The Winds of Global Change

Good morning, my droogies. It’s 4:AM and I’m procrastinating doing real work by finally updating this blog. Let me start by saying that I, like Cousin Ajay, should have bought stock in Chipotle, my favourite US faux Mexican fast food place. I crave their burritos, crave them! I even once considered buying a franchise for Toronto! Their stock price opened big.

Got back to Ottawa Thursday morning after ensuring that my father is on the road to recovery after his heart surgery, and found a city unsure of what to think after a change in national leadership. Everyone –the guy next to me on the plane, my taxi driver, the pizza guy, the automated operator when you dial 411– is wondering about the directives of the impending new Conservative government.

Well, I wouldn’t worry too much. A minority government can only do so much damage. Mind you, Harper has already scrapped the Liberal national daycare programme (boo!) and is posing as a tough guy by “asserting” Canadian sovereignty against the Americans in Arctic waters. The latter bit is a classic case of the Conservative agenda not intersecting with mainstream Canada. Most Canadians care about so-called urban issues: taxation, security, healthcare, education, pollution, the economy, civil rights, etc. No one really cares that much about whether a few American submarines slip across the Arctic Ocean. This inflated issue is an excuse to rationalize unneeded increased military spending, ironically filling the coffers of the American military suppliers whose client is the one supposedly necessitating the purchase!

I do encourage you, however, to check out this.

As I’ve repeated obsessively, I called the Conservative minority win back on Nov 29th when many were predicting a Liberal majority. I did this for a number of reasons, but there is one lesser reason in particular I would like to elucidate upon. It has to do with having a macro view of history.

Our entire civilization is based upon energy. Without vast amounts of energy, our industries would cease, all meaningful travel would halt and all communications would stop. This dependence has accelerated in recent years with the microchip replacing functions that were previously low-tech and often energy-independent, and with truck delivery of goods to cities replacing more energy-efficient rail and ship services. If all the gas and electricity were to magically vanish tonight, by tomorrow afternoon we’d be living in feudal states, and by the end of the week a third of humanity will have perished. By the end of the month, half of humanity would be dead, and local governments would resemble tribal chiefdoms. Western civilization would be dead.

Ironically, our increased dependence on energy has coincided with a dramatic reduction in the global supply-to-demand ratio, caused by both increased demand (due in part to the growth of Asian economies) and by decreased supply; even the Emirates are realizing that the oil is running out, and are busily transforming last century’s oil paradises into Middle Eastern Las Vegases. Historians one thousand years from now will look back on this era and realize that Western invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were inevitable. Terrorism gave the superpower(s) an excuse, but the wars would have happened eventually anyway. Iraq –a country artificially created by the British for the sole purpose of exploiting its oil resources– sits atop the world’s second largest active oil repository. Afghanistan sits atop the world’s largest unexploited source. Invasions were long overdue. Remember the lesson of Dune: “the spice must flow.”

In terms of local politics, those who can locally marshall oil resources and assure access to them by the superpower(s) will ultimately achieve power. In nations ringing the Caspian basin, that means the tyrant of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance will cling to power more thoroughly than any true democratically elected leaders who might play oil concerns off of competing bidders. In Iran, it means that regardless of the political or ideological stripe of the leadership, the oil will flow; threaten the oil and lose power. Saddam’s true crime was not his tyrrany over his people or his brutal war against Iran. It was that he threatened the oil of Kuwait and was starting to leverage access to his own Iraqi oil for political influence.

In Canada, the latter half of the 20th century saw a growing tension between two opposing factions. No, not between English and French Canadians –that one is a non-issue artificially inflated by politicians and media; the Anglo-French conflict is a hold-over from past centuries. The true tension in Canada is between East and West. For decades, Ontario has held on to power because it is the heart of this nation’s financial, and thus economic, machine. Ontario further benefits from strong national resources, and a history of both foreign investment and foreign presence.

But the West has oil. (The Alberta tar sands hold enough oil to fuel the West into the next century, assuming the oil can be accessed cheaply.) And Conservative politics is a child of the West. Inevitably, the winds of global change had to shift local Canadian power to Alberta. In the short term, power may fluctuate between these two poles, but over the next few decades, unless an energy revolution is realized, the Canadian voice will inexorably inch Westward.

The one confounding element in this global view of history is that damned democracy thing.
True democracy (a rare thing, and I’m not sure we have it) allows an electorate to advance agendas independent of the global mean. But ultimately, even the averaged voice of the electorate will respond to the energy needs of civilization.

He who controls access to the power, truly has power.