Policy brief: #MakeAmericaGreatAgain
By on 6 December 2016
There is no denying that the campaign slogan of Donald Trump, new President of the United States, has found a deep echo in American society. It fulfils the desire to restore a form of lost greatness, linked to an economic growth which provided opportunities, a sense of identity even, to the middle class.
This longing also explains the growing claims for increased sovereignty, whether food or energy related, claims that were also at the core of the "TakeBackControl" Brexit movement. On the energy front, the stakes even go beyond mere independence or autonomy, more oriented towards taking control over a strategic sector for the development of a region or a city.
But should the grandeur and economic sovereignty of the future be modelled on the past?
According to Belgian philosopher Michel Bauwens, centralisation and decentralisation have always succeeded one another in history, like a pendulum. While the Renaissance sought to re-establish the greatness of the Roman Empire, effective because it was organised on the level of a continent, he considers we live today an epoch that recalls the medieval order of connected city-states. Hotbeds of creativity with multiple interactions between various sectors, interdependent cities with great autonomy of action. In the aftermath of the COP22, numerous observers noted the incredible vitality of cities and regions in delivering an agenda of action and make the Paris agreement credible. In the same vein, the Covenant of Mayors pursues its development committing all the cities and regions of the world to a common objective, while relying on city cooperation.
This shows cities are designing new visions of a desirable future, a future that would not be based on the renaissance of past industries, as Donald Trump envisions through the praise of ... ‘clean coal’ to create millions of jobs. Rather, they paint a future based on local energy resources, diversified, infinite in some cases. Each territory being free to invent its own future, on the basis of its special characteristics. The Belgian city of Ghent for example has mandated Michel Bauwens to help it define a new society project, in the same way the French Nord Pas de Calais region turned to Jeremy Rifkin to invent his own industrial revolution.
At the beginning of the month, Energy Cities’ members shared their experience with the city of Barcelona to help it draw a blueprint for a public energy service company. Yesterday we sat with the mining towns of Margonin (Poland) and Weisswasser (Germany) to discuss their transition to another economy. No doubt European cities are seeking to reinvent themselves, and #breakfree from the fossil past. #TakeBackControl, #MakeEuropeGreatAgain mean proposing a future based on decentralised and democratically-managed energies. This "3D" agenda (Decentralisation, Democratisation, Divestment) can preserve us from the logic of protectionist nationalisms and put us on a road to a sustainable economy, in both senses of the term.