At an investment conference in an unbelievably beautiful location in Brazil recently (see story), passing mention was made of shortcomings in the country’s current transport infrastructure to support additional tourism development.


One delegate – a Brazilian who had returned to the country after living a number of years abroad – bristled. “Big deal – we’ll build what we need and it will be fine.

But let’s talk about Europe and its infrastructure – how reliable are its air links? One puff from a volcano and the whole place shuts down!” he said with a laugh and a flourish of hands.

Bravado aside, he had a point.

I had not thought too much about the inevitable schadenfreude of the outside world, as I had viewed the episode from the inside looking out. The fDi global travel schedule is such that I received many messages from people asking whether I had been stranded somewhere unusual. Yes, I replied, somewhere strange indeed: London.

But the chatter in Brazil led me to think about how different situations can appear depending on which latitude and longitude marker one is standing.

The shape of the world, as viewed by my contact in Brazil and many others, is now a banana-shaped curve, with the Americas turning upwards on one end and Asia on the other with Europe the concave middle.

The financial crisis and economic downturn, hitting the US and Europe as it did, made the world, by some viewpoints, look more level, with emerging economies still rising and advanced economies flatlining. Some people talk about the world economy in latitudinal halves with a developed north and developing south; others divide it by longitude into east and west – and the crisis in any case appeared to turn the standard spheres upside down and spun them around.

These models are probably too simplistic, however. In my view, the globe is more like a big ball of yarn, interwoven and with strand after strand crisscrossing and connecting all points. If one bit unravels, so goes the rest.

The volcano shenanigans make the case, as it was not only intra-Europe flights that got grounded but also those coming from and going to every other continent.

In fact, my being grounded in the UK kept me from making a long-planned visit to Brazil’s neighbour, Argentina. But that’s just the way the world turns.

Courtney Fingar