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Anne van Aaken

University of St. Gallen

Societies face huge and potentially disastrous problems but they are often at a loss as to how to deal with them. Academics and international organizations issued warnings concerning systemic risks in the financial system in 2007 but no action was taken. The dangers of climate change are well known, but states fail to take collective action against it. Antibiotic resistance threatens world health but constructive directives to solve the problem are few. Overfishing destroys livelihoods and endangers ecosystems. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and asteroids, are often too big to handle physically, but they are no longer ‘Acts of God’ and beyond human understanding and the possibility of prevention and disaster relief preparation. In many of these areas there is much talk, less action and only paltry gains. Even problems that are amenable to a rational solution become ‘too big to handle’ when placed in a societal context.

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