November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Connecting a Few Dots/Politics

Arctic Region Reference Map with place names from the UT Perry-Castaneda Library

Arctic Region Reference Map with place names from the UT Perry-Castaneda Library

Religion, Politics,

Oil & Gas

by Jim Palombo

In watching the Sunday morning news on BBC, CNN and FOX, I was once again struck by how important it is for our public to understand a broad range of topics in order to understand what is happening in the country and the world. Simultaneously I was again reminded of the rather poor job that is being done by our educational system in this regard, with not much help given by the political and media-based dialogue that fills the air.

Be that as it may, the three networks were referencing the problems in the Ukraine which included the divide between Western and Eastern Christianity, vis a vis the forceful historical differences among Catholics and Orthodox Christians, as well as the differing market interests at work in the region, best symbolized by the potential competition between the German-directed European Union and the Eurasian Union concept (the USSR reborn?) being proposed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It seems that for those so inclined to think about the situation, the religious and market differences are being used to fuel each other in ways that may not be the most beneficial to the actual people.

In short, the elements involved make the situation in that part of the world extremely complicated, chaotic and combustible. And although it seems we in the U.S. must do something, it appears highly unlikely that our involvement, diplomatic or otherwise, will have any appreciable, long-term impact. (Do the contemporary Middle East conflicts, ongoing for more than 50 years, come to mind?)

In any event it just so happened that I was watching these broadcasts in a coffee house in Queretaro, Mexico with a friend of mine who is a lawyer-lobbyist from Alaska. As we sat and listened and then chatted about how geopolitical conflicts seemed to be popping up everywhere, our focus shifted to talking about somewhat related situations tied to his work. Noting that it might come as a bit of surprise to most, he began to tell me about what was occurring in regards to the Arctic Summit and Arctic University – two organizations I had theretofore never heard of. And as I listened to his comments, and later proceeded to investigate them a bit more, I couldn’t help but want to pass along what I think are some very intriguing considerations.

First, the Arctic Summit represents a gathering of players from across the Northern part of the globe, including Russia, China, U.S./Alaska, Mongolia, Canada, Norway and Finland, all of whom are interested in the development of the resource rich Arctic. As one might guess, these interests have been tweaked by the ever-growing access to oil and mineral resources as the region thaws due to climate change. In essence, and amid conversation about environmental concerns, the situation represents a grand example of business/profit motive efforts capitalizing on a social concern, while trying not to be overly insensitive to what happens as a result.

The Arctic University is a loose knit cooperative network of universities and colleges with many of the same Summit players involved. Through university research endeavors, the objective is to keep developments in the region beneficial to the indigenous population. This of course sounds admirable but when coupled with the Arctic Summit efforts, it tends to make one wonder a bit about what might be seen as “beneficial” to the people who may actually find themselves at odds with the potential financial gains on the table.

Now what caught me off guard about all this was not so much that this was going on, but rather how little I knew of it. In short, it seems at times that there is a world of interests moving around the globe that is operating at another level from that which most of us are involved. And this of course lends itself to the idea expressed by many who when challenged that we need to better understand the world (as I tend to do) remark “what difference does it make anyway.”

In short, it was an afternoon of talking about how the world is changing, how interests are being aligned, how a geopolitical fog seems to have developed over the goings-on of big business and what the bulk of the population actually knows or doesn’t know, and if indeed this really matters. So this piece was offered not only in the sense of reviewing a few current events, but to also point out that we seem, at many turns, in a real knowledge pickle – almost as if we are damned if we do know and damned if we don’t. As always, your comments in this light are most welcomed.

** As two other follow-up “dots” – Alaskan Public Media reported that John Kerry announced the appointment of a special envoy/counsel/ambassador to the Arctic region, out of concern over potential environmental problems. Clearly there will be environmental problems but one has to wonder to what extent our government’s action is more about our lessening control over global financial interests and what may come from the on-going economic development of oil and mineral resources in the Arctic. (Keep in mind that Russia is the major supplier of oil to China. What develops via the Arctic Summit could well fuel even more power in terms of this relationship. ) And Joshua Keating’s article in Slate magazine highlights what is occurring in the Antarctic, with its estimated 203 billion barrels of oil, the third largest reserve in the world. The gist of Mr. Slate’s piece is that although there are international restrictions in place in terms of actually developing the Antarctic resources, research stations with their obvious link to future economic development, are permitted. And although countries like Britain, Argentina, Australia, France and the U.S. have research stations there, it is China that outdistances them all, with four already in place and a fifth on the way. As the current developmental restrictions come up for review in 2048 this obviously raises a number of speculative possibilities. Certainly speculation, but given what is happening in the Arctic, it appears that it’s left to the public to connect the dots accordingly.

About the author:

Jim Palombo is the politics editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.