Thursday, November 06, 2008

Electrifying the world

Waking up with high spirits, I was a bit taken back when Robyn called in sick and we had to postpone my seminar until next Tuesday. So instead of discussing world trade reform I found myself out on a morning run along Albert Park Lake with its Popperian black swans, sushi-eating pelicans and a bunch of other exotic looking birds which defy categorization (at least for a political scientist).

Browsing the daily chunk of international media, it becomes apparent exactly how much the Obama victory has electrified the world. And signing in to Facebook, one could follow the wildfire of good news as it spread around the globe, awakening people to an electoral vote victory of 349-162.

Back in Sweden, three economists are asked by Dagens Nyheter what they think the start of the Obama presidency will look like. Suggestive of the way environmental issues have traditionally been perceived, the economists argue that Obama will focus on jobs and growth, putting less emphasize on mitigating climate change. Despite the emerging notion of “green-collar jobs”, it is clear that in mainstream thinking, the environment is still seen as minus and unqualified growth as a plus.

Challenging this paradigmatic view, there is a rapidly growing bright-green movement in the US and, listening to Obama out on the campaign trial, it was fascinating to see to what extent this movement has been able to inform his political thinking. On a fundamental level Obama seems to have recognize the need to build a new energy economy, that we cannot “drill our way out of our energy crisis” and that investments are needed. It remains to see however, if he will be able to take this acceptance beyond (necessary but insufficient) improvements in energy efficiency and infrastructure repairs. As I have said before: it is one thing to patch rooftop insulation, another to make grand investments in the energy of the future. Real reductions in global carbon emissions will require breakthrough innovation, an end to the era of small thinking and a planetary vision which literary can electrify the world (pun excused).



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