Global warming kicked in with a vengeance in 2007 and ecosystems crashed like never before. We finally had to admit that our fossil fuel-based way of living had thrown the planet out of whack for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. The year 2007 may well be remembered by future generations as the year the Earth tipped, the moment when this 30,000 generation-long experiment of ours on Planet Earth suddenly veered out of control.
The number of marketing messages hitting our brains soared to an astonishing 5,000 per day. Mental health statistics flew off the charts. Teenagers cut and burned themselves and committed suicide in record numbers. Something tragic was happening and we didn't know what it was. It may be the beginning of a psycho-system collapse and the loss of our clarity of mind as a species.
2007 also saw millions of people making the breakthrough connection between advertising and their own mental health. Perhaps the most significant moment occurred last January when São Paulo became the first city in the world to ban outdoor advertising and declare itself ad-free – hopeful signs that we may finally be seeing the birth of a mental environmental movement that will take back the space we need to think clear, crisp thoughts again.
Stock markets soared to new heights in 2007, but also saw the first signs of cracks when the subprime market crashed. Suddenly all those billions of abstract dollars flying around felt more like a giant Ponzi scheme destined to collapse at any moment. And this time, unlike in 1929, we won't have the forests, oceans and the natural wealth of the planet to fall back on.
We also saw an unprecedented questioning of the fundamental assumptions behind capitalism and its neoclassical underpinnings. Ordinary people everywhere scratched their heads and wondered: why were financial markets peaking at this most ominous environmental moment in our history?
2007 saw a dramatic shift from a unipolar to a more multipolar way of running global affairs. Russia, China, India, Brazil, Iran, Venezuela and other Latin American countries all flexed their geopolitical muscles like never before.
Many of the ideas the left has been kicking around for years, like global voting systems (GVS), simultaneous national policies and a world parliament, suddenly made a lot of sense. In 2008, look for a more muscular United Nations and more buzz around the idea of global democracy. Adbusters will launch a competition to design the flag that this United States of Planet Earth can proudly fly.
In one of his recent lectures, French philosopher Alain Badiou said that the old revolutionary ideal of negation as destruction does not work anymore – we need a new concept. He listed composer Arnold Schoenberg as an example of an innovator who created a totally new tonal system – "a new framework for the musical activity" and "a new coherence for musical discourse," all without destroying the old. There's a hint there for how we on the left can turn our whiny, complaint-based style of capitalist negation into a magical and innovative new force for change.
On the personal front
Waves of euphoria, waves of despair... day by day, we come to realize that the simplest, most elegant solution to living in a warming world is to rethink freedom, rethink the idea that each one of us has the God-given right to drive to the supermarket, fly to Mexico on a whim and keep our living spaces toasty warm all winter. What we, the rich one billion people of the First World need before it's too late, is a good whack to the head – something bigger than a real estate crisis, bigger than oil costing over $100 a barrel, bigger even than the crash of 1929. We need to be prodded, shocked, terrorized and made to live.
In this 75th issue of Adbusters, we try to do just that.