How can we predict future as we live in a new age of uncertainty?
- Credit: PA
When I was studying for my history A level in the mid-1970s, one of our textbooks for the course was “Europe in the Age of Uncertainty” covering the years 1750-1870.
That started with the French losing most of their North American territories in the Seven Years’ War and finished with the birth of a united Germany.
Along the way Britain lost the American colonies but went on an empire-building spree across the globe that turned school maps pink – and sowed the seeds of discontent in many parts of the world that led to widespread resentment in the 20th century.
I’m beginning to think we’re living in an age of uncertainty today that is manifesting itself on a local, national, European and even a global level.
And while I’m not sure it will result in anything as dramatic as the toppling of the French monarchy or the re-drawing of the world’s maps, I really don’t know where things will end.
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On a local level the future of Suffolk rests on a precipice. Last week I wrote about the possibility of a new town, or towns, being built to the north of Ipswich to satisfy the demand for a northern by-pass.
There is also the threat of Sizewell C and the onshore infrastructure needed for offshore wind industry to the entire heritage coast area between Aldeburgh and Lowestoft.
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I was pleased to see the concerns expressed by Suffolk County Council’s cabinet over these threats at its meeting this week – but the truth is that local voices don’t really matter to EDF or the government.
They are looking at the national picture and if that means destroying some of the most important natural environments in Suffolk then so be it.
While I have great sympathy for the protest groups trying to fight these plans, and for the views expressed by the county council, I have to say they won’t sway any minds in the London or Paris offices where the decisions will be taken.
However, I still retain the hope and belief that the economics of the old technology of nuclear power will ultimately persuade EDF it simply isn’t worth pursuing the Sizewell nightmare.
And I do hope that the firms planning to bring green renewable power onshore from the North Sea windfarms will be prepared to show that the environment of the people of east Suffolk is as important to them as the general environment that their power plants help to advance.
We’re also, of course, facing change and uncertainty on our high streets as shops struggle and restaurant firms are finding that punters have lost their appetite for eating out.
I’m not sure I’m that distressed about the decline in the materialistic love affair that some have had for shopping as a leisure pursuit – but I would miss the social interaction you get by going to actual shops, meeting people, chatting, getting gossip straight from the horse’s mouth – it’s so much better than just reading it on Twitter or Facebook!.
Nationally Britain’s relationship with Europe is reaching farcical proportions. When people like Boris Johnson, Anna Soubry, and Jeremy Corbyn vote in the same lobby for vastly different reasons you know politics has gone crazy!.
One thing that’s different about the Age of Uncertainty in 2019 to what it was like in the 18/19th century is that there really aren’t any towering figures like Metternich, Palmerston, or Bismarck to put it all back together again!
I have no more clue than anyone else how the Brexit situation might end. In 10 years’ time we might still be in the EU. We might be outside the EU, or the EU might have ceased to exist in its present form.
And it isn’t just in Europe that this uncertainty rules. On the world stage we have an increasingly eccentric US foreign policy – which seems to be at the same time isolationist (threatening to destabilise NATO) and bellicose (trying to start a trade war with China) which between them seem likely to total destabilise the world’s political and economic order.
As my hair starts to get ever whiter, I thought I’d seen just about everything in politics – but events around the world have shown this to be a totally wrong assumption.
Whether all these issues will ever sort themselves out is a question I simply don’t have any answer to – which means that fundamentally the new Age of Uncertainty looks set to continue, probably for the rest of my career and quite possibly for the rest of my life!