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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.

  Uppdated November 17, 2009
For commentaries on these Signs of the Times see the Blog entitled Signs Commentaries at

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Generational Shifts

Bungee Families - You Can Go Home Again

Individuals born in the forties and fifties and their children in industrialized countries with individual cultures have been expected to leave home at around 18. A change is occurring that has adult children or emerging adults, returning to the nest. The author identifies six different types of individuals that return and why they return. She states that this isn’t a dysfunctional situation as was suspected, but the beginning of a new lifestyle that is more reminiscent of collective cultures. When western countries were more independent, so were our children, now we are beginning to see how interdependent we are globally and family behavior is changing to meet that value change.

We live in different times than our children; they are facing a multitude of crises, financial, climate change, ecological, many options and the high divorce rate, which provides poor relationship models. A new American family paradigm has been born where becoming an adult occurs around the age of 30, up from earlier expectations of 20 or 21 years old. In one generation it appears that the line for adulthood has moved up five to ten years.

Source: Psychotherapynetworker Magazine
Author: Martha Straus Ph.D
Date: September/October 2009




New technical advances, new arguments

Why the World May Turn to Nuclear Power
Second Thoughts on Nuclear Power

Here are some of the arguments for nuclear power:
Nuclear power will fill the need for electricity that wind and solar cannot provide as the need rises to 33% in 2030.
Electric car use will increase the need as will economic growth in developing nations.
Households use more electrical appliances now and young people are very interested in electronic gadgets.
No one has been seriously injured or killed by a nuclear power plant.
Renewable sources cannot carry the whole load.
Nuclear electricity will help avoid the rising costs of rising energy prices and electrical shortages.
Nuclear plants are becoming more productive.
New plant designs can eliminate accident risks like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.
Power plants are safer today than before 1979.
Power plant wastes can and are being reprocessed reducing the amount needing storage.
Uranium usage can be switched to thorium, found in much larger quantities of sand and rock, has half as much waste as uranium, substantially less radioactive toxicity and no weapons can be made using thorium.
The byproducts of spill heat used for desalination, hydrogen for transportation, radioisotopes for cancer treatments are a positive contribution.
Here are some of the arguments against nuclear power:
Uranium mining is dangerous and huge intrusion on nature
A total of 2,000 new reactors worldwide would have to be built in order to reduce the carbon-dioxide and reverse climate change.
Waste storage is still inadequate and leakages can occur in the concrete and steel used to store them for hundreds of years.
All technology is improving so that is no argument for continuing to use nuclear power. Renewable energy is also improving and has none of the inherent toxicity of nuclear power.
People are beginning to understand that they can live well and reduce their electrical usage.
Solar solutions are solving the problem of how to charge the telephones, computers, etc that are on the market.

The pressure is on to write the definitive history of fossil fuels. There are two major directions of the assumptions that lie at the bottom of all discussions of pollution free energy. One of those directions has to do with large central systems to provide “baseload” electricity, or the major, consistent energy source when the sun does not shine or the wind blow. The other is an individualized system, where each building makes enough energy for its own (slimmed down) uses and gets credit on over production and gives it over to their current provider (who jumps in when they cannot produce enough). Often authors do not make this distinction or show where the individual producer and mass producer flow into or cancel out one another. Trend convergence is not considered in these two articles, such as the trend for more electricity (increased population not considered here) and the need for more exercise. Bicycles or treadmills can give us exercise and supplement household electricity.

Source: The Futurist
Author: Richard Stieglitz with Rick Docksai and Michael Mariotte. P. 16-32
Date: November/December 2009



Living sustainability – From vision to implementation

Drömboende (Dream Living)

If sustainability isn’t yet being practiced as a holistic project, parts are being played out, as in Freiburg in southern Germany. They began by emphasizing solar panels. Here is a sampling of others components that lead to a sustainable living system.
  • Car free streets
    Freiburg has also eliminated most cars from the central parts of town (car pools most frequently use the streets). Zermatt, Switzerland has come farthest by limiting all cars to the city perimeter. Inner city transportation of electric shuttle or horse and wagon are provided within city limits.
    Motorways are being torn up and used for parks and collective traffic: examples are Soul, Korea, San Francisco in USA, and in Montreal.
  • Local Food
    A San Francisco group that eats only food grown within 100 kilometers from the city boundary, other projects called Land Sharing, Urban Sharecroppers and Land Fit and Urban Gardening and Urban Farming which all increase food production within cities.

The Slow Food Movement has over 100,000 members in 132 countries.
  • Local Money – (See resources below)
  • Local Community building & Local Councils
  • Local and individual creation and control of power sources

It appears that the creation of sustainable cities is still in its infancy and that there are no totally systemic examples yet. The process begins with visualization. Visualized Sustainable cities are: Masdar I The United Arab Emirates, Hamburg in Germany, Hanham  
Hall in England, Songdo in South Korea, Dontan in China and Gothenburg in Sweden.
The step after visualization of a better world or better ways to live is testing various options, or pilot projects. There are always a few mavericks that lead the way to actualization like the Transition Towns movement. One of their first is Totnes, in England, an example for 243 other towns and 15 countries who are a part of the movement.

Source: Camino Magazine
Author: Johanna Stål
Date: November/December 2009
Other Signs of the Times references: Perform a sight search on this site using the word sustainable for earlier
Citations. See



Global currency changes

1. Economic Power Shift
2. Ny valuta snart verklighet i Latinamerika


1. Has economic power shifted to the Yuan? This author believes that China’s two trillion in reserves and a number of countries willingness to invest oil profits into currencies other than the dollar will push the shift. Naturally, this is no simple matter, read more in the original article.

2. Radio reportage in Sweden announces the start in 2010 of a new trade currency to be issued next year by the countries of Bolivia, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and several island nations, all called ALBA. The desire is to create a currency that is similar to the Euro and to be rid of dependence upon the dollar. The new trade currency will be called Sucre and a Central Bank will have its seat in Caracas.

The Yuan appears to be undervalued in relation to the dynamic nature of its economy, yet it has huge loans and investments in dollars which it has been protecting. The differences in American, British and European economies as opposed to the more vibrant economies of China, representing Asia, and Brazil in South America has more to do with growth and post growth thinking. Older market economies are very slowly beginning to realize that the eternal growth of a market economy is not sustainable no matter how low interest rates, printing new currency and cleaning up unethical monetary practices are implemented.
Growth countries are still seeing market economy as the standard and their higher birth rates encourage this perception.
Solidarity is the key philosophy behind ALBA’s currency, however it is difficult to balance when Venezuela is the only oil producing country in the group and many items are purchased outside the participating countries using the dollar. We have written earlier of threats to leave the dollar in earlier Signs, by the OPEC states. Use our internal search machine at Signs of the Times and type in “Signs of hegemonic shift”, “Increase in Sovereign Wealth Funds.”

Source 1:
Source 2: P1 Swedish Radio Ekot
Author 1: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Author 2: Reporter Lars Palmgren
Date 1: Published October 6, 2009 Retrieved October 26, 2009
Date 2: Date aired October 16, 2009
Photo 1: from website below
URL 1:

URL 2:




Rare Minerals

China Tightens Grip on Rare Minerals

Neodymium used in Toyota Pirus electric engines and terbium and dysprosium used in high-strength magnets are rare earth products. China produces over 99 percent of dysprosium and terbium and 95 percent of neodymium. “These are vital to many green energy technologies, including high-strength, lightweight magnets used in wind turbines, as well as military applications.”  

China is said to have limited quantities of these rare earth or elements as they are called. In an effort to make sure they have access to these limited metals and any eventual profits, the Chinese are trying to control their mining and sale. Whoever is in control, these are still limited elements which use strong acids to draw them out of the earth and the acids are currently not being monitored and eventually run out into local water. Peak oil was the sensation of the industrial era. Could peak rare earth elements be the sensation of the sustainable era?

Source: New York Times
Author: Keith Bradsher
Published: New York Times
Date: August 31, 2009 Retrieved November 2, 2009



Tighter relationships between animals and humans

Hund på recept (Dogs by prescription)

Health care dogs, with special training appear to work well with dementia patients and individuals with brain injuries. In health care for older patients the problem of over prescribing medicine for anxiety, sleep and stress problems has been ameliorated by the effects of a dog prescription. Instead of drugs, dogs and their therapist handlers are prescribed. Patients massage dogs (have a task, care for another, play games with the dog which develops the partients motor activity, memory and physical strength.

At a special school in Eskilstuna, Sweden, dogs and health care workers are trained and certified. Both dogs and their handlers are salaried and are trained with a therapist. Therapists have the task of designing the exercises which relieve the problem that the Doctor wishes to improve. While dogs are used in many other situations, Sweden has specialized in using dogs in care for the aged and with children and adults with brain injuries. The training is now being standardized for use in the whole of Europe. Hand signals are used so that the directions to the dogs do not interfere with the communication between therapists and patients. Horses are used as well, but mostly with stroke victims and amputees for balance.

Source: P1 Swedish Radio Kropp o Själ
Program leader: Ulrica Hjalmarsson Neideman
Date: November 3, 2009



From: local - meaning local to: local - meaning big business

Local Washing

Attention to the concept of building community and fulfilling needs by patronizing local businesses has grown in power in the United States to the point that corporate advertizing agencies have begun to use it to gain customers. A global bank has begun to refer to itself as “the world’s biggest local bank”. Starbucks has changed its name in three outlets to include local identification as “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea”. A new campaign for an outlet supermarket chain refers to local flavor and claims it began in 1956. The International Council of Shopping Centers has put millions into advertizing that encourages people to shop at their “local mall”.

In a March, 2001 Signs it was written: “Large food corporations are on to organic products. Interest has grown over the years and big business wants in on the profits”. Now, on the eve of the year 2010 the organic products we used to go to the health food store to purchase sits on the shelves of almost every super market. Now corporations are following the same pattern in taking over the local concept.
Shopping local is intended for the purpose of keeping the profit within the local community and preventing it from being shipped away to a corporate headquarters where it out of reach of local taxation and does nothing to fill the communal coffers. This usurpation of the “local” concept assumes that most people in the middle of buying a cup of coffee, or getting a loan from the bank, don’t think about local economy and taxes as benefiting them. Usually, it is assumed that all taxes are bad because they are associated with national governments, not local. Citizens are more concerned with the amount taxes they have to pay than with where it goes. In at least ten Signs of the Times, the concept of doing things at the local level has been mentioned, economics, food generation, services and in many other areas.

Source: Gambit Weekly
Author: Stacy Mitchell
Date: July 13, 2009 Retrieved October 2009


For further futures research
While all links worked when entries were posted to Signs of the Times, many have been archived or the site removed. If you are truly interested in following up place the article title in the Google search box with quotes around it. You might find that another source picked it up and it is accessible there. Pick up key words from the article and do a search for them. You may not get the same information, but other information on the subject. We are going more to press releases from Universities for science articles. These are often archived or you can get in touch with the University or the researcher. Good Luck.


Previous signs of the times. (August 05, 2009 - September 20)

Previous signs of the times. (January 24, 2009 - June 06, 2009)

Previous signs of the times. (February 23, 2008 - October 26, 2008)

Previous signs of the times. (May 21, 2007 - February 04, 2008)

Previous signs of the times. (October 08, 2006 - April 25, 2007)

Previous signs of the times. (December 01, 2005 - September 10, 2006)

Previous signs of the times. (December 28, 2004 - October 27, 2005)

Previous signs of the times. (August 21, 2003 - November 23, 2004)

Previous signs of the times. (June 17, 2002 - June 18, 2003)

Previous signs of the times. (December 08, 2001 - March 22, 2002)

Previous signs of the times. (January 14, 2001 - October 21, 2001)

Previous signs of the times. (April 27, 2000 - December 10, 2000)

Previous signs of the times. (September 13, 1999 - April 07, 2000)



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