Tonight’s show is  optimistic!  But not in a frivolous way—we discuss intelligent optimism, and in the first half of the show, we talk with Jurriaan Kamp, cofounder and editor of Ode magazine—O-D-E—as in Beethoven’s “ode to joy,” which was our opening theme tonight.

Ode magazine is dedicated to intelligent optimism, and its latest issue identifies some optimists who are making a difference around the globe. We’ll talk with Jurriaan about who those people are and how his magazine identified them.

In the second part of the program, we talk with one of those people, Michelle Chan, who has been working in the world of global finance trying to get big business to take a deeper interest in the sustainability and moral value of the projects they invest in.

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Some Optimistic Global News

From the Russian News Agency Novosti  comes word that:

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said there are grounds to be optimistic about relations between Russia and the United States.

Gorbachev, who recently held a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama and a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, [mehd-vyeh-def] said in an interview […] that the two former Cold War foes would look to tackle arms control and missile defense shield differences. “There are grounds for optimism so far,” he said. His statement echoes opinions by Russian officials that Obama is less determined to pursue his predecessor George Bush’s plans for a missile base in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. Moscow has fiercely opposed the plans as a security threat.

From a Chinese news service RedNet, comes the headline: “Premier Wen ends EU tour with optimism.” Sharon Lee reports:

Premier Wen Jiabao sounded a note of optimism Monday in London and pointed to signs of economic recovery in China as indicating there is “light at the end of the tunnel” regarding the ongoing global financial crisis. [Along with disccusions about reviving the world economy, Premiere Wen [one] reported on some projects within China:The government has already pledged 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) over the next two years to help boost domestic [programs]. Work on projects including rebuilding the earthquake-hit southwest and improving road and rail links is under way. [,,,] Wen also said that he would unveil stimulus measures for shipbuilding and textiles when he returns home. […]

From the Philippine Star, a report by Helen Flores finds that

A recent survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations showed that more Filipinos expect their quality of life to improve in the next 12 months despite the global economic crisis. […]  30 percent of Filipino adults expect their personal quality of life to improve in the next 12 months, an increase from 26 percent three months ago. […] 15 percent of respondents expect their personal quality of life to get worse, an improvement from 17 percent reported last September.

“This brings the Net Personal Optimism (percent Optimists minus percent Pessimists) back to fair +16 after being merely mediocre, ranging from +9 to -6, during the first three quarters of 2008,” the SWS declared. [,,,]  Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said Filipinos are inherently optimistic about their future. […] “Filipinos are a resilient people. Filipinos are an optimistic people,” Recto said. He said there is reason for Filipinos to be optimistic, considering that the Philippines has a young population compared to other countries. “So there’s no reason why the Philippines should not be among the top 10 in the world considering the resources available to us, the weather available to us,” Recto said.

Our interview withJurriaan Kamp, editor of Ode Magazine— that calls itself the “magazine for intelligent optimists.”

  • Please tell us about the concept of “intelligent optimism.”  What is it? Why is it “intelligent”?  What would be its opposite—foolish optimism? cockeyed optimism? pollyannism? intelligent pessimism?
  • In the January-February issue, you talk about why you started this magazine in the Netherlands in 1995. Please tell us a little about Ode. How did you come up with the idea? How did you become a global publication?
  • In that same issue, you highlight the stories of “25 intelligent optimists—people who are creating a better tomorrow today.”  How did you choose these folks? (Who were the judges?) How did you make your final selectiion?
  • We’ll be talking with Michelle Chan, one of the twenty-five, a little later in the program. Could you tell us about some of the other people you’ve identified as being significant change makers?
  • Who are your role models in life? Who inspired and you and inspires you?
  • As we close, could you tell us about the online version of Ode and how people can become involved with the magazine?

Our interview with Michelle Chan, one of the 25 people identified by Ode magazine as an intelligent optimist who is making a difference:

  • How did you learn that you’d been named an intelligent optimist?
  • In a time when few people have kind things to say about the banking industry, you are optimistic that banking practices can be changed for the better. Please describe your work.
  • Please tell us some of the specific agreements that you’ve encouraged banks to adopt?  How are those working out?
  • In the article in Ode, you are pretty candid about your concerns for accountability.  And you suggest that in the current economy, banks may want to back off from their commitments. Yet you remain optimistic? How do you maintain your optimism when things get tough?
  • How did you get into this area of activism? We understand that it came, in part, from your efforts to stop the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.
  • What are your best hopes for the future?
  • How can people who see the value of this work become involved as supporters or activists?

Do-It-Yourself Intelligent Optimism

*From Ode Magazine is a feature called “Turning Words,” by James  Geary, author of The World in a Phrase and Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorisms.

“Dust is ubiquitous but hidden, until sunlight streams through a window to reveal that we are swimming in it. It swirls around and surrounds us like krill in an ocean current. We cannot escape it. It  falls like rain, incessantly, until it covers everything, like silt at the bottom of a like. The slightest movement stirs up whole galaxies of the stuff, spiral nebulae of hair follicles and skin flakes. We  move from day to day, from room to room, like comets, shredding shreds  and fragments in our wakes. “Whatever shines should be observed,” according to 19th-century astronomer William Herschel. When the light changes, though, the trail vanishes. Dust still swarms in secret onto every surface, but we can’t see it. Even what is nearest, most  prolific, is invisible unless properly lit.

* From British author G. K. Chesterton on the case for Irrational Optimism:

Ratiional optimism leads to stagnation. It is irrational optimism that leads to reform. […]the more transcendental is your patriotism, the more practical are your politics.

*An outlet for your optimism: log on to Volunteer Match for a listing of volunteer opportunities in the Sacramento Valley, the foothills, and beyond:


1. Ode To Joy from Symphony No. 9 In D Minor, Op. 125           8:44    Philharmonia Chorus            Beethoven: The Greatest Moments Ever              

2  A Cockeyed Optimist       1:43    Mary Martin & Girls   South Pacific – Original Broadway Cast Recording                                   

3.  Here Comes The Sun     3:06    The Beatles   Abbey Road

4.  Joy To The World 3:16    Three Dog Night        Three Dog Night – The Complete Hits

5.  Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary           The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary     

6.  Siberian Sleighride         2:53    Don Byron      Bug Music     

7.   Gimme Shelter    4:33    The Rolling Stones    Let It Bleed