Rotary can influence top policymakers to produce needed changes
Jean-François Rischard was the highlight of the Rotary Alumni Celebration. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
The world faces several multifaceted and critical problems that cannot be solved by individual nations or existing international systems, says Jean-François Rischard, author of High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them. From climate change and biodiversity loss to water shortages, the challenges may seem daunting. The good news: All the global problems he describes have cost-effective solutions that are technically and politically feasible -- and Rotary has a lot to contribute.
Rischard, a former Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar who studied at Harvard Business School in 1974-75 and recently retired as World Bank vice president for Europe, was a highlight of the daylong Rotary Alumni Celebration on Saturday, 20 June, in Birmingham, England. Attendees included Foundation alumni as well as many Rotarians.
Rischard called for a paradigm shift away from the nation-state approach of solving problems, which is based on territorial concerns and national election cycles, to a more global approach with a view toward the future. "Problems like [swine] flu, global warming, and maritime pollution don't care about national boundaries, and they require long-term solutions," Rischard said.
He explained that while the current economic crisis was absolutely avoidable and reversible, there are four far more dangerous crises coming that are predictable, harder to avoid, and totally irreversible: a massive aging and pension problem facing rich countries by 2015, a scarcity of petroleum from traditional sources by 2025, a collapse of several major ecosystems by 2035, and climate change worsening intensely by 2045.
Rischard suggested that Rotary is in a great position to influence top policymakers to produce the needed changes.
"You have acquired your credentials through your polio program, which you are so close to achieving," he said. "And you have 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries, plus 105,000 alumni. That is a hell of a mafia -- a mafia for good."
He encouraged alumni and Rotarians to keep their global perspective on humanitarian issues, especially by supporting literacy and education projects.
"If you finance schools that are moving toward a new mind-set of global identity that stands above an individual's local and religious identities, it would be a really good buy," he said.
Rischard is already working on his next book, which he said will be a more direct wake-up call.
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