Archive for the ‘Energy & Environment’ Category


by Gaudenz Assenza (Professor at IE School of Arts and Humanities)

After rising from the ashes of the Second World War, industrialized countries experienced an epoch of unprecedented growth and stability, but instead of preparing for the future, the predominant mode was to live as if there was no tomorrow. Individuals, firms and nations borrowed with abandon, not realizing how overconsumption and lack of ecological stewardship destabilized the very fundament of prosperity. Small fissures in the economic, social and ecological fabric widened to cracks; cracks broadened to crevices; and the crevices expanded to tectonic faults, causing friction and unleashing forces comparable to earthquakes and eruptions of volcanoes.

The idea that the 21st century will be smooth sailing lacks historical awareness. Just like the 20th century experienced great tragedies, the 21st century will experience its share of calamities. Many predictions of the future conducted by agencies like the CIA and the National Intelligence Council are implausible, because they are based on the same assumptions and worldviews that triggered the personal and institutional failures, which we experience today. Predictions assuming an extrapolation of the status quo are improbable, because the status quo cannot be maintained:

  • The much touted rise of China is unlikely to persist in the absence of sweeping changes in policy. As we witnessed during the Olympics, ecological strains have begun to choke China’s economic miracle and social tensions could erupt anytime;
  • Russia is unlikely to become a hegemonic power, not because Putin and Medvedev are ready to relinquish this goal, but because the government is short of resources to pay for a military buildup;
  • America is unlikely to experience a “Golden Age” in the second half of the century, as predicted by George Friedman, because the country lost decades in development by failing to invest sufficiently in human development and the protection of natural resources.

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