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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 November 23, 2004

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Sustainable - Alternative Energy goes mainstream

Renewable energy gets a lift

The American Stock Exchange has a new index, the WilderHill Clean Energy Index. It has only been in existence since August but has increased 12 percent. The ASE says that it is unusual for a new index to make such a large jump in just a few months. The jump however is linked to the rise in oil prices but even to a government tax credit. Even though the United States has not signed the Kyoto global warming treaty, traders feel its very existence could be another factor in the large increase in the Index.

Investors and Environmentalists can both share in the early success of the WilderHill Clean Energy Index. This is the new odd couple! Did you ever suppose that the Kyoto agreement would have an effect on a stock market index even without American participation? These and other consequences of changing other energy sources will continue to have unthought-of results. Futures Studies has tools that help delineate these unthought-of actions and alliances before they happen.

Source: CNN Money
Date: October 25, 2004
Author: Steve Hargreaves




Ethics - Digital resurrection

Digital Resurrections
Ford Brings Back Steve McQueen

Actor Oliver Reed was playing a role in the filming of Gladiator when he suddenly died. Rob Harvey, John Nelson, Neil Courbould, and Tim Burke were able to recreate Oliver digitally and managed to finish his scenes with seamless precision. Steve McQueen died in 1980, but that has not stopped him from achieving immortality. Ford Motor Company plans to resurrect him digitally for use in the advertising of a retro automobile.

Many questions arise with this technology. Does a person's estate live after them so that they can collect royalties for the use of name and image of the person who originated the estate? Can those rights be inherited, if so to how many generations? Will individuals need to put something in their will as to the use of their digital images, whether playing a role or just as themselves? Will there need to be limitations on what kinds of things digital images can be say or do? This is another area where the technology is exciting and brings a profit and even prizes, but where no apparent consideration of consequences or ethical issues has been done. Also see May 19, 2004, Fiction from fiction - arts trend (or trend baby), notes how fiction is being created from fictional characters.

Source: Film industry magazine Millimeter through Find Articles, New York Times
Date: May 2, 2001, October 15, 2004
Publisher: PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc.
Authors: Jeremy Peters And Danny Hakim





Personalizing cities

Häng med på cykelsafari genom storstadsdjungeln (Come along on a bicycle safari through the city jungle)
Tales of Toronto
Street-corner revolution

Three young men have become entrepreneurs in a low-key way. Swede, John Grankvist shows people his city from a new view, from the seat of a bicycle. For 270 crowns, one gets the use of a bicycle, helmet and jacket. The tour takes three hours and makes use of Stockholm's extensive bike paths. Tourists can get some exercise and learn about both old and new attractions in the city. Two fellows in Toronto, Canada give people another way to get to know their city, through its oral history. Shawn Micallef and Grabe Sawhney interviewed the citizens of the Kensington area of the city. Signs posted at the sight where the citizen's story took place give a telephone number. Anyone with a cell phone, one can listen to the story told by the person who experienced the event.

Another Utne story from Aug, 2004 tells about an even kookier way to see a city. Psychogeographers (people who use playful and inventive ways for exploring cities) led a group of artists, writers and urban adventurers on a tour of the city. The group got a walking pattern first right, second left, first left, repeat. They chose a random direction and started walking the pattern, called algorithmic walking. The walkers found a large statue of a farmer, elegant graffiti, a busy swap meet and a set of lane dividers with Nordic runes painted on them.

Yes!, a journal of positive futures tells about the City Repair movement. An example is the corner of Ninth and Sherrett Street in Portland, Oregon, named by locals Share-It Square. On one corner sits a wooden bench with a carved earth goddess and a wooden hook-tree with mugs, on the opposite corner is a bookcase which serves as the community library, on the third corner is a produce-sharing station and a kiosk with an information book advertising services needed in the neighborhood, housecleaning, gardening, massage, fix-it repairs. The last corner is a children's playhouse full of games and stuffed animals. People living in the neighborhood did the entire city repair


Source: SVT Swedish television program Packat och Klart, Utne, Yes! Summer 2004
Date: October 17, 2004, October 2004, Summer 2004
Author: Anna Bowness, Stephen Silha for Yes!




Work trends


Look for:
more non-standard work schedules and arrangements
regulation of temporary employment
decline in the density of trade unions in many OECD lands
increases in education and training
increase in the impact adult learning has on an individuals employment
increase in education and training

When it comes to retirement and older workers look for:
the end of early retirement
changing attitudes towards older workers
retirement starting later
eventual disappearance of the today's idea of retirement
postponed retirement
reshaped retirement
lifelong savings accounts where withdrawals for learning or pension can be made
mixed lifestyles with learning, leisure and work no longer linked to age


In the U.S.A., technology will be used as a way to compete globally. There will be a global emphasis on skills, preparation and ability to adapt, emphasis on caring, innovation, persuasion, creativity, and flexible problem solving will be valued.

Source: Future Survey, Volume 26, Number 8
Date: August 2004
Editor: Michael Marien




Failed States projection to 2010

Nations at Risk for Violent Conflict

The ten countries at highest risk for civil conflict, the most frequent type of deadly conflict are Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. The conflicts are predicted between 2000 and 2010 and are based upon the percentage of adults aged 15-29, 2005, the percent per year of urban population growth 2000 - 2005, cropland availability 2005, fresh water availability 2005 and working-age adult deaths 2000-2005.

This information based upon the book, is by published by Population Action International. Tecken i tiden presented the concept of failed states in the March 2004 edition, which reported that conflicts were more numerous, and longer. While presented as a single issue, at risk and failed states are the result of global system failure with far reaching consequences for the whole globe.

Source: The Futurist
Date: July/August 2004
The Security Demographic: Population and the Civil Conflicts after the Cold War
Authors: Richard Cincotta and Robert Engelman and Daniele Anastasion




Change in societal roles - longer young adulthood

Growing Up is Harder to Do

New research is confirming what many of us have seen among friends and our own families; it is taking longer for young people to become adults. Social scientists call this early adulthood. It is taking longer for youth to obtain what have traditional been the signposts of adulthood, emotional independence, getting a full-time job, economic independence from parents, finishing school, being able to support a family, marrying and parenthood. Young people are increasingly less likely to agree that married couples should have children. An American study from 1993 found that only 1 in 5 women of a sample believed that marriage and children were not part of the same package.

The major reason given for these changes in attitude is: the increased time needed to become educated in order to earn a salary that will support a family and the new numbers of women taking part in education and work life. In the United State, other reasons were three government programs after WWII. Those programs that helped GI's returning from the Second World War were: the GI Bill for those returning to school, government subsidies for affordable housing and the extension of Social Security coverage of the elderly. In Sweden, housing subsidies, childcare, health insurance, child allowances and subsidized education provided security for young families. In both of these countries these, these supports are highly diminished or non-existent.

During times of unemployment in Sweden, young people have been defined as being between 18 and 35. More people are living into their 90's. Many people are healthy and functioning much longer that in any previous period, the available knowledge base is larger than ever before and because of the driving technology, jobs are more complicated than ever before. Jobs obtainable with little or no education are becoming increasingly more difficult to find in developing and developed countries.

Source: Contexts, published by University of California Press, Vol 3, number 3
Date: Summer 2004
Authors: Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Sheela Kennedy, Vonnie C. Mcloyd, Rubén G. Rumbaut And Richard A. Settersten, Jr.




Macro trend - Growth in population brings fuel shortages

The End of Ancient Sun Light

The cedar forrests of Lebanon were depleted from 90 percent to 7 percent in a 1, 500 year period starting with the first sumarian King. causing the desertification of the Firtle crescent. Without wood, societies went out to conquer new lands where there were sources of fuel and building materials. This was repeated by the Mesopotamians, the Greeks and the Romans who also went to war looking for wood as well as new lands for cultivation. When other fuels came into use, coal, peat and then oil, we see the same pattern. This pattern is repeating itself in our time. While attempts have been made to control oil production through the use of business arrangements, wars are frequently found in oil producing lands, and are waged by the strongest partner.

The trend of trying to control other lands for their energy resources to meet growing populations continues unabaited. Since all trends eventually give way to new trends, one can speculate what the drivers to a new trend might be. The United Nations indicated that the birth rate has gone down, world-wide since the 1950's, however, the world population is still growing. If birth rates continue to shrink, eventually the total population will decrease for the first time since human's have existed.

Source: Yes! A journal of positive futures
Date: Fall 2004
Author: Thom Hartmann


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from October 17, 2004    


Increasing requirements for CEO's

Background Briefing (Radio Australia) Psychopaths in Suits
PET Study: Looking Inside The Minds Of Murderers
The Psychopathic Brain: New Findings

Corporate leaders are expected to be heroes and great saviors able to create transformative visions. Society looks for business leaders to be better than those they manage, to provide great visions and be charismatic. They are expected to inspire us. As individuals they have views, expectations and confidence in their vision to the degree that others are expected to be inspired by it. For leadership one needs to be driven and ambitious. Other qualities that come in the same package are pride, envy and intense rivalry. In research corporate leaders often experience events, words or even pictures as relatively neutral when their colleagues experience them as strongly positive or negative. Corporate leaders often have an inflated view of their importance. We have many current examples of how they can go wrong with the Enron collapse in the U.S. and the Scandia scandals in Sweden. We desire the positive of the above qualities in our corporate leaders; however both the positive and negative behaviors are often found together and link strongly to the behaviors found in people diagnosed as psychotic.

In 1995, researchers located parts of the prefrontal cortex specifically the orbitofrontal or ventromedial frontal lobes that have to do with psychotic behavior found in about 1% of the population. The psychotic criminals tested were impaired in these areas compared with a control group in both glucose uptake and in ability to give a verbal label to odors. This is a task that patients with known disorders to the orbitofrontal area have trouble with. This does not explain the cause, but correlates with the following behaviors: exaggerated preoccupation with sexual matters, acting in a promiscuous and impersonal maladaptive way, a lack of social and ethical judgment. Both neglect long-term consequences of their actions, choosing immediate gratification over careful planning. Scientists are using criminals for their research. Corporate leaders have yet to be studied.

Source: ABC Radio National (Australia), Crime Times Vol. 1, No. 4 , 1995, Page 6, Vol. 1, No. 1-2 , 1995, Pages 1&6
Date: July, 18 2004, 1995
Produced by: Ian Walker




Sustainable - economy

True Cost Economics
The current economic model has failed us

The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) represents a way of looking at the economy which looks at the associated cost. The price of a new car covers the cost of production, materials and salaries topped off by a profit margin. The price is much higher when one considers the associated costs of health care, pollution, roads, police and ambulance services The GPI is based upon the accounting framework of the Gross Domestic Product and then adds in the economic contributions of household and volunteer work, and subtracts crime, pollution, and family breakdown. (for a more detailed list see

We are all familiar with the GDP, even if we live outside of the United States. Its ups and downs guide the psychological attitudes toward stock markets and economies all over the world. The gross domestic product is the sum of all the money spent, even if it is for repairs to something we bought last week. If we spend more than previously, it is said that the economy has grown. If not, measures are taken to encourage spending. The GPI is being used in Atlantic Canada, and in the San Francisco Bay area from where it has originated."

Source: Adbusters
Date: August 26, 2004
Author: staff, Adbusters




Sustainable biodegradable plastics

Biopolymers: Plastics from Plants

New ways to produce plastics: a cloned gene from a common plant will allow materials to produce plastics in crops without damaging the plant's health, biodegradable plastics from food starch, plastics from plant oils in wheat or canola crops, fermentation of food wastes by bacteria which result in carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide is then used in plastic production.

While this is a commercial site with a vision of "Creating value in agriculture, food, health and bio-based industries through leadership in the application of science & technology for the benefit of Saskatchewan people", it repeats methods found on other biodegradable plastics sites.

Source: Ag-West Bio Inc.
Date: August 23, 2004




Ethics - Biotechnology

The Next Big Test, Gene Doping

Scientists are working with changing genes that can help people with genetic diseases like muscular dystrophy, such as the gene that increases muscle development. In experiments with rats it was found that the rats developed more muscle power in the leg that had been genetic manipulated that in the one that had not been manipulated. As research gets published athletes call researchers offering their bodies for the possibility of getting the gold at the next Olympics. Some are willing to pay for the service. Research has only reached the level of testing on animals and is not moving as quickly as originally thought.

Most of our readers are not so interested in the future of sports, but for those of you that are; the next ethical problem after doping will be genetic doping. Researchers warn gene therapy could go from a way to cure genetic diseases to genetic doping. Genetic doping will even be a more difficult problem to solve than regular doping because the inexpensive, non-invasive tests now available for current doping cases are not yet invented in the case of genetic doping.

Source: Canadian Broadcast System. Quirks and Quarks
Date: June 26, 2004
Author: Bob McDonald




Sustainability - global warming

Global Warming

Attorney Generals from seven American states have initiated suits against the largest utility companies in the country for their high levels of emissions of green house gases, demanding that they reduce emissions of the gases thought to be warming the earth. The American Electric Power Co. is looking into methods for more cleanly burning coal. They are also investing in renewable energy projects. DuPont cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 65% since 1990; Alcoa Inc. has a goal of a 25% cut by 2010. General Electric Co. (GE ) sees a growing market for wind power and energy-efficient appliances. General Motors Corp. is investing millions of dollars to develop hydrogen-powered. For more examples see

In futures studies we talk about a critical mass, that is when so many people act or believe in a particular way that it is a sign that a trend is unstoppable and well on it's way to maturity. Global warming has been accepted by so many that it is now generally accepted by the general public. The last to change has been the American government. The pressure is on and it appears that business is leading the way in a country where the political leadership couldn't.

Source: MarRay, Business Week on line, The Climate Group
Date: August 16, 2004
Author: John Carey, with Sarah R. Shapiro in New York




Growth of need for global governance

New ideas about global governance

A sign of the times can also be reflected in the thoughts of futurists about the future, in this case the future of governance.

Idea 1. Why couldn't a global body have representative on each government? (As opposed to each government having a representative on the external global body) Instead of creating an external body, such as the UN, and keeping it isolated, why couldn't the global come from within national/continental governments? Imagine governments with a global futures representative - the global futures representative communicating with other global futures representatives around the world - working towards global communities and advocating the various alternative models, each feeding in from other locations and providing feedback to those other locations. I guess I am not talking about governing, but highlighting, at least, the way in which conversations could commence. Edited contribution of Debra Bateman, Australia.

Idea. 2. A global legislative body can only deal with human rights and nature conservation (laws have to fit to local cultures; it is not possible to imagine one law for the planet except for the minimal basis. It is the judicial power that has to be completed, in a shape of an international supreme court, with judges that are not politicians, nor dependant of political nomination like in United States. Edited contribution of Thierry Gaudin, France.

Idea 3. (1) The UN should gradually be transformed into some sort of world government. This implies transfer of executive power from nation states. Following a strict subsidiary principle, the UN mandate should, in a first phase, be limited to international security and peace keeping (monopoly of military power) and to global ecological problems. The General Assembly would become the major legislative body (one nation one vote). Within the UN mandate, the GA would take legally binding decisions, binding also the Security Council.
(2) The Security Council will be transformed into the Board of the General Assembly. Permanent Members would not be individual countries but continents, with
Veto rights. Thus, it would not be UK, France, and certainly not Germany but rather the EU who holds a permanent seat, etc.
(3) The World Bank, IMF, and WTO come under the umbrella of the UN and are bound to UN decisions, including a one nation-one vote rule, but also UN legislation like
human rights instruments, international conventions, decisions taken at major world conferences.
(4) Citizen involvement can be organized in a NGO consultative body. However, NGOs expose a strong middle class bias and ways should be found to correct for this.
(5) Given the present power structure, there is little chance to reform the UN in such a ways as not to reflect this power structure. Rather it seems that the
US, possibly followed by some in the Western alliance, will continue earlier efforts to dismantle the UN. Edited contribution of Bernd Hamm. Bernd has submitted more detail to these ideas. Request them from Visionscentret Framtidsbygget.

There are many more ideas for global governance. What are your ideas? Naturally, we all need to think these out in more detail, especially the consequences they might have, both positive and negative. For a list of other sites with ideas about global governance, send a request to Visionscentret Framtidsbygget.

Source: World Future Studies Federation list. serve, individuals noted above, list of global governance sites from Richard Mochelle, Australia
Datum: October 14, 2004
Author: noted above




Growing link between social and health factors

Unhappy childhood link to heart risk

An American study of 17,000 people was able to corrolate different types of child abuse with emotional abuse and heart disease. A child who has experienced emotional abuse has a 70 per cent higher chance of being diagnosed with heart disease between the ages of 50 and 60. A child who has experienced physical violence has a 50 per cent chance of receiving the same diagnosis. Children growing up where there is mental illness, substance abuse or criminality also increases the risk för heart disese as well. Any combination of abuses compounds the risk. This study comes at a time when more scientific studies suggest that the psycological factors have great importance in the development of physical disease. This trend is amplified by the fact that in Australia and elsewere in the world political acknowledgement is rising of the need and importance of early childhood and family support services.

Implications for policy- makers are that better resourses in the earliest years save more than money. For the last 10 years North Carolina, USA has had a program called Smart Start which targets programs for the youngest and most volunerable children. It is a variety of programs funded with both public and private funds. Each county designs programs based on parents needs. The children who can be helped are as young as premature babies.

Source: The Sidney Morning Herald
Date: October 9, 2004
Author: Julie Robotham. Medical Editor
?oneclick=true /2004/10/08/1097089569764.html?oneclick=true


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from August 27, 2004    


The development of cyberspace

Services at the First Church of Cyberspace

There is an attempt to create religious services for Christians in Cyberspace. They are available to people who don't like the structure of organized religion but still want to worship in a traditional church setting from time to time. Visitors get an avatar (a figure that represents them) but if the church is full, you get a ghost like figure than can wander around and sit down, listen to the others talk. This is a three month experiment.

Avatar's can kneel in prayer, talk or whisper in text messages, extend a hand in blessing or raise both arms in ecstatic praise. They can also sit in pews or gather for conversation in a crypt equipped not only with chairs but with a "holy water" water cooler and vending machines as well". Later they will be able to hear a weekly sermon from different priests and ministers. This site was created by the Methodist Church.

Source: New York Times
Date: May 15.2004
Author: Barnaby J. Feder




Toward new definitions of "life" and "quality of life"

When Alzheimer's Steals the Mind, How Aggressively to Treat the Body?

Patients in the last stages of Alzheimer's are getting aggressive care to prolong their lives such as feeding tubes, intravenous fluids and antibiotics and hospitalizations. They get more life-stretching treatment than those patients with cancer, but less palliative care, care that relieves suffering. The average costs of the care for patients are $150 a day.

Big discussions are lying in the future around life and quality of life. Some countries save the lives of tiny babies born long before their natural gestation period and Americans keep people alive long after their brains have stopped functioning. Generally speaking people live longer lives and there are more people on the planet every day. Different opinions depend upon our cultural orientation. A quote from Dr. Diane E. Meier, a professor of geriatrics and ethics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine: "If the technology exists, we feel we must use it. Our colleagues in Europe consider what we do bizarre to the point of disbelief."

Source: The New York Times
Date: May 18, 2004
Author: Gina Kolata




Increased interest in values

Values-based management movement growing

Middle management and workers in large organizations are leading the change toward more ethical accountability. They are motivated by a need to follow religious, spiritual or humanitarian convictions at work as well as all the recent business scandals. Just like sustainability became a selling point for companies, ethical practices are becoming the new selling point for companies in the future.

Smaller companies are also involved and the change here is that their leadership has strong religious or spiritual convictions. Some see this as a good sign, but the American Civil Liberties Union fears that religion, not values will be pushed in the workplace and some religious groups fear that "new-age humanism" will take over. This new movement could fail if businesses can not differentiate between religion and values. It could succeed, at least in the larger organizations because it is driven from the bottom and middle sections of the organization and not by leadership.

Source: Trend Letter
Date: May 10, 2004
Editor in Chief: Corinne Kuypers - Denlinger




Paradigm Shift - traffic patterns

Traffic Calming in Australia, Canada, and Europe
What is second-generation traffic calming?

A new paradigm in traffic planning is taking form. There is a multi- discipline, theoretic background to traffic calming and as new ideas are added it becomes third and forth generation traffic calming. What it means for your neighborhood is that the differentiation between the road and the sidewalk disappears. Cars, pedestrians and cyclists (and I assume horse back riders and horse drawn wagons) all use the same space, slowing traffic down and giving it back to the community. Even children playing in the street are acceptable. The white marks that usually distinguish one lane from the other are removed as well as traffic signs and lights. All types of traffic travels where it wants to and the need for concentration reduces traffic accidents. It means that everyone has to pay more attention.

This traffic revolution is going on in Canada, Europe, Australia and in the United States. It is mostly found in residential areas and accident rates are drastically lowered. It is described as a growing trend. Behind the concept are a number of disciplines which is also typical of many trends now days where a multi- disciplinary group or a combination of cultural inputs from many sources.

Source: US Roads (Journal),
Date: 1998, May 2004




Introduction of global taxes

Globaliseringen tvingar fram skattesänkningar (Globalization forces countries to lower taxes)

In the short run governments have to compete for tax revenues with other countries that have lower tax rates. In a global market economy, the growing sales on the Internet are driving pressures for this globalization of taxes. Countries with higher taxes like Sweden are rethinking in order to compete. Alcohol taxes are a key example. Swedes can purchase as almost as much alcohol as they wish in neighboring countries and do because it is so much cheaper. It is the taxation that makes it cheaper. The consequences are that the state owned liquor stores are loosing business. However, the going wisdom is that higher taxes inhibit the use of alcohol and therefore the costs of abuse are lower. But the higher taxes are not having the desired effect. In fact drinking has gone up and the lower price due to lower taxation is said to be a major factor.

In the long run some types of taxes are being discussed globally. There is a lot of discussion and interest in this topic. A simple Google search for "global taxes" brought 2,150,000 responses and the topic has been discussed since 1996 and probably earlier. The use for taxes might be as a revenue source for international programs and institutions like the United Nations. The two most discussed taxes are the Carbon Tax/Energy Tax and taxation to reduce currency speculation (Tobin Tax/Currency Transaction Tax).

Source: Metro, Global Policy Forum
Date: August 2000 May 28 2004
Author: Peter Wallberg




Globalization - "us and them" world view over a "one world, one people" world view

Police Access to Federal Files Questioned

Two states in the U.S. are testing a new "resource", access to federal (FBI) terrorist files by state police. While this is a pilot program the goal is to spread it over the whole country. The Civil Liberties Union, a well known advocate of civil liberty in the United States, is opposed. No specific criterion was named for what was called the "investigative" basis for access to terrorist files. If civil liberties are not protected there is an "enormous risk" that non-terrorists will be arrested and detained. Particularly vulnerable are people with Arabic sounding names or appearance.

This is not the first nor will it be the last test of how to keep the balance between individual integrity and public safety. Behind it lies the way in which we value people, as basically good or as basically evil. The market economy approach highlights the individual, choice and integrity (ability to choose what is best for personal survival and well being). In other words, the individual is basically good and having integrity. The attempt to protect national safety against terrorist activity has valued individuals as basically evil with no integrity (ability to give up personal survival and well being for a cause). Both of these values are operating not only in the United States, but in all the countries with which they have security agreements. Since both values can not be applied universally at the same time, then they must be applied to different groups, which gives an "us and them" division.

Source: Associated Press, Yahoo!
Datum: July 1, 2004
Author: Joel Stashenko




Raising the quality of life

A Different Kind of Education Sugar Industry Threatens to Scupper WHO

A school principal used her experience of losing weight by leaving sugar out of her diet to develop a school plan that excluded sugar in all parts of school life. The result 700 students not only lost weight, they also increased their test scores 10 to 15 percent. These were also students who took more responsibility for their lifestyle, made a drop of 30 percent in visits to the school nurse, 20 percent drop in disciplinary problems The only thing that was up were test scores, 10 percent to 15 percent higher than normal.

More evidence that a war on sugar is growing keeps coming. But sugar isn't all bad; the wastes from sugar processing can be used to make Ethanol, and ecological fuel. Production has started in Australia and Brazil. The clash between the Sugar Association and WHO, World Health Organization, started a year ago when WHO set health guidelines saying that sugar should not be more than 10% of a healthy diet. The industry's response, was characterized as furious, questioned its scientific base, threatened to force a cut in WHO funding from the United States and more. Much of the current sugar production is in the developing world, with Brazil leading in production and exports in the mid-90's. Given the obesity problem, look for this conflict to continue until other uses for sugar can be found.

Source: ABC News, Guardian/UK
Date: June 4, 2004, April 21, 2003
Author: Sarah Boseley


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from July 02, 2004    


Sustainability - new area for job creation

Recycling creates employment Companies bow to new electronic-waste regulations

While no comprehensive studies are available on just how many jobs are being created by recycling, studies conducted in France and Austria, and several in the USA showed that recycling creates more jobs. The amount is different with the different types of recycling: 5 to 7 times the number of jobs in incineration, and ten times more than land filling. The number of jobs created in recycling is generally more than for production with new materials. New EU directives, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Restrictions of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoH's Directive) will add even more jobs in manufacturing companies and in the consumer countries of Europe.

Highly qualified jobs as well as less qualified jobs are being created. The problem with moving into a knowledge society is that physical jobs and jobs needing little education disappear. A percentage of any population is kinesthetically oriented and enjoys more physical work. Some of them are, for various reasons lacking education. Jobs in sorting, dismantling and recycling of end of life products are necessary for society and for this group of workers. Because the non-profit sector is also very active in recycling people have the opportunity to gain experience through volunteer work and then move up to a supervisory position and with education move into the profit making sector.

Qualified jobs requiring environmental studies as well as another major ar: Program Manager (Recycling and solid waste), Pollution prevention specialist, Sales/Marketing Recycling/Waste Diversion, Recycling/Resource Recovery Specialist and Recycling Educator/Broker to name a few. A sample of those seeking jobs in the field have: twelve years experience in the recycling environmental waste industry, experience as recycling educator for schools, experience in businesses and community groups, six years experience in Waste Management. Examples of education individuals have who are currently looking for jobs are: Certification in Environmental Technologies, Journalism degree with environmental studies minor, MS in Environmental Science & Policy with an emphasis in Waste Management & Resource Recovery.

Source: EU financed project Association of Cities and
Regions for Recycling, Resource Recycling: Journal, Trend Letter
Date: April 30, 2004, April 26, 2004 Vol.223 No.9




Combinations of compatible religions grow

Why God Loves JuBus

The last two generations have grown up in a multi-ethnic world in the west. Intermarriage is growing. Music mixes are well known. Have you heard Jewish Regge? Even food is mixed, Thai and Chinese with Swedish. While today there are only a small number, Jews who practice both Judaism and Buddhism represent a growing group of "hyphenated" religions. Some examples from the Jewish religion are: UUJews or Jewnitarians for Unitarian Universalist Jews, HinJews, for Jewish followers of Hindu teachings, and Jewfis, for Sufi Jews.

It seems that some religious combinations work well together and others don't. Since Judaism doesn't define god in any specific way, preferring to see God as a light (knowledge) then Buddhism, which doesn't offer a description of God, fits right in. This means that certain hyphenations will develop and others will never get a foothold. "International migration is at record levels and is unlikely to slow in the near future. An estimated 150 million persons reside outside of their country of birth or nationality." said Susan F. Martin, Director Institute for the Study of International Migration Georgetown University in 2001. Migration means exposure to new beliefs, philosophies, religions and behaviors.

Source: Beliefne
Date: May 10, 2004
Author: Rodger Kamenetz




Trend toward more state control

Dawn of the Daddy State

At the same time as nation states are losing control to regions and the infant global structure, writer Paul Starobin points out the trend of nation states to take more power due to terrorist pressures. He calls them "Daddy States". He points out those anxious citizens fears drive the Daddy trend and gives the example of the re-election of Vladimir Putin with 71% of the vote. It gave him a mandate to continue his crackdown on Chechen terrorists. In Israel there is support for the barrier to keep out suicide bombers and in the US Bush's Patriot Act gets support from the people. Europeans are demanding more control of their Muslim minorities.

When the kids feel insecure they run to Mommy or Daddy to protect them. In the case of countries there are 185 Daddies and about 7 mommies to go to. This trend shows just how complex trends can be. While the nation state looses power as it becomes more a part of a trade region or a regional organization it gains more power over its citizens when it comes to internal security.

Source: The Atlantic Monthly
Date: June 2004
Authors: Paul Starobin




Sinking readership of newspapers


The audience for newspapers is shrinking in the United States, the resulting decline in revenues. The news sectors seeing growth are online, ethnic and alternative medial.

Is the romanticism of reading the paper before work, on the commuter train or in bed disappearing? With more of us getting our news from the T. V., the internet and radio, who bothers reading the newspaper!

Source: The State of the News Media
Date: May 10 2004




Economic change - farm subsidy

WTO ruling may spell end of farmer's subsidies

The World Trade Organization has decided that the United States must eliminate its farm subsidies on cotton. This ruling, if upheld could be the beginning of a massive change in the global economic system. Brazil, who brought the case, has $600 million a year to gain. Another case pending was brought by Brazil against the EU regarding massive sugar subsidies.

Subsidies got their start around 1950 when there was a food shortage. It encouraged farmers to produce more. The obvious threat is to farmers who traditionally fight to maintain the subsidy system. The removal of subsidies would shift more agricultural production from richer countries to the poorer ones. For example, if Africa's share of world exports went up by 1% it could earn $70 billion more per year. That is five times what they currently receive in the form of aid. The environmental problems engendered by crop production (pesticides, soil depletion etc.) could be transferred to poorer countries at the same time their income rises.

Source: New Scientist
Date: May 7, 2004
Author: Debora MacKinzie




Sustainability - chemistry

Forskare vill göra kemin grön (Researchers want to make chemistry green)

Scientists in Sweden's Lund University and Lund's Technical College have gotten funds to find replacements for raw material coming from fossil fuel. They plan to use micro organisms' enzymes as material in medicines, hygiene products, cement and surface treatments.

There has been a lot of talk about lessening our dependence on fossil fuels. The Swedish government has provided the first 34 million crowns for the first level of research. It could be years until the results are in our homes, buildings and offices.

Source: IVA- aktuellt
Datum: April 2002
Author: Kenneth Leverback
Publisher: Kungliga Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien (Swedish Royal Engineer's Academy




Toward the elimination of autism

Too much testosterone blights social skills

Autism and lack of social skills is a difficult problem. A small study of 58 children has opened the way to further research which could eventually lead to the elimination of autism. The test used testosterone levels pregnant women to try to discover a relationship between fetal testosterone and social competence. While not conclusive due to the size of the study, the results have been encouraging enough to start again with a larger research group.

The theory being tested is that "high fetal testosterone levels push brain development towards an improved ability to see patterns and analyse systems tasks males tend to be better at. But it also impairs communication and empathy which are usually more highly developed in females". The abilities to see patterns and analyze systems tasks are necessary abilities and good social skills are important for our future and needed by children of both genders, although not in the extremes that we find in Autistic children.

Date: May 12, 2004
Author: James Randerson


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  from May 19, 2004    


Fiction from fiction - arts trend (or trend baby)


Example 1:Game Over is an animated TV program based upon characters from video games, due to go on the air the 10th of March in the United States. It looks at the every day lives of superhuman characters. It explores what happens it the lives of these characters when the video game is turned off. Example 2 Avenue Q is a Broadway puppet musical loosely based on the children's TV show Sesame Street. This however, is an adult version. Example 3 Fan fiction is described like this "Fan fiction, very simply, is the genre of stories, poetry, novels, filk (sic) songs, and top ten lists written by fans of a particular series, be it television, literary, or what have you. If you've ever written a story about something you like, involving characters created by someone else with a legal right to them, you've written fan fiction."

Here are three examples of entertainments that have based their stories on fictional characters. A couple of these entertainments are inspired by or use the Internet to communicate. Swedish "trend watchers" think that all the stories have been told, so we are reusing old characters in new situations. There is a possibility that this is linked to the retro- fad that we are experiencing. If younger generation can not relate to Baby Boomer's retro references, they find their own references, such as video game roll figures. "Live" is also connected to this trend. If one can act out roll play figures, why not take them into other media. When characters become so real, or give us such a good feeling that we want to stay with them and give them new stories and plots are we building a new reality? It is important to look at the values that underlie these characters in order to truly understand the roll they will play in our everyday lives.

Source: UPN
Date: March 2004
Ask Jeeves




Optimal health

McDonald's to Eliminate Supersizes by Year-End

Mc Donald's is removing its super sized option, which includes a 7-ounce carton of fries and 42-ounce soda drink. It is also to introduce a meal for adults which come with advice from a fitness expert. Earlier it has offered entree-sized salads and healthy alternatives in children's meals, including milk and fruit.

Critics say that this is a PR move. They sight the rise in Mc Donald's shares after the announcement of its removal of the supersized option. This is the same pattern that followed the first steps toward environmentally friendly products. People thought the steps were hollow and just words with little conviction behind them. What ever the motivation, there are always bell weather companies, countries, branches etc. In this case Mc Donald's is the bell weather company of fast food. Look for other companies to follow. If the stock market buying public is smart, it will support companies that are good corporate citizens. Now it is up to government regulators, NGO's, consumer organizations and the general public to monitor these changes and support those that have substance and expose those which do nothing but promote the bottom line.

Source: Yahoo! News
Date: March 4, 2004
Author: Deborah Cohen




Communities increasingly sophisticated fight for survival

Love Those Young Professionals

Communities are trying to get their young people to return after college in order to provide an educated work force, attract business and keep the community alive. They are doing this in the United States by attracting young people with: social events, entertainment and gathering places. This includes sports stadiums in mid-sized cities. Chambers of Commences are offering after-hours gatherings, leadership development programs. The authors are "half-expecting" dating bureaus to be offered.

For some rural communities the process starts earlier. Students are asked to explore their community - "its place in national and world events, its relationship to the natural environment, and its cultural heritage as expressed in traditions and celebrations, literature and arts, economic practices, responses to crises, and everyday life." A program called ALERT helps teachers form research questions so that students can apply research techniques to their own communities. The idea is that they develop so much knowledge and appreciation of the history of their communities that they will naturally come back after college or time in the big city.

Source: The Herman Trend Letter, The Montana Heritage Project
Date: March 4, 2004
Authors: Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia




Sustainability - lowering the effect of nuclear waste

EU satsar på omvandling av kärnavfall (EU prioritizes changing nuclear waste to a lower length of life)

Transmutation is a technique now being explored by which to handle radioactive waste. It can reduce the proportion of long-lived isotopes it contains, reducing their radio activity from around 300.000 years to several thousand years. It can take up to 20 years to build the necessary facilities. The social and economics are being studied at the Royal Technical College in Stockholm.

Another solution to radioactive waste management was reported in an earlier Signs of the Times which tried to identify microbes living without oxygen, which feed on radioactivity. The question of what to do with our radioactive wastes is huge and only now in the research stages. However, the awareness and activity has started the trend and enough money is being invested to consider that this trend will continue. It will be strengthened by the difficulty in finding safe ways to deal with the wastes. Communities don't want such dumps near them, no matter how deep within the earth they are placed.

Source: Swedish Radio P1, Vetenskapsradion
Date: March 16 2004




Resource depletion - Fish

Gösfisket i Hjälmaren världens första miljömärkta (Pike/perch in Hjälmaren (lake) is the worlds first fish to be environmentally approved Local taboos could save the seas

Behind the environmental certification of fish species is the Worlds Nature Fund. Pike/Perch is the first of the sweet water fish to be certified. Another international system for salt water fish is issued by the Marine Stewardship Council. They have a certificate in preparation for Alaska Pollock found outside Alaska and Western Canada. Communities in the South Pacific are being helped to organize their cultural taboos and local customs to form a network of laws which will control over fishing and preserve biodiversity. The centralized fishing regulations of western cultures, intended for large nations with industrial fishing industries don't fit local, small fishing cultures in places like Fiji.

In 2001 we reported on rising cost of fish. It isn't only about the cost of fish for western restaurants, but the food supply for a large part of the third world. The consequences of decreasing food supplies, especially a major protein source are migration, starvation etc. Slowly, researchers and activists are trying to change the trend. Just like small business needs regulations that fit them, small, local fishing communities need laws that grow out of their own circumstances. Environmental certification of fish takes into account biologic, economic and social aspects of the fish population in question.

Source: Swedish Radio, Station P1, New Scientist
Date: April 20, 2004, April 17, 2004
Author: Emma Young




Aging population

Abuse of the Elderly

With the predicted global growth of those aged 60 years and older is expected to double from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion by the year 202. With this growth elder abuse is expected to grow. Currently, elder abuse goes unreported or drastically underreported; much like abuse of women once was in western countries.

Elder abuse includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as neglect and economic abuse.

Source: World Health Organization; World report on violence and health




The system gone wrong

U.S. Finds Fault in All 50 States' Child Welfare Programs Placerade barn och ungdomar (Placement of children and youth, a report)

The Department of Health and Human Services of the United States government has looked into the situation for children who have been placed under State care. Of those children placed, approximately 900,000 children had been abused or neglected under state care in the year 2002. One thousand four hundred of that group died. The purpose of having children in State care is to protect children who have suffered from abuse or neglect with their biological families. None of the states fully met all of the standards required by law.

BRIS (Children's rights in society) is a private non-profit organization serving children in Sweden. One of their services is a phone line where children can call and talk to a trained adult. In the year 2000, they looked at the calls that came from children living in foster care. The study showed that many children spoke about loneliness, fear and abuse. Only a few children were happy with the situation they found themselves in. The resulting study showed Swedish laws and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child were being abused

It has been common knowledge for years that when the state takes over care of children that the chances of abuse and quality care often become worse than they experienced in their homes. The complaints are getting louder, often voiced by parents of children who have been forcibly taken without good reason. The same laws that allow authorities to forcibly take children from their homes are also found in Norway, Denmark and Finland. The question is if there is enough pressure on these countries to make a difference. The European court has been involved in a case in Sweden with little result, so there seems to be no authority that can actually enforce The Convention or laws of individual countries. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been signed by 192 nations. Only two have not signed - the United States and Somalia.

Source: The New York Times, BRIS
Date: April 26, 2004, May 2002
Author: Robert Pear, Ingeborg Moqvist


    Back to Signs of the Times.  
  from March 05, 2004    


Increase length and "failed states"

The Reluctant Imperialist: Terrorism, Failed States, and the Case for American Empire

Failed states are those whose infrastructure has dissolved into violence and chaos due to civil wars or invasions. There is a tendency for orderly societies not to intervene. The World Bank studied 52 conflicts since 1960 and found that the wars started after 1980 lasted longer. These conflicts tend to spill over to new countries. Disorder develops into a self-sustaining system.

Factors that indicate a 40% or more chance that a state will fail are high birth rates, a high proportion of young adults (aged 15 to 29 years), a rapid rate of urban population growth, a very low availability of cropland and/or renewable fresh water, high AIDS and other infectious disease rates, criminal sales of natural resources (ex. Diamonds), production of illegal drugs and high pressure to immigrate. This pressure to immigrate is connected to a lucrative traffic in illegal workers.

Source: Foreign Affairs, Population Action International
Date: March/April 2002
Author: Sebastian Mallaby




Increase in preparations to reverse aging

Clinically Proven Growth Hormone Releaser shown to Reverse many of the Symptoms of Aging

Here is a "natural" anti-aging capsule that claims to increase your growth hormones by 402% The companies website claims that 4 capsules a day improve the immune system, reduce wrinkles, heighten sexual potency, enhance energy, improve sleep, sharpen the memory, reduce fat, increase lean body mass, and promote healing. Everything we all have dreamed about. Look for more of these products.

One can find trends everywhere. Even in SPAM mail. SPAM drives me crazy and I am sure it does my readers, but I know from SPAM that medicine sales have exploded on the Internet, that the new fad is how large the male sex organ is in circumference as opposed to how long. (Is this an influence of the women's movement?).

Source: Spam
Date: February 10, 2004
URL: The source will not be reveled as we do not wish to in any way promote the product




Non-predictive futures studies on the rise

"What, if any, foresight activity is going on in your geographic area?"

In response to the question "What, if any, foresight activity is going on in your geographic area?", sent out to the World Futures Studies Federation list serve, Riel Miller from OECD reported that while "there is still a huge yearning for a world where prediction is doable and useful" the role of traditional planning with its dream of predictability is declining. This sort of planning and thinking about the future is still dominant, but is on its way out. " ...there are many who still think that futures thinking is about prediction and hence they expect elaborate models and 'factual' econometric type statements about what will happen." New futures thinking, which is "a more narrative, anti-planning approach which calls into question the current assumptions about the potential for change is on the rise.

The World Futures Studies Federation is a global network of practicing futurists, researchers, teachers, scholars, policy analysts, activists and others from over 80 countries, established in 1967.

Source: Riel Miller, OECD-CERI
Date: February 10, 2004




Possible weakening of IMF/World Bank power

It Pays to Get Tough with the IMF

The International Monetary Fond is charged with giving countries economic advice and is a source of credit when all else fails. In January 2004 Argentina, who has a debt default of $88 billion, the biggest in history, said no to the IMF proposal on what they need to do to handle their debt. This was the second time Argentina had refused to follow IMF advice. This is an unusual situation as most countries are so cowed by their debt that they follow the advice given and do as they are told.

This is a break in the trend to follow IMF and World Bank without question. The IMF and World Bank are known for creating plans that deepen countries debt by spreading it to future generations, forcing them to sell crops needed to feed their own people and forcing them to purchase the products of richer countries who have lent them money. If refusals of debtor nations continue, it could mean a rethinking of the nature of assistance the international community offers. Increasing the possibility of this trend growing is that some economic analyst's, conservatives, liberals and advocates of the "free market" are beginning to ask why the IMF (and the World Bank and other multi-lateral lenders) don't share private sector losses with other lenders.

Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research
Date: Feb. 5, 2004
Author: : Mark Weisbrot




Increase in one person house holds and house holds without children

Growing Power of single adults

The number of single adults living alone is growing more popular in the United States and Scandinavia. In Norway one person households were 28 % of all households in 2002. This is an increase of 34% since 1990. Larger portions of an individuals' life are spent living alone.

It is interesting to note that US researchers look at one person and adult households as a marketing group. Sweden looks at them in relation to their social costs due to handicaps, poverty etc. It has ramifications for salaries, tax structures and housing. It also has ramifications for the education of children. Adult education is growing (often private). How willing are single adult households going to be to pay and fight for good public schools? Educational quality is already a problem with complaints heard from employers that basic reading, math, conceptual, communication and problem-solving skills are lacking. Universities in Sweden are complaining about the lack of knowledge in the natural sciences. OECD defines the problems as huge. They are defined as "widespread teacher shortages, changing social conditions and increasingly diverse student populations." What they don't seem to be taking up is the content of education in a quickly changing work environment. What do children need to know when it is uncertain what kinds of jobs will be available when they decide to specialize? There is even controversy in Sweden as to when they should begin to specialize - gymnasium or college.

Source: Trend Letter
Date: February 2, 2004
Editor in chief: Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger




Falling between paradigms

OECD Urges Reforms to National Career Guidance Services

OECD has looked at the way 14 different countries provide career guidance to those looking for a job, young and older. One apparent problem is the lack of link between current job statistics and the advisors giving career guidance.

Things are changing so fast in the job market that the traditional ways of counseling job seekers are no longer working. They need more training, more contact with the latest information in different career areas and more knowledge of national policy priorities. What makes training difficult is that a new description of the way we see work is needed. In 2002 traditional industrial jobs in manufacturing, construction, agriculture and mining made up 22% of all the available jobs. The greater percent, 79, went to service jobs in trade transportation, finance, business and professional services. The largest category was education, health and social services. This trend toward a service economy has continued since these figures were collected. Yet, our economic reports are still based on productivity not service. Protectionism co-exists with finding less expensive labor in other countries. We have heard about the change so long, that many of us thought it had already occurred, but actually we are in the middle of it.

Source: OECD
Date: February 16, 2004





Paradigm shift in psychology

Konsten att ungås med röster (The Art of living with voices)

A radical alternative psychiatric values shift is taking place. It is stimulated by psychotic disturbances like schizophrenia. Symptoms such as hearing voices have been traced to areas in the right side of the brain and therefore are seen as "normal". A magnetic camera can show just where this activity takes place in the right side of the brain. When asked, large numbers of people reported hearing voices, but they were benign and even helpful. This information triggered the thought that a new way of looking at the presenting symptoms was necessary. The traditional model looks for an illness, identifies symptoms, sees behavior as irrational, sees people as objects and illnesses as having a specific cause. Illness is seen as being a biologic defect that is determined; in need of treatment and that there is a diagnosis that applies to all with similar symptoms. The new paradigm looks for a strategy as opposed to an illness. Symptoms are seen as an expression of something meaningful. The individual is a subject with views about his or her own situation. Symptoms are inner emotional conflicts which present choices, potential for development. Symptoms are not the ingredients of a diagnosis, but unique occurrences in the life of an individual.

The leaders of this new paradigm are Marius Romme (Holland), Loren Mosher (California), Sashi Sashidharin (England) och Thomas Bock (Hamburg). These Dr's se psychic disturbances as more or less conscious strategies in order to understand and handle inner conflict, defense mechanisms for survival. Some of these strategies don't work and the individual needs help in trying new strategies.

Source: Ordfront Magasin, Nr. 3/2004, p.19
Date: March, 2004
Author: Gottfried Grafström


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  from February 02, 2004    


From racial pride to racial ambiguity

Generation E.A.: Ethnically Ambiguous

The younger age group, those under 25 (the so called Generation Y) are the most racially diverse population in American history. Those under 18 were twice as likely as their adult counterparts to identify themselves as multi-racial. This is also true in Europe to a lesser degree. It is now possible to check more than one racial background on census reports, so the 2000 census shows nearly seven million checked more than one racial category. Magazines are publishing these mixed racial identities in their publications and are redefining beauty based on these mixes. Other evidence is the Open-source (free use) comic book character Jenny Everywhere, who appears to be Native American or Asian.

Marketing, which is so alert in identifying new groups to sell to, accounts for the new identification of beauty. That is the superficial level. It does give status to the mixtures. The next step in such a trend is that mixtures will be so common that they will not even be noticed and it will be the "pure radicals" that will be highlighted in the magazines. Will modeling find their new exotic looks from the few remaining hunting and gathering cultures? What all of this will do for individual identity is unknown. Psychologists can expect higher self-esteem for the racially mixed, the same kind of kick that Afro-Americans got during the "Black is beautiful" period of the sixties and seventies.

Source: The New York Times
Date: December 28, 2003, September 15 2003
Author: Ruth La Ferla, Jean




Constant change in the fields we study


New fields of study are indicative of what might be common knowledge or at least taught in schools as basic curriculum in the next 25-50 years. One such field is Neurotheology. The field is cross-disciplinary and looks what effect the workings of the brain have on religious belief. Some disciplines writing in this field are anthropologists, archeologists, neuroscientists, evolutionists and theologists. It is related to the study of the workings of the brain and the location or description of consciousness (reported earlier in Tecken i tiden).

Amazon, a major on-line book store has a Neurotheology section with several books on the topic. Sources of information and publication on Neurotheology come from Arizona State University, Laurentian University (Canada), The Center for Congivive Liverty and Ethics, New York Times (Journalist Daniel Goleman), The Washington Post and Newsweek magazine.

Source: Net search on Google for "Neurotheology" (1,140 hits)
Date: December 28, 2003




Sustainability - decreasing pollution

Next Generation Nanocatalyst Technology For Fuels

A British company has put a new nano product on the market which, after trials, can improve fuel efficiency, reduce carbon deposits in the engine, and lower diesel fuel emissions from 10 - 12 %.

When a product has come so far as to be placed on the market then it will effect our near future first. There are a number of universities and institutes behind this company, primarily the University of Oxford, which is a trend in itself, the university spinning off viable companies. Now we are in a period of reducing emissions which is a transition to a no emission, sustainable future.

Source: Oxonica,
Date: January 2, 2004, October 15, 2003




Globalization - democracy

Be pioneering! Open 2004 US presidential election to world citizens!

Stimulated by the upcoming Presidential elections and recent world events in which the United States has taken the lead in the role of world hegemonic power, the article author wonders if Europeans, Iraqis, Arabs in general, Russians, Asians and in fact the whole world should not be allowed to vote in the presidential elections since such a decision effects the fate of the whole world. The Author makes the argument that it would serve world democracy. It challenges American voters, the 50% that vote that is, to be aware of its responsibility and consider that they are voting for the whole world and not just themselves.

As globalization develops it is not hard to begin thinking how global democracy could work. The article suggests a possible future scenario where there is one power that guides the world, but the rest of the world, in good democratic form get to influence the decisions that impact them.

Source: New Europeans Magazine Bimonthly Report
Date: January 7, 2004
Author: Macha Loyack




Increase in methods to censor and control the Internet

How Norway is tackling Internet regulation

Norway has applied for funds from EU to start SAFT (Safety Awareness Facts and Tools). Half of their financing comes from EU and the other half comes from industry and governments. Their goal is raising awareness of the positive potential and the dangers of the Internet to youth and kids. It also facilitates communication between technology firms, Internet service providers, European governments and nongovernmental organizations.

There are a number of ways of handling the negative aspects of the Internet. The United Kingdom is using Internet filters which are produced in the United States. Filters select specific items for censorship. Each culture has different things they find objectionable, for example nudity or violence, so those filters can only be used in countries where they have a similar list of objectionable subjects. Another tool is based on the European Data Directive which you can send to anyone that might gather personal data receive information on how your personal information has been handled. Children in Norway will be taught how to use this in schools. Other tools are a "cookie opener that displays what information your browser leaks and a port scanner that says what services such as a peer-to-peer network client are running on your computer."

Source: ZDnet UK
Date: November 07, 2003
Author: Declan McCullagh CNET




Global weapon market shrinks; USA share increases

U.S. Still Reigns as Top Global Arms Seller

Weapons of Mass Availability

The United States has led the world in arms exports to developing countries since the beginning of the cold war. US totals of delivered arms were 9.9 billion in 2001, 10 billion in 2002 continuing an upward trend. Developing countries are defied as all those outside of Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the United States. The global market is temporally shrinking due to erratic oil prices or the late-1990s Asian financial crisis. Several countries made large purchases after the 1991 Persian Gulf War and are still integrating them into their armies. Over the past 3 years the largest weapon sellers besides the USA have been The United Kingdom, Russia and France. Who do they sell to? China, India, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan have made the largest purchases between 1995 and 2002.

The Federal web site that offers weapons material at auction has been shown by The General Accounting office of the United States to offer biological safety cabinets, bacteriological incubators, laboratory centrifuge and chemical biological protective suits. The materials could be had at bargain prices, $4,100 for $47 000 worth of equipment, all necessary for the production of biological weapons. Some of the gear's final destination was the Philippines, Malaysia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, India and Pakistan.

Source: Arms Control Association, The Atlantic Monthly
Date: October 2003, January/February 2004




Increase in individualized education

Internet search "Self-learning" ( 3,690,000 hits

The concept of individualized education in the Swedish school system, home schooling in the United States and distance learning are all signs of a growing movement in individualized learning. New research in how learning takes place in the brain, the discovery of new areas of intelligence and dissatisfaction with school systems all over the world have been drivers of this trend.

Self-learning is directed to both children and adults. The concept of life-long learning is linked to the very real needs of adults to continue to learn in order to keep their jobs or get new ones has made a new industry of adult education. The need to fit education to the interests, budget, and characteristics of the learner is growing by leaps and bounds. Traditional school systems were developed in the era of the industrial revolution. Since we are in a transition from the industrial revolution to the information or knowledge society schooling where everyone learned the same material using the same learning methods some new forms were bound to arise. Self-learning is a trend of the knowledge society. Self-learning does not mean that a person will always sit alone at a computer to learn as they will also have a choice to get support from "learning-communities".

Date: February 2, 2004


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  from December 29, 2003    


Sustainability - Water

Never thirsty again

Rain Water Harvesting or RWH is a creative, local solution to water shortages in Chennai. India. In an area that gets most of its rain during the monsoon season and is dry the rest of the year there is a need to make the best use of rain when it comes. Sekhar Raghavan has developed two approaches, one of which is to capture rain from the flat roofs that are typical of Chennai and use it after filtering water from the kitchen and bathroom. For well owners, the rest is piped into a sump made of brick gravel and sand 2´x 2´ x 1´. The rest of the rain water is channeled over paved surfaces into the soil to replenish the water table, eliminating flooding in the city. The cost is modest, about $60 for a house or $600 for a block of flats. A slum dwelling can be simply outfitted for $4.

While this solution is local, there are certainly applications for other areas. Besides slowing down flooding, this solution keeps salt water intrusion from developing in this costal area. It is mentioned in Australia, Kenya, and probably other locations. Rain water harvesting also keeps the need for purchasing water to a minimum. The privatization of water is becoming an increasing problem and this is one solution that keeps it in check.

Source: The Economist
Date: May 29, 2003
Suggested by: Sudhir Desai




Marketing politics

Politics and Music

In a few weeks a new rap artist will be on the market, British politician, Tony Benn. He doesn't actually rap, but like Malcolm X, Mandela, Palme, Luther King and Kennedy his speech will be set to rap music. In another political setting, the referendum vote in Sweden on whether or not to become a part of the European currency system, senior citizens were targeted by the "No" side, with information handed out as they gathered for a social event outside Skansen in Stockholm on Aug. 22, 2003.

Marketing has been targeting special groups in society for a long time. In the US special advertising is directed to the poor, the Mexican/American, Blacks etc. Using this technique for marketing politics in an interesting trend that both:
  • contributes to democracy by bringing in a new variety of voters and
  • potentially devalues it by manipulation (connecting something valued like the political grass roots aspect of rap music to somewhat more conservative politicians).

Source: Swedish Radio P1, Aktuellt TV2
Date: August 17, 2003
Program leader: Elisabeth Hedborg




The belief that technology solves all problems

Top ten biotechnologies for improving health in developing countries

The Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto has used the Delphi method to obtain a list of the ten top biotechnologies (genomics and related biotechnologies) that will improve health in developing countries. The assembled international group of eminent scientists with expertise in global health issues came up with the following list:
  1. Modified molecular technologies for affordable, simple diagnosis of infectious diseases
  2. Recombinant technologies to develop vaccines against infectious diseases
  3. Technologies for more efficient drug and vaccine delivery systems
  4. Technologies for environmental improvement (sanitation, clean water, bioremediation)
  5. Sequencing pathogen genomes to understand their biology and to identify new antimicrobials
  6. Female-controlled protection against sexually transmitted diseases, both with and without contraceptive effect
  7. Bioinformatics to identify drug targets and to examine pathogen-host interactions
  8. Genetically modified crops with increased nutrients to counter specific deficiencies
  9. Recombinant technology to make therapeutic products (e.g. Insulin, interferons) more affordable
  10. Combinatorial chemistry for drug discovery

New technologies are often thought of as expensive, too expensive for developing countries. However, this study focused on affordable technologies. The study was intended as the basis for policy decisions. One policy might focus allocation of research monies to just these areas of research. Recently we have heard about Botswana's problems in getting AIDS patients to come and get the low-cost drugs that many have fought so hard to obtain. They do not come as no consideration has been given to the enormous shame feelings built into the culture. These seem to be stronger than the genetic will to survive. Hard technology focuses on the affordable needs the social sciences in order to truly be effective, anthropology, the study of change, psychology and other fields have much to offer here.

Source: University of Toronto Joint Center for Bioethics
Date: November 10, 2003
Study: Top ten biotechnologies for improving health in developing countries




Sustainability - global warming (Critical Mass)

Industry moves proactively to reduce environmental harm

Marketing to the LOHAS consumer

Business and local political leaders in the United States have come to realize that global warming is a problem that will cost billions and result in environmental damage that will effect economic growth. They are taking action proactively, before the Congress and the Executive branch. At the same time, marketers have identified a new market niche, LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), who make up 1/3 of U.S buyers. These consumers prefer to buy from companies who share their values and their trade organization is called Natural Business Communications.

Even thought it appears that a trend is not developing, once it has started, in this case Sustainability related to global warming, it is hard to stop. This article is a sign that the trend has reached its critical mass, given that even the President and the Congress of the current hegemonic power can not stop it. Critical mass means that a trend, accepted by 15-25% of the people it is well on its way to leaving trend status and becoming mainstream thinking, no longer a fringe idea.

Source: Trend Letter Vol. 22. No. 20, Vol. 22 No. 18
Date: September 29, 2003, September 1, 2003
Editor in chief: Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger




Food - decreasing availability and quality

Global Food Trends
Friskare mat ska ge nya jobb (Healthier food will give new jobs)
Framtidens rena matfabrik (The futures clean food factories)

A picture of global food trends shows: The global grain harvest has not met demand for 4 years, world grain reserves are only 20 percent of what is now consumed annually. Thirty-five percent of all grains (including 60 percent of corn) and virtually all soy world-wide go to livestock while production of the three major cereals, wheat, corn and rice fall.

Last year's meat production was double that of 1977 and has been growing since 1950 illustrating the world's growing appetite for meat.

Over fishing by commercial fleets are decimating fish stocks around the world.

A view of the future is sterilized food factories, many producing functional foods, using robots, and fewer and more educated workers. They will serve those with money and lifestyles prioritizing health and sustainability (LOHAS, see above). Currently, food production has to compete on global markets. The poorest people, the 800 million people who regularly go to bed hungry (greater than 2.5 times the combined population of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.) will have less grains and fish, food produced without consideration to pesticides and chemicals under less clean conditions.

Source: Science News Online Vol. 163, No. 22, Mål och Medel Nr. 11
Date: May 31, 2003, November, 2003
Author: Janet Raloff, Gunnar Brulin




Values change - Greater rights to animals

Animal Rights / Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation

This book, Animal Rights/ Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation, makes a social analysis of both animal oppression and the oppression of "devalues" humans. It is based on the fact that both have contributed financial benefit to a relatively small group of humans with power. Professors Framcioni and Charlton from Rutgers school of law talk about animal rights as a field of study. Ten years ago the first courses were taught and some of the fields of animal rights discussed are the rights of wild horses, animal sacrifices, breeding issues, rights of animals serving as companions and animal freedom of expression.

Traditionally, human rights began with men who owned property. They were given certain rights such as voting. Since then we have widened our criteria to all men, then to women and much later to children. Humans that were different than us in values and behavior, the poor and people with other physical characteristics were considered, if not animals, not truly human. Much of this thinking lives today and is experienced as discrimination. However the trend is to the widening of rights, and hence our relationship to animals is changing.

Source: Furture Survey 25:7,Rutgers University School of Law
Date: July 25, 2003, 2002
Authors: David Nibbert Bk.), Professor Gary Francioni and Adjunct Professor Anna E. Charlton (Web site)
Editor: Michael Marien




Growing controversy between science and religion

Gud på hjernen (God on the Brain) Schrödingers katt
Frälst eller psykiskt sjuk? (Saved or mentally ill?)

Researchers in England found that a minority of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy have religious hallucinations, after taking brain scans of those with and without temporal lobe epilepsy. It is believed that the temporal lobes of the brain are the source of religious experiences. Patients with and without temporal lobe epilepsy were measured for changes in their hand sweat when they looked at any type of religious imagery or words. The results were dramatically strong for those with the disease. In another program, psychologists tried to define the difference between a religious experience and a psychosis. Some of the symptoms of a psychotic episode are: proselytizing in a forceful way, disturbing and or screaming at others. It can also be characterized by an overdriven involvement with a particular question and the hearing of voices of both god and devil that create intrigues. Religious Christians believe that a person having a religious experience is not sick and should not be forcibly hospitalized. Psychologists discuss schizophrenia as the source of psychotic experiences for which individuals need relief. One schizophrenic patient reported that a positive and respected acceptance of her beliefs resulted in a lessening of the psychotic condition began to dissolve and she remained healthy for twelve years after that date.

Is it God talking through a human being or are religious experiences triggered by specific illnesses in the brain? Which argument will win can be seen in the current paradigm or world view. Futurist Lawrence Taub, in "The Spiritual Imperative; Sex, Age and the Last Caste" calls the current western world view, the Worker Age in which the laws of science explain most of what we see and experience. Taub speaks about a religious/spiritual age which is now in the process of taking over from the Worker Age where the world view will be mainly explained in terms of religious feeling and spiritual sensitivity rather than science and technology. His is a macro-historic history (covering prehistory to the future) and to understand the theory one has to read it in its entirety. It is well presented in seven pages at

Source: Schrödingers katt, Människor och Tro
Date: December 11. 2003, NRK, December 19 and 20, 2003, SR P1
Author: Kari Hustad (NRK)


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Local communities liven up

Cabin Fever
The Consumption Cocoon

"Local-area nesting," has replaced cocooning. People are going to the gym seven percent more now than last year, dining out in casual restaurants, visiting the library and going to farmers ' markets, which is up 10 percent. Dinner parties and church attendance has increased as well.

One could add going to the local coffee shop to the list. Trend watchers reporting this are looking at American cities. This might look very different in other parts of the world.

Date: June 9, 2003
Author: Otis White's Urban Notebook




Instant mobilization - global, local, serious and fun

The Dublin Mob Project

This is more of a fad than a trend, but Flash Mob show the possibilities for global healing as well as global terrorizing. It started with a group in Dublin, possibly tired of all the negative associations around mobs. Through a web site: people sigh up for a Mob Project. When it is time, an e-mail is sent to everyone telling them to meet at one of several places at a specific time. There they receive a slip of paper telling them where to go and what to do. One of the Mob project people come with little slips of paper telling exactly when to meet at the Flash Mob sight (a local business usually). They all go in, look around till all are in and at the pre-arranged time, one minuet later say something in unison, like "I like cheese", or just clap their hands. The next minute they all walk out and disappear. Flash Mobs are reported to be working in: San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York City, and London, Tokyo, Brazil and South Africa. One is reportedly planned for Melbourne.

With all the terror in the world people need some good laughs. Thanks to our wired youth to give us this harmless, funky fun. We certainly need it. This use of E-mail to quickly mobilize protests against the war in Iraq and SMS to get people in South Korean to come out and vote for President Roh Moo-hyun is the real trend here.

Date: August 5, 2003
Author: Leander Kahney
Related links:,1283,58601,00.html




Towards more powerful weapons

Gamma-ray weapons could trigger next arms race

The American military is creating a new weapon that lies between the nuclear and conventional weapons. When exploded they would release high-energy gamma rays that would kill any living thing in the immediate area. Any bits that had not been detonated could cause long-term health problems if inhaled.

Compared to a nuclear bomb, the deterrent quotient is reduced with such weapons and it is feared that creation of them could create another arms race. All technical issues are not solved, but it is possible that these weapons could be in use in the next decade.

Source: New Scientist
Date: August 13, 2003




Increase i holistic measurement of human development and quality of life

A multitude of ways to measure quality of life and development

In earlier "Signs" we mentioned the UN's HDI (Human Development Index) a more holistic way to measure the health of a country over the linear BMP. This idea has grown and here are some examples:

Measurement Creator Applied to: Measures or dimensions
Human Development Index United Nations Countries Life Expectancy at birth
Adult Literacy rate
School enrollment at all levels
GDP per capita
Life Expectancy Index
Education Index
GDP Index
Gender-related Development Index United Nations Countries Same as HDI
Human Poverty Index United Nations Countries Measures deprivations in basic human development using the same measures as HDI measures deprivations in basic human development
Development Report Card Corporation for Enterprise Development US States Economies Performance Business
Development Capacity
Genuine Progress Index UN Platform for Action Committee (UNPAC) Manitoba, Canada Communities Time Use Surveys
Replacement Value
Opportunity Value
Valuing unpaid work
Quality of Life Measures City of Sunnyville CA. USA City Safe Community
High quality of education
Efficient, Safe Transportation Systems
Healthy, sustainable environment
Community pride and involvement
Diverse and growing economy
Quality, diverse, affordable housing
Diverse cultural opportunities
Sustainable Development Measures Dow Corporation Corporation Employee health and empowerment
Diversity and non-OECD job's
Community involvement and public perception
Needs assessment and life cycle assessment
Revalorization and natural resource use
Loss of primary containment and waste generated
Greenhouse gasses and Emissions
Water and energy use
Non-OCED sales and Non-OCED production
Business NPV changes and business economic profit
Corporate economic profit

Source: see chart
Date: August 20, 2003
URL: see chart




Increasing clash between health and market economy

Saturday Interview of Gro Harlem Bruntland

Smoking and the tobacco industry, obesity and the sugar industry, magnetic radiation and the electronic industry are three health problems caused by specific products which Gro Harlem Bruntland, head of WHO World Health Organization, points to as international health issues.

We have seen what has happened to the tobacco industry in the United States where class action suits have cost the tobacco industry dearly. Now WHO, the World Health Organization is campaigning against tobacco use world wide (reported earlier Signs of the Times). Another of the global diseases highly exacerbated by the use of sugar is obesity. WHO has taken notice and the sugar industry should be preparing to take responsibility for warning the public about the over use of their product. The growing effects of magnetic radiation (even on Gro Harlem Bruntland herself) have been characterized as an allergy to electricity and look to be legitimized by interest from WHO.

Source: Lördagsintervju (Saturday Interview) Swedish Radio P1
Date: June 14, 2003
Interviewer: Tomas Ramberg





Bacterial Fuel Cell Demoed

Researchers from the Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Germany have found a way to harvest the energy needed to power a fuel cell from chemical reactions that occur when E. Coli bacteria consume sugar. The researchers' prototype microbial fuel cell captures the hydrogen produced when the microorganisms metabolize carbohydrates like sugar in the absence of air.

The actual production of hydrogen has been one of the largest hurdles in achieving a hydrogen based economy, which would be renewable and environmentally friendly. The most popular method of producing hydrogen currently requires the use of fossil fuels. If hydrogen could be produced using natural processes as described above, we could fully realize the benefits.

Source: Technology Research News
Date: July 25, 2003
Submitted by: Eric Kellum, Engineer




Youth- New directions for values

Youths more conservative than their elders on issues involving religion and abortion, new UC Berkeley survey reveals

A study has found youth to be more conservative than their adult counterparts on the following issues: School prayer (Adults 59%, Youth 69%; Federal aid to faith-based charities (Adults 40% 59% College students, 67% younger teens; Feeling of warmth towards religious conservatives on a scale of cold (0-50) to warm (50-100) (Adults 26% over 50; Youth 33% over 50); Government restrictions on abortion (Adults 34% support, Youth 44% support) support such restrictions. Youths are more inclined to look expect the federal government to: do more when it comes to job discrimination against women, racial minorities, gays and lesbians and to assist the poor and protect the environment.

On the other hand youth are less likely than adults to attend religious services on a regular basis or use religious guidelines to structure their daily life. For this study adults 26+ and youth 15-2.

Source: Survey Research Center, Campus News, University of California at Berkeley
Date: September 24, 2002
Suggested by: Steven S. Little, UHCL student, Introduction to Future Studies course


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