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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 June 18, 2003

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Sustainability - the rocky road

Rocks in the microwave

In England, University of Nottingham, researchers have micro waved rocks containing minerals to make it easier and cheaper to get at the ore. Since 3 to 5% of the world's electricity is used in grinding rocks to reach the minerals, micro waving is seen as a time and energy saver.

Mining the earth's non-renewable resources is generally not considered sustainable. It is difficult to close mines due to loss of jobs and income. Using environmental processes in non- sustainable activities is questionable, but we see this strategy all the time. The auto industry makes vehicles that get increasingly better mileage, but they totally stop production or encourage people not to drive so much. There is always a positive to every negative. This method means that miners will get to work longer, however they will be fewer and they will need to learn new technical skills.

Source: Trend Letter
Date: May 12, 2003
Editor: Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger




Existence questions take new direction

Fifteen minute chat with Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson (Kvartsamtalet med Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson)

Considering the new techniques we have which can exchange genes among people and between species, use brain tissue to drive robots, and attempts at cloning which come continuously nearer reality; what is a human being? Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson, ethics expert sees this as the new existence question.

Existence questions have traditionally been about what are we here for, what is death, why do bad things happen to good people and is there really a god? These questions have been the same since humankind's earliest development. Now we are faced with questions that are new. Are Churches, psychologists, philosophers prepared to help people with their queries?

Source: Människor o Tro Sveriges Radio P1
Date: May 24, 2003




Decreasing drug abuse

2002 Monitoring the Future Survey Shows Decrease in Use of Marijuana, Club Drugs, Cigarettes and Tobacco

"The survey shows that the proportion of 8th and 10th graders reporting the use of any illicit drug in the prior 12 months declined significantly from 2001 to 2002. The decrease among 8th graders continues a decline in illicit drug use begun in 1997, but this is the first significant decline among 10th graders since 1998."

Decreasing drug use by youth is always good news. This survey also includes cigarette use. Unfortunately, the study does not report the motivation or offer any educated guesses as to the reason for the decrease. These large studies are always a picture of the past. It is important to monitor this trend.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Date: December 16, 2002




The ongoing battle for public transportation

Read and Ride Transit Book Club

If you live in Philadelphia, the city where Benjamin Franklin opened America's first library, and ride public transit, you can join the Read and Ride Transit Book Club. You not only get good tips on what to read but there are activities posted on this website as well. (As of this writing June's activities were not posted yet).

It helps the book store sales, stimulates recreational reading (stress reduction?) and provides a format for social connection all while promoting sustainable transportation!

Date: June 6, 2003
Title: Otis White's Urban Notebook
Author: Otis White




Growth of Barter

Tourism Promotion, Swap Meet-Style

Convention organizers in Atlanta are offering "getaway" packages to TV stations in exchange for airing their commercials. This kind of barter or exchange of services tends to grow when the economy slows.

Lower middle classes in Argentina have been using a barter economy to survive the collapse of their economy. We wrote in February, 2002 that a search on the internet for "barter trade" brought 3032 responses in the year 2000. In 2002, 166,000 responses were found.

Date: June 12, 2003
Title: Otis White's Urban Notebook
Author: Otis White




Growth of Futures Studies


"The Society of Police Futurists International (PFI) is an organization of law enforcement professionals, criminal justice scholars, and others devoted to improving policing through long-range planning and forecasting."

"The need for long-range, systemic thinking is growing in professional groups. A few years ago the Swedish doctors association commissioned a futures study."

Source: Futurist Update
World Futures Society
Date: March 26, 2003
Editor: Cindy Wagner




Growing links between "alternative" medical thinking and science

Geraniums the key to cheap nanoparticles
The memory of water

Swiss chemist Louis Rey was aware of the homeopathic belief that elements, highly diluted, can survive successive dilutions and thought that the original elements would reveal themselves in hydrogen bonds. Rey used elements diluted down to a notional 10-30 grams per cubic centimeter which is so diluted that and ions of the original material could not remain. The results showed that there were signs of the original elements found in the hydrogen bonds.

Murali Sastry, from the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India. has created nanoparticles (small particles which can be used in a variety of ways) with his process using geranium leaves and chloroaurate ions to produce nanoparticles of gold. They are biologically are more likely to be biocompatible than those produced chemically. The process developed by Sastry's team has turned out to be remarkably similar to one used by Hindu doctors to make "gold bhasmas" - or medicines based on gold.

We have earlier reported on the trend for hospitals to consider homeopathic and other "alternative" medicines when evaluating patients. This trend continues with the above research showing increased scientific validation of methods long accepted within Aruveda, the 3500 year-old Hindu medical system, and homeopathy.

Source: New Science
Date: June 11, 2003
Arthur: Lionel Milgrom


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  From May 27, 2003    


Sustainability - Energy/Africa

Geothermal Power Boost for Kenya and Eastern Africa

Geothermal energy, clean and drought resistant is thought to be the best source of energy for Kenya and Eastern Africa. A plan has been drafted with a completion date of 2020 to develop 1,000 MW of geothermal energy which would fulfil the energy needs of several million people. The potential from hitherto untapped geothermal energy resources is up to 7,000MW.

It is a long wait for Africa to get a cheap, reliable and clean source of energy. However, as the plan begins to be developed and investors see action, more serious economic and political attention could come from the business world. An area of Africa free from oil sources means it stays out of the politics that seems to follow with oil dependency.

Source: United Nations Environment Programme
Date: April 11, 2003
Press Release



Trend Baby

New forms of health insurance

Communities develop programs for the uninsured

In the United States an increasing number of families are without health insurance. At this time the number is listed as 8% of the population. Government has not been able to solve these problems and the current economy isn't helping. The trend of increasing health care costs continues upward. Corporations are cutting back on their previous offerings of health insurance as a job benefit. In this crisis, many small initiatives are popping up. These initiatives rely on charity care that physicians, hospitals, clinics, local governments and pharmacies already provide in their communities. In some cases the, physicians agree to see from 10 to 15 patients for a prescribed number of free visits and volunteer time. Central databases are used to keep track of patient records.

In richer areas, the uninsured are often the small business employees and staff required in keeping up large homes and estates. Doctors, lawyers, government officials and hospital managers in one area have united to create an insurance program for the uninsured in their area. While this is creative solution to a difficult problem it depends upon the "charity "of the well off. It assumes that the proportions between rich and poor will remain the same and in a slow economy the sustainability of these programs is in question. On the positive side, care to this group of people means less work for emergency hospitals, adding up to a huge savings for the community.

Source: Trend Letter
Date: March 31, 2003
Author: Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger
Secondary sources: American Project Acess Network




Cuts in public services

Cutbacks Imperil Health Coverage for States' Poor

State legislatures in the United States are cutting back on health insurance leaving millions without and others with lowered services. These cutbacks are the same for schools, libraries, police and other public services. According to OECD England and the US state spending has been subjected to continuous cutbacks since the 80's.

In general cutting services is rampant throughout EOCD countries. Lowered birth rate trends together with poorer schools, health care, libraries and police imply that the smaller generations we have coming to replace those born 43-63 will be less prepared to do so.

Source: New York Times
Date: March 10, 2003
Author: Robin Toner and Robert Pear




Sustainability - Clothing

Your Clothing (Dina kläder)

Instead of calling clothing environmentally safe, each article of clothing is listed as "not containing and dangerous azocolors". The largest clothing chains in Sweden, H&M, Kapp-Al, Lindex and Indiska have widened their lists of dangerous chemicals they don't wish to find in their imported clothes. Imported clothes are checked randomly for a wide list of chemicals; however the consumer still can't see any sign of that on the article of clothing which is free of poisoned chemicals.

Environmentally safe clothing has been long in coming. Not only do manufactures have to deal with one or two chemicals, but a whole battery. Residue of weed and pest killers, azocolors and heavy metals, formaldehyde, cadmium, pentachlorophenol, phthalate and anti-bacterial material are just some of the chemicals.

Source: Råd och Rön
Date: May 5, 2003
Secondary sources:
URL: for Environmentally Responsible Economies




Sustainability - oil from waste products

Anything into Oil - Technological savvy could turn 600 million tons of turkey guts and other waste into 4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year.

The natural process of turning the carcasses of dead animals to the oil we use today generally takes thousands or millions of years. Subterranean heat and pressure changes are chaotic, therefore the long time span. Under this pressure and heat, polymers, long chains of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon-bearing molecules, decompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbons. However, a new process called Thermal depolymerization uses machines greatly speed up the process. It raises heat and pressure to levels that break the long molecular bonds of waste products like leftovers from a turkey processing plant.

A group in India called the Facilitation Centre for Industrial Plasma Technologies has a whole range of ways of turning used materials into usable products, There are a number of companies working with the concept of breaking raw materials into reusable products.

Source: Discover Vol. 24 No. 5 (May 2003)
Contributed by: Oliver Markley
Date: May, 2003
Author and photographer: By Brad Lemley and Tony Law




Corporate knowledge losses

Shifting Trends Companies develop strategies to retain knowledge

Loss of knowledge in companies occurs when there are layoffs, early-retirement buyouts and attrition. As time goes on mass retirement will also contribute to loss of knowledge within companies.

There are a number of comprehensive actions that can help retain corporate knowledge. One is use of retirees in part-time positions, as short term- consultants and as seasonal workers. Employers will have to think about appropriate compensation, interesting tasks and recognition of employee contributions.

Source: Trend Letter
Date: May 12, 2003
Editor: Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger




Increased adult literacy and life length

Which World?

Adult literacy and life expectancy have increased in the period between 1997 and 1990-95 in India, Egypt, Nigeria, China, Brazil, Russia, North America.

Despite much bad news about the current economy and the pressure it puts on the poor, it is assuring to know that certain quality of life measure point upwards. Naturally, things can have happened since 1990-95.

Source: Caltech University
Date: May 23, 2003


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  From April 29, 2003    


Increasing Media monopolies

Prime Time Payola.
Is Clear Channel buying political favors with pro-war fanaticism?

Radio stations were deregulated in 1996 in the US. Clear Channel Communications is now the nation's largest radio chain. It is the world's largest radio broadcaster with interests in concert promotion and billboard advertising. It's owns 1,200 radio stations which is approximately 50 percent of the all the stations in the country.

The trend for media to be owned by fewer and fewer people has been going on for more than fifteen years. When trends are so long we tend to forget them and their effect on democracy.

Source: In These Times
Date: April 4, 2003
Author: Stephen Marshall




Interest in Islam continues

The Influence of Islam

A lesson for school children (aimed at home schooled children in USA) in Islamic architecture with the mosque as it's primary example, describes the parts of the mosque and features such as the pointed arch. It shows the connection between Islamic architecture and later European construction.

Often something positive comes from tragedy. Teaching children about Islamic architecture is a sign that the interest in Islam triggered by the 9/11 attacks is still strong. One year after the tragedy, The Guardian Unlimited reported "...Muslims across Britain are now crediting an '11 September factor' for the upsurge of interest in their religion". Currently, Powell's electronic book store has 59 different copies of the Qur'an for sale. There were 359 titles that fit a search on for the word "Qur'an". The Swedish on-line book store shows 91 titles under Qur'an. Clearly, interest continues.

Source: About Education
Date: April 8, 2003
Author: Andrea Mulder-Slater

Source: The Observer
Date: September 1, 2002
Author: Martin Bright





Sustainability - Hydrogen cells

Advanced Capital Services Leads Capital Pool Formation Effort

Investment firms find full cell manufacturers are interesting investment objects. One such firm, Advanced Capital Services, has stated its intentions to acquire between 10 and 49 percent equity stakes in companies in 34 of the most viable fuel cell stack and components manufactures. A multibillion dollar venture capital pool is earmarked for this investment.

As long-term readers of Tecken i tiden know, we have been following clean car and energy development. Three years ago we wrote that 2003, was to be the year that fuel-cell cars were to come on the market. According to The Clean Fuels & Electric Vehicles Report, Peugeot has come out with a fuel cell equipped fire truck, Daimler Chrysler has promised fuel cell cars for some time and now state they will come out with 60 this year (2003). General Motors has its Hy-wire fuel cell car. news service reports on bio-cell research that cuts costs but not the size of the cell (a long standing problem). Using a polymer with specially tailored pores increases the lifespan of electrodes from days to over two weeks, Bio-cells run best on Ethanol, which is less toxic in combination with the enzymes needed in the process.

Date: March 10, 2003
Author: James Cannon

Source: news service
Date: March 3, 2003




Sustainability - corporate responsibility growing


A growing number of companies are giving out CSR (corporate social responsibility) reports along with their annual financial statements. Five organizations on the Internet work to help companies to develop guidelines for their CSR's (see below). In the United Kingdom has a ministry of corporate social responsibility and require pension fund managers to make explicit their social and environmental criteria for investment decisions. Companies on the French Stock Exchange are required to include information on their social and environmental performance on a regular basis. In South Africa the Johannesburg Stock Exchange has a code of conduct for social and environmental practices.

While many say this trend is driven by a need to make money and altruism is good business. Others say what ever the reason, it is still better to have companies thinking and acting on social and environmental issues than go on the way they have been.

Source: Trend Letter
Date: March 31, 2003
Editor: Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger




Complexity - move away from linear solutions

Gun Maker Found Liable in Shooting Accident

In an trial of an accidental shooting of a child the blame was apportioned thusly: maker, designer, company founder and main distributor of the .38-caliber semiautomatic used in the shooting- 35 percent liable for the injury to the boy. Two other gun distributors that shipped the gun and the pawnshop in Willits, Calif. where it was bought were allotted 13 percent liability. The 20-year-old baby sitter who accidentally pulled the trigger while trying to unload the gun was seen as 52 percent liable.

In most cases there is only one defendant and one individual blamed for an action. Maybe the courts are beginning to move away from linear thinking - from the evil soul who should be punished to a more complex and realistic view: there are often several persons who share responsibility for a crime.

Source: The New York Times
Date: April 23, 2003
Author: Fox Butterfield




Ethics - stock market

Shareholders Succeed in Ending Secrecy

Two new rules requiring disclosure of proxy voting guidelines, procedures and voting records for mutual funds and investment advisors were taken by the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) in the USA. Socially responsible investors were responsible for thousands of letters and email messages urging acceptance of the new rules. Opposition is still strong and it is possible these rules will be rescinded.

The Social Investment Forum's president, Tim Smith says "There is mounting evidence that attention to shareholder rights, including social and corporate governance issues, is linked to long-term corporate performance. "SIF's 2001 report ""Socially Responsible Investing Trends" points out that in the United States "despite a stock market slide covering most of the time period since the publication of the SIF's 1999 Trends Report, the total level of socially and environmentally responsible investing in the United States grew by 8 percent from $2.16 trillion in 1999 to 2.32 trillion in 2001.

Source: Semi-Annual Report, Domini Social Investments
Date: January 31, 2003
Author: Ami domini




Maintaining the value of gold

A Golden Future

New uses for gold are being found in the delivery of medicine, safety components in vehicles, in hip replacements, hearing aid and computers.

Gold is a mineral that is very tied to humans do to the status and wealth it represents. It has even been used in ancient times as medicine. Now new uses for gold are being found in industry. More buyers will be competing keeping prices up. In the future gold may be more values for it's industrial properties than for the jewelry that it is most used for today.

Source: Materials World Vol. 10 no. 8 pg.
Date: August 17, 2002


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  From March 29, 2003    


Information technology or cyber war

Firing Leaflets and Electrons, U.S. Wages Information War

The war against Iraq is already occurring. This war is being waged through e-mail assault against political, military and economic leadership; telephone calls to private cell phone numbers of officials; leaflet drop of eight million directed to antiaircraft missile operators; radio transmitters from planes are broadcasting programs that copy local formats directed to the Iraqi public. These methods can being backed up by electronic attacks on power grids, communications systems and computer networks with weapons that flash millions of watts of electricity, disabling computers and equipment, the electric system in the city of Baghdad.

Is this a prototype of war for the future? Should this type of war be encouraged over traditional types? The success of these methods could mean that other countries or groups might develop the same techniques against the United States. Could this type of war eliminate mines, destruction of cities and other infrastructure, and most important save lives? Could this be touted as the new ecological war, with clean bombs (see Signs of the Times "Environmentally friendly war - green explosives, September 1, 2001) is a follow-up threat if information was doesn't work?

Source: New York Times
Date: February 23, 2003
Authors: Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt




Reducing health costs - tobacco

UN health agency hails agreement on global anti-tobacco treaty

More than 170 countries have agreed to the first-ever global anti-smoking treaty which imposes restrictions on the advertising and marketing of tobacco. Included are guidelines on tobacco taxation, smoking prevention and treatment, illicit trade, advertising, sponsorship and promotion and product regulation.

While this is a milestone for the World Health Organization, the treaty has yet to be signed and ratified. The picture looks positive when the state of Kentucky, the state most dependent on tobacco income and where three out of ten adults and four out of ten high school students smoke. The other extreme is Indian films where 80% show some kind of use of tobacco use to 15 million people every day.

Source: United Nations
Date: March 5, 2003





Population changes - reduction of pensions

What if a Pension Shift Hit Lawmakers, Too?

Countries are struggling with the cost of pensions for large portion of people who will begin to retire in 1910. Companies with traditional retirement programs in the United States have allowed workers to increase the size of retirement benefits in the years just before retirement, giving the company the advantage of worker loyalty. A trend beginning in the 1980's, has large companies switching to retirement plans that allow employees to manage their own retirement money by periodically receiving notice of a hypothetical cash balance. They are called cash-balance pensions. It appears that the losses to retirees will be substantial and there is currently a debate as to how to solve the problem. Sweden has tried dependence on the stock market as a way to lower their responsibility. Just before the stock market bubble burst, individuals were given control of investment of two percent of their retirement funds.

As countries struggle with this problem, we may see the hippy generation out demonstrating again, this time for their pensions.

Source: New York Times
Date: March 10, 2003
Author: Mary Williams Walsh




The ongoing search for pollution free energy

A Hydrogen Economy Is a Bad Idea

Often seen as the way to leave our current carbon- based energy system, the "hydrogen economy" is counted as positive by environmentalists who see hydrogen coming from water enabled by wind power. Others see a water-based hydrogen economy enabled by nuclear power. Today almost 50 percent of the world's commercial hydrogen now comes from natural gas. Another 20 percent is derived from coal.

This is seen as a mid-range solution by some. The search for "free energy" goes on, this time not by"mad scientists on the margin, as mentioned last month, but from real scientists working today. Jan Källne, a particle physicist at Uppsala University is working on the ITER-project. The project is looking at potential sights on which to build an experimental reactor which can draw energy from ether (also referred to as fusion power and Zero Point Energy). This, of course, is a long-range method which still has many unanswered questions. Canada, Japan, Sweden and recently the United States are putting funds into this project.

Source: AlterNet
Date: February 24, 2003
Author: David Morris




Sustainability - solar energy

'Denim' solar panels to clothe future buildings and Cool colours

Two articles describe solar projects that give us an insight into a possible future. Lighter, more flexible solar panels are expected to be ready for use in 2004. It can be form fitted to the curves of modern buildings or roofs. The construction process uses waste silicon from the chip-making industry. It allows the use of more surfaces for solar collection.

A coating which absorbs heat from the sun when the temperature drops below 20 °C, warms the building and above 20 °C the coating automatically starts to reflect sunlight to keep the building cool has been developed by Yiping Ma and his colleagues at Tongji University in Shanghai. The color will change with the seasons and currently they are looking at blue for warmer periods and red for colder periods. The inventor claims that the coating "can increase the temperature by about 4 °C in winter, and can decrease the temperature by about 8 °C in summer".

While solar power is generated outside of the building, the inside is kept warm by the new paint, which helps maintain the indoor climate. While flexible solar cells are getting ready for sales and manufacturing, the environmental paint is still being developed.

Source: New
Date: April 18, 2001 and February 15, 2003
Authors: Jenny Hogan "Denim" and Duncan Graham-Rowe





Increasing control of human reproduction

In Vitro Fertilization Makes Motherhood Possible for Women After Menopause

Researchers at the University of Southern California used vitro fertilization in 77 healthy women aged 50 to 63. More than half (42 of the 77) delivered babies reported The Journal of the American Medical Association. Most deliveries were cesarean. There were no deaths but there were frequent complications such as varying degrees of high blood pressure and diabetes.

The five lowest countries on the Human Development Index (U.N.) have an average replacement level of 6.9, compared to the lowest five countries with1.64. When things are at their worst women have as many babies as possible. In the lower stages of development technology enables the sorting of sexes. In 1986, of 8,000 abortions performed in Bombay, only three were males.* As human rights and economic stability increase we have fewer babies and have them later. Then, in combination with new technology, motherhood is being extended to the age of to 63.

Source: Digital
Date: November 13, 2002
Author: David McAlary

* Jen Joynt and Vasugi GaneshananthanThe Atlantic Monthly, April 2003, pages 38-39.




Restoring damaged land

Plastic Film to Promote Grass Growing on Barren Landscapes

Intensive mining, fires and other soil destruction can be saved from dust storms and erosion with a new, thin layer of aqueous emulsion of polymer (or plastic film). This means that vegetation can be restored on infertile ground without planting seeds. The film protects the seeds that have blown in naturally. The film remains on the ground several years before biodegrading. Most seeds root in the first year protected by the heat and frost resistant plastic. In the second year sod is formed, which binds the soil and reversing erosion. It is also takes less time and is cheaper than other methods.

The research work behind this new plastic comes from Svetlana Mesyats from the Geological Institute of the Kola Research Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences and her colleagues. The results very positive and while there might be some less desirable aspects this could help in fires, on soil that has been cleaned of toxins. It might also have an impact on flooding from areas like Bangladesh where tree cover has been removed.

Source: Materials World Vol. 10 no. 8 pg.
Date: August 17, 2002


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  From February 26, 2003    


Decrease in amount of oil spillage


According to the Swedish Coastguard the amount of oil spilled is decreasing which is due to a variety of factors, newer equipment on ships and in harbors, environmental consciousness etc. It is still difficult to track specific ships even with data bases such as Lloyds of London and seasearcher-com. It is possible to track where a merchant ship is and where it is expected, but with more than 100,000 vessels it is impossible to monitor them all. Older and unsafe ships are being watched by their richer neighbors in the Baltic region and pressured to make safety precautions. This cuts the speed by which the global merchant fleet can be updated.

In Denmark, with it's geographical proximity, a system of contacting individual ships by radio and giving them information about oil spills had decreased the number of spills by about 30%. While this method is not directly transferable to other countries, the use of direct, personal contact seems to have a good effect. Imagine a world without oil spills!

Source: Swedish Coast Guard
Date: February 21, 2003
Utredare Björn Looström




Towards duel identity immigrants

Testing the Limits of Tolerance

The most understood pattern of immigration is to settle in a country with the idea of staying there, learning the language and settling in. The new immigrants understood and accepted that their children and grandchildren would become citizens of the new country and (if grudgingly) take on its customs. Many past immigrants understood they would never go back. The new trend is to move away from the difficulties of the home land to a safer place with more economic possibilities. The exile group sticks together and continues to practice the culture of the home land with little or no thought of their children or grandchildren assimilating or becoming a member of the new State. Children can be sent back to the homeland to be educated, keep in touch with the family and find a spouse. With the whole family working together even poorer families can keep contact with the homeland.

Some countries are offering duel citizenship in recognition of the problem. However practices that are extreme in the eyes of the new country such as female circumcision and the killing of daughters who are believed have damaged the family's honor cause moral and legal difficulties.

Source: The Futurist
Date: March/April 2003
Author: Clifton Coles




Control of media during war becomes more sophisticated

Journalists Are Assigned to Accompany U.S. Troops

One fifth of the five hundred journalists allowed to travel to the front in an eventual war in Iraq will be from around the world, including al-Jazira. Journalists will be assigned to a specific combat or support unit. They will live under the same conditions as the soldiers. They have been provided training and gear to protect against nuclear, biological and chemical gas attack and will get food and transportation. Journalists will be controlled so that information that hinders the war effort does not get out. In addition, there are 200 to 300 satellite phones in Baghdad, and a dozen video uplinks and video phones. Those positions were awarded based on circulations and markets served.

Whether attached to a unit, sharing life and death experiences or sitting in Baghdad seeing local citizens get killed, both types of reporters' objectivity will be affected. As news consumers it is very important for our understanding to know how news and information is being controlled and any eventual slants reporters might have. It is important to understand what news we may not be getting as well. Hopefully, this war never starts, but if it does we will be more knowledgeable about the information we receive.

Source: New York Times
Date: February 18, 2003
Author: Ralph Blumenthal and Jim Rutenberg




The search for "Free" energy

The Scientist, the Madman, the Thief and their Lightbulb

Obtaining energy from the universe, from the vacuum, from Z-point energy, from fission that is not nuclear, or from understanding gravity- this book presents ideas from the margin. This is where new ideas come from. The author describes "inventors, machines and technologies that seem to be ushering in a new energy revolution…" which are intended to improve the environment and make energy "free" to all. The author makes his case that some of these wild ideas could work given any open minded attention and research funding. Solar, wind and hydrogen are just steps along the way and as they become main stream they will open space for these new ideas which question even the paradigms of quantum physics.

The search for energy is a macro-trend reaching back to the burning of wood and forward to-we know not what. However, there are always signs in what is happening today. The scope of this book covers a period from the 1880's to the present. Bringing this research into the mainstream might be quite far off; however in the last Signs of the times (see November 2002) we reported the breaking of the Second law of thermodynamics as having been broken at the molecular level. This is just the level that our "out on the margin" scientists are working on.

Source: The Scientist, the Madman, the Thief and their Lightbulb
Published: 2001
Author: Keith Tutt
Publisher: Pocket Books




Sustainability - food service packaging

Fantastic Plastic

There are now two companies offering biodegradable food service packaging. One is based in Australia and the other in Santa Barbara, California. Limestone, potato starch, paper and fiber and corn-based bioplastic are the ingredients in these products. The business are new, appear to have patens in place and one is currently being listed on NASDEQ.

After the first words about recyclable dinnerware ten years ago we might be able to use these products within a couple of years. Utne reports that one of the companies products have been seen at McDonalds and Wal-Mart. Their energy savings promises to be large given the currently enormous market for take out and fast food. The best conditions for composting have been studied. There are several groups continuing research in bio plastics which back up the companies , see: Now maybe the timing is right for these products.

Source: Utne
Date: March/April 2003




Reinventing the "left"

You Say You Want a Revolution, Learning from the Right, Tell It Like It Is, Connected we stand, Be the Change You Want to See, Make Protests Fun

In at least six articles by six American writers, all are talking about the need to "move inward and outward", reflect and find common purpose. Progressives are asked to leave ego behind and learn from the political organizing of the "right". They are asked to have honest discussions and learn to listen and socialize with people who think differently from them. It is no longer a matter of left and right, but of a Division culture and Connector culture. The Connector unites people by finding their points of connection and agreement. The Division culture is seen in individualism, elitism and utopianism. Being a good Connector means looking deep into ones own ability to dialogue without antagonism, anger and name calling. Develop oneself as an example of positive leadership; model the change that you wish to have in society instead of complaining about what others are doing wrong.

The terms right and left are totally out of date. We have to leave the linear polarizations connected to right and wrong, black and white, good and bad and us and them in order to look for connection instead, but as these authors indicate that takes introspection. The me generation has been developing a group of people in western cultures that have been consciously growing themselves. Maybe that is preparation for reinventing the "left".

Source: Utne
Date: March/April 2003
Authors: Jon Spayde, Anjula Razdan, Julie Ristau, Philip Slater, Karen Olson, Jessica Misslin




Local and small

Lokalpolitiken har stor betydelse för europeiska kvinnors förvärvsarbete " Local politics is important for European women's work life"

There are many factors that determine if a woman can take a salaried job in the three European countries studies, Germany, Sweden and Italy. It isn't only the countries welfare politics that frame women's chances to work. Interviews with local politicians in the respective countries reveled that conditions can vary greatly between different regions, partly dependent on the local political majority and their goals and partly on the local economic possibilities.

This new completed doctoral work shows that attitudes and availability of jobs for women are largely dependent on local attitudes and values and economics. While not in itself a trend, it emphasizes the importance of the local situation in an ever globalizing world.

Source: Press release from Umeå University
Date: February 20, 2003
Researcher: Eva Sundström


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  From November 02, 2002    


Declining respect for authority in governance


Some of the many findings of The World Values Survey, which monitors global values, are that in advanced industrial societies are" becoming increasingly critical of hierarchical authority, are also becoming increasingly resistant to authoritarian government, more interested in political life, and more apt to play an active role in politics."

Democracy tends to rise when hierarchical authority is criticized. This democracy is seen in the current response to globalization, The World Bank, The World Trade Organization etc. Hierarchical authority is a linear form of governance in an increasingly complex society. We look for signs that new, albeit more complex forms of democracy are rising to take the place of hierarchical forms, but this will take time. It is interesting to note that in the animal world hierarchical patterns are very strong although far from being the only way to organize.

Source A: World Values Survey
Date: October 16,, 2002
Ronald Inglehart




Globalization of workers

A Proposal to American Labor

The authors propose "Open-source unionism" as a way to strengthen unions in a period when unions are loosing their format and their membership. Open - source unionism takes membership away from the specific site and breaks down the traditional job site related bargaining power. While this is a proposal we see below examples of how unions are creating open - source unionism using Internet and increase membership. They are building "virtual communities" made up of union supporters who have not traditionally been a part of the standard collective-bargaining model. Examples: Alliance@IBM, WAGE ("Workers at GE),", WashTech and the Australian IT Workers Alliance

Unions have been floundering and loosing membership for some time now and need something revolutionary to turn them around. Companies have become more aware of their responsibilities and where they have failed, law- suits have taken over. However, far from all have the finances and stamina to get through a law- suit. Unions still have a roll to play. Open - source unionism will change the rules of the game and force employers to band together.

Source: The Nation
Date: June 24, 2002
Author: Richard B Freeman and Joel Rogers




Values change - information

Revolution at the Reference Desk - A new generation of librarians see information as a social cause

New librarians come with the values of their generation and librarians are no exception. They are for free information, social responsibility and wish to develop services for immigrants. They are more than librarians, they are activists who march for peace, oppose corporate globalization, teach, write and function as advocates for library users.

It is very important to understand the values of generations younger than oneself. We may not agree, but if we are to understand the driving changes in the community it important to keep an ear open to their ideas and thoughts. Often they are a symptom of a system adjusting itself to the negative effects of what came before.

Source A: Utne
Date: November- December 2002
Author: Chris Dodge




Literacy levels increase with individual oriented societies

A look at literacy today

The issue of literacy in a post- industrial America is getting more sophisticated. There is now family literacy, financial literacy and health literacy. Financing is from business, branch associations, government and donations. These skills are seen as necessary to good citizenship, consumer protection and lowered costs.

Financial literacy is seen as the ability to handle personal finances. Low health literacy is defined as "the ability to read, understand, and act on health information. It is seen s an emerging public health issue that affects people of all ages, races, and income levels. Family literacy covers a range from teaching all family members to read to getting parents to read to their children and thereby improve their skills.

Source A: Yahoo, Pfizer, Financial Literacy
Date: October 29, 2002
Quotes and information from the following web sites:




Scientific paradigm (world view) shift

Second law of thermodynamics "broken"

The long held theory of thermodynamics (second law) states that matter and energy can only be changed in one direction, for example from order to disorder. A source of energy, such as wood may continue to exist in molecular form after being used, but the amount of energy potential it has decreases. Now scientists in Australia have found that this rule we thought to be universally true on all levels, does not apply to microscopic systems. At short time intervals the scientists found that entropy was negative and even positive (gaining energy) in these small systems. The experiment was done with laser beams that trap latex beads.

This has unbelievable ramifications if we can create small systems that maintain or even create new energy.

Source: New Scientist
Date: July 2, 2002
Original Source: Physical Review Letters (vol 89, 050601)
Author: Matthew Chalmers




Fighting water privatization

New Orleans water privatization killed

The New Orleans Water Board, after spending $3.8 million on feasibility studies and soliciting three bids, voted not to privatize. Other privatization attempts have been made in India and Mexico where Monsanto is the purchasing company.

We have seen what privatization of public utilities did to the cost of electricity. Signs of the times reported on a trend to privatize water (July 14, 2001 to July 31, 2001). The New Orleans example seems to be the second opposing trend to fight privatization. The first was in Cochabama, Bolivia where strikes shut down the city for a week.

Source: Water Industry News
Date: October 17, 2002
Author: Stephanie Grace
Original Source: The Times-Picayune




Sustainability through reuse of materials

California Recycles a Profitable Idea

A web site advertises a variety of products made of recycled materials that are produced in the State of California. The site is directed to wholesalers who purchase sale in stores. It has lowered California's waste by 42%. Items can be purchased on-line and include reconstituted acrylic paints, furniture, flooring, children's swings and much more.

Many cities are struggling with where to put their garbage. This is one of those exciting ideas that begs to be copied. One would think that it is a private initiative or at least started by some sort of collective. Actually, it is run by a government agency, the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

Source: Christian Science Monitor
Date: October 9, 2002
Author: Mary Kuhl


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  From September 16, 2002,    


From linear to complex thinking

A. Roller som lockar (Roles that attract)

There are 19 000 members in Sweden’s Role and Conflict Association. One of the attractions is fantasy and the ability to test situations that are not a part of player’s daily lives. It gives players a chance to be someone else. There is no goal in these games.

B. Friluftsteater i Närke (Outdoor theater in Närke)

Theater is being created in the countryside of Sweden that takes up historical situations and creates a story that possibly could have happened into a play. The actors are local citizens and they are played out in local village association buildings.

While the young are acting out their roll plays, adults are acting out their histories, children are learning storytelling in schools and managers are learning to tell the stories of their companies. Museums are using their personnel as actors when showing grand old historical homes. This non-linear method of relating information that highlights many different aspects of a situation rather than drawing out the most statistically important, is typical of linear thinking.

Source A: Metro
Date: March 28, 2002
Olow Nyman

Source B: Sveriges Radio P1, Kulturradion
Date: August 8, 2002>




Globalization – monopolies

Communications breakdown

In recent years, around five global communications groups have emerged as dominate. The top five control 60% of the communications corporations, who for example own the three biggest advertising agencies in America. They mix communication and traditional advertising. One limit to this control is conflict of interest, when buyers and sellers have the same clients. In addition, large corporations maintain the financial individuality of smaller agencies, so that cost savings from size has limits.

We have reported on monopolies in the automobile industry (May 2000). There is a series of these global monopolies, for example in banking. Now there are hints that mergers between biotech firms are going the way of pharmaceutical firms by creating a group of dominating giants. Countries have traditionally controlled monopoly building, through formal authorities or more grass roots consumer groups. The question for the future is where will control of global monopolies come from, the World Trade Organization?

Source: The Economist
Date: June 22- 28, 2002




New industries – water industry

Demands for water bring flood of investors

A. Water is a priority for life. Tecken i tiden looks at it from various angles. In October 2000 we looked at a report on water depletion, in July 2001, selling water in poorer countries and in February 2001, water conservation in fish hatcheries. Now Trend letter is defining water as a lucrative, safe and profitable business opportunity. Associated products are included in this trend, wastewater treatment, purification, storage, transportation and supply. This new industry is described as global.

B. Another water trend is to rethink water reservoirs. There are three new alternatives that cities are looking at:

Inter-basin transfers, moving water from less populous areas that have an access to growing communities unable to keep up with rising demand.

Aquifer storage and recovery, treated water pumped into an aquifer during the rainy season, is recovered during dry periods.

Desalinization, conversion of salt water into potable water

Water is not just a business opportunity, but a growing knowledge on how to preserve and rehabilitate water sources is growing. Good News India, presents enthusiasts who are helping communities through out India to make change. Here is one of their water project stories.

Source A: Trend Letter
Date: July 8, 2002
Vol. 21, No.14
Editor-in-chief, Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger

Source B: Water Industry News
Date: August 5, 2002




Return to two superpowers

A. "The Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations: Collaboration or Confrontation?"

Together the EU and US account for 50% of the entire world economy.

B. U.S.-European Union Relations: Economic Change and Political Transition

In a visionary piece written in 1999, two professors say that relations between these two superpowers are “going through a period of fundamental readjustment”. They predict a fundamental and gradual change in power given the rise of the Euro and EU’s economy.

C. "The Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations: Collaboration or Confrontation?"

“If the administration (American) is truly committed to a new strategic framework that enhances our security and foreign relations, it must be engaged in Europe.”

It used to be The United States and the Soviet Union. Now it is looking increasingly like the Soviet Union is being replaced by The European Union. We are seeing conflicts typical of two relatively equal powers. They have been about trade, Iraq, the Kyoto agreement, genetic manipulated foods and the International Criminal Court. Yet, one difference could keep Europe from competing on equal footing, and that is demographic. In the next 30 years fertility rate differences could cripple EU’s economic power. Mediating forces would be the entrance of new countries to the Union and immigration (which is not a favourite solution at this time). quickly.

Source A: European Union web site

Source B: National Defenses University
Steven Philip Kramer is Professor of Grand Strategy and Irene Kyriakopoulos is Professor of Economics at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University.
Number 165, July 1999

Source C: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Speech by House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt
Date: August 2, 2001




Younger generations changed attitude to work

Time Out

In School, careers and even marriages, Americans are taking a break. Very often it is due to burnout, but there is a change in attitudes toward work (read the younger generations) is slowly having an impact. Workers are taking a more cyclical approach to their lives.

One of the contributing factors to increased sabbaticals is that companies who would otherwise lay off someone are offering semi-paid "leaves of absence".

Source: American Demographics
Pamela Paul
Date: June 06, 2002




Understanding the mind-body connection

Smekandets sprakande språk (The Crackling Language of Touch)

Scientists in Sweden have identified the nerve fibers that make us feel good. They have used a magnetic functional camera to see where in the brain gentle touches with a brush registered. "A" fibers and "C" fibers activate different sections of the brain. "C" fibers send out a calming hormone called oxytocin. It affects heart rhythm. "C" fibers give a comfortable feeling and protect against stress and lower pain.

This kind of knowledge can assist us in handling stress more effectively. It has other implications as well. It helps validate such programs as hand and foot massage as a way to decrease tensions in the classroom and the why patients feel better when a nurse strokes them as they come out of surgery.

Source: Göteborgs - Posten
Date: September, 8, 2002
Margareta William-Olsson




Sustainability - Recycling

EU-länder inför rätta dålig sophantering (EU Countries Taken to Court)

The EU Commission is taking 15 EU countries to court because they are not taking proper care of their trash sorting. If found guilty they will be subject to fines.

Two interesting aspects are taken up in this small notice. First is that the EU is beginning to activate it’s regulatory powers. If they are effective it will give power to other regulatory areas (Portugal’s debt which has gone under agreed upon levels). Another interesting point is that the better EU becomes in upholding internal agreements, the stronger and more credible it is as an entity. That strengthens the above trend "Return to two superpowers".

Source: Miljö & utveckling (Environment and Development)
14 NR. 4:2002
Date: August, 2002


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  From June 17, 2002    

Trend Baby

Return to core business concept

Sears Goes Back To The Future

A large retail American firm, Sears is reorganizing. They have sold all businesses not related to catalogue and retail sales, opened a store in the town where they started (Chicago) and have gone back to a greater emphasis on catalogue sales which built the business.

If this is the beginning of a trend, it will be wonderfully timed to the nostalgia of the aging population who will surely be motivated by shopping at a company they recognize from their childhood.

Source: Business
Date: May 13, 2001
Mark Lewis




Fighting poverty by lowering divorce rate

Love on the rocks: Taking aim at divorce rates

In US states, particularly those “Bible Belt” states (strong Christian churchgoers) divorce rates are so high that they are becoming a major cause of poverty. One third of all divorced families end up below the poverty line. Divorce rates are now up to 50%.

Divorce is a private experience until it starts to affect the public coffers. State officials are calling on the church and professionals to help stem the divorce tide.

Source: Trend Letter
Date: April 15, 2002
Volume 21, No. 8
Editor Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger




The brown revolution

The world is continually urbanizing. In the future, two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. The biggest growth is in countries where industrialization is taking place. The problems associated with mega cities are getting more attention these days on the international level. UN-Habitat is a United Nations agency that has gained in status recently.

Urbanized, post-industrial cities have different problems from industrial cities. The higher levels of people living alone require more housing and services, both physical and social.

Source: The Economist
Date: May 11-17 2002




Ecology -Burials

Ekologisk begravning en del av kretsloppet
(Ecological funerals – a part of the life cycle).

It was at least ten years ago when our colleague Nicklas Albury of Social Inventions Institute introduced the ecological burial in England. Now a new business has started in Sweden that provides internments that includes freeze drying and quick absorption into nature.

This option could get a start from baby boomers who want to live and die in accordance with their values. With so many passing at the same time the sheer numbers could move this choice to first place very quickly.

Source: Miljöeko
Nr. 2 2002
Author: Tommy Löfgren

Global Ideas Bank created by Nicklas Albury
(Nicklas died suddenly a year ago in a car accident, a great loss of creativity and energy).




Ethics in government

How Living Wage Laws Affect Low-Wage Workers and Low-Income Families

A growing American trend is the living wage ordinance. It requires the city adapting the ordinance to pay all who contract with them a wage that lifts them over poverty levels. Since 1994, nearly 40 cities in the United States have passed these laws.

Government entities, like private businesses are struggling with ethical salaries and conditions. This trend will hopefully help to erase the concept “working poor”.

Source: Public Policy Institute of California
Date: May 8, 2002




Technology that doesn’t deliver

A. Vetandets Värld IT

GPS, the satellite system for locating a vehicle is now being used in small hand held receivers that are intended to be used on hikes out in the woods, etc. After a review of several models the reviewer ends by saying a good map and compass work just as well!

B. Mobile CRM technology teaches marketers new tricks

It has taken five years for software that helps marketers with their customer relations’ management to stop disappointing users.

Here we have two examples of many where electronic products come out too early and are tested on the consumer. Both articulated complaints about products that come out too early and don’t deliver.

Source A: Swedish Radio P1
Date: Date: May 29, 2002
Per Gustafsson

Source B: Trend Letter Vol. 21. 10
May 13, 2002
Edited by Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger




Changing the nature of human beings

The future of mind control

A. The ethics issues surrounding genetics are a huge dilemma. Brain research is also the source of many difficult ethical issues about the essence of humanity. For example: drug companies are looking for the molecules that will cure brain-related problems from paralysis to shyness.

B. “Transhumanism is a philosophy that humanity can, and should, strive to higher levels, both physically, mentally and socially. It encourages research into such areas as life extension, cryonics, nanotechnology, physical and mental enhancements, uploading human consciousness into computers and mega scale engineering.”

This quote reveals one group’s philosophy to this ethical dilemma.

Source A: The Economist
Date: May 25-31 2002

Source B. Anders Sandbury’s web page.
Date: June 4, 2002


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