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Welcome back. The holidays are over, the kids have got those start-of-term blues and energy bills have shot through the roof (again).

If that’s not enough, Alistair Darling says the economy’s facing its worst conditions for 60 years. And – you may have missed this one – a professor at University College London has published a cheery book, Seven Years to Save the Planet.

Bill McGuire, the author, runs the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, so probably knows a bit about risk.

The good news is that under Conservative proposals, couples will be able to inherit up to £2m tax free from the demise of wealthy relatives.

So the well-heeled can bump off the oldies and flash the cash in the seven years before Armageddon. We might need it to keep the economy afloat.

Let’s assume for a minute that we’re a moderately intelligent species with a strongly developed survival instinct, and that hiding in a cave awaiting the end of the world is reserved for American cultists.

We need to recognise that the world is becoming less comfortable in lots of ways, and this has huge implications for the way we think about the future of communities.

The biggest difference is that climate change will drive more and more of our decisions.

Don’t imagine that failing housing and labour markets are the dragons we now have to slay.

Climate change will be with us long after the recession is over, and to ignore it while we deal with short-term problems will put us in an even more precarious position.

The second difference, as Brendan Nevin noted in last week’s issue, is that we will have to stop passing off grandiose office and shopping developments as regeneration.

When the real cost of staples like food and energy is rising, it exposes the fragility of visions of hotels, bars and restaurants that depend largely on the extent of our disposable income.

Third, we will need to shift our focus from sharing the proceeds of growth to building resilience.

The mortgage rescue scheme announced this week is more important than the headline-grabbing change in stamp duty, because it lessens the real costs of repossessions: disrupted education, family break-up, and mental health problems.

The real test of government will be its ability to help us change the way we think about the future, rather than its skill in promising us more of an untenable lifestyle.

Julian Dobson, editorial director, New Start Online magazine


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