Fools don’t see impending danger

Wednesday, 1 February 2012 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Increasing risks and probability of natural disasters

Consider the volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Congo, the destructive earthquakes that hit Christchurch, eastern Turkey and the East Coast of Tohoku in Japan, as well as the recent flooding in Thailand and one thing becomes clear about natural disasters – their risks, probability and consequences are higher than ever.

The recent flooding in Thailand appears to tell the same story. Considered as a “production hub” by a wide-range of industries, Thailand suffered from major economic drawbacks when severe flooding hit the country early last year, causing massive supply chain disruptions, particularly in the automotive and computer hard-disk drive sectors.

In the case of earthquakes, for example, the United States Geological Survey reports that there were a total number of 19,849 occurrences worldwide as of 1 December last year – 2,342 of which measured 5.0 and above in the Richter scale.

Though it’s true that this data does not prove that there is an increase in its probability or frequency, it is unmistakably apparent that the devastations caused by earthquakes in this day and age are more dramatic. And this is taking into account the extent of the aftermaths of this year’s occurrences.

But what exactly changed the ratio? It may simply be due to the fact that the population at risk has increased. According to the State of World Population 2011 report by the United Nations Populations Fund, there are now an estimated number of seven billion people around the globe. Sadly, this could be translated as to having more casualties, fatalities and/or property damages in the event of a natural disaster today. Also concurrent with the increasing human population is the inevitable change in the environment – meaning continuous rise in carbon pollution, decrease and such. Unfortunately, environmental concerns such as climate change are still being overlooked and somewhat addressed inadequately despite the alarming consequences they bring to communities and businesses.

Hence, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts more intense heat waves, frequent and heavier rain falls, rising sea levels and other environmental disasters throughout the 21st century.

All in all, natural disasters today cause fatalities, property damages and financial/asset losses at an extremely alarming measure. In a press release by reinsurance company Munich Re, 2011 is the “highest-ever loss year on record” due to natural disasters, with losses amounting to more than five times higher than the first-half average for the past 10 years. Indeed, these things should serve as a “wake-up call” to everyone because when it comes to natural disasters everyone is at risk.

Malaysia’s first green data centre

DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd launched its Technology Operations Centre in Shah Alam to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by more than 40% by next year. The purpose-built data centre of 3½ storey spanning 60,000 sqft of usable space for data servers and telecommunications switches also houses the company’s Fast Recovery Centre and office space.

Growing dependence on technology poses serious risks

For years now, businesses and governments have been reaping the rewards of a fast-growing and developing cyber-world. Today, most specially, it is the norm for businesses to incorporate gadgets and other technologies such as cloud computing or social networking in their daily functions and operations.

With these advancements in the cyber-world, however, also comes the increase in the rate of risks such as cybercrimes. In fact, in the World Economic Forum Global Risks 2011 Sixth Edition report, cyber-security issues were mentioned first in the “five risks to watch” list, ahead of weapons of mass destruction.

Relevantly, in a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 34% of 3,877 respondents from 78 countries (who are also senior executives and representatives of different businesses) answered yes when asked if they have experienced economic crime in the last 12 months. According to PwC, this is a 13% increase from their previous survey in 2009.

When it comes to the most common cause of cybercrimes, computer viruses or malware was ranked number one in the Norton Cybercrime Report 2011. In the same report, it was also mentioned that cybercrimes via mobile devices are likely to increase. Vulnerability to cybercrimes, however, is not the only implication of technology dependency in today’s businesses. What these surveys failed to reveal are other concerns such as the possible decrease in employee productivity and the inability of some personnel to perform tasks “manually.” The greatest pitfall today is ‘ignorance’. To be computer ‘savvy’ is the way forward.

Other risks and thoughts to ponder

Indeed, there may be several other issues out there, such as contagion and riots, which businesses should also look into when preparing their plans for 2012. In fact, other issues that were included in the “five risks to watch” list are demographic challenges, resource security, retrenchment from globalisation and – as mentioned earlier – weapons of mass destruction. In that same report, the Word Economic Forum (WEF) highlighted that these issues have implications (but not necessarily collectively) on global income, social stability, migration, commodity prices and resources, globalisation and the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons among others.

Issues on the proliferation of nuclear weapons can be made relevant by considering the nuclear disaster that recently occurred in Japan – which, as we all know, caused enormous problems to businesses around the world.

Now, putting the 2012 phenomenon in context, it would indeed be rational for someone to expect of a catastrophic year ahead considering all of these issues at hand. However, comes to mind a popular quote by author Richard Bach: “The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.”

This probably means that, at the end of the day, it’s just a matter of looking if the “glass is half full or half empty.” Although indeed, we have different opinions about the 2012 phenomenon or such beliefs, the reality is that tragedies will always be part of human life.

Greed in the wake of disaster

The 1% own or control all the systems of the Earth. First and foremost, they control the macro- economics of the world, which ultimately means they control, directly or indirectly, the communications of the world, the health care services of the world, the food and agricultural services, the transportation, the mining, energy, and industrial processes of the world.

To facilitate and consolidate their control over everything, they colonise the governments and political processes around the world, so that most politicians and legislators serve their interests. To enforce the laws and regulations tailored to suit their interests, they colonise the militaries and police forces of the world. They are insatiable in their greed for money, power, and control. They have most of the world’s resources and assets in their control and they want more: they want it all.

None of this is utopian in the least because the present world is destroying not only billions of human lives annually but destroying the very bio-system that supports life on Earth. Without real transformation we will destroy ourselves through vicious wars of extermination, global pollution, and ultimate climate collapse.

The most practical and common sense thing we can do is join together in a global social contract. It is time we overcome our parochial nationalistic demands and join in solidarity with people everywhere to ratify one survival constitution for the world.

Wake-up call

In the wake of all of this, what do our professionals do? Compete for visibility and popularity in the corporate world; what do business leaders do? Make more profit and advertise it to boost their capability; what do politicians do? Earn as much as possible and ensure strategies are in place to stay in power as long as the plan lets you. What do nationalities do? Protect their borders zealously. But what is the reality? The world is dying!

(The writer is the Managing Director & CEO, McQuire Rens & Jones (Pvt) Ltd. He has held Regional Responsibilities of two Multinational Companies of which one, Smithkline Beecham International, was a Fortune 500 company before merging to become GSK. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Nalin has been consultant to assignments in the CEB, Airport & Aviation Services and setting up the PUCSL. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka. He has won special commendation from the UN Headquarters in New York for his record speed in re-profiling and re-structuring the UNDP. He has lead consultancy assignments for the World Bank and the ADB. Nalin is an executive coach to top teams of several multinational and blue chip companies. He is a Director on the Board of Entrust Securities Plc.)