Category Archives: economics

“Reindeer Games” at Davos

I have expressed my opinions about the current president of my country on various social media platforms for nearly three years but I have never actually written about him. This is largely because as a communications professional I never wanted to contribute to satiating his hunger for his name and photo to be widely shared,

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

~ Brendan Behan

In his address at The World Economic Forum at Davos Emmanuel Macron referenced ‘snow’, climate change and skeptics and that got me thinking about Rudolph and how he had torudolph prove his value to the clique of ‘regular, flying reindeer’. At some point, in most of our lives, we will face similar challenges of inclusion where we need to offer the best of ourselves to prove we are worthy. The concepts, and application, of justice and equality mean a great deal to me personally.  The WEF, widely and erroneously referred to as ‘Davos’, has the capacity to test the mettle of most confident and seasoned of intellectuals and thought leaders. Women are still in the minority, with improvements this year and an attempt to appropriate the #MeToo movement.

Based upon initial reports it would seem that, once again, the 45th president of the United States put his bravado before expertise. He attempted to thrust himself into rooms where he was unwelcome, and was physically removed according to some of his handlers in attendance. (I belong to some private social media groups where this has been ‘the topic of the day’.) After a year of his MAGA rhetoric the world has moved on, and away, from including the United States. Self-protection and mockery have replaced diplomatic deference. (Selected from many similar ones) these words from Nicholas Dungan, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, sum up the current climate as told to CNN “…Trump is going for show rather than substance.” Continuing Dungan said, “the rest of the planet is moving quite swiftly to fill the void of US leadership in the global system which the US itself created.

I grew up in New York state. Just enough younger to be aware of the shady real estate and other dealings of Trump. As the global elite jetted and helicoptered into Davos I recalled how passionately ‘The Donald’ has always aspired to be included in the upper realms of polite society. Some of the media headlines allude to Trump’s acceptance by the attendees at the WEF (based on the packed auditorium which also heard boos and hisses during his speech). I believe, as many do, that the real power in those rooms still find him insignificant to their plans for globalization and the eventual elimination of the nation state altogether. More so, political leaders have made it clear that a wide swath of current American policies are not welcome and they are advancing without the United States.

The ‘shade’ which the Guggenheim just threw at Trump speaks volumes about how little regard their storied institution has for him. I have no doubt that had the 18kt gold toilet goldhad not been used by 100,000 people mysophobic Trump would have delighted in putting his Forbes smacked butt on said throne. Perhaps they recognised that his insistence that the fake Renoir hanging in Trump’s property was real was sufficient rationale to deny his request (notwithstanding the lending restrictions of the Thannhauser Collection) as he does have a history of associating with criminal elements.

In a relatively short period of time Rudolph provided value to his peers and everyone around him, no greater good has been realised by ‘the election’ of Trump. Enough already. For the world it’s been a long two years. We are all doggedly tired of the lies, of the self-aggrandizement, of the abuse of power, of the systematic efforts to rape and pillage America and the rest of the world for his personal gain, of the scandals, of the divisiveness and the rising violence prompted by his hateful words. I don’t want to believe that 45 was enthusiastically invited to Davos where the accomplished in a great many spheres at least go through the motions of setting an agenda for the greater good. Rather I suspect that through a series of backroom phone calls and manipulations he was able to insert himself there to assuage the pervasive emptiness of his ego. Like a spoiled child constantly interrupting adult conversations it has become a moral imperative (even if it will impact shareholder value in the short-term) to reign in this incompetent and dangerous man. Just as (some) politicians have recognised that Trump is irrelevant, media bosses need to stop sending journalists to ‘cover him’. Please. Stop feeding the beast.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Let them eat Kale – Gwyneth allow me to introduce you to Maimonides

My parents grew up in The Great Depression (born respectively in 1933 and 1938); you would be amazed at the level of self-sufficiency and frugality one learns in the home of such parents (whose own parents worked multiple jobs, took in sewing, raised animals and tended gardens). I can depressiontopperassure you that to this day nothing goes to waste that I can avoid – I am now 54 and live alone. What’s more, more often than not I have enough to share. I can stretch a $10 whole chicken into multiple weeks’ worth of meals – first roasted, then as sandwiches, for Chicken pot pie, chicken soup, a stir fry, Chicken a la King or croquettes. Even as accomplished as I am at this I recognise that my ability to be successful has some critical factors that start with a love of cooking and a creative home economics streak.

Gwyneth Paltrow unleashed social media frenzy with her less than 1000 calorie a day food choices in conjunction with the $29 a week SNAP challenge this week. And a dear friend of mine took exception the fact that I commented, as so many others have, that based upon her choices she was out of touch with reality. Let me be clear there is nothing inherently wrong with her diet selections – other than being boring, and, as it turns out, insufficient – Gwyneth admits she couldn’t do it. I use the word diet specifically because while I happen to also like kale, and avocado and limes and so forth it appeared to me that she was maintaining her svelte figure rather than actually eating for taste, nutrition and, and oh, pleasure.

people on the bus... old woman [b&w]

Not my grandmother, who also only ever wore dresses, and this woman is clearly without two grocery bags plus her handbag.

There are three grocery store options near where I live, two of which opened within the last two years, but is not to suggest that grocery shopping is a leisurely activity. Just as my paternal grandmother used to schlep her groceries home on the infrequent bus transportation of Niagara Falls, NY I have to plan my purchases because I am walking (I took my beloved car off the road for financial reasons). Perishable items and heavy things like milk, yogurt, and the aforementioned chicken require thoughtfulness to purchase (despite fortitude and physical strength I cannot easily carry these home at one time) and I am not trying wrangle a couple of kids in the process.

This morning, after breakfast of 1 ½ pieces of crisp bacon ($0.23), 2 organic eggs ($0.58) as an omelet with a sprinkling of Swiss cheese ($0.14) with a baby Portobello mushroom ($0.18) and a 20150417_104939piece of raisin toast with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on it (let’s say that with the organic butter this was $0.20), I was cleaning a four and half pound pineapple ($2.99) and two ripe mangos ($0.79 each) and I was still thinking about Gwyneth and her challenge. More specifically I was thinking about the disconnect between nutrition, access, smart choices, time, and costs – oh yes, and all those in the 1% who would deny their fellow human beings the ability to feed themselves while acting as little better than slavers of a previous centuries.

Like the chicken, my $2.99 pineapple is a perfect example of how far I can stretch things. After trimming the top and the base, the hard core goes into a teapot to become iced pineapple green tea with raw honey. Once brewed the leftover teabags and the core join the rest of the trimmings (and the egg shells) in my food processor which then go into a section of my garden for enriching the soil. The pineapple fruit (usually about 2 full quarts of pieces) has an enzyme which when eaten whole naturally whitens teeth, but it also also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Thiamin, Vitamin B6 and Copper, and a very good source of Vitamin C and Manganese. I also make kale smoothies with it or will make some variation of Sweet & Sour Chinese with a ½ of a pint. The disconnect between my skills and that of the average SNAP user isn’t that I make more money – author’s don’t – but knowledge and time (I am not holding down multiple jobs to make ends meet, nor do I have the responsibilities which come from having a family). If there is a singular point to this blog post is the old adage:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  ~ Maimonides 

We, as a global society (because the problem of hunger is not limited to the United States), need to do a better job of teaching all of our kids the basics of home economics. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should not be packaged foods filled with chemicals and saturated fats. Lobbying groups should not be getting subsidies for their food industry clients but organic Farmer’s and the markets that offer the fruits of their labors surely should.

Some other day I will rant about the sheer volume of food that goes into landfills each year, turning into methane gas that should be either diverted for consumption while still possible or the model of making it a biofuel embraced.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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The only oil that goes with a Croatian bikini is olive!

German translation of the following here, and the Croatian translation found here, and now in Japanese here.

*** VICTORY! 22 January 2016 The new Croatian government announced a cessation of any further plans to drill for hydrocarbons in the Adriatic.

On the morning of 29 July it was announced that Marathon Oil had returned 7 of the 10 concessions for drilling for hydrocarbons in the Adriatic had been returned to the Croatian government.

In the interest of full disclosure, since writing this post in December 2014, and it subsequently going viral (nearly 125K reads in the original English version alone), I have been invited to join, and now serve the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance as their Chief Strategy Officer.

Every link in the following post is VERY PURPOSEFULLY chosen toward education and action, I AM ASKING YOU MOST SINCERELY TO ACT on all three efforts embedded within this post (read on, don’t get caught up with the girl she’ll still be here when you finish)!

17 March 2015 UPDATE: http://www.croatia-split.com/blog/what-s-happening/adriatic-drilling-casa-replies-to-oil-agency-boss-barbara-doric.html

17 February 2015 UPDATE – the Croatian government is being sued for its illegal activities around drilling in the Adriatic. (I don’t agree with all that the HCSP stands for but…)

“This decision reacted by the Croatian Pure Party of Rights (HCSP).
Press Release signed by the President of HCSP, Josip Miljak in its entirety:
“A criminal decision of the Croatian government to announce an international tender for a fictitious oil and gas exploration in the Croatian economic zone is a crime which, if not prevented, Croatia could cost you dearly. If you sign contracts with foreign companies, a group of experts has already prepared two lawsuits, one Court for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, ie. The UN Security Council and other State Attorney’s Office.”

If you care about the seas and oceans and clean water for all, renewable energy, the environment, cultural heritage, vacationing at the beach, water sports, sailing, boating, eating seafood, Croatia’s (or Italy’s) Adriatic and a quality of life based upon harmony with our planet in the face of greed and violation then this end-of-the-year post (originally written on 30 December 2014) is for you! No apologies, it’s a long one. I ask you to share it widely on all social media platforms. (Efforts are underway to translate it into multiple languages – hyperlinks will be offered in this paragraph as completed.)  Many thanks for an amazing year to all my readers. Sretana Nova godina, Happy New Year.

——————–

I think about consequences – all the time (including how many people I might piss off as a result of writing this, and how).  I am not (though perfectly capable to be) a corporate consultant of scenario planning. I see inter-dependencies in ways that most people rushing through their lives never consider. What stimulates me must be for a greater good, and my heart and head must find a perfect balance for me to say – YES!  A lot of things ignite my passions and expertise but for me to engage it always comes down to integrity and authenticity.  This post is about the Venn Diagram offered by the convergence of the Croatian economy, its environment and how the manipulation of European Union regulations could have a devastating and far reaching effect. This is about shortsightedness, immediate gratification for individuals and how their greed, if one thing goes horribly wrong, will destroy one of the greatest treasure troves of untouched historic, ecological and economic value in the world and the livelihoods of a people who have depended upon the Adriatic for tens of thousands of years.  This blog post is about finding a way, with all of your help (please, PLEASE SIGN THIS Change.org PETITION as well as THIS Avaaz petition and then SHARE BOTH with friends), to turn back and make things as the Croatian tourist board says, “The Mediterranean as it once was”, and keep it that way for all of us but make it better economically for Croatians.

The Travel Channel references Croatian Bikinis (a Croatian bikini, btw, way is nude) and cliff diving, and if only once everyone wants to enjoy the freedom of laying on perfect golden sand and swimming in the sea waters ranging in colour from cobalt to aquamarine naked – and Anthony Bourdain is talking about the food and how beautiful it is here, well, expect those numbers to grow. It would be an understatement to say that the impact of tourism is huge and should be amongst the greatest market segments to be cultivated in Croatia.  And yet, the right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing here (not unique to Croatia) or they would have blocked this effort. Don’t Croatian ministers actually strategise in their cabinet meetings?

I am in Croatia because I am trying to determine if I can make this my permanent home. (Now back in the United States unhappily let me say I actually found a home in Croatia.) Save for the fact that I am here in the dead of winter, I was drawn here largely because of the Adriatic – just as some 11.5 million people who came in the summer of 2012. Put that into perspective, a narrow band of Dalmatia hosting nearly 4 times the population of the entire country within a three month (between June and August).

(Emphasis in the following is my own.)

The first page of Lonely Planet’s guide to Croatian music festivals reads:

Sonus Music Festival

http://www.sonus-festival.com/ Pag Island Croatia August 2015

“Croatia’s music festival scene is flourishing, with exciting new events popping up each summer. A lovely natural setting is pretty much guaranteed, with idyllic beaches, lakes, meadows and forest clearings hosting crowds of delighted festival-goers.”

Rough Guides best of the Croatian coast landing page reads:

When it comes to beaches in Croatia, the best advice is to head south: it’s on the Dalmatian coast where the most seductive sandy shores, pebbly coves and sun-fried rocks are to be found. Indeed all of the beaches that made our list are in Dalmatia, except for one (the bewitchingly sandy island of Susak in the Kvarner Gulf). A sizeable collection of swoon-inducing destinations has been left off this list, largely for simple reasons of accessibility: islands like Korčula, Vis and Šolta boast any number of heavenly bays […].”

Croatia has been named the #1 world travel destination on the rise according to Fodor’s. The value of tourism to Croatia’s economy (like so many things here) is subject to wide ranges of statistics – the EU says 15%, while locals estimate that it makes up as much as 40% of the entire Croatian annual budget.  Croatia’s Minister of Tourism,  Darko Lorencin, said that the first six months of 2014 totaled € 2.12 billion, which was 2.2% more than the same period last year.  Estimates put 69% of the Croatian economy coming from the services industries – things like renting sailboats, bar and restaurant trade (offering seafood from the beautifully clean waters) and yes, those taking care of all those sheets and towels. If you take words of The World Bank’s front page on Croatia’s economy as sacred, then:

DSCN9906

Drvenik Channel, the Croatian Adriatic, view from my balcony 30 December 2014 to where I have been swimming for the last two months.

Croatia remains an ecological treasure in Europe, with 47% of its land and 39% of its sea designated as specially protected areas and areas of conservation. Croatia boasts 19 National and Nature Parks, with some- such as the Plitvice Lakes National Park – designated as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. Croatia’s natural beauty draws in millions of tourists each year, with tourism revenues representing around 15% of the country’s GDP. Preservation of the environment is high on the development agenda and has been a requirement for European Union membership.”

BP over Adriatic

This map, provided by Richard West, shows the scope of the BP Gulf Oil Spill, aka Deepwater Horizon spill, as overlaid against the Adriatic; it wouldn’t ‘just be’ Croatia impacted but also Italy, Slovenia, Montenegro and Albania.

So, after two months of swimming in these pristine waters the fight for keeping the Adriatic clean is now VERY PERSONAL to me! WTF!? Why, oh WHY!?, would anyone think that drilling for gas and oil in these waters is a good idea? Even if there isn’t an environmental catastrophe on the scale of the (British Petroleum) Gulf Oil Spill (I wish someone would overlay the map at left against a similar one showing the whole of the Adriatic to see what might happen) from one of the ten platforms currently licensed to operate in Croatian waters, the impact on the developing film industry (Game of Thrones et al), tourism, fishing – Eurostat figures for 2013 put the export value € 115.2 million, archaeology (at the bottom of the sea) and culture, and yes, the preservation of these rare dolphins, let alone the livelihood of more than 50% of the Croatian population from even the smallest accident could be catastrophic. To which point I was just (8 Feb) introduced to the technical expertise and wisdom of Croatia’s internationally, and highly, educated Nenad Duplančić.  If you are Croat read this from Dignitea Hvar in your language, if you are from any place else I BEG YOU to use a translation tool to grasp the importance of his commentary on the proposed drilling in the Adriatic.  For the rest of you new drilling platforms have been banned in the United States since 1969 so you start to understand why (to maintain corporate earnings and salaries) multinational oil companies are looking at impoverished countries to exploit and destroy (unemployment here in Croatia is above 23%).

Barbara Doric

Barbara Dorić – perhaps someone should be checking her bank accounts?

As I see it the Ministers of the Croatian government who should be fighting this with every fiber of their collective being include: Ministry of Culture, Ministarstvo culture, Mrs. Andrea Zlatar, Ministry of Economy, Ministarstvo gospodarstva, Mr. Ivan Vrdoljak, (who SHOULD BE looking at wave, wind and solar technologies and ditching petrochemical energy altogether because as Duplančić points out this industry is near it’s logical end), Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection, Ministarstvo zaštite okoliša i prirode, Mr. Mihael Zmajlović, Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Ministarstvo pomorstva, prometa i infrastrukture , MPPI RH, Mr. Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministarstvo poljoprivrede, Mr. Tihomir Jakovina and, of course, the Ministry of Tourism, Ministarstvo turizma or MINT, Mr. Darko Lorencin. So ask yourselves why a company blocked from exploration on the Italian side of the Adriatic should be given reign to do so by the head of the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency, Barbara Doric? (Who, quite frankly, should be stripped of her citizenship and exiled to a very dirty beach for her role in promoting this debacle.)  Croatians are hardly indifferent to the beauty and life provided by their location – when so often you hear them express “who could buy this?” with a broad sweep of their arms across the vista offered by their Rivas and the Adriatic. Could it be that the Italians actually understand all that is at stake better than the Croatians?  

Saudi Arabia is manipulating the oil markets to keep the price of crude artificially low to discourage the further development and expansion of renewable energy, and with croatia nudethe established dangers of hydraulic fracturing to obtain natural gas it should be clear to everyone that petrochemicals are the very last thing that should be anywhere near a Croatian bikini.

This isn’t my country, yet I am supremely indignant about this and I hope all of you reading this are too.  Haven’t we seen enough destruction and war over the greed and insatiable consumption that comes with oil and gas? Climate change scientists indicate that a rise of sea levels will wipe out coastal communities around the world, hello? has anyone looked to see how much of Croatia’s population lives at very nearly sea level? In Europe climate change is expected to magnify regional differences in natural resources and assets. Negative impacts will include increased risk of inland flash floods and more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion (due to storminess and sea level rise) and is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydro-power potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity.

oil croatia

Photo source: Croatia Week online magazine

It needs to stop – now. 16 February is the deadline for open comments to the Croatian government, the form required for submission is found here.  It has painstakingly been translated into English to the right of the original Croatian so, REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU LIVE, non Croatians who care about our seas can also submit comment. Please do! As you can imagine this fight is going to get expensive from a legal perspective, please “help with the heavy lifting” by making a contribution to the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance.

Croatians have a real chance to set a world standard for clean energy working in tandem with the rest of their economy but it takes all kinds of people, everywhere, to put their ‘big boy and big girl pants on’ and say NOT HERE, NOT NOW, NOT EVER, and cap those wells and dismantle those ten platforms.  Join me?

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Comms 101: You won’t hear the message, if you don’t respect the messenger – Earth Day

Anyone around teenagers for 20 minutes will recognise that nothing creates a impenetrable wall of resistance faster than talking down (or worse, raising your voice) to a person – and yet authorityso much of the most critical information we need to make informed decisions is mired in incomprehensible rhetoric, charged with alarmist emotions, divided along preconceived ideals or coming from a talking head.  For all of our sakes we need to stop, now.

In the business world the sole function of marketing and communications is about getting the message ‘right’ and having it resound with its targeted audience to bring about action on their part and yet, the peril of the Earth, something critically important to each of you reading this and all the oceans and animals and plants and insects and birds, hasn’t garnered the kind of action so needed.  A WHOLE BUNCH of reasons exist for this, let’s start with greed and end with indifference, and the hundreds of variables to be found in between. But there are two basic components which serve to explain our (very nearly) collective lack of actions: the first is that the audience must identify that the messenger is ‘like me’ but be regarded as a respected authority and the second is pope-francis-selfiesthe inability of ‘real smart people’ to craft their stories (and yes, they are all stories even when non-fiction) and cut through the noise to create resonance.

First example, I don’t believe that there is a credibility issue with those represented on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (more likely an awareness or priority issue) which just concluded its Fifth Assessment Report – it isn’t happy news (the press release is also available Arabic, Chinese, Russian, French and Spanish use navigation at the upper right side of this page). The press release is long and dry – no surprise given that the two report(s) which the press release supports had to be written to ensure multinational agreement (by all participants) and publication in a marathon 28 hour session recently held sciencein Berlin. And while NPR did a fabulous job reporting the IPCC results the uber-right believes that NPR has a left bias, thus not a ‘like me’ trusted source. And so, unless you are a policy wonk, climatologist, or eco-warrior you probably are not going to read or listen to these two outlets.

In terms of successfully conveying complex science and culture, in succinct language easily understood and embraced by large swaths of the English language speaking populations the folks at the National Geographic Society have no peers.

“The world is not ready for the impacts of climate change, including more extreme weather and the likelihood that populated parts of the planet could be rendered natgeouninhabitable, says the planet’s leading body of climate scientists in a major new UN report.”

But if you are an Evangelical Christian (roughly 13% of the 32% of the worlds’ population who identify as being Christians) you are not going to put credibility in the painstakingly researched and documented science offered by Nat Geo scientists ~ all of the climate shifts, Polar Vortex, drought, earthquakes and tsunamis are the direct result of an angry God.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks ‘the same language’ as this Christian population: “It is a responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the garden of Eden “to till it and keep it“. To keep it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.”, and this should guarantee resonance, comprehension and action – will his call for a universal boycott of the companies which most severely violate our planet actually happen? Or is the dominion of money still too compelling for such sacrifice?

The use of common language spoken by a respected member of a specific community is why I was particularly interested in the way that the producers, the director and the very high profile actors and journalists have come together in Showtime’s new 9-part series entitles Years of Living Dangerously.  I watched the first episode as a result of an email from Upworthy – they thought it important to share (as I do) and went a step further by including the Grist’s exhaustive effort in coalescing the counter-attacks presented in various op-ed pieces. Striking is the genuine effort put forth to listen and to speak in languages (various core audiences) that would be UNIVERSALLY EMBRACED and understood – and I do mean natural-disasters-7650127universally! – around the most complex issues our world is facing:  food and water security, climate change, war, natural disasters and those made by man and his greed and indifference.

If I have one fear about its viewership numbers, of the seven billion people on the planet, they are based solely upon the immediate impact  of those cozy and warm as well as those already overwhelmed and trying to cope.  Yes, it’s an hour in length, and no, it is not entertaining.  Actually it’s rather exhausting and painful but the contrast to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is palpable; most of us who watched Inconvenient Truth in 2006 were already aligned with the message whereas Years of Living Dangerously the respect for differing opinions, those in denial or attributing our planet’s destruction to an angry God are given a gentle hand in guiding them toward enlightenment.  Successful communications (and marketing) doesn’t ‘talk down’ to or yell at constituent audiences and in this Years of Living Dangerously embraces the model of a trusted best friend, devoid of real or perceived bias the value proposition of this first hour (seems to me) conveys exactly what it needs to regardless of what side of the issues presented you might stand. multiracial_planet

We are one.  There will be no need for a vengeful God bringing forth the Rapture if we don’t stop screaming at one another and really begin to listen beyond our personal filters because our ignorance, apathy, and intolerance will be successful in our own undoing, destroying the fragile Earth we call home and all life as we know it. It really is time for unity and action of the most passionate and positive kind! Earth Day must be everyday.

If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Currency and banking innovation – Bitcoin, microfinance, plastics – inspiration in a tea tin

Earlier this afternoon I was making myself a cup of tea and pulled out the sweet remnant of a DSCN9898birthday gift, the empty tea tin of something wonderful and fruity that my girlfriend Jennifer had bought for me, for a couple of Sugar in the Raw packets and found $20 I had stashed in there at some (unremembered) point in the past. This seemingly mundane discovery reminded me of the recent mother lodes of gold coins found in CaliforniaIsrael and those of the Staffordshire – buried treasures of the American Gold Rush as well as Iron and gold coinsMiddle Age era ‘safety deposit boxes’.  What we trust, insofar as currency for transactions, has certainly evolved over the course of human history.

The creation of new currencies, or protecting assets and still making them available to their owners, most notably rests with The Knights Templar.  Their efficient network and managed holdings ultimately created such wealth, and jealousy and covetousness as to foster the political intrigue between Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V resulting in their condemnation, and destruction to allow the ‘legitimate’ confiscation said assets. Our modern banking system might have been modelled on The Templars but 1000 years on, it’s time for innovation and to cast off the shackles (and fees, and bloated salaries) that come with what has become conventional and its resulting hotbed of resentment.

A brilliant, passionate man I met, (virtually within the dynamic social entrepreneurial world of which I am part), Shaun Frankson works for The Plastic Bank (title: The Dot Connector). The truth is I promised Shaun months ago (sorry for the delay!!) I would write about their ground-breaking efforts in monetizing Ocean Bound Plastic waste, in fact The Plastic Bank is the only organization on a global basis to do such, (please also sign their petition) Buried Treasure.  What’s so impressive to me is how their efforts aim to solve catastrophic environmental issues simultaneously with raising up the world’s disadvantaged populations by collecting and trading in plastic waste as a currency – hidden treasure indeed. The Plastic Bank has had some recent successes worth mentioning as synopsised in this post to Shaun’s Facebook wall on 25 February (but not yet found in Google’s news feed): “2 countries, 3 cities, 8 meetings, 8 flights, 1 historic train trip, and 20,000 ton of social plastic… Mission accomplished.” What did that net? The Plastic Bank is now only months away from making plastic waste a bona fide currency in Latin America during Q2 2014!

While I am on the subject of “plastic currency” I can only hope that all this innovative thinking leads to a deal with Innovia Security. The Bank of England just announced it will spend 1 billion Gbps bank-notes($1.67 billion USD) over the next decade on materials and printing of its new banknotes and the integration of Ocean Bound Waste (OBW is intercepted rather than reclaimed from the oceans’ various gyres, let’s hope that it is in the future) as the raw material used to create the polymer substrate in printing currencies, currently in 23 countries, would have incalculable positive impact in the eradication of poverty as well as the mitigation of environmental pollution; two very different types of currencies each servicing its unique population.

While innovators are realigning our core values and responsibility to the planet (and hat’s off for the positive start but) San Francisco is currently only concerned with single serve plastic bottles of water yet hasn’t banned any other beverages (maybe the beverage industry successfully blocked the inclusion of soda and juice and milk – again?). Redemption monies from bottle bill legislation serve as a currency of sorts for the urban impoverished across America and Canada, still all plastic bottles and containers have not earned the distinction of 5cents (or 10cents) per to ensure recycling.  Why? (More on that particular rant in the future, I promise.)

pilgrim map

Matthew Paris, maps from the Historia Anglorum and Chronica Maiora, St Albans, c. 1250.
Route-Map to the Holy Land
The St Albans monk Matthew Paris (died 1259) never made the journey to the Holy Land. He did however draw a fascinating map of the pilgrimage route from England to Jerusalem. The route begins in London and progresses from the bottom to the top of each page. The final destination is the Holy Land depicted on two leaves.

I have been dealing with things tangible, that any one of us can hold in our hand, from grocery bags and plastic containers, to currency made from the same polymers – what about the intangibles? When Medieval pilgrims to the Holy Land first put their trust in The Knights Templar to ease the stress over carrying the funds necessary to make such a journey and for protection it was with the blessing of the Pope in Rome, faith notwithstanding trust was implicit and quite literally sacred.  There wasn’t profit involved as usury was considered a sin:

 …though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase (Leviticus 25:35-37).

So monies were deposited with the Good Knights and the same monies were returned (using those funds in the meantime to offer loans at interest to sovereigns who overspent was something else).

The Greater San Francisco Bay area has been host to technological innovation since 1939, anyone using a computer should know the story of William Hewlett and David Packard, but no one REALLY KNOWS exactly who is behind the brilliant currency innovation known as gold bitcoinBitcoin. While Bitcoin’s buried treasure is worth about the same amount as the gold coins in the buried Californian tincan should the $9m USD in value harddrive be found in a hundred years’ time will the digital code supporting it still exist? Because while any innovation in currency deals with hiccups (and thefts and counterfeiting) as well as the means to protect those assets we are moving forward so fast and away from traditional, and even digital currencies, that it’s hard to grasp how humankind will ultimately conduct its transactions in even five years time.

In the meantime, in global terms, there are 4 billion people who live on less than $2.50 USD per day – surely the contemporary equivalent of Medieval pilgrims to the Holy Land where innovation and trust platforms are critical.  Clearly the likes of JP Morgan (net income for the fourth quarter of 2013 of $5.3 billion) are not going to service those earning such insignificant amounts (even as their greenwashing efforts for WaterAid ease the conscience (?) of those top 100 London based JP Morgan top earners gaining average of £2m each in 2012 and Goldman Sachs disclosed its high flyers received £2.7m on average). Smart people have been tinkering around with servicing this underserved population for a couple of years with crowdfunding on low cost smart phones, but even policy wonks disagree is microfinance designed to raise people out of poverty or provide equal access to financial services? Why do they have to be mutually exclusive? And even experts agree that the success of Grameen Bank and its microfinancing model is 20 years old and ready for the next round of disruptions (or innovations). Forbes magazine (back in 2007) indicated that there were more than 12,000 microfinance institutions operating across the globe, 900 are currently registered with the Nigerian Central Bank alone.  

Let me expand on the nominal introduction previously offered of Oradian.com because as I see it what they are doing is critical to the successful disruption of microfinance and could provide the bridge to both lift people out of poverty and provide financial services in due course.  They are not an NGO, they are technology geeks – four CIOs actually – with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model which has two distinct client bases, the institutions providing microfinance services and the end customer whose transaction is being processed; in other words they are “development tech” and very much like the actual Knights Templar both interfacing with the pilgrims as well as holding the assets (albeit very temporarily) on their trust platform – well over 100,000 transactions to date spread amongst their (current) three customers, not bad for a company that didn’t exist before June 2012.  A two year contract with Development Exchange Centre (DEC) in Nigeria provides Oradian credibility, income and expansion of their client base much the way that Templar founders Godfrey of Bouillon and Hugues de Payens were able to grow in a mere nine years to having expansive holdings all over Europe and the Levant.  We still are impacted by their decision to provide, protect and disrupt the status quo of the 12th century, and today four billion people stand to benefit from the disruptive efforts of The Plastic Bank and Oradian.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Greenwashing does not make your company a pillar of #CSR or sustainability! – Guest Blog for Ethical Value

ev logo Guest post for Ethical Value, co-published simultaneously

The Coca-Cola Co. ‏@CocaColaCo  “We believe investing in women is the absolute key to economic growth.” Charlotte Oades @USCCFBiz4Good #5by20. #Inspire2Act #IWD2014

cry TweetShortly thereafter came this retweet ‘love’ from a very smart man that I respect (who will remain nameless):

RT @CocaColaCo Fm producers #suppliers #distributors #retailers & recyclers we aim to empower 5M women http://CokeURL.com/l2me8  #Inspire2Act

I saw these Tweets and my stomach convulsed.  Not that empowering women is a bad thing, no, THAT IS A VERY GOOD THING, but, as Collective Evolution (and many other sources) so aptly points out:

“Coke uses “public relations propaganda” to convince consumers and entire nations that it is an “environmental company” when really it is linked to pollution, water shortages, and disease.”

‘The smart man’ I mention, in RTing this particular Tweet, seems to have bought into the green-washing of Coca-Cola courtesy of their marketing team (as do hundreds of millions of people on a global basis), and this not only stuns me because it is so contrary to “his brand” but also makes me sad and angry.  But it is this sentence, from Coca-Cola’s own website, that pushed me over the edge:

“As we move toward our 2020 Vision of doubling our business by 2020, enabling the economic empowerment of women will undoubtedly be an important contributor to our success.”

Let’s be clear, Coca-Cola’s #5X20 initiative isn’t REALLY, altruistically, about lifting women out of poverty it’s about market share, doubling their business, and in doing so, contributing to the health decline of 80% of the worlds’ populations whose average household income is less than $10 (USD) a day! Think about that for a second when the vending machine at your office is likely asking $2 for a single 20 ounce bottle of Coke! So I Tweeted:

#CSR? @CocaColaCo’s #5X20 is actually #causerelatedmarketing NOT #empowerment for #women! #LiesToldOnTwitter

coke_vs__pepsi_by_mandypandy4291-d4qhbue

Artwork by Miranda Coss

Just so we are clear this isn’t a prejudice based in a Coke versus Pepsi (or any of their respective other beverage brands) preference; I am not and have never been a big cola drinker, while I do enjoy the occasional Dr. Brown’s, Izze or Orangina I would be willing to bet that my consumption of these amounts to less than a total of ten 16 ounce servings in any given YEAR. I think you should read this about what drinking Coke and Pepsi actually do to the body, and I can only hope you start to view your habit with a little more caution toward your health (or that of your kids and grandkids.

But I digress; this post is not primarily concerned with our beverage choices but the use of public relations to obfuscate the reality of Coca-Cola (and other multinational corporations) when it comes to legitimate social responsibility practices.  By leveraging social media, optimization of search engine results with technical acumen, strategic thought  and proactive and diligent management Coca-Cola is, to a large degree, successfully controlling its message.  To underscore my point, I just did a Imagesearch on Google “Coca-Cola environmental impact” of the 3.3 million results, (Google is the most popular SE in terms of use – see graph) on the first page of results ‘above the page break’ Coca-Cola has ensured their placement in three of the top five results – Wikipedia comes in at the #2 spot and at #5 is KillerCoke.org. (According to MarketShareHitsLink.com, October 2010, 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, which is why having a strategic communications plan that includes Web 2.0 for brand enrichment is so critical in our hyper-connected world.)

So what results are you, the consumer or a journalist doing research, going to get when a desire suddenly seizes you to learn more? Unless you are willing to dig deep – you would never discover that despite their “plant based” bottle PR campaigns that the resulting Imagebottles which both Pepsi and Coke are hyping as being eco-friendly are STILL chemically the same, absolutely identical to the polyethylene terepthalate, or PET, and high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, that regular plastic bottles are made of: these carry the same negative human health and environmental impacts as plastic made from fossil fuels. And yet the messaging makes those of you drinking the 14 (yes, fourteen different) billion (USD) brands from Pepsi   or the 108 (yes, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT!) beverage brands from Coca-Cola with all those plastic bottles going into the environment, all those trillions of empty calories being consumed, all the resources used and subsequent negative impact on the planet – in particular water use feel a bit righteous in your consumer choice – my darlings you have absolutely no reason to!

“Drinking” water in Ghana

I am not anti-Capitalism, but I have never, ethically, been able to use my skills and passion to promote an employer or a client whose business I did not fully respect (ie, prostitute myself for a paycheck).  I recently had a conversation with the CEO and founder of a technology firm whose platform is designed to help (genuinely) lift the bottom 3 billion of humankind out of poverty – the same number who also do not have access to clean drinking water or basic sanitation, the identical target market for doubling Coca-Cola’s business by 2020 for whom it will actually be cheaper to drink a cola beverage than to drink clean water! It’s fine to make money, it’s fine to make money in emerging markets, it’s a noble and wonderful thing to give a hand-up (rather than a hand-out), but in my mind’s eye it’s NOT FINE to sugar-coat actual objectives to make them more palatable to your consuming public and distort reality.  If Coca-Cola and Pepsi and the rest of their beverage industry brethren REALLY WANT to help empower women then I suggest taking 8% of their annual profits and fund opportunities for education previously unknown to all but a few of the bottom 3 billion of our neighbours or the various efforts to provide clean water around the world, their philanthropic and CSR departments can one stop shop for worthy projects at Charity Water, Water or in this blog post from Huffington .

Corporate Social Responsibility and the companion sustainability protocols are not ’cause related marketing’ (which is what Coca-Cola’s #5X20 actually is), what CSR ‘should be’ truly is the heart and soul, conscience and character of doing the right thing within a corporate environment.

If you enjoy my blog please share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Thou shalt not steal [Intellectual Property (IP)]

A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb

Ultimately greed is what brings a society to its knees.  It might be one person or a conspiracy involving many but all the covenants with God,  regardless of religion, include the basic tenets of faith  and counsel against ‘stealing’; this is at the core of the 10 Commandments and that of thousands of years of philosophical thought leaders. To look in the mirror or into your soul and know that those nebulous grey areas that allow corruption to populate do not exist, this is integrity.

cheat

Face value – not just taking things at face value, not the value of the face staring back at your in the mirror but also the perceived value of saving face.  We, global citizens, seem to be consumed by the latter – not so much the first two of my ‘face value’ examples and that is the crux of what is going so wrong with our world.  Cheating is essentially stealing and stealing is a lie we tell ourselves to somehow justify when the inconvenient truths of our actions are pointed out to us.  The failure of admitting wrong, taking responsibility rather than casting blame or manifesting righteous indignation in response to being revealed seems to be mounting in our experiences. Who and what to believe? When to question? To intervene, expose or to simply walk away? (And if walk away, where to hide from the insidious nature of corruption?)

I am a ‘face value’ person – even if I could ‘help it’ I wouldn’t want to change.  I genuinely prefer, Marcus-Aureliusas my new Croatian friends Zeljka and Dubravko have each mentioned in their uniquely individual phraseologies, to get my fingers burned rather than to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude and assess people over time.  But, in truth, it has been happening with greater frequency of late – about once a month if I am honest.  At some level I wish to understand why my ‘depth perception’ seems to be blind to ulterior motives, nuances of (lacking) ethics, and outright criminal activity (until it slams me upside the head as it did last week).

About seven weeks ago I was asked (by someone I love and who has been a friend for a very long time) to do a favour for someone I don’t know.  It seemed a benign thing, help this third person to save some money by purchasing something in the United States and then forwarding it to them in Southeastern Europe. On the basis of the friendship of 15 years I agreed and frankly didn’t think much about it; thankfully my naïveté comes complete with an ‘intervention goddess’ because my ‘good deed’ effort was thwarted by a very sensible company policy to only ship product to their existing customers (which when I asked my friend for a name I was informed there wasn’t a name to provide).

Night Cove

Zyken Night Cove Alarm Clock

Like one of those alarm clocks with the light and sounds that gradually and gently wake you, I have just started to process that in our desperate global economic times I very nearly became a co-conspirator in the theft of Intellectual Property! It’s not a pleasant realisation.

According to the various persons with whom I have communicated via phone conversations and email exchanges (amounting to several hours of time already)  since the 8th of February if I am lucky this should be reconciled sometime between the 4th and 7th of March, it is not lost on me that all of these resulting entanglements impacting my bank account, my time and energies and (I fear) the loss of the cherished friend are serving as poignant lessons in ’cause and effect’.  It’s ironic (somehow) that I have always been quite vocal to friends who think buying fakes is okay (the whole argument spanning human rights violations to the cost of developing a branded product, marketing it and protecting it which often fell on ‘lalalala’ conveniently deaf ears).  As a marketing communications professional part of my responsibilities are to work with legal counsel to “protect the brand”, its assets (product portfolio) and the jobs that come with creating said products. I have been quoted in general business and trade publications, and interviewed on the radio and for inflight news programmes specifically about protecting Scotland’s indigenous products, namely Harris Tweed and Fair Isle Knitwear. So, I think it’s somewhat reasonable to be angry about almost being duped into violating everything I hold true.  Still, I want to BELIEVE with my whole heart that my friend didn’t understand what was being asked of me – this is our most basic human instinct to protect what is precious to us. Yes, even as I shared my concerns and asked to speak outside of business hours to clarify what was and wasn’t known there has only been CYA email in response – oh, how my heart is seizing up!

So this is a blog post about the larger issue of morals and ethics and our global marketplace and the nuances of doing business in other cultures (and our own regardless of where we live) and the grey areas which exist as a result.

Yarmouk refugee camp

Photo credit: Reuters

I am currently reading Jack Cashill’s Ron Brown’s Body, How One Man’s Death Saved the Clinton Presidency and Hillary’s Future for two reasons: it looks like Hillary’s bid for The White House is imminent and Ron Brown’s death in Croatia was never fully investigated. Suffice to say that at Chapter 10 Cashill is still outlining Brown’s assent (and not yet his fall) but the scope of the ‘dealing’ is really quite extraordinary. And as we (the world) hold our collective breath over the Ukraine’s future and what Vladimir Putin might do in concert with Viktor Yushchenko to remain the regional Alpha Dog (while Yushcenko is clearly Putin’s bitch) I am struck by how the powerful will do a great deal to stay in power at the peril of ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire and personal interests. The New York Times was given special access to the “Museum of Corruption” (the apt moniker assigned to the 140 acre – notably 1/2 the size of the country of Monaco – compound which is called Mezhyhirya) and what’s striking is how (relatively) quickly Yushchenko was able to create an environment of personal enrichment while bankrupting his country – and how desperately Putin wants his puppet (Yushchenko) to remain in power even at the possibility of inciting World War III.  Equally so we bear witness to the enormous human suffering (as well as resilience, dignity and patience) of the Syrian people – this image – above left – published in The Guardian earlier this week and the revolt of the Venezuelan middle class – I doubt that the population of any “average American city” likewise confronted with such hardship would be such a model of decorum or equally get up off their complacent asses (as long as video continues to stream and junk food is accessible) to make an effort to improve some tiny aspect of our collective experience.

Our future is being bankrupt by theft, from the attitudes of Nestle Corporation related to the privatisation of the worlds’ water to infidelity in relationships, from a seemingly simple request by a friend to purchase two of “something” and ship it (wherein the second of each of these presumably would be reverse engineered and thus have me be an accessory to international corporate espionage) to the current violations of sovereignty happening (as it has many times over 2000+ years) in the Crimea with its valuable access to the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and subsequently, global shipping lanes to the poisoning of our planet with fracking and big oil pipelines.

“Men kill for many reasons, they steal but for one-greed.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

While I agree with Ms. Penman’s words some version of death always also accompanies theft.

If you enjoy my blog please consider sending me the price of a cup of tea via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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