Thursday, July 30, 2015

Western style Catastrophism: a few questions for my Russian readers

Weekly page views of "Resource Crisis" on July 30, 2015. Note how Russia is the largest non-English speaking country in the list. These data are not the result of  any special post about Russia, they are a normal feature of the blog.  

I don't need to say that I am very pleased for the success that this blog is having in Russia. Russia is a country that I know reasonably well, I know the people, the places, nature, a little of the language and, well, about countries you can use the verb "like" regarding your attitudes toward it; but you can also use the verb "love." Personally, I would feel more inclined to use the latter term in regard to my personal feelings regarding Russia.

This said, however, I am curious about why exactly "Resource Crisis" is having so much success in Russia. It is true that I have posted a few times about matters regarding Russia, but this is not, by any means, a Russia-oriented blog. And, for what I know about Russia, the general attitude, there, is not at all "catastrophistic" as this blog is.

So, I thought I could dedicate a post to this subject and ask my Russian readers (and also non Russian ones) if they can spare a little of their time to comment on some questions that I am asking to myself and to them.

1. Would you agree with my impression that in Russia there doesn't exist a "catastrophistic" line of thought regarding "the end of the world as we know it"? In the West, we have a number of thinkers, for instance James Howard Kunstler, John Michael Greer,  Guy McPherson, Dmitry Orlov and many others (perhaps also yours truly!) whose work is dedicated to the exploration of the concept of social and economic collapse, and even to the extinction of humankind. Their relevance in the overall cultural and political discourse in the West is minor, but, I venture to say, not irrelevant. But, I can't find any equivalent Russian thinkers - which may very well due to my very limited command of Russian. Or is it just that catastrophism doesn't "stick" to the Russian mind?

2. Did anyone in Russia predict in advance the collapse of the Soviet Union? This question is related to the first one. The West seems to be going towards its collapse not without considerable warning, although consistently choosing to ignore it. Did anyone warn the Soviet government of their impending collapse? (not that, most likely, the Soviet Government would have done better than the Western ones, but, out of curiosity......)

3. Did you have the impression, as I do, that most people in Russia tend to see both peak oil and climate change mainly as Western propaganda? My contacts with the Russian oil industry and universities tend to think that Russia is immune to peak oil because of its large reserves and also that it will be scarcely affected by climate change, because it is located in the North. Some people seem to think that Russia could actually gain something because of global warming. Both these impressions - in my opinion - are utterly wrong and could seriously damage Russia in the long run.

4. Do you think that the current Russian leaders have some kind of long term plan on how to manage the Russian mineral resources? Russia controls a considerable fraction of the remaining world mineral resources. Even though large, these resources are not infinite. So, should Russia help Westerners to waste fuel produced from Russian oil for their SUVs, or, rather, keep the oil for the future prosperity of Russia? Does anyone in Moscow think about these matters?

5. What should be Russia's future source of energy? Here, it seems that most Russians think of a comfortable, nuclear powered future. That may be a possibility, but the Russian uranium resources are not infinite and surely are not among the most abundant in the world. Theoretically, fast neutron reactors overcome the problem of uranium depletion and Russia is probably the most advanced country in the world in this area. But fast neutron reactors are a very difficult technology, frayed with risks and uncertainties, also strategically vulnerable. Shouldn't Russia consider alternatives?  Despite being a Northern country, Russia has plenty of high insolation regions and plenty of available space. Why neglect solar energy so much as it has been done up to now?

So, if you are Russian (or even if you are not) and you feel that you can say something about these questions, or on other points related to Russia, your comments are most welcome!

Some recent posts of mine related to Russia (I would also thank Prof. Tatiana Yugay for her posts on my blogs, both in English and in Italian)

Putin Eats Babies: lies, damned lies and psyops . (May 12 2015)

The Mind of Empires (May 3, 2015)

The Great Oil Game (May 2, 2015)

How Do Empires hunt bears?  (March 9 2015)

Unleashing the Oil Weapon against Russia (Oct 6, 2014)


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)