One of the most recurrent themes used by science fiction writers describes humanity’s response to an extra-terrestrial threat. I used it myself, imagining (in my novel “Beyond Nowhere”) the imminent arrival of a large meteorite on earth. And one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, the Chinese writer, Liu Cixin, has just breathed new life into the genre in a masterful way, through a dazzling trilogy (“The Three-Body Problem,” “The Dark Forest,” and “Death’s End”): Not only is Cixin’s epic story a literary masterpiece, but it also provides us, as Earthlings of today, with an opportunity to ask ourselves the most difficult of questions: what would we do if we knew that humanity was doomed to be destroyed in four centuries by a fleet from another civilization that was determined to destroy the human race?
In a way, we are already facing a similar threat. It is less certain, more discussed, but closer than the one in the novel. It exists because of the climate emergency, but also because of other demographic, social, military and technological issues that are accumulating on us and on future generations.
In Cixin’s masterpiece, some men decide to prepare to flee the planet; others resign themselves to the end of humanity; others are convinced that humanity will find a solution before the four-century deadline; others finally decide to dare to find radically new and unimaginable solutions, without waiting for scientific progress or a saviour from elsewhere. And spend four centuries thinking of different strategies to be ready in time.
This is the whole issue today. Will humanity be able to dare to find very bold solutions that are equal to the threats? Long-term strategies.
And, until humanity is finally gathered together (as they did in the novel), can we at least hope that the richest, most powerful, most socially advanced part of the world, that is to say Europe, will decide to dare to do something radically new? Or, at least consider such option and be open to debate it.
For my part, I think it is time to dare. And to debate, in the incoming European Parliament, the Commission, and the executive board of the European Central Bank (“ECB”), a radically new and heterodox financial strategy that would make it possible to fund all the urgently needed ecological and social investments.
To this end, we should have the audacity to study how the instruments available to the European Central Bank and the European Investment Bank could be used to fund investments with a positive social or ecological impact. Thus, instead of continuing to help the banks survive, without any sort of monitoring about how banks use the money they receive, we could impose strict investment criteria on them, which would massively redirect private investment, both equity and credit, toward green and social projects that are so essential, but yet poorly funded today. We could even study whether a new wave of “quantitative easing,” which we could call “positive quantitative easing,” could be necessary. Let us not say that such policy initiative is not within the mandate of the ECB: after all, its role is to protect the eurozone from inflationary pressures; and nothing would be more structurally inflationary than a climate or social crisis.
Liu Cixin’s characters discuss at length the various possible solutions; they reject some and adopt others, which were deemed totally crazy. Let us do the same.
Remember this sentence, which is attributed to the Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Niels Bohr, who while receiving a student who came to present him with a thesis project, replied: “Sir, your theory is crazy, the question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”