Reflections are only that, reflections, nothing more nothing less. Often these reflections are related to books I read, but occasionally also other things. These are often written very late, very fast,  using notes from my mobile phone, so the grammar and spelling is horrible.

Global Citizenship in Reality: The 2017 Climathon as a Transformative Event (Keynote)

The 2017 Climathon the 27th of October was a very interesting event. It is not often you see large groups of people, in this case participants from more than 100 cities come together and only focus on solutions to a global challenge, climate change. Most initiatives are still national and often lose the global perspective. The few international gatherings that take place tend to bring policy makers and business that try to do as little as possible, where governments look after the short-term interest of their countries (or their own re-election) and companies focus on the next quarterly earnings report.   

This Climathon was such an interesting event and I can't help but wondering if this is how a new generation of global citizens are born. The people participating think global and then begin to implement local with the aim of providing global solutions (through export and/or networking). I hope it is not long until such an approach is the default approach to global challenges. I actually think we will look back in ten years and wonder why not many more events like this were organised, not realising that doing events like this still require a significant amount of social capital ( you can't just throw money out and expect results like this, you need the right kind of group with the right kind of network). 

My guess is that we will see some very interesting results coming out of processes like this. The reason for this guess is that when you reach a certain threshold (as you do when 100 plus cities all over the world are included) you almost always see disruptive results, not always directly, but though unforseen consequeneses of the critical mass that has been created. 

Perhaps we should to distinguish between international political events (bringing countries together that look after themselves), international business events (when companies come together with the aim to find ways to make money) and global events, where people come together as global citizens? We need international policy and business events, but more than anything I think we need global events. 

I will do what i can to support these kind of processes and ensure that the people participating connect globally and find new opportunities for collaboration, but also that the ideas that are developed during events like this are given a chance to be implemented. Hopefully we will also see more tools that allow for collaboration, especially for the teams, but also for us who had the opportunity to present some of our ideas and perspective. It would been fantastic with a global Q&A session. 

Link to the Climate KIC page for the event

Video of my presentation during the event (not sure how long the link will work)


CASS Forum, Guangyuan, Sichuan Province: Ecological Civilization (Keynote)

The CASS forum June 13th and 14th 2017 was a very interesting event in many ways, but for me especially from an "ecological civilization" perspective. From its beginning as a general concept we can now see how "ecological civilization" is beginning to take shape as a concrete concept that can have concrete implications. I discussed the possibility to use the concept to guide the development of two projects I'm working on now (Global Trend Assessment and a Zero-Carbon Business Opportunity Assessment).

I was very impressed by the political leadership and a number of very interesting companies that I had the opportunity to meet. To have everything from smart city planning and Li-Io battery manufacturers to sustainable lifestyle entrepreneurs made the city very diverse. It's an honor to be asked to support accelerated export of the kind of solutions that can contribute to an ecological civilization from such a city.   

The fact that Guangyuan is the "feminist capital" of China made the event and meetings even more interesting.

PDF with the PPT for my Keynote

The agenda

Zero to one, by Peter Thiel

This book was a real surprise. I think it is the first simple “how to think like an entrepreneur”-book that I have recommended people to read. There are a lot of very interesting thinking in this short book that I think everyone who tries to make the world a better place, and realise that more than incremental change is needed, should read. I have found Peter interesting, but did not expect him to cover so many of the most important challenges in this short book. But maybe is was Blake Masters that helped him?

It is written without any references/footnotes and in this case I think that is perfectly OK as, for most of it, Peter writes about things he has knowledge about and expericne of.

What I find frustrating is his simplified view of technology as the only driver of change. It is as if values and structures don’t exist. In many ways, the ideas are very close to a simplified version of Marx, but a mirror image. If the books would have included a more nuanced approach to change I think it could have been a classic.

One of the big surprises for me was that Peter spend so much time on our generation’s major challenges from a global perspective. He does this in a way where it is natural, as it should be. This is such a stark contrast to books who claim to have a global approach and about important things, but then basically just focus on American trivial ideas/innovations (a good example of a book that fails in those areas is Bold by Peter Diamandis

The following could be from any UN sustainability study or progressive international NGO:

“Without technological change, if China doubles its energy production over the next two decades, it will also double its air pollution. If every one of India’s hundreds of millions of households were to live the way Americans already do—using only today’s tools—the result would be environmentally catastrophic. Spreading old ways to create wealth around the world will result in devastation, not riches. In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable.”

He also brings up some of the most important and forgotten aspects in today’s society:

“we have inherited a richer society than any previous generation would have been able to imagine.

Any generation excepting our parents’ and grandparents’, that is: in the late 1960s, they expected this progress to continue. They looked forward to a four-day workweek, energy too cheap to meter, and vacations on the moon. But it didn’t happen. The smartphones that distract us from our surroundings also distract us from the fact that our surroundings are strangely old: only computers and communications have improved dramatically since midcentury.”

His urge to get people to think beyond the incremental is very refreshing and all organisations working with global challenges could benefit from his comparison between old and new ideas

Old ideas that still dominate

  1. Make incremental advances
    Grand visions inflated the bubble, so they should not be indulged. Anyone who claims to be able to do something great is suspect, and anyone who wants to change the world should be more humble. Small, incremental steps are the only safe path forward.
  2. Stay lean and flexible
    All companies must be “lean,” which is code for “unplanned.” You should not know what your business will do; planning is arrogant and inflexible. Instead you should try things out, “iterate,” and treat entrepreneurship as agnostic experimentation.
  3. Improve on the competition
    Don’t try to create a new market prematurely. The only way to know you have a real business is to start with an already existing customer, so you should build your company by improving on recognizable products already offered by successful competitors.
  4. Focus on product, not sales”
    “If your product requires advertising or salespeople to sell it, it’s not good enough: technology is primarily about product development, not distribution. Bubble-era advertising was obviously wasteful, so the only sustainable growth is viral growth.”

New ideas that are needed, and more fit for the 21st century, but that are still seen as radical

  1. It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
  2. A bad plan is better than no plan.
  3. Competitive markets destroy profits.
  4. Sales matters just as much as product.”

I was also surprised that he makes similar observation as I have done about higher elite education.

“Elite students climb confidently until they reach a level of competition sufficiently intense to beat their dreams out of them. Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation. Why are we doing this to ourselves?”

The contribution from different groups in society is also very much spot-on.

“Bankers make money by rearranging the capital structures of already existing companies. Lawyers resolve disputes over old things or help other people structure their affairs. And private equity investors and management consultants don’t start new businesses; they squeeze extra efficiency from old ones with incessant procedural optimizations. It’s no surprise that these fields all attract disproportionate numbers of high-achieving Ivy League optionality chasers; what could be a more appropriate reward for two decades of résumé-building than a seemingly elite, process-oriented career that promises to “keep options open”?”

He is also seem rightfully frustrated by how short-sighted we are.

“We are more fascinated today by statistical predictions of what the country will be thinking in a few weeks’ time than by visionary predictions of what the country will look like 10 or 20 years from now.”

And how we simplify things in dangerous ways.

"meaningful progress requires that we think about the future for more than 140 characters or 15 minutes at a time."

His approach to change and what the obstacles are is also interesting.

“We have to find our way back to a definite future, and the Western world needs nothing short of a cultural revolution to do it. Where to start? John Rawls will need to be displaced in philosophy departments. Malcolm Gladwell must be persuaded to change his theories. And pollsters have to be driven from politics. But the philosophy professors and the Gladwells of the world are set in their ways, to say nothing of our politicians. It’s extremely hard to make changes in those crowded fields, even with brains and good intentions.”

His urge to focus on important issues combined with a frustration that we fiddle around the margins is very refreshing.

“We are within reach not just of marginal goals set at the competitive edge of today’s conventional disciplines, but of ambitions so great that even the boldest minds of the Scientific Revolution hesitated to announce them directly. We could cure cancer, dementia, and all the diseases of age and metabolic decay. We can find new ways to generate energy that free the world from conflict over fossil fuels. We can invent faster ways to travel from place to place over the surface of the planet; we can even learn how to escape it entirely and settle new frontiers.”

His frustration that many entrepreneurs make vague bold claims is also easy to relate to.

“Here are some bad answers: “Your stock options will be worth more here than elsewhere.” “You’ll get to work with the smartest people in the world.” “You can help solve the world’s most challenging problems.” What’s wrong with valuable stock, smart people, or pressing problems? Nothing—but every company makes these same claims, so they won’t help you stand out.”

But I would argue that the problem with “You can help solve the world’s most challenging problems.” Is not that too many make such claims, but that those who do tend to define those claims do so in very trivial ways and thereby undermine the idea of working with the word’s most challenging problems. For those who are serious here is a good list to start with:

When it comes to the market for sustainable technologies (those making it possible for 11 billion or more to have a great life without destroying the planet) Peter’s observations should be discussed more:

“At the start of the 21st century, everyone agreed that the next big thing was clean technology”… “Could successful energy start-ups be founded after the clench crash just as Web 2.0 start-ups successfully launched amid the debris of the dot-coms? The macro need for energy solutions is still real. But a valuable business must start by finding a niche and dominating a small market.”

“Cleantech gave people a way to be optimistic about the future of energy. But when indefinitely optimistic investors betting on the general idea of green energy funded cleantech companies that lacked specific business plans, the result was a bubble.”

“Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better”

Interestingly his own contributions to something significant are hardly discussed at all. But he does mention a few things.

“In addition to helping find terrorists, analysts using Palantir’s software have been able to predict where insurgents plant IEDs in Afghanistan; prosecute high-profile insider trading cases; take down the largest child pornography ring in the world; support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in fighting foodborne disease outbreaks; and save both commercial banks and the government hundreds of millions of dollars annually through advanced fraud detection.”

There are no discussions about these “contributions”. Compared to his clarity and logical approach to different aspects in society it is strange to see Peter suddenly list controversial methods in important areas without any discussion about pros and cons.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF)

This is such an important text and as many people have asked for it here is the full text of the keynote speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation: Work Together to Build the Silk Road Economic Belt and The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. 

Distinguished Heads of State and Government, 

Heads of International Organizations, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Dear Friends, 

In this lovely season of early Summer when every living thing is full of energy, I wish to welcome all of you, distinguished guests representing over 100 countries, to attend this important forum on the Belt and Road Initiative held in Beijing. This is indeed a gathering of great minds. In the coming two days, I hope that by engaging in full exchanges of views, we will contribute to pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, a project of the century, so that it will benefit people across the world. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Dear Friends, 

Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, trekking across vast steppes and deserts, opened the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, known today as the Silk Road. Our ancestors, navigating rough seas, created sea routes linking the East with the West, namely, the maritime Silk Road. These ancient silk routes opened windows of friendly engagement among nations, adding a splendid chapter to the history of human progress. The thousand-year-old "gilt bronze silkworm" displayed at China's Shaanxi History Museum and the Belitung shipwreck discovered in Indonesia bear witness to this exciting period of history. 

Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization. 

-- Peace and cooperation. In China's Han Dynasty around 140 B.C., Zhang Qian, a royal emissary, left Chang'an, capital of the Han Dynasty. He traveled westward on a mission of peace and opened an overland route linking the East and the West, a daring undertaking which came to be known as Zhang Qian's journey to the Western regions. Centuries later, in the years of Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties, such silk routes, both over land and at sea, boomed. Great adventurers, including Du Huan of China, Marco Polo of Italy and ibn Batutah of Morocco, left their footprints along these ancient routes. In the early 15th century, Zheng He, the famous Chinese navigator in the Ming Dynasty, made seven voyages to the Western Seas, a feat which still is remembered today. These pioneers won their place in history not as conquerors with warships, guns or swords. Rather, they are remembered as friendly emissaries leading camel caravans and sailing treasure-loaded ships. Generation after generation, the silk routes travelers have built a bridge for peace and East-West cooperation. 

-- Openness and inclusiveness. The ancient silk routes spanned the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus and Ganges and the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. They connected the birthplaces of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian and Chinese civilizations as well as the lands of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam and homes of people of different nationalities and races. These routes enabled people of various civilizations, religions and races to interact with and embrace each other with open mind. In the course of exchange, they fostered a spirit of mutual respect and were engaged in a common endeavor to pursue prosperity. Today, ancient cities of Jiuquan, Dunhuang, Tulufan, Kashi, Samarkand, Baghdad and Constantinople as well as ancient ports of Ningbo, Quanzhou, Guangzhou, Beihai, Colombo, Jeddah and Alexandria stand as living monuments to these past interactions. This part of history shows that civilization thrives with openness and nations prosper through exchange. 

-- Mutual learning. The ancient silk routes were not for trade only, they boosted flow of knowledge as well. Through these routes, Chinese silk, porcelain, lacquerwork and ironware were shipped to the West, while pepper, flax, spices, grape and pomegranate entered China. Through these routes, Buddhism, Islam and Arab astronomy, calendar and medicine found their way to China, while China's four great inventions and silkworm breeding spread to other parts of the world. More importantly, the exchange of goods and know-how spurred new ideas. For example, Buddhism originated in India, blossomed in China and was enriched in Southeast Asia. Confucianism, which was born in China, gained appreciation by European thinkers such as Leibniz and Voltaire. Herein lies the appeal of mutual learning. 

-- Mutual benefit. The ancient silk routes witnessed the bustling scenes of visits and trade over land and ships calling at ports. Along these major arteries of interaction, capital, technology and people flowed freely, and goods, resources and benefits were widely shared. The ancient prosperous cities of Alma-Ata, Samarkand and Chang'an and ports of Sur and Guangzhou thrived, so did the Roman Empire as well as Parthia and Kushan Kingdoms. The Han and Tang Dynasties of China entered the golden age. The ancient silk routes brought prosperity to these regions and boosted their development. 

History is our best teacher. The glory of the ancient silk routes shows that geographical distance is not insurmountable. If we take the first courageous step towards each other, we can embark on a path leading to friendship, shared development, peace, harmony and a better future. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Dear Friends, 

From the historical perspective, humankind has reached an age of great progress, great transformation and profound changes. In this increasingly multi-polar, economically globalized, digitized and culturally diversified world, the trend toward peace and development becomes stronger, and reform and innovation are gaining momentum. Never have we seen such close interdependence among countries as today, such fervent desire of people for a better life, and never have we had so many means to prevail over difficulties. 

In terms of reality, we find ourselves in a world fraught with challenges. Global growth requires new drivers, development needs to be more inclusive and balanced, and the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be narrowed. Hotspots in some regions are causing instability and terrorism is rampant. Deficit in peace, development and governance poses a daunting challenge to mankind. This is the issue that has always been on my mind. 

In the autumn of 2013, respectively in Kazakhstan and Indonesia, I proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which I call the Belt and Road Initiative. As a Chinese saying goes, "Peaches and plums do not speak, but they are so attractive that a path is formed below the trees." Four years on, over 100 countries and international organizations have supported and got involved in this initiative. Important resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council contain reference to it. Thanks to our efforts, the vision of the Belt and Road Initiative is becoming a reality and bearing rich fruit. 

-- These four years have seen deepened policy connectivity. I have said on many occasions that the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative is not meant to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it aims to complement the development strategies of countries involved by leveraging their comparative strengths. We have enhanced coordination with the policy initiatives of relevant countries, such as the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, the Bright Road initiative of Kazakhstan, the Middle Corridor initiative of Turkey, the Development Road initiative of Mongolia, the Two Corridors, One Economic Circle initiative of Viet Nam, the Northern Powerhouse initiative of the UK and the Amber Road initiative of Poland. We are also promoting complementarity between China's development plan and those of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Hungary and other countries. China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organizations and carried out framework cooperation on production capacity with more than 30 countries. During the forum, a number of cooperation agreements on policy connectivity and action plans will be signed. We will also launch Belt and Road cooperation initiative on trade connectivity together with some 60 countries and international organizations. Such policy connectivity will produce a multiplying effect on cooperation among the parties involved. 

-- These four years have seen enhanced infrastructure connectivity. Building roads and railways creates prosperity in all sectors. We have accelerated the building of Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, China-Laos railway, Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway and Hungary-Serbia railway, and upgraded Gwadar and Piraeus ports in cooperation with relevant countries. A large number of connectivity projects are also in the pipeline. Today, a multi-dimensional infrastructure network is taking shape, one that is underpinned by economic corridors such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and the New Eurasian Continental Bridge, featuring land-sea-air transportation routes and information expressway and supported by major railway, port and pipeline projects.

-- These four years have seen increased trade connectivity. China has worked with other countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative to promote trade and investment facilitation and improve business environment. I was told that for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries alone, customs clearance time for agricultural produce exporting to China is cut by 90%. Total trade between China and other Belt and Road countries in 2014-2016 has exceeded US$3 trillion, and China's investment in these countries has surpassed US$50 billion. Chinese companies have set up 56 economic cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating some US$1.1 billion of tax revenue and 180,000 jobs for them. 

-- These four years have seen expanded financial connectivity. Financing bottleneck is a key challenge to realizing connectivity. China has engaged in multiple forms of financial cooperation with countries and organizations involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has provided US$1.7 billion of loans for 9 projects in Belt and Road participating countries. The Silk Road Fund has made US$4 billion of investment, and the 16+1 financial holding company between China and Central and Eastern European countries has been inaugurated. With distinctive focus, these new financial mechanisms and traditional multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank complement each other. A multi-tiered Belt and Road financial cooperation network has taken an initial shape. 

-- These four years have seen strengthened people-to-people connectivity. Friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. Guided by the Silk Road spirit, we the Belt and Road Initiative participating countries have pulled our efforts to build the educational Silk Road and the health Silk Road, and carried out cooperation in science, education, culture, health and people-to-people exchange. Such cooperation has helped lay a solid popular and social foundation for pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. Every year, the Chinese government provides 10,000 government scholarships to the relevant countries. China's local governments have also set up special Silk Road scholarships to encourage international cultural and educational exchanges. Projects of people-to-people cooperation such as Silk Road culture year, tourism year, art festival, film and TV project, seminar and think tank dialogue are flourishing. These interactions have brought our people increasingly closer. 

These fruitful outcomes show that the Belt and Road Initiative responds to the trend of the times, conforms to the law of development, and meets the people's interests. It surely has broad prospects. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Dear Friends, 

As we often say in China, "The beginning is the most difficult part." A solid first step has been taken in pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. We should build on the sound momentum generated to steer the Belt and Road Initiative toward greater success. In pursuing this endeavor, we should be guided by the following principles: 

First, we should build the Belt and Road into a road for peace. The ancient silk routes thrived in times of peace, but lost vigor in times of war. The pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative requires a peaceful and stable environment. We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation; and we should forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance. All countries should respect each other's sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other's development paths and social systems, and each other's core interests and major concerns. 

Some regions along the ancient Silk Road used to be a land of milk and honey. Yet today, these places are often associated with conflict, turbulence, crisis and challenge. Such state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. We should foster the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and create a security environment built and shared by all. We should work to resolve hotspot issues through political means, and promote mediation in the spirit of justice. We should intensify counter-terrorism efforts, address both its symptoms and root causes, and strive to eradicate poverty, backwardness and social injustice. 

Second, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of prosperity. Development holds the master key to solving all problems. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should focus on the fundamental issue of development, release the growth potential of various countries and achieve economic integration and interconnected development and deliver benefits to all.

Industries are the foundation of economy. We should deepen industrial cooperation so that industrial development plans of different countries will complement and reinforce each other. Focus should be put on launching major projects. We should strengthen international cooperation on production capacity and equipment manufacturing, and seize new development opportunities presented by the new industrial revolution to foster new businesses and maintain dynamic growth. 

Finance is the lifeblood of modern economy. Only when the blood circulates smoothly can one grow. We should establish a stable and sustainable financial safeguard system that keeps risks under control, create new models of investment and financing, encourage greater cooperation between government and private capital and build a diversified financing system and a multi-tiered capital market. We should also develop inclusive finance and improve financial services networks. 

Infrastructure connectivity is the foundation of development through cooperation. We should promote land, maritime, air and cyberspace connectivity, concentrate our efforts on key passageways, cities and projects and connect networks of highways, railways and sea ports. The goal of building six major economic corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative has been set, and we should endeavor to meet it. We need to seize opportunities presented by the new round of change in energy mix and the revolution in energy technologies to develop global energy interconnection and achieve green and low-carbon development. We should improve trans-regional logistics network and promote connectivity of policies, rules and standards so as to provide institutional safeguards for enhancing connectivity. 

Third, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of opening up. Opening up brings progress while isolation results in backwardness. For a country, opening up is like the struggle of a chrysalis breaking free from its cacoon. There will be short-term pains, but such pains will create a new life. The Belt and Road Initiative should be an open one that will achieve both economic growth and balanced development. 

We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy. We should jointly create an environment that will facilitate opening up and development, establish a fair, equitable and transparent system of international trade and investment rules and boost the orderly flow of production factors, efficient resources allocation and full market integration. We welcome efforts made by other countries to grow open economies based on their national conditions, participate in global governance and provide public goods. Together, we can build a broad community of shared interests. 

Trade is an important engine driving growth. We should embrace the outside world with an open mind, uphold the multilateral trading regime, advance the building of free trade areas and promote liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment. Of course, we should also focus on resolving issues such as imbalances in development, difficulties in governance, digital divide and income disparity and make economic globalization open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. 

Fourth, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of innovation. Innovation is an important force powering development. The Belt and Road Initiative is new by nature and we need to encourage innovation in pursuing this initiative. 

We should pursue innovation-driven development and intensify cooperation in frontier areas such as digital economy, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and quantum computing, and advance the development of big data, cloud computing and smart cities so as to turn them into a digital silk road of the 21st century. We should spur the full integration of science and technology into industries and finance, improve the environment for innovation and pool resources for innovation. We should create space and build workshops for young people of various countries to cultivate entrepreneurship in this age of the internet and help realize their dreams. 

We should pursue the new vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable. Efforts should be made to strengthen cooperation in ecological and environmental protection and build a sound ecosystem so as to realize the goals set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Fifth, we should build the Belt and Road into a road connecting different civilizations. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should ensure that when it comes to different civilizations, exchange will replace estrangement, mutual learning will replace clashes, and coexistence will replace a sense of superiority. This will boost mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual trust among different countries. 

We should establish a multi-tiered mechanism for cultural and people-to-people exchanges, build more cooperation platforms and open more cooperation channels. Educational cooperation should be boosted, more exchange students should be encouraged and the performance of cooperatively run schools should be enhanced. Think tanks should play a better role and efforts should be made to establish think tank networks and partnerships. In the cultural, sports and health sectors, new cooperation models should be created to facilitate projects with concrete benefits. Historical and cultural heritage should be fully tapped to jointly develop tourist products and protect heritage in ways that preserve the distinctive features of the Silk Road. We should strengthen exchanges between parliaments, political parties and non-governmental organizations of different countries as well as between women, youths and people with disabilities with a view to achieving inclusive development. We should also strengthen international counter-corruption cooperation so that the Belt and Road will be a road with high ethical standards. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Dear Friends, 

China has reached a new starting point in its development endeavors. Guided by the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development, we will adapt to and steer the new normal of economic development and seize opportunities it presents. We will actively promote supply-side structural reform to achieve sustainable development, inject strong impetus into the Belt and Road Initiative and create new opportunities for global development. 

-- China will enhance friendship and cooperation with all countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. We are ready to share practices of development with other countries, but we have no intention to interfere in other countries' internal affairs, export our own social system and model of development, or impose our own will on others. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering. What we hope to achieve is a new model of win-win cooperation. We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability, what we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence. 

-- China has reached practical cooperation agreements with many countries on pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. These agreements cover not only projects of hardware connectivity, like transport, infrastructure and energy, but also software connectivity, involving telecommunications, customs and quarantine inspection. The agreements also include plans and projects for cooperation in economy and trade, industry, e-commerce, marine and green economy. The Chinese railway authorities will sign agreements with their counterparts of related countries to deepen cooperation on China-Europe regular railway cargo service. We will work to launch these cooperation projects at an early date and see that they deliver early benefits. 

-- China will scale up financing support for the Belt and Road Initiative by contributing an additional RMB 100 billion to the Silk Road Fund, and we encourage financial institutions to conduct overseas RMB fund business with an estimated amount of about RMB 300 billion. The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will set up special lending schemes respectively worth RMB 250 billion equivalent and RMB 130 billion equivalent to support Belt and Road cooperation on infrastructure, industrial capacity and financing. We will also work with the AIIB, the BRICS New Development Bank, the World Bank and other multilateral development institutions to support Belt and Road related projects. We will work with other parties concerned to jointly formulate guidelines for financing the Belt and Road related development projects. 

-- China will endeavor to build a win-win business partnership with other countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, enhance trade and investment facilitation with them, and build a Belt and Road free trade network. These efforts are designed to promote growth both in our respective regions and globally. During this forum, China will sign business and trade cooperation agreements with over 30 countries and enter into consultation on free trade agreements with related countries. China will host the China International Import Expo starting from 2018. 

-- China will enhance cooperation on innovation with other countries. We will launch the Belt and Road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan, which consists of the Science and Technology People-to-People Exchange Initiative, the Joint Laboratory Initiative, the Science Park Cooperation Initiative and the Technology Transfer Initiative. In the coming five years, we will offer 2,500 short-term research visits to China for young foreign scientists, train 5,000 foreign scientists, engineers and managers, and set up 50 joint laboratories. We will set up a big data service platform on ecological and environmental protection. We propose the establishment of an international coalition for green development on the Belt and Road, and we will provide support to related countries in adapting to climate change. 

-- In the coming three years, China will provide assistance worth RMB 60 billion to developing countries and international organizations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to launch more projects to improve people's well-being. We will provide emergency food aid worth RMB 2 billion to developing countries along the Belt and Road and make an additional contribution of US$1 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation. China will launch 100 "happy home" projects, 100 poverty alleviation projects and 100 health care and rehabilitation projects in countries along the Belt and Road. China will provide relevant international organizations with US$1 billion to implement cooperation projects that will benefit the countries along the Belt and Road. 

-- China will put in place the following mechanisms to boost Belt and Road cooperation: a liaison office for the Forum's follow-up activities, the Research Center for the Belt and Road Financial and Economic Development, the Facilitating Center for Building the Belt and Road, the Multilateral Development Financial Cooperation Center in cooperation with multilateral development banks, and an IMF-China Capacity Building Center. We will also develop a network for cooperation among the NGOs in countries along the Belt and Road as well as new people-to-people exchange platforms such as a Belt and Road news alliance and a music education alliance. 

The Belt and Road Initiative is rooted in the ancient Silk Road. It focuses on the Asian, European and African continents, but is also open to all other countries. All countries, from either Asia, Europe, Africa or the Americas, can be international cooperation partners of the Belt and Road Initiative. The pursuit of this initiative is based on extensive consultation and its benefits will be shared by us all. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Dear Friends, 

An ancient Chinese saying goes, "A long journey can be covered only by taking one step at a time". Similarly, there is an Arab proverb which says that the Pyramid was built by piling one stone on another. In Europe, there is also the saying that "Rome wasn't built in a day." The Belt and Road Initiative is a great undertaking which requires dedicated efforts. Let us pursue this initiative step by step and deliver outcome one by one. By doing so, we will bring true benefit to both the world and all our people! 

In conclusion, I wish the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation a full success! 

Thank you!


Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, by Edward O Wilson

My first reaction after reading this book was “thank you Edward Wilson for making such an important contribution to a very important issue, and doing it with such a fantastic book”.

This is a book that engages heart and mind. It manages to both explain the science behind the fieldwork that can inform our biodiversity/conservation strategies and also provide a passionate description of what it is to approach nature in all its beauty. To read a book by someone who has knowledge that is so deep that it is better described as wisdom, and so much passion that you can feel the energy oozing from the pages feels like a privilege.

But the book it more than another call for biodiversity/conservation. The books central message is the title of the book “half-earth”, a concept so radical and that it requires us to fundamentally rethink our place on this planet.  How do we, Homo Sapiens, that represents one species, relate to the millions known - and millions unknown - other species that we share this planet with?

A disclosure, the main reason I read this book is that I have discussed the idea of “half for our species/ half for all the rest (living organisms on the planet)” for a few years now. I have done this from a purely ethical standpoint, not – as Wilson is doing –  (also) from a (scientific) biodiversity perspective.  My own “half-approach” was the result of trying to define the vague term “sustainable development”, in a way where it actually could be used in strategies with concrete targets for biodiversity.

While exploring different aspects of sustainability, the ethical aspect (see below), “acknowledging the rights of all individuals, groups and species to evolve” emerged as one of the most interesting aspects. I have argued that “half for our species/ half for all other species” arguably is an appropriate starting point, and that it is not a very radical proposition from an ethical perspective. Most people define the starting point for basic equity as “equal”, i.e. same for me and same for you. This simple equity can later be modified, but it is hard to find a better place to start. When we think about all the different species, all the “individuals” that are non-human, and think about their rights and needs; a “contract” where half of the planet would be for all other species and half for us humans feels as a very (too) good deal for us. So if we start from what could be considered ethical, instead of what we are used to, half-earth seems like a good start.

With this disclosure of my personal interest in “half-earth” out of the way the challenge of what aspects of the book should be discussed emerges. My notes, after reading the book, are almost as long as the book itself. This is a book that really should be read so instead of trying to capture the most important ideas I will begin by highlighting some of the things I really like about the book, then discussing some of the key issues where I think further discussions are needed, finally I will list a few ideas for possible ways forward.

The first thing that struck me when reading this book is that it is written with a balance of knowledge and passion that for me approaches wisdom. This mix is something I appreciate when a new radical concept is presented. Talking about wisdom, do not imply that everything in the book is correct, or that Wilson does not have personal grudges that makes the book difficult to read sometimes. It is clear that he does not care much about fame, money, or any other mainstream gratification. His focus is on biodiversity conservation and he really wants to know why we are not better when it comes to taking care of our planet.

The language is also very beautiful. Just read the introduction:

What is man?

Storyteller, mythmaker, and destroyer of the living world. Thinking with a gabble of reason, emotion, and religion. Lucky accident of primate evolution during the late Pleistocene. Mind of the biosphere. Magnificent in imaginative power and exploratory drive, yet yearning to be more master than steward of a declining planet. Born with the capacity to survive and evolve forever, able to render the biosphere eternal also. Yet arrogant, reckless, lethally predisposed to favor self, tribe, and short-term futures. Obsequious to imagined higher beings, contemptuous toward lower forms of life.

Have the evolution of humanity and our current highs and lows ever been better described better in less than ten sentences? Complementing the beautiful language are illustrations of different animals and plants from each chapter, such as the two waterleafs below.



The book is also entertaining. It is easy to imagine the kind of people that will be scared/frustrated and/or even angry when their lack of capacity to think beyond incremental change is exposed. The only time where he feels diplomatic (dishonest/not as frustrated as you can read between the lines) is when he talks about current conservation organisations. I understand that he does not want to make the people fighting for the same thing as he does frustrated, but I would have liked to see a more frank discussion about the limits of the current conservation strategies.

The discussion about current trends is very good. Wilson makes it clear that the fact that we over the last few years have managed to slow down the extreme speed of extinction cannot be seen as a victory. He is rightfully frustrated that too many are celebrating a slightly slower mass extinction as a victory.

The discussion about future trends is not as good as current trends, but still much better than most discussions out there (and definitely better than almost everything relating to biodiversity, as those books tend to ignore future disruptive trends). He addresses both macro aspects of biodiversity, population and lifestyles/technology. For the population he is long-term optimistic as much indicate that the population growth will stabilize when people move out of poverty, but he also acknowledges that before that stabilization we will have a lot more people on this planet. There is however not a discussion about the risk of continued population growth in the book. A serious omission, as the probability for continued population growth should not be dismissed (the continued population growth are a significant part of the of the UN populations probability curves).

For the global population, we know that we could see continued population growth well beyond 10-15 billion people. That we need to focus on how to avoid such scenarios should be highlighted in books like this. Population growth is a sensitive issue, so I understand that Wilson did not spend too much time on it. However, the risks with new technology would have been good to address in some detail.

He also discusses the potential for future technology breakthroughs, but that part is not very good. However, it is not often you find a hard-core conservation activist talking about biology, nanotechnology, and robotics.  Still, what is seriously lacking in these areas is a proper discussion about the risks, both technological and political

In Wilsons defence I would like to add that he is obviously aware of the dual nature of technology and writes:  “The explosive growth of digital technology, by transforming every aspect of our lives and changing our self-perception, has made the “bnr” industries (biology, nanotechnology, robotics) the spearhead of the modern economy. These three have the potential either to favor biodiversity or to destroy it.” But he needs to be careful as it will be too easy for people to interpret him as naïve when it comes to the problems with technology. I say this from personal experience, as someone who have spent a lot of time talking about the opportunities that technology provides. I know that it is important to keep in stressing obvious negative possibilities also as the current discussions about technology is very polarized.

The different stories from the field add to the overall narrative. Rather than an attempt to provide an authentic alibi that only feel artificial, as these kind of “snapshots from reality” tend to feel like, Wilsons stories from nature provide both a reminder of what is at stake, but also a glimpse into the experience that helped shape Wilsons passion for nature.

The outbursts of frustration that are sprinkled throughout the book are so good that those parts alone would make the book worth reading. I guess that says something about how good I think this book is. Just listen to this reaction by Wilson to those who dream about humanity evolving into a civilization capable of utilize almost unlimited amounts of energy. Here is a snippet from the book:

“Meanwhile, in imagination, we may attain the status of what the astronomer Nikolai Kardashev called Type I civilization, a society in control of all the available energy on Earth. Thus we conceivably could press on to Type II civilization, in control of available power in the Solar System, and even Type III civilization, taking control of all energy in the galaxy.

May I now humbly ask, just where do we think we are going—really?”


“We are still too greedy, shortsighted, and divided into warring tribes to make wise, long-term decisions. Much of the time we behave like a troop of apes quarreling over a fruit tree. As one consequence, we are changing the atmosphere and climate away from conditions best for our bodies and minds, making things a lot more difficult for our descendants.

And while at it, we are unnecessarily destroying a large part of the rest of life. Imagine! Hundreds of millions of years in the making, and we’re extinguishing Earth’s biodiversity as though the species of the natural world are no better than weeds and kitchen vermin. Have we no shame?”

The way Wilson describes the Kardashev scale (a scale to measure civilizations) and then put into context made me laugh hard and I hope some of those spending time on the Kardashev scale could reflect on the kind of issues Wilson discusses.

Further discussion needed The book is however far from perfect, as no really interesting book is. Below are six areas where I think further discussions in needed to take half-earth, or any serious conservation attempt forward:

  1. A clear definition of half-earth and what is needed One of the major weaknesses is that there is no clear definition of half-earth.Where geographically should this half be (important from a biodiversity perspective and a human settlement perspective) and how connected must the different parts be? Perhaps even more important is what kind of protections from humans would this half have. Currently protected areas are categorized into seven categories. These range from “Category Ia: Strict Nature Reserve” that is only light human use to “Category VI – Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources” where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation can take place. It is significant difference between the different categories and research has also shown that the categories with more intensive human activity often have significant problems. See for example the study “Cautionary thoughts on IUCN protected area management categories V–VI” by Craig L. Shafer I find it difficult to imagine that Wilson would think it is enough to only have Category VI for half-earth.Also, currently there is no category that excludes all human use. In on our way to a half-earth future such a category, that moves beyond an anthropocentric perspective, should at least be explored.

  2. Assessment of the direct and root causes of the biodiversity loss Another major problem is that Wilson does not provide an overview and assessment of the importance of different drivers of biodiversity loss. HIPPO (Habitat destruction, Pollution, Population growth, and Overhunting) is used to give an overview but it does not really say anything about the drivers. Also it is not very smart to include “population growth” as a separate category the way Wilson does. It is, as Wilson also writes, a multiplication of population and lifestyle that affects the biodiversity. The first example of a driver of biodiversity loss that Wilson use in the book is the Chinese craving for traditional medicine. This is obvious a significant problem, especially for some high profile animals, but it is insignificant compared to the western over-consumption lifestyle. A more detailed overview of different technology scenarios would also be very helpful, as this will affect the possibilities to deliver a half-earth solution. Many people skeptical to technology do not understand the enormous potential new technology has, but many technology optimists do not understand the risk we face and that current trends will result in a situation where new technologies are used to accelerate destructive trends and that new rules/regulations and values are needed to guide the development in a sustainable direction.

  3. The arguments for half-earth A challenge for the half-earth idea, that hopefully can be turned into a strength, is that there are many arguments for it. Unfortunately Wilson does not provide much clarity in the book. Too often for my taste he uses short-term anthropocentric arguments; i.e. the species we threaten might have direct economic value to us, or that they provide some valuable “eco system service”. The survival of humanity argument is the anthropocentric argument I found most interesting, but I think much better probability data is needed if this is to support a half-earth strategy (most would argue that much less is needed for our survival). What is really lacking is more on the ethical side beyond the anthropocentric, especially as Wilson has introduced the very interesting concept of biophilia earlier.

  4. The role of the poor, the responsibilities of the rich The need to move people out of poverty and create a more equitable society is something that must be integrated at the core of a half-earth strategy. Here Wilson is weak and that is strange. He does not even talk in general terms about the need to ensure that the poor will be helped by the half-earth process. He does not even mention the “poor” or “poverty” in his book and that feels very strange in 2016. I have no doubt that he has thought a lot about the issue as it is dominating most conservation discussions today. Perhaps he thought it was too obvious to include, if so I think he needs to rethink in future texts about half-earth.

  5. The technical solutions needed There is no concrete discussion about what technical solutions that are needed to make a half-earth solution possible. Wilson only talks in general terms about new technologies, but to be convincing it would be good to have more clear idea about the kind of solutions that are needed, not just the technological solutions themselves, but the administrative, legal, and economic systems that will allow implementation of such solutions.

  6. Animal rights The total absence of a discussion about animal rights and how we “use” animals today is surprising, especially as Wilson is supposed to have written the following in an earlier book “If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people". We are already using economic arguments to excuse a system where animals are seen as products, so it is important to show how a half-earth strategy can avoid worsening the situation, and instead be part of the solution.

Possible ways forward Below are four areas that I think would be good to prioritize to get the discussion and action needed

  1. Create a global map that outline how a half-earth would look like. Perhaps the name should change to “full-earth”, but still keep the half for us/half for them focus, to better reflect that we are on the path to an “almost-empty-earth” with current trends.

  2. Calculate what natural resources that are needed to provide all that is needed for more than 10 billion people to live a good and equitable life, so that companies, governments, academics can develop guidelines that encourage solution that do not use more resources than that.

  3. Based on the calculations above provide examples of different half-earth lifestyles with solutions from different companies/entrepreneurs. To demonstrate that an attractive life is not just possible, but would be better than what we have today.

  4. Identify next steps towards half-earth, for all countries and governments, but with special focus on the G20 countries and Global Fortune 500 companies in order to initiate a race to the top.

I look forward to follow the meme of “half-earth” and it will be my latest additions to current ideas that are interesting to discuss using the Overton window.