According to historian Adam Tooze, we have entered a ‘polycrises’.
“The concept of polycrises has been gaining traction recently thanks to Tooze’s work, even though it is not very new. In 1999, Edgar Morin wrote about it in his book Homeland Earth. There, he approaches climate and environmental problems as the result of a complex economic system. Morin writes that you should not look at the individual problems individually, but at the total interaction between all problems, threats and crises in the present and past.” *
Can we disentangle or reverse the polycrisis?
Adam Tooze: I don’t think there is a reversal. I always end up with analogies that seem rather trivial, but it’s like cycling. The bicycle is inherently unstable. It has to fall over and if it falls over, you get hurt. On the other hand, if you learn to ride it, it is a gift from God. It is a good image for the challenge of modernity. Or talk about the nuclear reactor: incredibly dangerous, incredibly powerful. It all depends on who operates it and what kind of politics are involved. That to me is the essence of our current situation.**
I never experienced that learning to ride my bike was a gift from God but anyway, what does this trivial analogy say according to Tooze? That decision-makers can avoid accidents by developing (advanced) skills and sensible behaviour. And that if that goes well it is a gift from God…as if we can’t do anything about it ourselves.
Advanced skills and sensible behaviour are things I wonder if they are present in sufficient numbers among policymakers. Architecture is virtually powerless in the face of this. The architect has limited influence on choices. More sustainable building products also tend to be just that: more expensive. That is a consequence of policy, policy not to pass on environmental damage in costs. Policies laid out at the WEF, the ministries, the lobby chambers, among others.
So the fact that ‘Polycrisis’ became a buzz word at the WEF in 2023 is downright cynical -because way too late- and if people keep hoping for a gift from God to solve the polycrisis it’s never going to happen….
As the damage, done to the livability of large areas, by an economic system threatens the return on financial investments, attention is now on the list (The Limits to Growth, 1972) of the Club of Rome.
50 years too late…