindset — Revitalize Rural Economy — The Business of Sustainability
San Francisco based company, Airbnb, an online rental platform, originally partnered with the Italian city of Civita in 2016, and now is partnering with Grottole (via nonprofit Wonder Grottole) to help revitalize the city.
“We will find every way possible to support sustainable tourism, and give visibility to these rural areas,” says Federica Calcaterra, PR Manager at Airbnb Italy. Thanks to COVID-19, they are now how hosting online experiences as people are locked down in their individual residences.
Creative Mindset — Reduce Cost — The Business of Saving the Planet
Embr Wave is the thermostat for your body. Warm up or cool down, as you need it when you when you need it most. Founded at MIT, backed by Bose Ventures & Intel Capital, Embr is also exploring the application of its patented technology in a number of other areas, such as virtual reality, entertainment and non-verbal communication.
Creative Mindset — Reduce Cost — The Business of Using Behaviorial Data
Progressive Insurance’s connected-car devices allow the company to charge drivers according to their driving behavior. Started in 1937, it was the first drive-in claims office, became the first to introduce reduced rates for low-risk drivers, and then transformed the insurance shopping experience by offering comparison rates on the Web.
Creative Mindset — Indulge in Innovative Spaces — The Business of Sub-Conscious Selling
Amazon chose to create Spheres. Not, yet another soaring skyscraper.
The office space that the environment supports a is a sub-concious call to action on doing, thinking and acting in ways that are diiferent from the competition.
"The Spheres are a place where employees can think and work differently surrounded by plants. The Spheres are a result of innovative thinking about the character of a workplace and an extended conversation about what is typically missing from urban offices– a direct link to nature. The Spheres are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries.
Image source: Wikipedia
Have you wondered why car manufacturers like Tesla open fancy showrooms in shopping malls and prime locations, with a completely transformed customer experience and lifestyle companies, like Apple, builds on the customer experience with open-space concepts, a sprawling Genius Bar, and diverse sales staffs who are not selling. It is all about priming your sub-conscious with their products and services. Read more on how to hack the sub-conscious.
Tracking back in time, yet timeless is the Chrysler Building.
Built in May 1930, after the stock market crash of 1929, it was a beacon of hope for a forward marching towering future. After, almost 90 years, the Chrysler Building is a creative testament on the flow of capital and a creative convergence of mathematical allure and human grit. It is designed to pause your brain and look — really look and visualize the flow of money and markets from the depths of dismay and disillusionment.
Creative Mindset — Pro-active Healthcare — The Business of 'Caring' with Smart Clothing
Nanowear has developed a medical-grade textile, SimpleSense, capable of capturing millions of signals on the skin and giving it the potential to unlock biometric insights to help wide-ranging medical conditions — monitoring patients through the likes of ECG, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, actigraphy, impedance cardiography, thoracic impedance and cardio-phonography to help keep them out of hospital.
Creative Mindset — Fusing Commodity with High Finance — "Opportunity Favors the Most Prepared"
The Swedish startup Konabay, partnered with Barclays' bPay to bring contactless payments to its hybrid watch band — now, that is a clever idea of upgrading the band that goes with the watch. Again, thanks to COVID-19, this brand has now have a market ready product because, they had dared to imagine that the band of the wrist watch should do more than wrapping around your wrist.
Creative Mindset — When the Market is Not Ready
Have you ever wondered why a product, inspite of a massive 'cool' factor fails miserably in the market place?
Simple answer: people do not buy product that they do not understand.
"In 1973, auto executive John DeLorean left General Motors to form the DeLorean Motor Company. After years of production delays, the DeLorean DMC-12 was released in January 1981. The car’s unique design was poorly received, however, and by 1982 less than half of the 7,000 DeLorean units produced had been sold. The DeLorean is widely recognized due to its use as a converted time machine in the “Back to the Future” series. However, the first of these films was released in 1985, far too late to save the ill-fated brand. DeLorean filed for bankruptcy in 1982."
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Signing off with these ending thoughts.
Creativity is about letting go of the certainties and be comfortable with the chaos around you. Creativity is observing what is already there and fusing it with doses of worthy value. Creativity is about unfolding the rhythms of our planet and derive contextual earth technology that drive sustainable local economy. Creativity is about identifying the evolving hard trends and taking note of the creeping soft trends, only to merge them with evolving customer expectations and design accordingly.
Above all, creativity is about caring. Research by Cone Communications, a PR agency for consumer brands, found that 87% of Americans said they would purchase a product because of a company’s alignment on an issue they cared about. It also attracts would-be workers: nearly two-thirds of millennials – the generation that will make up half of all US employees by 2020 – said they take a company’s social and environmental commitments into account when weighing a job offer.
You are competing in a flat world. Just having superior products or services does not cut it any more. A shocking study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimates that 40 percent of today’s F500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years.
Today’s consumers simply 'do not buy just products or services'—they want more — their purchase decisions revolve around buying into an idea, an experience, something more that taps into their own creativity, curiosity, and their fullest use of their potentialities.
Talk to us about creative implemetation of socio-economic changes.
Creative Solutions Strategist
Social Innovation is the Answer to Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy Kolkata, has put under acid test the four groups of institutional and social actors to show case their investment in Innovation and disaster preparedness.
Centuries Old Hand-Me-Down Policy of the British Raj Reigns Supreme in Independent India
COVID-19 once again proves that after 70 years of independence, we have not innovated the colonial structure of governance that was practiced by British imperial masters for over 200 years of colonial power. Instead of arming the citizens of India with trust and knowledge the Government deploys their police force to effect 'lockdown' and subjugates an entire nation with the age old tactics of fear, chaos, misinformation floating all around and of course, the favorite of the stack — 'divide and rule' — a group parroting the 'one size fits all' global line of thinking without much thought of her diverse reality and deeper humanitarian challenges of those who dare to go about making subsistence living but facing furious 'lathicharge'.
Lack of Flexibility and Creativity Plagues the Governance Mechanism
It has been a blind following like a flock of sheep (as said locally in Kolkata, Gaddalikaprabaha), an idea originated during COVID-19 first in China and then in Italy which has historical antecedents in Pandemic governance in 14th century during black death of 1347-48. Those who dared to honour their local context, capabilities and had confidence in progressive Governance that evolved over time in compliance with their cultural/constitutional practices created their own variants like Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany empowered by their own science-policy dialogue, readiness, constitutional power and implementation. Countries that interface with adaptive and effective governance empowers people and builds trust. Fear tactics dis-empowers people, destroys human capital and social capital.
Planned 'Lockdown' Cripples the Means to Combat the Inevitable Cyclone
Nature is innovating each time.
This time, when Cyclone Amphan attacked on May 20, 2020, nature took over the city streets, as countless trees, debris, poles, electric wires formed an untangled mesh and brought to a halt the functioning of the Kolkata City Municipal Corporation. Technology detecting Amphan provided early signs of it's impending fury. But, the city was under COVID-19 'lockdown'. The public service providers failed to act with necessary preparedness and immediacy. The different arms of the government failed to co-ordinate over past eight years, even after the experience of a milder version Aila which ravaged twelve years back. It also, shows deeper faults in framing of the governance system which is not conscious of their purpose in serving it's own citizens as fellow humans. If the governance system does not learn from failures and successes of it's the past, it gets in the whirlpool of same old mistakes and poor governance with mass societal sufferings.
Make COVID-19 Matter. Kick Start Innovative Intellectual Discourse
Dominant trend among the world of intellectuals is showing a tendency towards finding a refuge in the age old discourse of capitalism vs. socialism. Both Karl Marx and Schumpeter are today relevant but only partially! Each one can explain only one quarter of the story of “Change Agents”. The innovative lens of the 21st century complex social system with multiple shades of diversity in multiple major players is once more being caught up in the binary of state and subject or labour and capital. Unless ideas of people are supported to innovate and implement productive social actions and institutions, no new economic value addition will emerge.
While Marx said it is labour power which transforms the material to add value, Schumpeter put entrepreneur in the fore front who brings in technology, tools for value enhancement. Today's intellectual discourse need to rise beyond the binary of Labour and Man-made Capital. In their own social contexts of 19th and 20th century, they were trying to decipher the next Agent of Change. They were trying to account for contributions in the total cake of value addition of manmade capital and labour power. How fairness can be injected in sharing between the two?
Post COVID-19 Bargain is about Ditching the 'Zero-Sum Game' between two players
The age old debate gets a new life in the context of COVID-19 when economic packages in the name of stimulus cake are being dished out by a third party — the Government. However, the question is, how many innovative ideas will get injected and how fair the distribution is going to be. COVID-19 brings forth an unprecedented situation. Now, Governments all around are holding the full Stimulus cake in hand. Governments do not directly add value in making the cake but act as an enabler of good governance. A share may come back either through tax revenue or through support to sustain their political power. Former is transparent while latter is opaque. So, the 21st century discourse is more complex.
The third ‘change agent’ which neither Marx nor Schumpeter paid a clear attention is the Government. But today Government wants a fair share in the cake. And that, is the invisible virus that is set to plague our society, if we are not mindful of it. The virus is return/retention of political power. The bargaining process gets extremely complicated when it becomes a game of three players. The first lesson of Resource and environmental economics that each undergraduate learns and ponders;— why both market and government fails in allocating resources to drive engagement in building a new institutional arrangement that can deliver change for a larger purpose for common good in a humanistic paradigm.
Owners of big business/capital try to create channels to directly negotiate for give and take with the Government. These 'big boys' fail to come up with effective ways of problem solving, as they have 'pledged their hearts' to the Government. No matter what they do, they are assured of the larger share of stimulus cake. As a result, the citizens suffer, environment gets exploited and civilization faces extinction.
In the 21st century, it is absolutely essential to understand the Natural Laws. Once, we understand it, capital will come with ideas that will foster man-made technology and empowered human beings who are capable and wanting to add economic value. New sectors will emerge delivering services for robust soil, healthy nutrition, pollution-free air and cancer-free water.
The intellectual debate now needs to be at a higher plane to resolve more complex relation among nature , labour, capital, market, government and other institutions which shapes the societal reality. Here, financial stimulus is only a means to achieve a goal of utopia. Real progress can come through new imagination, ideas and capability of the leaders, movers and shakers of change.
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Pandemic Leads to Destruction of Fast Fashion
20th Century Business Model Miserably Fails with the Arrival of the Pandemic
The cat-walk fashion brands depended on cheap women labor from Bangladesh for the last 40 years.
It so happens that Bangladesh is the pollution heaven for the western multinational brands. Overnight, with the emergence of COVID-19 the demand for cheap labor evaporated leaving 2 million women jobless and ~100 million USD order cancellation
Scene Setting for Rapid Economic Growth in Bangladesh
After Independence in 1971 Bangladesh adopted export-led economic growth strategies. With traditional human skill in textile, tailoring and design put Bangladesh in comparative advantage. Extensive financing support through back-to-back Letter-of-Credit added to that. Conscious decision to rebuild the economy focusing on social sector development led to multiple women empowerment programmes. Women’s participation in the labor force increased manifold over time from 4% in 1974 to 35.6% in 2016 and RMG sector employs nearly 4.4 million people, where around 3.5 million workers are female. RMG, accounts for 84% of all exports and contributes to little over 11% to the GDP and have fluctuated between 15%-11% in past five years . This innovative social development led economic progress agenda provided large-scale employment opportunities to underprivileged and vulnerable women and contributed significantly in their economic and social empowerment in Bangladesh. Global Fashion brand got cheap labor.
The Harsh Realities of Re-orienting Economic Growth
Global Lockdown of non-essentials product market devastated the Global Supply chain. Bangladesh Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector faced severe disruption in supply chains since the crisis first erupted in China. Dependency ratio of Bangladesh on China for raw materials and Physical Capital like machinery is very high. These exclusive exportable goods producing manufacturing units had to close or reduce their activities. In addition, consumption demand contracted in the USA and EU, the major export destinations of Bangladesh’s RMG. Many garment retailers and fashion brands from USA and EU cancelled orders and some denied to pay for the ready produce.
Now, is the time to Re-think and Re-Align — Social, Economic and Environmental Policies
The cancellations of globally determined nonessential fashion products orders effected essential livelihood of millions of women workers creating job uncettainty. Global export supply chain lockdown resulted in increased stress and panic and created more risk and vulnerability to the livelihoods of women garment workers. The large number of women workers are not paid fully or fired. Millions of them returned to their villages empty handed without any financial savings and support.
The economic independence which comes from RMG employment also brought multiple benefits nationwide. Bangladesh is leading among many countries with fast declining fertility rate, increase in marriageable age, decision making power. So, while global demand declines how to re-engage these specially skilled women on a new cleaner development path need to be resolved nationally and the climate conversation and SDGs framework can provide future directions. While reopening the RMG sector national policy packages must make private capital investors comply with social security and environmental regulations along with economic recovery plan to secure future growth.
Women Empowerment in Aftermath of COVID19!
Majority of women garment workers are from rural areas with weak social network. They moved to cities. Covid-19 unveiled the injustice and unfair wage and lack of social security structure for them. These women garment workers generally receive low wages and work for long hours and have no financial savings or security to draw on during crisis. They also struggle with migration risk, job safety and certainty, rented housing upon arrival in urban setting. The job losses of the women workers due to Covid-19 will have significant social impact.
With global wave of inward looking future would there be enough jobs for these women in their old work places with physical distancing in practice or would they become nonessential as fashion product demand becomes non essential in global economic downturn and changed future lifestyle? Many argue this can be taken as an opportunity by Bangladesh to create value through domestic demand expanding to regional market led by women going beyond RMG sector alone and diversification of business. Understanding these new changing business opportunities, global trends with national implications are the imperatives for fast growing economy like Bangladesh.
Recovery Package and Global Solidarity Should Invest on Building Trust
The era of Cheap labour is over. Investment in Retraining of women given their historically acquired skills and strong forte in health care service, water service, energy service can make the country recover on sustainable development pathway. They fit into the 2015 SDGs framework well. These three are traditionally women dominated activities in South Asia.
Straighten up fair wage rules globally in global supply chains. Fire incident of 2012 at Tazreen Fashions and collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 brought in stringent compliance requirements and restrictions on the part of big brands for the RMG sector of Bangladesh. There in came Accord and Alliance. Those who could comply with new ethics in business stayed back and others who could not comply had to stop operation in the sector.
Building trust is at the heart of social capital where the business need to invest.