20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of the planet’s resources. GEO4, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) 2007.
The world spends 12 times more on weapons than on aid to developing countries. OECD, 2008 (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
5,000 people die everyday because of polluted drinking water. 1 billion humans have no access to safe drinking water! UNDP, 2006 (United Nations Development Programme).
1 billion people are going hungry. FAO, 2008 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
75% of fisheries products are exhausted, depleted or are in danger of being so. UN (United Nations).
The average temperature of the last 15 years has been the highest since records began. NASA GISS data.
The ice cap has lost 40% of its thickness in 40 years. NSIDC, 2004.
There could be 200 million climate refugees by 2050. The Stern Review: The economics of climate change part II, chapter 3, page 77.
Over 50% of grain traded around the world is used for animal feed or biofuels. Worldwatch Institutue, 2007.
40% of arable land is degraded. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).
Every year, 13 million hectares of forest disappear. FAO, 2005.
1 mammal in 4, 1 bird in 8, 1 amphibian in 3 are threatened with extinction. Species are dying out 1,000 times faster than the natural state. IUCN, 2008 (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
My Read of the Month:
Title: Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose–Doing Business by Respecting the Earth
Author: Ray C. Anderson with Robin White
Genre: Environmental leadership/Business strategy
This book is a personal account of Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of InterfaceFlor who led his organisation and industry towards Mission Zero- a goal to use zero natural resources to manufacture and to aim for zero carbon offset in its process.
Interface is a global carpet tile manufacturer and this book depicts their trailblazing green journey from where it begun to where it is at present. At this moment, Interface has been able to cut it’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent since 1996. Achieving that while their sales increased by two-thirds and doubling their earnings.
Definitely a worthy example of business and environmental sustainability marrying together towards progress where both wins.
I like how Ray was able to integrate his Christian values into his business in regards in being environmentally responsible and sustainable. He shares how he views the Bible as an environmental handbook that commands us to conservatorship- a God-given mandate to be stewards of the environment.
Though I found the book a tat draggy at times and peppered with a little too much technical jargons that only engineers could understand, but I still enjoyed it. Truly an inspiration.
Read this book and be challenge in our linear mindset of “take-make-waste” that has been adopted from our industrial revolution to one that is “close-looped”- taking nothing new from earth to make and recycling waste to make instead!
Who should read it: Business owners and higher management. Inclusive of church leaders.
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle.
And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
Genesis 1:26-28 (The Message)
The ongoing talks in Copenhagen have no doubt arrested the entire world’s attention on climate change.
To be honest, I was never much fascinated by such issues related to our environment. It was only in the past two years that I got acquainted with climate change issues within the business community that the interest developed.
From what I’ve observed so far, the real deal about climate change and what goes on in COP15 is more inclined toward political interest and economic driven among nations- the fittest survive and the weakest dies.
The real deal on climate change
For a start, there are still a lot of lively debates and controversies surrounding the claims that whether or not emitted greenhouse gases are strongly linked to human activities that are ultimately contributing to global warming.
I mean do only greenhouse gases contribute to global warming?
How is it that carbon emission which is generated by fossil fuels is to blame?
Why the push to resist the use of oil (fossil fuels) and to adopt alternative sources of clean energy?
For certain, the answer does not begin with saving our environment.
In my personal opinion, countries adopting alternative sources of clean energy is similar to what Singapore has achieved with NEWater. Now we no longer feel susceptible to our neighbour across the causeway whom we’re buying water from.
Unfortunately, unlike water, oil cannot be recycled or undergo reverse osmosis. Oil, and not water, powers the economy.
The ugly face of climate change
As one goes deeper into climate change issues, one can become delusional or feel hopeless about the human race especially on discovering the sort of evil that we are capable of.
For instance, it is no secret that the final war against Iraq by infiltrating Afghanistan is all about possessing oil fields and nothing about terrorism.
Terrorism was merely used as a bogeyman to rally public support for the invasion. And till now, no “weapons of mass destruction” have been uncovered in Iraq.
Hence, just as how any criminal case is investigated by considering the motive and sequences of events that transpired. This question begs to be answered: “Was 911 really a terrorist attack or was it an insider’s job?”
I know what I’m insinuating here might be highly contentious. But to me, it does present a stronger and more logical case for what has transpired in our global economy over the years.
For a long time, our environment with its climate change issues had never gotten the degree of attention that it rightfully deserves.
This apathy especially among key leaders of governments and businesses had been mainly displaced by other concerns such as competition, economical growth, innovation and technology.
However, all that is changing and for a number of reasons. One of those reasons- the need for self-preservation on every level of societal.
Awakening to our environment
There’s an interesting French proverb- “Fish discover water last” that succinctly illustrates the kind of relationship we have with our environment.
For fish, water simply is it’s environment. It surrounds them. They are so immersed in its presence that they are unaware of its existence- until it becomes polluted or non-existent.
When that happens, the immediate consequence makes it apparent that quality water is essential for their well-being. Without it, the fish will die.
Similarly, we as humans are finally discovering our high dependency on our environment with the dramatic developments that have surrounded climate change.
Now, the world is in stark realisation that our environment is vital to our own well-being just as water is to a fish. Without our environment, we will ultimately self-destruct.
Our future by 2050
According to the United Nations (UN), our global population is projected to swell from 6.7 billion (2009) to surpass 9 billion by 2050.
That amounts to adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today who will be seeking food, water and other resources on this earth where, scientists say, who are already shaping our climate and the web of life.
For instance, China and India are presently dominating the demand for energy in Asia. China alone accounts for 40 per cent of primary energy needs and responsible for 60 per cent of carbon emissions.
At this rate, we can expect energy demands to double; using twice the energy. And with our source of energy mainly based on a fossil fuel economy, this will have a negative impact on our environment.
With our growing insatiable consumption for all of earth’s natural resources, 2050 is not very far away for us to max out our planet and destroy ourselves.
Taking environmental issues in our context
At this point, I would like to invite readers to think for a moment:
What would become of nations when there is a depleting supply of staple food such as rice or corn?
Would countries that cultivate them supply and export to their neighbours?
What happens when supplies of other neighbouring countries run dry and they see producing countries having supply?
From the likes of how oil is globally distributed, I think it is safe to say that countries with natural supplies will likely protect and hoard their resources for self-gain and to provide for their own countrymen.
Like how the many wars had erupted in the Middle East region over the supply of oil, we, therefore cannot not rule out the possible threat of wars among nations vying for natural resources in bid to survive.
Now, imagine that we have arrived at 2050 with global natural resources depleted and tagged with sky-rocketing prices due to high demand.
What would become of Singapore as a country that imports almost all of its natural resources and has none to its name?
You tell me.
“Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
~ The Bruntland Report (1987)
“Wherever we are, we act with respect to exert a positive impact on people and on the limited resources of our planet to ensure long-term profitability”
~ Common ground statement at the Future Search workshop (2008)
“Sustainable development goes beyond the environment. It is basically an approach that says you should not take away more than you add- to the world’s resources and environment, as well as to the well-being of the people who work for you.”
~ Quoted from the Review of The Straits Times (2009)
This week, I’ve crossed the two-year mark in being with my present organisation.
Though two years doesn’t seem long, but it does feel very long.
Since my first day, I have been through many turbulent phases with the organisation.
Presently, I am relieved and thankful that we have turned the corner and are climbing to prominence.
The turn around truly taught me what a difference a committed and competent leader can do for an organisation. And the reverse being also true with an undedicated and incompetent leader.
Connecting the dots
It has been a very fruitful two years. God has used this particular environment to stretch my vision from a “B2C” to a “B2B” mindset.
Being thickly involved and in tune with the business community has also enriched my perspective in what God is doing in the marketplace and enhanced my business acumen (c.f. Matthew 10:16)
From the social service sector, then to an e-commerce set up and now in this business federation, each working environment has provided me with unqiue experiences, aquired knowledge and honed my skills.
Upon analysing, I do see a pattern or the dots that are connecting each one of these phases of my work life towards my vision.
Being where God wants me to be
Though from a worldly standpoint, I can honestly admit that my resume or portfolio may not be classed with the “elites” in Singapore, but I know I am where God wants me to be and that’s my definition of success.
I think being given a vision beyond what I can see has helped me see my life in His perspective in the light of His plans for me. And knowing God gives me the confidence to face my tomorrows.
At where I am now, I am more excited than I ever was about the future ahead with Him, even in this downturn.
Moving forward, my prayer would be for me to learn patience and stillness in waiting upon God even more; that I may be faithful in all I do and also rely fully on Him. Amen.
Taking this idea of environments a little further, consider the following ideas:
1. If you want your intelligence to grow: go to a library, a book store or a school
2. If you want your health to grow: go to a gym, ride a bicycle or play more
3. If you want your spirit to grow: go to a church, find a quiet spot and meditate or pray more
4. If you want your wealth to grow: go to a place where people are getting rich (like a real estate office or stockbroker’s office), join an investment club, or start a study group and meet new friends who want to grow richer.
5. If you want to expand your world: go to places you’ve never been before… do things you’ve been afraid of doing before.
In other words, sometimes the fastest way to change and improve yourself is simply to change your environment.
The kind of environment that you place yourself in can limit your vision.
Using myself as an example when I grew up with a gang during my teens. My vision was to own a club or a pub.
Some of my other peers in the gang aspired to be loan sharks, drug pushers, bouncers or managers for a disco or pub.
Obviously, our vision was much influenced and limited by our environment.
Not surprisingly, most of us did not pursue or further our studies as our aspirations didn’t require any high academic qualifications.
This taught me that no one can grow beyond his vision. In other words, the greatness of your vision will determine the greatness of who you can be or what you can achieve.
More about the environment factor
Another influencing factor about our environment is that it largely determines how successful we can be with our vision. Not finding an environment that supports us can cause us to fail.
Tiger Woods’ genius came out from golf courses. If he was a jockey, he would not have been successful. Likewise, Mick Jagger who initially studied to be an accountant, found his genius on stage as a Rolling Stone.
For me, after I became a Christ-follower, I entered a new environment with a church community. That developed me spiritually and practically. God used the right environment to change and define my vision and mission in life.
Choosing your environment
Similarly, as employees, we are probably working in an environment designed for those who work not to lose- people who want job security and a steady pay check. This can be described as a poor environment.
Many people who want to become rich fail to become rich simply because they are rich people in a poor environment. Employers who create such environments attract and keep good employees- employees who are happy working not to lose. And one such obvious environment is the government service.
Like how a tree will grow strong and big with the right environment that provides a healthy dosage of sunshine, water and fertile ground to take root. The same is true with us as people.
Choosing the right environment (led by God) to be rooted will not only shape your vision, but will largely determine your success in achieving it.