“So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me” – Philemon 1:17

An article entitled “House approves historic bailout bill” by Carolyn Lockhead which appeared in last Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle concluded “… they helped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, engineer the biggest bailout of the banking system in U.S. history”.

My column last week was entitled “Bailout or Investment”. I stated then that my preference is to regard the US government intervention as an “investment” rather than the more dramatic and emotive term “bailout”. This is related to my perception that the role of government is to provide regulatory and service functions in the interest of its people.  Even though ostensibly it is a “bailout of the banking system”, government’s justification for intervening is to mitigate the impact of what could be a macro-economic disaster, if no action were taken.  I stated that “ I see the investment rather than bailout activity as an emergency care service where the government is acting on behalf of the people and for the people, not only for the owners of these businesses which are in trouble”.

Whether Bailout or Investment, it is not business as usual. There has been an impact on the world economic environment, the ripple effect from which will influence change in business and personal lives globally.

The events of the last week have led me to introduce an Amazon.com review by Lou Schuler of the 94 page book “Who Moved My Cheese?” authored by Spencer Johnson M.D. and first published in 1998. It is about “Embracing Change – An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in your Work and in your Life”.

Schuler states: “Change can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective. The message of “Who Moved My Cheese?” is that all can come to see it as a blessing, if they understand the nature of cheese and the role it plays in their lives. It is a parable that takes place in a maze. Four beings live in that maze: Sniff and Scurry are mice–nonanalytical and nonjudgmental, they just want cheese and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Hem and Haw are “little people,” mouse-size humans who have an entirely different relationship with cheese. It’s not just sustenance to them; it’s their self-image. Their lives and belief systems are built around the cheese they’ve found. Most of us reading the story will see the cheese as something related to our livelihoods–our jobs, our career paths, the industries we work in–although it can stand for anything, from health to relationships. The point of the story is that we have to be alert to changes in the cheese, and be prepared to go running off in search of new sources of cheese when the cheese we have runs out”.

Schuler’s message draws attention to the principles (1) change is the one thing that is constant in life; (2) there is the need to prepare for change, to monitor change and adapt to change; (3) change requires movement in a new direction, since old beliefs tend to hold us back; (4) one must not be afraid to change and must learn to enjoy change; and (5) one must be prepared to change again, again and again.

In the wake of this ripple effect which will influence change in business and personal lives, emerging nations like those in the Caribbean, in particular, must refocus, they must adjust their focus, they must focus their attention on things new and different. As I stated before in this column “Trading among ourselves in an expanded Caribbean market is a laudable objective. But, alas, it is not enough if we are going to increase our growth rate significantly. We must ‘leap-frog’ the expansion of the economy. This can only be done by providing services to an expanded global market. Individual countries should wriggle their way through the legs of economic giants in search of niche markets compatible with their potential to supply”. This strategic refocus is even more urgent and important in the context of last week’s happenings.

Tourism is the major industry in the Caribbean. It was heartening to note in the local press last week that one major sustainable tourism issue was being discussed – Climate Change. Tourists were being discouraged from travelling on long-haul flights due to the high amount of carbon emissions involved. Carbon emissions have a deleterious effect on climate change. Climate change gives rise to sea-level rise. The impact of sea level rise, at the current rate, will render coastal hotel plant useless within the next fifty years, when those born at the turn of the century will be middle aged. Fewer long-haul flights impact on our economy. The answer: greening, production of bio-fuels and other smart solutions. We must refocus.

Counterpart Caribbean at the Future Centre and the Sandwatch Foundation will be mounting a conference with the theme ‘Mobilizing Caribbean Youth to Adapt to Climate Change’ in the first week of November 2008 in Barbados. This event will bring together youth and their teachers from ten Caribbean countries to involve them directly in the climate change agenda. In this way, future efforts to contribute solutions will be sustained.