Welcome to Inside Asia, conversations with Asia’s leading movers, shakers, thinkers, and provocateurs. Each week, we bring you an extraordinary tale of a country, a trend, a sector, or an idea. It’s informed and engaging conversation, and invaluable insight into the innovations and entrepreneurs who are shaping and changing the region.
Reimagining “Community” (w/ Kai Soto)
I open this episode with a question: What is community? It’s changed, I’d argue. Not by definition, so much. But in terms of what people have come to expect from it. And I’m putting emphasis here on the word “expect.”
In our digital world, joining a community can be as basic as adding one’s thoughts to a chat, then leaving. Or as complex as building a movement and enlisting global “followers.” There are even names for these modes of engagement. In the first instance, post a controversial or unpopular message, and you’re called a “troll.” In the second instance, say or do something big, rash, or daring, and you’re branded an “influencer.” In the crazy and mixed up world of digital communities, these traits foster both envy and derision.
My guest this episode, Kai Soto, suggests that something’s been lost in our rampant drive to build community solely on the foundation of datasets. That’s what the world of digital social media has done for the most part. Some good has come from it. I wouldn’t be so bold to suggest it hasn’t. But something has gone missing as well. My conversation with Kai tries to get to the bottom of it.
The Hard Problem of Carbon Emissions and Developing Asia (w/ Jeff Delmon)
After a slow start, delegates to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, found momentum. That’s cause for hope. Even the reps from Green Peace seemed satisfied.
The question on everyone’s lips now is: What’s next? Will the world go back to business-as-usual, consume-at-will, and climate-be-damned? Or this time around, has the prospect for change wiggled its way into the crevices of human complacency?
This battle is far from won. And on the front lines, where change really matters, countries must now contend with how to practically meet those carbon emission obligations. This puts the developing world in a bit of a pickle. For many, obligations to their own people rival commitments to climate. And in burgeoning democracies, leaders elected to improve infrastructure, provide healthcare, and create jobs won’t last the political season if they don’t deliver. It’s complicated. But that’s why Jeff Delmon is here with me this episode to explain. Jeff is a Singapore-based Senior Public-Private Partnerships Specialist at the World Bank.
In Search of Impact Heroes (w/ Tomo and Aska Hamakawa)
This week we head south to the equator and to the Indonesian island of Bali where two individuals are working to make a difference. Tomo and Aska Hamakawa are Co-Founders of Earth Company. It’s stated mission: “To empower and inspire change-makers who realize social change for our future generations.” It doesn’t get more noble than that.
In the wake of so many high-powered gatherings where the political and financial elite debate the future of our planet, I thought it important to hear from just two of thousands of young activists who have committed themselves to grass roots efforts. This is where real change occurs.
Asia’s Turning or Tipping Point? (w/ Cindy Hook)
At this very moment, representatives from some 197 nations have arrived in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss prospects for net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The so-called COP26 gathering represents a pivotal moment and a real test of the world’s ability to cooperate in the face of climate risk.
The consequences of doing nothing are severe. Wild swings in climate patterns causing forest fires in the U.S. and floods in Europe all point to one thing. And that is, unless we act – and act now – the world will soon become a far less hospitable place. I’m talking about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, declining fish populations, widespread drought and mass migration of people fleeing famine and pestilence.
OK, hold on, that’s all a bit too dark. But if this Old Testament imagery moves you…even a little…it’s time to take up the cause and pressure those that can make a difference, to make a difference!
Asia is at the epicenter of this ecological sea change, and here to talk about it is Cindy Hook, CEO of Deloitte Asia Pacific. Cindy and her colleagues have recently released a new report, entitled Asia Pacific’s Turning Point: How Climate Action Can Drive Our Economic Future. It’s a provocative piece of research that quantifies the risks the region faces in doing nothing to counter the impending effects of Climate Change.
Sustainable Talent (w/ Jeanne Ng)
As climate countdown continues apace, we look this week at a central bottleneck – that if not addressed – could confound even the best intentions. I’m talking about talent, and the tens of thousands of sustainability-related jobs that will go unfilled in coming years unless the public and private sector line up to address the problem.
One woman is doing something about it. Dr. Jeanne Ng is Chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Qualified Environmental Professionals. She and her colleagues are bent on transforming Hong Kong into a center of excellence in professional environmental services. And not solely as a defence against climate disaster, but as a way of accelerating research and innovation to transform business and the economy.
To get there, both government and private sector must step up and support the training, development, and hiring of people with new skill sets for a new era. This means expanding Sustainability programs at Universities, creating accreditations through professional institutes, and encouraging companies to create roles and career paths to hone that expertise.
Are We Facing a Global Mental Health Crisis? (w/ Anurag Banerjee)
My guest this week is Anurag Banerjee. He’s sounding the alarm on mental well-being. Anurag isn’t a medical professional, a healthcare expert, or a policy-maker. He’s a miner…of data, that is. And through the organization he founded and runs, he’s excavating insights that point to leading trends and developments in human behavior.
He describes his organization, Quilt AI, as a mission-first technology company that’s looking to reverse fractures in society and generate empathy. From time-to-time, his team of analysts and data scientists point their lens at issues worthy of global attention. Mental health is one such subject. And on this World Mental Health Day, the data is revealing, if not somewhat disturbing.
Here’s the headliner: In the past 18 months – or since the onset of the global pandemic - there’s been a 500 percent worldwide increase in conversations about mental health and well-being. This comes from data collected by his firm from 177 cities across 70 countries. It’s an astounding jump and the analysis is only made possible through the use and application of artificial intelligence.
The research raises a bevy of questions. Why the dramatic increase? What’s the root cause? What – exactly – is mental health? To be frank, the findings are inconclusive. And yet, the data is indicative of a problem brewing at a universal level. This is a vast subject with nuances as varied as the tens of millions of individuals now engaged and in search of mental health support. In the course of this 25-minute discussion, we try to unpack the problem, then ask: What can be done about it?
Join us at www.insideasiapodcast.com to learn more.
Really enjoyed the podcast with Thomas Morgan. It’s a great movie and everyone should watch it.
As good as it gets
If you want a genuine sense of a multi-dimensional Asia that isn't "lost in translation," Steve's podcast is as good as it gets. Top quality guests, queried by a class act of a (former WSJ) journalist and host. You are missing out if you are not listening to Steve.
Highlights Emerging Trends
Steve Stine does a great job spotting the emerging trends in Asia and then getting the best from his guests to highlight the issues for his audience.