Europe in 2030: An Optimist Predicts

Tom Marcinko @ 22-07-2009

small worldSo you want an optmistic vision? How about a vision named after Voltaire’s absurdly optimistic hero?

Publishing “Candide’s Garden” in Spielgel Online, Wolfram Eilenberg, who teaches international studies at Indiana University, advances this bracing hypothesis:

Anyone who now wants to talk about the future of Europe must first grasp the fact that we are — at this moment — experiencing a European utopia that has been cultivated for millennia.

The dogma-free, democratic marketplace of ideas, for which Socrates gave his life in Athens, is today a communicative reality in which hundreds of millions of citizens are actively taking part.

Eilenberger, who it turns out is not Dr. Pangloss after all, warns of big changes ahead, but he believes the European Union is well-positioned to weather them. We are entering an age of instant information accompanied by a scarcity of fuel, food, and water.

Put simply, the world will become bigger again.

… Instead of a globalized world economy that crosses continental barriers with ease, we will see continental autarchic zones being formed that will be shaped by the military defense of the basic resources available in each zone. We will thus see the logic of imperial expansion replaced by an aspiration to autarchic inclusion (already the EU strategy). The internal market of each zone will reassume economic primacy. This process does not have to end in war. It could well take an ordered course and lead to a multipolar equilibrium, the stability of which — like that of the Cold War — is guaranteed by an awareness of what military options are not available.

OK, that is sounding a good deal less optimistic. “Does not have to end in war” could mean “may well end that way.” But Eilenberger believes the EU is well positioned to weather these changes:

In cultural terms, Europe is equipped with a plurality of languages that lends itself to innovation as well as a global lingua franca: English (though by 2030 Spanish will be the European Union’s second main language). It is not burdened by any politically effective fundamentalisms, and Europe’s communications and transportation infrastructure leads the world. The thesis of a relative optimum also holds in demographic terms.

As for the USA – well, it’s up to those of us who live there, and our willingness to adapt.

An entire way of life, including the country’s suburban landscapes, will have to be fundamentally restructured. Today it is estimated that this inevitable process of economic and infrastructural renewal — one that will certainly also present new opportunities — will take at least twenty years to complete and, as is already becoming evident, will follow the process of reorientation to internal markets characteristic of autarchic zones. Furthermore, the already irreversible linguistic and cultural Hispanicization of its southern regions means that the United States will face greater integration challenges than will Europe with its smaller Muslim minorities.

Put in more positive terms, the way the United States develops will depend crucially on its readiness to consciously Hispanicize itself and — together with Brazil — to see itself in the long term as the strongest link within a pan-American community.

Which underlines the need to improve our discourse. Europeans, you should hear what our Confederate Party says about you, not to mention about people who speak Spanish. (Oops, is calling Republicans mean names the best way to improve our discourse? Self-criticism to follow. Could just be the reaction of an American with Euro-envy.)

I have no idea whether Eilenberger is right, but it’s a well-thought-out, wide-screen argument that he lays out. We need more of that in science fiction, too.

[Image: JasonRogersFooDogGiraffeBee]

EU asks Italy to stop fingerprinting Gypsies

Tom Marcinko @ 10-07-2008

gypsyfamilyWhen I visited Eastern Europe about a decade ago, I was shocked at how much outspoken prejudice there was against the Gypsies. And I was shocked today to read in the Guardian:

Last week, Silvio Berlusconi’s new rightwing Italian administration announced plans to carry out a national registration of all the country’s estimated 150,000 Gypsies – Roma and Sinti people – whether Italian-born or migrants. Interior minister and leading light of the xenophobic Northern League, Roberto Maroni, insisted that taking fingerprints of all Roma, including children, was needed to “prevent begging” and, if necessary, remove the children from their parents.

The ethnic fingerprinting drive is part of a broader crackdown on Italy’s three-and-a-half million migrants, most of them legal, carried out in an atmosphere of increasingly hysterical rhetoric about crime and security.

The European parliament has asked Italy to stop doing this. Guardian columnist Seamus Milne suggests anti-migrant hysteria in Europe may be at the root of this.  Not that the U.S., or my home state of Arizona, where “crime sweep” publicity stunts target undocumented immigrants and stepped-up enforcement separates kids from parents, is exactly immune from xenophobia.

[image: Zingaro]

Sarko in space

JustinP @ 01-07-2008

French President Nicolas SarkozyWith France assuming the (rotating) presidency of the European Union, the BBC reports on a potential shift in European space policy;

President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s well-known admiration for all things American now extends to space exploration. Speaking to the BBC, a senior official involved in French space policy said that it was time to shake up the European Space Agency and make it more like the US space agency (NASA) by giving it a new, politically-led direction

The official said that Europe was in danger of becoming redundant in global space terms and it needed an agency that followed a clear political agenda.

“The United States, Russia, China and Japan would not do what they do in space without a political motivation; Europe has only had a scientific motivation until now. So what we are saying is, let’s get the same chances as the others.

But while the BBC reads this shift in emphasis as from ‘scientific’ to ‘political’, the Financial Times focused on the small print – interpreting the announcement as a move towards a ‘military angle for space strategy’;

French ambitions range from setting up an EU spy satellite system to joining a manned US mission to Mars.

Paris wants to exploit synergies with existing civilian space projects. For example, Galileo, the €3.4bn ($5.4bn, £2.7bn) rival to the UScontrolled global positioning system, is classed as a transport project, although it could be used for military operations.

Hmm. The European Space Agency’s most recent press release on Gallileo mentions nothing of military applications, focusing instead on the five civilian services;

the Open Service, the Safety of Life Service, the Commercial Service, the Public Regulated Service, and the Search and Rescue Service.

Now, why does this make me uneasy?*

[image by thewritingzone]

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[ * Only kidding – I’m a total Galileo fanboy. Of course, if Sarkozy were a Doctor Who / Bond villain, Bruce Sterling’s obsession with said Gallic premier could be explained as the result of some kind of sinister mind control laser… ]

Making Our Future as Better Ancestors

Tom Marcinko @ 02-06-2008

StonehengeIt seems to be the custom for new Futurismic posters to introduce themselves. I don’t see race, sex, age, residence, politics, or preferences. But people tell me I’m a 53-year-old white guy who lives in Arizona, leans to the left, and likes fiction, history, journalism, science, The Loud Family and The New Pornographers, and I believe them.

The birth of yet another niece puts me in mind of Samantha Powers’ recent commencement advice: “Be a good ancestor.” One way to do that might be to start treating the environment as part of the economy, by putting a dollar value on it. A report to the U.N. Commission on Biodiversity estimates that humans do at least $78 billion worth of damage each year, “eating away at our nature capital” through deforestation and pollution. Sobering to consider that about 40% of the world economy is still based on biological products and processes.

In light of the likely first contact with an uncontacted seminomadic Amazon tribe on the borderlands of Brazil and Peru, we probably need to factor cultural diversity into the equation, too. There’s something poignant and human about that AP photo of tribespeople firing arrows at an aircraft.

Think about all our ancestors have done for us. The origin and purpose of Stonehenge is no longer a total mystery, according to recent investigations: it served as a cemetary for at least 500 years beginning 5,000 years ago. It may have functioned for 20 or 30 generations as the resting place of a ruling dynasty. At least 300 surrounding homes made it one of the largest villages in northwestern Europe.

Ancestor-worship as big business? If that’s not old enough for you, consider a 375-million-year-old ancestor called the placoderm fish, with a fossil embryo attached with an umbilical cord. It’s the oldest known instance of live birth. Now think what our moms put up with, bringing us into the world. [Image by Danny Sullivan]

Jules Verne – the first cargo ship in space

Tomas Martin @ 06-03-2008

The ATV Jules Verne will be the first unmanned European spacecraftThis Saturday marks the launch of the biggest vessel in European space history – the Automated Transport Vehicle (ATV), Jules Verne. Named for the classic SF writer, the 21-ton spacecraft is the first unmanned ship launched by Europe to transport goods through space. Russia has some unmanned vehicles, the Progress spaceships. The US Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz craft also visit the International Space Station but Jules Verne is the first new type of craft in 9 years.

“The ATV, as a logistics vehicle, carries almost three times the hardware, fuel, water and oxygen that a Russian Progress carries,” said NASA’s ISS program manager Mike Suffredini. “It is a major contribution to the program.”

The Jules Verne will travel for a week catching up with the International Space Station before docking. The astronauts will remove the fuel and equipment within and send the ATv back to Earth in six months time, filled with waste material. Jules Verne will burn up in the atmosphere although in the future reentry-proof canisters may be included.

[story and image via]

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