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GLOBAL FUTURE WATCH INDICATORS PROJECT
A NONPARTISAN EDUCATIONAL PLAN
FOR PUBLIC DEBATE ABOUT THE FUTURE

FOUNDATION GRANT PROPOSAL

INTRODUCTIONDETAILS OF THE PROJECTPROJECT TIME LINEPROJECTED BUDGET


GLOBAL FUTURE WATCH INDICATORS PROJECT

POLICY CASE STATEMENT

INTRODUCTION

We have spent the last ten years creating one of the most sophisticated databases of global environmental, social, and governmental budget indicators.  We have created charts for almost 300 indicators in a standard digital format that is used around the world, Microsoft Office (click here for a complete list). Many of these indicators are available nowhere else.  We have interviewed experts from all over the world in order to develop our indicators. 

We created this project because we believe that too much of today's political debate is connected to bitter ideological disputes.  It is crucial that we improve the value of the public debate by creating greater awareness of key indicators about the realities of life on our planet, based on sources that are respected by all.  Although many indicators systems exist, ours is unique in that it organizes global indicators in a form understandable to the average citizen (click here for some of our most important charts).

One goal of this project is to track the relationship between government policies, particularly budget policies, and global indicators that relate to the future of the planet.  This system will provide a non-partisan platform for effective and responsive government planning for the future.

CREATING AN HISTORICAL AND INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

One unique aspect of our study is the time frame that we use.  We try to go into the past as far as possible.  In the case of economic matters, for example, we have used OECD data going back hundreds of years.   This can display the truly staggering damage done to environment in some areas by going back to a pre-industrial state.  It also shows true long term economic trends by revealing the importance of India and China in world economic affairs over 200 years, thereby placing their current reemergence on the world economic stage in perspective.

We do both historical comparisons and international comparisons.  Using this system it is possible to see radical differences between the United States of America and the rest of the developed world.  For example, American gas taxes are a fraction of the gas taxes of the EU, creating huge incentives for the consumption of gasoline.  By contrast, American subsidies for passenger rail are a fraction of other nations, creating huge disincentives for energy-efficient rail transport.

USING THE WEB TO REACH AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE

Increasingly, the Internet is becoming the primary means for communication around the world.  This is a trend that we believe will only grow in the future.  Many of our pages have hit number one positions in the world's leading Internet search engines.  (Click here for details.)  Our web site contains a large amount of high quality material documentary material in multiple languages that cannot be found anyplace else.

THE GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS OF OUR ACTIVITIES:  THE U.S. AND EU

For the time being, we are focusing on two major centers of world power: The United States and the European Union.  Within the European Union we intend to concentrate our work especially on the Federal Republic of Germany.  Via our headquarters in Washington, DC we hope to educate institutions like the World Bank, which is a key source of data on world development, and the United Nations in New York.  We could also educate the network of think tanks and foundations in the U.S. that focus on environmental and development issues.

By creating a non-partisan educational set of indicators to monitor the U.S. government, we want to develop a model that could be used on an international basis. We have already taken steps toward this goal by creating a Guide to Foreign Government Web Sites.

We have begun a major program to translate key parts of our web site into German.

INTEGRATING RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING

Another unique aspect of our indicators program is its relationship to religious and cultural trends.  We have a special program that deals with these subjects, our Global Education Project on Religion, Philosophy, and History.

For better or worse the world today is more tightly interconnected than ever before.  Thus, people of difference races and cultures must work together.  This is not an option but a vital necessity to avoid disaster and create a sustainable future.

INTEGRATING DEVELOPMENTS IN THE GLOBAL MEDIA

An increasingly important vehicle for addressing global problems is through the popular media.  Understanding the relationship between the workings of the global media and developing solutions to world problems is the rationale behind our Global Media and Popular Culture Project.

The Live 8 Concerts demonstrated that popular culture can effectively mobilize public opinion worldwide in order to tackle the issue of global poverty.  Pressure exercised at the popular level can have a significant impact on government policies in the developed world.

We believe the precedent set by Live 8 should be continued and expanded.  In addition to focusing on media and popular culture indicators, we would like to use our Global Media Project to communicate with key people in the media and entertainment industries worldwide in order to explore ways that positive messages can be placed into artistic projects.  We would also like this project to serve as a place where people can learn about the pop culture of countries other than their own and thereby expand their view of the world.

LINKING TODAY'S DECLINING GLOBAL CONDITIONS TO STUDY OF THE PAST

The deepening global environmental crisis is going to have serious political implications.  We have therefore created a
Global Totalitarianism Research Project to study the history of totalitarianism, in order to be more prepared for the possibility of future dangers.

At the moment we living in a state of political paralysis.  Our indicators data shows a continuing downtrend in just about every area.  However, we have political structures in both the U.S. and on the international level that seem unable to reform themselves.  A key point of our indicators project to try to get people working for non-violent, peaceful change so that democratic reform can take place.

However, the magnitude of the problems and the dismal performance of the present political order make it only prudent to look at what could happen if things do not turn around.  We need to understand the political forces, generally authoritarian and anti-democratic, we believe, that are likely to come to power.  The term "totalitarianism" was invented by Mussolini but the philosophy it represents is actually thousands of years old.  Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.  Unlike any other study that we know of, our study looks into ancient history in the East and the West to analyze political trends that may emerge in the future.


WORLD FUTURE FUND GLOBAL INDICATORS PROGRAM
THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT SECTION

A key point we are trying to communicate is the need for government planning to operate according to a system of priorities. Concerning the national and international environmental situation, no coherent system of U.S. government policy planning exists.  This needs to change.  In particular, the national security decision making system of the government should be directly linked to a global system of indicators.

A unique aspect of our indicators system is its relationship to government policy.  Unlike almost all other indicators systems, our indicators system not only tracks what is happening, it also links indicators to key government agencies (click here for an example). For example, we do not discuss renewable energy in the abstract, we show the key budget figures for renewable energy funding from the Department of Energy (click here for a chart).

Our system also differs from those of other organizations in that it tracks the history of key budget figures in constant dollars.  This is very important since it is then possible to see huge changes.  For example, EPA funding is down 50% in constant dollars since 1980. We also list the key committees of the U.S. Congress that handle the annual appropriations for the Department of Energy (click here for a list).

Government policy does not take place in the abstract.  We need to track the progress of specific programs.  The ability to monitor the Congressional Appropriations process is particularly important since this directly controls the resources that we as a nation commit to various projects.

OUR NON-PARTISAN EDUCATION PROGRAM FOR U.S. CITIZENS
A VITAL TOOL FOR DEMOCRACY

Most major issues require national and international government action.  They cannot be solved at the local or state level.  This makes it crucial that we show citizens how to find out what the government is doing to solve specific problems.

The founders of the United States made it clear that the government "of the people" can only take place when the people participate in the political process.  Unfortunately, more than 50% of today's American citizens do not even bother to vote.  This is dangerous.  Too many people think that participating in the political process is hopeless.  In reality, there are many ways for people to participate in an effective manner.

The indicators system provides the raw data people need to understand problems on a national and international scale.  To augment this we have also developed a Non-Partisan Education Guide for U.S. Citizens that lists relevant government offices and agencies, sources of additional information, and political organizations that deal with the issues the users of our indicators system may find important.  Using this guide, visitors to our site can learn how easy it is to become involved in the democratic process and make their voices heard.  What we are creating is an interactive system for making democracy work.

People need to know what is happening to their tax money and what to do about it.  We show people how to communicate with their leaders.  Also, we list the web sites of public interest groups from different points of view so that an active citizen can join one groups with common interests and participate in a more effective manner in our democracy.  Finally, we list media and reference web sites so people can find out what is happening (Click here for the WFF Internet Index).

The Internet can be a powerful tool for democracy.  You no longer have to be a rich Washington lobbyist to get access to huge amounts of vital information.  Our plan is unlike most other indicators systems in that it has been designed from the ground up to be interactive and to be used on the Internet

OUR NON-PARTISAN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM FOR U.S LEADERS
DEFINING THE REAL STATE OF THE UNION
DEVELOPING A SYSTEM OF INDICATORS

Each year, the President delivers a "State of  the Union" address.  Believe it or not, he is under no legal requirements to report on any key indicators that affect peoples' lives.  It is as if a corporate CEO could produce a financial annual report on the "State of the Company" that did not give out any information on profits, losses, expenses or debts.  We feel that the President should be required to report on at least 20 key indicators.  Progress or failure would be reported.  Future projections would be required.

As noted earlier, in the case of the national and international environmental situation no coherent system of U.S. government policy planning exists.  This needs to change.  In particular, the national security decision making system of the government should be directly linked to a global system of indicators.

The end result is to develop a coherent system of government policy planning, particularly in relation to global environmental matters.  It is very important to grasp the connection between domestic policy and foreign policy.  For example, America's addiction to gasoline has huge foreign policy implications.  It drives up world oil prices, adds to global pollution and forces America to depend on the nations of the Persian Gulf for its economic survival.


WORLD FUTURE FUND GLOBAL INDICATORS PROGRAM
THE EUROPEAN UNION GOVERNMENT SECTION

We have begun laying the groundwork for expanded studies of the European Union.  Our research and indicators work focuses on Germany, but we are expanding it to cover the European Union as a whole.  We have created a  Guide to The German Government) and  Guide to the European Union.  For other governments around the world see our WFF Guide to Foreign Government Web Sites.

As the largest economic and political power in the European Union, Germany will play an increasingly important role in world affairs in the coming decades.  This rise in German and, by extension, European influence, will alter Europe's current relationship with the U.S., particularly in so far as environmental policies are concerned.  At present this relationship is under strain from more than just differences over events in Iraq. (see our page on Germany: Past and Present for more on this. Also available in a German edition)

Eventually we want to open an office in Berlin.  Having an office in the German capitol would place us at the heart of coming changes and it would open up the possibility of collaboration with relevant offices in the European Union.

CREATING AN INDICATORS SYSTEM FOR JAPAN, INDIA AND CHINA

Following the expansion of our studies to include Germany and the European Union, we intend to develop our indicators project by focusing on key Asian nations in the global economy, specifically Japan, India, and China.  Until we are ready to take this step, we have created a number of guides to these societies in both English and in the native language.  Here is a list of our guides.

WFF Guide to Japan: Past and Present  (Text in English and Japanese)

WFF Guide to South Asia (India and Pakistan)

WFF Guide to The Chinese Government (Text in English and Chinese)

WFF Guide to China: Past and Present  (Text in English and Chinese)

In the case of China we have also created a list of links pertaining to the environment.  See our Links Concerning Chinese Environmentalism.


THE NEED FOR A GLOBAL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT FUND

The only viable long-term solution to the problem of unsustainable global development is for the rich nations of the world to create a fund that will help developing nations turn away from the short-term financial incentives that are destroying their natural resources.

Many countries in the developing world currently pursue economic and environmental policies that are untenable.  One reason for this is simple.  Rich developed nations pay developing countries in the so-called Third World for their raw materials.  It is in the short-term interests of nations like Indonesia and Brazil to cut down their rainforests and strip mine their mineral resources because rich Western industries pay them to do so.   Obviously this system cannot sustain itself forever because natural resources are limited.

Achieving sustainable and environmentally-friendly economic growth in the developing world is a central tenet of the UN Millennium Goals program.  Economic growth is necessary to lift billions of people out of poverty.  Realizing the goal of sustainable global development requires, however, that steps are taken in the rich nations of the world too.  This is particularly true in the area of renewable energy.  As our Report on Renewable Energy, which is based on our indicators system, shows, since 1980 successive congresses have slashed research funding for renewable energy by over 75%.  The result of these short-sighted policies is that American dependence on foreign oil has hit record levels.  The United States is currently the world's largest energy consumer.

CONCLUSION

Everybody agrees that we should have a coherent system of government planning for the future.  The devil is in the details.  What are the "key" indicators?  How would they relate to the annual budgets of which agencies?  We believe that effective government policy should not be made according to vague public statements by politicians.  It must connect to reality.  We need a system for monitoring success and failure.  Our indicators project offers a careful, one step at a time approach to setting up a system of planning.

The future does not just "happen".  It is the result of choices.  Unfortunately, many key projects require years of work.  Ending the world's addiction to Middle East oil will not just "happen".  This problem also cannot can be quickly corrected.  Confronting complicated problems that demand long-term solutions is why it is crucial to set up a coherent system of planning now.  A one-time "blue ribbon" commission will not do it.  We need a system to monitor progress year by year connected to the annual appropriations process of the U.S. Congress for the key agencies of the U.S. government.  This system can then provide a model for other developed nations.

We also need to strengthen democracy in America.  What we are creating is an interactive system for making democracy work.  All too many indicators system have a message of hopeless doom.  There are a lot of charts bringing bad news with no real solutions offered to the citizen.  The government can and does respond to citizen action.  We want to show people how the government functions and how they can participate either directly by contacting their government or by supporting various public interest groups.

Government policy in the U.S. is currently a massive system of economic rewards and punishments based on years of political lobbying.  We certainly do not have "free" market.  Should the future be controlled for short term political gain or for long term realities?  The choice should be obvious.  However, we cannot make the right choices without an organized system of business information.  This is what we offer.  We certainly, do not claim to have all the answers for the giant task ahead.  We do not suggest that we can do the job alone.  However, we do believe that we have viable plan and base of power that will make a decisive difference.  This is why we need your support.


DETAILS OF PROJECT 

        PUBLISHING

  • Web Publishing.  Only a very small part of our indicators are on the web now.  We need resources to research and publish more indicators, especially those that pertain to the European Union, as well as to update our nearly 300 indicators.
     
  • Print Publishing.  We would like to publish a short print edition of our indicators.  This published edition of our indicators will be intended for distribution to an audience of political leaders and to key members of economic and environmental groups.  Print publishing is essential to our outreach efforts.  Via our printed indicators we can expand our network of contacts throughout the federal government and among non-governmental organizations.
     
  • Educational Materials.  For a number of key indicators we want to develop educational guides and reports.  Models of these can be seen in our special reports on Renewable Energy and Indoor Air Pollution.  These materials will provide essential information to political leaders and ordinary citizens alike.  Guides focused on certain sets of indicators will draw attention to those indicators and provide detailed information on how those indicators can be used to create a model state of the union.
     
  • Electronic Newsletter.  We want to develop and distribute an e-mail newsletter to educate political leaders and citizens about key government actions and indicator news.  An important function of the newsletter will be to closely follow the activities of Congressional appropriations committees and the bills they sponsor.  The newsletter will also provide information about the actions of groups that monitor appropriations bills so that will readers get a more complete picture of what is happening concerning those bills.  This information will be tied to the indicators that we have produced.

        EDUCATION AND NETWORKING

  • Leadership Education.  This is a top priority.  It is particularly important to us to hire a highly professional project director with experience in government.  We need this person to go out and make educational contacts with key decision makers.  We are assembling a detailed list of key people.  We have subscribed to a number of specialized government directory services such as Congressional Quarterly’s giant Federal Staff Directory.  We are also assembling lists of key people outside of government.  We are developing a system of prioritization as to who should be contacted and in what manner.  (Obviously we would not have time to contact all in person.).  Planning for the future requires that we educate political leaders about the indicators via newsletters and personal contact.  In addition, we need to hire the staff to boil down our indicators to a key set.  Developing a key set of indicators will require contacting and networking with political leaders and relevant organizations.  This key set can then provide the basis for a model state of the union for the U.S. government.
     
  • Citizen Education.  This is an ongoing dimension of the work that we do.  We have already created a Non-Partisan Education Guide for U.S. Citizens that informs Americans how they can become politically active.  In the coming years we would like to expand our outreach in this area.  This will include networking with relevant non-government organizations and government agencies.  We would also like to develop an advertising budget for our citizen outreach efforts, in order to boost public awareness of our work and to stimulate citizen participation.
     
  • Berlin Operations.  We want to open a small office in Berlin to network and do local research.  To keep costs under control and make efficient use of donors’ money these “offices” would be modeled on the “stringer” system of many major newspapers.  We would supply top quality computer equipment, internet access (preferably broadband), a post office box, and some other expenses for staff to operate in an efficient manner out of their homes.

TIME LINE

First Year

In the first year we want to concentrate on the following priorities:

  • Updating our indicators and choosing a larger, organized set to be placed on the web in an interactive manner (listing the relevant government agencies, public interest groups and so on).  Accomplishing this means developing an absolutely key set of indicators.
     
  • Begin designing a model state of the union.  This model will be based on the key set of indicators that we have selected.  The model state of the union will emphasize the need to track a series of important indicators in order to chart the success and failure of government programs.
     
  • We want to hire an effective Indicators Project Director to concentrate exclusively on this project.  To this point most of the work done on the project has been conducted by staff members who have also worked on other projects.  The project director will be responsible for cooperating with other organizations to coordinate research efforts and to educate them about key goals.  The director will also meet key government decision makers.

Second Year

In the second year we want to

  • Commence operations in Berlin, Germany.
     
  • Create an internet newsletter that will educate people about key government actions and will provide news about indicators.
     
  • Publish a short print edition of our indicators.
     
  • Create educational guides for certain key indicators, similar to the special reports we have authored on renewable energy and indoor air.
     
  • Lay the groundwork for developing a foreign indicators system that concentrates on Germany and the European Union; two economies that have become important players on the global stage.
     
  • Complete a model state of the union and establish annual goals for some key Congressional committees that are based on a select list of important indicators.
     
  • Place most of the World Future Fund's indicators on the web.

BUDGET

YEAR ONE 

Director 

$65,000

Computer Expert 

$35,000

Outreach

$50,000

Consultants

$50,000

Accounting  
Travel  
   
   
 

 

ANNUAL BUDGET

$200,000

YEAR TWO 

Director 

$65,000

Computer Expert  

$35,000

Newsletter Editor

$50,000

Outreach

$50,000

Consultants

$50,000

German Office  
Accounting  
Travel  
Telephone Comm.  
   
 

 

ANNUAL BUDGET

$250,000