Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 million people own a third of all assets

Are you a HNWI? If so you are one of 10 million guys controlling one third of all assets. And while the world economy went into recession your wealth increased some 19 percent.

The most commonly quoted figure for "membership" in the high net worth "club" is $1 million in liquid financial assets.

The world’s population of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) grew 17.1% to 10.0 million in 2009.The world’s population of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) returned to 10 million in 2009, increasing by 17.1% over 2008. HNWI financial wealth increased 18.9% from 2008 levels to $39 trillion. After losing 24.0% in 2008, Ultra-HNWIs saw wealth rebound 21.5% in 2009. Ultra-HNWIs increased their wealth by 21.5% in 2009. In terms of the total Global HNWI population remains highly concentrated with the U.S, Japan and Germany accounting for 53.5% of the world’s HNWI population, down slightly from 2008. Source: World Wealth Report 2010. The World Wealth Report covers 71 countries in the market-sizing model, accounting for more than 98% of
global gross national income and 99% of world stock market capitalization.

World GDP, also known as world gross domestic product or GWP - gross world product, calculated on a nominal basis, was estimated at $65.61 trillion in 2007 by the CIA World Factbook

Global household wealth amounted to $125 trillion in the year 2000. The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth according to a path-breaking study released today by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER).

well there are many different ways one can present the data of world inequality - they all have one thing in common. It is appalling.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We are part of society and society is part of us.

"We are governed and driven by our DNA, our brain and by our culture. It is all about information. DNA is coded information which governs some, but not all of our actions. Our brain receives impulses from the inside or the outside and processes this information and take action to improve our chances of survival. It does that in sync with our genes, but not as a slave under our genes. Our culture is the collective memory of who we are, where we came from and where we are heading. This memory, this information also guides a lot of our actions. We are formed by culture during our upbringing and in this way each generation is adapted to the prevailing culture. There is always an element of revolt as well, young generations opposing the ruling ideas and experimenting with new ideas or new ways of living. This can be seen similar as mutations on the gene level, ensuring variation and that development will take place.

In this way culture and society are rather extensions of our human bodies; we don’t really exist without it. The lonely able savage (as depicted e.g. by Rousseau) or his later followers are constructions, we were never alone. Without society we are as helpless as an ant without his anthill or a bee without a hive. Few of us would have the force, like the queen bee to establish a new colony. It is like that we should see society (not to be confused by the state), like an organism. Society is the organisational form so to say and culture is the information in its wider sense (including religion, economy etc.).

Therefore, we can’t pitch the individual against society. Sure there will be, and has always been, a tension between the independence of the individual and the demands of submission of society (I am myself an example of an individual that most reluctantly submit myself to the demands and expectations of society) – but this tension is part of the project of being a human. To see ourselves and society as integral parts of being human is a first step in thinking about how we can build a better world. And they are in contrast to (not negating, but transcending) both the socio-biological idea that we only act in the self-interest of our genes and the capitalist ideology of that each person acts as an individual in order to increase his or her direct benefits."

I am busy writing the English version of my book Garden Earth, the above is an extract from it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

To respect nature is to respect ourselves

Apart from the direct and indirect services we get from nature, nature also has great esthetical and cultural value for us. It gives us another perspective, many reference points; it is an unprecedented piece of art.

Nothing we do can compete with a piece of nature. A square meter of land contains so many organisms, with so complicated and complex relationships with each other that we can’t understand them. One gram of forest soil may contain over a million bacteria colonies. It is estimated that several million individual animals and over a thousand different species may reside beneath one square meter of soil surface (Perry 1994), and all of them are constituted by many, many cells and there is interaction between them, exchange of energy and nutrient, eating and to be eaten. Most likely a square meter of nature is more complex and contains more information than the whole internet.

There are some 100,000,000,000,000 cells in a human body. I don’t know how many bits of information there is in the cell as such, but there are some 30,000 genes in each cell. Just for the sake of getting some number say there is a million bytes of information per cell and its relation with the other cells. Then we would arrive at 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 bits which is something like 10 exabyte of information. Never heard about an exabyte? No wonder. The first terabyte (SI prefix, 1000000000000 bytes) hard disk drive was introduced in 2007, and an exabyte is a million terabyte -which in turn is a million gigabyte, to bring it down to the scale of our own hard drives.

OK number-crunchers, anyone up for the challenge of proving me wrong, don’t ask me to prove it right, I haven’t tried!

The purpose with the exercise is not to bash the internet or modern technology and to say that it is worthless and a nit-wit’s accomplishment - it is just to realise how little we know about the wonders of nature; even of ourselves. And then I have only thought about the physical expression of ourselves. Our imagination and ingenuity creates a lot more - drama, movies, songs, love, hate, sensations and emotions all over the place, yes and the internet as well....

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's in a name?

At the latest European organic conference in Rome delegates discussed what should be part of the EU organic Regulation and what should not. Organic food has been in fashion for a while and some organic standard-setters, certification bodies and companies have rushed to expand the use of the term ‘organic’ into other sectors. Most prominently the term is often used for textiles and cosmetics, but also in water, salt, fisheries, forestry, building sectors, –in fact you name it and it is probably there. Parallel to this there is also the inclusion of many new aspects associated with the organic sector, e.g. its effect on climate change, biodiversity and social conditions. The term ‘Organic’ is thus moving further and further away from the ‘no chemical fertilisers, no pesticides’ market claim that it was in many countries.

Both developments are somewhat problematic. To what extent they really respond to market needs is not clear, nor is it clear whether the drive is mainly by a self-interested certification industry, or by people who like to tell other people what to do. If one sees the term as a ‘brand’ there are many reasons to question the wisdom of stretching the use of this successful brand into new areas. Normally, that leads to erosion of its image. Of course ‘organic’ is not a normal brand and does not necessarily follow the normal rules, but still there is most certainly a risk in expanding its use to cover things far from its agricultural origins. The organic sector is also not credible, or competent, as a rule maker for production categories that fall largely outside agriculture. It makes more sense that associations of craftsmen, builders or architects discuss eco-building rather than farmers and supermarkets; and that weavers, spinners and apparel makers develop textile standards. The inherent ‘values’ of ‘organic’ might not translate easily to other product segments. The same consumer that wants the t-shirt to be made with organic cotton, may simultaneously go for high-tech outdoor stuff, made by plastic and possibly with nano-particles.

The inclusion of more aspects of production in organic standards is to some extent the opposite, it is about ‘deepening’ the organic idea and proposition. Very often the rules of those ‘new’ subjects are not sensitive enough for the contradictions that may occur, and there may be trade-offs. For example, air freight of one product may mean an improvement of the livelihood of a community; or limiting green house gas emissions from agriculture may sometimes conflict with bio-diversity or animal welfare. Each new subject carries with it new values and subjective judgments. One can influence both organic producers and consumers and change values, some of them quite rapidly, in society, but it still goes that the more things added, fewer people will feel comfortable with the whole package.

The fundamental problem is perhaps the combination of a ‘do good’ system, which organic systems most definitively are, with an institution that does not have ‘do good’ as its main principle, rather the opposite – the market. Markets are driven by profits, a fundamental tenet of the market system we humans have created. Is it really realistic to expect an institution that was never intended to do good or to be fair to be that? If we look at it like that many of the inherent conflicts in the organic movement become more understandable. Organic as a concept, illustrated by the four principles of organic as developed by IFOAM, is not market-oriented at all. On the contrary, it clearly adheres to principles that go far beyond, or above, sometimes also against, the market. But the ‘organic market’ is clearly market-oriented, those that are in that market will not survive long unless they are market-oriented. It is because of the market, competition and communication with the consumers that we formulated organic standards and have certification systems. Many don’t accept this perspective but believe that the standards are – or should be - an expression of organic principles. A third group, perhaps, sees the whole idea of organic standards as an abomination; using standards to define organic methods is like using a plough for no-till farming. It is not so much about right or wrong here. Still it is quite obvious that the majority of the certified organic farmers follow the details of organic standards because they want to market their products as organic, and that organic standards, as they are written today, are written with that use very much in mind. The people developing standards should have these issues more often in mind. The itch or urge to write more rules should perhaps sometimes find sublimation in some other way?

The text above is the leader of the coming issue of The Organic Standard, the special journal for organic standards, certification and regulation which Grolink publishes and of which I am the acting "publisher"