The future is decided in the blink of an eye: Before 4,6 billion years ago, the earth was made of gas and dust, in just a few decades their fate - and that of their inhabitants - will be sealed. And, ironically, like a Greek tragedy: it is the "thinking man", presumed culmination of evolution, threatening Mother Nature and its own existence. - But it will change.
"It's about a new worldview. We are in a position to bring the earth system on completely different paths, "Dirk Messner
The planet will be saved - Dirk Messner is also convinced of this. The German expert on global development is one of those people who look to the future with confidence despite all the challenges. And he is a representative of those who see us at the crossroads into a new age. At the beginning of what is probably the most important epoch of young people. “It's about a new worldview. We are able to take the earth system on completely different paths, ”says Messner, indicating the direction - towards an understanding of the global overall view and the necessary sustainability. And he can prove it: With the study “Social Contract for a Great Transformation. The path to a climate-friendly global economy ”and his colleagues have caused a worldwide sensation.
The new worldview
The earth is a disk and is at the center of the universe. - Our collective memory knows it better. But, does our society, guided by cognition and reason, actually lose its childishness? The international surveys of the World Values Survey prove the change to the new worldview. Over the past 30 years, data has been collected in 97 countries from all cultures and regions of the world, which together make up more than 88 percent of the world's population. The result shows the changing world view: People in all countries of the world are now overwhelmingly in agreement: Climate change poses a serious, global environmental problem (89,3 percent of respondents in 49 countries, n = 62.684). In the majority of states, the importance of environmental protection exceeds even that of economic growth and jobs. And: 65,8 percent of respondents (n = 68.123) would be willing to give up some of their own income if the money was used to fight pollution.
The silent revolution
The US political scientist Ronald Inglehart speaks of a "silent revolution" towards environmental and sustainability aspects, a new worldview. His theory of the change in values briefly explained: If a certain level of prosperity can be achieved, a society turns away from “materialistic needs” towards “post-materialistic needs”. History seems to confirm this. After the Second World War there was a general pursuit of physical security, economic stability and order. For three decades, however, the importance of “post-material needs” has increased. Self-realization, participation in the state as well as freedom of expression and tolerance come to the fore and are now widely spread. So also the maxim of sustainability. In addition to a new worldview, there are increasing supporters of having the current earth system epoch, the Holocene, replaced by the Anthropocene. The convincing reason: the influence of humans has long been the determining force on the earth's geosystem. "If you want to look at the development of the oceans over the centuries, you have to look at human consumption," says Dirk Messner, referring to the omnipotence of humans over nature, which amounts to an "unintended geoengineering process". Therefore, rules, concepts and a philosophy are needed that give the new worldview power. "As with human rights or international law in their area, we have to take responsibility for the earth system and future generations," demands the sustainability expert.
The big transformation is coming
One thing is already certain: The so-called "great transformation" will not be long in coming. It is - for a variety of reasons - irresistible - apart from the change in the world view. The confirmed already US economist Michael Spence2050 will host about nine billion people on planet Earth. Climate change will continue. The developing and emerging countries are finally catching up with the industrialized countries. Messner: "The economic dynamics must be transformed. In any case, we will experience a great transformation. The question is: Can we steer them towards sustainability? The good news is that the transformation is financially viable for the global economy and a reorientation of society has already begun. The biggest challenge is the time frame ".
Four ways to the future
It is four drivers that can trigger changes of global proportions. The problem: only three of them are controllable. Visions - such as those that led to the founding of the European Union - are based on ideals and reason. Technology and innovation brought about the IT revolution. A purely knowledge-driven driver is research that requires knowledge about problems. It led to the understanding of the ozone hole. Crisis must be regarded as the most important driver, however: They trigger changes with great problems, are hardly controllable and can lead to erroneous paths. Messner argues that preventive trade is particularly important in the transformation to sustainability, because if climate and earth system change first triggered global crises, this would have irreversible consequences.
What to do?
Decisive for a sustainable future is the restructuring of three areas in particular: energy, urbanization and land use. The conversion to non-fossil fuels is a crucial factor. Here, according to Dirk Messner: "Energy efficiency is even more important. Total demand must be flattened and stabilized. That's why it's necessary to make the conversion to renewable energy affordable. "The consumption behavior of the city dwellers, above all of the gigantic megacities that are currently emerging in Asia, is also of immense significance here. "The city has to be reinvented," is Messner's motto. But the expert is also optimistic in terms of energy: With a global share of 20 to 30 percent of renewable energy to enter the tipping point, which creates the price convergence to fossil fuels. But the turnaround has a creed: The US let Europe take the lead in the development of renewable energy and want to get into the boat only at reasonable cost. But whether the pioneering achievement in the energy transition will bring economic benefits for Europe can not yet be answered. That explains many a hesitation.
In any case, the costs of change of around one to two percent of the global gross national product can be financially reduced. As part of German reunification, between six and eight percent of GNP was invested in the ex-GDR. Sometimes a crucial problem: a good 500 billions of dollars - just under one percent of the global gross national product - are still invested annually in the subsidization of fossil fuels.
World politics is becoming more difficult
But just politically, a shift to sustainability is becoming increasingly difficult, as the climate conferences show. World politics has changed and power is increasingly shifting to the big emerging economies such as China and India. Messner: "Whereas the industrialized nations would have been able to develop their own sustainability policy a few decades ago, today's change can no longer be tackled alone. It's going to be difficult: we messed up, but others should now pay. "(Helmut Melzer)
Photo / Video: Yeko Photo Studio, Shutterstock.