For some years now I’ve been sure to follow the summer-time story of ice in the Arctic Ocean, as tracked by the Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. I began doing this after meeting a cold-weather engineer from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who alerted me both to the special dynamics of the Arctic, and to this Center as a reliable source of data. Because the global temperatures seem to be increasing in the Arctic at about twice the rate of the rest of the planet, the impact on the summer melting of the “permanent” ice cap can be dramatic. Detailed observations begin only in 1979, so the record is short, but in that time a significant increase in the summer melt has been observed, both in terms of the total area of ice, and its thickness. The composite satellite photos you may have seen measure only the area covered. Wind and short term weather patterns can impact the amount of ice observed – winds can push the ice in and out of the Arctic. If you study the data at the Center you will see that in general a pretty dramatic fall-off in the amount of ice at the end of each summer- mid-September – has been the pattern. 2007 was the summer with the least ice, and 2011 came in at second place. Looking at the satellite photos and the amount of clear water that enables ship navigation each summer now also illustrates why the nations that surround the Arctic are jockeying for position to open the Arctic to energy exploration. That tapping the fossil fuels that may be found there and lighting them on fire may only hasten the demise of the ice cap seems of secondary concern to those involved.
Arctic Ice at end of Summer Melt 1979-2007
Is the Arctic a canary in the coal mine in terms of global impacts of climate change? I think so. I am surprised that it does not generate more attention.
When the subject of climate change comes up, I point everyone to visit this center online for themselves. The data and the photos are there for any one to see.
Yes, I know, if you compare 2007 to 2011 it will look like the ice is increasing! Trust me, it is not. Just visit NSIDC for the evidence.
Ahh, to live in the clouds. We’ve been there for a decade, and each day more of what we do – make a call, watch a video, navigate a car, order a product, read a book, play a game, takes place in the cloud. Yes, cloud computing is just a clever name for big server farms and client services on your local device, which can sound a lot like the old days of computing if you have been around long enough. But, it just grows and grows.
We recently came across a quite wonderful video that explains the cloud in a way both clever and informative. Enjoy.
Have you ever wanted to learn a bit more about scenario planning as a tool to expand your planning horizon?
This past summer I had the opportunity to lead a group from the National Association of Electrical Distributors in a workshop on future trends and preferred future planning. The participants, all part of the Lake Michigan Club, were owners and managers of companies that ranged in size from small businesses to large national distributors and manufacturers. Their business is to supply the building and construction industry with an A-Z supply of electrical equipment, from conduit to switches to fixtures. Of course it is an industry struggling to manage during the construction down times we are in. Here is a short video about their annual meeting, with a brief clip of me discussing preferred future planning.
Following the workshop, I was invited by the Association to produce for them a “Scenario Planning Playbook” and a short video encouraging their membership to take a look at it. Scenario planning can be an excellent tool for companies that faced with a volatile and uncertain future environment, because considering alternate scenarios enables you to plan flexible strategies.
The association has made the Scenario Planning Playbook available through their website, where you can also watch the video. If learning about scenario planning has been on your agenda, check it out.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist author, speaker, consultant, and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech, workshop or consultation contact Futurist.com.
I began thinking about the long term impact of the growing gap between rich and poor, and the flat-lining of middle class incomes, several years ago. I began the chapter on The Great Divides in my 2006 book by discussing the growing wealth divide, and in a 2006 keynote for the American Red Cross I called out the looming rich poor gap as an issue for philanthropic organizations.
Since 2006, the situation has gotten worse, of course, with the collapse of 2008, and the long non-recovery recovery that has followed. But now the issue has leaped from speeches about future trends to the front pages.
For over three weeks Occupy Wall Street protestors have been rallying against a number of grievances focused on a jobless economy and the Wall Street, regulatory, corporate and other policies that they see as combining systemically to prevent improvement. The website for Occupy Wall Street claims that,
The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.
Street demonstrations are a quintessential American tradition and right, and thus the demonstrators are carrying on in the footsteps of many who have come before them. What makes Occupy Wall Street unique is the intent to carry on an occupation as a tactic. Momentum for Occupy Wall Street has gathered speed in the last several days with the inclusion of local labor unions in the protests, and the spread to cities in almost every state in the Union. While many mainstream media and financial commentators have expressed opinions that range from confusion to disgust, others are beginning to catch on that something is happening here. Even President Obama has said Occupy Wall Street protests are a reflection of a ‘broad-based frustration about how our financial system works’, though I am not sure he grasps how much of the frustration is with his own ineffectiveness in dealing with that financial system (along with the rest of Washington DC).
Many of the Millennial Generation are involved in this protest, lending credence to the generational theory forecast that the Millennial Generation would be an activist generation. Amongst the thousands of protestors, hundreds have been arrested or aggressively handled in some way by the police, which is evident in the following video.
So what does it mean and where do things go from here? I have two primary observations today.
First, when in recent months I have mentioned the “rich poor gap” to business audiences, I have noticed that while some are glad to hear this reality pointed out, others bristle. I will put up a chart like the one below, and explain that I am not making a political statement, rather simply pointing out that the rich poor gap, which had closed between 1946 and 1979, has been widening due to a combination of factors including economic, global, technological, tax and government policy issues, and then I ask whether we really think that a society in which such a gap continues to grow can be a functioning society?
The second observation is that a good deal of my thinking on the likely long-term negative impacts of increasing wealth disparity comes from a quite earth shaking 2007 book by Robert H. Frank, entitled Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. When societies become more and more unequal, they become less healthy, less happy, less productive, less capable of producing innovation, more volatile, more prone to crime, and so on. Frank concludes his fascinating analysis of the drivers and the impacts of inequality with these two very prescient paragraphs,
Income and wealth inequality have been rising sharply in the United States for several decades, exacting a heavy toll on middle-income families. When market forces cause inequality to grow, public policy in most countries pushes in the opposite direction. That was also once the pattern in the United States. But more recently, we have responded by cutting taxes for the wealthy and reducing services for the needy. Historians will someday struggle to explain this puzzling reversal.
As the economist Herb Stein once famously remarked, if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. At some point, we will take steps to limit the damage caused by rising disparities in income and wealth. With a push from intelligent political leaders, such steps can be taken sooner rather than later. For even in an age of thirty-second sound bites, American voters have demonstrated their ability to see things from a different angle.
I have little doubt that the elections of 2008 and 2010, although the winning political parties differed, were both mostly a cry for addressing the decades-long economic patterns leading to the decline of the middle class, as described by Frank among others. The OWS demonstrations are likely to continue at least into the cold of winter, and then re-emerge even more full-throated in the spring. The choice they have made to call themselves “the 99%” is brilliant marketing, and the 99% will shape the 2012 elections. I concluded the section on wealth disparity in my book Turning the Future into Revenue this way,
The bottom line is simple. We can sugercoat economic statistics, point to skyrocketing housing values [in 2006], crow about GDP growth figures that mean little to average wage earners, and the reality is that the wealth divide is growing at the present time, and in the long run is deeply problematic.
iCAREweCARE.org is a global network of high school and college students coordinating their volunteer efforts to focus on issues they really care about, in order to make a bigger difference in the world. The Founder is a dynamic high school student from the Seattle, Washington area, Priyanka Jain. We had the opportunity to interview her last week.
Our video interview of Priyanka is conducted by Mallory Smith, my Office Manager, a recent graduate of the University of Washington and herself a member of the millennial generation. It is exciting to hear the story of iCAREweCARE. As Priyanka says, why should she wait to make a difference when she can start doing that now.
I believe that what Priyanka is doing here is an example of the activist nature of the millennial generation, as forecast by William Strauss and Neil Howe in their various works on generational theory, especially the original The Fourth Turning, and then more specifically in Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. Look around the world and I think you will see this new generation, now about age 10 to 30, making their voices heard, often in dramatic ways.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, author, consultant, blogger, internet video producer and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.
[Update: Priyanka was of the first "100x100" women entrepreneurs featured by the start-up company The Smart Girls Way.]