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Environmental Scanning through a collection of:


What is a Sign of the Times? Signs of the times are the result of information gathering that looks for inventions, innovations, attitudes and actions. Signs of the times come from many sources, are systematically gathered and have meaning for the future.

What is a Trend? A trend is long-range and persistent; it effects many societal groups, grows slowly and is profound. In contrast, a fad is short-term, "in", effects particular societal groups, spreads quickly and is superficial.

What is a Mega-trend? A mega-trend extends over many generations, and in cases of weather, mega-trends can cover periods prior to human existence. They describe complex interactions with many factors and they often represent the introduction of several new paradigms or worldviews that arise in hunting and gathering, agriculture, and industrial societies.

Trend babies: Here you find general trends or signs of new trends ("trend babies") from the categories social, technical, ecological, economic or political. Trend babies grow from innovations in the above categories that have the potential of going mainstream in the future (for example: just a few years ago, alternative medicine was truly alternative. Now it is big business and very respectable). The choice of trends is naturally influenced by the author's values.

Trend families: Very often, the chosen Signs are members of a trend family. A parent trend (for example, the change from an industrial society to a knowledge-based society) is well documented. The ways in which such sweeping trends play themselves out in various parts of the community represent the "members of that trends family".

Examples: Jobs in the industrial sector have shrunk causing widespread unemployment.


Many countries see small business as a solution to unemployment, driving unprecedented attention to small business in many countries legislatures.

Another example of a trend related to the move from industrial to knowledge society is the privatization of the education industry.

As in all cases in Signs, sustainability is one of the larger branches from which many other twig-sized trends grow. Sustainability is "the property of being sustainable", "using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged". In Signs, I use it to mean sustainable development, "an approach to economic planning that attempts to foster economic growth while preserving the quality of the environment for future generations."

Confirming Trends: When does a "trend baby", gain acceptance as a bona fide trend? When it gets enough confirmation in the various media to show it is an increasingly accepted value, behavior or technology.

Geographical trend growth and "bellwether" geographic sites: There is also an attempt to follow the global spread of trends that have started in the West (for example, Women's rights are a generally accepted topic in the media and on the Internet. Just how and when women's rights develop in various countries can represent global growth of that trend.) Some places seem to lead development in one or a variety of areas and are looked to as the source of new trends. California has long been considered as bellwether for the United States. The Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have been considered bellwether in social innovation.

All trends, to a greater or lesser degree affect our lives, our work and our futures. Our ability to understand that effect can many times make a positive difference in the quality of our lives.


Back to Signs of the Times.


from October 26, 2008
For commentaries on these Signs of the Times see the Blog entitled Signs Commentaries at

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Tighter connections between family and school

Från otrygghet till tryggheten i Familjeskolan

In Gothenburg, Sweden a number of grammar schools have developed “family schools” where parents and children sit together and do their studies. The children are between 9 and 12 years old and have had problems in school such as, feeling alone, attention and coming daily and on time. They meet weekly and share the results of their goal from the following with the group. They get praise from the group and set new goals for the following week. Goals are individual to the child both in complexity and kind. Then they all study together parents and children. The children report that they learn much more here than in the classroom because it is quiet and they have access to more help.

The program has a therapist available and parents learn and support one another rather than suffer in shame and frustration, isolated in their own homes. The concept has traveled from Cambridge University in England to Finland and now to Sweden. Research is being done and has been done on the program which is a short term, group based intervention that can achieve permanent changes in parenting and the behavior of children. This is a particularly relevant result for hyperactivity, concentration difficulty and behavioral problems. In other studies, high divorce rates at earlier ages lie behind many of the behavior problems that qualify a child and their parent for the program.

Source: Göteborgs-Posten
Author: Caroline Carlsson
Date: September 23, 2008
URL 1:
URL 2:




Future directions of solar energies

The Future: Collecting Solar Energy at Night

The search for solar solutions is becoming more nuanced. Development is moving away from silicon to save money and improve efficiency. Nanoanttenas are very small antenna’s (1/25th the diameter of a human hair) that absorb energy wave lengths much the same as television, radio or cell phones. They can be placed upon almost any material including plastic. What is drawn to the antennas is the infrared portion of the sun's spectrum. Infrared is also available after sunset, which means this “solar” solution doesn’t need the sun to withdraw energy. Efficiency has to do with the amount of energy that can be extracted from the gathered rays. This process can utilize 80% of the usable energy, which the author compares to 20% usable energy from traditional solar panels.  

The unsolved problem in this technology is an inability to convert the extracted energy to electricity. It will be several years before this technology is ready for use. This Sign of The Times does help point to the directions that solar energy is headed: Formable (can be applied to papers and plastics on roofs, walls and on other material), able to make energy out of solar generated as well as indoor generated light (light bulbs and florescent tubes) and now generating energy from infrared during dark hours. Indoors or out, dark or night = energy!

Source: Solve Climate
Author: Stacy Feldman
Date: January 8, 2008



Equality between men and women

Kvinnolöner stiger sakta (Women’s salaries slowly rise)

The European Union has a clear policy that equal wages shall be paid for equal work. In practice, that is not the case as women in 27 countries take home on average, sixteen percent less than men. That is the bad news, the good news is that since 2001 the difference in salaries between men and women have decreased every year when it comes to salaries determined by collectively negotiated and minimal salary levels.

Those top countries are Slovenia with 6.9%, Belgium with 7%, Italy and Ireland with 9&, Greece with 10& and Spain with 11%. In the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, for whom male/female equality issues are taken seriously, lies in the 17th place out of 28 countries, Denmark is in 10th place.

Source: EuropaPosten
Author: Ylva Nilsson
Date: #7 2008
Publisher: EU- Kommissionen i Sverige



From industrial jobs to green collar jobs

The Green Collar Economy How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems

“The Green Collar Economy” is possibly one of those terms that will begin to help citizens understand what the economy could be like when as it moves away from market economic fundamentalism. In his book geared to the American economy, the author writes that by changing our energy system to renewals, we can solve two problems at the same time, lift the economy and limit continued degradation on the environment. By cutting energy prices and generating new work we can save the economy. A number of programs are directing these jobs to people of color and those with only high school education.

Green-collar jobs are increasing. Currently at 8.5 million are predicted to grow to 40 million in 2030 according to the American Solar Energy Society, the current tally of 8.5 million U.S. jobs in renewable-energy and energy-efficiency industries could grow to as many as 40 million by 2030, according to the American Solar Energy Society. (see resources below)
Here is a list of areas those Green Collar jobs might be found in from 22 sectors according to Raquel Pinderhughes at Urban Habitat:
• Bicycle repair and bike delivery services
• Car and truck mechanic jobs, production jobs, and gas-station jobs related to biodiesel
• Energy retrofits to increase energy efficiency and conservation
• Green building
• Green waste composting on a large scale
• Hauling and reuse of construction materials and debris (C&D)
• Hazardous materials clean-up
• Landscaping
• Manufacturing jobs related to large scale production of appropriate technologies (i.e. solar panels, bike cargo systems, green waste bins, etc.)
• Materials reuse
• Non-toxic household cleaning in residential and commercial buildings
• Parks and open space expansion and maintenance
• Printing with non-toxic inks and dyes
• Public transit jobs related to driving, maintenance, and repair
• Recycling and reuse
• Small businesses producing products from recycled materials
• Solar installation
• Tree cutting and pruning
• Peri-urban and urban agriculture
• Water retrofits to increase water efficiency and conservation
• Whole home performance, including attic insulation, weatherization, etc.

Source: The Green Collar Economy How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems
Author: Van Jones
Date: October 7, 2008
Additional resources:




Global hierarchical power changes

The Fall of the Empire

U.S.A. will not fall overnight, but there are signs. Johan Galtung, says “In twelve years a total political change will have occurred and the U.S.A. will no longer see itself as a model for other countries.” Troops will be drawn back. “It will not have a dominating position in the world; it will be a country like all others.” Diplomatic power has decreased. Where the U. S. A.’s was an imperialistic role model the roll will change.

We can gain knowledge from the fall of the Roman Empire. Its leaders knew that time of power was over, long before the rest of the empire, but they continued to enjoy their special situation as if nothing had happened. Empires fall for their inability to stop their own growth, that to know when enough is enough. As they try to continue their growth, protests increase from the growing masses that are supporting the empires power layer. We see this happening today. Who will take over? There is no new empire waiting in the wings. The Chinese are going to be hesitant to take the role, India and Brazil and the E.U. with China will all take over for USA. So many voices will mean it will be more difficult to make global decisions. On the other hand, if new alliances between citizens of those countries, on common subjects, are formed, we may see a more typical type of power emerge.

Source: P1 Good Morning World
Program Leader: Olle Hägg
Date: October 20,2008
URL: (Note: Archive only kept for one year. Contact program leader or producer for more information.)



Changing role of the non-profit


They are asking a new president for:
• “Restoration and/or growth of funds for their field in the federal budget.
• Reinstatement and expansion of tax incentives for charitable giving and volunteering, including those embodied in the estate tax.
• Federal grant support for nonprofit training and capacity building.
• Reforming reimbursements under Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs to ensure that they cover the real cost of services.”

Extremely useful policy measures:
• College loan forgiveness for students who choose jobs in nonprofit organizations (85 percent of respondents).
• Health insurance tax credits for nonprofit workers (85 percent).
• A broad nonprofit investment tax credit to offset the unlevel playing field nonprofits confront in accessing capital to finance technology, facilities, and capacity building (83 percent).
• Expansion of AmeriCorps and other national service programs that work with nonprofits (74 percent).
Policy shift they recommend:
• “Greater attention to issues of poverty (86 percent).
• Universal health insurance (80 percent).
• A community service obligation for students receiving college student aid (75 percent).“

Source: Press Release, Johns Hopkins University Nonprofit Listening Post Project.
Contact person : Hillary Belzer
Date: October 22, 2008



Media quality watch – a media consumer rights movement? Your guide to good journalism
Medierna (The Media)

Trust in the media, politics and corporate business has been dropping for many years. At least two responses to the mistrust in the media field are in the United States and Sweden. The mission of NewsTrust is to help people locate and evaluate good journalism. Because of its on-line status many people can review the journalism and quality of the article. Rather traditional subject divisions are used and the emphasis is on established news giants. The organization is a nonprofit news network. They filter for credibility and literacy, offering a way for individuals to get involved in the network. All reviewers use their own names in an attempt to be transparent.

The Swedish contribution is a weekly radio program, which is produced for Swedish Public Radio. The program airs on Saturdays with two re-runs. Three freelance journalists stand for the program, Petter Ljunggren , Lars Truedson and Martin Wicklin, all who have previously been free-lance journalist. The aim of their work is to highlight and evaluate what happens in all the media, ”everything from trends in television, threatened freedom of speech, and presentation of new, online-media.” (My translation) They try to go behind the scenes of the journalism.

Source 1: NewsNet Trust
Source 2: Medierna, P1
Date: October 8, 2008
URL 1:
URL 2:


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from September 30, 2008  


Social change movement growing

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming

The book describes a movement with no name that has stayed mostly under the radar of media and politics. It has developed historically and comes with message of hope. It lists 130,000 of possibly 250 000 to 500 000 groups as members. Like a benign Al-Qaeda., this movement has no leaders, is global, leaderless, growing and spreading worldwide. It is without cluster bombs, suicide bombers, helicopters and fighter jets. Key components of this movement are its grassroots and spontaneous nature.

We were raised to believe in one solution, one major economic philosophy, one kind of science, and one view of the world. This movement has to do with all the aspects that affect human life. It started in the fields of the indigenous, environmental and social justice movements. The nature of this movement is diversity, not only of people and ideas, but geography, history and much more. The individual projects and programs many have been seen as local with a few national, and even fewer international ties. Now it is becoming easier to find organizations that refer to their global outreach and/or affiliations.

Source: Social Blessed Unrest
Author: Paul Hawken
Date: August 6, 2008




Old and newer technology grow

Ny metod för att klippa gräs (New method for klipping grass)

A small, local business has had the opportunity to show representatives from the technical department in a small county in Sweden how grass in parks and larger locations can be clipped using a horse and specially designed clipping equipment. The purpose of the demonstration was to familiarize the idea of clipping grass with horse power, a sustainable alternatives to noisy and polluting grass clipping machines.  

People generally love horses (1/3 of Swedes own or have some association with horses). Many older people still have memories of working horses from their youth and they light up when they see them. Clipping larger lawns with horse drawn grass clippers is already being done in two other parts of Sweden, Malmö and Linköping. Learning how to clip grass with a horse drawn clip aggregate takes only two days training. There is some risk for hoof prints in the grass depending upon the skill of the driver. Several hand machines are organized behind a larger one in order to get the best cut possible.

Source: Alingsås Kuriren
Author: Mattias Backlund
Date: September 25, 2008




Increase in Sovereign Wealth Funds

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Sovereign Wealth Funds are government owned funds for the purpose of making investments. The funds come originally from foreign currency earned from exports, for example, the sale of oil. They are held separately from official currency reserves and invested for the purpose of earning a profit. Most investments are made in foreign companies such as China’s SWF which has currently purchased stakes in Morgan Stanley, known for its role in the home loan crisis and the Blackstone Group.

It is possible to discern positive and negative possibilities in this quickly growing type of fund. They usually invest in higher risk companies and deliver a higher rate of concern. Drivers are huge profits by oil producing countries, increase in commodity profits in exporting countries, a falling dollar. No regulation or law says they have to expose their investments but it is believed that these are mostly long term investments.

Source: ESPN
Author: Lee Hudson Teslik
Date: January 18, 2008



From free to farmed fish

Worldwatch Report: Farming Fish for the Future

Fish farming is growing, but for every advantage there is a disadvantage. It is going to be difficult for policy makers around the world to know how what to support and how to legislate. Fish is an important protein source for many, and for some poor it has been their only source. Aquaculture supplies 42 percent of global seafood and moving towards its goal of 50% in the next five years.

Some of the advantages and disadvantages to be dealt with are:

Advantages Disadvantages
More uniform predictable product packing and shipping Growing scarcity of fish food
Products low on food chain work best Growing skepticism about industrialized fish farming
Fish farms are small scale and provide income Pollution
Large farms, high value fish are industry Spread of disease
Reduce fish to product fish Decreasing diversity
Growing numbers of farmed fish Growing numbers of wild fish








Source: World Watch Institute
Author: Brian Halweil
Date: 2008



The growing argument for the local (as in local/global)

The Shape of a New Democracy

In the light of current global financial worries (housing market crash in USA) many questions arise about how this could have happened and what can be done about it. Some want to fix the current market economic system and others say that we need a totally new system. Most people don’t know what could possibly replace the market economy we currently use. The only alternative in most people’s historic memory is socialism. Today there are alternatives presented that many knowledgeable people agree upon. One of them focuses energy upon the local community as a base for change, leaving the global for problems that can be solved in that arena such as “ensuring human rights, the integrity of the biosphere, the fair use of common planetary resources, and the conduct of cultural and economic endeavors that cannot be effectively delegated to regions.”

Communities provide a better setting for participatory democracy and dialogue. Neighborhood assemblies could bring participatory democracy to urban, suburban and rural districts. At the community level it is easier to identify with the place where one lives and for relationships to form- a sense of community and a stronger willingness to protect ones environment. Economic problems are easier to solve in smaller groups and it is easier to determine new criteria to replace the GNP, such as level of community involvement, movement into new green jobs, cultural activity, children completing school etc.

Source: The Bridge at the Edge of the World (Yale University Press)
Author: James Gustave Speth
Date: 2008



Multi-media, youth activism and pedagogy unite

The Kids in the Newsroom: What young activists and student journalists can teach the old guard

Technology being what it is and our psycho-physiologic need to communicate plus a little new pedagogy thrown into the mix, direct it toward youth and you get a new media corps with instruction in alternative reporting, critical thinking, writing and presentation skills (radio, film, print, on-line etc) combined, in some cases, with knowledge of the next step, connecting with activist groups. They take up subjects that affect them, discrimination, disassociated parents, school security, foster care and the economic reality of low-paid jobs.

Most of this education is run by private non-profit organizations, estimated to be over 100 by Youth Media Reporter in the United States. Their target group is primarily youth of color and their goal is empowerment. In 2006-8 officials at schools have criticized student newspapers on topics such as criticism of an antismoking ad campaign, a debate of the use of the word, “nigger” (historically a pejorative directed at blacks, later used among black youth in the form “nigga” against others of color) and a photograph of a student burning the American flag. This censorship has driven the establishment of a number of non-profits who work with youth. Examples are: People’s Production House, Radio Rootz, Generation PRX, Youth Rights Media. Represent Magazine gives voice to a different population, incarcerated youth and WireTap magazine for social change directed towards youth.

Source 1: Utne Reader: The Best of the Alternative Press
Author : Danielle Maestretti
Date 1: Sept/October 2008
Page 20-21



The ever changing brain – scientific viewpoint

Modern lifestyle leads to physical changes in our brains Changing brains and changing lives

That the relationship between organisms and their environments is an intimate one has been well known since the creation of the theory of evolution. It is therefore not surprising that the behavioral patterns of the human being living in the 21st century will affect our brains. Susan Greensfield, Oxford Professor, asks “What is causing the three-fold increase in the use of Ritalin in the past 10 years?” Can it be environmental? She notes a "marked decline in the verbal communication skills of children and young people has been noted in recent studies". Another scientist says “"the psychologist Dimitri Christakis has estimated that for each additional hour of TV per day that a child watches before the age of four, the risk of attention problems by the age of seven increases by 9 per cent" Is it related to the fact that people who spend a lot of time sitting in front of a screen have an increased consumption of the chemical dopamine? It is known that excess of dopamine suppresses prefrontal brain activity of the cortex, affecting complex analytic activity, determining risk, imagining the future and considering consequences.

We now know about the neuroplasticity of the brain which enables it to change, a shift in thinking from just a few years ago when it was thought that the brain was static and could not change. Experiments with three groups, one learning to play the piano, another who imagined themselves playing the piano and a third who only sat and listened found that the first two groups had an increase in the brain that has to do with finger functionality. A program of exercises designed especially for children with learning disabilities is called the Arrowsmith Program. The parents of children taking the program are reporting astounding academic results.

Source 1: The Australian
Source 2: New Jersey Jewish Standard
Author 1: Peter Wilson
Author 2: Miryam Wahrman
Date 1: June 13, 2008
Date 2: May 25,2007
URL 1:,,23858718-23289,00.html
URL 2:
Additional reference::


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from August 24, 2008  


New technologies give new answers to personal existence questions. Who am I and where did I come from?

Increasing popularity of DNA tests- genetic versus sociocultural factors in the quest to know who we really are

Recently an increased interest for tracing ancestors through DNA tests and genetic genealogies has been noted in the west. Searching genealogies is at the top of the list of the UK’s most popular non-sport pastimes. Since year 2000, the number of commercial companies that use advances in DNA technologies to trace genetic origins has grown drastically. From being virtually non-existing a decade ago, a thriving business has taken shape with over a dozen companies in the US and the UK. Oxford Ancestors and Family Tree DNA among others will, in exchange for a saliva sample and a hefty sum, reveal the “truth” about your ancestry. The interest in DNA tests that we are witnessing, suggests that the notion of a specific genetic heritage is more important to the individual than the socioculturally constructed ditto.

At the same time, a paradigm shift is occurring in the western world as traditional family structures are becoming less important due to a rise of socially constructed kin groups and social networks. Today, as opposed to a few generations ago, identity is self-constructed. We are no longer defined merely by which village we are from or whose son or daughter we are, but rather by our interests, what we consume, personal values and beliefs. Therefore, one would think that genetic roots would not be given such big relevance for the individual’s self perception, or group identity. Nevertheless, knowledge about our individual genetic make-up makes us fundamentally remodel the idea about who we truly are and with whom we share “comradeship”. On one hand the family in its biogenetic sense plays a less significant part in modern society. On the other greater interest in our genetic background evidently fulfills an emotional need. This dichotomy represents a societal trend. It is made up of a combination of contrasts, the need for understanding the genetic context of which we are automatically a part and the need to be free to design our own families and support communities.

Source: Increasing popularity of DNA tests- genetic versus sociocultural factors in the quest to know who we really are
Author: Caroline Uggla
Date: August 6, 2008
Referrences and further reading: Anderson, B. 1991. Imagined Communities. London: Verso. Bishop, D. 2005. ”The Essential Force of the Clan: Developing a Collecting-Inspired Ideology of Genealogy through Textual Analysis”. The Journal of popular Culture. 38 (6). Pp. 990-1010. Bolnick, D. A. 2003. “Showing Who They Really Are: Commercial Ventures In Genetic Genealogy”. Paper Presented at the American Association Annual Meeting. Brodwin, 2002. “Genetics, Identity, and the Anthropology of Essentialism”. Anthropological Quarterly. 75 (2). pp. 323-330
Submitted by: Caroline Uggla Visionscentret Framtidsbygget intern




Survival over sustainability

For the first time ever, living fish have been caught at extremely deep sea level

A group of French scientists recently found a way of overcoming the many obstacles of deep sea fishing when they caught three different species of shrimp at 2300 meters dept by the Mid-Atlantic rift. Changes in temperature and more importantly, pressure are issues that need to be defeated and makes fishing at 1000 meter and deeper extremely challenging. “Pressurized recovery”, the method that was used, enables transfer of fish to waters of lesser pressure without the incidence of death. The deepest level from which fish has been caught in the past is 1400 meters.

Fishing is a huge industry, directly affecting over 200 million people’s livelihood, and many more indirectly. Over the past decade, various factors have resulted in exploitation of natural habitats to their limits. Increased pollution, changes in temperature, loss of wetlands, are all influencing factors. In a report presented in 2000 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists from various countries made a prediction on the future fish stock based on physical, chemical and biological changes brought by a warmer climate. According to the report, the fishing industry has to adjust and seek new ways of resources extraction. The effects of overfishing are by some sources described as a more urgent issue globally than climate change. The fisheries section of the UN Atlas of the Oceans states that in the next 50-100 years, the relationship is set to be the opposite, as overfishing is hopefully is controlled. This somewhat ambiguous conclusion leads us to question; is deep sea fishing a cure for overfishing or does it decrease the chances of ever controlling overfishing?

Source 1: BBC News
Source 2: Oceanatlas, UN
Author 1: Anna-Marie Lever
Author 2: John Everett, Project Manager of the UN Atlas
Date 1: July 31 2008
Date 2: April 19, 2007
URL 1:

URL 2:

Submitted by: Caroline Uggla Visionscentret Framtidsbygget intern





What comes after “growth” economy?

This book makes the argument that continued economic growth is not sustainable and that a durable economy is more the order of the day. The book focuses on the rethinking our current economic paradigm when it comes to communities. The author of Deep Economy makes a case for community level economics and asks the hard questions, like “What is the economy for?” He provides us an alternative to a growth based economy.

This is not the only writing about community economic structures. Yes Magazine (do sight search for “local economy”) often has living examples and you will find a Sustainable Community Indicator Checklist with specific ideas for evaluating and fixing your local economy.

Source: Deep Economy The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
Author and Creator: Bill McKibben
Date: 2007



Sustainable Energy

'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system

Billed as a move to large scale production of solar power, a new invention in the solar energy field now makes it inexpensive and efficient. This new invention was inspired by photosynthesis. Solar energy is used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gases. These may be stored for later

use when the oxygen and hydrogen, recombined in a fuel cell, create energy when the sun is not shining. The result could be electricity to power your car and your home. The process uses two catalysts, one is made up of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water and the other is, for example, platinum. Cobalt is harmful to humans and nature if exposed to larger doses. Human beings need trace doses to survive. Phosphates are living organisms and come from animal waste such as cattle, deer, and elk and human beings. In large quantities they can ruin water quality and interfere with fish communities.

In order to better understand when this invention might be integrated into everyday life, it is important to note that more engineering needs to be completed before integration of the new scientific discovery into existing photovoltaic systems. There is pressure from society every day for scientist to come up with these new solutions.
Within 10 years it is thought that homeowners will be able to use electricity during the day which is powered by photovoltaic cells. Soon we will be able to power our homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Decentralized electricity is the future.

Source: MIT
Graphic: Patrick Gillooly, MIT
Author: Anne Trafton
Date: July 31, 2008




Ny transatlantisk facklig allians (New transatlantic union alliance)


Billed as the world’s first transatlantic union, Workers Uniting has been established in 2008 in response to growing power of global capita. It is made up of The United Steel workers and Unite of Great Britain, uniting workers across borders is their goal.

It remains to be seen just how effective these two unions can be on global politics as this is just the beginning. Still, building international solidarity can have a good effect on the initial partners as well as other countries. The true test of their power will be that they go into other countries without any colonial trappings and in the true spirit of solidarity. Those working in the industries producing paper, chemical and titanium I should be on the lookout for organizers.

Source: Miljömagasinet Nr. 22-30
Date: May 10, 2008
URL 1:
URL 2:



Television increases gender equality- and western body consciousness

1. “Al-dreamy”
2.”Television, Disordered Eating, and Young Women in Fiji: Negotiating Body Image and Identity during Rapid Social Change”

Little by little, non-western countries abandon their traditional gender values due to the great success of television. In the Arab world, many women have shown great interest in the Turkish soap opera “Noor”. “Noor” tells the story of a young, independent fashion designer and her supportive, caring husband. The series, relatively new to Arab television, has helped to narrow the

gender gap between men and women in the Arab world. Women’s activist Dr. Fawzaya Abu Khalid says that Noor’s husband personifies a passionate and giving character, which many real women would never dream of. Pressure is now on their husbands to live up to the reconfigured notion of a man who is sensitive and supports his careerist wife.

A similar development has been seen in Fiji, where women have also picked up on the positive attributes of characters in television programs. However, since the introduction of the television a remodeling of the traditional beauty ideal has been seen. Psychological stress caused by the rapid social transition has been noted, along with increased body preoccupation, eating disorders and destructive behavior. Visual media has large impact on body values as the conformity often results in a narrow ideal. With the spread of television to developing countries, and huge popularity of certain series as seen in the Arab world new set of values are spread. Traditional societies experience westernization including higher gender equality, as well as an increased body consciousness.

Source 1: Dagens Nyheter
Source 2: Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, Vol28 (4). Pp. 533-559
Author 1: Ledare
Author 2: A. E. Becker
Date 1: August 7, 2008
Date 2: 2004
Submitted by: Caroline Uggla Visionscentret Framtidsbygget intern



Changing ways of receiving information

Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?

Standardized reading tests are revealing declining or stagnating scores highten the blame laid by some on the Internet. It is seen as an enemy of reading. Internet use is claimed to lower attention spans and changes the culture that build up around books, like snuggling into a comfortable chair etc. Instead of building literacy culture, increasing attention spans and building common cultural links through shared knowledge of books the Internet decreases those skills say critics. But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web inspires a teenager who might otherwise spend most of her leisure time watching television, to read and write. One literature interested teen spends six hours a day on line reading things like her e-mail, messages, posting replies, role-playing in a fashion game and mostly reading and commenting on stories written by others.

“Literacy specialists are just beginning to investigate how reading on the Internet affects reading skills.” A recent study of more than 700 low-income, mostly Hispanic and black sixth through 10th graders in Detroit found that those students read more on the Web than in any other medium, though they also read books. The only kind of reading that related to higher academic performance was frequent novel reading, which predicted better grades in English class and higher overall grade point averages.” It becomes apparent how little is known about how reading a novel, relates to reading stories on line. What is known about reading instructions from a book or on line or chatting and writing notes? Clearly this is an area for more research before the two sides begin any debate .

Source: New York Times
Author: Motoko Rich
Date: July 27, 2008


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from May 18, 2008  


Coming generation and their task

The Lifecourse Method

The American “generation” (approx. a. 22 year period, in which individuals share a particular period in history) now coming into adulthood was born between 1982 and 2004, or in other words, they are currently between 4 years and 24 years old. The authors describe this generation as protected and prioritized children, with family stability beginning to rise and growing up with a narrowing gap between gender-roles. Schools emphasis during their childhood is based upon standards (testing popular). While crime and drug use was high in the beginning, it has started to fall. Culture is not homogeneous, that is, there are many different choices for all and this is echoed in the population where diversity is prioritized and immigration is high. This generation is called the Millennial Generation.

Millennia’s are a generation that survives by teamwork and networking. They are already showing signs of building community, not just talking about change, but making things happen on a local and sometimes global level. They live in families that prefer higher quality and fewer children, partially motivating the lowered birthrate. They are being trained and raised not to look inward, but to the civil society. In summation, “They are: special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured, and achieving”, says Seaton Hall University’s Director of Admissions, Mary Kay Cooper. Given the fact that the industrial society in which most of us have lived is dying out and environmental issues loom this generation’s task appears to be the construction of a sustainable society on the ruins of the industrial foundations.

Source: Life Course Associates
Author: William Strauss and Neil Howe
Date: May 12, 2008
URL 1:
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Knowledge about the brain increases

Grape expectations

We tend to envision the near future as optimistic, and, in addition research has found that the brain tends to experience what it expects. Research has looked at how people react to events, medication and even what we experience of the world through our senses, sight, taste, feeling and hearing. It appears that human beings have a natural tendency to create the near vision as optimistic and when we get there we interpret the results as we have expected them to be.

Healthy people use the future to distance themselves from the negative and move towards positive outcomes. We envision the near future as optimistic by integrating and regulating emotional and autobiographical information in order to create positive views of the future. In other words, we use our human power of rationalization, which are far from objective. Research indicates that the human brain doesn’t passively take in impressions, but changes the information obtained by the senses to fit its expectations. Clearly there is something to be said for self-fulfilling prophecies. This process is instigated in the pre-frontal cortex, the area in the brain we usually think of as rational. We can get around the expectations by making judgments before looking at price.

Source: The Boston Globe
Author: Jonah Lehrer
Date: February 24, 2008
URL:, /2008/02/24/grape_expectations/




From disabled to super-abled


A sports magazine has highlighted the advances in prostheses which enables otherwise talented athletes to play in major league sports. The controversy centers on whether the prostheses are so good that they give the “disabled” athletes an advantage thereby making the completion uneven. A runner from South Africa, Oscar Pistorius has Cheetah Flex-Foot legs, which are said to give him the advantage over human legs. He uses less oxygen to do the same work that able-bodied runners do. Not only are devices used, but preemptive surgeries that make tendons stronger and the LASIK surgery on the eyes which can improve vision beyond 20/20 that increase an athletes advantage. This might be the first of many such controversies as new prostheses technologies become available. If you are short, no problem, sleep in a hyperbaric chamber which adds oxygen to the blood which increases stamina.

This issue coming as it does in elite sports, is another step in the “trans-human” discussion. When sports heroes using major bionic apparatus and surgery, become role models for young people, it will further break the resistance to a new type of essence, one that is a cross between robotic and human. One might say this driver towards transhumanism is the male version of cosmetic surgery. As all new things, it is first the richest individuals that have access and they open the doors to lower prices and cheaper versions. First it was the handicapped that were disadvantaged, now some of them have the opportunity to be the advantaged, not only in elite sports, but in other areas of life.

Source: ESPN
Author and Creator: Eric Adelson
Date: May 5, 2008



Sustainability - energy


Called SeaGen, this commercial scale energy turbine placed in Northern Ireland is ready to meet 5% of the UK’s energy needs. The launchers of the energy turbine say that it has already gone through environmental evaluation and that those evaluations continue. There are a number of marine renewables energy can be drawn from: tidal stream or tidal kinetic energy conversion, tidal barrage, wave, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion which are all in various stages of development.

Despite the enthusiasm of the producers of SeaGen, there are still a lot of unanswered questions at the environmental level because the technology is so new. The U.K. is hoping for 10% of their power from this marine source. The only way to know is to test and evaluate and consider consequences and weigh the outcomes. There will be other renewable energy schemes and each has to be considered. We will be surprised by the ideas people have already come up with, which were dismissed as crazy, too costly etc. Creativity prevails and some of them will solve the energy and environmental problems.

Source: Marine Current Turbines
Author: Web site
Date: April 3, 2008




Visions over boarders


This web-site illustrates an increasing trend to play ones way to the future. The World Without Oil is an interactive alternate internet game which used collective intelligence to create a vision of a future where oil is not used. It was played one year ago (May) 2007 by 1900 players. Ten lessons were presented at the high school level and teachers choose to use all or weave some into existing teaching plans. Students were encouraged to act as if an oil crisis was actually taking place in the real world. The game ran 32 weeks and received the players own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. Players, working through characters created “stories” from their personal experience of the crisis, shortages, civil unrest. Their tools were illustrated with photos of burned gas stations (repurposed for the game), videos and podcasts from cities across North America and beyond, comics, tips about backyard gardening and much more.

The results of this game were different than the results from a scenario process. In a scenario, you suddenly find yourself in the future, but the game allows one to move from the crisis and into the future, making it much more realistic. All the initial resistance, anger and frustration are there and each takes his or her own way toward a new kind of survival. World Without Oil is not the only game of this type.

Source: World Without Oil website
Date: May 14, 2008
URL 1:
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Sustainability – Cheaper transport?

Arctic Melting May Lead To Expanded Oil Drilling

The Northwest Passage has been a vision since the 14th century. Now, the ice is melting in the Arctic Ocean with a number of consequences. The Northwest Passage appears from satellite to be passable. There is a bonus, not thought of in those early days; oil and gas. Development bids are already being sold for oil and gas by the U. S. government with more sales in 2010 and 2012. Three countries, the U.S., Canada, Russia and Norway are racing to develop the resources.

Transport, year round, that allows ships to avoid going around South America will save time and fuel. Will the gains be worth the costs? The environmental consequences of gas and oil from this area are huge. A flood of oil and gas could lull the countries into slowing down on renewable energy production. Cleaning up oil spills around broken ice will be difficult. Polar bears, who are already threatened with extinction, will be further stressed by contact with humans and fighting between the countries could develop due to disputed development rights.

Source: World Watch Institute
Author and Creator: Ben Block
Date: March 26, 2008



Relationship disconnect

Singles Nation

In the United States only 51% live in married-couples. There are more people living alone than there are households with couples and children. Couples, living together, are a growing phenomenon as are those who choose not to have children, gay couples and lesbian couples. Change in the family has occurred. This pattern is similar in Sweden (where living together without marriage has been acceptable for years) and other family constellations are not uncommon. Earlier Signs reported that 66% of Stockholm’s citizens were living alone.

Twenty-three years ago I clipped a small newspaper article telling how Japan had accepted pressure by the United Nations to treat men and women equally. It has taken all these years, but the trend is formed. While Americans (coming from an individual oriented culture) are increasingly living alone, the Japanese (from a collective culture) are living, men on their own and women with their parents. As long as Japanese women have their parents helping them, they live quite comfortable lives and don’t feel the need for a husband who is never home and never helps in the house. These educated young women like their jobs and their freedom to travel and pamper themselves. Even though 23 years seems like a long time, this is a very radical change from a long history of very structured, traditional male and female roles. The change is causing such uncertainty that dating and sex are felt to be too difficult and not worth the end result.

Author: Ubercool
Date: May 13, 2008
URL 1:
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    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from March 30, 2008  


Values changing

Muslim country singer breaks all the stereotypes

This article is “a good ol' stereotype buster”. It sets the tone for how one creates friends out of former enemies. This article applies the method to a Muslim. It draws upon his talent, appreciated in the target society (country western music lovers) and puts it together with the stereotyped group name, Muslim. The article introduces this with “There have been Muslim comedians, Muslim runway models, Muslim sitcoms and even a Muslim punk band.” The Muslim country singers name is used, which personalizes him. Attributes of the singer that have positive symbolic value are used: “mighty nice cowboy hat, was born in a small town in Oklahoma, and sings with a twang about wantin' to hear the ayyyn-gels”. In order to validate him further his recent activities are proffered as proof that he is not only human, but is successful. We seem to like successful people a little better than “average” people. So, in order to break a stereotype we have to use individuals who are successful despite their race, religion, political affiliation or extreme behavior. It is uncertain if this peace inducing method will work in a global sense, but it is being applied in schools (for example when former concentration camp victims speak to school classes, in mobbing situations) and other variations are used in situations such as in Africa when those accused of torture meet their victims under a tree and are forced to listen to the victims side of the story in order to bring peace and healing.

The method for creating enemies is well documented; one labels them as “other” by using words like evil, animal, criminal, strange, stupid, terrorist, opposition etc. Then one stereotypes and describes all in a group as having the exact same hated behaviors and values. When they have been clearly distanced from “us”, they have been placed outside the realm of what is human, good, and acceptable we can hate, despise them. Then we can kill them, torture them, and take their land, country, women and children. We can buy and sell them, we can take any resources they possess. We then have God and the good on our side.

Source: Religion News Service
Author: Marcia Z. Nelson
Date: March 25, 2008




Technology trends

Breakthrough Technologies For 2008

Some technology breakthroughs for the year 2008 predicted to be on the market during the year 2008.
  1. Medical diagnostics and treatment, bringing genetic and protein testing into the examining room which reduces both time and cost considerations in “polymerase chain action reaction” testing. The results of such tests can be used for sequencing in DNA cloning, functional analysis of genes, diagnosis of hereditary diseases, paternity testing and diagnosis of infectious diseases.
  2. The introduction, by Honda of a fuel-cell powered automobile and the Home Energy Station Unit intended to fuel the car as well as the whole household is intended to launch the hydrogen economy in California. Five hundred units will come on the market in the beginning. Natural gas will be used by the Home Energy Station to create hydrogen and thereafter, electricity.
  3. The concept of a mobile telephone morphs into the cellular handset which includes the regulars, the digital camera, FM radio, MP3 player and now television. In addition, the newer standards of 3G, or W-CDMA standards will bring GPS tracking into handsets whose single chip will combine base-band and RF into one.

The biggest problem with introduction of vehicles that run on some new type of fuel is a chicken and egg relationship between which comes first, the fuel stations or the vehicles? Honda appears to have solved this problem. Another question is the availability of natural gas, a non-renewable fuel. According to the natural gas industry there is any number of estimates as to the amount of natural gas in North America, depending upon the perspective of the players in the natural gas system. With eventual shortages as a negative, an advantage of natural gas is that it burns clean, as will hydrogen. It is not impossible that Home Energy Stations can be converted to other fuels as they become available. However, the flexibility of the Station to change fuels is not mentioned. The concept of individualized energy sources for each home could revolutionize the energy front.

Source 1:
Source 2: Natural Gas Supply Association
Author 1: Josh Wolfe
Author 2: -
Date 1: January 17, 2008
Date 2: Latest date 2004
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URL 2:




From linear to sustainable - economy

The Story of Stuff

More than just a sign of the times, The Story of Stuff (a video) is an explanation of the shift occurring from the dominate linear consumption model to the cyclic or sustainable model. It shows why and how we are (and must) make this move. This animated video explains the existing market economic model of natural material collection to production to distribution, consumption and disposal. By dropping disposal and moving consumed projects into the production system, a sustainable model is created.

The video hints at parts outside the model that have a great deal of influence, like government and corporations but in order to keep its message on consumption clear and easily understandable, they were only touched upon.

Source: Yes Magazine and YouTube
Author and Creator: Anne Leonard
Producer: Free Range Studios
Date: December 03, 2007
URL 1:
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Sustainability - energy

Ren21 Renewables 2007 Global Status Report

Of the total global power generation, renewals represented 18.4% (figure includes hydropower) in 2007. In the same year the generation capacity increased by 50% from that of 2004 to a total of 240 gig watts globally. Homes with rooftop solar PV totaled 1.5 million, doubling capacity by 50% in the years of 2006 and 2007 making it the fastest growing of the renewable technologies.

The question of nuclear power generation being “clean” is still up for discussion. Because of their controversy the United States at least is trying to sneak through legislation to build many new nuclear power generation plants. The counter claim, made by among others, Harvey Wasserman, that nuclear reactors are not able to pay for themselves and need government subsidy to be built. Renewables generated as much electric power as was created in 2006 by nuclear power.

Source: World Watch Institute - Ren21
Author: Eric Martinot
Date: 2008
URL 1:
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Increasing complexity in democracy?

Small Online Contributions Add Up to Huge Fund-Raising Edge for Obama

A great deal has been said about Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s ability to raise campaign funds on the internet. What are the advantages and disadvantages of internet fundraising in the United States? When contributions are small, there are no particular individuals expecting to be paid back. Governmental positions are then open to appointees who have qualifications for the job over their ability to contribute more than the $2,300 primary limit. Instead of many fundraisers for 100 big spenders at a time, a candidate can spend the same time in front of thousands, at rallies where participants were not to be pressed to contribute, but to hear the candidate’s message. By collecting e-mail addresses the fundraising can be carried out by others at another time and the candidate is free to listen to and speak to the public.

Potential voters providing their e-mail addresses then form a pool of individuals, who can be asked to work in the primary campaign, write letters to Democratic parties designated 20% who actually get to decide on which candidate gets the Democratic Party’s nomination. This system could lose its advantage if voters feel their e-mail access is overused or if they are being overrun by current party politicians who have the power of choosing a party candidate for President without considering the wishes of the electorate. One candidate who abuses the public trust will ruin it for all the others who follow. While this is a situation specific to the United States and to the Democratic Party it shows how complex it has become to determine what configurations promote or degrade democracy.

Source: The New York Times
Date: February 20, 2008
Author: Michael Luo



Signs of hegemonic shift

7 Countries Considering Abandoning the US Dollar (and what it means)

The world order is changing. The hegemony of the United States of America has been on the wane for some time and the evidence grows.
  1. Currency losing power -The dollar is losing value every day and is threatened as the standard of investment, both in the oil producing world and in other countries with dollar investments.
  2. Voting scandals -Reports of voting scandals in the 2000 elections and again in 2004 and in the primaries 2008.
  3. Prisons full - In a group of American adults of 99 persons, one is incarcerated.
  4. State budget failures effects schools – California state budget, at breaking point causes the California Department of Education to give notice (fire) almost 20,000 employees, teachers and administrators.
  5. Citizen surveillance – Renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act taking place. It would permanently expand the government’s domestic surveillance and give major telecommunications companies immunity to those that assisted in illegal spying.

We have spoken of the hegemonic shift in a number of “Signs of the Times”. Arguments could be made that State governments have come close to failing many times over the years, that the value of the dollar fluxuates over time. The large numbers of individuals in prison is the highest in the world and voting scandals have been largely unknown until the year 2000. Other indicators could be noted.

Source 1: Currency
Source 2: Democracy Now
Source 3: The Guardian
Source 4: Los Angeles Times
Source 5: The New York Times, American Civil Liberty Union
Date 1: November 6, 2007
Date 2: December 17, 2007
Date 3: March 1, 2008
Date 4: March 18, 2008
Date 5: February 11, 2007, March 25, 2008
Author 1: Jessica Hupp
Author 2: Amy Goodman
Author 3: Ed Pilkington
Author 4: Jason Song
Author 5: Carl Hulse, UCLU website
URL 1:

URL 2:

URL 3:
URL 4:,1,3789805.story?page=1
URL 5:




Growing brain knowledge - futures thinking

Brain Scans of the Future Psychologists Use fMRI To Understand Ties Between Memories And The Imagination

A theory of memory states that recalling the past and envisioning the future uses the same neurological pathways. Therefore, scientists think that if one cannot remember the past, it is very hard to envision the future. Proof for this theory has been found in at Washington University in St. Louis (USA). All the areas of the brain used in remembering were used in creating the future. When imagining the future additional areas were activated. The patterns in which both the past and future light up the fMRI are similar. This lays to rest the idea that the frontal lobe, the “newest” portion of the brain is the only portion involved in thinking about the future.

The study showed that vivid, personal past memories ready us for visualizing the future, anticipating, planning and monitoring. Seeing ourselves in a past event may begin the process of seeing ourselves in a future event, as both activities share the “past” neural network. Activity patterns lead to thinking that the visual and special situation we imagine for the future is made up of pieces of past experiences such as specific body movements and changes in visual perception. Future situations are also found in familiar places and utilizing familiar people if they had to do with the future situation was related to the subject of the study. A future situation formed for another person where autobiographical information from the past could not be used, the images were taken from the semantic area of the brain, which contains our general knowledge of the world around us, resulting in less vivid images. In the future, this research could be useful when studying memory loss as in amnesia and depression. It could also be a help in working with visions, long-range planning, scenario development etc.

Source: Science Daily

Producer: Ivanhoe Broadcast News for the American Institute of Physics series Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science
Illustration: Washington University in St. Louis
Date: July 1, 2007

URL 1:
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    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from February 23, 2008  


Growing rate of autism

Autism research makes slow and steady progress

In the United States the rate of autism diagnoses have increased rapidly between 1993 and 2007. In 1993 only one in 10,000 persons was autistic. In 2007, the figure drastically increased to one in 150. That adds up to 25,000 new cases each year receiving the diagnosis. The rate of persons with Autism rises exponentially.

There is no understanding of what has triggered the increase. More is known about the causes of Autism. Research is pointing to genetic failures in chromosome segment 16 where there can be missing genes, or a duplication of genes. Some forms of Autism are inherited and some are not.

Source: Foster’s Daily Democrat
Author: Robert M. Cook
Date: February 10, 2008




Sustainability - energy

Sustainable nuclear energy moves a step closer

A ”Gas-cooled Fast Reactor” (GFR), which is still on the design boards, uses less nuclear fuel and can reuse a large percentage of its own waste. In addition, it will also be able to utilize the waste with which we now are burdened. The study shows that “uranium and heavier isotopes, such as plutonium and americum, are recycled in the reactor and ultimately burned up (fissioned).” Safety issues are addressed in this iteration of the reactor which is designated a `fourth generation reactor design´ ". Natural uranium is used in this iteration of the nuclear reactor.

In the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable fuel it is natural that scientists and the public first turn to existing fuel sources in order to, with changes and modifications, solve the prevailing systemic problems. This is true of nuclear energy.

Date: December 11, 2006




Internet economy

Peer to peer loans

Loans between individuals on Internet web sites started to pop up in 2005 in the U.K. This bank-less assistance to users who wish to borrow or lend money is growing. Individuals wishing to take a loan are subject to a credit search by the Internet site providing the service. Lenders remain unknown. Loans don’t appear to be longer than three years and lenders often offer only a part of the amount requested, allowing others to cover the rest. This has the effect of protecting the loaner and spreading the risk. In order to get a loan one must specify where the money will go. The Internet site makes an automatic withdrawal from the lenders bank.

This movement is a backlash against banks with their restrictive loaning structures. Social Lending is the expression that Zopa, one of the founders of this concept use to describe their UK based service. They speak of sidestepping banks. It is particularly interesting in the face of the economic crisis where banks, on a large scale invited borrowers to take on housing loans that where payments drastically increased after a few years, far beyond loaners ability to pay. Borrowers have little choice, and default. The risks for those loans were sold to a global selection of banks and financial institutions which are now being called upon to pay up.

Source 1:
Source 2:
Source 3: ZopaWeb
Author 1: Adfero Ltd.
Author 2: Thomas Claburn
Date 1: January 16, 2008
Date 2: May 16, 2006
URL 1:
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URL 3:



Carbon neutral

“The Race to be the first Carbon Neutral Country”

Three countries on three different continents have joined the race to become carbon-neutral. One is Costa Rica, who made their declaration in February 2007. Their goal is to become C-Neutral by 2021. Some of the tools that will be used to reach this goal are: budgeting, laws and incentives, promotion of biofuels, hybrid vehicles, and clean energy. They will also develop C-Neutral tourism (air line which pays for forest conservation) and industry.
On March 05, 07 New Zealand declared its goals of becoming the first C-Neutral country, with a goal of 6 of its' 34 own agencies carbon neutral by 2012 and carbon neutral by 2020.
Norway has also a date of 2050 for their C-Neutrality.

Norway is working on what all experience is the most difficult problem - transportation. By actively building a hydrogen highway and installing hydrogen filling stations they are preparing for the future. Hydrogen is still a ways off, but two electric cars, the Think and the Buddy are being produced there. This trend will grow and it is the smaller, countries who will lead the way.

Source 1: World Watch Institute
Source 2: Mitra.byz
Source 3: NPR
Author 1: Alana Herro
Author 2: Natural Innovation Blog
Author 3: John Burnett
Date 1: March 12, 2007
Date 2: March 5. 2007
Date 3: February 19, 2008
URL 1:
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Confronting the changing face of war

Kvinnors kroppar som slagfält i krig och konflikter (Women’s bodies as a battlefield in wars and conflicts)

This report describes a new weapon of mass destruction, the systematic rape of women and girls in wars and conflicts. Examples are: a half-million victims, Rwanda-1994; 60,000 victims, Bosnia and Croatia; 64,000, 10 years civil war in Sierra Leone and 27,000 in 2007 (and continuing), in Eastern Congo. These numbers are difficult to gather and there is an assumption that they are only the top of the ice berg. It is becoming clear that these conscious and systemic forms of rape are being used as another type of weapon intended to crush individuals and societies. Methods such as women self-help groups, medical procedures and therapies are being developed to deal with both the individual and cultural consequences, but all this isn’t stopping the systematic rape trend, in fact it is growing.

In Columbia, a group called Initiativa de Mujeres por la Paz, is involved in a peace and legal process against the armed, right-wing paramilitary group. At this time 80 000 victims have demanded their rights and have reported the crimes. In other lands, the women are considered guilty and many cannot return to their families. The seven year old United Nations Security Commission’s resolution number 1325 had been important in recognition of the problem and pointing out the differences of roles between men and women in times of war. The justice system is one of the most important methods for both community and individual healing (although most are never brought to trial). Public acceptance that the rapes occurred against all women (often 1/3 to 1/2 of a population) and not just against an individual woman helps society to deal with the past so that the sore of traumatization can begin to heal. As individuals, women need access to hospitals and health clinics in order to repair their torn and batter bodies and acceptance by their families.

Source: P1 Konflikt
Date: February 23, 2008
Program Leader: Daniela Maquardt
Producer: Petra Quiding



Mind Body connection: Parenting and good mental health

Study shows stress affects brain growth

This study followed 118 children from poor surroundings from infancy to age 16 utilizing sociological test, brain scans and home visits (at ages 4 to 8 years) as methodology. The homes were all considered poor in trust between neighbors and presented exposure to horrible violence etc. Poor parenting was expressed in an unstimulating home environment, unsatisfactory relationships with their parents and lack of parental comfort when exposed to stressful situations. Other parenting qualities recorded were whether the parent introduced the visiting researcher to the child, hung the child's artwork on the wall, or smacked the child.

At the age of 15 the children were examined and given psychological tests and brain scans in high school. Altered patterns of brain growth were found, exemplified by a larger hippocampus, where memory function is located. There were also differences in the prefrontal cortex, in the area having to do with working memory and attention. Their language skills were “dramatically impaired”. The changes in brain development were thought to have been caused by cortisol, a stress hormone when found in high levels in the blood. Parental comfort has a dampening effect on the amount of stress hormones delivered to the blood. Statistically, if a child had a poor relationship with it’s parents at the age of four they were most likely to experience hippocampus impairments in their teens.

Source: The Sidney Morning Herald
Date: February 18, 2008
Author: Julie Robotham




Growing use of “grading employees”

“Can Ranking Employees Do More Harm Than Good?”

Performance Review Ranking System is the name for a tweak on the old performance review process. It appears to be catching on. Big business rarely borrows ideas from the education system, but with so much education becoming business it is not surprising that they are blending their cultures a little. Remember the old bell curve where 20% were in the top group (A’s), 70% are in the middle group (B’s) and 10% are the worst performers C’s. The difference between performance reviews which are, at their best, are a relationship between goals (business and individual development) and employee performance, is that now workers are rated in relation to others. Grading systems are used to identify those who are best suited for promotion and get rid of those who do not measure up. In some companies, a C grade two times in a row can get you fired.

The fact that the bell curve has been in question for many years, and the reason that many companies have the employee evaluate him/herself, while the boss only adds to the evaluation. It is now known that a person is always judges themselves harder than do employers or teachers. Schools are trying to prepare their students to work in teams because that is what happens on the job. Now the job is undermining teams by pitting team members’ grades against one another. Yet others think that grading is good as it inhibits management from promoting an employee when his/her performance poor performance was never clearly delineated.

Source: (The Wall Street Journal Executive Career Site)
Author: Carol Hymowitz
Date: 2008


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