23 May, 2008
Eight years after the start of the new millennium, we live in a new world. Unfortunately this is not the world 60s futurologist Herman Kahn presented in his famous “The Year 2000” but a world very much along the lines of the Club of Rome “Limits to Growth” scenarios which were ridiculed by the cornucopian economists in the last 30 years.
With more greenhouse gases being pumped into our life-supporting atmosphere every day, with oil price records being set on a daily basis and predictions of oil at 200 or even 500 dollars, with the intensifying food, water and biodiversity crises, the world is starting to wake up to the scary truth that we have bought our Western lifestyles by signing a diabolical pact with the Mephistopheles of cheap energy and resources. Only because of the planet’s gifts of finite fossil fuels and other natural resources (and mankind’s disturbing discovery of how to exploit these gifts rapidly over the course of 150 years) were we able to overcome the ecological limits which are we are now running into again.
Our European (and global) political elites have yet the understand the full depth of this global sustainability crisis. O yes, they have finally grasped the climate change issue and all will be seen lining up in awe when climate pope Al Gore visits Brussels, but deep down they all keep believing that miraculous new technologies (biofuels, carbon sequestration, hydrogen or fusion) will save the day or better protect our current Western lifestyles of over-abundance and greed (because not shared with millions of poor and starving people around the world). Business as usual is their only political ammunition.
Moreover, these same political elites keep clinging to the miracle cure of further unqualified economic growth. The latest example of this “growth utopia” is the Spence panel report on Growth and Development presented today to the European Commission. Although seemingly set to “bury the 1990s ‘Washington Consensus’ (quote the Financial Times), the report still sees economic growth as the answer to all societal evils. Climate crisis: solution more economic growth; species disappearing: more economic growth; declining energy resources: more economic growth. Hallelujah! The Lord is really a one-eyed economist!
Luckily these will be the last spasms of a losing paradigm. In less than twenty years, these kind of reports will be utterly forgotten, last remnants of a economic and political elite which still believed in fairy tales and Santa Claus.Author : Willy De Backer