Saturday, November 22, 2008

Signs of intelligent life

The National Intelligence Council has published a new Global Trends Review. It makes for interesting reading. The Guardian published a "book review" article as their lead this morning, and I was able to download the whole thing.

Mostly, I was interested in the inclusion of climate change and oil depletion as two important drivers of system changes. But I was also fascinated by the scenario-spinning the various "intel" wonks do in this document.

Unity College is in the middle of a trends-scanning process right now, as prelude to an academic overhaul, long overdue. Change at our small college has been accretionary for a long time, and we have some fairly unwieldy bits of curriculum attached in somewhat random fashion here and there.

This is no great crime in the world of academia. Most colleges and universities suffer from much of the same: a natural result of well-meaning efforts to be inclusive, universal, and liberal (in the sense of the liberal arts and sciences). We've long known we needed to cut some of it out and pare down, so a team of professors is consulting widely internally and externally.

What the NIC brief shows that is relevant to our process is that environmental concerns are now considered important in the overall international system. They always really were important, of course. After all, where does water, food, fuel, and shelter come from, except the environment?

But for many years it's been considered perfectly reasonable for even the smartest analysts of public affairs to ignore them. Business and security were the main concerns for serious people, and environmental issues could be shunted off to the side for treehuggers and hippies.

Well, try doing business and staying secure without a well-functioning environment.

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