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World needs to ‘up the wisdom and control the power,’ Jerry Brown says

Charting wisdom and power with Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters and shows off his new chart in Brussels on Nov. 9, 2017.
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Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters and shows off his new chart in Brussels on Nov. 9, 2017.

European political leaders and reporters are being treated to Gov. Jerry Brown’s deep affinity for charts.

Brown, whose budget news conferences in Sacramento often feature a gesticulating governor standing in front of large cardboard graphs of California’s state debt and spending, has turned to a new chart of sorts to demonstrate the need for wise action on climate change.

Speaking Thursday to reporters in Brussels, Brown was looking for a way to demonstrate that technological advances alone will not solve the crisis. Borrowing a pen and notebook, Brown drew two curves, one with a sharp rise, which he said represents power and modernity.

“That’s the power to make things for good and for ill, and to blow the world up,” he said to some chuckles.

Brown then scrawled a less dramatic bend. “This is the curve of wisdom and self-restraint,” he explained, pointing to the second one.

“That gap between the power curve and the wisdom curve is getting worse. So, we got to find a way to up the wisdom and control the power.”

He made a similar reference to his chart earlier in the trip while addressing members of the European Parliament. On Thursday, a reporter told Brown he was on what seemed to be a “state visit,” formal trips that are reserved for heads of state to a foreign country.

“Well, I do represent a state,” Brown interjected to some more laughs. “And a state whose economy is $2.5 trillion, which compares favorably with most of the members of the European Union.”

Brown in the free-ranging exchange also was asked whether the world’s governance structures were adequate to meet the climate challenge.

“No,” he said, flatly. “But bureaucracy is better than war.”

He offered a silver lining, however, saying that dealing with climate change “though this Byzantine system that you Europeans have created is difficult. So I don’t have an answer other than the Byzantine Empire lasted longer than almost any other empire. And, had a stable currency longer,” he added.

“So don’t put down Byzantine structures. They have a great historical track record, though they don’t last forever.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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