Monday, February 28, 2022
As someone whose family came from Odessa, and who visited Ukraine for a week in 2014 http://gellersworldtravel.blogspot.com/2014/03/greetings-from-kyiv-ukrainian.html I find it extremely difficult to watch TV coverage of this most outrageous invasion by Putin. Much has been written in the past few days about the war, but this column by Gwynne Dyer impressed me very much.
24 February 2022
Ukraine: Ten New Realities
By Gwynne Dyer
Now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine and foreclosed his and everybody else’s other options, certain aspects of the near future have become clear. So have some aspects of the longer run. Here are ten predictions, made with varying degrees of confidence.
1. Ukraine’s organised military forces won’t be able to fight for long. Its armed forces are smaller and less well equipped than the Russian invasion force, they are being attacked simultaneously from the north, east and south, and above all they lack air cover.
Russian cruise missiles have already struck most Ukrainian air bases and command centres, and Ukranian forces in the field will be cut up into small groups, surrounded and overwhelmed. Arming civilians won’t help: it will just get them killed. Organised combat will probably be over in a week, although fighting in the cities could last a little longer.
2. There will be an underground resistance movement at least for a while, but don’t imagine Ukrainians are going to be the new Viet Cong. This is an urban society, and the resistance will rely on ambushes, assassinations and IEDs. The Russians will call it ‘terrorism’.
3. Putin says “We do not intend to occupy Ukraine,” but of course they will. The only question is whether the Russians will stop at Dnieper river (plus Kiev, on the west bank), or take the western half of the country too.
Resistance will be stronger in the west, where Ukrainian nationalism has deeper roots, but Putin’s denial of the legitimacy of the Ukrainian state and indeed of a separate Ukrainian identity means he can’t really leave the west out. The logic of his argument is that all the people on this ‘ancient Russian land’ must be re-submerged in a greater Russian identity.
4. Russia’s civilian and military intelligence services, the FSB and GRU, will have lists of Ukrainians who are to be arrested: certainly thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Some of them may be killed, but we won’t hear about that if it happens. A lot more people who fear they might be on those lists will flee west.
5. Several hundred thousand other people will also flee west just because they don’t want to live under military occupation and Russification. It could be more, if Russia leaves the border open for a while to get rid of the people who are likely to resent their presence most.
6. The border between NATO members and the countries Putin controls (Russia, Belarus and Ukraine) will be remilitarised, and defence budgets will rise in Germany and eastern European countries. However, as in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, there will be no NATO military action to counter the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Why? Nuclear weapons.
7. Will a new Cold War spread across the world? No, because post-Soviet Russia is too small and weak to hold up its end of it. Moreover, there is no real ideological conflict: democracy is an ideology, but dictatorship isn’t. At worst, there will be a Cool War in the North Atlantic/European region.
8. Will Putin get away with it? For a while, yes. There will be more Western sanctions against Russia, of course, but he has build up a big war-chest ($600 billion in reserves) and outside the big cities Russians are still very ‘patriotic’ and pretty gullible. But Putin’s long-term project of re-Russification is foredoomed: there’s just no popular enthusiasm for it.
9. Will Ukraine regain its independence? Not while Putin is alive (he’s 69) unless there is a palace coup in the Kremlin. The Russians will install a puppet government in Kiev, but will find it too unstable to let them bring their troops home again. When Putin is gone, however, Ukraine will have a chance to regain its freedom. So may Russia.
10. Will Donald Trump win the 2024 US election? Maybe not. His fanboy adulation of Putin goes down well with the hardcore MAGA crowd, who admire the Russian dictator more than they do Joe Biden, but praising Putin’s “smart move” in invading Ukraine will not play well with most Americans if their country is caught up in a confrontation with Russia.
Has the world ‘changed forever’, as the pundits love to say? No, of course not, but this is a very big deal, and a hell of a lot has changed.
Thursday, February 10, 2022
I was pleased to participate in this UDI Webinar along with representatives of FortisBC, the province and City of Burnaby. I presented the perspective of a developer who has discovered it is increasingly necessary to commit to a fossil-fuel-free project when seeking a rezoning. But this discussion is not just happening in Metro Vancouver. It is happening all over the world. Here is my presentation with references to what I saw in Dubai during my trip to EXPO 2020. It's time to REIMAGINE ENERGY.
Friday, February 4, 2022
I must confess I was skeptical when I read that EXPO2020 would have a focus on sustainability given that much of the UAE's wealth has come from oil production. But by the end of 12 days at the fair, I was convinced that this was much more than just lip service.
There really is a genuine desire to reduce reliance on oil, both the basis for its economy, and as an energy source. Fortunately, the sun shines a lot in the UAE and so solar power is a very viable alternative. But throughout the exposition, it was fascinating to see what other countries are doing to reduce greenhouse gases and get to 'net zero', which was a common theme in many pavilions, especially Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands, to name just 3.
As was the case at EXPO 86 in Vancouver, there were several major 'theme pavilions'. The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by the well-known UK firm Grimshaw Architects, is a self-sustaining building designed to generate 100% of its water and energy needs.
A LEED Platinum building, the solar canopy has a diameter of 130 metres and converts sunshine into electricity for all the exhibits. The main canopy is surrounded by 18 'energy trees' clad in solar panels which rotate like sunflowers to track the sun. A 'water tree' captures humidity and converts it to water that in turn connects into the air conditioning system.
As you enter the building a wall graphic highlights how energy consumption has changed and increased so dramatically over the centuries.
One challenges the visitor to think about what they truly value by contemplating what they would save if their home were on fire.
The tour ends on a more optimistic note with the 'Laboratory of Future Values' which highlights opportunities to save our planet.
Many of the pavilions in the Sustainability Precinct and elsewhere around the site are designed with wood exteriors and structures. They feature impressive exhibits, and my regret is that more of my colleagues in Vancouver who are interested in sustainability and sustainable development will not likely get the opportunity to experience them.
Thursday, February 3, 2022
As noted in the EXPO guidebook, the colourful exterior of the Russian pavilion is your first hint of the creativity you'll discover inside. The pavilion was designed by Sergei Tchoban a highly respected and talented architect I met while working in Russian and Kazakhstan. He designed the building "in the shape of two hemispheres that are domes creating the image of a planet symbolising wholeness and universality." When I posted photos of the building on Facebook, one of my friends described it as a colourful slinky toy and she's right. But it is both delightful and beautiful.
The inside of the pavilion is equally intriguing. It celebrates creative Russian inventors, artists, and musicians and many of the products they introduced. These include powdered milk (1802) television (1911) icebreakers, foam fire extinguishers, synthetic rubber, and postal codes. Yes, postal codes.
But the focus of the pavilion is the human brain and how it works. I could have spent the day studying the various panels. You can see some of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuPDVU99aI0
One of the sub-themes is the need for world cooperation. Yes, cooperation!
An intriguing aspect of the Russian pavilion is that Russia is vying to be selected as the location for the 2030 World Expo. If it was up to me, I would say leave the Ukraine alone, and you can have the world fair.
Of all the world expos that I have attended, the best was EXPO 2010 Shanghai. While it was wonderful during the day, it was extraordinary at night. EXPO 2020 was also impressive at night, especially the main Al Wasl plaza which has been described as the world's largest 360-degree projection screen.
Elsewhere around the site there are concerts, changing illuminations, and lots of vitality. Many of the pavilions are transformed at night, especially the dramatic cantilevered Saudi pavilion and UAE pavilion that is designed to appear like a falcon, with movable wings.