Stuck in the short term mode?

29 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Stuck in the short term mode? Global warming

eBusiness Weekly

Clifford Shambare

In life in general, we come across systems and processes that require us to consider a short or long term view of same. In between these two extremes are various modes of which ‘medium term’ is the most used one. Of course, short or long term situations can be relative depending on circumstances.

Here, let us use some examples: Global issues such as climate change go beyond human imagination in terms of the time involved. Such a situation presents us with a mind boggling challenge.
This is why it is proving to be very difficult for the powers that be to deal with this phenomenon.

In this case we have the so called rich countries that own over 90 percent of the world’s wealth seeming to be reluctant to change their mode of fossil fuel usage.
Fossil fuels take centre stage in the current world order since their contribution to the wealth therein is immense.

Today’s world cannot run without energy and energy is tightly linked to the wealth generation systems of that part of the world through its capital markets.

So if you remove this item from the scheme of things, you render the big boys poor. So, now what you have is a serious confrontation between the fossil fuel and the alternative energy groups.
The first group started by trying to resist advice from climate change scientists about the impending catastrophe (to) be caused by global warming due to the use of fossil fuels.

But due to pressure being brought to bear on them by the others, they are now being compelled to try and respond to this phenomenon. The most worrisome part of this situation though, is their reluctance to change.

As a result they are now only contemplating starting to reduce the use of fossil fuels by 30 percent by 2030.
Meanwhile, scientists are estimating that global temperatures are currently rising at a rate of 1.50 per annum. At that rate temperatures are estimated to rise to 20 degrees per annum. At the lower estimate, by 2030 temperatures would have risen by as much as 10.50 and at upper rate by 140. But then, both these temperatures are lethal to most creatures! So here you can imagine real Armageddon!

On the one hand, some of us are thinking [that] climate change is a joke, an imagination of some mad scientists, hence their obstinacy.
On the other hand, those of us who are generally ignorant— uneducated—,do not even know about such a phenomenon as global warming. Consequently, they either regard such matters as none of their business, or they just become resigned to the situation if ever, or whenever, they hear of it.

So here we can deduce that attitudes matter much in human affairs. But then, attitudes are shaped by one’s exposure.

At this juncture, let us gravitate to the short term mode. This is a mode in which our future is easier to visualise for most of us. This is so especially for those less exposed to wider horizons. For example, in such a realm, even a period of five to ten years is a long time.

To a beggar, everyday is almost a complete life. Compare this with the climate change scenario above.
Now, there are several reasons why someone ends up living in a short or long term mode. Knowledge, exposure and (wealth) endowment are the main ones. Interestingly, they are all linked. But how?
Here is how: Knowledge comes in a number of forms in which the question: Knowledge of what becomes relevant.

That said, in order to remain simple and not to lose our way in the philosophical realm here, let us keep our discourse as close to the material world as possible.

So, the knowledge being referred to here is that of the means of survival and, at higher level, that of achieving [a state] of prosperity. In such circumstances, any people who are able to convert natural resources—in some cases referred to as raw materials—to forms that enhance value of the latter, have throughout history, been the ones with the knowledge to build the means that can take them to faraway places to collect more of those raw materials.

They use this strategy because they have either exhausted their own local sources of the raw material concerned, or they want to hoard it for the future.

So far, they have used such attributes to conquer, and (sometimes) to seize, the same resources, from the indigenes of those territories to which they have gone. They also possess a knowledge of history and to some extent, of the future. This is an attribute that imparts considerable power to them and their systems.

In the process, they learn about the wider world. (This is the exposure referred to here, although the term exposure in general, can refer to other contexts outside this discourse). The end result of this knowledge is material and other forms of wealth, hence the link between and among the three attributes of knowledge, exposure and wealth endowment.

These phenomena were quite significant during the period of enlightenment and mercantilism, starting from the 10th Century or thereabouts. They are largely responsible for the wealth of the so called ‘rich world’— that is, the OECD economies.

Today, the rich world in general, has a long term view of the world around them. The wealth they possess enables them to appreciate and apply such a view in their systems.

The advantage of such an attribute is the ability to cater for the future of one’s future generations.
The current stance being taken by these countries to the matter of climate change attests to such assertion (see above).

When one is in such a state of wealth endowment and mode, they are able to hoard many things—valuable minerals such as gold and diamonds; food, money, and energy, being the major ones—for the future. Barring other negative happenings, such a condition ensures perpetual life [for them].
Now, let us shift our attention to the other categories of people that inhabit this planet, Earth. Here we find the emerging and developing or underdeveloped economies. Obviously, in terms of wealth endowment, the former are close— sometimes too close for the comfort of the rich world— to same. Logically therefore, their attitude and mode with respect to time, are creeping close to those of the rich world.

But come to the last category and you find a completely different picture. This is a world of short term thinking and/attitudes and consequent behaviour(s). Now, for someone to be in such a mode they have to have remained behind others in every sense.
Our attention here is now directed at the Africans in general, and Zimbabweans in particular. Africans were not part of the Industrial Revolution that brought about the machine.

Now, we can consider the machine as a system or a (positive) phenomenon. It took the inventors and users of the machine many years to perfect. Even today, their attitude is to treat the machine as work in progress. This is the reason why versions of a particular machine keep changing all the time. Not only that; new versions of machines keep cropping up all the time into the manufacturing arena, for example.
A machine has many advantages over handiwork.

It is faster; it can make large numbers of similar items with good finishing, and so forth. Furthermore, it can tolerate much higher temperatures than the human being. It can access places that the human being cannot. It can cut and grind hard substances better than human power.
But to the African, a machine comes from the West, and now the East, but not from his own continent.
However, to acquire a machine, one needs money.

And both the machine and money are referred to as capital. But in today’s world with its breakneck speeds, one also needs technology more than ever before.
Overall, this is an environment in which the African is almost at sea. He has no money and consequently, no machine and no technology. This is despite his thinking that he is now also part of the technological realm.

Because of this state of affairs, the African has found it difficult to take over the industries created in his territory by the colonist, or to found new ones.
Consequently, Zimbabwe’s industries have remained under white capital with its connections to Western capital. So after the capital flight of 2008 a sizeable number of companies were closed by their owners, the said capitalists.

The result was a loss of jobs for the majority of the Africans.
This state of affairs brought about a kaleidoscope of reactions from the different categories of Africans.
Within this whole group were those who had gone to war; those who had fought on the side of the colonists, and those who were too young to be involved.

Naturally, those who went to war are not supposed to be vacillating in terms of their political affiliation.
They will support ZANU(PF) come hell or high water. As could be expected, those who were in support of the colonists were the first to cry foul of the ruling party for chasing away the white man with his capital, factories and jobs.

They shared, and still share, these attitudes with the younger generation who were not involved in the said war and whose population has been growing in leaps and bounds for the past three decades or so.
Over the years, a situation has developed in which the unemployment rate has risen as high as anything between 40% and 90%. In those circumstances, those who were unemployed were immediately thrown into the short term mode. In this mode— especially in the urban areas — people just run around looking for a dollar to buy food and other immediate needs.

In this same mode, people do not want to be concerned with anything medium or long term in nature. The reasons for this attitude are varied. One is the way they have been brought up; the other is to do with the pressure brought to bear on them by the pace of today’s lifestyles. And yet the other is sheer laziness on their part.

Now, this is not a sustainable mode by any aorta of imagination. Here are the disadvantages of such a mode: Firstly, you rely on formal employment, and if there is little or none, you can end up starving. Secondly, you cannot engage in any project that can give you some income if it demands long term effort and patience. Thirdly, such attitudes create by default, negativity and cynicism among the populace, particularly the young. Once these conditions have become established in the community, they become entrenched therein so that they become difficult to cure.

We find these attitudes prevalent among the townies, some of whom were granted land under the Land Reform but are unwilling to leave the urban areas to the rural areas to till it.
These people end up being involved in unsavoury activities. If ever any work is found for them, they may still end up not willing to work, even where working conditions may be congenial.

For example, as it is, one finds that the turnover from the agricultural training colleges is quite high but ironically, farmers cannot find suitable candidates for management jobs on their farms.
Sadly, whenever potential employees are asked for the reason for their unwillingness to work, they give their own reasons which on the surface, sound cogent.

They allege that black farmers do not want to pay workers properly. So ultimately, it becomes difficult for one to establish the truth regarding such a matter.
But whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that a short term mode can be a trap for many people. Ultimately, it is the economy that suffers.

Shambare is an agriculture economist and is reachable on 0718280228

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