Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Monday, September 11, 2017

The role of Asia in the world: a speech by Chandran Nair at the Summer Academy of the Club of Rome in Florence

Chandran Nair speaking today (Sep 11, 2017) at the Summer Academy of the Club of Rome in Florence.

I am trying to follow all that's being said at the Summer Academy of the Club of Rome, and it is difficult. Truly, a lot is being said and discussed and much of it is hugely interesting and stimulating. I'll try to report about at least some of the discussions and, today, I was especially impressed by the talk of Chandran Nair, chairman of the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT) Institute. 

After Yugay's presentation of yesterday, Nair brought another non-Western viewpoint to the school, in this case from Asia. As you see in the picture, above, Nair notes that this region includes a larger population than the rest of the world. He argues strongly that the "West" has lost or is losing its former leadership in culture, science, and politics, and that it is now time for Asia to assert a new role and pick up the sustainability challenge for the whole world. 

Nair's presentation was hugely successful with the participants and it generated plenty of questions and discussions, as you see in the pictures below.

Rather than trying to summarize Nair's talk myself, I think I can reproduce a recent paper of him for the World Economic Forum, below. But there is a lot more to learn from Nair's ideas and insights.


After 50 years of progress, it's time for ASEAN's next economic revolution

By Chandran Nair
For the World Economic Forum

This year on 8 August, South-East Asia celebrates an important anniversary: it will be 50 years since the Bangkok Declaration, which established the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), was signed. The organization at the time was much smaller, with a combined population of just 184 million. Member states were largely undeveloped; even Singapore, the wealthiest member, only had a GDP per capita of $600. Indonesia, the largest and poorest member, had a GDP per capita of $56. Almost three-quarters of ASEAN’s population lived in rural areas.

Half a century of population growth and the addition of six new members has tripled ASEAN’s population to 625 million. Only China, India and the European Union have bigger populations. ASEAN countries have also undergone significant development. Singapore is an advanced economy. Thailand and Malaysia are comfortably middle-income. The Philippines has one of the region’s fastest growing economies, helped in part by a highly-educated, English-speaking and globally competitive population. Indonesia’s massive and growing population will make it one of the world’s most important countries, and Vietnam’s rapid growth may make it a model for economic development and poverty alleviation akin to China.

ASEAN’s record of development, poverty alleviation and conflict resolution is a true success story. Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, has called ASEAN a catalyst for peace, a geopolitical miracle and the most successful regional organization after the European Union.

But ASEAN’s economic success has brought with it new challenges. One example is ASEAN’s forests, some of the world’s oldest, which were cleared to make way for agricultural and commodity production: ASEAN’s forest coverage has been reduced from 72% in 1970 to 42% today. More than that, the solutions to these challenges will not come from outside the region. ASEAN’s next 50 years will take place in a wholly new geopolitical, economic and environmental context. The solutions previously used by other countries are no longer feasible in a world marked by increasing interdependence, growing disparities, environmental degradation, climate change and increasingly strict resource constraints.

But there will also be new opportunities to develop even bolder ideas for regional cooperation and coexistence, along with strategies that may be better than what has come before.


  1. (Nair) argues strongly that the "West" has lost or is losing its former leadership in culture, science, and politics, and that it is now time for Asia to assert a new role and pick up the sustainability challenge for the whole world."
    You tell me what you boast about and i'll tell you what you lack.
    Cultural leadership ASEAN (not the same as Asia, I know)? It is a cultural midget, a backwater, nothing in comparison with present day Britain whose soft-power (its cultural industry) humbles ASEAN and probably Asia as a whole.
    Britain, that small island, and perhaps I should say England -which is smaller than Uruguay- and even I could say its capital London, with just 9 million people produces more and better cultural objects than the hundreds of million of ASEAN subjects.

    Music? Bossa nova and Tango [Brazil and Argentina, respectively, Western countries certainly] are worth more than all of Asian music put together, and don't make me laugh with Asian cinema, the few bits I have watched of Bollywood trash are at the level of Spanish cinema in 1950, at the time of Franco.
    A pretty young woman with a bare midriff looks with longing at a handsome Indian man, the son of a rich man, and at the first excuse they start dancing flamenco !
    Science? I don't see any ASEAN spacecraft landing on the Moon, Mars or studying comets and other celestial objects.

    And as to the Environment the only sure thing is that the Asiatics are destroying their own ecology, killing their plants, orangutans, frogs and everything for the sake of growing oil palms to make money for a few greedy capitalists.

    1. Before you insult and disparage other cultures you should learn some history. SE Asia was home to a host of large empires since a thousand years ago, from the Khmer to the Burmese and Siamese kingdoms, and the seafaring Majapahit in what is now Indonesia. All these while people in Europe were just coming out of the dark ages. But I would be as prejudiced and judgmental as you if I were to make comparisons. No cultures are superior to others, each is unique and add to the diversity of human civilization.

      Measured by western standards of material wealth, yes Asia is still poorer, but then they were exploited by imperialist westerners who took all the resources back home to enrich themselves during the last few hundred years.

      And btw if you looked at a map, India is not part of ASEAN even. So don't be a bigoted eurocentric ignoramus and get some education.

  2. ASEAN as an entity is merely one in name, and cannot be compared to the EU with it's common market for labor exchange, common currency etc. It is a collection of very disparate countries that are not even united in most views. The only thing in common is geographical proximity.
    There is simply no room left on the planet for these places to follow the growth trajectory of western nations, and yet the idea of resource and environmental limits to growth is not even hinted at in any of the discussions and forums in this part of the world. One can only despair when faced with the statistics of destruction and expansion.

  3. Here you can find some questions with answers on ASEAN



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)