Today, on the train, returning from a study afternoon on Ignatian Leadership, I have been reading The World in 2011. It is a kind of a state of the world outlook on next year, produced by the authoritative weekly The Economist. I must admit that I was somewhat shocked: I could not have experienced a more clear contrast to what I said about M. Serres’ Temps des crises yesterday. Very little is being said about the state of the planet. The leader article, “Cooling the Earth” (p. 22), does not really take the earth as a conversation partner and seems to reduce the climate challenges to energy issues. The author seems to have forgotten that 2010 is the year of biodiversity – that clarifies, I think, that we are talking about more than human beings here: the earth on which we, human beings, are dependent. Another article, “Another Year, Another Billion” (p. 25), on world population, concentrates on the second derivative of population over time to say that it is turning negative – the rate of population growth is slowing down -, but does not pay attention to the real issue: this planet cannot anymore sustain its population, most certainly not if the goal is the lifestyle of the richest and most developed of its countries. If the analyses of WWF on the ecological footprint had been considered less disdainfully than is the case in the article, some more nuanced thought on population could have been possible.
I have difficulty understanding that the state of the world presented by such a prestigious organisation as The Economist does not pay more attention to what is probably the most pressing issue for the survival of the human species and life on our planet. That, in the section on sciences, no attention is paid to some of the most difficult and complex scientific research that is going on on the environment and our planet, is a real gap. I would also have hoped to have some wider perspective on new economic approaches than the reference to INET, the Institute for New Economic Thinking (p. 140).
Luckilly, there is the article by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council. In his article on “Europe in the new global game” (p. 40), he writes the following: “We will continue to defend our values, not in a provocative or moralising way, but in standing firm. This is not only about human rights and democracy accompanying economic development, but also about the climate. The biggest loser of “Copenhagen” was climate itself. Europe is ready: other world actors have to share the responsibility”. These are the words of someone who has learned to value the planet as a creation, who takes time to enjoy nature and to write poetry on its occasion. We’re lucky to have him as a leader and he trumps all the so-called “leaders” of The World in 2011. Ad multos annos, Mr. President!