Thursday, January 19, 2017

Xi Jinping en la ONU-Ginebra: el nuevo liderazgo global ha llegado


Hace varios años no sentía el optimismo y la esperanza por el futuro del planeta y de la humanidad como sentí esta noche, mientras escuchaba al presidente chino, Xi Jinping, en su discurso en el salón principal de las Naciones Unidas en Ginebra. Me hizo recordar los años en China en los que escuché docenas o quizás cientos de veces los discursos oficiales del gobierno que repetían incansablemente los valores de paz y reconciliación, justicia e igualdad, soberanía y gobernanza inclusiva, como elementos sin los cuales era imposible alcanzar el verdadero desarrollo, uno que fuera, además, sostenible.

El presidente Xi empezó su reflexión recordándonos que sólo existe un planeta Tierra en el universo y que es el único hogar que tiene la humanidad. La claridad incuestionable con la que manifestó el compromiso de su país por combatir el cambio climático me recordó que, durante los últimos diez años, ningún país ha invertido más en energías renovables que China. Están haciendo lo correcto sin dilaciones y con una asertividad inusual entre los liderazgos que vemos hoy en día en el planeta.

No sólo se refirió al Acuerdo de París, sino que hizo referencia específica a un crecimiento verde y bajo en emisiones de carbono, además de la necesidad de contar con un estilo de vida que sea circular en el uso de recursos naturales. Llevo 15 años leyendo esta teoría y jamás pensé escucharla en un líder público. Pues lo escuché esta noche, y, más que sorprenderme, me dio enorme gusto saber que fue del líder chino.

Continuó diciendo que el ser humano debe vivir en armonía con la naturaleza y que todo daño que le causamos al medio ambiente se nos devolverá en algún momento y de alguna forma. De manera muy poética, como sólo el idioma mandarín lo permite, dijo que difícilmente nos percatamos del aire, del agua, de la tierra o del cielo azul cuando los tenemos, pero que sin ellos no sería posible sobrevivir.

Con la misma seriedad y sentido de urgencia de combatir el cambio climático se refirió a la necesidad de aunar esfuerzos para eliminar todas las armas nucleares, combatir el terrorismo global, la problemática de millones de refugiados alrededor del mundo y atacar las enfermedades contagiosas en cada rincón del planeta.

En lo económico, expresó su deseo de que se sigan las normas comerciales multilaterales de la Organización Mundial del Comercio para alcanzar una globalización económica que nos permita agrandar el pastel y asegurarnos de compartirlo de manera justa y equitativa. Dijo que la realidad global también ofrece soluciones, y que lo más importante que China aprendió de la gran recesión global que inició en 2008, es que se debe fortalecer la coordinación en la gobernanza global para promover un crecimiento económico global abierto, incluyente, balanceado y beneficioso para todos sin excepción.

En lo político, se refirió a las intenciones chinas de forjar relaciones bajo la premisa sinérgica de ganar-ganar con los principales socios políticos y comerciales, y establecer alianzas basadas en el diálogo y no en la confrontación, ni en el criterio de poderío hegemónico de imponer intereses y valores en otros. Mencionó la importancia de alcanzar acuerdos por medios pacíficos e idear nuevos mecanismos más eficaces para resolver conflictos.

En temas de paz, nos recordó una verdad que a veces olvidamos, quizás porque tenemos el sesgo o la adicción por los conflictos más que por la paz. Dijo que las fuerzas de la paz exceden enormemente los factores de la guerra, y cuánta razón la que tiene. Luego citó mi manual de paz favorito, el milenario texto que guía los asuntos de Estado de los gobiernos chinos desde hace 2500 años: “El Arte de la Guerra es de importancia vital para el Estado. Es una cuestión de vida o muerte, el camino hacia la salvación o hacia la ruina. De ahí que es un asunto que no debe ser ignorado.” Afirmó, precisamente, que es un conjunto de preceptos éticos para alcanzar la paz y que debemos estudiarlo cuidadosamente. ¡Todos a desempolvar el librito! En la misma dirección de la paz, celebró la diversidad cultural de todos los pueblos y que la interdependencia entre ellos nos conduce hacia la innovación y la prosperidad. 

Sin duda, el presidente Xi le ha hecho honor al tema del Foro Económico Mundial de Davos de esta semana sobre liderazgo responsable. Incluso citó a Confucio y su versión milenaria de la regla de oro: “lo que no desees para ti, no lo hagas a otros,” y reafirmó que China estará bien sólo cuando el resto del mundo esté bien. Más claro no canta un gallo.

A propósito de gallos, celebró por anticipado el inicio del Año del Gallo de Fuego o gallo dorado que inicia el próximo 28 de enero y dijo que el canto del gallo dorado implica un nuevo amanecer para todos. 


Todo el discurso ha sido música para mis oídos. Reflexioné en algo que he pensado desde que empecé a ser usuario de redes sociales, y es que somos lo que comemos, una simple verdad que aplica tanto para los alimentos con los que nutrimos el cuerpo, como para la información con la que instruimos el intelecto y cultivamos el espíritu. La diferencia entre ruina y prosperidad bien podría estar en nuestras actitudes y en la información de la que se nutren. Así que me pueden servir este discurso para el desayuno, para el almuerzo y para la cena, todos los días de esta semana.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Escúpanme a mí // Spit me


[English below]

Escúpanme a mí.

Necesitaba esto. Tenía pendiente desde hacía casi dos años que llegué a Ginebra pasar a visitar la estatua de Gandhi que hay en el parque Ariana. La leyenda rezaba “mi vida es mi mensaje”. Hoy más que nunca recordé otra frase suya que es como un golpe en el tambor de mi marcha: “Sé el cambio que quieres ver en el mundo.” El cambio climático no respeta fronteras políticas. Las emisiones de gas carbónico ocupan toda la atmósfera del planeta incluyendo los mares, que son tres cuartas partes de la superficie de este y también están subiendo de temperatura, igual que la tierra firme y el aire. Tengo claro y respeto que cada pueblo sea soberano de designar a los gobernantes que prefiera. Glorificar a un alto dirigente de la industria cuyo sub-producto tóxico atenta contra el tejido que nutre y sostiene la vida en la Tierra, es un escupitajo en el rostro de mi hija y de todos los pequeñines de su generación. Gandhi hubiera dicho “escúpanme a mí, que puedo lidiar con toda esa violencia que traen dentro los que escupen.” Así que escúpanme a mí. Yo no me daré por vencido.
*Esta es una manifestación a título personal y no refleja, de ninguna manera, la posición oficial de la Administración Solís Rivera ni del Estado costarricense.
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Spit me.

I needed this. For nearly two years since I arrived in Geneva I had been meaning to visit a statue of Gandhi-gi at Ariana Park. The leyend read “my life is my message”. Today more than ever I remembered a phrase of his that still beats the drum of my march: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Climate change does not respect political borders. Carbon emissions occupy the whole atmosphere of the planet, including the oceans, which are three quarters of its surface and are also gaining heat, same as land and air. I understand and respect that each nation is in its sovereign right to designate the rulers it chooses. To glorify a high officer of the industry whose toxic by-product threatens the very web that nurtures and sustains life on Earth, is a spit on the face of my daughter and all the little ones in her generation. Gandhi would have said “spit me, that I can deal with all that violence inside those who spit.” So spit me. I will not give up.

*This is a personal opinión and does not reflect, in any way, the official position of the Solís Rivera Administration nor of the Costa Rican State.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Make climate action cool



Making climate action cool
Intervention at UNEP workshop on the
Trade and technology nexus to achieve
Agenda 2030 goals for developing countries

1.     As you may know, the Earth spins on its axis at 1600 kilometers per hour. Its orbital speed around the sun is of 108,000 kilometers per hour. Now, as some of you may know, last July NASA achieved the remarkable goal of putting a spacecraft in Jupiter’s orbit. By the name Juno, it launched from Earth on August 2011. In October 2013, it encountered Earth’s orbit again and used it as a slingshot to gain significant speed on its travel voyage towards Jupiter. Five years and 2.8 billion kilometers later, Juno slowed down to avoid crashing against Jupiter’s gravity forces and enter into orbit, which was achieved successfully. A remarkable fact is that the top speed it reached on this trajectory was 265,000 kilometers per hour, or more than twice the orbital speed of Earth around the sun. Another remarkable fact is that it traveled all this distance and reached this astounding speed using solar energy as predominant source. What NASA has done is commendable indeed: they have made aerospace science and exploration cool. If someone like me can share this story with you is because I was drawn into NASA’s social media outlets and explanations for the non-technical public. Bravo, NASA!
2.     I am from Costa Rica, and it is a country that has a very cool brand. We are a sought-after destination for ecological tourism, we generate 100% of our electricity from renewable sources, our economy has tripled in the last 30 years and in that same period of time our forest coverage has doubled, representing a unique case worldwide in the last 50 years. This can be considered a good example of regenerative development, where growth is both in financial and natural capital simultaneously. We have learned throughout the decades that there is a virtuous spiral between renewable energies, environmental conservation, forest coverage, biodiversity, ecological tourism, services, jobs, and wellbeing. This is a recipe we believe can be considered by countries with similar geographical location and climate, many of which face considerable developmental challenges. May I remind you about the billion people worldwide without access to electricity; the two billion people without access to drinkable water; the three billion people without access to three meals per day; and the four billion people without access to the Internet.
3.     Regarding Sustainable Development Goal 13a., related to the creation of a Green Climate Fund that hopes to raise US$100 billion/year to finance mitigation efforts in developing countries, it is a fact that globally we are spending US$1.5 trillion/year in military equipment. Only a 6% reduction in this expenditure would provide all the cash required by the Fund. Let’s choose our battles wisely!
4.     One of the most important lessons learned from the Paris Agreement is a successful mindset that positively affected the attitudes and behaviors of key participants in the process. This included optimism to always expect a brighter future; imagination to create an innovative agreement; vision to have a broader, more long-term approach; strategic thinking to prioritize actions with key stakeholders; and the ability to design a critical path to take the necessary steps to make it work.
5.     Regarding the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) currently under negotiation at the World Trade Organization (WTO), it is an agreement whose aim is partially assisting climate change mitigation and adaptation, partially improving insertion into Global Value Chains (GVC), and also fostering innovation. Costa Rica can share the success story of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) signed in 1996, which allowed the country to attract an important investment like the manufacturing plant of INTEL, which at its peak of production was exporting from Costa Rica 99% of all server microprocessors used worldwide. This created a high-tech cluster that triggered the development of multiple small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that engaged in GVCs through innovation and high competitiveness. INTEL decided in 2014 to transfer its manufacturing plant from Costa Rica to Asia and decided to leave in Costa Rica an innovation lab. This means that Costa Rica has moved, in 20 years, from agricultural production to high-tech manufacturing to high-tech innovation, creating enormous value for the company, its suppliers and the world in general. The most important aspect of this success story is that education has been at the core of it, from school preparedness to the ability to develop public-private partnerships with higher education institutions to adapt to the needs of foreign multinationals, to being able to develop world-class talent to operate at the highest level of performance.
6.     Another important topic related to trade and climate action taking place at the WTO is the leadership of the group of Friends of Fossil Fuels Subsidy Reform which seeks the elimination of these subsidies that, according to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, amount to US$500 billion/year. Furthermore, they have calculated the social cost of these subsidies at US$4 trillion/year. Reducing them would immediately create incentives for renewable energies by proving fossil energy not cost competitive without such subsidies.
7.     Clean technology offers the possibility to address different needs through different solutions. For example, geothermal energy should be prioritized wherever there is an accessible volcano. Solutions should grow organically from there. Is it towards clean tech manufacturing clusters or towards agriculture or towards ecological tourism? It will depend on each case. It is important to consider a different paradigm when thinking about clean tech. For example, an electric car is a great solution to a particular problem of carbon emissions, but better than an electric car is an electric bus that can provide massive, public and clean transportation.
8.     Innovation requires that we identify the constraints within which we must innovate. For example, why do researchers work on the vaccine of a disease they are not suffering? They have the constraints and they look for potential developments that will advance the knowledge and science and technology frontiers organically in a variety of directions depending on the findings and additional constraints incorporated along the way.
9.     Humanity has put a satellite on Jupiter’s orbit powered with renewable energy. We have the challenge to make climate action cool. Millennials know what is cool, not only because they are young and in every generation it is the youth who determine what is cool and what is not, but because millennials are not motivated by money or power or glory, but by purpose. We are not rocket scientists but is this the best we can do to make climate action cool? If we don’t do it, then who? And if we don’t do it now, then when? Thank you. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

On life management

On life management, I don’t know enough but I have experimented with a few tips that became habits and are now methods to deal within this complex system we call life.

To begin with, on life-work balance (note the change in order of the first two terms), I am here to live, I’m not here to work. I live 24 hours a day but only work a fraction of that. If I want to be at my prime performance, I need to sleep eight hours per night, every night of the week. I also need to spend some essential time “sharpening the saw” to remain effective at what I do. Things like exercising, reading, writing, connecting with others (not least my two year-old toddler and my lovely wife) make me a better person, a better professional, a better househusband.

I like to apply the Pareto principle to my productivity: to achieve 80% of the impact of my work in 20% of my time. It both means that I, like everybody else, have peaks of hyper-productive performance, and also that, in the near 33% of my day that I have left for work, 60% of it should render that level of desired impact. I have the fortune of not being hand labor as it was conceived in the XIX Century, where productivity was a function of repetitive tasks over a prolonged period of time. We are mind workers on a knowledge-based economy. At least that’s where most of new value comes from these days, from our minds and not from extraction of natural resources as it was last century.

Second, optimism is an attitude. This means that you can choose it at any given moment. If you every feel anxious, or fearful, or regretful about anything, especially regarding the use of your time that is already gone for good, interrupt that thought and spend ten minutes doing something you consider as productive. Set a timer for those ten minutes and go at it. I guarantee you will feel different when the alarm goes off because nothing is more motivating than action. It is important not to confuse optimism with delusion. It is also important to be realistic. But this is something one can only be here and now. And optimism is definitely better than any of its alternatives when it comes to visualizing a greener, more prosperous path ahead.

About those ten minutes, I imagine life broken into multiple ten-minute slots. Everything you do is pretty much constrained into one or a few of these pockets of time-energy. You can achieve remarkable things if you dedicate ten minutes per day during 30 years to pretty much anything. For example, it is said that one can learn the basics of a language with 300 hours of study. That is 1800 10-minute pockets, or roughly five years if you practice 10 minutes per day. This means that in 30 years of studying 10 minutes per day you could learn the basics of five languages. How come not everybody at the age 60 speaks at least five languages?!

Third, I beg to differ from His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, when he suggests that the purpose of life is to be happy. Happiness is an individual accomplishment. I believe we are intelligent, social beings and our role as members of humanity is to aspire for prosperity, which is a collective achievement. What good would it make to be the only happy person in your community, or the only happy nation in the world? We need to ensure our neighbors and fellow citizens of the world enjoy prosperity too. In that regard, prosperity is the collective attitude of optimism.

Fourth, every pocket of time has an opportunity cost. In fact, the costs are infinite if you consider everything else you could be doing during that same time. It would drive us crazy to think about this all the time. Instead, think about the big bang-like potential that every pocket of time has for you. In my case, I would say spending time with my wife doing whatever is a hundred times more enriching and nurturing than if I were alone. Similar to what I believe is my role as a father. I have perhaps three ten-minute pockets of time per day with my daughter. If I regard her unconditionally and positively for those minutes, interacting with her in the most engaging, constructive manner I can, I will be performing my duties as her caretaker and “universe discovery process” facilitator, which is what parents should be anyway. Most likely, I hope, there will be no room for regrets in 20 years time.


Finally, start with why, as Simon Sinek suggests. Find your purpose, or that thing you would like to be considered an expert at in 30 years from now, regardless of your age. Who knows, you might get there, so you might as well have spent a good 10,000 hours doing something you particularly like that gives you a sense of purpose to make this a better place to live, if only as selfishly as for yourself, but hopefully for a larger potion of humanity.