Jean-Pierre Rosso on The Future of Multinational Corporations

Question: Are corporations becoming more powerful than governments?

Jean-Pierre Rosso: I don’t know whether we can put in terms of powerful, but there is certainly, I have a way to easily work across borders and look at themselves as global companies, global citizens and they all deal with whatever specificity there is in each country, in different market point of view,  from a legislation point of view and they all deal with it, and the losers, the loser nations are those who are not going to make it easy for those companies to invest, because they create jobs and they create economic growth. So as we said earlier, when they look at this as an opportunity and not a threat, then they can win, if they try to protect their markets, protect their companies from competition, they loose in the long term, may be nice for an electoral point of view in the short term, but they are going to loose on the long term, so you can fight this. I think that the nation cannot fight the fact that global companies are expanding globally and we will invest when wherever they have a chance to return.

Question: Should giant corporations be governed around the world?

Jean-Pierre_Rosso: Well, you have to, I think you have to have a base, maybe I am old fashioned, but I think you have to have a base, because if you are US based or French based or German based whatever Chinese based, I think this is the anchor, this is the sort of the what shapes the values of the company, I think it is very important to have a personality and So having said this I think what companies are doing which you see more and more is that they have much more open boards, than use to have every company is trying to have a US company is trying to have European, Asians, Latin Americans and so you are going to see I think diversity on boards ever increasing to precisely sort of a represent all those differences at the top of the corporation, you also seeing diversity in executives origins more and more and something I was totally out of sight  30 years ago, having a CEO from another country run a company in a different country is much more common now, and more importantly other executives in the [inaudible] as well, so you are going to see more and more of that.

Question: Do large corporations have a role at Davos?

Jean-PierreRosso: Everybody has a role in Davos, the way I see the role of [a] corporation is that they are the component that has to engage into the dialogue and engage into driving some of the initiatives that we have and the reason is that it is not only the fact that corporations have resources in terms of money, but they also have skills, competencies that are critical to the success of those initiatives, I gave you an example, we have launched in Davos an on water and because water is becoming a very big issue. Some could argue that, it is a much bigger issue than oil because no one has found the real alterative to water and it is unlikely that anybody will and it is life, water is life, go to the museum Natural history here in New York and water is life, so water is very important and but it is a company is that, I will not name, but companies that are in businesses they use a lot of water or for which water is a key ingredient in their products, that have division and wisdom to say hey this is something important, so they engage themselves and sort of with the typical business approach they want to look at some initiative [inaudible] say, okay what are the objectives? what he is trying to achieve? what are the milestones towards this, and  sort of business approach to solving something, this is where business is a key role, because they have greater ability, that may be unbiased  because I come from business, but they  have a greater ability to achieve results and they have a greater results orientation at least, let’s put it  this way by the nature of what they are, than any other groups in society.

Question: Should there be global regulation on water?

Jean-Pierre_Rosso: It is a good question, I think that, I think my first reaction is to say first of all, when we say global we cannot just always take there is only one thing,  global is everything, and particularly water is also very local and then always the water issues in central Asia or the water issues in China are different or in so in different- different parts of the world. And so you have to look in my view at sort of the sub system that is where water is critical and it can be a jeopardical topic between countries that have to share the same world resource, so that is one focus and in that particular case you know, you want to manage this resources well and equitably, so that is one issue, when it comes to other regions will have a different approach to different issues related to water, on the global basis, so can you govern this in a global basis. I don’t know, I think that is a complicated objective but, we are embarked, we just started this initiative, so we will address exactly that in a [inaudible] okay what are the key issues how can they be dealt with and should there be a segmentation in this water issues, for example the water issues, the water for agriculture is an issue in itself, okay agriculture consumes 70% of water, so main use of water goes to agriculture, is there a better way to manage water for agriculture in years today. So that is one segment of it, is there a better way to use water in manufacturing processes, that is a different topic. So I think what you need is to identify those sub groups and work on those, see what progress you can make, now I don’t think you need an overall government to do this because that is more bureaucracy what you need is a stake holders, who of that particular subsistent will get together and say let’s address this, , so you need, if it is water for agriculture you need whoever has to stake in this issue and participate in this issue to work on it, so again here this is the multi stake holder approach, because you are going to need government, you are going to need certainly agriculture the whole field of the people deal with agriculture from putting the seed in the ground to delivering the donut to the consumer is a whole chain here, so just going to have to deal with that as an entity to try to deal with it so I think it is a lot of those governance system that have to be established amongst the stake holders to address the various segments of that issue.

Date Recorded: 03/19/2008

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Image source: NASA/JPL

Sunset at the Viking 1 site

As the developer of methods for rapidly detecting and identifying microorganisms, Levin took part in the Labeled Release (LR) experiment landed on Mars by NASA's Viking 1 and 2.

At both landing sites, the Vikings picked up samples of Mars soil, treating each with a drop of a dilute nutrient solution. This solution was tagged with radioactive carbon-14, and so if there were any microorganisms in the samples, they would metabolize it. This would lead to the production of radioactive carbon or radioactive methane. Sensors were positioned above the soil samples to detect the presence of either as signifiers of life.

At both landing sites, four positive indications of life were recorded, backed up by five controls. As a guarantee, the samples were then heated to 160°, hot enough to kill any living organisms in the soil, and then tested again. No further indicators of life were detected.

According to many, including Levin, had this test been performed on Earth, there would have been no doubt that life had been found. In fact, parallel control tests were performed on Earth on two samples known to be lifeless, one from the Moon and one from Iceland's volcanic Surtsey island, and no life was indicated.

However, on Mars, another experiment, a search for organic molecules, had been performed prior to the LR test and found nothing, leaving NASA in doubt regarding the results of the LR experiment, and concluding, according to Levin, that they'd found something imitating life, but not life itself. From there, notes Levin, "Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA's subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results."

Subsequent evidence

Image source: NASA

A thin coating of water ice on the rocks and soil photographed by Viking 2

Levin presents in his opinion piece 17 discoveries by subsequent Mars landers that support the results of the LR experiment. Among these:

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  • Ghost-like moving lights, resembling Earth's will-O'-the-wisps produced by spontaneous ignition of methane, have been seen and recorded on the Martian surface.
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Image source: NASA

A technician checks the soil sampler of a Viking lander.

By 1997, Levin was convinced that NASA was wrong and set out to publish followup research supporting his conclusion. It took nearly 20 years to find a venue, he believes due to his controversial certainty that the LR experiment did indeed find life on Mars.

Levin tells, "Since I first concluded that the LR had detected life (in 1997), major juried journals had refused our publications. I and my co-Experimenter, Dr. Patricia Ann Straat, then published mainly in the astrobiology section of the SPIE Proceedings, after presenting the papers at the annual SPIE conventions. Though these were invited papers, they were largely ignored by the bulk of astrobiologists in their publications." (Staat is the author of To Mars with Love, about her experience as co-experimenter with Levin for the LR experiments.)

Finally, he and Straat decided to craft a paper that answers every objection anyone ever had to their earlier versions, finally publishing it in Astrobiology's October 2016 issue. "You may not agree with the conclusion," he says, "but you cannot disparage the steps leading there. You can say only that the steps are insufficient. But, to us, that seems a tenuous defense, since no one would refute these results had they been obtained on Earth."

Nonetheless, NASA's seeming reluctance to address the LR experiment's finding remains an issue for Levin. He and Straat have petitioned NASA to send a new LR test to the red planets, but, alas, Levin reports that "NASA has already announced that its 2020 Mars lander will not contain a life-detection test."

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