Managing results/losses. The politics/science of climate change
MANILA - Every so often, an odd thought suddenly appears - and sometimes an old book you were not looking for. What do you do? Welcome the thought, open the book. The thought may change your mind, the book may change your perspective. If you’re in luck, the perfect photograph will appear too.
For the past few days, I have been putting to a semblance of order my little room of about 20 square meters in which I work - I never play; I love what I'm doing and that's play to me - I also sleep here amidst 200 books for me, and for me and my children 2 desktop computers (Celeron and Intel Core i7), 1 laptop (HP Compaq Presario C700), 2 Internet connections (Smart up, Digitel down), and 2 printers (HP LaserJet 1020 for B&W and Canon MP198 for color prints). Put in a creative mind and you will see that this writer of a father is armed to the teeth.
Now my little room looks wider; looks deceive. The mind is freer, I think. Today, 22 December 2010, suddenly, within arm's length, this book appears and so, earnestly, I am re-reading a 42-year old volume I love very much, paperbound; I'm browsing actually, guided by my handwritten notes of years ago - in my hard disk, the latest electronic file authored by me that I can get hold of is that of a book I was writing, Creative Education with the subtitle Within your reach, within your mind dated 06 March 2004, where I mention this older book, author and publisher. It's Peter F Drucker's self-confidence-busting The Age Of Discontinuity with the subtitle Guidelines To Our Changing Society (1968, New York: Harper & Row, 402 pages; the copy I have is published 1969 by National Book Store). For probably 20 years now, I have always associated this book with Drucker's radical thought and have been intellectually guided by it:
Knowledge has become the central capital, the cost center, and the crucial resource of the economy.
I'm not an economist, but I was formally trained as a teacher, graduating from the University of the Philippines, UP in 1965; simultaneously, I informally trained myself as a writer, editor, desktop publisher and knowledge manager - so you can imagine the quadruple impact on me of Drucker identifying knowledge as the new capital. They don't teach that in UP, or any other University for that matter.
That's in the very Preface of Drucker's book, page xi. Beyond that, I have reached page 57 and am reading these last words on that page:
The first question to ask in an innovative organization is: "Is this big enough so that we will have at least a new business, if not a new industry or a new technology if we succeed? If not, we cannot afford the risks." This is a very different question from the ones asked in the managerial organization when it does "long-range planning" or allocates resources. There one tries to minimize the possible loss. In innovation one has to maximize the possible results.
Suddenly a thought comes and surprises me:
What we're doing in climate change affirmative action is more minimizing the possible losses and less maximizing the possible results. We're not being SMART in managing climate change, are we? Sure, what we're doing is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound, but that's not SMART enough.
I have been writing intensely about ICRISAT and climate change since February 2007 in my dedicated blog ICRISAT Watch and the American Chronicle online; I have been writing earnestly about Albay and climate change since June 2010 in my blog iNews Earth as well as in the Chronicle. So it doesn't surprise me that 2 names now pop up in my mind: Albay Governor Joey Salceda and ICRISAT Director General William Dar. Salceda is in the Philippines; Dar is in India; one is soft-spoken, the other is not; both are brilliant leaders and results-driven; both are award-winners; both are Filipinos. One is into politics, the other is into science. Now I see that what they're doing separately though thousands of miles apart are actually running parallel to each other. Now I think that the two should meet, exchange experiences - and then emulate each other, meaning, also do what the other is doing at the same time. When they do, I would mark that as Climate Change Day in my calendar.
What Salceda is doing in Albay along with his provincial government team and proselytizing all over the world, is climate change mitigation, but which he prefers to call disaster risk reduction; he's an economist, so I understand. "Disaster risk reduction is not a cost," Salceda loves to say. "It's an investment." What Dar is doing with his team, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, ICRISAT, and proselytizing all over Asia and Africa and the Americas, not to mention Australia, is climate change adaptation. "We have climate change-ready crops," Dar likes to say. We should be listening to both of them.
Strange bedfellows? Now maybe I have succeeded in confusing you. Which is precisely my point. First, we have to understand where we're coming from so that we can plan on where to go, and how.
Let us take the ICRISAT sweet sorghum as the case for climate change adaptation, and the Albay mantra of zero casualty in natural disasters as the case for climate change mitigation. Albay appears unique in that aside from climate change, it suffers every now and then from Mayon Volcano erupting and Planet Earth quaking, but there are common grounds. Climate change is the environment striking back as man-made natural disaster. You have flash floods in India and you have flashfloods in Albay, for the same reasons aside from climate change: You have deforested your watersheds; you have destroyed your soils.
We are going to take sweet sorghum as representative of ICRISAT's affirmative action on climate change, and zero casualty of Albay's. That of ICRISAT is climate change adaptation; that of Albay is climate change mitigation. One is action, the other is reaction. That of ICRISAT is more proactive; that of Albay is more reactive. Both are necessary - are they of equal importance? I say:
ICRISAT, when you plant the seeds of sweet sorghum, you are planting a climate change adaptive crop: it is resistant to drought or hot weather, and therefore doesn't need irrigation; it thrives even in an infertile soil; and it has multiple uses: food, feed, fodder, forage, fuel, fertilizer. Your crop is climate-change ready.
Albay, when you plant the seeds of zero casualty, you are planting a climate change mitigation crop: it is resistant to typhoon, flood, and volcanic eruption; it thrives even in an unwelcome environment; and it has multiple effects: commerce continues, education continues, science continues, the arts and the living continue in calm. Your people are climate-change ready.
All that considered, my proposition is this:
That we need to be doing are climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation. That is to say, we need both the crops of sweet sorghum and zero casualty. We have to grow them together, side by side. Even as we do better when we intercrop sweet sorghum with pigeon pea, we have to intercrop ideas. We will also need to be building/rebuilding watersheds and soils.
My further proposition is this:
That ICRISAT and Albay gather their teams and in a 3-day workshop in January 2011 in suburban Legazpi City under the legendary watchful eyes of Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden), work out one common project for the next 10 years that I shall refer to here as Magayon 2020: Sweet sorghum for maximizing results and zero casualty for minimizing losses.
Where there is a scientific will, there is a scientific way. ICRISAT has just come out with its Strategic Plan to 2020, so my proposal fits. ICRISAT's strategic move is called inclusive market-oriented development, IMOD, among other things especially including the poor farmers who are thereby linked directly to the market and all its attendant values added. IMOD transforms the farmers into entrepreneurs like they have never been before. IMOD is a brilliant move. So why not make it inclusive of the poor farmers of Albay? That would be maximizing results.
Where there is a political will, there is a political way. With Magayon 2020 as a common project, ICRISAT and Albay can then rightfully claim that they are into affirmative action/reaction as far as climate change is concerned. ICRISAT and Albay will then be both into innovation and management. Joey Salceda and William Dar will then easily become the Super Co-Champions of Climate Change of the United Nations.
In doing Magayon 2020, ICRISAT and Albay would have proved that to what Drucker implies as the need to choose between minimizing losses and maximizing results, there is another choice: You don't have to choose. You can do both. With climate change, you have to do both.
When you do Adaptation and Mitigation side by side, you turn Climate Change Affirmative Action into a Win-Win Situation.