Anders Wijkman

Sep 12
In this episode, we have with us, Anders Wijkman. Anders is a Swedish politician who has actively worked on environmental and social issues since at least 1970s. He has held many different posts, including as member of the Swedish parliament, member of the European Parliament, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Policy Director of the UNDP. Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross and Director General of the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries, the full list is much, much longer. These are just some examples.
In this episode, we have with us, Anders Wijkman. Anders is a Swedish politician who has actively worked on environmental and social issues since at least 1970s. He has held many different posts, including as member of the Swedish parliament, member of the European Parliament, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Policy Director of the UNDP. Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross and Director General of the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries, the full list is much, much longer. These are just some examples.

Podcast Transcript

Marek: So let me begin. Well, thank you very much for joining us. And just a reminder, this is a series of podcasts and a series which discusses the risks facing humanity over the coming years, all the way up to 100 years, with leading researchers, policymakers and others who are active in this space. And we try and analyze these risks from a four ways perspective. You can find out more about us on, that's four written as a digit. 

Today, as our guest we have Anders Wijkman. And Anders Wijkman, is a Swedish politician who has actively worked on environmental and social issues since at least 1970s. He has held many different posts, including as member of the Swedish parliament, member of the European Parliament, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Policy Director of the UNDP. Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross and Director General of the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries, the full list is much, much longer. These are just some examples.

Anders Wijkman: Just an indication on how old I am.

Marek: How experienced and how much we're excited to speak to you. And he continues to be a member of The Club of Rome. Until recently, he was actually one of the co-presidents, and also the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, the World Future Council and the International Resource Panel. 

Recent books includes the Club of Rome Report—Come On and A Finer Future: Creating An Economy In Service To Life. And also, if you would like to follow him in more life away, he's active on Twitter, under the Twitter handle anderswijkman, but it's mostly in Swedish, so you'd have to use the Translate button.   

So with all of that mind, I would like to go straight to our first question, which is, what do you see as the most significant risks over the next 100 years? 

And before you answer that, though, I would just like to qualify that question. What we're not looking for is a description of what the world will look like in 100 years, that's not perhaps most helpful way of looking at the question. What we're trying to understand is, how do existing problems, existing trends, existing risks, look to become more serious and more threatening over the period of, you know, from tomorrow, all the way through to the next 100 years? In that space of 100 years, what do you personally see as the most serious risks facing humanity?

Anders Wijkman: Well, you know, you are really putting your finger on something that is very close to my heart. As a matter of fact, I wrote the book in 1984, together with Lloyd Timberlake, it was called, Natural Disasters: Acts of God, or Acts of Man? I was very much involved in disaster relief at the time and we had come to the conclusion that disasters were on the increase, and the number of people being hit we're on the increase. And unless we, as a relief organization did something about it, it would overtake us, we wouldn't be able to cope. So that's why we started to talk about, you know, and we were a relief organization like a fire brigade, we started to talk about prevention. We have to prevent things, we have to be prepared, etc. This is to me so important. 

And when you look at some of the, both social and ecological issues that are troubling us today, if you look at the long-term future, definitely you have risks building up that may lead to, what I would say, collapse for the whole system. But I don't think it's only a social and ecological issues, I also think we are introducing a lot of technologies into society, that have a lot of positive sides, but also some not so positive sides. 

And as you know, technology can be used for good and it can be used for bad. So I think we have to look at the whole spectrum of social and ecological challenges, but also technology challenges. And in the middle, you have politics, which should be sort of the orchestrator in terms of good governance, and there, I really have my doubts, there, I really have my doubts. 

So it's sort of a perfect storm of a number of interlinked issues. And the problem, I think, is that we, as a society, ever since the Renaissance, we are organized vertically in silos. And we have very few people who try to understand how things are interconnected and interlinked, and can deal with the whole. So I think the lack of systemic approaches and systemic analytical studies, I think, is probably the most important challenge we face. And then of course, if you look at each and every one of the more individual challenges, they are serious, each and every one of them, whether we talk about climate change or we talk about the degradation and hollowing out of vital ecosystems, the loss of biodiversity. 

And then I also think that, to deal with these issues in the political context, you need a level of trust in society. And I think what we are seeing now is that the trust level in society in many parts of the world is not improving, it's going the opposite direction. And to address long term issues, you really need trust, otherwise, people will concentrate on the short term issues. 

So that was a rather convoluted response, but hopefully, it made some sense.

Marek: Absolutely. And when you were talking about systemic solutions or systemic responses, I think the word systemic, in many different—each person have a slightly different idea of what that actually means in practice. Could you expand just a little bit more about what for you are the attributes of systemic response or a systemic approach to addressing the issues you've just written?

Anders Wijkman: Well, it really boils down to two issues; on the one hand, that since many problems or challenges are interlinked, you need competencies from different disciplines. And since most research and innovation until today, have been very much focusing on single point solutions on vertical interventions, you lacked a systemic approach. And you may, of course, solve some problems. I mean, if all of a sudden, batteries, for instance, for vehicles are becoming much, much cheaper, and will give us a higher capacity, that will, of course, help address some of the problems with pollution from the transportation system. But unless you bring in other aspects, that technology solution alone will not be sufficient. 

So systemic is really to look at the whole picture and realize that it's very rare that you have one solution to a problem, you need a portfolio of solutions, you need a portfolio of innovations to really deal with it. And it has to do with technology, it has to do with organization, it has to do with governance, it has to do with policy incentives and it has to do with behavior. And this, to me, is still very much, not really functioning well. We don't have a governance system that works this way. And I think the academic community is part of the problem. Because academics, they talk a lot about trans-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research. But once they leave the conference, where they praise that, they go back to their institutions and their institutions are silo-based, they have very often a professor, he is a professor because he is an expert on a very vertical issue and that's also where he gets his pay check. 

So it's very difficult to change this, but the way the scientific community is organized and education is organized, it reflects on the rest of society. And so I think we, in a way, we have to start with how knowledge is generated and how knowledge is being managed.

Marek: When we were preparing for the call, you mentioned that, the International Resource Panel had recently issued reports. I guess it'd be interested to hear a little bit more about the report itself and also in the interdisciplinary approach in order to produce a report, such as the ones that the International Resource Panel produced. 

Anders Wijkman: Well, I must admit that the international resource panel we have here—we are composed of some 35 experts on different types of resources and resource use. We have a few economists, but we should really bring in more economists because economists are very often the problem. The main problem  when it comes to setting up a more systemic approach to issues. And the Natural Resource Panel has only been in existence for 11-12 years, so we are in the beginning of building a system that really works. And also we are in the beginning of communicating what we are doing. So we still have a long way to go.

I mean, IPCC, after 30 years is quite well-known and their reports have now become more and more readable. Their reports come to sell them, of course, I mean, it's mind boggling that the most recent IPCC report came out in—was it in 2013? Yes, it was. 2013. That's eight years back in time. And just imagine how much knowledge has been generated and still not resulted in a report from the IPCC. 

But at least IPCC is being recognized, it's being listened to, the International Resource Panel still has not reached that status, but I hope we will. Because at the end of the day, the way we use resources reflects on everything else, we came to the conclusion in our most recent big report called Global Resources Outlive 2019, that 90% of the loss of biodiversity in the world is being directly dependent on the way we use materials, extraction, and processing of materials, including fossil fuels and biomass and agricultural, and 50% of carbon emissions. So that there shows that we have to focus much more on that. 

And if you look at climate mitigation strategies in most countries, they are focused more or less singularly on one issue, namely energy systems. And energy is very important, but it's not the only one. If you look at steel, concrete or cement, textiles, electronics, plastics, aluminum, those materials, the extraction and process production and processing of them lead to more than 30% of global carbon emissions. So here's a major issue that has to be brought into the policy sphere and acted upon

Marek: When you were in the European Parliament, your repertory on one of the reports for how the European Union should be cooperating with developing countries on climate change. With a lot of these technologies that you're mentioning, how able are developing countries over the coming years likely to adopt these technologies? Is it just a question of money or there are other factors as well that need to be considered in developing countries’ adoption of, well, switch to a less resource-intensive approach and also a climate-friendly approach?

Anders Wijkman: I think the most important thing lacking is capacity or competencies. You need people in ministries, who understand technologies, who understand how to organize any incentives systems and that is very often lacking. The fossil fuel industry, they have people who know about what they are doing, because that's the conventional energy systems we have. But if you go to African countries today and you ask a Minister of Energy, “How many people do you have in your staff who understand solar or wind or whatever distributed technologies?” I mean, very often, they say none or one person. So competencies is one of the major issues.

Another one is security for investors. I mean, you have a lot of technologies that you didn't have 10 years ago, that could be—that it could base entity supplies on, in many developing countries, but the investment environment is looked upon as very uncertain, because of poor governance, because of corruption, etc. So there, you need some kind of investment guarantee. And there I think, for instance, Development Cooperation Agencies or Regional Development Banks or the World Bank could offer these guarantees. If they did, I think, much more investment would take place of the right kind. So those are two issues, I think are very important. There are probably be more but these came to my mind.

Marek: Understood. Just one last question from me, before I hand over to Alexander. So I'm just to go back to the point you were making about systemic approaches, when we're talking about the technologies that are available to scale, to address these challenges. You've mentioned solar and wind and batteries, fossils and fuel. How much are the people that are working on these technologies aware of how the resources needed for these technologies are also needed for other technologies in other sectors? 

So at the moment, we can already see very well-known examples of how Elon Musk says we need lithium or this resource or another, isn't the case that, you know, beyond lithium, people working these technologies understand that they're developing technologies that also will be needing the same resources that people working on other technologies are required or is that not something they consider normally?

Anders Wijkman: I think that we have spent too little time trying to understand what—in particular, when it comes to metals, what kind of metals are being needed for the technology transformation. And I saw a paper by an American professor, I think he has a—I think he—no, he's not at Princeton, he's at Yale, a Tom Gray. He wrote an article the other day, and there was an illustration from one of the International Resource Panel reports about reuse and recycling of metals. And the fact is that for most metals, there is no recycling at all. And maybe because they have not been in demand for very high qualities—quantities, maybe it's not been a problem.

But in the now, transformation that we are discussing, they are going to be in high demand. And unless we develop technology systems where you really can use the same atom again and again and again and again, it's not going to work, we're going to run out of them. So there is, I think this is a very critical issue. And the metals you refer to are needed in several sectors of the economy and for several technology systems. So yes, that's a very important issue. Very important issue.

Marek: I will now hand over to Alexander to take on the next section. Alexander?

Alexander: Yes, Anders. I want to go a little bit step back in history and I want to go to the roots of this topic of global issues and global collapse, global catastrophe and so forth. And this topic became or it started to become very popular, like 60 or 50 years ago. Yes, in the late 60s and the 70s and 80s. And today is there, Dennis Meadows’ birthday, and he was one of the heroes in 1972. And I can imagine how it was like a bomb or just this realization moment when the [Inaudible 17:50] growth report to the Club of Rome happened. Yes, it's it was post-World War II recovery. And it was the consumer economy in the Western countries and it was accelerated growth, economic growth, democratic governments and of colonialism and everything looked like prosperous, it was the real top of our life level, yes?

And these reported and the other topics like the demographic bomb, then other very famous reports and books appeared. And these people described the situation in simple language. They tried to explain that because we have a global demographic growth or demographic boom, and we started to extract and consume much more materials and resources, and we started to pressure the environment and biosphere and everything, if we continue to go this direction, sooner or later, unfortunately, within 100 years or later, the humanity of humankind here could go back to the collapse. 

And now 50 years past, and how you could describe the situation, what we have now? Is this situation is better? Like many optimistic people said, “Okay, these guys for like maybe a little bit pessimists, they predicted collapse, and nothing happened. We're in a good condition, and maybe it’s only the climate we have a problem with, but everything else is okay.” So how you could describe this 50 years path and how do you see these next 50 years?

Anders Wijkman: Very good question. First of all, one problem was that when the limits to growth was published or presented, many people had the perception that Dennis Meadows and his colleagues, Jørgen Randers, were describing the next 5-10 years, and they were not. They were not telling the world we have an imminent collapse. 

They said, “Within the next 50-100 years, we will run into problems unless we organize this in a more intelligent way.” Well, there have been many up-to-date studies, follow up studies, there have been many books written. And all of them tells us that the main scenario where there is not much policy change is more or less happening.

So unless we correct the course today, we are going to be in deep, deep trouble. And my feeling is or my understanding is that more and more people start to realize that maybe there are limits after all, maybe we have to think differently. Maybe we have to organize the economy differently. 

The problem to me is that most conventional economists don't seem to get it. And that's the problem. And I think it's because of their education. They learn nothing or very little about the natural systems during their training. So they have put a mathematical model on top of nature and they hope that it will work. And it worked as long as we were relatively few people and the economy was not so large.

In “Come On” the book you referred to earlier, we talk about the difference between the empty world and the full world. As long as we lived in the empty world, of course, there were problems here and there, but by and large, it worked.

Alexander: Before the first Industrial Revolution, the empty world was before this. Yes, the Agrarian History, 10,000 years of our history.

Anders Wijkman: Yes, but also, I would say until, until the 1940s and 1950s, there was more or less a balance. The ecological footprint of each individual was not that big. But from then on, we've had this acceleration, the great acceleration and now we live in the full world, we are soon to be 8 billion people. 

When I was a kid, there were 3 billion people and I remember that. If there is one category of people who you should blame for the situation today, first and foremost, it's conventional economists, because they have put in place the economic model and the incentive structure and just look at them. They focus on production, on consumption, on innovation, on finance capital and on labor. And to them nature seems to be a constant, it's always there providing us with the resource. 

And when the Club of Rome report came out, one of the leading economists already at that time was Bill Nordhaus, who received the Economics Prize a few years ago for his DICE model. He said, “If there is a problem with scarcity, we have substitution, we have the price mechanism.” What he didn't think about and still today doesn't think about, it seems to me, is that you can substitute a wooden table for a plastic table, but you cannot substitute a stable climate system with money or something else. And you cannot bring back to life species that have disappeared or are being lost. This difference between natural capital and financial and industrial capital is still not really understood by economists. 

But I always say to my students, when I teach, I say, “I'm not saying that financial capital is not important but we cannot eat money. We cannot eat money.” So to me, we should have listened to the Club of Rome much more carefully and taken action much earlier. Now, it's becoming more and more late and it's becoming more and more difficult.

Alexander: Talking about actions, I thought a lot about this topic. And I thought many of these people try to warn the world, warn the politicians, business people and so on. They try to explain that we need to change the trajectory, but that is not how we could change the trajectory. We have 250 countries in the world. So 250 presidents and the other like political leaders. Yes, we have millions of business people, billions of corporations. So we can change the trajectory because there is no one world government, there is no the president of the world. 

Anders Wijkman: Yes.

Alexander: And nobody can say that, okay, we need to go in this direction, like we can do it in the country level or in the level of a company, but what do you expect? We will continue to talk about the necessity to do something and of course, we will get delay, maybe 50 years delay, maybe 100 years delay. Maybe we needed to start 50 years ago, but we didn't do it. And what do you think about the way, how we could manage the world, is it possible or it's an if?

Anders Wijkman: No, it’s not. Well, it is naïve in today's political situation because the appetite for a world government is very little, is very small. Just look at the United States of America, they don't want to be ruled by somebody on top of them.

Alexander: Nobody wants. No. No, of course.

Anders Wijkman: Well, the European Union, I think, is an example where member states have given away some of their sovereignty to Brussels and to collective decision-making, and that's what would have to happen, I think, in the world. Just imagine if it could happen in the world. I'm not saying that the European Union is perfect, but at least we are moving in this direction. And we try to solve things together. But, well, I still think we have to work on that. I remember George Soros was in Stockholm in 1998 and I was on a panel together with him. And he said, “We have a problem. We have a global economy, but we have no global society.” And then he added, “And you cannot have a global economy without a global society.” And of course, he was right. 

But yes, I hope that the European Union with its Green Deal is going to influence not only policymaking in Europe, but policymaking outside Europe because we are a sufficiently big market for others to pay attention to what we are doing. But I also understand that time is short, so it may not succeed. It may not succeed.

Alexander: If it not may succeed, how do you look to this future?

Anders Wijkman: Very—

Alexander: What could happen?

Anders Wijkman: Very messy future. Very messy future. And I don't know whether the social problems will take over first or a combination of social and ecological problems. I'm afraid of large-scale migration. I mean, look at Africa today, it's not only climate change and more droughts, less food production, etc, that is going to be a problem. You also have poor governance, governments that don't deliver. People want to leave not only because of ecology and climate, they want to leave because they don't see they have a future. And where are they leaving? They are leaving to Europe. And I can only say that, if we had such problems in Europe to deal with 1 million refugees from the Middle East in 2015, just imagine what that will be. So yes, I think it's going to be very messy. And that's why I still work, to try to help because I could be retired and read books and play golf. But I think we have the responsibility. If we have seen the problems, if we understand the challenge, we simply have to try to help.

Alexander: And you mentioned, the interesting topic you touched. You mentioned Africa or Sub Saharan African countries, yes? And the interesting thing is—

Anders Wijkman: Well, the one—

Alexander: In terms of the 4waves concept, if you look at Asia 60 years ago, for me that Asian countries 60 years ago, were very similar, like Sub-Saharan Africa today. So they were Agrarian, they were underdeveloped, poor, no electricity, no food, no cities or small cities and so. And now they jump from this  Agrarian era to urban industrial, and they are more or less developed now. And they continue to grow. And do you believe that Sub-Saharan African countries can make the same jump in the next 60-80 years? Or the problem with this, why they can't do it? What do you think? 

Anders Wijkman: Well, to be very honest, I don't have a good answer, because I realized that Africa is a huge continent. And there are very large differences. And by the way, we talk about Sub-Saharan Africa. I think Northern Africa right now is a mess as well.

Alexander: Yeah, unfortunately.

Anders Wijkman: The only country in Northern Africa that seems to be on a relatively stable course is Morocco. All the others are in a mess. 

Alexander: But this is very different. Northern Africa is the Mediterranean area. So they're very close to Mediterranean countries, but Sub Saharan Africa is very different, really.

Anders Wijkman: Very different. Yes.

Alexander: So very different kind of civilization and why—so you don't believe that they, in 60 years, we could see that all, African now is like Asia 60 years ago. And if we are in 21, in 2100 year, so 80 years from now, we could say, “Oh, all countries in the world are now post-Agrarian, developed, prosper, have electricity, food, cities, everything, cars.” What do you think about it?

Anders Wijkman: Maybe not generalize, maybe look at individual African countries, South Africa, the Republic, I think definitely will be on that track.

Alexander: Yes, it’s different, yes.

Anders Wijkman: I think Ghana is another example. I would have said Ethiopia half a year ago, today, I'm not so sure after this very tragic Civil War. Kenya, probably.  Uganda, question mark. It depends on—

Alexander: That’s very interesting. 

Anders Wijkman: Yes. Alexander: That’s very interesting. I can imagine like 60 years ago, people thought about Asian countries in the same manner, “Oh, Japan, South Korea; China, who’s China? India, it’s impossible.” 

Anders Wijkman: Yes, no.

Alexander: Sure. 

Anders Wijkman: That shows how difficult it is to predict, to look into the future. 

Alexander: Right. 

Anders Wijkman: There are so many variables. And you know, but, you know, my work in Natural Resource Panel has taught me one thing, sort of the hard way. I think one pre-condition for more harmonious development in the world, is maybe redistribution of material resources from the north to the south. I cannot see otherwise how this is going to work. And I would hope that we, at least in Europe, that we will start becoming more conscious about this and do much more to help out of self-interest, out of self-interest. And I think Mrs. Merkel understands this, because she has made comments many times that, “We have to invest in Africa, we have to help them there. Otherwise, they will come here.”

And I think most people would like to stay where they are. I mean, if you ask a Nigeria, a person born in Nigeria, they would like to stay where they are.

Alexander: Sure.

Anders Wijkman: But given the circumstances now, they want to leave. So I mean, if we can do more in terms of North-South cooperation, that could help a lot. But I'm not 100% optimistic about that.

Alexander: Okay. And my last question in my section, is about the concept of circular economy. I try to understand—I believe that okay, circular economy can save us from resource depletion. And I read a lot of books, I talked with a lot of great people. And then after my 10 years of research, I realized I don't believe in this, I don't believe that we will get the really circular economy in 100 years from now. So we are talking about this, and as you mentioned, like thousands of materials has a circular—has a fewer rate of the recycling, 1% or less. 

Anders Wijkman: Yes.

Alexander: So 90% don't have any recycling approach. And we continue to talk, we had a conferences, books, reports about this. And I will talk about these, why we are talking about this if it doesn't work? 

Anders Wijkman: Well, again, I think it's such a complex issue. It was natural to organize production in a linear fashion, in the beginning of the industrial society, because resources seem to be endless, very abundant. And this is the important thing. The producer never had to pay for the external effects for the pollution. So it has been cost free. And today, for instance, in Sweden, if you want to build a new house, if you use a new brick, it costs you around €1. If instead you will use reused brick, which has been cleaned and transported, blah, blah, blah, it costs you €2. Of course, you use the newer material because it's cheaper. And you can also be assured of the quality. So there is so much we have to change and I agree with you, it's not the panacea, but it's a step in the right direction.

For instance, I mean infrastructure, in the International Resource Panel we have calculated, the world is going to build as much urban infrastructure until 2050 as we have built until today.

Alexander: Alright.

Anders Wijkman: That's a lot of steel, cement, aluminium, plastics, etc., and we can’t use recycled materials because it's simply not there. It's only in 50 years’ time, when we are going to maybe renovate these houses, that we can start recycling materials. 

Alexander: Yes.

Anders Wijkman: So, and in some areas, I refer to Tom Gray that he wrote an article the other day about medical equipment, electronic equipment and showed how immensely difficult it is to recycle and reuse components. Because the way this is manufactured, it's not that you can unscrew/screws and bolts here, it's glued together. It's very complicated. So I agree with you, circularity is needed, but it's not a silver bullet, it will give some contribution. And I think business models could be different. Instead of Apple saying, bye bye to this when I bought it, if I would rent it, instead, they will be interested in the long-term of the materials. So that's a better business model for everybody. 

Marek: In that case, on that note, I'd like to move on to another section. So I'm particularly interested in this as well, because of all your years from being the receiving end of lobbyists, from both the corporate and the NGO sectors. So Ainar’s questions are about governance, so I will-- 

Anders Wijkman: Okay.

Alexander: So I'll pass over to Ainar. Ainar: Yes, thank you.

Alexander: You’re welcome. Ainar: It's magic just to listen to you, Alexander, Anders. So my question is, Anders, you mentioned a few big challenges here; lack of governance and lack of education in economists, etc. My question is, imagine you have all resources, all money, what you need, all the resources of lobby, connection with all presidents and 3-5 years plan. What will be your focus? And what do you think will be most important to do now if you have unlimited resources of time—money, connections and any lobby and any opportunity to—

Anders Wijkman: Political power.

Ainar: Political power, thank you.

Anders Wijkman: You’re asking me if I was—

Ainar: Yes. 

Alexander: If you were on top of the world.

Anders Wijkman: —I was on top of the world. 

Alexander: On top of the world.

Anders Wijkman: Yes, I was on top of the world and could decide.

Yes, what are the main—you say, okay, the existing politicians are not so smart. So if I am president of the world, what I can do?

Ainar: Anything, and you don't need to explain too much just what to do.

Anders Wijkman: Right. I think the first thing I would do would be to try to develop a good dialogue between industrialized countries and low income countries. Basically telling them, “We have fucked much of this system up. We have developed the infrastructure, the production systems and we have been trying to involve you in that, and we have tried to earn revenue and profits from you being consumers, we are now going to design a system which will work for all of us.”

I think a big commission, between North and South, I think is the number one issue, because we need to change the rules of the game. The trading system is still very unfair. We import a lot of commodities, but we are not so keen to import value-added products. We want to be the one producing the value-added product.

So North-South is to me the number one and then of course, family planning should be on the on the on the agenda and education of girls so that we can hopefully land on 9 billion people instead of 11 or 12. Because that will be easier to deal with. 

Secondly, I would, together with the oil producing countries, sit down and plan for a gradual phase out of fossil fuels, but in a way that they are not only the losers. Because if you look at the economies of the oil producing countries, many of them depend to 50%, 60%, 70% of their budgets, national budgets, government budgets on oil revenue. They will go bust if they don't get some kind of an agreement here. And I think energy systems are so critically important. So there we need to cooperate together and put in place a fair and effective energy system.  

I will also develop a convention on natural resource use. My material footprint today in Sweden is I think 25 tons, if you aggregate all the materials there. The material footprint of somebody living in an Ethiopia is about 600-700 kilos, or maybe a ton. That is a colossal, and we need to deal with that. So those are three issues. Then I think also, we need to start helping people who will be very much negatively affected by climate change, low lying cities, urban areas, and, of course, people living in dry lands, and then we need to do much, much more in terms of preparedness and prevention to help them. 

Then I would put in place a world parliament. That's going to be tricky because if you base it only on population, Indians and Chinese will dominate totally. And I don't think that would work. So you will have to find the formula on how to balance world parliament, but I think it's needed. 

Then I would reform economics. Our economic system is very, very short-term oriented. We have a tendency to use discount rates of 4% to 5% to 6%. So anything that's happening 20 years from now is not really of that importance, that has to change. Because we need to build into the system long-term responsibility. Well, I think those are the most important things. But if I had known this question, I would have sat down last night and I would have said, “Oh,—.”

Ainar: Yes. You still have time to do this, to think about it. You know, when you shared about the economist, again, you remind me the meeting with the Nobel Prize winner, Harry Markowitz, the guy who made the portfolio strategy. 

Anders Wijkman: Yes, I know him.

Ainar: And—

Anders Wijkman: And I don't know him, but I know of him. 

Ainar: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I was just occasionally meet him. So it's just a matter of luck. When we discussed about the portfolio model, and which I know very well, and I like the concept. I told him that the problem is the portfolio model create the habit, where all money of all funds and private equity funds, government funds, pension funds, all just go to the winners, who was the number one. And nobody cared about who's number two, number three or even more. So everybody care who is number one in any industry. And that's create the interesting case, there we have asymmetry of attention. If you're number one, you have all attention. This is first point.

Second point, you mentioned about the trust, more and more the people, they lose trust to the government. And if there are no trust, there are no opportunity to communicate and to start to think for long-term. 

And these two things together, create absolutely dramatic situation. When no trust and winner take all all attention, not from government goals, but for the company goals. And everybody wants to follow for the company goals. And now the example of Elon Musk, so everybody follow his Twitter. And if tomorrow, Elon will share with us like the climate change is maybe not so dramatic and we can solve it within 10 years, in like the 10 years gaps, everybody will follow it, this will create another challenge to your government.

Anders Wijkman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ainar: Is to create a dialogue. So from all these seven main topics, what you mentioned—

Anders Wijkman: No, I have three more. 

Ainar: Okay, please go ahead.

Anders Wijkman: Yes, one is, of course, to rethink economics from the point of view that we have to work in alignment or in—we have to work—we have to organize the economy so it supports the natural systems and not violates the natural systems. 

And agriculture is a perfect example. I'm very attracted by conservation or regenerative agriculture that's now being developed in Australia, in the US, in France, where farmers understand the farming much better. So a symbiosis between ecology and economy is of course, has to—and there, you need to look at the education and training of economists. 

And then of course, what I said about systems in the beginning. We need to rethink science and education, how it's organized. I'm not saying we don't need specialists, because if I'm going to have an operation in my eye, I want a specialist. I don't want the generalist.

Ainar:  Yes. 

Anders Wijkman:  But we need we need the combination of both generalists, who would understand how things are interlinked, and specialists. And then what you're alluded to this idea that competition and self-interest should be the guiding principle. Of course, I agree with you. It's not good. And I think economists have read Adam Smith the wrong way. He was not saying that self-interest would be the only guiding principle. He was not saying that, he was a moral philosopher. So I agree with you, we need to broaden that perspective and we need to broaden the company laws, the company laws today, they give priority to shareholders, full stop. So if you are a CEO of a big company, you can be sued unless you tried to give priority to shareholders. But there are many stakeholders in the company and in a company's business.

Ainar: Right. You mentioned the about the “tried to build the dialogue”. Can you go more deeper about the dialogue, how it can look like? The combination of what kinds of resources or management or—let's go deeper on this topic.

Anders Wijkman: I have a friend in the Club of Rome. Her name is Nora Bateson, she is the daughter of Gregory Bateson, who was a big thinker in the 20th century. And she has developed something she calls Warm Data Lab, where she brings together people 40-50 people from all walks of life in the big room. And they sit down together and discuss a broad topic, like food production in the future or the energy system in the future. And she says, “Of the 3-4 hours, if this is well-governed or managed, people come to the meeting with very definite opinions on the issue. And when they leave after four hours, they realize, yes, my opinion is one but is not the only one. There are many other ways of looking at this. And we need much more cooperation and working together.”

So this Warm Data Lab, this way of organizing people at all kinds of levels, you can do it at the local level, regional level, national level come together, and you don't leave the room until you have some kind of a consensus on how to go about it.

So I think you need to develop techniques for how to dialogue and how to show respect for each other. It's not going to work everywhere. But she has been using this technique now in many, many different contexts. You know, in the inner cities of the US where you have a lot of crime and problems, even in China, and it works. So I'm quite optimistic that if you start using the right kind of communication tools, you can.

Then of course, technology, big data can help us. I'm not a technologist, I don't think that technology will solve all our problems, on the contrary. So that's another issue on my list. We need to put in place policy frameworks that guide technology for the benefit of mankind and not for the benefit of a few big companies. That's a big issue.

Ainar: Thank you. And my last question is, again, about the president of the world, and any president have vice president. And usually it's 5-7 people mostly, and the more biggest attention of President going to these seven people and who they are? And what the positions of this vice president should be? 

Anders Wijkman: First of all, I would pick some good women. Absolutely.

Ainar: It’s a position?

Anders Wijkman:  It's a position. No, no, no, but I think it's very important to realize that we have for too long been dominated by white males. And you know, just for the sake, it's not only a question of justice and equity and fairness, it's also a question of that women bring other perspectives to the fore. So that's one thing. Then I have--

Ainar: From vice president angle, like vice president of communication, vice president of steel, something like this. 

Anders Wijkman: Yes. There you got me, I would have to think that through carefully. 

Ainar: Okay.

Anders Wijkman: But, I think you could of course, start by asking yourself, what are the most important things in life? Well, I mean, food is very important. So one of them should, no doubt be vice president for food systems. 

Ainar: Okay. 

Alexander: Food, oceans, forests, biosphere, atmosphere and justice. One vice president. Who is the second? Yes.

Anders Wijkman: Yeah, yeah. 

Alexander: Because it's all interconnected. 

Anders Wijkman: Yes, that is. It is. That's why it's difficult.

Alexander: Absolutely. 

Anders Wijkman: Yes, that's why it's difficult. I think also you need somebody who is an expert on psychology because we understand humans very poorly. And I've learned this by experience, my youngest son is a psychologist and I've learned so much from him. And I always ask him, “Why isn't that knowledge spread in society? Why don't we benefit from all the learnings that psychologists have. So the social sciences, which focusing on how the brain works and how our psyche works, I think is very, very important in any kind of governance structure. So those are a few areas. I think entity and food, maybe entity, food and water are going to be critical in the future. And they are also linked together. So entity food, water, psychology, we don't need defense because everybody will work together.

Alexander: This is like, huge money we'll be free for us.

Anders Wijkman: Yes, it would. Well,  I think I stopped there.

Ainar: Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Anders. So insightful. Marek, please.

Anders Wijkman: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Alexander: Yes, Anders, and I have a last couple of questions. Please think about the people who you know, from your contacts, a lot of contacts, and maybe you could send us several names, our people interview with whom will be useful and fit for our format and the people who will be our viewers, subscribers and so forth, they will be inspired, they will take wisdom from these people and so forth. 

And the second thing is, I asked you last time, because we are thinking to publish the book, we are trying to find the right publisher. So it's a topic, that we are very interested in and we're interested to find the editor and to start to work with this agency of publishing houses as fast as possible, so. 

Anders Wijkman: Do you want the global publishing? 

Alexander: Yes.

Anders Wijkman: Okay. Let me think about those two.

Alexander: Nice.  

Anders Wijkman: When it comes to people, one person that I like, a lot is Kate Raworth, and she has written the book, Doughnut Economic, combining the planetary boundaries with the social boundaries. I will send you her name. 

Alexander: Nice. 

Anders Wijkman:  She is married to a guy called Roman Krznaric. I think he is from Croatia originally. He's written a book called The Good Ancestor. And he talks about short-term/long-term. By the way, one of the vice presidents would have one task only to make sure that every decision that is taken, takes into account future generations. That's very important. Build in the long term.

Alexander: From the perspective of 100 years or maybe 500 years.

Anders Wijkman: Yes, well, maybe the next seven generations or something like that. That's very important. But I will send you a list. And I will think about a publisher. Absolutely. 

Alexander: Nice. Thank you, Anders, so much.

Marek:  Anders. Thank you very much. And yes, thank you. I think we've asked a lot of questions. Maybe sometime in the future, we'll be able to return to ask many more, but for now, thank you very much. 

Anders Wijkman: Thank you. Good to meet you. And let's stay in touch.

Alexander: Yes, bye

Anders Wijkman: And good luck. Alexander: Bye for today. Yes ,thank you.

Ainar: Thank you.

Marek: Thank you.
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