I was asked recently if I thought that American dominance of the world was over, if America would decline like other great powers before it, and what nation would take its place.
I replied that the old idea of a nation becoming ‘great’ and ‘wealthy’ by hugely increasing its consumption and getting control of other nations to keep its own consumption growing, had always been part of human history, but would be quite inappropriate for the future.
In coming decades the United States of America may decline in strength and importance and China may take its place as the dominant world power. But this would only be temporary.
We are entering a new phase in human history. I do not say we have a chance to enter a new phase â€“ we will enter it, there is no choice about this. The choice is whether we do so in a tragic mess or in a more orderly way.
Instead of ruthless competition and predatory behaviour between nations, the world of the future must be one of co-operation and trust between nations, in the process of staying within the limits of the worldâ€™s resources. The idea of a nation-state will diminish in relative importance compared to the global idea. Yes, I know this sounds like starry-eyed idealism, but seriously, itâ€™s the way things will have to be.
Perhaps the human species is incapable of it. Perhaps we are what we are â€“ grabbing whatever we can get at any time and trampling each other in the process â€“ and cannot evolve further to become a higher form of life that can live in perpetual harmony with its limited planet. There is some evidence to suggest that human evolution has stopped, because the conditions for it no longer exist and will not return. Could we go in the other direction â€“ degenerate to a lower form of life?
My view is that the history of humanity shows that adaptability is essential to survival. The road to a sustainable future will be long and rough but humans who survive will do so because they are most adaptable to the realities of their environment.