Saturday, 19 December 2009

kobenhavn: beyond the smoke and mirrors

Well, I've had my say on the Climate Change Summit – time to move on.

Over the past couple of years I've laboured the point that, given current technologies and resources and population trends, a sustainable planet simply cannot embrace continual economic growth.
That same old Elephant in the Room turned up at Copenhagen – indeed, I saw her lurking in every single telecast – but I've been unable to turn up an interview, nor even a concession that she was there! (Perhaps she fell into the junket.)

In repeatedly and perversely decoupling 'growth' from 'sustainability' our Western 'leaders' are being simply disingenuous. A fairly vicious word, but an accurate one.*

Now, I'm not a specialist in any academic discipline. But I know enough to do my share of damage.
The way I see it, everyone – everywhere – is entitled to a decent standard of living.
They're entitled to eat well, to live in relative comfort and safety, to work productively, to attain their potential, to enjoy friendships and leisure activities, to be looked after by their society in times of need.
Over recent centuries, as Western countries built their nett wealth (by whatever means – some more ethical than others), individual standards of living improved.
In these nations, affluence became the province of the majority.
All good so far?
In getting to this point, however, most of our neighbours have been left behind.
Surely no reasonable individual would deny them the opportunity to catch up, to enjoy similar standards to ours?
More importantly, reasonable individuals might finally agree that we've had it too good for too long: it might be time to wind back our aspirations, our 'standards' – and split the difference.

This nexus, to me, crystallizes the true 'outcome' of the Summit (and – since every debate needs a forum – another justification for it).
The collective WE need to determine the boundary between 'Standard of living' (which drives modern economic systems via the necessity to produce excessively and consume wastefully) and 'Quality of life' (which, however amorphous and fungible, comprises fundamental rights and values above wealth).
The latter state is not only achievable but indefinitely sustainable: for every single one of us.

Supplementary reading (recommended): The exploited and the exploiters

* lacking in frankness; insincere; covertly guileful; crafty.

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