Grey rhino

The dangers we ignore

In her recent book «The Gray Rhino – How to Recognize and Act on The Obvious Dangers We Ignore», author Michele Wucker describes what she calls «grey rhinos» defined as the dangers we more or less plainly see coming towards us on the horizon, know will hit us some time into the future, but do (too) little to prevent or prepare for. Untill we finally collide with the roaming rhinos coming our way. The current pandemic is an excellent example.

There are many reasons for the tendency of not facing up to such challenges, be it among leaders or among us as human beings in general, says Wucker. She points to both our innate tendency to procrastinate and to the systemic power-structures hindering pre-empty measures to be effective. For the fact is; the earlier one deals with these rhinos, the lower the cost of it will be – both to public budgets or to societies at whole.

What are some of these rhinos, facing societies across the globe? Wucker names a few of them: Non-sustainable public debt, anemic economic growth, widening income disparities which will intensify social unrest and political turmoil, as well as water shortages (according to the UN, about 40% of the world population will not have enough water by 2030). Youth unemployment is another huge global problem. The obvious one we all face, know about and do too little about: the accelerating pace of climate change.

Facing these, politicians in democracies must balance the structural system of 4- or 5- year election cycles – where the temptation is to give us, the voters goodies in the short term – with the need to implement more unpopular and costly measures to face the rhinos in the medium- to long term. The world needs brave politicians who not only work towards re-election, but such who are able to work across the political spectrum to create solutions we need for the common good and to face these rhinos.

Politicians represent you and me. We may therefore not leave the responsibility to the politicians alone – we must use our electorate power well, elect politicians with the courage to think long term and in any way posssible make our voices heard. For the sake of our children and their children, this time and age demands that every citizen – you and I – step up and get just a little more engaged. If we don´t, the comfort we have today may very well be trampled to the ground – by one of the many gray rhinos we feel are far away, yet their approach is steadily coming our way.

Written by Hermund Haaland, Founder and International Director of think tank Skaperkraft

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