Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Russia v. Georgia: The Case for Pursuing Conservation and Alternative Energy Resources

I will leave to the reader the question of whether the recent hostilities in Georgia amounted to Russian "gross over-reaction" or signified a "measured response" on the part of Russia. At this time, almost a week after the hostilities in Georgia began, it does not matter much who was provoked and who fired the first shots. Reports are coming in of hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent civilian lives lost in the break-away province of South Ossetia and in the rest of Georgia: civilians caught in the cross-fire of two nations which may have turned too quickly to their respective militaries to alter the fragile status quo.Today, there are reports that both Russia and Georgia are seeking an end to hostilities. For us here in Canada, we are left wondering just what was accomplished, and why this short, sharp conflict between a former super power and current US ally occurred in the first place.

Since the shooting started, many Canadians have been surprised to discover some interesting facts about Georgia, formerly a part of the USSR. Many did not know that Georgia, along with the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine, had petitioned to join NATO, and that Geogia has contributed forces to the US-led war in Iraq. Many others did not realize that within Georgia itself there exist two break-away areas, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have largely been acting autonomously since Georgia itself broke away from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

And many Canadians also now realize that the only major energy pipelines to Europe from the oil and gas reach Caspian Sea area of Central Asia which does not traverse through Russia runs, in part, through Georgia. All other pipelines to Europe are controlled by Gazprom, the Russian state gas monopoly, up until recently headed by Russian President Dmitri Mendvedev.

And just as Canadians questioned the real reasons behind the U.S. led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, many are now wondering whether the recent Russian action against Georgia is being driven by its desire to control oil and gas resources and their distribution systems. Certainly, in the recent past, Russia has used control of the oil and gas tap as a way of making political points with nations for which it has been contracted to supply energy to. It does not matter whether Russia’s primary objective is outright control of the Georgian pipelines, or simply the destabilization of the economic climate needed for investors to continue backing the pipelines, this conflict will bring grief to Georgia and solidify Russia’s position in Europe as an energy resource powerhouse.

We continue to permit these illegal wars over energy resources because our trusted international bodies are proving incapable of mounting anything in the way of opposition to them, given the very structure of the bodies themselves. As a vivid example, the United Nations Security Council could do little to prevent the invasion of Iraq, or the recent invasion of Georgia, because the United States and Russia hold vetos on the Council. The ineffectiveness of this international body, charged with keeping peace in the world, is remarkable.

Our continued and increasing dependence on oil and natural gas to fuel our economies with the knowledge that we are running out of these non-renewable resources is also remarkable, given that we have been aware for several decades that these resources would one day run dry, or start to become so expensive to extract, it might not be worth the effort. Yet we have largely continued to move forward with our dependence on oil and gas for our electricity and heating needs. The recent conflict in Georgia points quite clearly to the need for effective energy conservation programs and alternative energy generation. And to the need that we ourselves acknowledge that the society we have built has to change its wasteful ways. Without change, we can expect to endure ever more death and destruction throughout the world, along with the continued weakening of our international system.

Steve May CEO, Sudbury Federal Green Party Association

No comments: