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Environmental Scanning through a collection of:


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Back to Signs of the Times.


from June 06, 2009
For commentaries on these Signs of the Times see the Blog entitled Signs Commentaries at

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Human caused mental maladies find cures

Internetterapi för krigsskade i Irak (Internet therapy for those injured in the Iraqi war)
The Saudi Experience

We are getting more effective in our treatment of war caused trauma. The Treatment Center for torture Victims in Berlin treated 300 young Iraqis over the Internet for their experiences with violence, be they personal or witnessing others, kidnapping, rape and witness of executions. The process begins with the client writing their experiences. It is followed by an e-post correspondence with a therapist with answers taking no more than 45 minutes. Therapy can take several months. Most of the therapists speak Arabic, use translators or utilize psychologists from Syria, Egypt, Dubai or Iraq. The most important part of the treatment is to put words to what they experienced. A client expressed that his strong feelings of fear no longer took over his life, his dizziness and gone down and that he was sleeping better.

The TV magazine 60 minutes traveled to Saudi Arabia to interview the individuals running a program intended to rehabilitate former terrorists who come from their own prisons and those returning from Guantanamo. They apply anger management (learned in the U.S.), work to dispel their feelings of hate and have their own imam who relates a non-violent interpretation of the Quran. The program’s head said that they had a 90% recovery. The less time spent in Guantanamo, the easier to rehabilitate. Even though the 10% went back to killing and suicide bombing, the government still felt 90% was a positive result. After successfully completing the program, they are helped back into Saudi life with the gift of a car and a house. One young man got help with his wedding. Since all Saudi citizens are dependent on their government for the same things, this was not as unusual as it would have been in a European or North American context. Since most jobs are still done by workers from other countries, Saudi’s don’t have jobs, although there is an attempt to change the situation. Therefore, there was no expectation that former prisoners would first be integrated into the economy and earn these things themselves. The point of the subsidies is to get individuals integrated quickly into everyday Saudi life.

Source 1: Miljömagasinet Nr. 16
Source 2: CBS News’ 60 Minutes
Author 1: Julio Godoy/IPS
Producer 2: Mary Walsh
Date 1: April 16-17, 2009
Date 2: May 5, 2009
URL 2:




Moving middle sized towns from the industrial model to a knowledge based model

Smarta tyger är framtiden för textilstaden Borås
(Smart cloth is the future for the textile city of Borås)

In the seventies, the medium sized, Swedish town of Borås lost 3000 jobs in the clothing and textile branch due to increasingly mechanized production and competition from lower paid workers in other countries. Industry moved out and high tech moved in. By keeping the theme and some of the logistic expertise, technical textiles now keep the image of the city alive and the economy refocused  
on research and development. Woven products for horticultural, road building, bulletproof vests, different types of filters, and a weave used for constructing tires are some of the new products which have replaced the traditional clothing industry. Instead of large production firms, small firms are encouraged.

A textile college took over one of the former mills. They educate textile engineers, designers and economists and in the process conduct research into materials that might be useful in the future. Although the goal is basic research as opposed to product directed research, some research does go to enhancing current products of filters and bulletproof vests. Other research has both clearer and less obvious uses, like cloth that stores light and cloth that heals sores. One current researcher is looking at cloth that can change pattern and color, a cross between hi-technology and esthetics. Other current projects are light absorbing, knitted fabric that measures the wearers pulse and temperature, clothes that show where one is, a raincoat that changes colors based upon rain intensity, clothes that deliver C vitamin to the body, material that can be used in surgery and breaks down when it’s job is done.

Source: GötebrorgsFria
Author: Björn Johansson
Date: May 2, 2009



Political structure change

Towns Rethink Self-Reliance as Finances Worsen

The opposite of community or local economic development, at least in the United States under current economic conditions, is dissolution. A number of discussions are going on in small towns to dissolve their charters and become a part of the local county in which they are located. The condition of being saddled with the financial burden of supporting the systems and employees needed to run a small town, have led to this desperate measure.

There are many problems with becoming a part of a larger jurisdiction or merging with another city. Dissolution means merging into counties and states that have their own financial worries. They have to be willing to accept the dissolving city and that could be difficult in unclear legal waters.

Source: The Wall Street Journal - Politics
Date: May 27, 2009, Retrieved May 27, 2009



Dealing with climate change


What has gotten people motivated about climate change is the radical nature of those changes. Given the assumption that we actually follow through with aggressive carbon–emission reductions, we need to begin thinking about and trying to identify the pros and cons of radical changes in the temperature extremes, storms, flooding and desertification many expect. One can look at solutions as short term or long term, local or mega scale and by their effectiveness in different scenarios.
Issue I Trying to limit the amount of heat the earth absorbs.

Megascale examples Localized examples
Space mirrors into orbit Painting rooftops white
Sulfate particles into stratosphere Planting more (lighter colored) reflective plants

Issue II Pulling greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere
Shortwave Longwave
Space shields (block sunlight) Massive reforestation
Sulfate particles injected into stratosphere Filtering carbon dioxide from air
  Carbon sequestering underground
  Forcing plankton blooms to increase carbon absorption

Most Effective approaches assuming permanent emission reduction/high costs and risks Half as effective approaches (slow but not stop global warming)
Space shields Massive reflective sheets over deserts
Sulfate particles injected into stratosphere Carbon capture from raising biofuel crops
Increasing cloud levels with sea water

All of these approaches are problematic, costing enormous amounts without further scientific development, equally enormous environmental problems. These figures appear to be based upon today’s, or growing population calculations. The United Nations statistics suggest that world population is going down, at least in the west. If it continues, some problems with getting enough food might be mitigated. It is most likely that some methods will be used first (less expensive ones) and combinations of solutions will be used to gain the maximum effect.

Source: The Futurist, World Future Society
Author: Jamais Causio
Date: May/June, 2009



Critical humor in values change

Mike Judge's pain-in-the-ass cartoon liberals’
New animated series "The Goode Family" charts the pitfalls of the p.c., eco-friendly lifestyle.

“Remember when it was good enough to plant a tree, give peace a chance, and subvert whatever dominant paradigm was within easy reach?” The eco-friendly lifestyle and the values it embodies are no longer alternative. They are expressed in more lifestyle areas and are more complicated than ever to implement. “Finding a car with low emissions that seats five. Affording hormone-free, free-range chicken. Speaking about everything in purely politically correct terms. Handling guilt that's proportionate to the size of your carbon footprint” are just some of the areas the author points out as areas of complication. They also make good fodder for humor. In this case the humor comes in the form of a cartoon series, which is also hugely popular.

When a new paradigm or world view starts out, it is a crazy idea and is dismissed, then it gains more adherents and begins to be seen as radical and then alternative. The next step is acceptance and letting go of the behaviors and trappings of the old world view. At the point when the new worldview begins to draw the attention of humorous critics, it is experienced as strong enough to survive that criticism. It is a back-handed compliment to those who accept the new world view. Since this cartoon format is scheduled as a TV series on a major American network, is more evidence that being green is the dominate lifestyle choice. Politics takes its lead from such changes and to be on the winning team, they also have to change their lifestyles and legislation. However, there are still many who are in the process of fighting to maintain their industrial, market based lifestyle and may see such a show as pointing out evidence for why the new lifestyle doesn’t work.

Author: Heather Havrilesky
Date: May 27, 2009



Remediation of contaminated soil

Soil Remediation and Soil Recycling
Zai Practice: A West African Traditional Rehabilitation System for Semiarid Degraded Lands, a Case Study in Burkina Faso

There isn’t much the average citizen knows about the ground we see around us. We hear that a lot of it is polluted by chemicals from manufacturing processes, but since we don’t have direct responsibility we can only shake our heads. From a little reading it becomes clear that cleaning the earth to a large degree means moving it elsewhere, heating it or flushing it with appropriate substances. Earth Works Environmental Inc., a profit making company, has come upon a solution to clean the earth on site and return it to the same site. This saves cost, is faster and works on a long list of chemicals. Their goal is to train operators who purchase the equipment and start their own businesses, although they still take on their own clients.

Then there is the problem of agricultural land that has lost its ability to grow healthy foods due to the use of pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers. In one of Africa’s poorest countries, Burkina Faso, a farmer has been testing and spreading, a simple systemic method with some success. The method begins by trapping the little water they have in holes, so it sinks in and doesn’t run off. This is just one of many individual attempts at soil reclamation around the world, which usually involves the rebuilding of natural systems.

Source 1: Earthworks Ecological
Source 2: 2. Source: Arid Land Research and Management, Volume 13, Issue 4 January 1999 , pages 343 - 355
Author 1: Website material
Authors 2: E. Roose; V. Kabore; C. Guenat
Date 1: 2009 Retrieved May 21, 2009
Date 2: 1999
URL 1:
URL 2:

URL 2:



Increasing sophistication of brain research methods

Living Model Of Basic Units Of Human Brain Created

Scientists have created basic units of the brain in a living, three dimensional models. They are the basis of thought (neurospheres) which processes information. Cells that were originally from a tumor form the basis, but were “reprogrammed” in order to stop their growth. A natural molecule got them working together as working nerve cells, each shaped as a star, into a system. Together they can process simple information.

Besides the incredible process by which they were made, this cellular research is also exciting as a tool eliminating the need for animal and human testing. As the population ages, more diseases including Alzheimer’s, Motor Neurone and Parkinson’s disease occur. While not ready for immediate use in research, look for these cellular systems to impact futher neurological research.

Source: Science Daily
Date: March 22, 2009

    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from May 05, 2009  


Spreading green jobs

Green jobs networking

Signs wrote about green jobs not so long ago. Consider this an extension of the developing trend of green job creation.
There are a number of green job sites now available where actual jobs are being announced. Here is just a taste of what is available.
  1. Green Jobs Network – A green job finder covering the United States, state by state.
  2. Green Jobs Revolution (video) - Training youth in organic food production in poor urban areas started in Chicago’s south side.
  3. Green Dream Jobs- Another green job finder from the U.S. (emphasis engineering) by skill level and job category and other countries (emphasis Europe, solar and wind energy related).
  4. Grö – Green Jobs in Sweden (all levels, mainly gardening and agriculture)
  5. Earthworks – Sustainable job listings in UK and some other areas outside Europe (academic and senior engineering jobs)
  6. Green Jobs Global – Pick your country and your green job area.

The big job shifts are from:
  fossil fuels to renewables,
  automobiles to electric/hydrogen cars and mass transit,
  waste disposal to recycling,
  primary metals to scrap production, etc.
industrial food production to local, organic production and sales Creative and industrial jobs will come in the chemical industry, textile design and product design to replace oil based ingredients with more sustainable ones. It is in these areas that the majority of green jobs will come, but where is the training for them coming? Look for new training programs to pop up everywhere for these new jobs. Please feel free to send this information to friends who need jobs .

Source 1: Green Jobs Network
Source 2: Growing Home Inc.
Source 3: Sustainable
Source 4: Green Jobs
Source 5:
Source 6: Green Jobs
Date 1-5: April 9, 2009
URL 1:  
URL 2:,
URL 3:  
URL 4:  
URL 5:  
URL 6:




Over production of renewable electricity!

Sweden production of electricity grows

In making an argument for the elimination of nuclear energy, the author points out that while three reactors were out of function in the fall of 2008 Sweden was able to export about two TWh of energy during the year 2008, which is about the same as the current wind production. Electricity usage is sinking in Sweden and wind power is increasing. The Swedish energy commission predicts that 2010 Sweden will be over producing 16 TWh, something that has never happened before.

This puts Sweden in a position to choose which types of energy they want to prioritize and gives them flexibility to be in the energy sales business or not. If this is the beginning of a trend we should find other countries that are slowly beginning to produce what they need or more than they need. It must be considered that populations have continued to grow, which means more energy, but if usage continues to go down, then overproduction might be more common and it will be the smaller countries who will lead the way.

Source: Miljömagasinet
Author: Göran Bryntse
Date: February 27, 2009



Growth of local currencies in U. S.

Communities print their own currency to keep cash flowing

The Swedish press has taken up reportage on an upswing in local currencies in the United States. According to there are 95 individual currencies in the U. S. “Signs of the Times” has written about these local currencies and when the hardest times came to Argentina, we reported upon the same phenomenon there. (See archive below). Problems in the American economy during the depression of the 1930’s are seen as an inspiration to current activity although many of them have existed long before the current financial crisis. In fact, the American currencies all started before the financial crisis according to The E. F. Schumacher Society, In Europe they have started later; the three listed groups started 2005, 2007 and 2008.

The key word here is local, not currency. This is a community building system which strengthens the bonds between consumers and their local businesses. It also means that the money earned in a community stays in that community and does not wander off to some corporate off-shore account.

Source: USA Today
Author: Marisol Bello
Date: April 7, 2009, Retrieved April 7, 2009



Rights to nature

The Emancipated Earth

We have all heard of property rights, but that always calls to mind the property owner. Property has no inherent rights of its own, in Western thinking. All the earth is currently owned by someone, with the exception of Antarctica. Proprietary rights go to the owner. While the idea has been brewing for centuries, Ecuador has created an inalienable constitutional right to the land itself. It is described as the …”right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.”  While this new right seems new to some, indigenous communities in North and South America have held this belief for tens of thousands of years. Linked to an earlier Signs of the Times, the expanding reassertion of native people’s rights, it should come as no surprise that Ecuador, with its 40% indigenous population should be the first.

If this trend continues, many changes in laws and cultural attitudes will be necessary. Property ownership and nature as property are deeply rooted in our economic and social systems and were introduced by the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism where the view of nature as a gift from God to benefit of humankind is now being challenged by indigenous cultures who see humans as a member of a balanced natural system. Articles in four other magazines have reported on Ecuador’s rights to nature; Orion, In These Times, Earth Island Journal, Ecologist and Multinational Monitor.

Source: Utne Reader
Author: Kari Volkmann-Carlsen
Date: May-June 2009
Page- 74-75



Discriminating food and food discrimination

In Italy, Sign of Defiance in a Kebab and a Coke

A new regional law in Italy states that establishments that have no restaurant or bar license cannot sell anything they haven’t themselves produced on site inclusive beverages. The law targets foreign food stands, ice cream and pizza, in other words, fast food and foreign food and drink produced without the strict sanitary codes and other laws that bars and restaurants must follow. Closing times are also mandated.

If it were just a matter of public health and sanitation, it would be a simple matter; however the situation appears more complex. An earlier version was intended to remove such fast food establishments from the center of a city. They were perceived as a threat to the traditional Italian identity of the cities. The earlier version more explicitly targeted kebab stands, where the argument of unfair competition was also used (due to fewer laws about food preparation and handling). Others state that legislation for this type of establishment had been unclear for years and this was a way of solving the problem. Various groups have taken sides for or against. It appears those for have several groups with different logic and those against have each have their own argument. Loss of identity, a feeling that the “others”get better treatment than native citizens and a desire to use the force of the law to achieve their ends lies behind legislation.

Source: New York Times
Author: Elisabetta Povoledo
Date: April 23, 2009, retrieved February 24, 2009



Energy trends

Pelley's Reporter's Notebook

The famous American news magazine reports the return of cold fusion. Judged to be junk science, still has a number of scientist working on trying to replicate the original research. Now they have exceeded in replicated the original experiment over the whole world, one-hundred times but are still struggling to explain how it works.

The extraction is done at room temperatures, on a table top with no harmful radiation effects. It will be some time before this will be able to be used.

Source: CBS 60 Minutes
Presenter: Scott Pelley
Date: Retrieved April 18,  2009



A new look at BNP by the establishment

Nobelprisade ekonomer räknar på nytt BNP
som ska ta hänsyn till naturen

Alternative sources and many academics have questioned BNP since it was established in the 1930’s. The new turn is that the established economic community is actively looking for mathematic models that can include environment, sustainable development and human quality of life. OECD, The World Bank, and the EU-commission have all involved experts in the task. Another commission has been appointed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. All of the members are Nobel Prize winning economists beginning with Joseph Stiglitz after which the commission is named. His fellow commissioners are Amartya Sen, Kenneth Arrow and Daniel Kahneman and Nick Stern. Their result which comes out several weeks from this writing, will have considered the economic equality over those above mentioned areas.

The effects of such a change upon how we live and what we value can be enormous. All innovation, consumerism, even what we call a product, can change. It will not solve all the world’s problems, and will even create others but it has the potential to go a long way to a more balanced world. BNP measured production and the goal became high production. If the goal is planetary and human health and happiness, it is a huge challenge to determine not only how they should be measured, but what should be measured so that we know we are on the right track. Good Luck fellows! (I hope there are some women contributing)

Source: Swedish Radio P1, Klotet
Program Leader: Marie-Louise Kristola
Date: April 7, 2009

    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from April 04, 2009  


The cost of living alone up, health and environment down

The Lonely American

Western societies are not only aging, but one-person households are increasing. Both demographic trends Signs of the Times has reported on earlier.

  1. In 2006 more than 20% of the Swedish population lived without children, parents, partners, relatives or friends.
  2. In England, the number of one-person households was 31% in 2001 which was double that in 1971 (17%). In Europe, United Nations statistics indicate a rising trend for one-person households which began in the 1960’s and continues (with North European countries hardest hit.)
  3. In the United States, one-person households made up one of every four household according to the 2000 census survey. Socially, individuals report decreased access to a person or persons in which to confide. In a survey, the average American discussed “important matters” with three individuals in 1985, but only two in 2004.

Current research is revealing what many already understood, that social connection greatly influences health and life length, and specifically, immune systems. Health and happiness are linked. Genetic studies say that people who chronically describe themselves as lonely, have inflammation and decreased antiviral responses as well as antibody production. Health is not the only result of self-described loneliness; the environment also suffers as people living alone use more land, energy, goods and materials per person than those who live with others. There is also a link to the animal world. Having a pet as a confidant also mitigates feelings of loneliness (which can also occur in groups in which one feels disconnected, an outsider or different.

Source 1: Swedish Statistical Central Bureau
Source 2: Living in England, National Statistic 2001
Source 3: Transactions of the Wessex Institute
Source 4: Utne Reader
Author: Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz (from book “The Lonely American”)
Date 1-3: 1-3. March 19, 2009
Date 4: 1-3. March-April, 2009
URL 1:  
URL 2:  
URL 3:




Lake Sävelången, Sweden
By: Leif Robertsson

Water quality - advances in testing

The Glass Bottom Float - Towards Civic Robotics

Presenting at a conference on emerging technology is the inventor of a glassed bottom floating robot that combines numerous water quality tests with human opinions of the areas recreational water quality. A signal will come from the robot in the form of a colored light flashing the results to the shore. Even assessments of the fish population (which shows the water’s health) will be figured into the results which you can receive on your cell phone.

Look for other water quality, maybe less high tech., that will put water quality testing in the hands of individuals (possibly in developing countries) who can test the water they use and then again test the water after use so that water quality can be monitored on a micro scale.

Source: O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference
Presentation Date: March 12, 2009
Retrieved March 4, 2009



Sustainable textiles small but growing

Hållbar textil – en möjlighet (Sustainable textiles- a possibility)

While England is a leader in sustainable clothing and textiles, Sweden is about fifteen years behind the leaders. A personal example was two women who tried to sell environmentally sound clothes in the middle to late nineties. They finally had to give up because they could not find enough sources or buyers to make a business go in Sweden.

When retailers talk about environmentally friendly clothing in Sweden, they are most often referring to fair trade, environmentally packaging and the mode of shipment, not to the growth or development of the fabrics themselves. Things are changing, slowly, in Sweden assisted by such activities as seminars on sustainable textiles, held in early March.

Source: Miljömagasinet Alternativet i svensk press
Author: Git Skogland
Date: March 15, 2009
Edition: 29th edition number 11



Sustainability, transportation

Growing confidence in electric cars

Better Place is an example of a social economic company. Its goal is to reintroduce electric cars and a workable infrastructure to governments around the world. They are working to get people paying by the mile not by the tank.  Currently, they have projects with the Northern California Bay area region, the governments of Israel, Canada, Australia and Denmark. More are joining every day. Pay Zero admissions. Two car manufactures have committed to building electric cars. Economic growth is connected to environmental growth.

The infrastructure will provide work in production (cars, batteries, charging stations, digital and battery design and development and in service. Instead of gas stations there will need to be places for cars to charge their batteries, places to exchange their batteries when the time comes and software instead of a gas meter. Battery will be located at workplaces, homes and shops. They will be in parking lots. For longer trips over 161 kilometers battery switching will be available. Most of the time one can charge at home. In countries with an abundance of sun, an over production of electricity will be stored in car batteries.

Source: Better Place
Author: Better Place
Date: Retrieved March 25, 2009



Regional jurisdictions across borders

New jurisdictional alliances

Greenest Nation

As a result of the Bush administration denial of climate change and environmental issues in general, it was generally thought that nothing was happening in the United States. However, states, cities and energy jurisdictions were hard at work. These issues more than any other are a lesson in how the strange relationship between state and national powers can play out. In the face of environmental degradation some new jurisdictional alliances were formed.
  • The first day of the new presidency, ten states in the northeastern part of the country, New York and Massachusetts included began a region for carbon trading.
  • In the west, seven states, California included and four Canadian provinces started a system called cap-and-trade system.
  • Both the western and northwestern states have begun talks with the European Union for the purpose of creating a global carbon-trading program.

These working relationships across borders and oceans show that the idea that pollution knows no boundaries is more than words; it is being exemplified in action. Is this a part of the breakdown of the national state system, or just a response to one broken national system? Do they represent the needs of many jurisdictions to solve common problems? This action could also be interpreted as a collective action to threat (in this case, global change, environmental degradation or a need for energy self-reliance) by large numbers of people when their government refuses to act but still honors self-reliance and does not prohibit action from other entities than the federal government?

Source: Newsweek
Author: Stefan Theil
Date Published: February 21, 2009, retrieved February 23, 2009



Urban Creativity -

Urban Golf

Urban golf is part play, motivated by a ”hej, I’m bored, let’s make up a new game” thinking and part political protest against golf courses that ruin natural environments, waste water, and destroying ecological systems. The games are spreading around the world, to large and even larger cities. Basically, the game requires hitting a ball into a hole. It is true that a golf stick is used, but for safety they strike tennis balls instead. There are safety rules and game rules, but the emphasis is on having a good time.

There is a trend here, urban gardens, urban livestock and urban sports and internet’s “information and music should be free attitude” are touched with a similar life philosophy, They value saving the environment, are independent, make their own games and gardens, build liaisons and friendships based upon shared beliefs and are trying to take control of their lives. Some build their own small, portable, homes to keep costs down and they are interested individuals, keeping the relationships casual.

Source: Blog –
Author: Urban Golf™ website is copyright 1999 - 2006
Date: Retrieved March 23, 2009



Eliminating hunger

The City that Ended Hunger

In the fourth largest city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil, with 2.5 million people, everyone is fed and has access to healthy food. It took ten years and a vision. It is not clear if this one example can stand for a trend, but it might just be a “trend baby” or as Elina Hiltunen, Finish Futurist calls them, “weak signs”. It took a link between democracy and hunger, a new city mayor, a participatory budgeting system (citizen input to how money should be spent) and 11% of the population in absolute poverty with 20% of its children suffering from a lack of food and ten years of work to make the vision become reality.

The first step was acceptance of a concept that food is a right of citizenship. That meant an open declaration that everyone in Belo Horizonte was responsible to see that all got fed, even those who were themselves poor. A city agency was developed with twenty regular citizens who were chosen to sit on a citizen’s council. They were
chosen for their differences, which ranged from business, church representatives, labor representatives and other citizens. One idea was not good enough, dozens of ideas were implemented which considered the needs of both farmers and consumers. Putting the two together took the markup from middle men that made food cheaper and farmers earned more. Farmers got contracts from the city after a bid where they could try for space on well-trafficked city land. The city set the prices on the healthiest items grown locally and the rest they farmers set their own process.  Peoples Restaurants offer locally grown meals for fewer than 50 cents. They serve everyone so there is no stigma. Community and school gardens along with nutrition classes are available. School lunch monies go only to locally, organic grown food. A local university surveys the price of 45 basic foods and items along with the lowers prices and location where they can be purchased. The information can be found at bus stops, and on all other available media. Left-over eggshells, manioc leaves and other organic materials were ground and mixed into flour for school bread. Total costs to the city are one penny a day for each resident. The results are a decrease in infant death rate by more than half and infant malnutrition decreased by 50 %.

Source 1: Yes! Building a Just and Sustainable World, Issue 49
Source 2: Science Direct, Futurist
Author 1: Frances Moore Lappé
Author 2: Elina Hiltunen
Date 1: Spring 2009
Date 2: September 1, 2007  Retrieved March 23, 2009
Title 2: The future sign and its three dimensions
URL 2 :

    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from February 27, 2009  


Sustainability – Social entrepreneurs

Det Stora Nätverksmötet (The Big Network Meeting)

Social entrepreneurship is being sponsored in Sweden by the government through the Knowledge Foundation (KK-stiftelsen).  Social entrepreneurship is a name that has been given to businesses who have as their first goal to make a positive difference in society while earning reasonable profits.

This format has been around for a long time, but has gone largely unnoticed as a trend by the established economic press. Besides Sweden, England, Ireland, India and other countries are leading with their examples.

Some of the many projects mentioned are:

The Temple of the Eye clinic chain of five hospitals. 55% of their clients receive their care without cost, 22% are subsidized and the rest pay a fee. The hospitals are profitable because they are always thinking and inventing new ways to provide the same quality service more easily and cheaply. The work started with a vision, to make a better world. Love, courage and total care are goals that give the employees meaning. Even though an eye clinic, the Temple of the Eye considers the whole person when working with patients.

Endeavor, initiated by Linda Rottenberg who identified successful social entrepreneurs and got them to discover and encourage younger entrepreneurs got them started, Endeavor reaches out to other country where they build their own Endeavor, using local entrepreneurs. The Hub is another model where people with ideas get office space and a network to support them through development and prototype.

The third example is an organic rice farmer in Japan. He began growing organic rice and tries to improve his production in a number of creative ways. What worked was ducks! By putting ducklings into the paddies, many pests that destroy the rice crop were destroyed and the paddling feet got rid of weeds. This duck/rice farming also uses fish when the ducks are big enough to eat the rice plants. The farmer began showing his innovations to other farmers and now 75, 000 rice growers (mostly in Korea and Viet Nam) use his methods.

Source: Conference The Big Network Meeting
Date: February 12, 2009 Retrieved February 20, 2009
URL 1:  
URL 2:  
URL 3:




Sustainability – light

Ny typ av lysdiod kan ersätta glödlampan (New type of LED lamps can replace the light bulb)

Although there are energy effective LED lamps and low energy lamps they contain quicksilver. Quicksilver finds it’s way into the environment all too easily. By using Silicon carbide a Swedish researcher plans to create energy efficient lighting that uses no quicksilver.

This new technology maintains the energy saving effect of today’s without the quicksilver.

There is a rush to have options to regular light bulbs ready in three years when the European Union pulls less efficient bulbs from store shelves. This effort could lower electric usage which is the EU goal, but it still needs more work and production problems will also have to be solved. There is a lot of pressure on researchers, in this case both and Japanese, who are working together on the project,  to have working models ready for introduction into the marketplace when politicians decide it is time. Earlier, discoveries went into the marketplace and were sold whether people saw the need for them or not. Now the need  is there and research has to keep up with those forces.

Photograph: The picture is of Docent Mikael
Syväjärvi, Linköpings universitet and is from
the link.

Source: Swedish Radio P1 Vetenskapsradio
Date: February 16, 2009 Retrieved February 18, 2009



Paradigm shift Economics

Emerging Economist: International bright young things

When you think about economists, what are the first tasks that come to mind? This is what the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US says: “Economists do research. They prepare surveys to collect data and then figure out what the data mean. They also forecast how the economy might change in the
future. Economists study topics such as prices, jobs, taxes, interest rates, and the stock market. Some economists study money and the banking system. Writing reports on their research is a very important part of their job. They help governments figure out policies related to taxes, trade with other countries, the minimum wage, and many other topics.” In business “Economists often help them to figure out what to sell and at what price.” Economist magazine has identified emerging economists every ten years for the past 20 years. Ten years ago a difference from the above description was noted and their disciples are broadening the definition of economist even more.

A new breed of economists is applying their analytical skills to a variety of social problems, taking new looks at old situations. With each problem comes a new theory and new formulas by which they are tested. They appear to be motivated by what interests them and find creative mathematical solutions to solve the problems they articulate. The results are often surprising. Some areas of study have been: Competition and truth in the news market, preschool television viewing and adolescent test scores.  Jesse Shapiro and co-authors ask “Do harsher prison conditions reduce recidivism?” Economist Roland Fryer focuses on Black/White issues in the field of education. Esther Duflo concentrates her work on India and Africa where development issues, women’s role, class impact and educational tracking (placing students together with others having similar achievement levels.

Illustration taken from Economist link.

Author: The Economist print edition
Date: December 30, 2008 Retrieved February 18,2009
URL 1:
URL 2:



Green Jobs

Switching To Green Green Collar Jobs

On one level there are those who leave their careers to work in a field that aligns them more to their convictions, then there are those who took retirement but were in no way ready to retire in the traditional sense and went on to jobs, sometimes uncompensated, where they could do work that is important to them. A large number have been laid off and have no idea what they can do to save their families and homes given that their skills and experience have been so specific to a particular industry.

All of these plus young people just coming out of school are candidates for green jobs. Some will require training, others none, but the jobs are there if one looks. Here is a list of jobs from Bicycle repair and bike delivery services:
  • Car and truck mechanic jobs, production jobs, and gas-station jobs related to biodiesel
  • Energy retrofits to increase energy efficiency and conservation
  • Green building
  • Green waste composting on a large scale
  • Hauling and reuse of construction materials and debris (C&D)
  • Hazardous materials clean-up
  • Landscaping
  • Manufacturing jobs related to large scale production of appropriate technologies (i.e. solar panels, bike cargo systems, green waste bins, etc.)
  • Materials reuse
  • Non-toxic household cleaning in residential and commercial buildings
  • Parks and open space expansion and maintenance
  • Printing with non-toxic inks and dyes
  • Public transit jobs related to driving, maintenance, and repair
  • Recycling and reuse
  • Small businesses producing products from recycled materials
  • Solar installation
  • Tree cutting and pruning
  • Peri-urban and urban agriculture
  • Water retrofits to increase water efficiency and conservation
  • Whole home performance, including attic insulation, weatherization, etc.

Source 1: Businessweek
Source 2: Urban Habitat
Author 1: Douglas MacMillan
Author 2: Raquel Pinderhughes
Date 1: January 10, 2009
Date 2: January, 2009
URL 1:

URL 2:
More information:




New political forces - education

The State of Washington in the United States has come quickly (between the November election and inauguration) with changes for education that many have been craving particularly in the area of student testing. Current student testing has long been considered as having replaced most curriculums with the contents of state tests which cramp creativity and the desire to teach and learn.

The day after the election of Barak Obama, Superintendent Randy Dorn of the State of Washington education system has announced changes in the testing system to meet the requests of lawmakers, educators and the public. The areas of concentration are:
  • Shortening of tests
  • Reduction in the amount of time students spend on written responses
  • Quickly returned scores
  • Increased use of technology (i.e. computer testing and scoring)
  • Provision of more diagnostic information (strengths and weaknesses) to teachers/families
  • Minimizing of costs

A reoccurring theme throughout the statement are such comments as: “basic skills (students) need to move forward in their education”, “standards are workable and reflect the real-life needs of our students”, “valid and reliable.”. Tests results will be used as a guide for what students need to learn and they will be retested to insure that teachers have a chance to better meet the child’s pedagogical needs and that students have been able to meet those goals. The State of Washington legislature still has to pass these changes. Look for more changes in this area. Washing State can be considered a bellwether state and a pioneer in offering new solutions.

Source: Washington State Superintendent of Schools
Date: January 21, 2008 retrieved February 9, 2009



Sustainability: Urban livestock movement

Urban Livestock trend

Signs of the Times has written about urban agriculture which is largest in developing countries. Livestock in urban cities within developing countries has always been a part of the excitement of a tourist visit. To the people that lived there it was part of their survival. In the post-industrial urban environments having livestock has been very limited if at all. Claiming noise, arguments between neighbors, disease, unclean conditions and abuse strict laws have been enacted to keep domesticated animals out of cities. The tide, is turning and is driven by a distrust of industrial farming, corporations, environmental issues (long transport and lack of knowledge about where the food comes from) and food costs. Costs and wanting control of one’s own food sources appear to be the biggest motivators.

NPR reports increased pressure on planning departments to change their livestock regulations in cities of Canada and the United States. Chickens appear to be the most popular back yard food source although bees are also popular. “Lokalvors” is one of the names given to those who keep animals in their yard. The idea of urban areas as non-food producing areas is changing and city planners are being pressed to come up with new regulations. Local groups are starting of chicken keepers or bee keepers which could form the basis for quality assurance for those who buy from these urban food producers.

Source: Google
Author: Various
Date: Retrieved January 26, 2009
URL: Search words ”urban livestock”

Also check National Public Radio see video:



Media - transparency

For the first time in many years transparency is more than a concept in the United States. The new government is dedicated to creating praxis of transparency on several levels. Websites, blogs, Saturday “Report to the nation” TV and offering ways for the general public to respond. Transparency means being honest about the complexity of a given situation, the fact that that several things have to change at the same time in order to change a system and that there will be short term and long term results of all of those actions.

A recent press meeting discloses just how difficult it is for the press to frame questions that can reveal these complex actions and the long and short term results. They are focusing on individual actions and short term results (because the long term results are not available yet). The press secretary’s responses reflect the complexity and long range view of a situation. It is going to take the press and the general public time to get used to understanding that transparency is not just exposing everything and telling it truthfully. It is exposing the many different actions that are hoped will lead to a specific result and the expected short term responses and desired long term results.

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary
Date: February 11, 2009
Retrieved: February 16, 2009

    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from January 24, 2009  

Traditions are meant to be broken now and then. This month’s Signs of the Times is themed: Signs of Housing Times.


Housing: Individuality and environmental living

Small House Movement

For a while now reports have been popping up about small houses experiments in the US. Now, driven by a combination of simplicity, financial woes, and climate change, a “small house movement” has sprung up. People aware of environmental and personal development issues, have been building small houses, mobile houses, 8 square feet houses in the yard with a small

place only for them. People are trying to free themselves of their mortgages and a small house solves that problem. Other people involved are those who have lived in Europe or in other countries.

People want to live closer to family in a small house. Children sharing rooms is coming back. Physical space isn’t as necessary as inner space. The small house movement offers an alternative to the latest mortgage crisis and connected to “de-cluttering.

Source: Little house on a Small Planet
Producer: Peak Moment- Janaia Donnelson
Author: Shay Salomon/photographs by Nigel Valdez
Date: September, 2006




Housing: Functional technology and small footprint


With the use straightforward technology, a folding house for a family that can be moved relatively easily. Suitable for four persons, it takes about 2-3 hours to unfold the house. When it is time to move, it refolds folds and can be towed behind a truck. Electricity and heating systems are included as are all fixtures, kitchen and bathroom. Unfolded, the house is 2.4 meters or 8 ft. There is room for a kitchen, living room, bathroom and 1-3 bedrooms.

This small house could be used for vacation homes, sized-down living, or even modified for refugee camps, emergency housing, small schools and community meeting facilities. They are scaled for transport in containers. While not explicitly environmentally friendly, the folding and transport concept could be made more environmentally friendly.

Source: Habitaflex (Website and video)
Date: November, 2008
URL 1:
URL 2:



Housing: Economic flexibility

Flexible home design

Building houses with the idea of using the rooms in various ways as the economy and family situation changes is part of a building trend in middle range American homes. For example the large bedroom and in suite bath downstairs with its own entrance could be used as a home business office, a rental in harder times (kitchen plumbing ready to make a pantry from a closet), home for an elderly or teen family member. When the owners are older and need an apartment on the ground floor, the rest of the house can be rented out for income and as a starter house for a new family.

The idea of not dedicating all rooms to a specific purpose is a trend. In the United States an extra room called a “bonus room” can be used for whatever one desire, office, playroom for kids, hang out room for teens, mom’s meditation room (popularized on TV makeovers), guest room and much more.

Source: Architecture
Author: Jackie Craven
Date: January, 2009



Housing: Small Scale energy

Power your home with clean energy

Take down the cost of solar energy by copying photosynthesis. Typically, photovoltaic cells on ones roof produce electricity. They are expensive and only work when the sun shines. This system takes the unused electricity produced during the day and uses it to break water into hydrogen and oxygen gas which is then stored and recombined to make electricity to be used at night and to fuel an automobile.

The secret to this new system is a catalyst made of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water, both considered common and non-toxic. At the other end, platinum is used to make hydrogen and electricity from water. The water can be recycled, ph neutral, room temperature water, in an easily constructed system.

Source: MIT news The Green Collar Economy How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems
Author: Anne Trafton
Date: July 31, 2008



Housing: Design

Top 10 Trends In Home Design

  1. Earth-Friendly Home Design: Rethinking ancient housing methods and using natural and environmental safe materials.
  2. "Prefab" Home Design: Modular built homes using environmentally safe materials, often composites in a variety of geometric and organic forms.
  3. Adaptive Reuse in Home Design: Reuse or repurposing of existing buildings, factories, old barns, industrial buildings and churches.
  4. Healthy Home Design: Care is taken that fresh clean, chemical free air inside the home echoes the healthy products which with the home is built. That eliminates synthetic materials, chemical additives, plastics, laminates, and fume-producing glues. 
  5. Storm-Resistant Home Design: Tsunami and Katrina strength storms have motivated engineers to design for strength with insulated wall panels of concrete.
  6. Flexible Floor Plans in Home Design: As demographics and family constellations change new homes are trying to accommodate life cycle changes.
  7. Accessible Home Design: All homes are being built to consider various handicaps and allow for greatest access.
  8. Outdoor Rooms in Home Design: Easier movement from indoors to outdoors, outdoor kitchens, garden areas and balconies adjacent to bedrooms.
  9. Abundant Storage in Home Design: A combination of practicality and the consumption trends. Walk in closets and larger garages will diminish as more ecological thinking and the need for economical thrift begins to take over.
  10. Eastern Ideas in Home Design: Feng Shui, Buddhism, meditation and other Eastern influences are affecting home design, motivating quiet; alter areas for meditation and relaxation.

In England there is a trend to design homes using building techniques and designs of current industrial and office buildings. Much steel and glass is used and sometimes combined with wood. New materials are bamboo for floors, new composites for walls, countertops and other flooring materials. Organic forms will take over from the boxier forms as architects learn to work with driven earth, straw bales, adobe and cob materials. Homes are more tightly built and air exchangers are popular ways to get fresh air without losing warmth.

Author: Jackie Craven
Date: Retrieved January 24, 2009



Infrastructure: The road home grows more eco friendly

Paving the Way For Green Roads

The Recycled Materials Resource Management Center (started 1999) advertizes a number of conferences on recyclable road surfacing in Zurich, Rome and Lyon, France.  This is an unglamorous , but important area when everything else is being rethought in view of climate and environmental problems. Just as important as green homes are the roads to and from them. As early as 1989, the roads of British Columbia, Canada have been paved using recycled materials in a process developed by a private company.

Recycling can be done when using aggregate materials consisting of hard, graduated fragments of inert minerals. These include: sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag and rock dust or rock powder. It is most ecologically efficient when the recycled aggregate is produced of the existing material or obtained from near-by locations. Since a road bed is made of three layers, the contents of each layer are important and thereby the make-up of the recycled product.

Source: Science Daily
Author: Adapted from materials provided by University of New Hampshire
Date: Mar. 7, 2008, Retrieved   January 21, 2009
Check this out:



Housing Demographics

In the United States, there are 10 million housing units, which means, houses and apartments, condo’s etc. are sitting vacant. They are not deserted as their owners pay taxes for them. Some people have more than home, some keep a home and temporarily test living with a new partner, some inherit homes and they have not decided what to do with them. At the same time there are many people homeless.

There are 40 vacant houses for every homeless person that is receiving some kind of government service or help. Naturally, there are others not counted, but it is estimated that everyone could be housed. There are many people who own as many as three houses that they don’t live in even part time.

Source: Little house on a Small Planet
Producer: Peak Moment- Janaia Donnelson
Author: Shay Salomon/photographs by Nigel Valdez
Date: September, 2006

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