Power down

And she knows where we’re headed.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Mur­ray Grim­wood

1 re­mark­able leader

Leonard Co­hen doesn’t know how close he got to pen­ning the themesong for global neo-con­ser­vatism, 2017-style. When I first heard it, I as­sumed he meant that peo­ple who un­der­stood global lim­its would pre­vail over the dying rem­nant of those who thought we could trash the place in­def­i­nitely. That change would come from within so­ci­ety, a pain­less morph driven by in­tel­li­gence and rea­son.*

The re­verse has hap­pened. The mass pop­u­lace bought the mantra that ‘the mar­ket’ will sort ev­ery­thing out like an in­vis­i­ble hand. That sounds to me like just another thing to be­lieve in for those who need to be­lieve in things, but there you go. The neo­con­ser­va­tives (neo­cons) have won, and it’s rapidly look­ing like we will all lose as a re­sult.

Or maybe not. It ap­pears that although the masses are un­e­d­u­ca­ble as to the lim­its to growth, even as the global ed­i­fice tot­ters around them, they oc­ca­sion­ally select far and clear-sighted lead­ers. For what­ever rea­son, they elect Ghandi, Man­dela, Roo­sevelt, Carter.

There is one leader to­day who has my ad­mi­ra­tion as per­haps the last great in­tel­lect cur­rently stand­ing at the head of any in­flu­en­tial na­tion on the planet. She also has my heart­felt sym­pa­thy.

Ger­man chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel makes the news for a lot of rea­sons, none of which are the one I re­spect her for. For me, her crown­ing glory is a suc­cinct lit­tle es­say she penned in 1998 called The Role of Science in Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment – it’s on­line if you google that ti­tle. Next time you have a few free min­utes, it’s worth a read. She could have writ­ten the stuff I’ve writ­ten here these last few years, just clearer and ear­lier.

She’s re­mark­able. It means that she un­der­stands the refugee groundswell ar­riv­ing on her doorstep in the last few years for what it is, the big­gest ex­o­dus in hu­man his­tory, de­ple­tion-driven and bound to es­ca­late. Re­li­gious big­otry and sui­ci­dal anger are symp­toms, not causes.

It means she knows that Ger­many is vul­ner­a­ble to en­ergy cur­tail­ment. She knows that when an en­ergy ex­porter (like Rus­sia) uses more and more of its fi­nite prod­uct at home, there’s less and less avail­able for ex­port. She will have noted Bri­tain, In­done­sia and Egypt have gone from be­ing net en­ergy ex­porters to net en­ergy im­porters, and the political/so­cial reper­cus­sions that will re­sult. She knows that when Saudi Ara­bia and Rus­sia in­evitably fol­low suit, it’s game over glob­ally. Ger­many, and an over­flow­ing dance-card of oth­ers, will have to go to war. Or col­lapse. Or both. She will also know that the process over the last cou­ple of decades, where Ger­many ex­ported phys­i­cal goods in re­turn for IOUS from an in­creas­ingly bank­rupt south­ern Europe, was a tem­po­rary hal­lu­ci­na­tion.

Give Merkel her due. Ger­many is aim­ing to be sus­tain­ably-en­er­gised as fast as (they think) they can un­der cur­rent con­di­tions. They have a grid pow­ered by French re­ac­tors to the west and coal to the east. Their so­lar re­source is to the south, their wind to the north, and their ci­ties do­ing the re­ceiv­ing can­not be prac­ti­ca­bly shifted, so the four trans-power com­pa­nies have a se­quenced plan to al­ter their trans­mis­sion lines.

But it won’t be enough. I at­tended a lec­ture by a fel­low from a 1000-per­son think-tank look­ing into this and he stated that their tar­get was 35% re­new­able by 2050. Too lit­tle, too late, and that’s only their elec­tric­ity, not the stuff which shifts their sup­plies up and down the au­to­bahns.

The Merkel prob­lem is the Obama prob­lem is the Carter prob­lem. Whether the mass ig­no­rance is cho­sen (de­nial, fear, cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance and re­li­gious be­lief be­ing pos­si­ble rea­sons) or via me­dia fail­ure, or via a wired-in DNA re­quire­ment for species sur­vival in the early stages of evolve­ment, it seems to be across the board. If some­one is hon­est enough to say times are about to get tougher, they can ex­pect to be voted out. Win­ston Churchill fa­mously told the pun­ters they were in for a rough ride but he was al­ready in power, not hus­tling for votes. Carter was voted out for voic­ing what Merkel – at some point – must ex­plain.

The neo­cons have taken Man­hat­tan and I sus­pect they now have their eyes on Ber­lin.

There’s a photo on the in­ter­net of a hand-bag de­signer (editor’s note: Ivanka Trump) sit­ting next to Merkel, a woman with a physics PHD and a long his­tory as a world leader. The look on Merkel’s face is price­less.

We should be thank­ful that one of them knows what is go­ing on.

They sen­tenced­sent me to 20 years of bore­dom For try­ing to change the sys­tem from within I’m com­ing now, I’m com­ing to re­ward them First we take Man­hat­tan, then we take Ber­lin First we take Man­hat­tan, Leonard Co­hen (1986)

* When asked about the mean­ing of the song, Leonard Co­hen said at one point he couldn’t re­mem­ber what he wrote it about, later that it could mean what the lis­tener wants it to mean, but he also once wrote that it was about ter­ror­ism.

“It is a ter­ror­ist song. I think it’s a re­sponse to ter­ror­ism. There’s some­thing about ter­ror­ism that I’ve al­ways ad­mired. The fact that there are no al­i­bis or no com­pro­mises. That po­si­tion is al­ways very at­trac­tive. I don’t like it when it’s man­i­fested on the phys­i­cal plane - I don’t re­ally en­joy the ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties.”

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