Monday, October 20, 2008

A failure in design; our sub prime world?

As we part sit, part wallow in the chaos of the current financial meltdown most of us can but wonder at how the trigger – bundling and spreading the risk of loans to people who had little or no hope of meeting the repayments – persuaded too many people to abandon common sense and prudence for what seems a remarkable stupidity combined in equal doses with greed and an ‘I want it now’ avarice. Perhaps it was the euphemism ‘sub prime’ that was to blame?

As the world grapples with the challenges of stability and a new normalcy there are a few important voices quietly but insistently pointing out that as bad as the crisis seems it will be almost inconsequential in a world that fails to act on climate change and other environmental system concerns. As with the current crisis it is all too easy to convince ourselves that the day of reckoning will never come; a sub prime world with sub prime cities increasingly hostile to human habitation. Might it be that in a decade or so from now our tardiness in reacting to the real but insidious problem of creating economies based on resource use, with few constraints, will be seen as a failure of stewardship far greater than that of those complicit in the sub prime crisis and its consequences? How will we account to future generations for this?

As we seize the opportunity to create a new economic order perhaps we should raise our horizons beyond the current valleys and troughs and design for a prime future rather than just a restoration of our old sub prime ways?