The prospects of runaway climate change are horrific enough: but the daily reality of millions of ordinary people is already downright apocalyptic today. From Afghanistan to Yemen and from Gaza to Libya entire nations and their peoples suffer in escalating resource and territorial wars, die along the firing lines and on the bombing target ranges their neighborhoods have been turned into by today’s ‚Great Powers’. Their suffering has worsened over the last 20 years – not only under the callous Reagan and Bush administrations but also under the ‚liberal’ Presidents Clinton and Obama. This troubled age started in the late 19th century with German plans for a railroad from Baghdad to Berlin, along petroleum discoveries in Mosul, Kirkuk and Basra – and British corollary crafting of covert alliances with France and Russia, and armed support for local insurgents to destabilize the Balkan as well as Ottoman rule. An important strategic element was to secure oil for Britain’s’ new diesel powered navy.
Now it is time to turn from these dark roots of our current energy predicaments. Fossil fuel addiction and the incumbent industries’ resistance to the peace-building renewable energy transition accelerate the spectre of runaway climate change but also raise the risk of long festering tensions and the spread of covert and open – if undeclared – global wars to turn into an overt and full-scale planetary conflagration. It is time to end the mad rush into World War III by both ‚Eastern’ and ‚Western’ opponents and their various regional vassals – by taking a key component out of the equation: non-renewable fuels.
The escalations of conflict in the Middle East and the preparation for superpower confrontation here, in eastern Europe and the South China Sea, and in regional and local wars from Africa to Central America, can to a significant extent be traced to fossil fuel sourcing, transshipment and market protection actions, compounded by the resistance to change on part of military establishments, national defense industries, global arms traders and the wider conventional energy industry and investment communities at large. Geo-regional fossil and nuclear resource security ambitions provide the unspoken subtext and logic for the bewildering array of conflicts spreading across North Africa and the Middle East. Russia and Syria savage Aleppo in response to sponsored uprisings while the US and its allies try in vain to avoid escalating mayhem in Mosul to eliminate the threat of ISIS, in itself an offspring of the dismemberment of Iraq and the Saddam regime.
Syria’s destabilization through armed insurgencies was reinforced after Assad rejected Qatar’s US-supported Saudi-Turkey-Europe pipeline project initiative and turned to Russia as backer of Iran’s competing trans-Syria-to-Europe methane infrastructure vision. The assaults of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen all have to be seen against the backdrop of attempts at linking fossil fuel sources to markets via other people’s territories. The present, US sanctioned Saudi excursion into Yemen is designed to not only stabilize Saudi Arabia’s southern borders but to build a pan-peninsula sphere of Saudi influence, and secure control over the Bar-el-Mandeb Strait against Iran backed local opposition.
The production and shipment of oil and natural gas in and through the Middle East have their parallel in the securing of both fossil and fissile material resources in the violent struggles of Mali: protection uranium assets for Areva, and oil for European markets – a familiar storyline played out elsewhere in North and Sub-Saharan Africa. The so-called global War on Terror, the Orwellian marketing slogan eagerly adopted by all states from China to Israel to violently suppress dissidence has become the cloak of choice in an escalating war on resources. The simmering Ukraine conflict is at its heart a war over gas markets and hydrocarbon resource access, and only secondarily a quest for securing historical buffers and strategic spheres of influence and allegiance. US and NATO global militarization moves are part of the stark brinkmanship so akin to old-style thinking has the world locked into, in this world of obscenely bloated defense budgets.
The massive resources plowed into warfare should go into fighting climate change instead – the common enemy and challenge all nations must rally to fight, in all of our interest. Only a full-fledged, massive and rapid move to the renewable energy age offers hope: the renewable energy transformation offers the brightest ray of light, leading away from a chasm of darkness.
Now that we are entering the final era of the conventional energy systems we must grasp this opportunity to end the 20th century’s legacy of violence and focus on our responsibility to work towards peace for all those in pain today. This cannot happen without a planned and focused, unwavering switch to the enriching and stabilizing local and regional renewable energy sources.
The US elections have exposed the stunning level of cultural division, prejudice, isolationism and violence in the ‚world’s leading democracy’. On the face of it, these appalling features have been granted electoral endorsement. Have we entered the era of the Great Derangement, as the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh named it, a collective denial, a deep inability to face reality and the think the unthinkable?
We hope not. Political masks have fallen: this is an important wake-up call, a call to redouble our efforts to connect, educate, persuade, prevail in securing a democratic and prosperous society on a habitable planet. Here we also believe in our own abilities – and the American society’s ultimate and proven potential for invention, innovation. The path to a renewable and peaceful world depends on it.
By winning the election the new administration has a responsibility to embrace the high aspirations and potential for a global shift to peace. A rapid and comprehensive move to renewable energy is the essential element in conflict resolution: the climate for peace is here.
Peter Droege, 9 November 2016