Global problems require global solutions

Part 5 of a personal political manifesto

Many of the most serious problems confronting national governments are global in their nature. Because these problems transcend national borders they need cross border agreement, and many require global agreement. Despite this need, nationalism thrives in many countries. Even governments that are not overtly nationalistic talk about their own country as being ‘world beating’, and put forward policies focussed on successful international competition rather than cooperation. Whilst I understand why this brand of politics is popular, for the sake of future generations it needs resisting. We have evolved to be loyal to our tribe. It is far easier to identify with our national heritage (even if it often paints an overly positive picture of our history) than it is with people from different cultures. However, evolution is not static. Our future requires that we identify with global humanity more than we do the nation state.

Our climate and ecological crisis is arguably the most serious of these global problems. The carbon emitted into the atmosphere by any nation state does not stay within the borders of that state. The resulting rise in greenhouse gases affects the global temperatures. Climate patterns are global phenomena that are no respecter of borders. The tragic (or criminal) felling of large areas of the Amazon Rainforest for cattle grazing may have a positive effect on the economy of Brazil, but the loss of so much natural carbon sequestration has a serious negative effect on us all. The rise in sea levels that will result from the melting of glaciers and the polar ice caps will affect coastal communities, often cities with large populations, across the world.

If the causes of our climate and ecological crisis are global, so too are the actions we need to take to first halt the rise in carbon emissions, and then start reversing them. Individual national governments need to take international agreements far more serious than they do. Attempts like that of the USA, under the Trump presidency, to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, for example, should be both condemned on the world stage and by citizens of the home nation. Simply thinking in terms of the national economy needs rejecting, in fact many of the worlds more wealthy countries may need to take a financial hit in order to help the poorer ones. And we need to become far more collaborative in our development of technology like renewable energy. We will produce technological solutions quicker and easier on an international platform rather than a national one.

There are global problems other than those related to our climate that also require global solutions. For example we are increasingly dependent on infotech for our day to day living. Ever increasing numbers of public services are accessed via the internet – an international telecoms network of networks that is theoretically under the control of no one, but in practice is largely in the control of a few global companies. These large infotech companies probably have more power than individual nation states yet are answerable to no one except their shareholders. Of even greater concern, however, is the threat from tech savvy rogue nations, terrorist groups or criminal gangs to hold countries to ransom through taking control of energy distribution or telecommunication. Such cyber attacks could bring an entire country to its knees. We need international collaboration and trust to prevent such attacks.

There is also, of course, the continued threat from nuclear weapons. Whilst the tension of the 1960’s and 70’s has faded, the existence of these weapons of mass destruction have not. In fact it would appear that the USA and Russia have embarked on a new arms race. This, together with strongly nationalistic heads of state (not to mention the possible election of another Trump) and an increasingly volatile world brought about by climate collapse may make their use seem practical. There is also the possibility of course that some form of nuclear device could fall into the hands of a terrorist group. We need, therefore, renewed international agreement on their control and limitation, and ideally their eradication.

Finally, I feel strongly that former colonial powers like the UK have a greater weight of responsibility to act on these global threats than other countries. The UK is often heralded for its role in driving the industrial revolution, a revolution that, whilst producing many benefits, has also led directly to our climate and ecological crisis. And let’s be honest here, the UK did this by imposing its authority on other nations and stealing their resources. The UK, and similar countries, should therefore carry an increased responsibility when it comes to responding to this crisis. We need to resist the urge to portray ourselves on the international stage as ‘great’ and ‘the best’ and start collaborating with other nations to produce meaningful international agreements that start addressing these global threats.

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