Monday, November 21, 2016

The Paris Climate Agreement Vs. The Donald

Donald J. Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States has inspired many. But Trumps triumph has also caused despondency among hundreds of millions in America and abroad. Minorities in America doubt that a Trump administration will defend and uphold their inalienable rights. America’s staunch allies are befuddled.

Many things, including trade and defense, concern America’s staunch allies. Throughout his campaign Donald Trump lambasted international trade agreements and stoked domestic anger over the effects of globalization and automation. On the campaign trail Trump made it clear that under his administration U.S. military support for NATO member countries would be conditional on whether those states have met their financial obligations to the security bloc.

But perhaps what is most disconcerting is what President-elect Donald Trump thinks about climate change. Trump is a climate change denier. According to Trump, climate change is a hoax invented by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. Trump has vowed to dismantle the Paris Climate Agreement, which came into force early November after 55 nations that produce 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions formally signed up.

President-elect Trump digs coal. Trump is determined to revive coalfield across the Appalachia. During is campaign Trump promised to eliminate federal regulations that target coal-fired power plants, one of the main sources of carbon emissions responsible for global warming. Trump held politically charged rallies with coal miners and swore to get rid of Obama’s clean power plan and bring back jobs to Appalachia.

President-elect Trump speaks to the absurd fears of millions of Americans. Climate change is just some Chinese April Fools Day prank? Appalachian coal has a future in global energy supplies? Building a wall along the U.S–Mexico border and a chokehold on global trade will resuscitate the Rust Belt?

Diplomats across the world are already planning how to respond to the biggest threat to the Paris Climate Agreement, President-elect Donald Trump. Although the Paris Agreement contains no enforcement measures, a carbon tariff against the U.S. is not far-fetched. Trump could trigger a vicious trade war over climate change if he misleads the U.S. into rejecting the Paris Agreement.

Canada, China, Mexico and the European Union have already begun to impose domestic carbon pricing programs in place. It is therefore not inconceivable that these countries could consider imposing a carbon tariff on imports from America if walks from the Paris Agreement. 

Global warming is man-made. Coal is under assault from market forces. Cleaner-burning natural gas is coal’s enemy numero uno. It is highly unlikely that Trump will make coal great again. The glory of the Rust Belt is forever gone. And here Mitt Romney’s caution is instructive “ Trumps promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University”.

One hopes that Candidate Trump would be radically different from President Donald Trump. But so far Trump’s choice of key figures for his administration is not exceedingly reassuring. They are Candidate Trump evangelicals.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Better education, not far-right politics, is the solution to unemployment

Everywhere, from the developed world to middle income economies, to the so-called developing world, citizens and politicians are paralyzed by stagnant or falling wages and staggered by rising unemployment.

Across the world the underclass is rising up and demanding their fair share of prosperity, which remains trapped within the elite classes. There is no such a thing as trickle down. Here in East Africa, GDP growth is high, sustained and unprecedented. However, such growth has failed to generate employment for a surging youthful population. Nearly 1 in 2 graduates from our universities cannot find work. At the same time employers across the East African Community lament that 1 in 2 graduates are unfit for work.

Anger among the underclass has triggered a political Tsunami, which is shaking the political establishment and the elite to the core. The British underclass gave us Brexit. The underclass of the rust belt just put Donald J. Trump into the White House. Fear of immigrants and rising nationalism among the French underclass could launch Marine Le Pen.

Here at home the political elite mobilizes the underclass along petty ethnic grievance or false entitlement to acquire or retain power. In countries emerging from civil war, the elite inoculate the underclass with a virulent narrative of an imminent return to mayhem and genocide.

The forces of globalization, advances in technology and automation (robotics and artificial intelligence), a knowledge-based economy and the flow of global capital are converging to redefine work and jobs. It is estimated that about 75 million jobs as we know them today could be wiped out in the next two decades.

But politicians inhibited by imagination, persuaded by plain denial and dishonesty are scapegoating and constructing all kinds of straw men, including Chinese, Mexicans, the European Union, immigrants, civil war and other tribes.

The rise of far-right politicians like Donald J. Trump or Marine Le Pen and the endurance of corrupt political elite in some African countries underlines the failure of education and training infrastructure to respond robustly and adaptively to the post industrial economy.

Jobs, as we know them, are going away. The millennial generation changes jobs every two years or less. Full-time work is no more. About 40 percent of workers in the United States are contingent. A job, with all its trappings such as job title and job descriptions will soon be antiquated. Workplace structures are also changing. The Corporate Ladder is quaint. We are getting into the age of The Corporate Lattice, and work is about teams, collaboration, lifelong learning and transferable skills.

Education must change to respond to prepare citizens for a new age. Our education systems must reform to prepare citizens for the new economy in a globalized world where problems are not delivered in disciplinary boxes, and where solutions demand interdisciplinary and complex reasoning. Capitalizing on the fears of the underclass and fanning their fury at the ballot to produce outcomes like Donald J. Trump and Brexit will not yield jobs and economic security.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Give Values-based education a chance

Kenyan youth have no qualms about taking or giving a bribe and 30 percent believe corruption is profitable. Over 50 percent believe it does not matter how one makes money as long as one does not end up in jail. About 60 percent of Kenyans aged between 18 and 35 think it is not important to pay taxes. Do you wonder how the youth got here?

We all have friends, relatives or acquaintances that have made odious wealth not through hard work but gaming the system by evading taxes, obtaining lucrative government contracts through ethnic patronage or by paying a bribe. Some of us bribed to get the jobs we hold. Some parents have paid a bribe to have their children admitted to public schools. And yes, some parents and teachers have paid bribes to have national examination papers leaked to students.

Our houses of faith are not spared. Religious leaders sell miracles and other forms of divine intercession. The public perceives the police, Judiciary and Lands ministry as the most corrupt. In 2015, the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly was disbanded over following allegations of corruption, extortion and blackmail.

The succinct description of the state of Kenya’s values came from President Uhuru Kenyatta. During a state visit to Israel in February, President Kenyatta described Kenyans as whiners, expert thieves, ethnic bigots who relish trading insults and perpetuating other evils.

There is no doubt we have a crisis. Corruption and dishonorable conduct in public and in private has become the norm. Impunity and grotesque entitlement is no longer frowned at. Decency, honesty, integrity, patriotism and hard work have become hollow and unworthy ideals, which are ridiculed in national conversations.

Our society is falling apart. A society is bound together through a shared positive core values and inspired leadership that provide a framework and vision for a cohesive, moral and ethical living. Can we raise a new generation that could redeem our society?

Some people believe the radical reform of the school curriculum provides a unique opportunity to align education with Chapters two and six of the Constitution. Various articles in these chapters, for example, Articles 10 and 73 provide a basis for creating a national vocabulary based on fundamental principles of citizenship, public and private ethics.

Consensus is emerging around the idea of a values-based education as response to Kenya’s ethical and moral collapse. A values-based education locates the search for meaning and purpose of life in the learning process. It means the development the whole person beyond literacy and numeracy. It means civilizing an individual’s life purpose, refining their moral and ethical acuity.

Kenya sorely needs honest men and women who can be trusted in public and private, who are willing to be drum majors for integrity, justice, equality, national unity and common decency. We need a new generation that will put the interests of Kenya above parochial ethnic or personal interests. A values-based education is a good place to begin and we must try.

Monday, October 31, 2016

We can build the SGR and conserve nature

Last Wednesday, October 19 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the second phase of the SGR (Standard Gauge Railway). Speaking at Em-bulbul in Kajiado County, the President took the opportunity to speak out on the SGR and Nairobi National Park (NNP).

According to President Kenyatta, “the construction of the SGR will not cause any disruption to NNP”. Moreover, the President added, “every care has been taken to ensure that there is no environmental degradation and the animals will be taken care of”. In the governments view, the construction of the 18 meter high 6.4-kilometer single line elevated bridge will not disrupt wildlife or compromise the ecological integrity of Kenya’s oldest national park.

President Kenyatta’s remarks were directed to the conservation community and some politicians who in the President’s view are “inciting people against the project passing through NNP”.  According to conservation groups, building the single line bridge across NNP will destroy the park’s ecosystem and displace wildlife from their natural habitat.

The President’s remarks are especially weighty especially after the National Environment Tribunal ordered China Road and Bridge Corporation (Kenya) to stop construction of SGR Phase 2A until the appeal filed by Mr. Okiya Okoiti and Kenya Coalition of Conservation and Management against NEMA is heard and determined.

In the President’s view, “we have a big opportunity to grow our economy”. President Kenyatta’s view is perhaps informed by some experts who claim that the completion of the SGR will add 1.5 percent to Kenya’s GDP while boosting trade by – surprise, surprise – supporting the tourism industry. But according to conservation groups, hiving off sections of NNP erode wilderness quality and attractiveness of the park, hence affect tourism.

Conservationists and the government are digging in for battle. What do ecologists know about conservation and infrastructure? The impact of Infrastructure on biodiversity has spawned a new and active field of study known as “road ecology”.

Known impacts of roads, railways and pipeline include effects on species diversity, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. For these impacts there are standard pre-construction mitigation measures including enhancement and creation of replacement habitats and management of pests and weeds.

What ecologists do not know is how infrastructure corridors (on the surface or elevated) reduce habitat permeability or the ease with which wildlife moves through the landscape. Moreover, ecologist knowledge about how transportation infrastructure affects behavioral responses and hence, within or between species interactions. Such interactions could have huge consequences on mortality – through predation – or breeding success among major groups of wildlife.

Acting in combination with the increasing isolation and reduction in size of NNP, the impact of infrastructure on wildlife could touch off an inexorable and catastrophic extinction of significant biodiversity in NNP. In my view NNP is the quintessential fragile wilderness on the precipice. We must not push it.

Now is the time to heed the words of Prophet Isaiah;  “Come now let us reason together” for the sake of posterity. We can preserve the riches of nature and grow our economy.


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