Taking relationships for granted

“FT Breaking News” last night brought an announcement from José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

He had told the paper that the EU needs to go “beyond the incremental legislative measures proposed last week and take ‘a very big step’ towards deeper integration if the bloc is to learn the lessons of the sovereign debt crisis.”

All well and good. But why is there no similar announcement on the imminent irreversible planetary collapse? That surely is an even higher priority?

If we want a good quality of life then we do need a healthy economy.

And to get that healthy economy we do need to resolve this sovereign debt crisis.

But if ecosystems and biodiversity “reach a critical threshold of existence” (as they may do “in our lifetime“) then there will be no economy, no sovereign debt crisis, and no European Union.

We live in relationship with our environment. And as in all relationships, both parties have needs.

The sovereign debt crisis shows that (just as with personal relationships) when one party is not getting their needs met the quality of the relationship deteriorates, for both parties. But it is still possible to get around the table and negotiate a new solution. New agreements can be found.

In the case of the European sovereign debt crisis the alternatives are either breaking apart altogether or (as Barroso is suggesting) “deeper integration”.

Our relationship with the environment is somewhat similar, but there are two main differences.

First, in our relationship with the environment we have not been listening. We have been taking the environment for granted, even though it has been showing us quite clear signs of stress, to the point now where it is reaching “irreversible planetary collapse”.

Second, if the environment ever does decide to walk away, there is no other party to form a relationship with. There are no other ‘fish in the sea’: no other banks to borrow from, or governments to lend to. There is no backup life-support system for our planet.

This is one relationship we need to stop taking for granted.


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