Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006: The notable issues

Again, some trends that are not new, but are important this year.

1. Climate change
Of course, the number one issue, thankfully. Awareness due in no small part to Al Gore and to the Stern Review. We will live to see global changes, and the only question is, how much political will we can generate, and how much we can ameliorate the change. I foresee a decrease in dithering, particularly once Bush exits. But the battle will always be there: how much action we are willing to take versus how much change we can put up with. Aside from the spoiler action of vested interests, the chief problem is that as humans, we discount the future too much - that is, we put high value on the present, and lower value on the future. At 50-odd years before we face a significantly different environment, adjusting those values is a big ask.

2. Middle east
The number two issue of the year is a clash of values between the extremes of Western and Muslim culture. The only way to bring the temperature down is to defuse the pressure points. And those are Palestine and Iraq. In that order. However, Israel's plans to build new settlements in the West Bank prove that they were never genuine in leaving Gaza: they were just regrouping. I can't see an easy solution, since Israel and its financier, the US, both have too much voter pressure to adjust their course. The tension ripples not just through the immediate region, but throughout the world.
For Iraq, it's hard to see any action that would halt the civil war. Perhaps if the US and allies left, it would stabilise faster, but not without much more violence.

3. Collaboration and the Internet

Largely covered in yesterday's post. Business is gearing up with Web 2.0; individuals are creating their own vision with MySpace and Blogs. And the two are crossing over - for example, companies (such as IBM) are seeing value in the virtual reality site, Second Life. A powerful force for global unity.

4. Economic giants wake, and shake the world
China and India, that is. Their increasing economic clout will change world dynamics.

5. US mid-term elections

This has brought about a change in the power balance within the US. The voters chiefly rebelled against corruption and the Iraq war - and ignored climate change. But without knowing the solution to either Iraq or "corruption" (hint: there are systemic issues), they simply voted out the incumbents [at the margins]. Likewise those in office (or aspiring) have no real answers. However - and this is again at the margins - the political character of the US has shifted somewhat, which will do something to ease international tensions.

6. Change at the helm in Australian politics
New opposition leader Kevin Rudd makes next year's federal election an open contest. As the election draws closer, we may see some amelioration of the worst of policies on industrial relations, health, education, and foreign affairs. Somewhat more change if the ALP wins.

(You might notice that I haven't nominated terrorism, Iran, or North Korea. However, you can see that there is some congruence between my list and that of US Associated Press editors. Sad to see that as proof that the US still doesn't really get it on climate change.)

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