Month: April 2011

If They Build It, Who Will Come?

  While much of the world continues to languish in a starting and stopping economic recovery, China’s impressive development and economic growth have proceeded with only the slightest of pauses.  Its 30-year track record and ability to maintain full speed ahead during the recent downturn have only solidified many observers’ opinions that China provides an example of effective government control and is destined to surpass the United States on the world stage in the coming decades—with its economy eclipsing America’s as early as 2016. Despite the unbelievable success of the PRC’s initiatives, several problems still loom large for the East Asian giant.  Currently of great concern to Beijing is the rising inflation rate that has some investors starting to doubt the sure bet of the Chinese market. Inflation has become a serious worry for many in China. In March inflation stood at 5.4 percent compared to the same time last year. This was driven in large part by soaring food and housing prices.  The first two months of 2011 saw food prices climb by 11 percent and housing costs jump by over 6 percent compared to 2010, according to the Chinese government.  This is terrible for a developing country desperately trying to be more consumer-driven because as these basic living expenses go up, people have increasingly less free income to purchase nonessential items. Underlying the skyrocketing cost of homes...

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Teeing Up for Climate Change

  I was asked the other day to name a country that I’d want to be a marketing agent for – spice up their image. I answered with some African state – predictable for an Africanist “do-gooder” who wants to “change!” the world. I was wrong. I should have said the Maldives. Before I continue, let me summarize all that I know about the Maldives. First, it’s less than 8 feet above sea level at its highest point. Secondly, it once held a Parliamentary Cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threats of climate change. Translation: Climate change is going to sink their country, and they know it. So what could make the Maldives an ideal country for a marketing campaign, and how could that possibly be connected to climate change? The Maldives is thinking out of the box when it comes to addressing climate change. Doing so has not only raised its image on in the climate arena, but also on the broader international stage. While most people still can’t figure out where it is on a map (they’re those tiny little dots down to the left of India), the name “Maldives” appears more frequently in the news today than it did even two years ago. What, then, is the Maldives doing that is so special? When in trouble, buy another country. Maldives president Mahamed Nasheed envisions purchasing territory...

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Preparing Public Affairs Graduates to Lead

  Public affairs and public policy graduate programs prepare their students for professional careers in public service. Many graduates eventually become managers or executives; a few of these lead organizations. Yet some programs such as the one at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs do not require core courses in ethics or in leadership. If we define leadership as the ethical process of empowering and motivating followers to accomplish a shared goal, then ideally all public affairs schools would require at least one course on this matter. Graduate programs that prepare their students for management should also prepare them for leadership. What distinguishes leaders and leaders who also manage from managers is that while managers are mainly concerned with esoteric operative decisions, leaders must be visionaries. John Gardner, who has written extensively on leadership, stresses that leaders motivate, inspire and encourage the process of renewal within organizations. They are always thinking long-term and possess the interpersonal skills needed to sustain a cohesive group of followers. Leaders can be managers, but not all managers can lead. Why incorporate ethical leadership training into the core curriculum at public affairs and public policy schools? The goal of ethical leadership training would be to equip students with tools to successfully lead others – even the bureaucrat benefits from such training. The benefits and reasons for this training are numerous. First, effective...

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Hemp: The Solution to Climate Change

  What if we could reduce CO2 emissions without raising taxes? What if a carbon-neutral source of renewable energy could be grown on American soil and generate all the power the United States needed? What if one plant could bolster the economy, provide nutritious food, bio-degradable plastics, durable fiber, carbon-neutral energy, and save the world from global warming … would you grow it? The only thing that needs to happen is for the federal government to get out of the way. The solution is hemp. Background Hemp, not to be confused with marijuana, is the most versatile plant on the planet. Over 20,000 products are made from hemp, including shower curtains, shoes, soaps, breads, protein powder, plastics, paper, and energy. Hemp is not a psychoactive drug, it is an industrial agricultural product. Popular Mechanics in 1938 asserted that “The connection of hemp as a crop and marijuana seems to be exaggerated … If federal regulations can be drawn to protect the public without preventing the legitimate culture of hemp, this new crop can add immeasurably to American agriculture and industry.” Cannabis hemp is important in American history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their estates. The first laws concerning hemp actually required citizens to grow hemp. In 1619 a law was enacted in Jamestown Colony, Virginia “ordering” all farmers to grow Indian hempseed. An early draft of the Constitution was...

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Fire Storms in Texas and the Urban Wildlife Interface

  Texas has seen its driest conditions in nearly a century. High winds, high temperatures and low humidity equate to a recipe for disaster. The fire in Southwest Austin on Sunday destroyed 11 houses, damaged 10 more badly, and scorched over 100 acres, according to the Travis County Fire Department. This was a rare occurrence in Central Texas, and citizens native to the area stated that this is one of the worst fire disasters they’ve seen in their lifetimes. Additionally, over a million and a half acres have burned in the recent West Texas wildland fires, and more fires are anticipated. The Texas firestorm weather is moving farther east, toward more populated urban areas less equipped to deal with wildland fires of this scale. Every year thousands of wildland fire ignitions occur throughout the United States and each one must be identified through select fire management objectives, where thorough knowledge of fire physics and mitigating strategies are essential. Most fires do not become an urban threat because they are managed by experienced firefighters. However, those fires that do get out of hand result in dramatic effects on resource values, property damage, appearance of natural landscapes and public outcry. The source of the problem? The urban wildlife interface phenomenon. On the edges of our cities and towns, there is a living, dynamic relationship between urban development and natural habitats. Human...

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