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The Gray Rhino: A New Framework for Foreign Policy Risks

The SAIS Foreign Policy Institute hosted a conversation with Michele Wucker about her latest book "The Gray Rhino: A New Framework for Foreign Policy Risks," moderated by Jeff Leonard.

A "gray rhino" is a highly probable, high impact yet neglected threat: kin to both the giant but ignored elephant in the room and the improbable, unforeseeable black swan. Gray rhinos are not random surprises, but occur after a series of warnings and visible evidence. Many of today's biggest foreign policy challenges are gray rhinos: Syria and the resulting refugee crisis, economic and social fractures within the European Union, consequences of the Chinese economic slowdown, the consequences of climate change, and the social unrest and aggressive nationalist politics stemming from global inequality. Gray rhinos follow predictable paths, with different opportunities and obstacles as they unfold -- even as they differ in speed, complexity, and prognosis. At this event, policy analyst Michele Wucker, author of the provocative new book THE GRAY RHINO, and Foreign Policy Institute senior fellow Afshin Molavi discuss how the gray rhino concept can help decision makers to better understand and respond to global risks before it's too late.

Michele Wucker is the author of THE GRAY RHINO: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore (St Martin’s Press, April 5, 2016), as well as LOCKOUT: Why America Keeps Getting Immigration Wrong When Our Prosperity Depends on Getting It Right and WHY THE COCKS FIGHT: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola. She has been honored as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and a Guggenheim Fellow, and delivered speeches on five continents. In 2015, she founded Gray Rhino & Company to help leaders and organizations to identify and strategize their responses to known risks. Her previous positions include Vice President for Studies at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; President of the World Policy Institute, which she re-launched in 2007; and Latin America Bureau Chief at International Financing Review. Her writing has appeared in publications including, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal; and she has been interviewed by many media including National Public Radio, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox News. Visit her website at and follow her on twitter @wucker.

Jeffrey Leonard is CEO and co-founder of Global Environment Fund, a middle market private equity firm that invests worldwide in growth companies that enable renewable energy, energy efficiency, environmental control and clean up. Jeff is a member of the Board of New America, chairman of the Board of the Washington Monthly, and previously was chairman of the Board of the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA). He holds a PhD from Princeton, an MSc from London School of Economics and a BA from Harvard. Jeff is the author of 5 books and numerous articles on energy policy, international trade and environmental issues. His book, Pollution and the Struggle for the World Product (Cambridge Press 1988) was awarded the best book on comparative policy studies by the International Studies Association in 1990.

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