Sunday, April 30, 2006

An Australian climate change strategy for planet

Check out the climate change piece in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald “People in greenhouses should turn up the heat” . The author is Peter Singer, a native born Australian, now a professor of bioethics at Princeton and author of the about to be published book "The Way We Eat : Why Our Food Choices Matter".

For some time I’ve been searching for an effective approach for Australia to help turnaround the mounting global (and Australian) climate change disaster...I like the pragmatism of Professor Singer’s national and regional leadership in climate change and earn the credibility to challenge/shame gross over-consumption in the US which is responsible for 25% of the planet’s greenhouse emissions.

Thoughts: Makes good sense…but on Australian PM Howard’s watch? Is it realistic to expect Howard would ever seriously challenge his good friend and ally US President George double-YA?

KEY WORDS: Climate change; Australia; Ethics

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rising diesel prices sinking fishing industry

Rising diesel prices are forcing fleets around the world to stay in port.

  • The Nation paper article “Fishing fleet left stranded” reports that 2,000 fishing trawlers operating in the Gulf of Thailand can’t afford to go fishing.
  • The Dominion Post article “Fuel rises sink NZ fleets” says that almost 90% of New Zealand’s national inshore fishing fleet of 1700 boats is up for sale. The diesel price has risen 316% since 1990.
  • The Japan Times reports in “Oil-price spikes hit deep-sea tuna fishing industry” quotes a fishing industry source’s forecast of an ‘avalanche of bankruptcies at tuna-fishing bases in Japan’.

Thoughts: Although tough on the fishing industry participants, high fuel prices could be great for already decimated ocean fishing stock. Fish may well become a luxury. It may even force Japan to reconsider it's 'scientific research' harpooning of southern ocean whales.

The convergence of global warming and accelerating fossil fuel prices mean it might be now time to dust off plans for sail-assisted fishing boats. Have a look at Yasuo Yoshimura’s short insight called “A Prospect for Sail-Assisted Fishing Boats”(PDF) for a short 4 page upload.

KEY WORDS: Peak oil; Fishing; Energy; Wind; Food

Friday, April 28, 2006

Global nano-arms race underway?

Citing emerging threats in a dynamic geopolitical environment and the changing nature of warfare, Malyasia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, told a nano-materials conference on Thursday, that the Government was committed to support innovative R&D in nanotechnology and composites technology as an essential component of Malaysia's economic and social well-being, and military strategy.

Reading between the lines, it looks like Malaysia is signaling it will invest to become a global player (and partner) in nano materials research for both commercial benefit, and to ensure it’s own military capabilities are not left behind in the rapidly developing ‘smart soldier' space.

Thoughts: When we see a country ranked 84th by GDP/capita (2004), investing in nanotech research to ensure military preparedness, is it a signal that we already in the midst of a new global arms race? Will the relentless acceleration of NBIC (nano-bio-info-cogno) technnology advance place such capabilities in the hands on citizens - and not country states - anytime soon?

KEY WORDS: Nanotechnology; Defence; Materials; Geo-politics

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Compelling insights from BBC's Global Business and new mag REALBUSINESS

Yet another Thursday night ritual~ my wife Andrea is ensconced in Coronation Street on TV (visions of that movie Groundhog Day -1993 and Bill Murray [me]) and I’m taking refuge listening (via RealPlayer) to Peter Day’s weekly BBC radio documentary series Global Business.

The focus this week – an examination of the new entrepreneurial spirit emerging in Britain. Peter began the documentary by interviewing Charles Orton-Jones, a writer with the newly published monthly magazine REALBUSINESS. I checked the mag out online…looks good...lots of interesting case studies.

Thoughts: I recommend BBC's Global Business by Peter Day as a great weekly insight on global trends. It has been particularly helpful in providing a high level view of the emerging global importance of India and China. This whole online broadcasting/podcasting medium is becoming a highly convenient and compelling alternative to free to air TV and radio.

KEY WORDS: Business; Entrepreneur; Globalisation; Media

The value of trees is more than just shade

I just read a fascinating piece on the value of trees in suburban environments. Ethan Gilsdorf reports that just one shady tree can save a homeowner US$80 a year in energy costs. “Yes, humble street trees cool the air, reduce pollution, and absorb storm-water runoff. But the benefits aren't only ecological” says Gilsdorf. “Property values are 7 percent to 25 percent higher for houses surrounded by trees. Consumers spend up to 13 percent more at shops near green landscapes. One study even suggests patients who can see trees out their windows are hospitalized, on average, 8 percent fewer days.”

I checked a little further and found several other web articles leading up to the National Arbor Day in America on 28th February 2006. One such piece details statistics supporting the value of trees to a community.

Thoughts: In our increasingly plastic, steel and concrete environment – Arbor Day comes as a timely reminder of our natural heritage and well as the commercial benefits of tree planting.

KEY WORDS: Sustainability; Cities

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Rich rewards for extraordinary worker efforts at Nucor

This afternoon I read a fascinating article, ‘The Art of Motivation’ by Nanette Byrnes on Businessweeks Innovation website. It's all about Nucor the American steelmaker. Nucor's 387% return to shareholders over the past five years tops the performance of almost every other company in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

Businessweek reports that what makes this rust belt industry player a star, is that it “treats its workers like owners”. A key driver of worker buy-in to the com (pany and ongoing innovation is Nucor’s pay system. Almost every worker is paid relative to their performance or value contribution. Specifically a steelworker at a different mill company can clock up $16 to $21 an hour. The base rate for a Nucor worker is nearer to $10 and hour, but a production bonus for defect-free steel by a worker’s whole shift can deliver three times the average steel workers disposable income to the Nucor employee. The late F. Kenneth Iverson, founder of Nucor, summed up his then radical business approach “Employees, even hourly clock-punchers, will make an extraordinary effort if you reward them richly, treat them with respect, and give them real power.”

I found a fascinating case study published by Dartmouth College in 2000 which describes Iverson's employee relations principles which underpin Nucor's success. (PDF here)

Thoughts: With ageing baby boomers beginning to retire in bulk numbers from 2010, there is fertile ground here for companies looking to build employee motivation and retention strategies. And why is it that such powerful and innovative ideas seem so practicle and obvious in hindsight?

KEY WORDS: Business style; Alignment; Work

PC to landline phone calls to virtually anywhere – for free!

My very tech-literate French brother in law Sylvain Filliol just turned me onto another cool Voice over IP (VOIP) offering called VoipStunt. I’ve been a Skype user for over a year and it’s halved my mobile phone bill. VoipStunt is a great complementary service to Skype. It allows you to call any landline in a vast number of countries for virtually nothing. I checked out some online reviews and VoipStunt get’s the thumbs up. For example see Anders Jacobsen's blog.

Thoughts: As PC and broadband penetration accelerates through business, home and the mobile space…time is shrinking for traditional telco’s to remain relevant in the communications space. In the same vain Juha Saarinen's blog pointed me to a recent Sydney Morning Herald article describing Telstra's competitive response to VOIP...which again look's like too little too late to me.

KEY WORDS: VOIP; Telecommunications; Communications; Internet

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wildly exciting food innovation in Chicago

I just read Jennifer Reigold’s article in FastCompany on wildly exciting food innovator Homaro Cantu Jr. and his Moto restaurant in Chicago. If this is the future of the cuisine experience…Let it roll.

In the same magazine there is an almost unbelievable reference to how successful the growth in fine food and beverage sales in Las Vegas. “Vegas food and beverage operations managed to extract $238.32 per person per day from visitors in 2004, for a stunning $2.3 billion in revenue.”

Thoughts: For affluent economies the ‘Experience Economy’ looks like it’s exploding in the fine food and wine sector.

KEY WORDS: Food; Lifestyle; Experience Economy; Innovation

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Skype me from 30,000 feet!

A colleague ‘Skyped’ me (made an Internet call) from 30,000 feet recently. He was aboard a Singapore Airlines flight back from Signapore to Australia. Amazing! This ‘Connexion by Boeing’ wireless broadband Internet service is now provided to passengers on selected flights of ANA, Austrain, Asiana, China Airlines, El Al , ETIHAD, JAL, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, SAS. The The cost of accessing the Internet is determined by each carrier (Lufthansa, for example, charges $9.95 per hour or $26.95 per flight).

A recent survey of 3,200 passengers who have used the service, reported in-flight Internet is changing traveler behaviour: 83 percent of those surveyed said that the availability of the Connexion by Boeing service will have an impact on future travel plans and their choice of airline carrier.

Thoughts: If you travel often then battery life is finally going to mean something. Let’s also hope that this innovation might drive the seats a bit further apart in 'cattle class'. The combination of most ageing baby boomer bellies and cramped space generally means the only possible viewer of your laptop screen currently is likely to be your crotch!

KEY WORDS: Communic ations; Internet; Travel; Byusiness style

Saturday, April 22, 2006

At 75 dollars per oil barrell is this the beginning of the storm?

On the back of increasing uncertainty about the consequences of the escalating Iran nuclear program standoff, crude oil hit an all time record of US$75 a barrel on Friday (21st April 2006). Whatever your view is on how close or far away the planet is from unaffordable oil, I'm guessing the scenario played out in the film The End of Suburbia” was right on the button.

Thoughts: Is this the opening of the end of the oil economy? Can we afford to assume it isn’t? How fast and strong will the storm come? What can a citizen do to prepare, or get ahead of the wave?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Abandonment of trad media by youth signals new ad channels sought

In November last year the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that fully half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered Content Creators. “They have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations.”

The latest Economist Media Survey reports that Paul Saffo, a director at the Institute for the Future in California, says people no longer passively “consume” media (and thus advertising, its main revenue source) but actively participate.

The Ecomist article also quotes David Sifry, the founder of Technorati, a search engine for blogs, one-to-many “lectures” (ie, from media companies to their audiences) are transformed into “conversations” among “the people formerly known as the audience”.

Thoughts: If TV and newspapers have lost their relevance to younger generations, more intent on creating and sharing via blogs and the web, what will become the new dominant advertising channels? Google ads? Word of mouth ceding? Sponsored podcasts or games? Mobile minute incentives? Picking or creating the winning channels in this new electronic tribal world is a significant opportunity. And the fastest growth market in this space has to be CHINDIA’s exploding middle class.

KEY WORDS: Media; Blogs; Generation Y; Advertising; Communications

San Francisco leads US cities to Peak Oil strategy

The Board of Supervisors of the City of San Francisco has shown real leadership in voting unanimous support for a resolution which acknowledging the threats posed by peak oil, urging the city to develop a comprehensive plan to respond to the emerging global energy crunch. San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to pass such a resolution.

Thoughts: Will city-states become the primary drivers of sustainabilty change, as so many country-state politicians either a) struggle to develop coherent national sustainability strategies or b) continue to serve the narrow partisan interests?

KEY WORDS: Energy; Peak Oil; City; Leadership;