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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored


It seems that its tough to not take sides, to not say "well our action is justified because they did so-and-so." Many people I talk with about the Russia/Georgia conflict (at least the ones who've read anything about it) start of from that position. Its often "Russia is being imperialistic, the west should stop them" or "Georgia shouldn't have been trying to retake those areas anyway, let the Ossetians and Abkhazians be part of Russia if they want to." What I find troubling is that both of those standpoints are plenty valid, that the actions they recommend are mutually exclusive and that both could have terrible consequences. I've expressed the opinion that I think the best solution to the problem may lay in restating the problem, finding the real cause, and addressing it from that position.

The real cause seems to be control of energy resources coupled with nationalism. I suspect that the nationalism will have a lot less force behind it without the motivation of obtaining the resources. So why not satisfy that motive? Given that Russia is currently a genuinely authoritarian state, it's morally awkward to sanction any action that puts more people under their control. But what other options are there? Developing inexpensive non-petroleum energy sources and distributing them broadly and rapidly would probably serve that end very effectively. Unfortunately, the science must advance at its own pace, and no amount of political cajoling will make it advance any faster. Its even questionable whether throwing more government funding at it would help or hinder, as I've read that in other areas such research funding has been at least as damaging as helpful because of the bureaucracy that gets involved and the types of people it attracts.


Here's an idea! How about an X-prize for renewable energy? First one to be able to generate so-many megawatts on a budget with such-and-such constraints wins a bucket-o-money. It worked for space, and its working for genetics. Actually, the genetics research will probably feed into the energy solution anyway, since one method of harvesting energy is engineering organisms to produce it in forms that we can use. We can only hope those breakthroughs will come fast enough.

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
        -Aldous Huxley

1 comment:

Paul Murphy said...

TJ,

With regard to your new idea; I only know that energy is in the equaition in terms of a pipeline. I hear a lot about the ethnic equation where recent history holds Ossetia as Russian biased.

I think another angle to look at are the parallels in Northern Ireland, Yugoslovia, Cyprus, Israel; where there is no oil. Ethnicity seems to be a driver where people are struggling for a leg up locally. Its about scarcity of the other essentials. The fear with Russian involvement has always been freedom. While hopeful, I am not sure they have figured that out yet. In looking at ther side of things on Ossetia, their arguement is that Ossetians should be free to choose and Gerogia backed by the West is taking that away. They have an arguement worth a good look.