A Price Worth Paying?

A long long time ago I got a degree in Foreign Affairs.  I had a passion for geopolitics and intended to spend my life in the military or as a foreign service officer.  I was, at least when I started college, a Cold Warrior.  That all seems bizarre to me now, life having led me down a much different path and taught me lessons that render foolish that way of thinking.

I still generally follow the news and some of the journals, but I no longer see the world as some sort of chessboard.  Now I prefer to think of political borders as the imaginary lines they are and I look forward to the day they are found only in history books.

So I didn’t allow myself to get worked up over Russia’s tiff with the Ukraine, for example.  And I’m not interested in whether or how the chief of our tribe “stands up to” the chief of the other tribe.  I don’t worry about whether or how “our” chess pieces should be moved in reaction to how the Red chess pieces are supposedly moving.  I’ll leave that to the folks who got their degrees and stayed on course.

But it does bother me that while sometimes sabers are merely rattled, other times they’re drawn and slashed through the lives of real people.  There are lots of ways we all are required to pay the price for our violence.

Last week I read THIS PIECE in the New York Times, titled “Weaning Europe from Russian Gas.”  The article notes that 30% of the gas consumed in the European Union comes from Russia.  14% of Russia’s export earnings are from that gas.  50% of that gas goes through pipelines that cross the Ukraine.

Because the European supply of gas is put at risk if it imposes sanctions on Russia, the author suggests buying coal from the U.S. (which is “cheap” he says) to replace Russian gas.  “Given the imperative to stand up to Russia,” he writes, “the European Union should delay, but not scrap, rules for phasing out dirty coal-fired power stations.”  The cost to the environment, he says, “is one worth paying.”  Likewise he argues that Germany should “should abandon their knee-jerk aversion to nuclear energy,”  despite having noted earlier in the piece that liquefied natural gas from Qatar is now too expensive for the E.U. because so much of it is being purchased by Japan to replace the energy lost with the tidal wave destruction of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

But I wonder how the author and “analysts” like him are able to so easily tabulate the costs and declare them to be “worth paying.”

If these kinds of recommendations are accepted, then “the imperative to stand up to Russia” will come at a cost to the environment.  If Nature had a vote in the matter, she might disagree with the author’s conclusion that the price is “worth paying.”

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13 comments on “A Price Worth Paying?

  1. Bill, I’m glad to hear that fate intervened and changed the course of your life. I think the one you chose is an honorable one. I don’t really watch a whole lot of news. I keep up with the news by listening to talk radio which is slanted to what ever the station leans toward. Here in Nebraska most folks are conservatives and I guess that’s what I am. I would like to think that I weigh the facts and believe what is the right thing to believe.

    I understand the concept of bullies and that some time one just has to stand up to them. I am far from being a global analyst for world situations and would not want to be in a position to make those kinds of decisions. It’s the first I’ve heard about backing off from the global warming threat to deal with the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. I guess it wasn’t the greatest threat to mankind after all. In the mean time while the world swirls around me, I’ll just grow some vegetables.

    Have a great global political day.

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    • Bill says:

      Cranking up more coal-fired power plants and building more nuclear reactors seems to me to be a short-sighted way of making a political point. And who pays the price?

      Of course if I was in the coal business I might see things differently.

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  2. El Guapo says:

    Unfortunately, many of the talking heads quoted in pieces like the one in the Times are focused only on their specific area, and aren’t qualified to talk about how it affects other spheres.
    Doesn’t stop them from talking anyway.

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    • Bill says:

      It seems that way to me too. Someone who works outside and in harmony with nature (for example) may have a different perspective from someone who does not. Someone who is trained to see things from a geopolitical perspective is not likely to understand a situation in the same way someone who sees things from an ecological perspective, for example.

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  3. Someone once commented to me that if you take your sore leg to a surgeon he’ll want to cut it off, because that’s the solution he’s trained to employ. He sees a problem and solves it with the solution he knows best.

    I’m not very well versed in global politics – I keep my head in the sand basically, but my husband studied political science in university and has always maintained an interest, like you reading various sources as time permits. He has taken pains over the years to talk on these topics with our kids starting when they were quite young, using a lot of playground metaphor (it’s surprising, or maybe it’s not, how much like playground squabbles some international situations are).

    Something he has always told them is to trace back to the money, because money and power are almost always the reason for any global political move. Never about long term, never about greater good. It’s depressing to think that our world is controlled on such a mercenary level, and even more depressing that most of us, including me, let it happen.

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  4. A very well thought out post. My degree was in International Relations with focuses on communism and Africa. Early on I determined there were better solutions to solving problems than excessive nationalism, or any other ism, as far as that goes. The problem is, if you look far enough down the road, there are no winners. All we ever, begat… to use a biblical term, is more and more of the same, as in violence begets violence. With you, I wish for a time when national boundaries are a thing of the past. Given basic human nature, I don’t expect it any time soon, however. As for the energy arguments, the major coal, oil, and nuclear corporations will always have a truckload of arguments to eliminate environmental regulations. What a fracking surprise. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      My area of concentration was the Middle East (Persian/Arab Gulf). Looking back, I know now that I was seeing things way too simplistically then.

      Overcoming all those ‘isms is humanity’s challenge now. I think it will happen, but it’s probably going to take a long time.

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  5. Tina Schell says:

    The older I get the more disdain I have for those who make these statement or worse yet decide to impose sanctions or hardships on others. I’m with John Lennon. Why not give peace a chance?

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  6. shoreacres says:

    I think it would be marvelous if the energy needs of the world could be supplied by the sun and the wind. Shoot, I’ll even throw in the rain. But the facts of the matter are that if that day comes, it’s not going to come with a wave of the magic wand. Absolutists and idealists on all sides are going to have to deal with some hard realities in the process of getting from Point A to Point B, and geopolitical realities are part of the mix.

    Part of the current difficulty is that we have leaders who are given to wishful thinking. I’ve heard both Pres. Obama and the good Mr. Kerry proclaim that, “Leaders don’t act [like Putin has] in the 21st century.” Well, Putin’s a 19th century kind of guy, so waiting around for him to put on his bicycle helmet and go for a spin with the rest of the boys is going to be fairly well useless.

    I’ve been thinking about something else the past few weeks. When is the last time the President’s Cabinet met? Right. Whatever we thought of the decisions made in past decades, at least there was discussion the public could follow, and a degree of openness not seen in years. The absolute lack of accountability on the part of both the executive and legislative branches is a huge problem, and until we get that in hand, we may not be able to begin working on some of these other problems.

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    • Bill says:

      As I said, I’ll leave the geopolitics to those who play in that sandbox and have come to believe that they possess superior knowledge of “hard realities” and the ability to psychoanalyze other “world leaders” with complete accuracy.

      But for the rest of mere citizens, the questions that must constantly be asked of them, it seems to me, is what is the price of this and who will have to pay it? Maybe that makes me a wishful-thinking magic-wand-waving idealist, but to me it just seems like good sense.

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