Governments that Dream
Late March 2012 the government of Denmark agreed with most opposition parties on a plan of public investments in renewable energy and goals for future levels of sustainability. While the agreement was received with enthusiasm and envy by the environmentally inclined segment of the world population, at home the Danish Minister was met with mixed reactions. Why? The centre-left Danes had voted for much higher ambitions. And they had now witnessed months of less than pretty politics as the opposition strong-armed the government to prune their original sustainability plans bit by bit. But despite what voters vote for, politics is the art of compromises, not a routine of fulfilling dreams.
While governments doesn’t dream at all every voter hopes for a long and safe life without any wrongdoings to fall upon him or her. And most are wise enough to envision this hope as a dream of a peaceful, just future with at least some level of environmental sustainability. We the people dream of a good future. We the people, not we the peoples.
What about corporations then, will they save the world? The Danish energy company DONG dreamed of fulfilling the dream of the Danish government by building the windmills required and creating profits in the process. To cut a long story short, the dreams were castrated by the public dethroning of the company’s director. Then buried by the backstabbing that followed and turned into a mud-wrestling show. Corporations that do dream have the odds against them as strong forces always seem to work within the world of business to keep things profit oriented for the existing investor complexes.
And like our genuine hopes and dreams are compromised or even shattered when transferred to the societal, corporate and political level, so are they often when dealt with on an individual level. Why? Because of the usual suspects such as poverty, egoism and greed, of course. Because of despair: Combine the emotional impact of a financial crisis with egoism and greed and you do not typically end up with generous people helping out for a bright common future. Obviously, those fighting a daily struggle to survive cannot be blamed for living as according to what their own despair of need dictates. What else stops us?
In a way, many individuals act just as desperately as their governments. But where governments are guided by a despair of societal needs, even those people fortunate enough to actually have the means to make their own little difference on the world often don’t. All the small appealing everyday possibilities add up to an insurmountable cacophony of little options. A lot of them could be organized as steps on a path for personal progress or common good but are not. A lot of them are of little personal cost, with great absence of common harm but still not chosen by many. More immediate rewards are preferred as our confusion is exploited by tradition, ignorance and advertisements. The despair of possibilities triumphs in collaboration with our nagging awareness of the power of the forces behind the status quo.
Rio+20 is a patchwork of all the ambitions, dreams and mental challenges described above. Combining the intentions of the optimist and ever deadlocked COP negotiations to combat climate change with those of the practical and partially successful MDGs, Rio+20 will once again gather the leaders of the world to discuss how to fulfil the dreams of the people of the world. When negotiating the text at a pre-summit meeting in New York nine lines of ambition to encourage trade in sustainable goods expanded into five pages of ifs and buts following concerns expressed by “third world” leaders anxious the environmental ambitions would hurt their exports.
Once again the solidarity of people will be pitted against the selfishness of nations and despair of individuals. Although with nothing to lose the people stand to win little more than empty promises and greenwashing. Eradication of poverty, sustainability and peace and are possible dreams. If only we could make governments dream, if only we could make more people act and speak up, then the odds would be different.