Tuesday, 21 October 2008

In the long term

George Monbiot looks at the implications for climate change mitigation (and other long term challenges) of political short termism, noting the failure of politicians to deliver for those as yet unborn: "Politics is the art of shifting trouble from the living to the unborn".

What with the recent surge in public borrowing to address short term financial concerns and the paralell announcement of the 80% carbon emissions reduction by 2050 it's a good time to be examining the capacity of the UK govt to address the serious long term challenges we face.

Monbiot, having banged his head together with Matthew Prescott has come up with a great solution: The100 years committee, who would be detached from short term political concern, focused on long term strategic issues and respresenting those unborn. It's a useful idea, and I wonder whether the National Assembly for Wales should consider creating such a committee.

Monbiot's procedural cure does offer some hope but you can't help wonder if there's a role for the electorate in shaping a politics that is concerned with the bigger picture, not just the day's headlines. If citizens want government to invest in the 'unborn', they need to make that clear at the ballot box, through campaigns and through their behaviours, such as consumption. If lots of people buy reactionary press and fly long haul every other week then it gives carte blanche to politicians to protect and pander to these interests.

Clearly this is a two way process - politicians must make difficult decisions, show leadership, educate and so on but I've seen way too much expectation of leadership from the green lobby and not enough appreciation of poltical realities. Decisions have to be evidenced as sufficiently safe to make and not enough energy goes into proving the space for leadership on long term matters - it's not enough to protest that we should be looking at an issue, we must evidence that the electorate are willing to see an issue addressed, even if it implies some form of short term sacrifice or compromise.

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