The first was about democracy – its reluctant birth and flailing death.
The reluctant birth, or a trail run at least, happened in Bhutan, where, at the behest of King Wangchuck, mock elections were held as a trial run for the real democracy that the King wants to see implemented before his reign ends. Well, technically, his reign has already ended, as he, The Economist tells me, passed his throne to one of his sons late last year. It seems the people still adore him in general and would prefer him back in his place. It seems the majority of Bhutanese are quite happy under the yolk of absolute monarchy. And why wouldn’t they be?
At his accession, the average Bhutanese died at 40 after a life of uneased toil. Continuing a modernisation begun by his father, and underwritten by foreign aid, the king oversaw a transformation. Life expectancy for the 700,000 Bhutanese is now 64 years. The economy grew by 12% last year; GDP per person is reckoned to be $1,400—twice that of India.Added to that is Wangchuck’s introduction of Gross National Happiness as the primary measure of development success over the more familiar Gross National Product. The Economist defines it thusly:
a policy most constructively defined as favouring sustainable development over growth at any cost.Still, democracy is coming, like it or not. This, I’d hope, might be a good thing for all those Bhutanese languishing in refugee camps in Nepal – excluded from society for speaking Nepali and worshiping the wrong god(s).
On the flailing death side, Nigeria held "elections" guaranteed to return the People's Democratic Party – a dictatorship by any other name...
The other story that caught my eye was this one. It seems China is set to become the world’s biggest polluter in the very near future. I wonder if the US will redouble its efforts in response. Surely they can’t let China beat them at something as serious as this!
We, it turns out, aren’t much better. Our latest report card says we’re heading to miss our Kyoto targets (i.e. we’re going to increase emissions more than we were allowed to). But, wait. It doesn’t matter anyway because we never signed the protocol. Well, now I see the cleverness of the current Government.
Don’t sign Kyoto.
Tell the world that the protocol is fundamentally flawed.
Tell the world that we will meet and exceed the targets we would have been set under Kyoto.
Tell the world that we are doing so much better than them, even without Kyoto.
Eventually, in the distant future of 2012, exceed our Kyoto targets.
Tell the world it doesn’t matter because we didn’t sign the stupid protocol anyway. And besides, we have AP6 – technology will save us.
Still, there's no way we'll reach the dizzying heights of the US and China. It's just not fair. If we had half the population of China we'd be so much better at polluting than they are.