Seismic shift in the political landscape

Back in June the political geography of our globe shifted when Britain turned its back on the EU in a shocking referendum that has seen financial ricochets bounce across the globe. Today the political geography has again shifted, but this time on a scale so large that it is hard to comprehend.

Donald Trump has been voted in as the President Elect of the USA. I can hardly believe the words I am typing. I’m not going to pretend to be objective here. It is enough to say that I am a woman of mixed national heritage and you can guess my views of Trump are somewhat, shall we say, unfavourable. I can say that I am not a Clinton fan either though, so that is about as balanced a view as you can get from me.

But as a geographer, and more to the point, a historical geographer (I have taught both subjects with great pleasure) I viewed today’s events though a different lens. Today I looked at my students (and my own children) in awe that such upheaval should occur so early on in their lifetimes. Looking back, aside from 9-11, and the 2008 financial crash, I cannot recall such a tumultuous global event from my own lifetime. It’s not that there haven’t been heartbreaking attacks, coups, disasters and wars in my time. It’s more that nothing has happened to rival this election for its social, economic, environmental  and political (or SEEP as my students will be familiar with) global repercussions.

Whether you are pro-Trump or anti-Trump neither side can deny that the Trump rhetoric promises meteoric changes in the structure of trade deals, defense agreements, climate deals and conflict. It promises social upheaval and unbearable polarisation within social landscapes. Polarisation that much of the 20th century was engaged in trying to reverse. And this is the bitterest pill for me personally to swallow.

In addition, aside from the great big elephant in the room that is Trump’s (professed) aggressive position on American defense, his choices as the most powerful person on the planet will have a lasting and (again based on his past rhetoric) devastating impact on our climate and world environment. The trouble for Trump is that, whether he likes it or not (and he clearly does not) we are living in an increasingly interconnected world woven into a fragile peace though delicate agreements and unions. Globalisation in all its forms cannot be avoided but must be bought into by all parties on our globe for we will stand or fall together. No amount of trumpeting on about nationalism and ‘putting America first’ can change that. Instead it could cause total and irreversible damage very swiftly, like the simple echo that causes the avalanche that destroys a 500 hundred year-old tree. The Trump campaign, like Brexit, is stuck in the past, in a mistaken belief that we can return to the ‘good old days’ of the pre-internet and pre-computer era.

I want to be cautious however. I want to believe that Trump’s rhetoric was just so much hot air. Because if he actually follows through on his promises we are looking at more than just a seismic shift…we are looking at 4 years of pressure building up into a full-on magnitude 10 political earthquake.

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