What would you think if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Lyrics of John Lennon and Paul McCartney
I have a confession to make. I may be a professionally trained scientist, but when I have an x-ray performed I do not analyse the film myself as I struggle to make head nor tail of it. I guess I have had perhaps 20 x-rays taken in my life of 50+ years and I am just not practiced enough at it to understand what I am looking at. I am certain that if I took the time to study all of the relevant detail I could begin to understand what is involved, but without looking at hundreds of films of various parts of the body, and refreshing those skills regularly, I do not think that I would trust myself to give an accurate diagnosis of any issues I might have when I really needed to.
I have another confession. When I enter the lift of a high-rise building I do not first check the maintenance log to ensure that it has been maintained in good working order. To be totally honest, I am not even really sure how lifts work. I know the earliest ones were based on a counter-balance system, but I suspect these modern ones that move so fast do so with an entirely different mechanism.
Don’t get me started on cars let alone planes. Truthfully, I am just not a very mechanical person. It never interested me. Perhaps in that regard I was spoiled by having a father that could fix anything so when working on our family farm as a lad, if I broke or bogged it, Dad came to the rescue! It was just most practical to him to solve the issue quickly so he and I could get back to work asap. I am sure that if I did stay on the farm I would have developed these skills, as even now I am constantly amazed at what I picked up from observing as a lad how my father worked, but my life took me in a different direction so I have less need of these skills in my day to day life.
I know that it would probably be advantageous for me to understand all of these things, since they are obviously really critical to my health and well-being, but I just do not have the time, nor the inclination to be totally frank. I guess I have just been raised to trust the people who do these jobs for me. And when I think about it, my life is full of, and is entirely dependent on, placing a whole heap of trust on these people who perform these critical roles for me.
I think we all do, and have done since we left caves when life was simpler, but tougher, even though I do not in any way minimise the skill it must have taken to sharpen weapons to hunt successfully for food and ward off danger.
I was once an expert. I was one of the best human beings in the world that you could contact if you had a problem with disease while farming crustaceans, or if you noticed crustaceans dying in a stream or pond. Or even in your aquarium.
On one occasion, when I lived in France, I met some people whose job it was to manage the natural environment around a small village in a remote mountainous area and they were concerned about the precious and endangered crayfish dying in their streams. I visited their village, just in behind where the famous wine Crozes Hermitage is made, and I collected the dead and dying crayfish for examination. I was able to show, using a light microscope and electron microscope together with the skills that I had honed over the previous 10 years of my life, that all of these sick and dying crayfish were infected by a virus. It was the first time a virus had been identified in this crayfish species, and only the second virus found in European crayfish (I also found the first a few years earlier in crayfish in Finland).
Very few people in the world had the capacity and skills to do it – some, who even had reasonable training in veterinary science, had tried but were not quite getting things right to be able to find viruses in European crayfish. But I had a passion for it and I was particularly skilled. I guess it is a bit esoteric and very specific or specialised, probably why it was such a struggle trying to maintain a career doing that work, but that is another story. Then again, with a global population of over 7 billion there is a great need for knowledge on a whole heap of apparently obscure fields.
It used to be difficult to find people with these rare knowledge and skills, but the internet has changed that. I had a “Crayfish Diseases” website in 1996!
The truth is that what I do know pales in comparison to what I do not even though all of this accumulated knowledge and skill is imperative to the modern life I live. Essentially my confessions on things that I do not know, or benefit from without really understanding them, could run on ad infinitum.
But I actually have a really big confession to make which some who have read my essays, with tightening muscles around the neck and hair bristling on the back with contempt at what I said, might even jump up and down about. I may be a professionally trained scientist, but I did not specialise in an area that is especially relevant to studying and analysing climate change trends. I am keenly interested in the subject, and have read reviews so that over the years I have developed an overwhelming impression that the very great majority of scientists who have specialised in the most relevant fields have increasingly become concerned by the trends that they have observed.
That concern certainly seems to be backed up by what we are seeing and experiencing in real life, even if it is not particularly scientific to rely on anecdotal observations. I recall that when I spent 3 months in Finland in 1995 during their summer they had a record heat wave so that temperatures went above 30C. My Finnish friends tell me that they have hardly had a Summer since when temperatures did not breach 30C. A few days ago I read about the scientific research showing the shrinking Arctic sea ice and the article mentioned how a town in Siberia recorded 38C this year!
By now we are all familiar with the forecasts of more extreme weather, sea level rise, effects on animal and plant life, and ultimately on us human beings.
I, personally, place a great deal of trust in the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who argue that humanity confronts a climate crisis.
This comes from the same place where I gain my trust to do all of the things that I want or need to do in my life. I have a strong belief and optimism in the goodness at the core of human beings, and I understand that human beings specialising in specific roles in societies has been the greatest factor in human progress towards our very successful form of social organisation, free market capitalism. (Though that does not mean that we do not always need to stay alert and engaged to ensure that the system continues to serve us all).
Now, of course, not all of the human beings who have specialised in researching and understanding the natural world and climate trends agree. That would really worry me if there was no place for disagreement. No, free and open debate is absolutely vital in all facets of human endeavour. That there are some who disagree with the majority on climate change is a healthy sign that the system works and that is to be treasured.
Nonetheless, it really is clearcut that the majority of scientists who know the most about the relevant fields agree that humanity faces a climate crisis of our own making.
It really is time to stop acting like this needs to be a unanimous decision, or like any Tom, Dick or Karen who has picked up climatology in their spare time should be listened to even if they have a FaceBook page, or blog, or plain old-fashioned website.
Those still arguing over the need to act on climate change are already well behind. The majority of key decision-makers in Governments, business and across broader societies are moving on with or without them because, frankly, we cannot afford to wait any longer before taking meaningful action.
Any politician, and nation they “lead”, in denial over any of this is becoming increasingly isolated, and that will surely continue for as long as they continue their denial.
We now find ourselves in 2021 heading towards more critical global meetings on climate change. One of the first is being hosted by the World Economic Forum as a part of the initiative “The Great Reset” that I discussed in “The Great Reset: Momentum builds with the World Economic Forum agenda” and which encompasses a broad aspiration of engaging all people in the development of a fair, diverse and equitable, and sustainable future for humanity.
This initiative is essentially identical to what I have called for in my writing at MacroEdgo including in my essay entitled “The Great Reset” which I published two months ahead of the WEF initiative launch.
The WEF initiative has been singled out for suspicion and conspiracy theories by elements aligned with Trumpism. These theories centre around a view that the powerful elites are exploiting the vulnerability experienced by humanity in the COVID-19 pandemic to tilt the playing field – or the Monopoly board – even further to their advantage.
For me it has always been an amazing irony that the most elitist of all, Trump himself, had amassed such a strong following amongst those who have become dissaffected as the already privileged – many of them Trump’s friends – took a greater share of the bounty from their shared society.
The apparatus around Trump and those in his orbit have created a narrative that the aim of the WEF is to impose their agenda in an enormous abuse of power, derived from their wealth, in a dictatorial manner.
In this increasingly polarised world, those who oppose Trump feared that this was actually his playbook, and Trump’s reluctance to accept the election result confirmed as much for many.
That 74+ million American voters wanted another 4 years, at least, of Trump “leadership” speaks loudly of that polarisation and of the resources that this apparatus commands in asserting their divisive agenda.
The obvious response is that, like my own writing continually calling on everyone to engage with discussions on the best direction for humanity to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the WEF is imploring all to engage with the discussion and to express a viewpoint.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that Trump is, and has done since first running for the Presidency, also calling for a reset. He calls it “Making America Great Again”, yet he does not define what made it great in a former period.
My own writing also talks about taking America and humanity back to a former greatness, the vision laid out by one of the greatest US presidents – FDR.
In other words, Trump and his associates could actually be calling for the same thing that I am.
But we know from Trump’s messaging, and those he courts, that his reset is for a divisive and unsustainable future – the polar opposite of mine and the WEF’s published views on the direction humanity must take.
For an organisation that is painted in these conspiracy theories as secretive and dictatorial, the WEF has not done a good job of keeping a low-profile over the years with their highly televised annual gathering normally held in Davos, Switzerland.
Moreover, that the WEF has devoted so many resources to promote an open discussion on “The Great Reset” initiative, with their significant materials on their website and in a Time Magazine expose, suggestions that they are trying to secretly and dictatorially impose their agenda on humanity are clearly not grounded in reality!
Those who promote these conspiracy theories infer that there is something unusual or wrong about a group or subset of people gathering to discuss important issues and making important decisions on behalf of all in our societies. But of course that is how human beings have preferred to organise for a long time including in cultures from thousands of years earlier.
What is more, though we all have an opportunity to be involved with decision-making for many organisations important to us, whether school communities, sporting clubs or other groupings, not everybody has a desire to join committees and other structures that directly make decisions. People tend to prefer to perform certain roles, and obviously not all can be in leadership or decision-making roles.
However, and it is an important however, all within any grouping of human beings need to feel that their desires and views are taken on board by those who lead and make decisions.
Of course that is the basis of representative Government, and it is the situation in functional democracies and even many autocracies that otherwise would be at risk of overthrow by a disenfranchised populace.
One aspect of the conspiracy theories seems to be that unelected people, from business and non-Governmental organisations, are involved in these discussions – in fact it is businesspeople initiating the discussions – which has been perceived as them having undue influence on decisions.
Again, this is a natural response to politicians withdrawing from their role as leaders, and to them not listening to scientists and to the will of the majority in society who trust the scientists.
What is more, just because the leaders of these organisations (of human beings) have not been elected does not mean that they do not have diverse and broad stakeholders that are able to assert significant pressure when dissatisfied with the direction the organisation is heading. In fact, stakeholder activism is increasingly common, and businesspeople are well aware of it, not least because investment managers have recognised this and some are specialising in such areas.
Generally the business elites least likely to respond positively to this imposition of broad societal will are those in the Trump orbit, because it challenges their (sociopathic?) need for unchallenged control and power.
The story is deeper, however, because even those on the extreme left – many of whom believe that recent events prove that capitalism is a failed system that cannot be repaired – do not trust the WEF for many of the same reasons and because they find the combined wealth of the business elite offensive in this deeply inequitable world. While I am superficially sympathetic to those feelings in relation to that inequity, I explained in “How Might Milton Friedman Respond To The COVID-19 Pandemic” why this too is flawed logic.
This situation reminds me of a lesson I learned whilst a Humboldt Fellow in Germany in 2002. Over a weekend gathering in Berlin, culminating with a function hosted by the President of Germany, my wife and I befriended two Czeck republic scientists. I recall talking about their opening up after the fall of the iron curtin just over a decade earlier. It was a difficult reality for them to accept that many of the people who were in positions of power under communist rule had managed to keep those or similar influential positions.
The inescapable pragmatism of the situation was that the necessary resetting of their system was highly dependent on utilising those with appropriately developed skills to ensure the continuity of societal functions even if emotionally they might be seen as representing vestiges of a deeply inequitable and often cruel regime. Mao’s cultural revolution in China, sending doctors to villages to be farmers, and other ill-conceived ideas, which led to famine and starvation on an enormous scale, was a lesson for all of humanity.
I see few business elites in as dim a light. Those I do view dimly I perceive mostly as being afflicted with personal greed and toxic aspiration which leads to them acting in their own interest above what is best for broader society.
In “The Great Reset: Momentum builds with the World Economic Forum agenda” I admitted that I consider myself incapable of being a “player” (or a significant “actor”) because I lack political aptitude, that being the skills necessary to influence and lead large groups of people. I do honestly consider them to be rare skills, and not always possessed by those in leadership roles.
Even those with extreme views on wealth must recognise the pragmatism in harnessing the skills of the business elites to enact the necessary deep reforms to place humanity on the surer, equitable and sustainable footing that we desire and require urgently.
Again, what we need is trust and optimism in the goodness at the core of humanity. And a recognition that there really are authentic leaders across all of society.
Specialisation is one of if not the key achievement of humanity. Instead of us all working hard to be okay at all of the skills we need to survive – from securing the necessities of life in water, food and shelter – we have developed societies so that we trust others to do the majority of our vital tasks. That has freed up our minds and time for us to innovate and create both in our roles that we play in our societies and for enjoyment.
The great majority of human beings in most global societies accept and trust the views of the great majority of climate scientists, who have devoted their lives to their work, and who agree that humanity must urgently respond to a climate crisis of our making.
These scientists even agree on what must be done to address the crisis.
Now humanity needs the people who are specialised in politics, leadership and communication, together with the people who manage businesses globally and regionally, to lay the background and institute the changes in an urgent manner. And we need the people who really understand people and culture to ensure that diversity, inclusion and fairness is at the centre of all decisions.
Just as we all do not need to understand the engineering and construction of a physical bridge, we all need to show the same trust in those capable of building a strong bridge which we can cross to a better future for humanity.
This year that begins with the WEF “The Great Reset” initiative at its first meeting (of a unique twin summit format) held in January promising an “an open house policy to integrate all interested citizens into this dialogue”.
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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021