Ever get the feeling you’re living through a moment?
In 1998, oil cost $US10 a barrel. You wouldn’t fill a Vespa for $10 in 2008. Things are changing: oil closed on US markets this morning at $US134.87, the difference a decade and the waking economies of Asia make, in a market where supply is limited and demand unquenchable. Futures contracts are trading vigorously right now for a 2016 oil price of $142.30. Oil prices will only go one way from here. Food too. Corn is trading at $US6.08 a bushel, up 70% in the past year. Soya is $US13.56, up by around 100%. Wheat is $7.79 a bushel, 50% up, year on year.
Will we look back at 2008 and wonder whether this was the moment in time that people and politics woke up to the possibility that something had to change? That the assumptions of growth and consumption that have been taken for granted since the enclosure of the fields could no longer be sustained?
The most important lesson that we might be about to learn, and the challenge for contemporary politics, is that we are faced with an emerging situation whose solution lies outside the cut and thrust of adversarial politics. We can’t go on like this, and our leaders will need to help define new paths, not just score points.