2015 has been a year heavily laden with major global events. According to how one of the most recent ones—the climate conference in Paris—has been celebrated, 2016 promises either the best or worst to come.
True, the past year didn’t start as prosperous as one might have wished. Considering all the killings and murders around the planet, USToday seems to have found the right words describing it as “horrific, disheartening and brutal” news that reached us during the year. Together with the ISIS terror, a further Paris terror attack, and ongoing crimes in Mexico social threats such as terror, war, epidemic outbreaks (e.g. Ebola) and massive migration seem to have reached dimensions that shake society as we would still be living in Middle Ages. Although some claim that never in history have as many people enjoyed such a high level of living quality, I prefer to stress here that never before in history have so many people on this planet suffered under physical harm, terror, prosecution, poverty or stress in whatever form.
Apart from a major social crisis, the planet is also suffering under an ever more evident abuse and over-exploitation of natural resources. Climate change has reached a dimension that can’t be denied any longer, not even by the most extreme fundamentalists among us. In Ho Chi Minh City we currently enjoy mid-summer conditions (without the usual rain that has been absent all-year), while in southern Germany cherry trees started to blossom at the beginning of December – four months early and skipping an entire season. While those among us who still trust in governments after all the NSA, FIFA corruption and other affairs can look forward to an early cherry season, realists and scientist know that such signs are not really indicators of a second Green Revolution.
I’m not sure if it is that everyone can feel the need for a change or simply prove of blind trust that made the world celebrate the outcome of COP21 of the UNFCCC in Paris as they usually only celebrate Coldplay or Roger Federer. Fact is that the thirty-two page document that world leaders added to the cultural heritage is nothing new nor does it replace a fraction of the entire world heritage that has been lost or willingly destroyed in 2015. While it is only a paper full of words, citizens shouldn’t forget that words and commitments alone will not change the planet, as decades of talk and empty words have shown.
In Vietnam I witness on a daily basis how climate change adaptation is being implemented with the help of foreign governments, whereas the national government plays a double-role cheating the international community and Vietnamese citizens alike while filling the pockets by stealing from both. The real estate boom is experiencing a revival thanks to a new law that permits even more foreign investment and ownership. While none of these dwellings come with insulation or other environmental safeguards, nobody cares about energy and pollution in a country where people (and companies) still burn their waste in the home-garden.
Foreign ownership will bring enough dollars to cool down heated rooms and heads. Meanwhile representatives from the Swiss embassy attended the celebration of the first Vietnamese vessel under Swiss flag, while Japanese, Belgian and other governments are proud investors of a new mega-port to be established right next to the UNESCO world heritage site Ha Long Bay which mainly serves as an access point to one of the most important illegal trade routes into China. Despite of this obvious loss in tax money, rather than fighting corruption the Swiss government assists with training for the banking sector. Maybe it’s best if we help with what we are good at given the incapacity to address corruption back home. As a whole, international development and trade assistance have never been more practical and outcome-focused!
Considering that sustainable development, which is often characterized as the trinity of environmental, social and economic aspects, would be the best and probably only way forward to a better future, we might also explain the horrors of 2015 as a consequence of an ever increasing alienation from these ideals. Development as it has been practiced , development solely focused on financial gains, has led to ever further environmental and social exploitation even in 2015. The social crisis that we have witnessed in 2015 can thus also be understood as a logic outcome of an increasing inequality that has reached perverse levels. Furthermore it is the reaction to a failure of integrating citizens into decision making or, even worse, a complete denial of participation for the vast majority of world citizens.
To sum up, while I was shocked by the brutality by which society has been shaken in 2015, I felt equally speechless in light of the wave of applause that ‘our’ leaders earned at the climate talks in Paris. It only proves that we either prefer to believe in Santa Clause or hope for another Messiah. Even if we all see the shit coming, we can’t do better than believing in miracles until the shit ultimately hits the fan.