Learning from Glasgow COP26 #2 History is not bunk

| Tags: Business, Sustainability, World

“We do not make history. We are made by history” – Martin Luther King, 1963

In 1877 Queen Victoria opened  “Queens Dock” in Glasgow. It formed a commercial and service epicenter for a city that was at the heart of the industrial revolution and the building of the British Empire. At its edges the empire met China, occupied Burma, parts of Tibet and fought two wars to secure the Opium trade. The ”Jewel in the Crown” of the British Empire was India. The ”greatest Indian” was Ghandi, a “malignant subversive fanatic” according to Winston Churchill. Ghandi used non violent protest to evict the British. As the empire collapsed, war came to the world and Glasgow’s prosperity faded. Queens Dock was closed in 1969. 

Queens Dock is now the Scottish Exhibition Centre and was the venue for COP26 and brought many people from ex colonies to be hosted by a diminished UK hoping to lead. There was a lot of history in Glasgow.

India and China asserted their voice on coal. China made a deal with the USA rather than on the floor of the SEC and progress was made. The days when the west sat atop a hierarchy of cultural power are over. The next era of commerce, defined by sustainability, is upon us, “from insecurity to interdependence”. 

Millennials are leading the change, are concerned about sustainability and represent 23% of the worlds people. They are the best educated people in history and 1.1 billion of them are Asian. They know their history and are reclaiming their cultural identities. The future may not repeat the past but it grows from history. Cultural change builds on existing culture that built on past cultures. We are part of a long story as well as a brief episode.

Those of us working in the global economy are aware of these changes. Influence comes from all parts of the world and Western hegemony is being challenged. Sustainability leadership is not the sole domain of the west, it will be driven, and at huge scale, by young Chinese, Indian and Indigenous people reflecting the increasing influence Asia has on the rest of the world.