The crisis of sustainability is a distinctly global crisis, but one that manifests itself in different ways in different places. As we learn more about how to solve problems caused by West Virginia's chemical contamination of its drinking water, we may have lessons to offer local governments in China.
The agenda of global finance, carried out via "trade" deals, has diverted attention from the real economic issues -- rising inequality and insecurity for ordinary people, the use of globalization as a battering ram to empower capital and weaken labor, and to prevent government interventions from averting financial speculation and collapse. Amid these real crises of neo-liberalism, enhanced trade has been portrayed as a deux ex machina, which will solve our problems if only we get rid of what's left of the mixed economy. It won't. The proposed deals would only make matters worse. The coming collapse of the quarter-century laissez-faire crusade that began with the 1986 Uruguay round, with its license for global financial speculation, is to be welcomed. If we can kill this diversion once and for all, maybe we can start paying more attention to the real economic issues.
The West's power is fading, and emerging economies are gaining ground. In the near future, the world will have numerous centers of power, founded on alternative models. This change can take place in an orderly and peaceful way if the West recuperates its leadership role, and to do so, it will have to relaunch its economy and its democratic institutions. The twenty-first century will not belong to the United States, Europe or China. It will be no one's world.