3E Intelligence

Whoever wins the US Presidency today will be facing the ultimate challenge: steering a self-destructing Western-based economic growth model through a painful transition towards a new global sustainability. This is a task far beyond any past Apollo project.

These are indeed historical elections and it is appropriate that the whole world is watching. Although the financial crisis and the recession have hijacked the last months of the campaign (to the advantage of the Democrats), the real challenge remains one of systemic transformation. To avoid accelerating global warming and new energy and resource scarcity (to live within the ecological limits of our Planet), we will have to fundamentally rebuild our global energy system, our infrastructure and our consumption and production patterns. And we will have to do that at a time when less capital might be available, when new economic players will continue to demand the right to the living standards we got used to, and when trust in politics is at an all-time low.

The big question is whether the new ruling generation will be ready to deal with this transformational process. In the New York Times (“A date with scarcity”), columnist David Brooks is sceptical. The next leaders, Brooks says, “will be confronted by the problem for which they have the least experience and for which they are the least prepared: the problem of scarcity.

Raised in prosperity, favored by genetics, these young meritocrats will have to govern in a period when the demands on the nation’s wealth outstrip the supply. They will grapple with the growing burdens of an aging society, rising health care costs and high energy prices. They will have to make up for the trillion-plus dollars the government will spend to avoid a deep recession. They will have to struggle to keep their promises to cut taxes, create an energy revolution, pass an expensive health care plan and all the rest. “

Brooks’ conclusion is dark: “We’re probably entering a period, in other words, in which smart young liberals meet a stone-cold scarcity that they do not seem to recognize or have a plan for.

In an age of transition, the children are left to grapple with the burdens of their elders”.

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