Sunday, February 24, 2008

Progress: The good, the bad, the ugly

Times change, world does too. It is true that nothing lasts forever, thus people, ideology, technologies, regimes, likes, and ideologies keep evolving, giving rise to what we most commonly know as progress. That's a natural cycle of things, and no matter how hard a few people try to stop that, history has shown that progress will keep going its way.

This week is leaving us with two very interesting cases of people who try to stop progress, and people who advocate for it. Who'll be the good, the bad and the ugly?

Example 1: People who try to stop progress.

Fidel Castro is a good example of people who fought for progress first, but tried to stop that later. When he led the Cuban Revolution that forced Fulgencio Batista's rule out of Cuba in 1958, he had a simple thought in mind: to bring prosperous times for his country (i.e., progress) through the evolution from a dictatorial regime to a socialist one. Initially, his plans succeeded properly, as he gained power over Cuba and implemented his socialist ideas in the country. But then, Fidel Castro lost the route to which he wanted to lead his country. Mr. Castro forgot that progress also means transition, and he became an autocratic dictator in a non-democratic system that after many years became one of the most stagnant economies in the world.

The good times for Fidel Castro also went by. The now-ailing Cuban leader is now 81 years old, and this week he decided to step down as president of Cuba, after 49 years in office. Today, a very dim light of democracy was seen again in Cuba, as after many years, the voters finally had elections in which they could choose from many candidates, and not only Fidel Castro himself. Yes, the result was less than surprising, as Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and interim president of Cuba for the past few months, became Cuba's new president. The aftermath? It's still early to know, but most likely Cuba will keep living in a socialist rule. However, today's election proved that progress is there, and Cuba is slowly approaching to the path of democracy that can take still many years to reach, but it will certainly be reached.

Example 2: People who promote progress.

Progress is not only about certain characters out there who try to stop it, but it is also about people who promote it. There are many of them out there. Sir Richard Branson has constantly been one of the individuals who advocate for progress with the introduction of new
products and services through the many branches of his commercial emporium Virgin, which from time to time has transformed the way in which businesses are done.

Today, Virgin Atlantic (Virgin's branch in the airlines industry) decided to take a huge step forward in the mysterious area of alternative fuels by flying an experimental flight. A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 took off from Heathrow international airport in London, with no passengers on board. It landed safely later in Schiphol airport, in Amsterdam. With this flight, Virgin Atlantic proved the feasibility of greener fuels in the air transport industry: One of the four General Electric motors of the plane was fed with biofuel (a blend of 80% regular fuel and 20% coconut and babassu oil), whereas the other three motors used conventional fuel, in case anything went wrong.

The flight was successful, although some technical results and data of the flight will be analyzed in the upcoming weeks to determine whether the biofuel's performance was as expected. Nevertheless, it is an important step that can eventually reduce air transportation industry's carbon footprint dramatically. It is also said that the biofuel is made from renewable natural sources, which, in case of being truth, will help to fight a potential oil drought in the planet... and many of its collateral consequences too.

With some information from The Globe and Mail and The Associated Press.


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