Humankind seems to be gripped by a fin it tietx attitude of uncertainty at the threshold of the new century, but the end of a millenium presents an even more complex situation with its widespread and rapid changes, and the uncertainty that these changes bring with them.
The topic of recent Club of Rome meetings has been The Great Transition' : we arc convinced that we arc in the early stages of the formation of a new type of world society which will be as different from today's, as was that ushered in by the Industrial Revolution from the society of the long agrarian period that preceded it. The initial but by no means the only motor force of this change has been the emergence of a cluster of advanced technologies, especially those made possible by microelectronics and the new discoveries of molecular biology. These are creating what is variously called the information society, the post industrial society, or the service society, in which employment, life styles and prospects, material and otherwise, will be very different from those of today for every human being.
We only need to mention as examples of change the population explosion in the Southern countries, the probability of great changes and disturbance in world climate, the precarious nature of global food security, doubts on energy availability and the vast changes taking place ir the geopolitical situation - all of which interact within the complex of the problematique. We are convinced that the magnitude of these changes amount to a major revolution on a worldw.de scale.
1989 and 1990 were years when the course of history suddenly speeded up: communist regimes in eastern Europe collapsed. East and West Germany became a single nation again, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990 provoked a deadly crisis in the Gulf. Though these were by no means the only events of the period, they were by far the most spectacular, and despite their geographic dispersal, they were interconnected: the end of the cold war and of East-West tension blew the lid off the world pressure-cooker, as it were, and enabled latent conflicts to emerge In the open and long-repressed aspirations to express themselves forcefully.
In the coming years, it is very likely that other events will come to the forefront of world attention, while today's events will be pushed into the background. This book was written before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the creation In its place of a loose confederation of independent republics. The changes still taking place there do not alter what follows. Indeed, they confirm our statement, made In early 1991, that the Gulf War is the first example of a series of phenomena that will most certainly affect the world profoundly in the coming decades.
The Gulf War was in many ways a warning signal and should lead to a new vision of international relations. It confirmed the existence of tension, which will continue to grow between the rich countries and the poor countries, between the North and the South, while the injustice and humiliation it breeds is found especially and increasingly unbearable by the Arab Muslim countries. The war has also been a demonstration of a new attempt by the United States to reassert its hegemonic presence in a number of regions of the world, whJlc putting its force at the service of right and legalism. The ambiguity of American policy, despite the fact that it has often shown proof of goodwill, is not going to make the international relations of the United State« any easier in future.
The end of the cold war has led to the awakening of nationalism, that had been stifled under the lid of East-West tension, and will inevitably produce conflicts cf varying degrees. However, it must be stressed that the process of disarmament that was undertaken between the United States and the Soviet Union is a positive element - but not sufficiendy so. Disarmament in high-risk zones and a stria control by the United Nations of the sales of sophisticated arms have to be a priority if we expect to prevent other confrontations, as bloody ar.d paradoxical as those in the Guif War.
Will the budding democracy in Benin, as that in the East European and Latin American countries grow strong and spread, or will its failure to do so lead back to authoritarian governments? Will regimes that seem to be firmly established today be able to stand up to the pressure of population, the majority of the members of which are under twenty years of age and demanding a roof, a job and the means to survive? No one knows.
There Is, however, one indisputable fact: the world economic discrcpaiicies. the flagrant inequaliues, die existence of exueme poverty side by side with great wealth, cause all sorts of tensions and conflicts, showing up here and there in the most diverse geographic zones. These are the signs that mark this first global revolution and they indicate the uncertainty with which the future of the planet is confronted.
But why do we regard the contemporary threats and changes as the first global revolution? The change from the hunting and gathering phase to one of setded farming may have taken thousands of years to spread throughout the world. The Industrial Revolution that began in the United Kingdom about two centuries ago is as yet geographically incomplete. However, the present brutal changes are taking place everywhere simultaneously from causes which are likewise ubiquitous, thus causing the 'Sturm und Drang' of a universal revolution. The worldwide significance of this revolution becomes vastly greater if one considers that its mismanagement could endanger the whole human race.
The new society is emerging from the chrysalis of the often archaic and decadent old societies; its evolution is complex and uncertain and its manifestations are difficult to decipher, making the tasks of the decisionmakers in both public and private sectors more difficult than ever, and inducing a permanent uncertainty in all thinking individuals. Elements or transitional facets of the new society are appearing here and there without obvious oes between them.
The global revolution has no Ideological basis. It is being shaped by an unprecedented mixture of geostrategic upheavals caused by social, economic, technological, cultural and ethical factors. Combinations of these factors lead to unpredictable situations. In this transitional period, humanity is therefore facing a double challenge - having to grope its way towards an understanding of the new world with its many hidden facets and also, amidst the mistt of uncertainty, to leam how to manage the new world and not be managed by it. Our aim must be essentially normative - to visualize the sort of world we would like to live in, to evaluate the material, human and moral resources available, to make our vision rralisric and sustainable, and then to mobilize rhe human energy and political will to forge the new global society.
In matters of public concern, as in other areas of human interest, fashions prevail. Yesterday the nuclear problem was uppermost in people's minds; later the population explosion reached the headlines; today the environment is a la mode and concern with population has receded. The energy crisis was seldom mentioned publicly earlier, but the events in the Middle East have already mace this the new preoccupation. The need is to consider all these as essential angles of illumination in the kaleidoscope of planetary change.
In this tangle of changc it is important as never before to look beyond the pressing issues of the moment to the forces beyond the horizon. Forecasting is necessary, and will necessarily be a relative failure. Simple extrapolation of existing trends will not give us realistic answers. The Umits to Grwl/i1 had developed an interactive simulation model that produced a variety of scenarios which were especially useful for defining what was to be prevented. In some fields such as technology and industry, long-term forecasting is indispensable and efforts in that direction are being made by some of the most forward looking corporations, which are struggling to invent new methodologies for planning in uncertainty.
In the thirties, the American president Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned his administration to undertake a vast study of the coming technologies. When the study was published it made a very big impression. Indeed, it was enthralling. There was just one problem: it had not predicted the coming of television, nor that of plastic, or jet planes, or organ transplants, or laser beams, not even of ball-points pens!2
One aspect of the contemporary situation is an increasing awareness that the human race, in pursuit of material gain by the exploitation of nature, is racing towards the destruction of the planet and itself. The threat of nuclear destruction, although less imminent, is always with us. and the possibility of irreversible climatic changc with only dimly foreseeable consequences is an imminent menace. Such ingredients of the present problematique arc global in character and cannot be tackled by even the largest powers in isolation. Only if all the inhabitants of the planet realize that they are facing immediate and common dangers, can a universal political will be generated for united action to secure the survival of humanity. This is why we call for the creation of world solidarity.
The term solidarity' has been greatly misused and seriously devalued. Its application to circumstances in which motivations for common belief or action were too weak, have given it a somewhat Utopian and insubstantial connotation. In the present circumstances, however, the extent of danger to the future well being of all the inhabitants of the planet gives such enhanced force to the necessity for solidarity, that unity and stability must plainly be generated.
1. This was the fir« Report to the Club of Rome (Meadows et al 1972).
Wc have voluntarily presented a simplified version of things: many of the phenomena mentioned herein would have to be analysed both more deeply and more subdy. This would require numerous and weightv volumes.
Our option was different. Our wish was briefly - even if superficially and incompletely - to lay out elements that may already be known in order to show how they interact and through their entanglement, to state our oudook on the present world problematiquc as clearly as possible. We do not intend to draw up a blueprint of concrete actions for the salvation of the world. Nevertheless, our analysis of the situation encourages us to make a number of practical proposals, to suggest possible lines of action and to indicate necessary changes in attitude.
Never before has humanity possessed, as it docs today, the knowledge and the skills, the resources and the cohesion to shape a better world. This should generate hope in all people. Yet there is widespread uneasiness and fear of impending changes which in impinging on the still incomplete changes of recent decades will add to the uncertainty. This very uncertainty, together with the removal of the traditional restrictions of the past and the new hopes for the future provides an enormous impetus for reshaping the world society. The tragedy of the human condition is that wc have not yet reached a position to realize our potential. Wc see the world and its resources being grossly mismanaged, yet we are lulled by the complacency of our leaders and our own inertia and resistance to change. Time is running out. Some problems have already reached a magnitude which is beyond the point of successful control and the costs of delay are monstrously high. Unless we wake up and act quickly it could be too late.
This book is organized in two parts. The first deals with the problematiquc and purports to present the main changes of the last two decades, to describe the malaise which they have caused and to outline some of the most important issues and dangers which humanity has to face unitedly. The second part describes the resolutiquc and attempts to present a number of actions which, at this stage, seem especially necessary to pursue. Finally we return to the need to generate world solidarity.
Tfu First CM Revolution is written for all. those who have the spark of the explorer, the discoverer, the risk taker —the learner. These are the people we shall have to count on to face the appalling issues described herein, to set-the goals and try to reach them and to learn from their failures and successes, to go on trying - learning.
Finally, it is addressed to those who ar< ccncerned with the future of the planet and of humankind, and hopes to sharpen their concern. This book may also help to awaken concern in others. Above all, it is addressed to the young.
so ilicy may assess more coherently the state of the world which they have inherited from earlier generations, and may be inspired to work for the construction of a new and sustainable society, capable of providing equality and modest prosperity for their children and generations to come.
This is the spirit in which we offer these ideas and proposals for action, for learning our way into the future.
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