We are not accepting any more submissions. The ones that were sent are below.
Do you want to share your views and experiences about the key issues facing the globe today?
For nearly 12 months, Principal Voices has been debating four of the most important challenges of the modern era: urbanization, the environment, global economic development and the interaction between corporations and communities.
As well as essays on each subject, the Principal Voices themselves have submitted white papers and video vignettes on their areas of expertise, and we have held round table debates around the globe.
We have also heard from the thousands of Principal Voices readers who have sent in comments.
Now it is your chance to explain at greater length how the issues discussed here affect you and your life.
A small number of Principal Voices readers have already submitted longer essays for the Your Voices section (read their contributions here)
Do you want to write an essay for Your Voices? Pick one of the four subject area (urbanization, the environment, economic development or the collaborative corporation) and tell us your thoughts about it, particularly how it affects your life, your family's life or your country.
Initial comments should be 250 WORDS MAXIMUM and will be printed on this page.
The best contributors will be asked to send in a longer essay, with a photograph and biographical details, to go on our main Your Voices page.
We need to provide better public transport. Let me give some examples.
Firstly I take the UK. In the UK we have very good public transport system, be it bus, tube (local train) -- we have buses every 10 minutes from every corner of the city (Nottingham), and if we don't want the bus, we have a tube from one corner of the city to the other corner. There is no need to travel by car in the city.
This way, if we have better transport systems, we will easily avoid the cars on the highways as well. I myself didn't use a car when I was in Nottingham, since there was no need for it. And I never felt that I needed a car. I also didn't see any pollution in there.
Secondly I take Shanghai. Here in this city, you have an underground train to each corner of the city and people never think of using a car to come to the office, and the duration between each train on the same route is five minutes. That makes the people here opt for the underground train to commute, and while commuting they do many things, like playing games, reading books and even have a nap. One of my colleagues comes by underground train by traveling for 90 minutes and he looks fresh and energetic every day.
Can we look so fresh and energetic by driving for two hours on the traffic studded roads? Currently I am in Shanghai, I travel by local trains (instead of taxi, to roam around the city).I don't see any pollution here.
Thirdly, I take the U.S. I have never traveled to the U.S., but I have heard that without a car one can't survive. What better example can we have for global warming, this being the most powerful and economically strong country in the world?
They should provide good public transport systems (like in the UK and Shanghai). If we have good public transport we can remove at least 10% to 30% of cars on the road, a huge number. And we can see instant results.
Fourthly, I take Singapore. I was told by one of my friends who is currently in Singapore that buying a car in Singapore is almost impossible, since the government has imposed so many restrictions on buying cars that people would never think to buy a car -- for example one need to pay 200% tax, and there would be an interview where we need to give exact reason why we want to buy a car (nobody has a good reason since there is very good public transport system), and parking fee expensive.
Fifth, I take up India. Being such a big country, it has very narrow roads, many people and a lot of traffic. There is no good public transport system, though we do have a public bus transport system, but that does not solve the problem for such a big country with more than one billion people.
If you travel for one hour in a city bus in any Indian city, you will never have the energy to work once you reach the office (if you reach on time). We need to have local train system in all the cities. Wherever you have good public transport system, we see less cars on the road.
In summary, we need to get very good public transport systems and then people will never choose to travel by car to commute in the cities for daily work.
Solution: Provide good public transport systems like buses (better to have electric energy buses, as we have in Shanghai) and local trains. Impose a 200% tax on whoever want to buy a car and give them an interview on why he/she needs to buy a car. Make the parking fee so high that the car never comes on to road (in cities at least). Auto makers need to concentrate on developing new engines which do good to the environment, like electric cars.
The negative impact of urbanization is often a focus of discussions and reports. Traffic, housing, and air quality are often cited casualties of urbanization. However, urbanization provides a millennial opportunity to provide education to more people than ever recorded in modern history.
Urbanization is caused by increased numbers of people moving into our cities. These people are often migrating from rural areas characterized by limited resources, lack of technology, inefficient schools, and little or no access to the cultural arts.
City planners that seize upon the opportunity to plan to educate masses of people who would have otherwise not been educated, will provide one of the greatest advances to mankind. As more of the world's people are educated, urbanization will prove to have a positive impact on economic development and the environment. Urbanization, while posing some challenges to our desire to be convenienced without delays, will provide advantages to the global population that will significantly decrease the crevice between the haves and the have nots.
Global warming -- people keep talking about it but do almost nothing about it. Why don't we do something small to reduce pollution?
For example; bicycle day. Make once a month a bike day (once a week would be better). No private cars are allowed to drive except public transportation, ambulance, police and fireman.
That might help to reduce pollution. And lawbreakers should be punished severely. It is just an idea from my little brain.
We must be aware of all the problems that mankind is facing: environmental pollution, poverty and other conflicts.
Although we have a boom in knowledge as well as development of all the economic, social, technological and cultural domains, we have lost many things. Our unique world, little by little, is being destroyed by ourselves. We are so selfish that we do not know that we are living under the same roof.
The environment is becoming worse. Everyday, you hear the TV, radio saying that somewhere there are savage floods; somewhere severe droughts -- all because of mankind's actions.
For our demands, which are never satisfied, we are exploiting all our planet's resources.
For further development of mankind, we must set aside all the differences, selfish interests, we must be united so that we will be able to solve all problems that are giving us headaches.
In Vietnam, we have a proverb saying that unity is an unbeatable power. If we know to love and protect our green planet, it will know to love and protect us from all disasters.
I absolutely think that we collectively have a responsibility towards our environment. It is life, and we must preserve it or face the worst catastrophes ever.
Scientists do not have an idea of what could become of our planet if we do not find sustainable ways to live. The so-called superpower nations have a responsibility which most of them have largely neglected. America, for example, has failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol, citing economic reasons. This has no basis, because when you totally deplete the environment and its resources your economy automatically collapses. Healthy people drive the economy, and at the rate we are going our planet will not be healthy enough for us to live on.
Where i live in Lagos, this year has been extremely warm, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees centigrade sometimes. I have lived in the city all my life and have never felt this sort of heat before.
As I said, we all have a responsibility towards our environment. Conserve energy when you don't need to use it, little things like turning off your tap and your lights can make a huge difference.
We also need to educate people on the possible disaster that lies ahead if we don't take steps to stem emissions and put our environment first.
Truthfully, most people don't know that their actions have severe consequences. I think as much awareness as given to AIDS campaigns should be given to environmental campaigns on sustaining our environment. It's our only home, we have no substitute!
Environmental problems are a significant problem for humanity. It is even more appalling to know that the humans who are sustained by the environment are the major agents of environmental degradation.
Thumbs up to Principal Voices, which informs people about the environment in which they live.
I have personally gained so much in the area of environmental preservation. I have planted some trees and also encouraged my friends to do the same. I do not burn waste any longer, because I now know that this releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, etc, which increases the retention of heat in the atmosphere, thereby causing global warming.
Global warming caused by humans is an ideology, not a scientifically proven fact.
I believe in moderation in all things and I recycle, use efficient energy practices in my home and respect other living things and the environment. However, I do not apologize for being a human being on this planet nor for having children, just as I expect no apologies from ants or elephants, the weather or dirt!
We are here on this planet and there is room enough for all and plenty to go around. The needful thing today is not to obsess about the environment, about which we should be careful and innovative. The needful thing is that every person knows that they are here for a reason, that there is good only they can do and that when they know what it is, they do it.
There are people who betray themselves when they don't do the good thing, and so they seek an artificial morality to replace the authentic one that they fail. I think that there are probably many environmentalists in that category. So, environmental zealots, take care of your unique stewardship first! You might think the environment is it, but are you using it to avoid something else?
It is gratifying to see that the debate on global warming is (belatedly) shifting from whether it is actually taking place to how we should deal with it. The evidence that our lifestyle is seriously harming our environment is now so massive that you need to be wilfully and woefully ignorant not to accept it.
Unfortunately, it seems rather unlikely that we can trust our politicians to do the right thing. Companies, too, will resist amending their behaviour in any meaningful way without a shift in consumer patterns or other significant economic incentives to do so.
This would indicate that there needs to be a fundamental change in attitudes on the part of the man in the street; we, all of us, need to wake up to the fact that we will have to accept disruptions in our lifestyle and a "lower" living-standard if we want to hand over a habitable planet to coming generations. Once we accept that, it will become politically viable for governments and financially viable for companies to do the right thing.
As an elderly European diplomat told me not long ago: "We need to deal with the root causes of terrorism in a more effective way, we need to prevent the spread of WMDs, we need to do a great deal more to fight poverty and disease. But all those things must now be secondary to stemming global warming. Doing that will be your generation's great struggle, your Second World War".
The environment, as we all realize has, become unbalanced. When we look at one country compared with the next, it is a wonder the environment has sustained itself this well for so long. Environmental unbalance will be with us as countries become more industrialized that once before had no industrialization.
While some countries are becoming less dependent on fossil fuels, making changes over to biodegradable products and passing strict environmental laws, other countries are now just acquiring industrialization processes that America and other countries had 20 to 50 years ago.
So, as we try to clean the environment in one part of the world, the same processes that others are abandoning are destroying other parts of the environment. As each of these countries’ economic situations improve, the more reliant they will become on industrialization. Until everyone around the world can work together on some type of economic equality, environmental unbalance will always be a major problem with which to contend.
Creating environmental and economic balance without creating social unrest between countries is a serious issue that needs addressing by all countries. As countries feel left behind and their individual securities threatened, the environment around us will continue to deplete.
Environmental security as we look at it today will continue to take second place to economic security. This order needs to be reversed before we are all forced to face the same consequences economically and environmentally.
Yet another meeting on climate change ended recently at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi. This meeting, like many others before it, has demonstrated the extreme urgency for the world in treating the ominous signs of the effects of global warming.
The meetings point to the fact that the world is headed for tougher times, and that if we do not take urgent and swift measures to change our environmental behaviour, there may not be a future.
Our response to environmental issues must take a radical approach because we have sufficient doomsday predictions from scientists.
In 1990, when scientists completed the United Nations inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC), the United Nations called for multilateral negotiations and, indeed, most governments signed up.
Today, nearly 17 years later, nothing much has been done to stem the greenhouse gas emissions. If the global warming challenge could have taken a military security perspective, perhaps as someone has pointed out, we would be basing our policy response on the worst-case scenario and not the best-guess consensus.
Billions of dollars will have to be invested in renewable and efficient-energy technologies, just as billions are being put into military hardware.
The climate change meeting in Nairobi has further shown that the threat of global warming is well upon us. We have to confront this as crisis if we are mobilising for warfare. And what is the evidence?
Our planet is creaking under the full weight of six billion inhabitants while water resources shrink, fossil fuels are depleted. Incredible amounts of refuse and toxic chemicals that seep from every pore of the earth are deposited.
The global enemy today is not the threat of terrorism, but environmental destruction and poverty. If nothing is done to change this, we will not have much time left for conferences on climate change. These UN meetings are the result of failure.
How would I be prepared to contribute to the reduction in human contributions to global warming?
If you look at the sources of C02 emissions into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming, there are countries and there are large scale activities that make up a large share of the pie.
As an individual, it is my duty to lobby my government at whichever level to push for efficiencies in private and public polluting, and to push for the development of more efficient and clean methods and techniques to address every facet of human life, from transportation to heating, cooling, recycling, etc.
What I as an individual can do in some form of simple way, is to plant a tree, or pay for the planting of a tree, in a vulnerable environment.
In Haiti, there is so much denudation and soil loss from deforestation that the situation has become dire.
How much ultraviolet radiation in that environment is re-radiated into the atmosphere due to lack of absorptive vegetation and soils?
If ordinary people could pay for locals to plant sustainable trees in a well designed program, ordinary people could make a difference there in the medium and long term. ut I want to plant trees also in the urban environment of many, so called Third World countries.
In Kingston, Jamaica, and no doubt many other cities worldwide, the amount of paved area, from newly cleared land, to new roadways, to new construction, has contributed to the increases in global warming, in my opinion.
In Kingston, we don't have enough vegetation in our urban areas, which reduces the amount of UV radiation absorbed by soil and soft vegetation. There is also a lot more and quicker runoff after rain events, which lowers the acquifier, causes soil loss, and economic disruption.
Planting trees and creating the conditions for more soil absorption through simple things like planting trees, can make a significant dent in the global warming equation. This can be done through simple program and create employment.
If this was done in more urban areas, I am sure the resultant reductions in UV would be meaningful. So I would like to plant trees, or contribute to tree-planting as an individual.
I'm fed up with remarks blaming developing countries, especially India and China.
From the latest WWF report, North America has the highest per person ecological deficit, with the EU next. The developing countries are still in a good culture of recycling most of the products they consume, let it be an empty jar of ice cream or a damaged car or truck.
The developing Asian countries, despite huge populations, still produce many times less waste their counterparts in the EU & American continent. Where does the waste produced by the Western countries goes to? Only small percentage of waste is recycled and rest is dumped/shipped to these poor developing countries (what a cheap option!!).
The climate clock is ticking and we are left with very, very short time. This is no time to blame but to act immediately and responsibly in whatever capacity we can genuinely afford.
A principal challenge facing this century is the 'double extinction crisis' of both biodiversity and of cultural diversity. The rate of destruction of bio-cultural diversity is unprecedented in human history. In spite the recent creation of new types of cultural expressions (i.e. cultural hybridity, diaspora, virtual societies, etc) and of forms of life (through biotechnologies and such), it is not guaranteed these are guarantors of sustainability, and there is a peril of destroying the millennarian-based ecosystems and cultures which are the guarantors of life itself.
Now is the time to engage in urgent changes in our non-sustainable practices. This engages our worldviews, mindsets and practices in order to promote bio-cultural diversity as a self-correcting mechanism to have sustainable environments, deter negative impacts of climate change, and to have a sustainable humanity by the end of this century.
In June 2004, after living in the Netherlands for 11 years, I visited my homeland in Nigeria where my family and friends reside.
A few days after my arrival, I visited one of the local marketplaces I used to go to when I lived in Nigeria. When I got to the marketplace, I could not believe my eyes as I saw the entire market in ruins.
It was the rainy season in Nigeria so the entire market was flooded. There was no drainage system to channel the water, the women working on the market had to keep their feet up, resting them on stones, to avoid the puddles and mud on the ground. While trying to sell their goods, the market women had to endure water dropping on their heads from the leaking roofs.
At this point I decided to conduct further investigations on the availability of other vital amenities required in a marketplace. I discovered that the markets lack toilets so the women working on the market either have to go to a nearby bush to answer the call of nature or have to take a taxi home at least twice a day to use the bathroom. It is difficult for anyone to buy or sell under such circumstances.
An interview revealed that after the rainy season, due to the lack of drainage systems, stagnant water remains at the market for a very long time, which is a source of malaria and other diseases among the population (as mosquitoes reproduce in stagnant water and carry diseases).
Refuse surrounds the entire marketplace, as there are no containers for the waste. Apparently, the the local authorities refuse to remove the solid waste, leaving the surroundings of the market highly unhygienic which results in various diseases.
Electricity is not available either, which makes it difficult for cooling facilities to be installed. This means that beverages and foodstuff of all kinds are not preserved in the right temperature but are exposed to the scotching heat, which can easily reach 35C.
There are no warehouses for the market users to store their goods, which means that each day the people selling at the market have to take their goods and bring them back the next day. This has hampered the economic progress as this way it is almost impossible for the women to conduct their daily marketing activities.
Until 2004, I was computer system engineer in Holland. Having returned from Nigeria I started working again, but it did not take me long to start experiencing the traumas of my African experience.
I could not sleep well and lacked concentration. In November 2004, I resigned from my job as computer system engineer and with the support of a few Dutch citizens who were touched by the recorded material of the marketplace, I established an NGO known as LGHi (Lucrative Global Humanity International). The sole aim of this NGO is to help people to become lucrative in their areas, especially marketplaces.
As an African, I believe that anyone who sincerely wants to assist Africa should not forget the renovation, construction and/or reconstruction of marketplaces in Africa.
The Darwinian principle of evolution- "the survival of the fittest" - can be useful to understand the problems of global poverty or global inequality, and what can be done to address these problems.
It is not a straightforward answer, nor does this principle, itself, address how to solve the problem, but at the root of this principle is the concept that there must be a reason, a characteristic, an advantage, to help something/someone prevail.
Poverty stricken countries tend to have a massive divide in resources - ie the rich are rich and few, and the poor are really poor and many. There is no blame to be placed, but rather, a historical trend must be understood.
All countries began poor. But the countries that did become successful and 'rich' did so due to being able to identify their strength, and to utilize it so to survive. The poorer countries - the 'weak' - have not found desire or motivation to follow the historical pattern of a richer country.
Following another country's success story is not a solution, since countries tend to be different from other countries. But this is could be a method to identify "what works, and what doesn't work."
Richer countries - the 'strong' - when they continue to develop, they turn to 'weaker' countries to fulfill tasks that have become too expensive to do in their respective nation - due to legal and social development - and begin to exploit the 'weaker' countries because of their lack of social and legal development.
'Weaker' countries can possibly climb out of their dilemma by being able to target and focus their strengths or finding their advantage or even encouraging their nation towards social, political, and legal development. But this too is not easy. Other factors must be considered for this area.
Times now, no one wants to be altruistic, but rather hope that someone else does it. This is understandable, and it is important to encourage those that do want to make a difference and help to change situations of inequality. With these people, a good way to start is to encourage the nation to develop a strong local market, or development in a particular area of trade, to be able to participate in the global market.
Micro loans, programs on governance, international transaction practices and pressures to adhere to a global market standard generally can help. However, not understanding the needs of the country, not understand the needs of the people, not understanding the political, economic, and legal structures of the global will not help with change and encouragement to 'weaker' countries.
All in all, this topic is interesting and stimulating, and I ask those that are serious about this area, to go out and try to change the mindset and inequality locally before you think globally. Perhaps, if you can make changes regarding inequality so to instill a sense of altruism and motivation for global, social change, this will later assist with work that involves other countries, and also that there will be a 'pay it forward' effect.
In biology we learn that a population of any organism will grow until all resources are exhausted. Eventually the weaker organisms will begin to die of starvation and the ecosystem comes into equilibrium. If the resources are increased, then the population will again grow until all available resources are used and the weaker organisms begin to dye.
Even if all the resources available to humans were spread equally among the population, the population would continue to grow and eventually the resources would be exhausted. Either we have to increase resources faster then the population growth or we need to find another way to limit population growth.
I do not believe that limiting populations by creating wars, not treating diseases, or by forcing certain populations to control their birth rates are ethical or reasonable ways to achieve this goal.
It is interesting that in Europe, there is an excess of resources, but the native population growth is negative. In the old Soviet Union the population growth was also reduced. Population growth reduction seems to be true of the human population, but not true for other organisms. The implication is that the wealthier the population, the slower the growth of the population. It also may be due to the fact that more people are employed or that the risk of dying is reduced.
Perhaps the solution to the extreme poverty problem lies in guaranteeing everyone a minimum income, access to health care, and a guaranteed pension. Normally the income should come from jobs and this income should be significantly higher then the minimum income. If there is not enough jobs or if individuals are unwilling or unable to work then they should still be entitled to a minimum income. This income would need to come from another source. The assumption would be that the population would stop growing and an equitable distribution of available resources could be realized.
Capitalism is great for economic growth, but maybe a socialist safety net is also required to limit population growth, limit extreme poverty, and to create a more ethical world. An ethical world is to the advantage of the extremely wealthy as it is to the extremely poor.
A $2 a day minimum income for every individual in the world is peanuts to the world economy but could result in a much more ethical world in which the average person would not need to be ashamed to live in. Giving everyone at least a $2 a day job to do would help relieve the extreme unfairness of life and make life much more worth while for all of us to live.
Everyone in the world could easily sacrifice a few cents of the yearly income to achieve this goal. They could easily reap the profits from a more ethical world.
In 2000, we launched the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation in the North West Province of South Africa.
This has proved to be an excellent and innovative way of channelling philanthropic money to the people and at the same time it affords the people of the community to take decisions themselves on how the money is spent. It also gives ordinary people the opportunity to make philanthropic contributions, although sometimes very small.
The GRCF is a credible local grant maker that mobilises resources in a responsive and accountable manner in order to facilitate sustainable development within this specific geographic area.
After a week of hype surrounding the $2.6m price tag for 30-second ads to be aired during the Superbowl, I concluded there was much ado about nothing. There was one ad, however, that caught my attention for its distaste and insensitivity.
GM aired an ad that portrayed a robot on its assembly line that made a mistake and was fired. What followed were a series of scenes showing the robot's "life" after losing its job, culminating with the robot committing suicide by jumping off a bridge.
In the end, it was simply a dream sequence. However, I immediately wondered how the 36,000 former employees that GM laid off in 2006 reacted to this ad. What are their lives like after GM took away their livelihoods?
Perhaps GM should have invested the $2.6M plus the cost of the ad's production into developing more environmentally responsible vehicles than the Hummer. Such prudent allocation of resources would perhaps give some of those employees back their jobs.