Identify an event that is causing tensions, conflicts or war between nations and you can easily point to natural resources, such as oil or natural gas as the culprit. Most recently, China and Japan were at loggerheads over an uninhabited island called Diaoyu by the Chinese and Senkaku by the Japanese. Each side is claiming historical records as proof that it belonged to them. Using history is a tricky thing. When does it start and when does it end. One of the excuse used by Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait was that it was an Iraqi province. Yeah maybe if you go back to thousands of BC during times of Babylonia. When Kuwait declared independence, United Kingdom was the occupying force then. But the escalating conflicts over Diaoyu or Spratly island in Southeast Asia have less to do with history but more to do with the fact that these island are said to be rich in oil or natural gas reserves. Spratly island occupies only approximately 4 square kilometers of island but spreads over 425,000 square kilometers of the sea known to have rich resources. At least 5 countries claim part or whole of the island chain and each have navy station in an island there.
Tension in Diaoyu escalated when Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing boat claiming he rammed their naval boat. It is hard to verify if that is true or not but Japan and Taiwan have a previous conflict where Japan claimed Taiwanese fishing boat rammed into their navy boat. The Taiwanese then release a video showing it was the other way around. Of course we don’t know if that’s the case here or not.
Middle East is in such a dire state because it is rich in oil. So the sooner we switch to relying on renewable energy sources, even if it means hefty initial cost, the better we will be in the long run.
The shift to renewables, aside from cost and more technological advancement required, won’t be straightforward also. As the recent China-Japan conflict have demonstrated, to make those new wind turbines and electric car, we still have to harness our natural resources. This time it is not oil but what is being called a rare earth metal. China is reported to be unofficially withholding export of these necessary ingredient to Japan because of their recent conflict. Mining these “rare earth metal” is expensive and they are naturally mixed with radioactive thorium and uranium. So far China is the only one with the means and established facility to process these resources.
Aside from that, there’s also the ongoing disagreement between U.S. and China over China’s trade surplus. This was brought up during the Chinese leader’s talk with U.S. executives. The Chinese Prime Minister claim that IPod cost $299 and China only get $6 with the rest of the profit going to company such as Apple and others in the supply chain. Whether the U.S. consumer’s wealth is shifting to China or Multinational companies, the fact remain that U.S. is wasting billions on war that could have gone to significantly improve their own economy and investment to accelerate advancement in renewable energy sources.
We certainly have quite a way to go in becoming self reliant. Political will and huge investment in renewable sector would be crucial. Here in Canada, Ontario have implemented programs to entice investment in this sector. Whether it succeed or not remain to be seen. Already there are indication that the program would lead to consumer shouldering the cost and it could become an election issue.
Once all nations are able to be self reliant on energy then the billions spent on war could be redirected to improving the economy and people’s livelihood. War only promotes hardship and poverty. It also promotes division, resentment and hatred that spun centuries over several generations.