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February 19, 2013, Tuesday

The real triangle of crisis and the dream of a global democracy

The finance ministers of the G20 met last week in Moscow for discussions on funds and finance, all agreeing on how much of a “bad thing” currency wars are. Is it believable that the crisis can be overcome with a bit of pulling and tugging around of money and tax policies? I think this is actually what the G20 all believe, though.

Meanwhile, last week President Obama of the US declared that they will be launching talks on a comprehensive “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” with the European Union. This promises that much more is in store than becoming just a customs union. We are now moving rapidly towards the final stages of globalization. However, the difference this time is that it will not be only the leaders at the top who clear the path by collecting the debris which floats to the surface from the wreckage. Humanity's progression in technology is enabling those “lower down” to also join in the process. The Arab Spring, for example, was something like this. We all witnessed the effects between 2010-2011 in the Middle East of a non-centralized and irrepressible united public force stemming from two new, unexpected and uninvited players, in other words the collectivity between the “leaker” and the “technology activist”; the “twilight lurker” constituting the “little brother” watching the state, who was not satisfied with the raising of “public opinion” alone, but who also networked, processed, shared, published/distributed data and who could rapidly become organized and move into action.

The foci of central governments and multinationals were no longer alone on the stage. What these players were after was very simple: democracy and welfare equality, fair sharing. Simple, although just as difficult.

Networks have spread all around the world making it possible, for the first time, for all sides to join in global governance simultaneously. The dream of “global democracy” has never been so close, yet at the tip of a very complex equation.

Now, let's take a look at the empty half of the glass for all but a small minority. As always in the course of all big changes, we live in a time where the periods between global, regional and local economy and political crises are becoming even shorter. The 2008 crisis is not yet over, and inevitably new crises will emerge during the reconstruction of the financial system.

In the same way, “political stability” has little bearing in a global geography where all the balances of power are shifting. Nowadays political stability, for almost all countries, means establishing moments of temporary conjunctural stability on a daily basis. A kind of Sisyphus situation -- imagine politicians scattering as the boulders they constantly roll to the top of the hill just keep rolling back down on them. It may be quite a spectacle to watch, but we cannot overlook the negative effects it would directly have on our daily lives. Economic and politic crises are the smallest of our concerns. After all, these are human conditions that are solvable with human intelligence. However, there are other crises knocking at our door.

Each G20 stages anxious discussions about the “real crisis triangle” -- global food levels, energy and climatic/environmental crises -- which never filter through to the media. These are all interconnected, material conditions that affect the environment, impacting the production of real goods in a negative way. Also, the presently weak global economy and politics are making them candidates for increasing the severity of the crisis.

The real crisis triangle is making itself felt at even more regular intervals. The food level crisis struck a serious blow between 2007-2008 and is one of the most important risks that lie ahead of us. The energy crisis has become continuous. As for the climate crisis, that comes to a head in the form of environmental crises: floods, droughts, erosion, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes have become part of our daily lives. The worst part is that all these three trigger each other. Food production; energy and environmental economy; the increase in oil and gas prices; the drop in quality and the shortage of water supplies and progressively growing heat waves -- these are all directly connected with environmental conditions. All act to spark economic stagnation, unemployment, hunger, civil wars and the rise of authoritarian regimes. Once it was called oil wars, now currency wars have come forward. Who is to say that tomorrow it will not be the turn of food and water wars. The “global food security” notion sits right here on the map. Developed countries and multinationals plan to conduct this chaos with a global police state.  Micro wars, fascist governments, suppression and violence are all part of this kind of leadership state of mind, anyway...

Among the systemic reasons for the food crisis, there is most notably the fact that as the population rapidly increases, agricultural land just as rapidly decreases. Market reforms encouraged by developed countries are weakening the protection of agriculture while damaging local farmers. The increase of industrial farming on a global scale and the price speculation of raw materials is an incentive to move from agricultural production towards the production of ecological fuel. Waves of migrations provoked by civil wars prevent mass populations from farming. Changes in eating habits are all having effects on increased demand for food on a global scale.

Technological innovation is the first thing that comes to mind to overcome the food crisis. This increases the demand for biotechnological and genetic innovations. There is ambiguity surrounding GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and biotechnological research, though. This involves an area of study combining high technology such as agriculture, pharmacology, energy and biotechnology. These areas are composed of multinational companies.

Therefore, today, when we speak of a crisis it should not be taken to mean just a debt crisis.

The G20 cannot guarantee the future of the system by only discussing monetary and financial policies. Ahead lie the dynamics for a much deeper and real crisis.

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