This blog has been silent for several months. The main reason was simply that, alongside my day job, I had taken on another research and writing task – preparing the next edition of my atlas of world affairs, The State of the World – and that took priority. But that’s done (publication date January 2013 but if you really want to use it as a Christmas present, get in touch – pre-publication copies have to be available) and so the blog is back.
At this point, I just want to give an idea of what I intend to be tackling over the coming months. There are five big issues that we – the world – need to get right if more people are to be able live in peace and with a reasonable degree of dignity. They are
- Wealth and poverty;
- War and peace;
- Rights and respect;
- Health of people;
- Health of the planet – the natural environment.
Despite the pessimism in Europe and America in this extended “moment” of prolonged economic downturn, reasonable progress has been made on three of those issues – war and peace, rights and respect, and health. Even though progress is limited and at risk from powerful countervailing trends, there has been real improvement. It’s on the economy and the environment that we are continuing to screw up.
The background to this lies in some very big issues:
- The unprecedented scale of demographic shifts, including both population growth and staggeringly fast urbanisation;
- The scale of resource use and economic activity, which has increased much more quickly than population has grown;
- The deep, global environmental predicament we are in – and getting deeper in: it is still poorly understood – among the missing ingredients of our knowledge are the consequences of different environmental issues interacting with each other.
Against this background, questions for my blogging include
- How to keep building peace and expanding the scope of freedom;
- Finding ways to ensure that economic and social development is about improving the conditions of ordinary people, not about strengthening the hold of an increasingly transnational-ised elite;
- Working out which of our national and international institutions are not delivering the way they should be, why, and what can be done to, with and about them;
- What kinds of knowledge we need in order to do better.