[Outlook]A new paradigm

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[Outlook]A new paradigm

The other day, an acquaintance asked me to explain what the “Green New Deal” is. As the subject falls within my field, I couldn’t avoid answering the question. I joked that when a shovel is manufactured, red paint is applied to protect it from rust, but nowadays green paint is applied instead.

The guidelines for the Green New Deal have been released but we have yet to see any follow-up measures aimed at maximizing its effects, so people misunderstand what’s going on. Some are already condemning the government, calling it a “civil-engineering republic” and denouncing its policies as outdated and belonging in the development-oriented era. Some say that the Green New Deal is a temporary measure and its burden will be felt for years to come.

Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian circus company of performers and street artists. It displayed its overhaul of the circus aesthetic, which was regarded as rather old-fashioned, in Seoul last year before heading off to Taiwan and Dubai. A friend in the arts recommended that I go but I didn’t take the suggestion seriously, thinking of circus or street performances as a throwback to our poorer past. Later, I happened to watch the show on TV, and realized that it’s at a level which can be classified as art. I regretted not having gone to see it. People, myself included, seem to have difficulty believing that old customs can be reborn as something new.

Before the Gyeongbu Expressway was built, many thought it was just going to be a wider road. My grandfather was a self-made man who was usually positive and exuded the spirit of enterprise. However, he was unhappy about the Seoul-Busan expressway project, saying that it would turn precious rice paddies into road for no good reason, surely ruining the country. At that time many intellectuals and political leaders vigorously opposed the project, but now we can see that the expressway allowed our country to change from an agricultural nation into an industrialized one.

The restoration of the Cheonggye Stream and the construction of arenas for the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup were basically civil engineering projects. But when rivers and roads are restored and new buildings are built to symbolize a new era, the city space changes and new industries and new values are created. Therefore it is old-fashioned to discuss whether or not the administration is a republic of civil engineering.

The southern area of the country is suffering from a drought, the Nakdong River has dioxane in it and the South Gyeongsang provincial governor requested reduced wages for three months due to water supply issues in Busan. Demand for tap water has soared over the past four decades, but there isn’t sufficient rainfall in the region. In the winter, the Nakdong River has even had difficulty supplying enough drinking water. But the interests of North and South Gyeongsang and Busan are entangled, making it difficult to build a dam.

Most issues in our times are so complicated that a single ministry or area cannot resolve them on its own. For a better future, we need a new way to resolve problems.

The Green New Deal is timely, if “green” means an emphasis on future-oriented values, such as life, safety and the environment, and “new deal” means reasonable public projects that benefit the public.

But looking at the past, if different regions and ministries carry out Green New Deal projects that don’t present a vision for the future of the country as a whole, such projects will likely go up in smoke due to regionalism.

This time, the policies of all ministries must be unified and the imbalance between different areas, classes and fields must be abolished. The government must present the future of the Green New Deal, inform the people of pain it may induce, and seek their understanding.

The current economic crisis is difficult for the people but ironically, it also gives them a sense of bonding. As most people realize that it is time to design a new paradigm rather than pursue short-term profits, the economic crisis represents a good opportunity to end the past and develop our country into a new era.

Spring is coming. Most people believe the global economy will soon be restored. As we have painfully changed our economic system, our economy is stronger and more resilient than it was. Let’s develop our country to be a leading nation in the international community with new ideologies that suit an upcoming new era.

*The writer is a professor of rural systems engineering at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Jung-jae
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