GIFT: Chandran Nair

I learned of GIFT just the other day when I listened to an interview on BBC - Peter Day's World of Business. The guest was Chandran Nair, former environmental consultant and Founder and CEO of GIFT - the Global Institute for Tomorrow, based in Hong Kong. GIFT looks at the problems of economic growth, pollution, climate change, food, and so on, with a focus on that part of the world which will drive these issues in the 21st century: Asia.

GIFT is not just another think tank, but an organization with an active outreach that helps people directly in the Asia region and educates students through their "Young Leaders Programme".

From their website - Global Institute for Tomorrow-

"The YLP is a unique executive learning programme aimed at developing leadership and business skills by applying these in an experiential context to design commercially viable solutions for socially responsible projects in Asia."

GIFT also provides advisory services and offers ideas through seminars, speaking engagements and articles.

Chandran Nair gave a talk at the 2009 TEDx Tokyo, in which he outlines his thesis and, as he puts it, "asks the hard questions".


I find it refreshing to hear someone raise these issues. I am very frustrated when concerned individuals and institutions get bogged down in chasing "green" techno-fixes to these problems, or worse, shifting their focus from resource scarcity, how to feed the world, provide clean water, and salvage the Earth's environment to how to keep the automobile culture alive.

For an in depth look at his ideas, visit the website (linked above) or read his new book Consumptionomics: Asia's Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet.

To see the YLP in action, watch this video which shows them - with help from United Nations Development Program - helping cocoa farmers in tsunami devestated Aceh, Indonesia, re-organize the way they do things to bring about a sustainable and economically viable industry.

Politicians are still stuck in the "exponential growth on a finite planet" paradigm, which is already hitting the wall of limited resources - witness PM Kan's pursuit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

We must find a way to redefine economics and define well being, indeed happiness, in terms of health, community, clean water, access to farm land, and so on, rather than solely on consumption.

Chandran Nair is bringing up the tough conversations we need to be having.


Anonymous said…
Nice post, Kurashi. Hisashiburi.

Chandran's hard questions seemed rather obvious to me; what seemed "hard" was his scary top-down solution: Orwellian Asia.

Maybe it's a finite solution to saving old habits of the old world, but I think it's hardly a solution to saving the planet.

Personally, I have no solution for the entire planet, but If it were up to me, I would distill all meetings on "how to save the planet" down to a few million (or billion) really good ones, maybe at my place or at yours, get a true random number generator, and begin doing stuff that makes sense where you live.

Martin J Frid said…
Thanks Pandabonium for a great post. Mr. Nair does ask some "hard" questions, including fish and meat consumption, car ownership issues, and how to make this clear to people. He talks about intellectual dishonesty. Good, and as Ken mentions, we may need a whole lot of really good solutions - especially if we try to localize the problems rather than try to argue about every issue as if it didn't have anything to do with - me.

Again, thanks.
Pandabonium said…
Ken - I did not hear him suggest an Orwellian Asia. Perhaps I have the benefit of listening to several of his interviews. He has said, rightly IMO, that it is naive to think that the world's problems will be solved by "free" trade and "market solutions", especially since the present systems do not price externalities such as pollution, water, CO2, etc. Rather than a totalitarian regime, he wants people to look at what rights are truly important, to factor in externalities, and come to a balance.

You and I can do what we can where we live, as you say, and I wholeheartedly agree. But the world is running out of time to address many issues and I think there must also be changes at national and international levels - interventions - if mankind is to prevent a massive catastrophe and die off.

So far, the USA, under the control of multinational corporations, has shrugged off climate change, peak oil, and financial responsibility under the guise of "property rights". I think a rethink is warranted.

Martin - 'welcome.
Anonymous said…
Hi Panda - Right, of course I'm speaking after only watching the one TED video you posted.

Again, it all makes sense -- to ask obvious questions, to be angry, to rethink sincerity, to ponder what rights are important, and to do what makes sense where you live.

But to me, personally, what it sounds like he's suggesting on governmental rule/intervention (i.e. China- style decision making) { to save the planet } is something that this region has already experienced for thousands of years, where there's been a system, like in other places, that hasn't necessarily served Earth, but served system.

I see the open door in the opposite direction: a transition from governments serving system to peoples serving Earth, by living on a little less or a little more (depending where you are {your society/capacity}), by driving a little less or a little more (depending where you are {your society/capacity}), etc, sharing information on the internet, learning to grow dense gardens and food forests, how to build efficient shelter out of local materials, and make useful tools out of scrap.

Pandabonium said…
Ken - To some, perhaps a good deal, he is turning to governments to make changes, and I would agree that it is unlikely to produce the results sought.

I am not at all confident that grass roots efforts win the day either, unless some structural change is achieved. It is relatively easy for us in the wealthy nations to go off and do things as we please, for the people in India, China, and elsewhere, it is not so. And so far, it seems they want to emulate the consumption model of the West.
Anonymous said…
Hi again Panda, good points. Again, thanks for posting such thought-provoking stuff.



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