Reflections on the seminar about global trends

A selected number of acknowledged thinkers provided an insightful summary of the challenges

The need for a systems perspective

There were a few statements or comments that stuck in my mind and that I have continued to contemplate after the seminar. Prof. Sten Nilsson stressed the need for a systems perspective when dealing with these global challenges. Research tends to regard an energy crisis, population development or poverty issues separately, but they must be handled as interconnected components of a system. As a result of the interaction between the components unexpected things may arise. These “surprises”, unexpected events in the system, were brought up by several speakers, overthrowing the belief that we look into the future by simply extrapolating trends – we must expect unexpected developments.

Is poverty a result of a social process or of a basic scarcity of resources?

Ujjwal Pradhan from the World Agroforestry Centre raised the question “is poverty a result of a social process or of a basic scarcity of resources?”. He did not give an answer and naturally the answer depends on whether we refer to poverty in a relative or absolute sense. I find the question highly relevant in today´s discussion on balancing growth in developing countries with energy savings and other measures to mitigate climate change.

The balance between global governance and national and local realities

Many of the speakers called for strong international institutions to cope with the challenges. Such a need might be warranted but how to balance global governance with national and local realities?  One question from the audience in the seminar focused on the imbalance between global development and challenges on one side and, in many cases and situations, rather weak national governments on the other. On the global arena there are multinational or global companies (and organizations) outside every form of democratic control. For me, this is one of the really major issues – how to combine management of global challenges with basic democratic demands? Could it be so that the traditional content of the concept of democracy has to be changed or supplemented by something new?

The Swedish players

The seminar left the impression that the Swedish players should become more active on the global arena and that there is a need for a continued discussion on these topics in the Swedish forest sector. For example, on the role of the Swedish forest companies in the globalised world: how could the current tendencies of land grabbing be turned into lasting partnerships with local communities?

Prof. Ola Sallnäs, SLU

Foto: Anna Strom

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