Thirty years ago, US political scientist Francis Fukuyama formulated his theory of the end of history. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he predicted the final victory for democracy and liberalism. As we now know, the prophesized golden age of freedom and a free market economy didn’t work out so well. Instead, we today face major existential challenges on an unprecedented scale. Problems such as climate change, poverty and inequality, digitalization and its consequences for society and the economy, attacks on democracy, and the aggressive neo-imperialism of totalitarian states like Russia and China will only be overcome if the global community comes together and cooperates.
UZH economists have identified five major tasks for the future: designing a sustainable economic system, fighting poverty and inequality, managing the digital revolution, developing effective policies, and overcoming the crises of globalization. The Department of Economics’ to-do list served as inspiration for the theme of this UZH Magazin. We talked to Zurich researchers about the challenges and asked what might be done.
For example: what makes children in Africa or in Switzerland more successful in school? How can we regain sovereignty over our personal data and be adequately compensated for its use? How do we invest sustainably? Are people willing to pay a fair price for fair products? How can we prevent structural change from pushing whole sections of the population into poverty? How can we save democracy and keep China’s power in check?
From the Holocene to the Anthropocene
An in-depth interview in the current magazine also deals with climate change and its consequences. Are we living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene? The Anthropocene differs from the preceding Holocene in that humans have become a decisive factor in permanently changing their environment. The question is, what does this mean for us and for the Earth? Other topics include a profile of Kerstin Noëlle Vokinger, a young professor of law, medicine and technology who is working to improve patients’ access to new medical treatments and products. Psychologist Birgit Kleim tells us about her research into what makes people resistant to stress. And we also look at the legal side of climate change with legal scholars Helen Keller and Carolin Heri. They explain why climate lawsuits are on the rise at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and analyze judges’ rulings in such cases.
The UZH Magazin is available now in printed form in German. A selection of articles from the current issue will be published in English on UZH News over the coming weeks.