19 October, 2008
Allow me to use and paraphrase the famous Gorbatchev quote in order to show that our political “leaders” keep missing the historical chances to deal with our worldwide sustainability collapse.
If the Western world would have learned the lessons from the first energy crisis in the 70s, we would not be facing these hard times now. The transition to the post-carbon society would have already been far on its way, there would have been no need for a nuclear or coal renaissance and the climate/energy challenge would have been manageable.
But due to lack of vision, our current political elites seem to have lost the ability to foresee and prevent global crises and their interconnectedness. The financial collapse we are experiencing now is a good demonstration of the failure to steer us through times of crisis. Not only is there no pilot in the cockpit but it seems even the cockpit has gone missing.
The EU’s latest Summit meeting at the end of last week was another demonstration of this impotence. It is clear that the final word has not yet been spoken on the fate of the EU’s “triple 20” climate/energy package but it looks increasingly sure that its half-ambitious goals will be watered down in the coming months and that the final compromise will fail tragically to convince other economic powers to follow suit in Copenhagen. The EU’s so-called “climate leadership” will have been exposed for what it always was: empty rhetoric of a generation of “leaders” who never understood the ecological fragility of our globalised economies in the first place and who only jumped on the climate change boat once one of them (Al Gore) was catapulted from “the man who should have been President” to media King of Global Warming.
Future generations of policy-makers, business leaders and citizens will pay a heavy price for the short-term thinking and the ecological illiteracy of our times. The longer we postpone hard and unpopular measures, the longer will be the dark transition tunnel through which we will have to travel within the next ten to twenty years. I am convinced that, in the end, new and real leaders will stand up and get us out of this tunnel and prevent total collapse of our society but the price will have been extremely high. The 2008 financial crisis will hardly be remembered in the history books, unless maybe as “the last gasp of the ghost of unending economic growth”. And the current generation of EU politicians will deserve their place in these books next to the forgotten last leaders of the Eastern European communist regimes.Author : Willy De Backer