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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 16th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Vienna is no Backwater and no UN Backwater anymore – I arrived from New York on May 8-th, and immediately – that is starting Wednesday the 9-th – I already started to run to meetings and presentations/discussions with  top-global thinkers who presented the latest ideas about the true state of the planet. Actually I must confess that more and better value I encountered in this first week in Vienna then I experienced in New York City. I would suggest that it is possibly a result from being less of an interests driven pressure cooker, people tend to speak up more, and discussions evolve with less impediments that one experiences in New York.

From running to so many activities, I found that I do not report on them and this is a pity –
I will thus do a very skimpy review now and hope to do some more justice in the future.

Take for instance the global economy and much of what impacted the negotiations in New York, around the UN, on the run up to RIO+2o.

On Wednesday I started by participating in a meeting at the Austrian Association for the UN, with Professor Ian Goldin, who was Vice President of the World Bank (2003-2006) and prior to that the Bank’s Director of Development Policy (2001-2003) representing the bank at the UN. He left The Washington position to become the first head of The James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford University. From him, in the discussion, we heard that the problem that caused our economic crises comes from the simple truth that all top economists have studied from the same book Economics 101 – and were unable to see that the World was behaving differently. He honestly confessed that he also did not see the crisis coming – but he made it clear that he looks now at ideas of fundamental change. I will not enlarge here as I do have a draft article were I will try to pick up my notes. I will only say that he was born in South Africa to Jewish refugees from Vienna, and by now is a World citizen with experiences all over.

The following day it was someone with a very different background – coming from the Philippines he is also by now a World citizen with Experiences all over but seemingly his real base is still in the south. Professor Walden Bello was educated at Princeton with a doctorate in Sociology, and taught at Berkeley and Binghampton. Then he became executive director of  the Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) in OaklandCalifornia and founding director of Focus on the Global South, a policy research institute based in Bangkok.

In 2003, Bello was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, whose website describes him as “one of the leading critics of the current model of economic globalization – combining the roles of intellectual and activist.” But then he also entered politics in order to work against President Ferdinand Marcos. He is now also a member of the Philippine Parliament.

Bello spoke at a panel organized by the Vienna Institute for Development Cooperation VJDC in the compound of the Diplomatic Academy. He stated that Consumption should no longer be considered the key to economic stability and added that this is the reason that the US continues to be a renegade. Space must be reserved for development of the developing counties.

Talking about the financial crises he blamed the Thatcher-Reagan liberation of the Financial Sector and the export of its problems by the US. On the other hand he looks at China being led by technocrats and the immense increase in China’s production capacity.

Asked about the Bhutan idea of well being and happiness, he thought that Bhutan is very much behind in development so it cannot be a model – but he accepted the notion that there is the need for different ways of measuring development then the GDP. He even volunteered that some of what is called growth is in effect negative growth.

Bello clearly, even as acknowledged spokesman for the South, he does not see development as the south copying the North. He is posed to look for novel ways and in this he speaks of accommodation to replace conflict. A question  he entered only reluctantly was the issue  of national economies that do not have a National Currency, like Greece, while the US and others have the luxury of printing their currency. Then what is if more interesting, China and Brazil, having excess reserves of global currency printed by others, have also their own National Currency used mainly inside the country, while using the excess of US dollars or Euro, in financial dealings outside their own countries. This insulates them from outside intervention like in the case of Greece that has no  independent internal currency. To this he said that by now China and Brazil have started to use their own currencies also for international trade. Clearly – this is something that ought to be looked at more seriously by the EU.

“To this series of talks I would include the Wednesday May 16-th presentation of the Master thesis by Ms. Elisabeth Schmid on THE GOOD LIFE – BUT WHICH?” – “Das Gute Leben – Aber Welches?” that looked at the Pacha Mama Andean American-Indian indigenous concept of not harm nature more then what is absolutely necessary and which allowed me to try to negotiate these concepts in relation to the Himalayan Budhist concept of Happiness.

Following the initial days that centered on above economic aspects, followed a meeting at the Amerika Haus of the American Embassy in Vienna, dealing with energy policy of the State of California, and energy policy of the US in general – the place of renewable energy in the future of the United States and the World and what can and cannot be expected from RIO+20 a meeting that he considered as if it were a direct follow up to the series of meetings on climate change. The speaker was Professor Gerald W. Braun, the associate Director of the University of California at Davis Energy Institute.

The America House  meeting was on Wednesday night, but then on the three week-end days – Friday to Sunday, May 11-13, there was the Green World Forum on the side of the Imperial Hofburg Palace, that included exhibits and a series of talks  and Dr. Braun was the speaker for the Friday Energy Session – his topic was THE END OF THE OIL AGE – THE GREEN ENERGY REVOLUTION. Then the last event I am touching about is the EUROSOLAR monthly Stammtisch that dealt with solar programs in Bavaria. While the first group of talks in this section dealt with what we really need and how we satisfy these needs as a community. this last evening was pure alternate sources. Obviously – both lines present progress in their own ways.

Monday,  Tuesday, and Wednesday I picked seeing Sustainable Development inspired movies. To be more accurate – films that tell us – go for sustainability or else we have no future. These events were the first for me to tackle on this website. Please look at the two postings we have on the films.

As said – there was so much more going on – but I could not take it all in.

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