IT SEEMS LIKE WE ARE DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF TAKING INCREASINGLY HIGHER RISKS IN THE BUSINESS AND IN PUBLIC SECTORS. SIGNALS SPECULATES THAT WHAT IS DRIVING THIS TREND IS THE NEED FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH IN A WORLD OF INCREASINGLY SCARCE RESOURCES. WE URGE LEADERS ENSURE THEIR ORGANISATIONS REMAIN VIGILANT TO AVOID DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF INAPPROPRIATE RISK TAKING. DESPITE THE APPARENT OPENNESS OF INFORMATION VIA THE INTERNET, WE CANNOT RELY ON MEDIA TO BRING A DEBATE OF THESE RISKS TO THE FOREFRONT.
Signals: Large gains in productivity may come from genetic engineering of food crops. But there is a dialogue going on that is questioning if we have the tools to deal with this level of risk taking. The same could be said for fossil fuels. On the one hand huge benefits for mankind but the risks are on a level far higher than the industrializing world has grasped during the last century. The same goes for nuclear power.
Comment. Whilst man has changed the way the world looks by urbanising it, basic human nature is something that evolved long before that. We recognise that we need to evolve our culture, not just raw technology, if future generations are to be able to live and prosper. Whole new disciplines of human development are needed to manage the risks associated with the changing mental and physical landscape we live in, including tools to handle the moral, democratic, major extinction risks and the health risks. Indeed is the availability of the Internet good for public discourse or is it dumbing it down?
The links below show a pattern occurring in many situations; climate change, genetic engineering, radiation etc. At the same time, a common way to stifle deep debate is to attack the author of a study or article as being a doomsayer and calling into question one aspect of their argument that in turn deflects attention from the issue at hand. Seen through the eyes of risk professionals, the possibility of open, deep debate on important topics is so easily toppled. This reinforces our view that the very culture of handling risk is underdeveloped in our society. just when we need the dialogue, it is difficult to have it.
Signals lead editor Stephen Hinton explains more in his article. http://stephenhinton.org/2014/04/14/pushing-the-risk-envelope/
Supporting links: A NASA funded study created models that indicate we have created a system that drives behaviour that is unstoppable and we could be headed for collapse in decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
Another study http://www.csiro.au/Outcomes/Environment/Population-Sustainability/SEEDPaper19.aspx shows how the original scenarios of collapse from the Club of Rome report were accurate. This paper predicts collapse of the global system midway through the 21st Century
“Black Swan” author points our the risks with GMO may be much higher than stated. So high they could threaten life itself.
A more down to earth example is the recent mudslide that buried a village. Was there knowledge that a hillside presented a risk to the people living beside it? If so why was this risk not communicated or was it communicated but the message did not sink in. Oso in Snohomish County makes a good, if grim, study.
Risks with radiation.
Speculation as to why radiation levels are so high in sea fish in Canada and why it took a school project to find them.
Risks with carbon
Risk on Risk.
Something our risk management methodology is undeveloped is in the risk on risk area. In her recent analysis of the way climate, energy and climate risks inter-react, actuary Gail Tverberg points out:
“We need to understand what are really up against, if we are to think rationally about the future. It would be helpful if more people tried to understand the physics of the situation, even if it is a difficult subject.”
Read her article here http://ourfiniteworld.com/2014/04/11/oil-limits-and-climate-change-how-they-fit-together/
Risks as youth novel narrative
Novels are increasingly featuring a narrative of constant extreme risk as being normal. the new feature film Divergent, based on the book of the same name features a post-apocalypse society, ruled by a totalitarian government where children are selected into five factions and subjected to brutal initiation tests where, as the author puts it “they’re conditioning perfectly normal people to get over perfectly rational fears.”
Journalistic comment on the the IPCC articles above
Journalistic standards came in question as the reporting on the study above turned to discussion of the extent to which the study was funded by NASA rather than the validity of the study
A similar debate
the BBC came under fire, too for failing to stick to its guidelines around climate change
Dealing with phosphorus risks
Finally, how many years of phosphorus does the world have? If supplies of phosphorus fail we starve. And starvation is a huge risk as it topples governments and causes wars. The Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation, in recent Nordic Council Report have been looking at ways to use economic instruments to reduce environmental and hunger risks.
About this newsletter:
We monitor the news flow from a wide variety of sources from the last 30 – 60 days for developments that could inform your organization’s social and environmental strategy which in turn could affect your overall business strategy.
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