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Zeitgeist


November 26th 2015

In order to reach your goals, you will have to repeat yourself. Politicians know this, often having been inspired by Cato the Elder, the senator in the Rome of the 2nd Century BC that ended all of his speeches with the cry “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (“Moreover, I advise that Carthage must be destroyed”). Three years after his death, his wish was granted. With the destruction of Carthage, the biggest threat to the Roman Empire sadly ceased to exist as well.

Despite repetition upon repetition the biggest threat to our own way of life still remains. I am talking about our habit of ruining our planet’s ecological and political climate through our use of natural resources.

This Monday marks the start of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, where a new agreement, taking over from the Kyoto Protocol, should be signed. As many as 138 heads of state and government will attend. It is typical that the conference should take place in Paris, which has been distressed by the recent terrorist attacks for the past two weeks. Could there be a connection? It only took author Kamel Daoud two sentences to get to the heart of the matter in last Friday’s New York Times: “Daesh has a mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex.”

Essentially, it is all about the oil: the western world goes to war over it, and uses it to help sustain dubious regimes. These regimes, in turn, either directly or indirectly wreak havoc upon our society. In the meantime, the earth is heating up and our natural resources are running out.

We are incorrigible oil junkies: together, the wealthier countries and emerging markets subsidize the exploitation of fossil fuels by contributing about 200 billion dollars a year, as reported by the OECD.

If we were to invest that same money in the development of sustainable energy resources the world would be a very different place. The Middle East would no longer be unhinged by petroleum politics: this area of conflict would dissolve completely. Moreover, we would take a step toward bringing climate change to a halt, which is one of the root causes of conflict and the current refugee crisis.

The signs for the Parisian conference are not looking good, however: it seems that the parties will not come to a binding agreement on carbon dioxide reduction. I am silently praying for a small miracle. If we join forces, the sky is the limit. It is good to hear that Dutch pension fund PGGM is looking into including carbon dioxide reduction in its investment portfolio. More good news: the PvdA (labour party) and GroenLinks (‘GreenLeft’) have pulled together to compose a legal regulation regarding our climate. Let us wait and see what the heads of state will come up with.

I will state this once more, hoping this time it will stick: moreover, I advise that the use of fossil fuels come to an end. 

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