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Lessons from Ukraine

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John Dunkelgrün

By John Dunkelgrün

“Let us hope the new year will be better than the last one”, was a wish one could hear from almost everyone since January 1st, 2023. It is easy to understand with so many things going wrong in the previous one.

Putin started what most people thought was no longer possible, a real unprovoked territorial war on European soil, and then botched it. Not only did he fail militarily, but he also resorted to WWII tactics by deliberately destroying civilian lives and targets.

The death toll so far is likely to top a quarter of a million lives. The Communist Party in China compounded its mistaken zero-covid policy by loosening it without an adequate vaccination program in place, potentially killing well over a million of its people.

Stubbornly, it also refused an American offer of proven vaccines. In the U.S. it appeared, that there was a mass shooting every week, and the new leading party in its congress was in complete disarray. Israel now has the most extremist government ever, eroding its claim to be the only true democracy in the Middle east.

The United Nations sanctioned Israel with more than half of its total number of such resolutions and two and a half times as many as the ones condemning war-monger Russia. There were extreme weather conditions all over the globe. Inflation has shot up dramatically, resulting in drastic interest rate increases that killed stock markets worldwide.

It is truly a litany of problems.

But there is also light, not just at the end of the tunnel, but within it. Under President Biden’s deft leadership, the ‘Western’ countries united spectacularly in aiding Ukraine, President Zelenski, a novice politician and = statesman, rose to the occasion in a true Churchillian way. At long last, there is a groundswell of home-grown protest in Iran against its murderous regime. In most countries, vaccines and herd immunity have reduced Covid to a manageable problem.

Under the radar, there is more. Russia’s use of weaponising its fossil fuels has added a whole new layer to the urgency of finding alternative and renewable sources of energy. In the short run, this means liquified gas, the use of which still emits carbon dioxide, but is much less polluting than oil or coal. Funds are freed for wind- and solar farms, traditional nuclear power is no longer taboo, and the possibility of nuclear fusion is getting closer.

One thing Putin’s war has taught us is that when necessary, governments can and will spend tens of billions to solve a clear and urgent danger.

Above the problems of the day, the big problems threatening life as we know it are the climate and the availability of fresh water. Solving both will be less costly than facing aggressors and coping with the problems if we don’t.

As I have written before, it takes about two billion dollars to build desalination plants that produce enough fresh water to turn a chunk of the Sahara the size of France into savannas. Giant wind farms are being built and there are many developments in harvesting sunshine, using heat pumps, the temperature of the earth itself, etc. Huge strides are being made in energy storage.

Just think of what the money poured into Ukraine could have done, not just to Africa, but to the Middle East, the western states of the U.S., and large swathes of Australia. Israel desalinates 75% of its water, in the Emirates the percentage is much higher.

Yes, there are still a lot of daunting problems, but Ukraine has shown us what can be achieved when well-willing countries act together.