March 11, 2009

Learn from Other Nations

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Economically, most countries are in the same leaky boat, and I think Ireland\’s recovery will depend on how the global leaders like the US, China and Germany sort themselves out (as well as on whatever is placed into our IMF or EU begging bowl before that).

In the meantime, we could learn from other nations (i.e. both from other countries and other nationalities within our country). Here are five ways we could do this:

1: Agriculture:
Polytunnels are not rocket science. Asians use them to great effect. In Korea I enjoy buying two kilos of fresh strawberries in mid-Winter for only 3 euros. Ireland has great soil and great growing weather (unlike Korea). We can learn from those E. Europeans who have started this sort of farming in our midst. I grow blueberries outdoors in Korea as I feel people here will soon be unable to afford the Argentinian imports. But I do long for the great acid soils of my country. Find niche markets by looking abroad and copying, just like the Asians have done.

2: Diet:
Every time I return to Ireland the people seem to have expanded round the waist. Economic hard times lead to further dependence on cheap junk food and exacerbate the health problems. Learn from the old British allotment movement. In every town there you can rent a patch of good land very cheaply. If you do it right, you can eat economically and healthily, and stay fit as well. There are still sites in Ireland that haven\’t been built on – and even if they have, maybe some of their owners could use that little bit of extra rent coming in.

3: Infrastructure:
By the nature of their landscape, Japanese and Koreans have been obliged to become brilliant civil engineers. The latter have built roads and buildings all over the world. Or observe how the French run their rail network. If we do eventually, like the US, invest more in infrastructure, cheaper labour will be on hand in Eastern Europe (or indeed at home).

4: Education:
It just needs a Minister with a bit of nous to organise study tours to countries that educate better than we do (in certain fields). Then re-write the Primary and later the Secondary curriculum.
Include creativity as a subject (look at Israel,
Edward de Bono\’s work with school systems or Ken Robinson\’s projects for schools in N. Ireland – that one\’s a no-brainer). Teach the kids proper financial management so the next generation doesn\’t fall victim to bubble economics. And biology, chemistry and physics can be fun!

5: Create a new political party:

Right, Ministers with nous – dream on! We need a new party, and this too can be done by observing how other countries have set up radical new movements quickly. But it requires action more than words. I would be sorely tempted to return to my native land if people like David were to set up a new party – even if they didn\’t win this time round.
Or rather, not people like David, but David himself. But I fear the boom years, however delusional, have made people too comfortable to get up and take action, to walk the walk to Leinster House.