Before The Weekend #5 — 8 April 2021

Economy vs ecology in the race for the earth’s rare metals and mineral, the EU vs Turkey in sofagate, and the freedom of choice and the price you pay for those choices. All of these are covered in my latest episode of Before The Weekend.



Economy versus ecology in the race for the earth’s rare metals and minerals.

There’s a fast-growing need for rare earth metals and minerals to cover the exponential and necessary progress in technology: electrical cars, windmills, solar panels, smartphones, etc.

At the same time, there’s a growing tension between those who want to accept and those who want to prevent the exploitation of some of the most unique and rare natural reserves, such as Greenland, the Arctic, California’s Mountain Pass, Spain’s Matamulas, etc.

More and more rare and unique places are becoming accessible, due to global warming. Unfortunately, they are also appealing spots for exploitation in this global market driven by greed and a desire for short-term profit.

Some examples:

  • Trump trying to buy Greenland from Danmark in 2019
  • China hoping eagerly for the pro-exploitation party to win last week’s elections in Greenland
  • The EU also pushing for exploitation in Greenland
  • Russia showing more and more presence in the Arctic

So, what is the solution?

We have to find ecologically acceptable ways to exploit mines and do it in a respectful way for the local or indigenous people that live in these areas. The old paradigm, where economy and ecology are opposing forces, is no longer of these times. They will have to become more complimentary, thus shifting to a more long-term view.

The French mining group Eramet is one good example of how this can be done. They want to link economic success with ecological and societal respect, as stated in their Noble Purpose: become a reference of the responsible transformation of the Earth’s mineral resources for the good living together.

I’m convinced that more enterprises will follow!

The EU-Turkey Sofagate: instead of standing up for principles choosing the comfort of sitting down with ignorance.

Last Wednesday EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen found herself confronted with EU Council President Charles Michel and Turkey President Recep Erdogan taking a golden chair and leaving her standing alone … without a chair.

For many reasons I found this scene revealing of the lack of courage of the EU President, of what is going on in the EU leadership and of how the EU accepts behavior from Erdogan that is a total ‘no go’.

  • First, Charles Michel could have shown elegance and courtesy by being a gentleman and giving his chair to Mrs von der Leyen. After all, they have the same diplomatic rank.
  • Secondly, it would have been a great opportunity to show Mr Erdogan — who’s not renowned for his democratic principles and even less for his female gender respect — what the EU stands for.
  • Thirdly, it would have been the proof of how the EU leaders are one and united, and not lame ducks who allow themselves to get manipulated or blinded by diplomatic ego.

So, what can we learn from this?

Too often I see leaders who do not stand up for their principles and values. Too often they chose not to speak up, because the want to keep the peace. If organizational and political leaders stand for something — and in the case of the EU I believe there are some very clear values and human principles — they have to show it to the world. They have to take the responsibility of breaking the status quo, of showing courage and dare to create awareness. It’s all about choosing what is right.

Freedom of choice and the price to pay

Sofagate made me think about a related topic, namely the freedom to choose what we do and not do, what we say and not say.

I very often observe how people live in discomfort because they either accept things they don’t agree with or don’t choose to alter situations that profoundly bother them.

In my book, The Book of Noble Purpose, I’ve dedicated an entire chapter to that topic, because lacking the courage to choose and stand firm and proud for one’s choice, is often what leads to unspoken irritations, to conflicts, to inhibition of potential, to the destruction of value, to tense collaboration, etc. In organizations, this leads to an enormous cost of disengagement, demotivation and decreased performance.

The question of choices can’t be addressed without looking at the price and benefits of those choices. Let’s take Sofagate as an example:

  • EU Council President Michel could have chosen to offer his seat to Mrs von der Leyen. The cost would have been that he’d have to go sit on the sofa, while the gain would have been creating awareness about how the EU, or at least Charles Michel as a person, treats women.
  • He could have asked Erdogan to have a third chair be brought in, with the cost of disrupting the ceremony, but again the benefit of showing his colleague what is important to him and earning the respect of his colleague Mrs von der Leyen.
  • He could have left the room, in which case his relationship with Erdogan and perhaps the EU-Turkey relations would have taken a hit, but the conversation about the position of women in society would be at the center of attention.

Maybe in the last case, the costs would have been too high. But comfortably taking one of the only two chairs was definitely the wrong choice.

So, why is it that too often people don’t choose to choose?

It’s because often, people don’t link choice with cost or price.

Each decision or choice we make, comes at a cost. That can be a financial, emotional, relational, material,… or a combination of those. Also keep in mind that not acting upon something, is a choice as well. Once we start taking the costs of our choices into account, it gives you a totally different view and different way to approach decision-making. The big question here is: are we willing to pay the price for our choice?

If the cost of changing is much higher than the cost of remaining where you are, then it probably makes sense to stay where you are. However if the cost of the status quo is higher than the cost of changing, I recommend doing things differently.

If we, as human beings, want to become free, we have to dare to stand up for what is important, dare to show our principles, what our values are and how we want these to be respected.