Category Archives: World

Forget eco, let's go exo

Hey, that’s what it says here in Ireland’s paper of record. Apparently there’s a community out there who feel it’s time that we left our petty mess behind and sought communion with our galactic neighbours (maybe they can give us a dig out as well — that’s just my opinion). 

Forget “eco”. The most urgent prefix today, the X-Conference suggests, is “exo”. We need to evolve into an exoculture. We need to be exoconscious, to reframe our minds for interstellar relations and interdimensional experiences.

“If we live off-planet, we have to change our mind and bodies,” says Rebecca Hardcastle, a hypnotherapist and exoconsciousness coach from Phoenix, Arizona. “Your emotions, life force and what you’ve been taught is a belief system that cords you to the Earth. We must change our frame of reference.”

Hardcastle, wearing pearls and a black dress, says she has been contacted by ET intelligence since she was three. She, and others in the exopolitical community, say we must learn remote viewing and teleportation, propagate the practice of ESP, let ETs change us, and integrate technology and consciousness so we can participate in the universe.

What’s the secret? Diet and exercise and balanced living, says Hardcastle. Yoga and peacefulness, say others.

Okay, I’ve picked a quote from what looks like one of the flakier members of the movement. It’s just quirky. Anyway, a lot of the debate is about full disclosure from terrestrial governments about what contact they may or may not have had with extraterrestrials. I’m not going to enter the debate over whether or not aliens exist, or if they have visited our little mudball. But there is something about being prepared for any such contact that I find myself agreeing with. I just wish our governments and banks had thought to be prepared for the economic slump in which we find ourselves.

Obamania is still running wild

Not content with wanting to solve the economic crisis, withdraw from Iraq, win the war in Afghanistan, and transform US energy policy into one that’s green-friendly, Barack Obama is working on a world free of nuclear weapons. In two 26-minute speeches this week 

the president pledged a drive on nuclear disarmament, possibly bigger than any ever attempted. He spelled out how he would accelerate arms control agreements with Russia, following his first summit meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev last week. The deal to conclude a new arms reduction treaty with Moscow, which would slash stockpiles by about a third was a beginning, setting the stage for further cuts.

In a telling nod to reality, the presidential superhero admitted this may not happen in his lifetime, which is as pragmatic as it is putting the onus of resolution on future generations. Still though, his fresh take on military and security policy is to be commended and supported as much as possible. While the threat of nuclear war is quite small — the greatest potential lies in an Israeli strike on Iran, because despite all the posturing and controversy over the US missile shield, Russia has too much to lose — the possibility of a terrorist or rogue group getting materials is quite real.

If nothing else, Obama’s grand nuclear-free plan would lead to an unprecedented level of international co-operation as nations’ policies are set aside for the greater good.

If he can get it off the ground, that is.

Resource wars

The US military’s latest strategy document throws in the usual ideological threats — and apparently the “war on terror” now has an acronym, GWOT — but has a very keen on eye on future practicalities: “We face a potential return to traditional security threats posed by emerging near-peers as we compete globally for depleting natural resources and overseas markets.”

An interesting phrase, “near peers”. I’m not sure if this is a subtle slight at Russian and Chinese efforts to restablish/establish themselves as world powers, or a tacit acceptance that US power faces being equalled in the medium term.

Tom Clonan of The Irish Times notes:

This thinly-veiled reference to Russia and China will, perhaps, come as little surprise given recent events in Ossetia and Abkhazia. The explicit reference in this context to future resource wars, however, will probably raise eyebrows among the international diplomatic community, who prefer to couch such conflicts as human rights-based or rooted in notions around freedom and democracy.

The document, however, contains no such lofty pretences. It goes on to list as a pre-eminent threat to the security of the US and its allies “population growth – especially in less-developed countries – [which] will expose a resulting ‘youth bulge’.”

A young, growing population would mean a corresponding growth in resource consumption. It’s valid for a military to consider these sorts of threats — its duty is to protect the nation and its citizens, and so it should be prepared for as many eventualities as possible, and however unpalatable it may seem to the observer. But this is an outline of what strategies and technologies will be needed in the future, rather than a plan of campaign.

That food and water could lead to conflict should not be unexpected. The rocketing price of rice, for instance, has prompted several Gulf states to look into buying farmland in producer countries as a means of safeguarding supplies. If we hear a country saying “Oh, that looks like a nice spot to invade and grow corn”, then we need to worry. But don’t think it hasn’t been said privately.

According to Clonan, the document also looks at hi-tech options for fight wars and conducting military exercises. The space-based perspective might sound like science fiction, but is unsurprising. Any military would want to use all the assets at its disposal — and orbit allows all sorts of perspectives and observation options.

It is also indicative of a drive to reduced US casualties. Mobile-operated drones and such have been mooted and occasionally deployed for some time, although with mixed results. However, the use of hardware over personnel is more PR friendly, as well as a possibility for reducing the used operating budget on pesky things such as food and water. We may not be in Terminator country just yet, but it would mark a major shift in military composition and operation.

If it comes to pass, of course,

US imperialism

Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist, says “the challenge for the US now will be to avoid sliding straight from imperialism to isolationism”. The imperial idea became fashionable in 2003, he notes, when it was driven by the likes of Dick Cheney and other conservatives. It has declined in popularity since.

Imperial analogies still fascinate America. But the latest American books on empire are markedly less optimistic than the ones appearing a couple of years ago. Cullen Murphy’s Are We Rome? – which made the best-seller lists this year – argues that the US is in danger of emulating Rome’s decline and fall by succumbing to Roman-style corruption and arrogance. America needs to rediscover its civic virtues.

Rome is the empire to which most parallels are drawn, which is a fair enough point when you consider how much Roman imagery and ideas have been incorporated into American institutions. Rome, however, did not fall because of “corruption and arrogance”, though these did play a role in its decline. Economic mismanagement and rampant inflation were major contributors to the empire’s collapse — and these are lessons from which the US (and other world powers) can learn.

The conservatives who embraced the word “empire” a few years ago were being deliberately provocative. If America was indeed in something like an “imperial” mood in 2003, it simply meant the US was determined to use its economic and military pre-eminence to change the world. If that involved invading, occupying and reshaping whole countries, so be it.

Four years on, “imperialism” looks a lot harder and less attractive. America’s generals fret publicly that their formidable military machine could be “broken” in Iraq. The fiscal deficit is mounting and the dollar is falling.

However, Rachman points to a future for Amercia’s global position — because it is so tied to the world’s economic well-being.

China, India and even a resurgent Russia are emulating America by trading their way to greatness. Their ruling elites are directly enriched by globalisation.

I wonder if the story will change in 10 or 15 years’ time. Will China have overcome most of its internal problems and truly emerged as a world power? Will India be hot on its heels? Or will the impending climate catastrophe lead to an entirely different world order?

That's it, we're screwed

From the Associated Press:

The Earth is hurtling toward a warmer climate at a quickening pace, a Nobel-winning U.N. scientific panel said in a landmark report released Saturday, warning of inevitable human suffering and the threat of extinction for some species.

As early as 2020, 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will suffer water shortages, residents of Asia’s megacities will be at great risk of river and coastal flooding, Europeans can expect extensive species loss, and North Americans will experience longer and hotter heat waves and greater competition for water, the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says.

The potential impact of global warming is “so severe and so sweeping that only urgent, global action will do,” Ban told the IPCC after it issued its fourth and final report this year…

The report is important because it is adopted by consensus, meaning countries accept the underlying science and cannot disavow its conclusions. While it does not commit governments to a specific course of action, it provides a common scientific baseline for the political talks [in Bali next month].

Maybe I’ll soon have to change the name of this blog to Tiny Underwater-Yet-Arid Planet.