As geopolitical instability contributes to the uncertainty of the environment, it is critical to understand how we got here. Instability does not just emerge; it evolves over time. Our current climate finds its origins in the 1970s, with 2005 representing a critical tipping point. It still amazes me to think about the prescience of a book titled the Fourth Turning – where 2005 was identified as the beginning of a crisis period. A more recent book explored the question of how we got here. Author Helen Thompson tells a story viewed through the lens of energy, democracy, and aristocracy. The historical journey presented by Disorder underscores the complexity of geopolitical convergence.
That so many of the causes of the disruptions of the 2010s were in place before the 2007–8 crash reflects the fact that so many of their deeper origins lie in the 1970s. In several respects, it was 2005 that was the year that the world in which we now live first took shape.Helen Thompson – Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century
The role of the U.S. dollar, the rise of shale oil, the shifting investment environment, and the decades long struggle of European nation states within a broader European Union are all central to the story. Structural changes around energy and finance always bring tumultuous geopolitical consequences. History tells us that nations rise to power on the back of energy dominance. Britain was the power that climbed to dominance during the age of coal and the United States the power that ascended during the age of oil. Who rises to power on the back of renewables and electrification?
The 21st century has brought a powerful tide of geopolitical, economic, and democratic shocks. Their fallout has led central banks to create over $25 trillion of new money, brought about a new age of geopolitical competition, destabilized the Middle East, ruptured the European Union, and exposed old political fault lines in the United States.
Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century is a long history of this present political moment. It recounts three histories – one about geopolitics, one about the world economy, and one about western democracies – and explains how in the years of political disorder prior to the pandemic the disruption in each became one big story. It shows how much of this turbulence originated in problems generated by fossil-fuel energies, and it explains why as the green transition takes place the long-standing predicaments energy invariably shapes will remain in place.