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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 September 10, 2006

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Behavioral change antidote to global warming

Offset Your Vehicle CO2 Load through TerraPass

The process by which we make large scale societal change has been and is being studied in a cross disciplinary field called innovation diffusion. One such study finds that some of the population can consider a changed situation as long as it doesn’t impact their life style. This web site caters to those of us who just can’t, for any number of reasons change our personal routines and practices. Driving and car ownership are too integral to our definition of ourselves. Instead of doing more than trying to cut down of driving time and spending some money we can help finance clean energy development and reducing the source of global warming.

After having calculated the CO2 emissions from your automobile (or your plane travel) on a yearly basis you pay an amount “as little as” $29.95 per year (small fuel efficient vehicles). This amount is then invested in one of three types of energy, wind, biomass and industrial efficiency. Industrial plants can do the same thing. Your CO2 still fills the atmosphere, but you make it easier to get energy from “clean” electricity. A third party (or more) monitor this transaction to make sure everything is “on the up and up” or proper.

Source: terrapass
Date: August 11 2006




Sustainability - energy

Engineer Designs System To Put Wastewater To Work

Society is and will be trying any number of methods to find new ways of providing clean energy. An enterprising assistant professor of chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis is perfecting a method for energy creation from used and dirty water that comes from industry. The final product is clean water and energy.

Using hungry bacteria, the researcher produces both cleaner water and food. The bacteria ingest the organic material in the waste water. At the same time they release the electrons to an “anodic electrode” via copper wire. The resulting electrons are drawn to the cathodic electrode via en copper wire which forms them into protons. Once in the protons go through a membrane where a reaction is formed with electrons and form water.

Source: Power Online
Date: August 8, 2006




Future of Economic leadership

A discussion on the world's biggest economies with Daniel Franklin, editor, The World in 2006

In the year 2026 the top military power will still be the United States. The top purchasing power will be in China (22% or 1/5th), U.S.A., and the European countries of Germany and France with three to four percent each. India and Japan with 1/10th percent each..

It is interesting to note that “superpowership” is predicted to be split between military power and economic power. Many are predicting the fall of the U. S. as a world power and some say that economically it began to go down hill in the seventies. If a country looses economic power, how long can it maintain military power?

Source: Economist
Date: August 30, 2006
Speaker: Daniel Franklin




Global government

UN Reform

A reform package has been submitted to he U. N. this summer. The reforms range from bureaucratic to political. There are two essential views of the goal of “reform”, which has been occurring for about every eight years, but has recently taken on speed. The superpower view is that of a weak UN with a small budget and little to say about economic matters. The opposing view comes from a variety of countries who feel that the UN should be stronger and more effective in its multilateral policy making. Essentially, UN’s problems stem from the differences in values and approaches of the member states themselves.

The United Nations is seen by many as the only democratic global organ on the planet. However, if it is ever to be a reality, some of the proposed reforms will have to be met. Specifically, the structure of the Security Council is up for change, but the battle continues without any mutually acceptable suggestions.

Source: Global Policy
Date: August 30, 2006




Sustainability - Recycling

Resource Conservation and Recycling
Eco-Friendly Recycled Candy Wrapper Handbags, Belts & Accessories

The talk is beginning to disappear and refurbished products or completely made with recycled materials are becoming available. Your next copier, computer, can be made with reused parts. You will find recycled paper in tissue products, Cereal boxes and newsprint. Recycled plastics are used in making new bottles. The asphalt, concrete, and the metal in new cars is recycled again and again.

A whole book on art, jewelry, practical household, toys items and even a measuring scale made of two sardine cans has been written by Charlene Cerny. Other recycled materials used are candy wrappers, movie billboards, Many bags, belts and jewelry are produced for high-end, trendy and fashion markets.

Source 1: Google search “global recycled product sales”
Source 2: Tanzania Development Gateway
Date 1: August 29, 2006
Date 2: August 29, 2006
Author:2: Nyasigo Kornel
URL 1:

URL 2:
URL 3:




Longer, more thoughtful travel

The future of travel: where do we go from here?

A number of pressures may change our way of vacationing and the airline industry. In retrospect, the present may be seen as the period of peak travel. High oil prices, generally high stress, growing concern about the planet and security issues may all work to keep us from flying less and taking longer vacations where we really get to know an area. The growing discomfort of air travel may not seem worth it for the shorter trip, where as a longer trip may make the discomfort less of a disadvantage. The weekend getaway may have seen its final days. Mark Ellingham and Tony Wheeler, founders of Rough Guide and Lonely Planet are encouraging travelers to travel less and spend more time when they arrive. The result could be better relations between hose communities and increased cultural sensitivity.

Guide books will turn into pod casts, and iris scanners come into greater use, speeding boarding time. The future looks a little bleak for low-cost flying. It appears that English companies are beginning to make a distinction between “soft” holidays which are days where employees must work a number of hours at a freely chosen location or “hard” holidays which are the days where the employer can not reach them.

Source: The Independent
Date: August 15, 2006
Author: Simon Calder




Precursor to new ways of dealing with teens

Feelings matter less to teenagers

Recent brain research points out why teens behave the way they do and give us a chance to create new responses to teen behaviors. Adolescence is still a time of growth when it comes to the human brain. An area that develops even beyond the teen years is the medial prefrontal cortex which has to do with higher-level thinking, empathy, guilt and understanding of the motivations of others. This area of the brain is “underused” by teenagers who use the posterior area of the brain which perceives and imagines actions. The implication is that teens may think less about the way their actions impact others and how those others might feel.

The teen age period has been a problem for modern societies. In earlier times they became integrated into the adult world earlier. They were given jobs and became parents, forced to take responsibility. There were always adults around to model behaviors and skills. Today’s teenagers are neither children nor adults. They live often in their own worlds with their own culture and role models.

Source: University College London
Date: September 6, 2006
Author: Press Release


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from August 14, 2006  

This Sign of the Times, May/August, is dedicated to my father, Sam Potts, who represents a generation who could never have imagined such possibilities. What are the unimaginable signs of the future our children and grandchildren will not be able to imagine? ND


Humanizing Prison (Revisited)

ARGENTINA: World Cup - Behind Bars

Prisons in Argentina, as in most other countries, have many problems, the slow pace of the courts which means the majority of prisoners are pending trial, overcrowding, high levels of violence. Add to that, "cells lacking windows or other ventilation, toilets with no water, windows without glass and showers without hot water, even in the cold Argentine winter, shortages of food and medicines, and veritable torture chambers where prisoners are routinely mistreated." Those in charge of prison sports decided to relieve the situation for the prisoners by staging a world cup championship which parallels the official World Cup Games. Tryouts were held to find the best players. They were allotted to teams from the countries participating in the official games. No quibbling or fighting took place as to which country an individual would play for. Logistics for transporting teams took into consideration the shortest distances between prisons. When they weren't training, prisoners made flags of the countries they represented so that their families could cheer for them at games.

We have reported earlier on some positive things happening in prisons. This story fits the same trend, but it comes from a different part of the world, Argentina. It shows what a difference one or a few persons can make on a small scale. The light in this tunnel is based upon soccer.

Source: Inter Press News Service Agency
Author: Marcela Valente
Date: April, 2006




Sustainability despite human beings

Coral Withstands Bleaching By Feeding

In 1998, a weather event called El Niño blanched 16 percent of the world's corals reefs. Corals provide food, protection and shelter. The United Nations predicts that 60 percent of all reefs will disappear by 2030. Coral reefs attract fish that many poorer costal populations use as their main source of protein so coral death is the beginning of other problems for more than just the costal populations. However, some of the coral reefs are recovering and scientists are finding out why. One particular type of coral (there are many), is M. capitata started to make a comeback despite the fact that the algae upon it had died in the higher than usual water temperatures.

M. Capitata began feeding more upon plankton rather than the algae it had previously depended upon. This innovation or adoption to the new environment is very exciting. There is still much research to be done, as the flora and fauna of today evolves to survive the activities of humankind.

Source: Science News, Scientific
Date: April 27, 2006




Sustainable economy

The New Capitalists$

Utne Reader (presenter of the best of the alternative media) has a number of articles on the New Capitalists. CSR (corporate social responsibility) is a growing trend and the companyies who make sure that all of their processes are safe for the environment, pay and take care of their employees, have qualified for receiving the Fair Trade emblem, use byproducts of other companies in their production are a part of it. They are the New Capitalists. Some companies are created with sustainability in mind. Examples are Pura Vida, one of the largest fair trade sellers of coffee, GreenKarat, who make jewelry from recycled gold which saves at least 20 tons of mine waste, or Seventh Generation who sells nontoxic and environmentally safe household products. They are all making money. Others are the older established corporations who try to do some good in society, set goals and plan visions, but parts of their business are totally unsustainable. Often they begin by reducing their energy needs.

The biggest hinder to the trend of growing corporate social responsibility is the legal structure of corporations which are required to serve the best interests of the shareholder. Two ways to change the situation are to: expand the definition of "shareholder interests" or change the legal definition of corporations. There are activists working with both methods.

Source: Utne Reader
Date: May-June 06
Author: John Hart




From oil economy to ???

The World After Oil Peaks

There is a lot of discussion these days about "Peak Oil", when will it peak, has it peaked and less about what we should have in place when it does peak. A number of industries are going to have a difficult time if they have no plans to move from oil based products to plant or other bases for their products. Some of the first affected will be the automobile, food, and airline industries according to Lester Brown.

A sign that foresight is not being exercised is the lack of oil reduction planning. Evidence is that in most countries have not revised their method for oil consumption, but "keep building auto assembly plants, roads and highways". "Building an economy that will sustain economic progress requires a cooperative worldwide effort," We are lacking a global government. In food production Americans alone will have to replace the 400 gallons of oil used in food production, delivery, packaging, preparation, pesticide production etc. Farming will have to be micro-managed and urban agriculture (growing food in cities) already involved 800 million people in the 1990's supplying about one-third of all food consumed in cities. Instead of the average 22 miles per gallon the United States they could be getting 55 miles per gallon (Toyota Prius). With very efficient gas-electric hybrids the next 10 years could see a reduction by half of today's gasoline use. Most importantly, the population will have to be reduced. Most developed nations are currently in a reduction pattern, but the total numbers of people able to survive sustainably has yet to be determined.

Source: Earth Policy News, Adapted from Chapter 2, "Beyond the Oil Peak," in, Plan B
2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble
Date: 2006
Author: Lester R. Brown
Publisher: New York: W.W. Norton & Company




Population change - ramifications and policy

Think Tank Specials - The Grandchild Gap
Policies, institutions and fertility rates: a panel data analysis for OECD countries

Political policies will be increasingly shaped by what we do in the bedroom and in the back seats of cars! We have reported earlier on the dropping fertility rates in both developed and developing countries. There are exceptions, but the general global trend is downward. Many countries support the aged, handicapped, the poor and the ill primarily out of income taxes. In other words, the workforce supports these programs. In a time of declining workforce new methods will have to be devised or individual families will have to go back to taking care of their own elderly, handicapped or ill out of their own salaries. With just one or two children to support two aged parents plus any children of their own, the need to work longer hours, family life becomes difficult.

OECD countries are making policies that make it easier to have children such as financial incentives and parental leaves. Suggested policies also include, for example, getting older people to work longer, increasing work hours, getting discriminated minorities and those on welfare into the workforce.

Source 1: PBS Documentary
Source 2: OECD Economic Studies No. 41
Date 1: April 18, 2006
Date 2: February, 2005
Producer 1: Andrew Walworth
URL 1:
URL 2:,2340,




Toward better mental health

1. If the chemistry is right … you might remember this
2. Training the brain to stop worrying
3. Brain scans may predict cognitive decline in normal people
4. The Future of Neurotechnology

  1. Newest brain research gives us an idea of what the future might hold in terms of new medications, elimination of certain health problems and even the potential causes of new problems. A discovery of how nerve cell chemicals work in passing information to one another has to do with the chemicals dynamin and syndapin. They are crucial for the ongoing neurotransmission cycle. This research is basic for future looks at many neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, conditions of memory loss and schizophrenia.
  2. Anxiety is a huge problem for many people. A technique called Neurofeedback or EEG Biofeedbackis now being tested. Neurofeedback trains regulation and adjustment to the brain itself with the result of more efficient function. Using a computer, the individual earns rewards when she is able to sustain beneficial brain waves in an area of the brain not prone to the horrible repetition found in anxiety and other illnesses. This technique has been applied with success on cases of ADD/ADHD and epilepsy.
  3. It is possible to detect changes in the brains of normal older people that are predictive of cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Such technologies such as electrical stimulators and other technologies will provide an alternative to medical approaches. This is a breakthrough especially for those resistant to antidepressant drugs. Identification at early stages could be linked to lifestyle risk factors that are possible to change.
  4. Neurotechnology: New treatments are already beginning to emerge, including brain stimulation devices to treat epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, depression, and even obesity, as well as drugs to target nerve cell growth.

Improvements in mental function have many positive and possibly a few negative aspects for the future. At best they would improve the quality of life for those afflicted and those around them.

Source 1: Innovations Report
Source 2: New Wales
Source 3: Neurofeedback
Source 4: Technology Review (MIT)
Date 1: May 29, 2006
Date 2: May 29, 2006
Date 3: 2006
Date 4: May 21, 2006
Author 1: Dr Phillip Robinson
Author 2:  
Author 3: University of California - Berkeley
Author 4: Emily Singer
URL 1:

URL 2:
URL 3:

URL 4:




Hegemonic power - The future of American politics

The Future of the Bush Doctrine on US Foreign Policy

Neo conservatism is the name given the political thinking which describes the verbalization and policy/action under the Bush presidency. In less than two years Bush's second term of office ends. Both terms have been connected with a great deal of criticism and even hate within and particularly from the rest of the world. Some of this is to be expected when directed to the hegemonic world power, but the rest has been a direct dislike of neo conservatism, here defined by the author: " unapologetically encourages the United States to embrace the burdens of a superpower and to be unafraid to resort to military action. Neoconservatives also wish to give "moral clarity" to US foreign policy, hence the language in Bush's speeches on freedom and liberty. Neoconservatives want greater political and military flexibility for the United States to act unilaterally and preemptively because they share a disdain for what they see as ineffective international organizations that have failed to spread democratic values and curb oppressive regimes." Naturally, there are different ideas as to just what neo conservatism means, but the above is that which is agreed upon .

The author does not see neo conservatism continuing with a new administration because of previous: inability to move from rhetoric to action, inflammatory talk, drive to handle things alone and the relationship to unbridled free trade policy. This will result loss of position as a guiding force behind American politics and loss of support from voters. What will remain is discussion of liberty and democratic values.

Source: Harvard International Review
Date: 2006
Author: International Review staff


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from April 24, 2006  


Trends in alternative education

Quality Schools

  1. New types of schools are getting a foothold. Here are just some examples: There were 22 Quality schools as of 2005 in the U.S.A. They are based upon the work of William Glasser, psychiatrist, the creator of Reality Therapy and Choice Therapy. Quality schools are based upon those methods. The schools are coercion free and a good relationship between students and teachers is emphasized. Relationships are based upon trust and respect. Children are guided in their choices but choose their own subjects of study and there is a strong relationship between knowledge and practical application.

  2. The Coalition of Essential Schools was founded upon the results of a 1984 study of high schools by Theodore R. Sizer and colleagues. Key principals are: personalized instruction, small schools and classrooms, trust and high expectations between students and teachers, task based assessments, democratic practices and polities and partnership with the community. There are 21 centers each having a number of school under them.

  3. The Sudbury Schools began in 1968 and now have about 40 schools. Besides the United States there are Sudbury schools in Japan, Mexico, Canada and Spain. The Sudbury schools follow the ideas of the establishing school but are independent. The principal is democracy and school meetings are held every week. Students learn to think for themselves. They learn to make clear logical arguments, deal with complex ethical issues, initiate their own activities and take responsibility for outcomes. Work is done at their own pace and in their own way.

Democracy, respect for the child, thinking over knowing, individualization and child driven learning, small, mixed age groups, and close integration between parents and the community are common in all of these approaches. Today's schools are trapped in a paradigm shift that is the move from and industrially based economy to an information economy. While that is old news to many, schools as an institution change long after society. It is said that in the alternative practices of today may be found the seeds of the future, in this case schools. Waldorf and Montessori are also growing alternatives in the school world. The theory of multiple intelligences framed by Dr. Howard Gardner is being integrated into existing schools and has schools which use his principals as their guiding philosophy, such as New Dimensions School in North Carolina and New City School and the Gardner School in Washington.

Source 1: Choice Theory, William Glasser,M.D
Source 2: The Coalition of Essential Schools
Source 3: Sudbury Valley School
Date: April, 2006
URL 1:
URL 2:
URL 2:




Aging and longer lifestyles

Longer Lives Threatened by Global Divide Arguments

Biologists discuss increased health and longer-life at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A study of increased longevity on the economy was presented with its own model. Dr. Shripad Tuljapurkar's model looked deeper into the cross between demographics and the economy. "He said that between 2010 and 2030, anti-aging therapies will increase the normal lifespan by 20 years -- an estimate many scientists consider "moderate."

Some of the pros and cons of longer lifestyles suggested are: the creation of twice the numbers of retired Americans, retirement age would increase to 85, which in the U.S. would be necessary to keep social systems functioning, people would live longer and healthier lives, haves and have not's society where the richer live longer and the poorer retain normal mortality, acceptance of "natural" death, because we live longer, we have more time to find solutions to eventual problems it may create. Note: I remember a discussion group at a meeting of futurists 12-15 years ago where the topic was a have and have not society created by information technology. As the technology spread and computers were designed for illiterate and low level readers, people with handicaps etc, this form of discussion died out. Longevity discussions could follow the same trend.

Source: TechNewsWorld
Date: February 24, 2006
Author: Sonia Arrison




Sustainability - taxes

And It's Time for the Entire World to Lower Income Taxes and Raise Environmental Taxes

The prominent environmentalist, Lester Brown, writes about a trend in taxation which targets products and activities which harm the environment. While he gives examples from various parts of the world he particularly points out Germany and Sweden. Germany started in 1999 and in four years lowered taxes on labor and raised them on energy. Sweden began a 10 year project in 2001. The goal was to move $3.9 billion in taxes placed on income to activities which damaged the environment such as cars and trucks, vehicle and fuel taxes and electricity.

The effect for Germany at the end of four years was lowered fuel use by 5 percent. The renewable energy sector had gown and accelerated. Around 45,400 jobs were created in the wind industry by 2003. Projections for 2010 are 103,000 jobs. By 2025 Sweden plans to be free of oil.

Source: Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, Chapter 12
Date: April 12, 2006
Author: Lester Brown




Exploiting the commons

African bio-resources 'exploited by West'

This is an old trend with a new twist. For hundreds of years richer countries have been exploiting other countries for wood, oil, gold, other minerals etc. For a long time it hasn't been countries, but multinational corporations who buy raw materials at low prices and turn a large profit. In this current case it is pharmaceutical firms. They have been accused of breaching the United Nations convention on biodiversity. Biodiversity is defined in part by examples of unique materials, plants to bacteria. They obtain patens on these resources which prevents any local development of their own products from local bio-resources.

An example is mycobacterium originally from Uganda. The British firm SR Pharma has obtained patens for this bacterium and used it to develop treatments for chronic viral infections, including HIV. Companies argue that the countries from which these bio- resources come didn't put in money for investment so they have no right to get any of the potential earnings. Further, companies feel their products are for the good of mankind.

Source: The Independent online
Date: February 16, 2006
Author: Andrew Buncombe
URL 1:
URL 2:




New economic measures (from alternative to mainstream)

Grossly distorted picture. It's high time that economists looked at more than just GDP

A recent OECD report, OECD'S 2006 Going for Growth, suggested that the major measurement of economic success GDP no longer is sufficient to accurately measure a nation's financial well being. In fact, it was never intended for that purpose, but was developed as a measurement tool in guiding the huge production drive linked to the Second World War. The GDP measures the worth of goods and services produced by each country's citizens.

This report suggests that money paid to non-citizens and investments made in other lands along with monies arriving from other countries be included in any measure of financial well being. GDP doesn't allow for depreciation of capital stock. It also does not include leisure, inequality and the environment. By inequality it is meant that those countries with greater differences between rich and poor have a lower average GDP, while those with less difference in income spread have a higher GDP. Leisure time raises the quality of well being, but traditionally it has been the long working hours that have been valued. The trick is now to get countries to use these new measures.

Source: Economists, print edition
Date: Feb 9th 2006




Globalization of crime increases

Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy

Governments are unable to keep up with the developments in illegal crime which are already substantial and growing. This is a potentially a new and common enemy. Instead of East vs. West, Christianity vs. Islam, poor vs. the rich, the new global dichotomy could be the established economy vs. illicit economy. The crimes include weapons (including nuclear weapons), drugs (including fake drugs), slavery and sex trafficking (With 30 million women and children trafficked in the last ten years), knock-offs, sale of body parts, art works and antiques.

Law enforcement is not organized globally to fight such crime. In one or two cases, (A Moldovan breakaway region) and South Korea (knock-offs) the criminals are protect by a constituted government. According to the author, a former Executive Director of the World Bank and Minister of industry and Trade in Venezuela, only a global organization can keep this trend from continuing its upward swing.

Source: Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
Date: October, 2005
Author: Moiés Naím
Publisher: Doubleday, New York




Questioning large, international gatherings

"Sverige bör dra sig ur Fotbolls-VM" (Sweden should withdraw from World Cup participation)

  1. Concerns about the religious ceremony Hajj in Saudi Arabia as an incubator for disease have caused the government there to take measures such as forbidding pilgrims from lands with outbreaks of SARS and other diseases from coming until the danger is over in their country. Outbreaks of cholera and meningitis have occurred in the past brought in by returning Hajj participants. 2.5 million participants at the last Hajj living in close quarters for one week are a haven for virus and bacteria.

  2. The Soccer World Cup should be boycotted says the Equality Ombudsman from Sweden. The millions of men all gathered in one location, in a country where prostitution is legal will bring a huge influx of women, mostly sex slaves, to the event. It is estimated that tens of thousands of women will be brought into Germany for this event. Sex slavery is seen as a crime against humanity and this Swedish authority thinks that Sweden, by its participation, will be sanctioning slavery. Comments after the announcement were mixed within the country.

While this trend to restrict large gatherings of people for ethical or health reasons is still in its infancy, it is possible, given security measures in countries that such large gatherings will not be possible in the future. The limitations brought about by terrorist activities such as in the case of the Olympics where the Israeli team was attacked. The cost and logistics of security in such events as the Olympic Games, huge concerts and sports events may eventually prove just too difficult to control.

Source: 1.Seed Magazine 2. Jämställdhetsombudsman
Date: 1. April 7, 2006 2. April 3, 2006
Author: 1. Kevin Friedl 2. Claes Borgström
URL 1:
URL 2: 3.


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from March 16, 2006  


Education - complexity and individually oriented

Thirty-two Trends Affecting Distance Education: An Informed Foundation for Strategic Planning

Higher education (U.S. A.) is in the process of becoming less linear and more complex, decentralized, and with more distance learning courses and computer- based sections in classroom teaching. In fact distance learning and regular classroom instruction are merging. Students guide the shape of education by shopping for courses which meet their schedules and circumstances, first in distance learning. Traditional courses are being pressed to be more learner-centered and self-directed. Online students and regular college students are generally older. The online students already have college course behind them and higher grades than regular college students. As in class-room based higher education (also applies in OECD countries) there are more female students with minorities participation rising.

Faculty tenure is coming under question, with an accompanying resistance by some. Longer hours put in by distance teaching faculty is creating a discrepancy between reimbursement distance and regular teaching. Knowledge and information are doubling every four years. Institutes of higher education are decentralizing (an example is Gothenburg University, Sweden). Competency is becoming more important than completion and higher education is working more with high schools, colleges and other education businesses. Life long learning is seen as a necessity.

Source: Journal of Distance Learning Administration Volume VI, Nurmer III
Date: Fall, 2003
Authors: Scott, L. Howell, PHd, Peter B Williams, M.S. Nathan K. Lindsay, M. S.




Optimal health

Eyes wide shut: McGovern research sheds light on visual circuits

A protein in the brain called the NMDA receptor has two roles. In prenatal rats (and in human fetuses) the receptor eliminates the weaker neurons and connections or neural circuits which are created for perception, thinking and learning. After birth and later in life the same protein NMDA strengthening existing axon connections. It is the role of eliminator that has newly been discovered.

The connections in the fetus that have never responded to patterns of light (or any other signals) so the brain doesn't know which connections should be removed. It eliminates those axons which appear "grossly misguided and relatively ineffective". Because of this research it is now speculated that a number of neurological disorders such as schizophrenia, Huntington's, and Lou Gehrig's disease can be caused by mistakes in this process.

Source: Web MIT Press Release
Date: January 9, 2006




Poverty and tourism

The Conscious Traveler, Exploring responsible tourism

The idea of responsible tourism grows. The commemoration of tragedies such as visits to Auschwitz have been extended to visits to the war scared Sierra Leone and to the Cambodia' killing fields, Rwanda and New Orleans. This trend is driven by a desire to be more responsible tourists. A center to study responsible tourism, International Centre for Responsible Tourism, has been developed.

Other forms of responsible tourism involve in-depth education on the visited country and ecological tourism. Advise on how to travel ecologically is available on the Internet.

Date: February 2, 2006
Author: Bennett Gordon




Sustainable Energy - wind advances

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Airborne Wind Power

Three projects are developing floating, tethered windmills that will be highly portable and cheaper to construct. They will take advantage of the continuous flow of jet stream wind at high altitudes. It is calculated that 1% of the wind of the wind from the jet stream could supply all of the electricity needed in the United States. Jet stream wind blows steadily compared to wind at lower altitudes; the result is higher electricity levels. No solution is perfect. Some of the restrictions are: only useful at middle- and higher-latitudes, (areas around the equator would have to have other sources), electrical storms can interrupt power, and they have to be flown in restricted air space. On the positive side birds could be protected by a noise given off by the flying windmill or seen by birds and bats at a distance and avoided. Bird deflecting noise and other noise would not be a bother to people as they will be sharing the same space.

How close are these projects to production? Sky Power has field tested prototypes backed by 23 years of research. Mageen uses a little different technology and helium gas to keep its will mill afloat. They are predicting a prototype by the end of this year. Laddermill, a Dutch project seems to have stagnated or at least there is no news on their website for the last three years.

Source: Worldchanging
Date: January 30, 2006
Author: Jeremy Faludi
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Global clubs and non-institutional organizations

Afghanistan Welcomes Debt Cancellations

As the flood a wave of debt cancellation continues to break on the global beach, it is interesting to note how these cancellations occur. In the recent case of Afghanistan, the debt was canceled "through the procedures of the Paris Club". The Paris Club is just one of a number of "clubs", non-institutional organizations and alliances that take action or force change in a global environment. They are an "informal" organization of credit giving countries that see their mission as postponing debt, and the reduction of debt service obligations. Nineteen countries are members, all developed countries and Russia. They are not a legal organization and have no legal status.

Another such group is the G7/G8. It began in 1975 and concerns itself with economic policy, political and security matters although they do discuss and take action on such diverse issues as the information society and an international database on pedophiles. They are not an "institution" and their membership closely parallels that of the Paris Club. The G77 (at the United Nations) is a loose coalition of the developing nations of the United Nations. While they started as 77, they now have 132 member states and in contrast to the above named groups have an institutional status within the UN. It is the vehicle from which the developing world articulates and promotes economic interests and strengthens negotiating capacity on economic issues within the U.N. It also promotes economic and technical cooperation.

The World Economic Forum describes itself as an independent international organization. Their vision is that of improving the state of the world. Their focus is gathering world leaders to "shape global, regional and industry agendas. It is under the Swiss Government and is non-partisan. Membership is made up of the leaders from one thousand leading companies in the world. The antithesis of the World Economic Forum is the World Social Forum. They have no membership requirements but are open to social movements, networks, NGO's and other civil society organizations. The criterion is that they must be opposed to neo-liberalism (Milton Freeman's market economic theory).

In the absence of a global government these are some of the organizations emerging in different ways. Their goals are to influence global development according to the values orientation they each possess despite attempts at "neutrality". Whether an elite club of financially strong countries or companies or open forum of individuals or developing countries they can all be seen as part of a future global structure.

Source: Yahoo News
Date: February 8, 2005
Authors: Daniel Cooney, Associated Press
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Controversy between Science and Religion

Religion's Evolutionary Origins

The discussion of whether religion can be explained by science or religion is beyond the realm of science continues. The book Religion's Evolutionary Origins by Philosopher Dan Dennet, adds new fire to the discussion between science and religion by stating that science should study religion as a part of the evolutional process.

Signs of the Times December 29, 2003, reported on earlier scientific research. One was research that found a relationship between the damaged temporal lobes of epilepsy patients and religious hallucinations. Related research tried to define the difference between religious experience and a psychosis (as in schizophrenia) to answer the question; Is it God talking through a human being or are religious experiences triggered by specific illnesses in the brain?

Source: On Point, Boston's National Public Radio News Source
Date Aired: 1. February 01, 2006 2
Author: Dan Dennet




Systematic ebbs and flows in demographics

Four Surprises in Global Demography

Replacement fertility is when the birth rate is 2.1 children per lifetime for society's females. Europe, Australia and New Zealand, North America, Japan, and the highly industrialized East Asian outposts of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea have sub-replacement fertility. In addition, East Asia, Thailand and Burma in Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, South-Central Asia, many Caribbean societies, and most South American countries are experiencing sub-replacement fertility. These countries represent about ½ of the worlds population. The spread of sub-replacement fertility is even found in spread Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon along with Turkey and surprisingly in Iran (1.9). The probable scenario for China is an aged population with low economic standing, no public retirement plan and physical jobs not suited to older workers.

Unnatural gender balances, embodied in a higher rate of males to females is not only related to India and China where government programs limiting the number of children per family caused the preference to boy babies. Gender imbalance has increased and can also be found in the Caucasus, parts of Latin America and Eastern Europe, and even in subpopulations within the U.S. Worst case scenarios could be 126 boys for every 100 girls.

From 1950 to 1980, life expectancy between the more and less developed nations balanced out each other. Despite the thought that life expectancy is on the rise, over 40 countries are projected to experience sustained increases in mortality (or lower life expectancy) in 2010 than they did in 1990. The life expectancy decline is expected to last at least 20 years. HIV/AIDS is one of the reasons, poor health care in the former Soviet countries where tuberculosis, alcohol and its related cardiovascular disease and injuries are the largest contributors.

While the global demography points to a decreasing population. With both high immigration and high birth rates U.S.A.'s workforce will remain in tact giving them the distinction of being the global exception.

These demographic trends are occurring now and will be clearly visible in 2026 - 2050 and beyond. They need to be balanced against each other and against many other trends in order to get an idea of the possibilities. (Ask us about Cross Impact Matrix which allows trends to be analyzed in relation to other trends occurring at the same time.)

Source: Nicholas Eberstadt
Date: July 30, 2004
Author: Roy S. Carson


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from February 01, 2006  


Health improvement

Body Burden, the pollution in newborns, Report by the Environmental Working Group

Tests of blood from the umbilical cords of ten babies were made by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and collaborators Commonweal. The blood was tested for the presents of industrial chemicals and pollutants. Two hundred and eighty-seven chemicals were found in the group originating from, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.

It has been believed that the umbilical cord blocked chemicals and pollutants from entering the fetus, but this new research shows that this is not the case. The report goes into detail about the different chemicals and the laws or absence of laws and testing before they get into the marketplace. This writer wonders if a new goal for parents might be organic babies (certified by doctors at the time of birth).

Source: Environmental Working Group
Date: July 14, 2005




Brain theories - from hardwired to plasticity

Old Brain, new tricks

Early theories on the brain from the 1850's postulated that each region of the brain had a specific function which could not be used for anything else. Brain cells died or were damaged and could not be replaced. There is growing evidence for the new theories of plasticity that shows that the brain can reorganize and adapt, for example in the case of an injury. Work is currently being done on how to establish connections to new brain parts and strengthen current connections to different parts of the brain. For example, the visual cortex, which is not using visual stimuli can still use form pictures based on tactical and other sensory input. Alternate connections appear to be in place when it comes to the visual cortex, but building alternate connections requires repetition.

While there is still more to be known about the way the brain rewires itself there are therapies already working miracles. A case of Cerebral Palsy is being cured by restraining the working limb and giving the paralyzed limb a series of exercises. By repeating these exercises, function is developing and increasing. Commercial software called Brain Gym is helping elderly with mild cognitive disorder to rewire their brains in order to retain their memory. Similar software is being used to help solve childhood dyslexia and applications for other brain related problems are also being considered.

Source 1:. The Boston Globe
Source 2: CBS News
Date 1: January 15, 2006
Date 2: January 15, 2006
Author 1: Cara Feinberg
Author 2: CBS News
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The poor and lower middle-class get poorer (USA)

Living at an Epicenter of Diabetes, Defiance and Despair
Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy

In a much earlier Signs of the Times, we noted a trend to identify small market niches that had earlier been ignored. One of those was low-income persons. Now we can see the actualization of that trend in two ways. For example: East Harlem NY has fast food stores who market their food to their low-income customers in the following way: McDonald's advertises the ''$1 Menu.''. Burger King, touts it's ''New Enormous Omelet Sandwich. It's Huge.'' Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), they encourage people to ''Feed Your Family for Under $4 Each.'' This area has the largest percentage of obese people who have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes.

The other area of niching the poor has to do with finances. Author Howard Karger identifies special financial services designed to meet the needs of those living on the edge and for which high fees are taken. They include: check cashing services, tax refund lenders (if the government owes an individual money back on taxes, one can borrow the amount at a high interest rate before the actual check arrives), companies that allow one to rent with the monthly sub applied to purchase (higher cost than an outright purchase), and debt services. These and many services aren't always new, but used to be provided by locals. Now corporations have taken over to get the profit from this market niche as well.

Source 1: New York Times
Source 2. Short Changed
Date 1: January 10, 2006
Date 2: September 2005
Author 1: N. R. Kleinfield
Author 2: Berrett- Koehler (Publisher)
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Urban Agriculture

Agropolis: The Social, Political and Environmental Dimensions of Urban Agriculture

Informal urban agriculture sustains urban poor. It is a survival strategy which the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) estimates 800 million people participated in during the 1990's. It supplied about one-third of all food consumed in cities. Peri-urban (agriculture on the edges of cities) also contributed. The trend is that national governments are increasingly using Urban agriculture in their planning and development. Some of the countries sited were: Namibia, Togo. Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Botswana, Argentina, France and England. In South America and the Caribbean there is the Quito Declaration which commits to support for urban agriculture.

Urban agriculture reduces dependence on imported food, saves producers money, cools the city climate, absorbs air pollution and beautifies the city.

Source: Future Survey 27:10
Date: October 2005
Editor: Michael Marien




Trend baby - Immigration based upon values

Europe's Social Democrats, Solidarity and Muslim Immigration

Two trends in European thinking are, one, based on the idea of solidarity that says it is important for us to take in suffering people from other countries and two, an altruistic thinking that says we need to take care of ourselves first. A third way is recommended, but it appears to be a notion that has not gained much support or understanding.

The author says we need to accept the limits of our capacity to integrate new citizens. In order to successfully integrate those that come, he recommends clarifying those values that most of Europe's countries are built upon, then help newcomers and current citizens build solidarity around those values. New European citizens must accept the following civil liberties: freedom of expression, equal treatment of men, women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, separation of church and state, the principle of democratic government and the rule of law. These values (which are framed as laws in most lands) should be explained to them upon arrival and repeated in orientation sessions later. Work with integration must be done on many levels at the same time (housing, work, social, cultural etc.).

Source: The Globalist
Date: December 09, 2005
Authors: Wouter Bos




Values Change - accepting "other"

The Battle over Gay Teens

Schools in the United States increasingly have to deal with a new social reality "teens coming out". Even the gay community had not understood the growing number of teens making a public statement about their sexual identity. In studies of gays and lesbians the first age of recognition of desirability of the opposite sex in the 1960's was at age 14 for boys and 17 for girls. Studies repeated in the 1990's the averages dropped to 10 and 12 years respectively. Groups called, Gay Straight Alliances are forming in increasing numbers on high school campuses by about 3 per day. TV shows like Degrassi (shown in Canada and Australia) and others show gay lifestyles openly and deal with the issues gay teens and gays in general face. There are magazines, scholarship funds, and masses of web sites for teen gays. As gay teens and the general public hear about and meet gay teens in real life and see them reflected in the cultural materials, there is a lessening of negative psychological effects (depression, suicide). Sexuality decreasingly looses its power to define the individual and gay and lesbian teens are less often seen as different and increasingly often seen as normal.

As a result of these changes other attitudes are affected. A University of California survey from 2004 showed that 57% of university freshmen were in favor of same sex marriage where as 36% of all adults found it acceptable. It isn't uncommon for straight youth to believe it is "uncool" to be anti-gay. Teachers, principals and parents have to deal with their own ideas about teens who define their sexuality so early. The religious right has moved from denying gayness to trying to cure it. In 2001, Signs of the Times reported that the onset of puberty can start as early as third grade (8 years old) in boys. With that in mind, it should not be surprising that everything to do with sexuality is beginning at an earlier age.

Source: Time cover feature
Date: October 10, 2005
Author: John Cloud
URL 1:,10987,1112856,00.html
URL 2: (to read full text without a subscription)




Hegemonic power battle

Venezuelan move to replace US$ with the €uro upsetting Washington more than Saddam's €uro conversion last November (2002)

The hegemonic country, the country which is the current global power, usually has the currency considered to be the international medium of exchange. In the period prior to WWI that was the British Pound. The dollar rose between the two world wars and took over after WWII. It is difficult to imagine that the period of dollar dominance has been only 60 years. Small indications are showing up that the dollar is threatened by the Euro, a possible new candidate. These indications have to do with the sale of oil.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Frias, Iraq's Saddam Hussein have both threatened to sell oil for Euros instead of dollars and it is reported that there is fear of OPEC could do the same. One point that will force OPEC to such action is another invasion of a Middle Eastern country. Other countries deemed important players are already converting to Euros because they believe their transactions will be more stable: Russia, China, North Korea and Malaysia. If something happens to their currencies, the percent of their assets held in Euros will be protected assuming that the Euro is strong.

As mentioned, ownership of an international medium of exchange is related to hegemonic world power. Many articles arguing for or against a take over of Euro from the dollar do not consider this factor. Most talk of who will be the next hegemonic power has centered on China and the European Union with India as a possible third choice. The dollar has strengthened since most of these worries were expressed in 2003. What have not changed are the huge U. S. budget deficit and its administration (elections in two years could change this). Changes in the medium of international exchange could occur quickly and be devastating for some and great for others.

Source: Vheadline (Independent Venezuela press)
Date: June 18, 2003
Author: Roy S. Carson
Other articles of interest:


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from January 09, 2006  


Focus on parenting

Behövs en föräldraombudsman? (Is an ombudsman for parents needed?)

The number of programs in the Swedish media aimed at parents is increasing. The state owned public service radio has Föräldrarna, (Parents) which is about being a parent, even being a parent to your own parents. Nannyakuten (British). Supernanny (began in England and has been exported to the United States). Nannyjouren (produced in Sweden) are all TV programs about children and parents who are out of control. By coaching the parents, the various Nannies change behavior and then leave after one week. Värstingakuten (Hooligan Emergency) is for older children and the emphasis is more on the child and less on the parents as children are now expected to take responsibility for themselves. These programs are coming from England and the US. The young people are sent to a special camp or farm to change their behavior. Fråga Barnen! (Ask the Children) is another Swedish radio program. This time the children are the experts and parents call in to ask them questions. Program Baby Boom is on tv4 in Sweden and handles everything from serious questions about baby care and safety to fads about baby clothes and carriages.

According to William Strauss and Neil Howe (Generations) theory of generational shifts in thinking and behavior the parents of today's young children grew up when the nurture of children was "under protective". According to the theory there are three other moods of nurture of children which change from generation to generation; "tightening", over protective and loosening. It is the tightening mood now used by parents who were themselves under protected. If these programs are any example, the tightening doesn't mean strict, but more consistent and rules bound.

Source: Swedish Television, Kanal 5, Swedish Radio, Kanal 4
Generations. W. Strauss, N. Howe, Quill, 1991
Date: December 12, 2005






Communication technology

MoSoSo: the future of web-based networking

Mobile Social Software is the next iteration of communication software that will help people with face to face interaction. One will be able to make contact in a crowd, at a bar or any social event. Users create a personal profile which includes their interests. Targeted consumers of this software are pub goers in the UK and young urbanites in other areas. The software can also be used between people at political events. Since it can be used to find like minded people (assuming they are honest in their profiles) one can make a leap to see how this software could be used to find potential clients, customers, mentors or even potential teachers. Business applications for this software could be tracking the location of a fleet of vehicles, helping parents to keep track of their children's whereabouts. MoSOSO softwear can ask a question and get an answer, in other words, spread knowledge.

There is not yet a critical mass for this software, but new hybrid mobile phones will drive growth. Roughly speaking hybrid phones are those that have combined the IP technology of the Internet with regular telephones. Hybrid phones are due to hit the US market in 2006. There are a number of players on the scene in Europe and the U.S. with ready to use software.

Source: Utne, M-trends
Date: December 15, 2005 Issue
Author: Rose Miller
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Alternative energy

Central America sees renewables as part of its needs for the longer term

Central America is trying to play the energy game two ways. One way is by the signing of the Cancun Declaration, which commits 10 Central American governments to participate in and fund an eight-point energy plan. Mexican oil is the basis of the plan and building a refinery in Central America and possibly a natural gas pipeline from Mexico to Panama. The Declaration drafted by Mexico lists renewable as 7th of its eight points. The second plan is to renewable energy. Costa Rica is the big winner; 90 percent of its electricity comes from hydroelectric, geothermal and wind-powered generators. Nicaragua has been investing in renewable projects and El Salvador currently receives 50 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources.

Despite getting 90% of its electricity from alternative sources, Costa Rica still will need oil in the near future. The Cancun Declaration puts a refinery in Central America and Guatemala is interested. For them it means jobs and income. In Nicaragua 45 percent of its population lacks electricity so they are trying to extend the grid to isolated regions of the country with small hydroelectric and solar projects. The Atlantic coast is getting 50-watt solar photovoltaic panels. Financing for this program is from the Inter-American Development Bank and has given 1,420 solar systems to 21 communities. The commitment to renewables is clearly in place while at the same time continued access to oil is necessary to keep the economies growing. The question is whether the pressure of the local power, Mexico to secure customers for their oil will be greater than the awareness that other energy sources are needed and soon.

Source: Houston Chronicle
Date: December 24, 2005
Author: Eliza Barclay




Cycling towards a sustainable economy

Bicycle Production Remains Strong Worldwide

In the year 2003, 42 million cars were produced globally. In the same year 105 million bikes were produced. The increase in bike production over automobile production has been generally going on since 1950. It is expected that this difference in production will increase as gasoline production becomes more expensive. The increase in bicycle use globally has brought some innovations which make cycling easier. Each country has its own innovations. Here are some of them: places for bicycles on trains and busses (bike racks), including bicycling in land use planning, eliminating car traffic in inner city areas (increases cycling safety), banning cars on Saturdays and Sundays, increasing bike path networks, issuing health care givers bicycles in rural areas, increasing employer contributions for bicycle commuting over contributions to car commuting, rail stations with indoor bicycle parking, trip end services like showers and free cycle loans within the city.

A number of people globally who ride some of the 105 million plus bikes in the world are trying to focus more attention on bike ridding. This is an unofficial group with no central organization. Anyone can organize a Critical Bike ride by getting out the word and they do! By spreading the word to friends, using the Internet and conventional methods like flyers, they get others to come out and ride with them. Since there is no official organizing committee, there is no way of knowing how many will turn up, thereby avoiding the structure for official protests. City officials are not happy when several hundred bicyclers block traffic in a crowded urban area. This method of protest is related to the Flash Mobs reported in May 19, 2004 Signs of the Times. For more detailed information on these protest methods see

Source: Earth Policy Institute, Critical Mass
Date: December 13, 2005
Author: Elizabeth Mygatt
Photo: Critical Mass, San Francisco, 29th April, 2005
Photographer: Michael W. Parenteau
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Balance in Political decisions

Update on the State of the Future

In a time between two paradigms, a free trade market economic paradigm and environment sustainability balance in decision making is required. Economic growth has lead to increases in life expectancy, literacy and access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and decreases in infant morality. The downside is that economic growth has also lead to widening income discrepancies between the highest (5%) and lowest (5%) earners. In 1980, there were six of the lowest income earners to one of the highest income earners. Currently, the difference is 200 to 1. A driving factor that can favor economic growth over environment would be if China and India continue economic growth without environmental considerations.

However, in earlier Signs of the Times (posted October 27 2005), we find the headline "China seen world leader in clean energy". Their growth rate between 1994 and 2004 for renewable energies was at the rate of about 30% for wind, and 25% for solar power. If China can both continue to grow economically and decrease its dependency on fossil fuels it could be an example for the world on how a nation transitions between paradigms. If they can continue to gain from free trade's positive effects, with added ethical considerations, they could also be a model for better income distribution.

Source: The Futurist
Date: January/February 2006
Authors: Jerome C. Glenn and Theodore J. Gordon




Population paradigm change

21st Century Demographics: Highs and Lows

Population in the 21st century is predicted to grow two to three billion individuals, taking it from 6.5 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Half this growth will come in India (22%), China (11%) and other less industrialized nations. Population will decline in the Ukraine (43%), Guyana (35%) and in Bulgaria (34%). Fertility levels have been on a downward trend since the 20th century (1950's). By 2050 it is predicted that lower fertility will be the norm in every major region in the world. Currently 65 countries with 43% of the global population are at or below replacement level (2.1 children).

Since before recorded history, the population on the planet has increased. For the first time ever we see the end of this trend in sight and the beginning of a decrease in total population, as shown by decreased fertility rates. It is proof that all trends change, and that many trends are much larger than our lifetimes (mega trends). Our current economic system is built on the belief that population will always increase and therefore, profits will always rise. One can only speculate on possible changes to the economic system.

Source: theGlobalist
Date: July 14 2005
Author: Joseph Chamie




Understanding our species - Gender

Monkeys show gender differences in toy preferences like humans, research finds

Nature, or evolution has developed two different, but equally intelligent brains, the male and the female. Many believe that the differences in male and female behavior as cultural. A new experiment shows that certain behaviors are rooted deep in evolutionary based behaviors. With a variety of toys in front of them, 44 male and 44 female monkeys were allowed to play and the amount of time they spent with each toy was measured.

Results showed that males favored pushing a car along the ground and playing with balls. Females were most interested in dolls bottoms and cooking pots. Both played with picture books and a stuffed dog. The researcher feels that sex differentiated preferences came early in evolution.

Date: December 12, 2005
Author: Robert S. Boyd
Publisher: Knight Ridder Tribune


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from December 01, 2005  


Increase in proven violence and crime prevention techniques

Trends in Prevention

The following are a number of programs that have shown to decrease the use of violence, criminality, tobacco, drugs etc. in youth.

Police officers teach students to know when drugs are being introduced and ways to resist them. An additional program adds interventions led by peers and involving parents as well as extracurricular activities led by youth. Best effect on boys. (Archives of Pediatric Medicine and Adolescent Medicine, vol. 157, February 2003)

Quality pre- kindergarten and child care with an educational orientation greatly reduce the likelihood of criminal behavior later in life. Combine that with parent training reduces the risk of child abuse in low-income families.

In home coaching of at risk parents reduces significantly abuse and neglect which can lead to violent and criminal behavior later in life.

Some statistics coming out of these programs:
Boys receiving Drug Abuse Resistance Education plus interventions and extracurricular activities were "significantly less likely to use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs or to be victims of violence".

A quality Chicago pre-kindergarten program found that abuse and neglect was cut by 50 percent compared to those not in the program. Those not in the program were 70% more likely to be arrested for violent crime by the age of 18 that those in the program.

Source: National Prevention Coalition
Date: July 4, 2005




Drug addiction - from shameful behavior to treatable illness

New Ways to Loosen Addiction's Grip
Grabbing Addiction by the Tail

New addiction treatments are changing views of addiction to that of a chronic, relapsing disease of the reward centers of the brain. Buprenorphine, a medication administered by a regular physician is being used in France and the United States as a way of improving the results of methadone. Buprenorphine, pronounced byoo-pre-NOR-feen is less addictive than methadone and can be. It is used on those addicted to opiates and painkillers. It lasts for three days and means that the individual taking it is not limited to being at a clinic every day. It also adds a new measure of privacy and self-respect.. Because the medication does not result in a larger high by taking more, it is safer for them to get a prescription, for a longer time period, from a pharmacy. Relationships between family members have been very disrupted while the person was on opiates. Earlier persons on methadone could not leave town because of the need to be at the clinic to receive their dosage. Now visits can be made to family and friends some distance away. The potential in this medicine is that it allows for mending time with the family.

Scientists in Canada are focused on the reward centers of the brain, the nucleus accumbens. In addicted persons, the cells in the nucleus accumbens, involved in pleasure and motivation, stop communicating. Scientists are working at the molecular level and with glutamate receptors on the surface of nucleus accumbens cells. The glutamate receptors play an important roll in communicating between neurons. The new medicine stops the drugs from blocking these communications. The reward centers of the brain can then function normally. This promising research is still a long way from human trials. Locating the cause of continued drug (and alcohol) addiction in the brain and the subsequent research to approximate the normal function of the nucleus accumbens is opening some minds to viewing addiction as a chronic disease and not just an example of a morally weak person who needs to get control of their lives.

Source 1: New York
Source 2: Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Date 1: August 3, 2004
Date 2: November 25, 2005

Author 1: Anahad O'connor
Author 2: Press release
URL 1:

URL 2:




Sustainability - Photosynthesis- learning from nature how to make energy

A summary of research around understanding and using natures photosynthesis process to solve our energy problems

It seems logical that the best way to study renewable energy is to learn how nature converts light into energy. A group of German researchers and one from the United States have created the Femma-Mathews-Olson (FMO)-complex. A group at Stanford University is looking at "capturing electricity directly from living biological cells by inserting nano-scale electrodes into their chloroplasts"

In May of 2005 a group at the U.S. Department of Energy's Berkley Lab held a cross-disciplinary seminar titled: Solar to Fuel: Catalyzing the Science where a variety of ideas for using natures processes to create energy was discussed. Many pieces of the photosynthesis process are becoming clearer. For example: They have worked on understanding what happens when a plant absorbs too much energy. Plants have solved the problem with a photo-protective mechanism. This is just a small sample of some of the research that can be found on the Internet.

By learning to use natures own systems we can capture 97% of the energy coming from the sun as opposed to the solar cells we are currently using which capture from 9-14% of the sunlight they absorb. One of our biggest problems, carbon dioxide is used by nature in the energy making process. Just imagine getting energy and using up the carbon dioxide left from the industrial revolution! Researchers in Framtidsbygget 1993-94, a futures studies project found a reference to research being done on the use of photosynthesis as an energy source. They only found one reference, but it made it into the book "A Tale of the Future" as a way running small cars. For many years there was no information to be found. Now there are appear to be many references to such research.

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Changing economic system

From market economy to ?

In Signs of the times I often refer to sustainability as a trend which is in the process of replacing market economy. There is a lot of support for this probably future. There are others around the world who view the successor to market economy differently. In response to the question what comes after market economy the following responses came from a Google search: welfare state (India), consumer culture, high-tech research, freedom of the press, good governance, democracy and human rights (taken from Europe to the Mediterranean), new information society, free market, world market, social democracy, multiple economy, state control and more. Naturally, what one believes will come after market economy is determined by where one lives and the type of economic and political system that currently exists.

These responses can be placed into two groups, one that is an expression of a detail of market economy that grows larger in proportion to market economy, such as high-tech research, or consumer culture, a free market, a new information society. Other responses refer to orientations that promise a kind of human based economy; welfare state, social democracy freedom of the press, good governance, democracy and human rights.

Source: Google search
Date: November 29, 2005
URL 1:,




Changing governing patterns

Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector

The author of this book describes movement from hierarchical governing, with its uniformity and discretion to a more customized approach. The change in powerbase from national to global and local is making a difference in how governing occurs. In the past they saw their job as managing the workers and programs of the state. They are pulling together service providers, governmental, private and voluntary organizations to deliver services.

The authors site three trends shaping this paradigm shift. 1. An increasing reliance on private sector and non-profit organizations 2. Increasing attempts to integrate all the players in service delivery 3. Increasing ability to communicate over organization and department borders with the use of digital contact. In addition to traditional competencies of planning, budgeting, staffing, workers will have to have negotiation and mediation as well as a good understanding of process leadership. These competencies will be needed by private, non- governmental and volunteer organizations workers as well.

Source: Future Survey 27:8 August 2005
Date: August 2005
Editor: Michael Marien




From Industry society to Postmodern society in the field of Demographics

Postmodern Fertility Preferences: From Changing value orientation to new behavior

It takes time for paradigm shifts to occur. As we move away from Industrial society shifts take place in all the academic fields. Demography is no exception. Often statistics are questioned, but less often does society question if the correct questions have been asked. This paper on a paradigm on the shift in demographics leaves us with a number of changes which mean we need to change demographic questions to fit the times.

Some of the areas where values and beliefs are changing are: Aging, female childbearing years, ethnicity, family structure, ways of handling spiritual and existential questions etc.

Source: Postmodern Fertility Preferences: From Changing value orientation to new behavior
Date: May 1988
Author: Dirk J. van de Kaa




Jobs - from technical to "hyperjobs"

Hyperjobs The New Higher-Level Work and How to Grow Into It

New jobs are increasingly incorporating skills and abilities that can not be computerized. Other jobs are being automated. Grocery clerks, programmers, scrub nurses are examples of the jobs being automated. Jobs will be related to "Discovery"- finding out why things are the way they are, "Creativity"- figuring out something new, "Implementation"- integrating new ideas, "Influence" - inspiring, directing, empowering, "Physical action" - interacting with things or the body.

The skills needed for these new jobs will be mental (perception, classification and emotional release), the ability to think in symbols like math, language and a global consciousness, ethics and a religious sense. The jobs will mostly be created by the individual, who might have several jobs at once, compensated by money, barter or alternative currencies. Improve current jobs by automating as much as possible, do more creative thinking, discover how to improve things, become more influential, deliver what you promised and more and be ethical.

Source: The Futurist
Date: November-December 2005
Author: Richard W. Samson


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