What the History of Ukraine Teaches us About the Risks of Mismanaging Climate Crisis

Ukraine has a long history of finding itself at the intersection of political violence — among them genocide inflicted by Joseph Stalin, joined later by German occupiers. This tragic history helps explain why Ukrainians have the will to sacrifice everything for their land, despite the odds, to fend off Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Sandwiched between German imperialism/Fascism and the Marxist/Leninist movements of the 19th and 20th Centuries, modern Ukraine continues to exist between a proverbial rock and a hard place. Consequently, it is unsurprising that the seeds of conflict still lie in this region to the present day.

If these historical undercurrents are acknowledged at all, it is to point out that President Putin engages in propaganda when he rationalizes his warpath to the Russian people as a purging of Nazis from Ukraine. Nevertheless, there is a kernel of truth to this history. An Israeli paper covered an “Embroidery March” last year in Kiev — one of several to commemorate Nazi collaborators — which some Ukrainians remember as allies against the Soviet Empire during World War II.

While it is tempting to compartmentalize the COVID-19 pandemic, the costly aftermath of George Floyd’s death in 2020, a 40-year high in inflation and the war in Ukraine as a series of random events, an uneasy sense that something more is afoot is widespread. Pundits, for example, have attempted to attribute these early 21st Century upheavals to Marxists. Still others have drawn attention to the World Economic Forum’s so-called Great Reset, to argue that “Stakeholder Capitalism” is the new face of fascism.

Whatever this is, we can no longer afford to remain passive observers.

Integration, more commonly known as globalization, favors a future in which nation-state conflicts are overcome by the vast powers of all-encompassing technocracy. What we choose to call it, however, is almost beside the point. Digital technology is paving a path to integration unseen in human history. Its ubiquity — soon to include digital central banking — does not favor a future in which privacy and individual liberties flourish.

The Dark Side of Digital

As public frustration mounts over the pitfalls of social media — from phishing to clickbait, cyberbullying to misinformation, doxing to deplatforming — the “Digital Honeymoon”, which began with the personal computer and has grown to include a smartphone in virtually every hand and an Internet connection in nearly every middle-class home, is coming to an end. Having endured fierce debates over vaccine passports and vaccine mandates during the pandemic, the public is better positioned than ever to appreciate the digital dark side: Any technology that so easily avails itself to population-wide coercion and/or surveillance will eventually be used for such purposes, regardless of the “protections” governments promise citizens — as Edward Snowden and his predecessors, who broke news on the intelligence community’s post-9/11 plans for “Total Information Awareness” and “Carnivore” can attest. Libertarians are quick to point out that corporations, unlike government, are under no obligation to honor the First Amendment, however the reality is that government leans heavily on Big Tech — persuasive because government has the power to break up monopolies and amend Section 203 — to pressure social media operators into limiting the sharing of information the establishment finds objectionable.

Social media has flung open the door not just to the hyper-politicization of virtually any subject but to propaganda from authoritarian and democratic governments alike.

As our social and political environments are transformed by social media, digital currencies and the rise of the metaverse, our “small world” makes it all too easy to perceive populations as collectives vs. individuals to which unassailable human rights apply. Democracy flourishes not when it fractures along group identity lines but when it empowers citizens to think and function as individuals within a pluralistic social, political and economic framework. Old norms and values once thought to be a given in many Western democracies, however, have shifted dramatically over the past 20-some years. As the War on Terror and the Canadian government’s February 2022 seizure of “Freedom Convoy” participants’ bank accounts illustrates, access to finance, big or small, can simply be frozen in response to undesirable conduct — which under the guise of combating misinformation, hate speech and political extremism will no doubt grow in the decades to come to include what George Orwell called “thoughtcrimes”.

For the same reason digital technology has made our lives incredibly convenient, it may make our future increasingly authoritarian.

China’s social credit scoring system is proof that where the technological capacity exists to do so, governments will fashion incentives, however draconian such efforts may initially appear, to normalize a “correct” way of living within a collectivist framework. Whereas democracy is ultimately a promoter of national sovereignty (citizens decide their own affairs on a local, not global, basis) and personal autonomy (civil rights are incompatible with a future devoid of privacy), the technology we rely on to create our future evokes the imagery of a “world wide web”, a structure at odds with democracy as we know it.

Times They Are-A-Changin’

As little as seven years ago U.S. border security had bipartisan support. During Donald Trump’s presidency the narrative flipped. Now it is “racist” and “xenophobic” to give more than lip-service to reducing undocumented migration even if the social and environmental costs of “open borders” are astonishingly high. A ~30-year progression of transnational trade has morphed into pressure on citizens in many countries to normalize mass migration — to do anything less is to be a nationalist. Similarly, it was not only in the U.S. where statues were toppled in the wake of George Floyd’s untimely 2020 death. And yet the expected targets of ire — colonialists — were not the only ones to come under attack. Statues of Frederick Douglass in New York and Winston Churchill in London became targets too. The message was clear: Western democracies are illegitimate. To argue that democracy is illegitimate purely because of the “original sin” of slavery tells only half the story. Even the oft-repeated claim that Capitalism promotes inequality fails to complete the picture. After all, poverty is an age-old problem that has plagued every human society.

So what changed?

Climate crisis. Consumerism increases carbon output, therefore Capitalism creates climate change.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brings into sharp relief rising tensions and tragedy in recent years. Against this backdrop, the accelerating effort to slash fossil fuel dependency belies a deadly paradox: If alternative energy sources are still not plentiful enough to substitute for oil and gas, top-down political pledges to force a wholesale reordering around “green energy” may instead promote financial collapse. If the political tides do not shift in favor of getting our energy house in order before fossil fuels are too costly to power manufacturing, heavy industry and farm equipment — let alone our homes, transportation and businesses — we will not see a “creative destruction” in which rising costs promote greater investment into alternative energy infrastructure but an economic crisis so profound it may spell the end of public support for climate change mitigations entirely.

One must ask why the effort to decarbonize — when it makes little impact on global carbon emissions for dependence to shift to less regulated (dirtier) foreign oil producers — is so urgent that we must risk the global economy? After all, investment into renewable energy sources may instead decline if we tempt wholesale economic collapse by driving up the prices of the many commodities that petroleum underpins (nearly everything).

History Does Not Repeat — but it Rhymes

In 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns were heralded for reducing carbon emissions as more people began to attend school and work from home (commute less). But the benefits of forcing the West off fossil fuels when much of the electric grid in the U.S and Europe to date remains dependent upon fossil fuel to power homes, businesses and agriculture is short-sighted at best, a break with reality at worst. With many countries eschewing nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster, it cannot be lost on our leaders that if consumers cannot afford their transportation costs, they cannot afford, by extension, surging utility and food costs!

What will happen if the powers that be fail to see the folly of their best-laid climate action plans?

A man-made famine that starved Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933, known as Holodomor, offers a window into what is at stake if climate crisis is mismanaged:

At the height of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine under Joseph Stalin, starving people roamed the countryside, desperate for something, anything to eat. In the village of Stavyshche, a young peasant boy watched as the wanderers dug into empty gardens with their bare hands. Many were so emaciated, he recalled, that their bodies began to swell and stink from the extreme lack of nutrients.

The Ukrainian famine — known as the Holodomor, a combination of the Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict death” — by one estimate claimed the lives of 3.9 million people, about 13 percent of the population. And, unlike other famines in history caused by blight or drought, this was caused when a dictator wanted both to replace Ukraine’s small farms with state-run collectives and punish independence-minded Ukrainians who posed a threat to his totalitarian authority.

“How Joseph Stalin Starved Millions in the Ukrainian Famine: Cruel efforts under Stalin to impose collectivism and tamp down Ukrainian nationalism left an estimated 3.9 million dead.” | History.com

High-cost energy in the face of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine means food production in Ukraine — which alongside Russia is Eastern Europe’s bread-basket — may fall precipitously. If at the same time farmers in the United States and elsewhere cannot afford the cost of petroleum-derived products, such as fertilizer, Western countries will drive up demand for commodities produced by less affluent countries. Farmers in the developing world will sell to the highest bidder in order to afford to remain in business given the skyrocketing cost associated with planting the next season’s crop, leaving their own people to endure food shortages. In this way, starvation, if not also mass migration associated with food insecurity, may produce much of the human displacement politicians and mainstream media will undoubtedly blame on anything but the inflationary-pressure tied to climate action!

The United Nations in 2020 flagged a food security crisis in the Third World tied to pandemic supply chain disruptions — but sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine now dominate headlines. There will be no forestalling the fate of food production the world over, particularly if the public is too quick to buy into expedient political narratives. Just as much as the pandemic favored the economic fortunes of big-box retailers at the expense of small businesses, the war on climate favors factory farms at the expense of independently-owned family farms.

Those of us who live in the First World must be cognizant that high energy prices are about far more than pain at the gas pump. The cost of energy is about food, shelter and employment — the bare necessities of life.

By transitioning seamlessly from COVID-19 lockdowns to war in Eastern Europe to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) “sustainability” measures embedded in virtually all political/finance decisions, among other efforts to bring about an end to fossil fuel dependency, the stage is now set for an energy crisis unlike any that has preceded it. To whatever extent the effort to decarbonize the West outpaces the STEM solutions and infrastructure by which to do so at an economy of scale, efforts to effectively throw a wrench into the global economic engine in the name of climate action will take the existing supply chain crisis to unforeseen levels.

Is it a bridge too far to compare what may lie in store to Holodomor? The answer to that question depends on whether the citizens of Western countries — and our respective leaders — read the writing on the wall before it is too late.

Empty shelves” isn’t just an American problem. They are a global harbinger of worse to come in a poorly executed war on climate change.

The impact of economic unraveling will not be felt evenly. Rural residents and farmers — short on fossil fuel derivatives such as fertilizer and still dependent on heavy farm equipment that requires gasoline for harvesting — will be hardest hit. Next in line for economic desertification will be population-dense regions without adequate public transit infrastructure — to include much of California, the “car culture” capitol which is so overbuilt it cannot fully accommodate a radical reordering of housing and transit. The crisis will also hit the Southwest, Northwest, Northeast and Midwest where above-average size homes located in suburban and rural areas with large seasonal temperature shifts may lose value as it becomes financially untenable to heat and cool them. Above all, however, keep an eye on agriculture: As farmers let their land go fallow or declare bankruptcy under pressure from record-high inflation, it will accelerate the global food crisis.

Loss of affordable energy, in the absence of widespread access to alternatives, translates directly to food insecurity, which may manifest as bread lines in the West and starvation across much of the world.

The Great Downsizing

Many have taken an incredulous eye to World Economic Forum predictions in which it is claimed that by 2030 we will own nothing, have no privacy and be happy. In an earlier 2016 piece called “Eight Predictions for the World in 2030” the WEF goes on to state that meat and dairy will no longer be readily accessible — after all, raising livestock is a C02 emitter, so our diets will become plant based and farmland will be reclaimed for public use. What will substitute for lost protein in our diets? Insects.

On a morning in the not-too-distant future, you might toast bread made with cricket flour, drink a protein smoothie made from locust powder, and eat scrambled eggs (made extra-creamy with the fat from mopane caterpillars) with a side of mealworm bacon.

The food that can feed, and maybe save, the planet: Bugs” | CNN

We may be tempted to laugh at the absurdity of such predictions but we do so at our own peril. How many people anticipated a pandemic — let alone one that may be endemic despite our best efforts to slow the spread? Similarly, how many of us three years ago imagined empty shelves at the supermarket? And so, as difficult as it may be, a thought experiment is in order.

Under what kinds of economic and political conditions might such profound changes occur? Take WEF’s prediction that “all products will become services”. This implies that either private property is outlawed or we simply cannot afford to own anything thanks to a permanent state of high taxation and inflation. Similarly, how does one compel consumers to abandon rural and suburban areas in favor of an urban lifestyle? Oil that accelerates beyond $200 per barrel will ravage the poor, suburbanites, rural residents and, perhaps most critically, farmers.

Think it can’t happen? Think again. One aspect of the Biden administration’s “Build Back Better” plan is a mileage tax. (As any federal government observer knows, pilot programs more often than not become permanent.) Imposing a mileage tax on drivers against a backdrop of record-high inflation will leave many essential workers with no choice but to stop driving and/or working because they do not have the benefit of living in a walkable community.

No matter how well intended, penalizing ordinary people as a means to pressure corporations and local governments into making sustainability decisions they are not already heavily invested in, will send a finite supply of in-demand urban housing to dizzying new heights, resulting in a homelessness crisis of epic proportions.

It may be tempting, of course, to assume this is much ado about nothing. After all, electric cars will replace the internal combustion engine and remote work is already viable for the “laptop class“, therefore we will not be forced to rethink where we live — right? Unfortunately, this does not account for the fact that soaring utility bills and rents will squeeze many of us to the point where downsizing is the last best option. “The Great Downsizing” may be successful for a time — but eventually suburban residential real estate prices will crash. Selling or renting out a home in an undesirable climate zone and/or in a community without ready access to public transit will be no more easy than offloading a gasoline-powered car in the coming age of ~$15 per-gallon gas. That, in turn, will leave anyone who did not select their home and workplace carefully unable to pick up and leave — “trapped in place” by rapidly eroding social mobility.

“I can’t afford an electric car because I am spending too much money on gas.”

Unnamed driver interviewed at a filling station in a FOX News interview that appeared on Jesse Waters Prime Time.

By their own admission, climate activists do not want private transportation to exist at all. Consequently, it is not merely COVID-19 supply chain disruptions, a European war or inflation that will crash the global economy. The WEF predicts we will not even own appliances, which implies that anyone who cannot afford to lease their household contents in perpetuity will become entirely dependent on food delivery services. Such a world would impose a permanent state of scarcity on the one hand and cradle-to-grave dependency on the goodwill of others to provide for our most basic needs on the other hand. For now, however, a significant percentage of the economy remains consumer driven — not fee based — so it does not take a rocket scientist to appreciate that once the markets are no longer bullish about the future, the economy will become an emaciated shadow of its former self — a final nail in the coffin that is the middle class.

“Today, the best predictor of household carbon footprint is income. … Consumption comes at a high ecological cost. As the gross national product grows — driven largely by household consumption — so do greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists and policy analysts believe that as technology increases energy efficiency and replaces fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, greenhouse gas emissions will be significantly reduced. But despite the rapid advances in these technologies, there is no evidence that trends in greenhouse gas emissions are separate and independent from economic growth trends.”

The US economy is reliant on consumer spending – can it survive a pandemic?” | The Conversation

Did you catch that? Success in the war on climate change may very well mean reducing the Gross Domestic Product to Depression-era levels! Indeed, if one fully attempts to picture the world WEF describes, humanity is clustered together in dense quasi-communal settings so cramped that renting even the space in which to host social gatherings may become the norm. And forget about owning pets:

Dogs and cats are responsible for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by animal agriculture, according a new study out Wednesday, which adds up to a whopping 64 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent emitted in the production of their food.

Dogs, Cats And Climate Change: What’s Your Pet’s Carbon Pawprint? | Forbes

If our “green” future sounds unappealing, the WEF depiction of the world in 2030 even goes so far as to point out that those who refuse to comply with this brave new world will be cut off from the rest of society, consigned to live a hardscrabble 18th Century life. (To some readers this undoubtedly has a prophetic ring to it — a future in which it is not possible to buy, nor sell, without accepting a “mark”.)

What could account for this level of upheaval? Is global warming the sole culprit?

The rapid-fire reimagination of how our lives function may in fact reflect an emergency that is less likely to appear in headlines: accessible petroleum is running out. Author and futurist James Howard Kunstler “The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century”, among other works on “peak oil“, make it all too clear that the level of human suffering that is descending upon this planet in the name of a net-zero carbon future is evidence that, in reality, no alternative energy technology fully compensates for the loss of fossil fuels.

Governments will work with industry to ration what remains of the world’s supply of accessible petroleum by making fossil fuels scarce long before they actually run out.

The case can similarly be made that the urgency behind climate war at all costs — even if it provokes a “Great Collapse” — will serve the aims of a new political narrative in which the only way out of our self-inflicted nightmare is centralized government. And while it may be tempting to say this is little more than baseless speculation, the World Federalism movement is a decades-old reality:

Our Mission is to promote global governance to address inequality, violent conflict, mass atrocities, climate change and corruption.

World Federalist/Institute For Global Policy

Arguably, a world thrust into chaos by climate crisis meets all the criteria indicated for the-above stated mission. The question each and every one of us must answer as the war on climate heats up: Is the solution pursuant to the problem or is the problem pursuant to the solution?

The Choice

A 21st Century Holodomor may take place not because of climate emergency in the near-term but because policies that further net-zero carbon are less an agent of change than a wrecking ball. Although WEF-founder Klaus Schwab says the purpose of the Great Reset is to create, among other things, a fairer world, the “cure” to what ails us may entail a level of crisis those of us outside Eastern Europe are largely are incapable of fathoming. The world of 2030-2050 will fundamentally alter what it means to be human — limited freedom of movement (since travel, too, enlarges one’s carbon footprint), no expectation of privacy, democracy in name only and a small percentage of public-private stakeholders who reap an even greater share of the financial rewards created in the name of climate action even as the rest of humanity makes do with less.

Are we ready to embrace a Pyrrhic victory in the name of climate change? Climate activists would have us believe we have no choice. Perhaps so. Perhaps not. This much, however, is clear: We can realize the future the hard way — a Holodomor in which climate action effectively amounts to a world plunged into hand-to-mouth poverty — or we can defuse this ticking climate bomb by reducing reliance on fossil fuels in a sober manner beginning with the realization that a top-down approach to climate change does little to prioritize what the world needs most — STEM solutions on the order of a “Climate Manhattan Project”.

Until such time as technological advance is firmly in the driver’s seat, politicians may unwittingly unravel the global economy at such a rate that it throws the pace of progress into reverse. At present, the U.S. does not have enough renewable energy sources in place to forego production of oil nor resilience in our aging electric grid to accommodate mass conversion to electric vehicles without also giving utilities “smart control” of when an electric vehicle can be charged and even the power to retrieve energy stored in EV batteries at the whim of grid operators. Collectively, these challenges remind us that we can’t simply will fossil fuels into obsolescence.

Progress stops for no one. But whether it destroys our lives in the process is a choice.


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