Gerardo Gil Valdivia, president of the Mexican Section of the Club of Rome, has highlighted the need to think about a new Enlightenment, like the one that took place towards the end of the 18th century in France, in order to understand the dimension of the changes that happen today, worldwide.
In an interview he suggests that solutions to problems should be formulated from a holistic, cross-sectoral and multisectoral perspective, and in the articulation of new concepts. He has also warned about the terrible consequences that overpopulation of the planet will have on humanity, the deterioration of the environment and the depletion of natural resources.
Gerardo Gil Valdivia
He is the author of books and articles of various lineage, in the field of finance, energy, sustainable development and human rights. He has been a professor and lecturer. He is a member of the Mexican Council of International Affairs (COMEXI), the Javier Barros Sierra Foundation and the Tepoztlán Center, Víctor L. Urquidi. Jurist trained at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), has postgraduate studies in Law and Tax Policy (International Tax Program) by Harvard University. He currently serves as secretary of the National Institute of Public Administration (INAP).
– What is the fourth industrial revolution?
– At the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos 2019, reference was made to the fourth technological and industrial revolution. It has to do with the combination of new technologies: from artificial intelligence, digitalization, robotics, the new genomics, biomedical sciences; which will cause a huge change in the forms of industrial production and the provision of services throughout the world; and that involve novel forms of organization and interrelation among human beings. This transformation comes along with other changes at a global level that will have a tremendous impact on the future of humanity. One of those changes is the process of destruction of nature. It is reflected in the overcoming of the nine natural limits of the planet (climate change, loss of biodiversity, interference in the cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus, destruction of the atmospheric ozone layer, acidification of the oceans, consumption of fresh water, change in the land use, chemical pollution and aerosol charge in the atmosphere), which according to scientists, we have already been living. Issues that together with the demographic growth are generating a very profound change. So the future of humanity will be very different from what we have known so far. We live in a world where the composition of society has changed enormously. Just at the end of the 18th century, we were a billion inhabitants, more or less coinciding with the publication of the famous essay by Thomas Malthus. By the end of the 19th century, around the planet, we reached about 2 billion people. And currently we are almost 7 thousand 700 million. By 2050 we will be between 9 thousand 500 and 10 thousand 500 million. With a process that we would require between 4 and 6 Earth planets to satisfy the needs of natural resources for the whole population.
We coexist in a world that is going through a change of era. The transformation entails a different way of thinking that we are obliged to articulate. We must imagine a new Enlightenment, like the one that occurred at the end of the 18th century, which is the intellectual origin of the contemporary world. "
– However, despite the unusual advances, we also continue dragging ancestral lags.
– We are living many paradoxes. We have never had so much information and we have never tended to be so isolated. In social networks, we do not communicate with those who do not think like us and are not willing to listen to other points of view. Every time we have more information; but we lack intellectual categories and structures to process it. There are also multiplied examples of unprecedented intellectual development in humanity and the anti-intellectual display of millions of people. That is, in the face of more serious problems, we tend to look for more simplistic solutions.
Currently, just over half of the people on the planet, the equivalent of 4 billion, are in a situation of enormous pressure and anguish due to armed conflicts, floods, droughts, political instability, poverty, hunger. Humanity has never progressed as much as now; but, at the same time, diverse sectors of the population continue to live very badly. We live in a world of paradoxes. "
The United Nations has made many efforts to find solutions, with the 2030 Agenda and the so-called Sustainable Development Goals. Also the Club of Rome, the Global Forum of Emerging Markets and numerous institutions work in this area. But there is still a long way to go. And a laudable job is to spread all these ideas.
– How plausible it would be to try to understand the new realities from a different angle.
— So is. All contemporary problems can not be seen from a single discipline. The solutions must be transdisciplinary and multisectoral. And, above all, with a long-term vision. The world is apparently aimless because we are prey to short-termism. The political and business structures are subject to the requirements of the short term. We must articulate a long-term thinking. This is, from the perspective of the complexity sciences: all the problems are complex and we need a transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective to find the solutions.
– And would it be a serious mistake to try to interpret the dynamics of changes with categories of the past?
– Exactly. All our ideas, beliefs, were conceived for an empty world, but we live in a saturated world. From many religious principles, to economic, political, social and cultural beliefs, they are conceived for a world completely different from the current one. Our conceptions and criteria are for a world that no longer exists.
The world became saturated and is at serious risk due to the dangerous depletion of natural resources. For example, let's think that in the last 150 years we have reduced more than half the number of fertile lands and 90% of fish stocks are overexploited or completely depleted. We are living in a very different world than the one who conceived all these ideas. "
Recall that Mexico achieved independence in 1821 with 8 million people and a territory of more than double that of today. In 1900 we were 13 million. In 1950, the census spoke of 26 million 700 thousand. Now, in an intermediate calculation, we have about 127 million inhabitants. Although there are estimates that say we are close to 134 million. It is a different world. The depletion of water and natural resources will be increasingly present.
– How is the implementation of the Paris Plan for the reduction of greenhouse gases? – It's a commitment that the world has to fulfill. The Paris agreement of 2015, had as its main objective that the average temperature of the planet does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius in the course of the XXI century, or preferably that it will not exceed 1.5 degrees. The last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that, even with these levels, the world will suffer terrible economic and social consequences. Consequently, it is necessary to further limit this increase in temperature. What we see in the projections is that the temperature will increase from 3 to 4 and up to 6 degrees Celsius on average. Experts calculate that if it increases more than 4, the situation of global governance will be practically unmanageable. I believe that efforts in this area should be redoubled.
– On the path of conversion towards the use of clean energy, at what point is Mexico?
– Here the issue is to reconcile two types of principles and interests: the need to stimulate the development of the country, generate jobs and progress, before the imperative to limit the emission of greenhouse gases and stop the destruction of nature. I believe that resources for hydrocarbon exploitation should be a mechanism to finance the energy transition. Hydrocarbons will not continue to be used in the world beyond 15 to 20 years. We must make an effort to be in modernity and in the main channel of the global energy transition.
– Have you taken the necessary precautions to avoid a global economic crisis like the one in 2008?
– I believe that the risks of a global economic crisis remain latent. The government of Barack Obama took measures to prevent international financial speculation could lead the world to another collapse, but the government of Donald Trump has removed all restrictions.
The danger of a financial crisis is still very important. "
– What is the relevance of the strength recovered in the defense and promotion of human rights? – Human rights are a phenomenon of constant advances and setbacks. We are faced with the need to articulate a new 21st century humanism in which we do not lose sight of the enormous importance of finding global and national solutions, with full respect for human rights. And with full observance of the dignity of the person. It is very important to save the planet, our common home, to live better, as the papal encyclical 'Laudato si' recommends.
– How do you observe the status quo of democracy in the world?
–Very complicated. A large part of humanity lives under authoritarian regimes or in governments that put democracy at risk. Democracy is a value that we must continue to defend. It is evident that democracy has many vices and problems, but we have to protect it. Not only electoral democracy, but also participatory democracy. I do not know if it is the best, but it is the least bad of the political systems.
– Does this also affect the traditional conception of the nation state?
– We have an important paradigm shift where global problems can not be resolved by national instances. In any case, we must save the figure of the national State.
–What is the situation of global governance?
–To new challenges and new realities. We are moving towards a digital government and mass attention that is increasingly abundant. In the course of the century about 80% of the population in the world will be urban. This poses unprecedented challenges in the history of mankind.
–For such a problem, what does the Club of Rome propose?
– One is this transversal, multisectoral and transdisciplinary approach to have holistic and long-term visions. Rescue the planet. Avoid its destruction through protecting nature. Preserve the environment Promote the energy transition and make people live better. That is to say, avoid extremes of concentration of wealth and extreme poverty that affect both global reality. And use science and technology for the benefit of society.