Cool It! -My Two Cents On Climate-Change Denial

Hey readership! Before we start, I apologize for going m.i.a. these last few posts. I’m not one to make excuses so I will not… the truth was that I was kidnapped by aliens and depraved experiments of sexual nature were performed on me. That was actually quite pleasant, which is why I stayed on their ship to get more of the good stuff so… now you now.

Okay fine! The real truth was that my absence was due to a mixture of that terrible disease we writers refer to as “writer’s block” and another incurable one most people on Earth refer to as “a shitload of work to get done.” For that I apologize. But now that I’m back, let me tell you about a funny experience I had the other day while stuck in traffic (impossible I know but just you wait). But before we get there, let me tell you a little about where I live so you will understand better where I’m coming from.

Texas has been my home-state since I was 13 years old, so basically I’ve lived in Texas longer than I’ve lived in Mexico, my native country, and for 14 years I’ve loved my adopted home as any other native Texan would. This place has everything to offer, even though where I live we are sort of devoid of mountains which I do long to see. Nevertheless, its deserts, lakes (some of them man-made), the Gulf of Mexico, Big Bend National Park, the richness and diversity of nature, its sprawling cities and the badass fact that it has it in its constitution the right to be its own country- all these things make Texas one of the best places to live in the open-wide United States.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area where I live is a dynamic growing city with all the excitement and amenities of any big city and the warmth and closeness of any one of the thousands of picturesque small towns that dot America. I always like to think of Fort Worth as either a big town or a small city, and I have always loved that balance. Although I’d say I’m more of a city guy, the calmness of this place makes it just the perfect place to raise a family or to start a new career.

Texans are very proud of where they live and they show it with every opportunity they have- and rightly so- after all they did fight off an entire army and won their independence. I would not be wrong to say that being a Texan carries a lot of arrogant pride at times; but it would also be unfair not to say that the people here are warm and hospitable, probably more so than any other place. And that’s what makes Texas just as iconic a place as California or New York, and trust me, we like to prove it!

However, just like any other place where pride is a big part of local identity, we are not without our faults either. And this is where I came to a very funny realization the other day.

If you as a tourist came to Texas, you would see clean streets, parks devoid of trash and litter, and maybe even a cop handing out a fine to some passerby for throwing away trash on the ground instead of the garbage can where it’s supposed to go. All of this is part of that whole pride thing I was talking about, and it came about from concerned people for the state of their…well, state! And it was for that reason that in the name of conservation the Department of Transportation (of all the agencies) came up with a way to keep Texas clean and beautiful. Now, any Texan can recite the easily quotable and iconic slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas!” created to reduce roadway litter around the state’s highways and show the nation that here in Texas we don’t mess with our state. For some people though the slogan has come to represent much more than that, it is a source of pride to show to the world.

Well it just so happens that the other day while stuck in traffic, I saw the iconic slogan imprinted on a sticker placed in the back window of a monster four-by-four. And as I stared at it and stared at it, something about it just didn’t make sense. And suddenly the irony came to slap me in the face- either that or it was the plume of black smoke coming out of the massive tailpipe. I realized that while we as Texans are so concerned about not polluting the streets with plastic bottles, cigarette butts, or even gum, we are perhaps a bit hypocritical about not messing with our state in other ways. And I think I’ve finally figured it out. Could it be that we’re simply more concerned about how our home looks and not exactly how clean it actually is?


The Important Hoopla


In the wildly popular follow-up to Carl Sagan’s 1980s tv show Cosmos: “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks about our (referring to the whole of the human race) addiction with fossil fuels- byproducts of the compression and extreme heat of carbon fossils to produce what we now pull out of the ground in the form of oil and natural gas and refined to fuel-grade substances that power most of our machines. In the show he speaks of the dangers of these nasty pollutants and how over the course of a century our recklessness has done to the planet what it would normally take thousands of years for the planet to do to itself: global warming.

You’ve heard that old tale before. We burn stuff, the CO2 gets trapped in the atmosphere before it can be recycled by plants and the ocean and what happens is that the Earth gets hot because the sun’s heat cannot escape, just like a pressure cooker. What you don’t believe is just how implausible it all seems! And it does, I mean come on! We, little old humans can affect the global temperature of an entire planet? Please. Yes, the Earth is a small planet, but even with close to 8 billion of us, it is still gigantic!

Right now… on the day that I’m writing this sentence, easily 97% of scientists all over the world believe that global warming is a real phenomenon happening to our planet, and what’s more, they are almost certain that we “little old humans” are at the root of it all. The other 3% were asleep the day the poles were being taken. 97%. If you’re not impressed by that number try getting the government to agree 97% on anything. Good luck!

We’re not talking here about political scientists, or architects, or psychologists, but about climatologists, astronomers, physicists, astrophysicists, paleontologists, seismologists, even mathematicians. In fact, a wide range of disciplines of science are almost convinced that it’s happening. So why is it that these people who paid a loooooot of money to go to school and spent several years not having fun, not going out to get trashed, probably not having a lot of sex, just sitting there day after day thinking for many years about these problems- why is it that despite their expert advice we don’t believe them- us, who did get to do most of those things?

Psychologists are still trying to understand where that disconnect happens between the population and the scientific community. I’m no expert, duh, but I think there are a few reasons besides the obvious ones like political agendas, corporate greed, and religious convictions that do not get mentioned a lot that we should also be talking about.

Please know that the reasons I’m about to list are not in any way trying to influence you to change your mind- after all if you don’t believe in global warming, you are probably not a scientist- but I list them so you can at least ask yourself “is this something I’m doing?”


The Counterproductive “Probably”


At this point in time, the climate-change debate is not really a debate anymore so much as it is a one-sided argument. Like I mentioned before, global warming in the scientific community is a non-issue, in the context that the discussion has gone from “Is it real?” to “how do we fix it?”

The problem scientists have (aside from lack of research funding) is interpreting faithfully the data that is collected in order to inform the population. If you think that scientists have an agenda, you’re not wrong. The agenda is trying to convince you that we need to cut the shit and start acting right. Not a bad agenda if you ask me.

Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. Even collecting any piece of reliable data is very difficult to do, because it takes years to observe measurable change, analyze it, compile it, compare it, file it, publish it, and get it peer-reviewed for it to be an acceptable piece of evidence. If somewhere along the way an error is found, then the process starts over again.

Scientists will tell you, sometimes it is frustrating that after so many years of work, you publish and people don’t even believe it. It’s understandable for the layman to be skeptical when a lot of the science- especially related to GW- is not 100% accurate, which can be misleading.

Scientists understand that there are margins of error that we cannot get past, after all, there are a great deal of things we still do not understand about many fields, things that you wouldn’t believe are related to climate, such as mathematical chaos, “random” events, etc. These factors, and others, for which we still do not have an accurate model of are part of that margin of error that prevents us from knowing with total certainty what the weather is doing and whether it is apt to change in the near future. It is this margin of error that leads humble scientists to use words like “probably,” “we’re not completely sure,” and “we believe…” These phrases often get misconstrued in people’s minds as “we don’t know,” which has devastating effects on the public psyche regarding cold, hard facts we’ve collected about the world that are reliable.

In the scientific community an “I don’t know” stance is a respectable answer to a question for which we don’t yet have enough information about. Not so much in politics, religion, or economics. We are so used to expecting an answer to our questions- even if it’s the wrong answer- that we have come to expect the same from science, and of course the scientific method doesn’t work that way. What we should be doing instead is put on our thinking caps and our science goggles and look at the world through the eyes of a scientist. Look at and study the data and try to understand what the professionals are talking about instead of trying to shout over them. In other words, look at the evidence objectively.

People don’t often question any other element of their lives as much as they scrutinize scientific facts (especially those that have become political or financial tennis balls), but we need to be aware of the simple fact that although being skeptical is a very good thing, we should know when we’re wrong and change our minds when the facts are overwhelmingly in-your-face. It’s a hard thing to do to admit that you’re wrong, but if scientists do it, why can’t we?


Why Is It My Fault? Why Should I Change?


You’ve heard it before: change is difficult. But why? Well, in this case it’s not hard to see why we’re obstinate to continue burning fossil fuels at the rate that we are, and in my opinion I don’t think that the answer is money. Well, not the whole answer.

Despite the dire warnings that in the “business-as-usual” path we’re at, global temperatures could rise as much as six degrees by the end of the century, we continue to burn fossil fuels at exorbitant rates. I say “we” because the gas your car needs to move, the hot water you use to shower, and the electricity you use don’t come out of nowhere, some of those are products of the burning of fossil fuels, so whether we want it or not, we are all contributors of global warming.

And although six degrees does sound a bit too much, that is the most extreme scenario, but just try this out for fun: raise your house temperature by six degrees and see if you don’t feel a difference. The world works the same way, but the really big difference is that raising the global temperature even one degree can have radical alternate effects on the environment, let alone six. At six degrees, the world will basically turn into an oven where natural disasters will become incredibly violent, much more frequent, and very polarized (some regions will experience severe droughts while others will see a rise in sea level.) The upside is that they will at least be more predictable. I forget why that’s a good thing.

Even if we stopped the current model today, temperatures are still expected to rise one or two degrees well before the end of this century, like a runaway freight train. If you think you can adapt to the heat, maybe YOU can, but you have to understand that the world depends on a delicate balance and that you’re not the only living thing in it. In fact, thousands of species depend on global temperatures staying the way the are and they cannot cope with the changes fast enough to evolve. Believe me that if temperatures rose by six degrees in one year, the world would experience mass die-offs, even bringing humanity within an inch of extinction.

If this sounds alarming it’s because it is. But why is it that this doesn’t sound alarming enough to take action?

One of those reasons I mentioned for why this happens is the inability for people to accept fault. That, coupled with the dread of change. It is, after all, much easier to keep things as they are than to change them.

You see it everywhere, people complain that it’s too hot and yet they buy bigger and bigger gas-guzzlers. We express grief that another species dependent on a delicate environment has extinguished and yet we complain about gas prices. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We have acquired this passive-aggressive mentality that all it does is stall, and ‘m guilty of the same crime. Environmentalists complain about gas companies and yet they drive to the rallies while stopping to gas up on the way there. There’s no denying the hypocrisy that undoubtedly exists, and we bear the blame. But if we think about it, it is a vicious circle that starts and stops with us. There is such a thing as responsible (or responsible-ish) use of fossil fuels, but we also have to accept that we have been conned, and conned good.

As it stands, the fossil-fuels industry is experiencing its golden age of advertisement, much like it was for cigarette companies in the 60s. Gas companies will claim that the fuel we’re burning has ethanol, that it’s safer for the environment, that uses more plant derivatives, etc. But what they don’t tell you is that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is so accessible nowadays that it’s far from impossible for billion-dollar companies to make that switch. However, it is inconvenient. For them because that would mean spending a lot of money on something that they would lose money on. At the same time they shamelessly guilt us into thinking that “putting out the fire” will put many people out of work.

There’s no denying that change has consequences. Even good change can have bad consequences as I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” But in the end, I am more than positive that responsible governments can- and should- create or re-position the jobs lost due to a global energy switch when the demand for cleaner energy begins- after all alternative fuels aren’t going to create themselves.

Renewable energy is cheap and virtually limitless. It’s inconvenient for you right now because even the switch is admittedly still a bit expensive to implement- and for them [corporations], because they can cash in on that inconvenience. That doesn’t change the simple fact that once implemented, renewable energy is cheap and limitless. Hopefully typing in bold letters will have some kind of positive effect.

But despite my best efforts, it seems reasons not to make that switch are also limitless. Let’s see what’s another one.


Invisible Doom


This past winter, North America saw one of the coldest winters on record. Temperatures dropped to double digits and snow buried entire towns. Like clockwork, climate-change deniers immediately jumped up at the chance to prove us all wrong and tell us just how much of an illusion GW is by… holding up snowballs. If this isn’t the pinnacle of stupidity, I don’t know what is. The least he could’ve done is start a snow-ball fight in the middle of the senate floor… it would at least make C-SPAN more interesting.

I remember a few weeks ago I saw something on the magical gem that is the Internet that got me laughing and thinking at the same time. The joke was in response to people who say that global warming must not be real if it still snows on winters, and I should have saved the exact quote or taken a picture of it, but here’s a funny approximation: “I got cold today, yeah, global warming must not be real.”

It must be tiring for scientists to have to repeat themselves over and over again- sorry Neil Degrasse Tyson. Yes, it’s cold during winter. Yes, climate change is still happening! And yes, there is a scientific explanation for it, that we fortunately do have.

However, scientists understand that your mind gets easily distracted every ten seconds, so for the sake of hope that it might stick one day, they are happy to repeat the statement: GW is indeed still on.

The fact that most people don’t believe that fossil fuels can have such an impact on global warming is due to two reasons: the change- although extremely fast in geological timelines- seems slow-to-a-crawl for us humans and therefore unnoticeable- at least until the planet hits two degrees, then everything will start going downhill real fast; and the second reason is that most of the people with the luxury of denying a changing climate already live in urban areas, which let’s face it, have problems of their own.

In the span of a person’s life (roughly 80 years in developed countries), climate will have barely warmed one degree, maybe two. Again, us humans are very resilient creatures and though one degree of difference is nothing to be alarmed over, the planet sees it differently; and people living in poor areas see it even more!

One degree of difference in global temperatures in New York City might mean warmer Texas-like summers. In Texas- where I pitch my tent- it hardly matters because the weather just does what it wants over here anyways, but even here the heat waves will become extreme. But other places in the world are not so lucky. California is experiencing some of the worst droughts in recordable history, and Australian wildfires are out of control. Elsewhere it might mean disappearing coast lines as temperatures rise thus melting the polar ice-caps and glaciers that sustain local ecosystems.

You have the luxury of messing with your thermostat when you don’t like what the weather is doing. Other people are not so fortunate and they experience the effects of a changing climate in a more direct and terrifying way.

The fact that the planet is slowly warming (in our terms) has little to do with the fact that this is the fastest warming the world has ever naturally experienced. In other words, it is unnatural the pace at which the Earth’s climate is changing. But you wouldn’t feel much of a difference if you were not looking for clear signs, as scientists do.

Some years ago British scientists discovered– through a lot of research- that there was a hole in ozone layer over Antarctica. You might have heard about this or you might not. Ozone is a poisonous gas at ground-level but in the stratosphere where it resides, it protects us against harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays from the sun. Without it we are toast… quite literally.

The normal person wouldn’t have known this hole even existed had it not been for the research presented. Hell most people before then probably knew very little about the Ozone layer itself. But it was this research that showed how the ozone hole was not created due to natural causes but rather the direct cause of human-made ozone-depleting pollutants. And where do most of these pollutants come from? Take a wild guess.

Living in the city, or near an urban area, might make you a little less adept at noticing changes that happen to other species because of climate change. The reasoning behind it is simple: there just isn’t a whole lot of nature to observe, therefore it’s easier to miss. Even the lush local vegetation of clean cities doesn’t compare to the vast expanse of a rain forest or a tropical area. But take a trip to what’s left of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (still one of the most breathtaking places on Earth) and even the locals will tell you how much of it is gone- a lot of that to ocean acidity, which is a product of rising temperatures. But this isn’t exclusive to oceans- which bear some of the heaviest burden due to pollutants like oil spills as well as heat entrapment– but also rainforests affected by deforestation, tropical areas, the tundra, and even deserts.

Eventually the changes, even in your city, will become so pronounced that there will be no denying it, climate change is happening and it’s happening because of what we are doing. And because of the concentration of humans in cities, high-rises, mountains, local ozone-layer depletion, metal and asphalt, and very little vegetation, heat will not be able to disperse as easily.

The fact that global warming is invisible like the wind, doesn’t mean that it’s not there. And what’s more, the fact that you don’t think you’re contributing to it means nothing to the generations who will curse you for not acting because you felt like it wasn’t your job.


Why Deny it?


If it sounds scary it’s only because it should be. The reality is that painting that scary picture is the only way to get people to act. It’s really sad that scientists have to almost resort to scare-tactics to get our politicians to act and for normal people to force them to act.

It seems like such a waste of precious time and resources for scientists to have to prove to the layman what has already been debated among themselves for decades with people smarter than you and I. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask questions. But when the evidence is overwhelmingly against your favor, maybe it’s time to pay attention.

A lot of people who deny climate change say something along the lines of “but how can humans change the planet’s climate? That sounds far-fetched!”

Well, not if you look at the massive damage that we have done to the planet, and that we keep doing. Current climate change stems from a combination of many events, both natural and man-made. It stems from the detonation of thousands of nuclear weapons over the years, to the razing of rainforests, to the spilling of oil and chemicals into the water (oceans and freshwater), to the modification of local climates; all, and more, of this combined with the Earth’s natural heating and cooling cycles.

Again, I will not discuss the reason for why the current warming is not just the Earth being… melodramatic as in past times. You can find that information in the bottom section under “Interesting Reads”. Today I am discussing some of the [unusual] reasons for why I believe people don’t believe current climate-change is man-made or anything to take seriously. I don’t want to step on any toes here, but I think these reasons are valid given proper study. But even if I’m wrong, that doesn’t mean that the experts are. You should at least listen to what they say and act accordingly.


What’s the problem?


The problem we have in Texas is the same problem we have throughout the United States and indeed throughout the world. It’s not a shortness of resources, how could we, every single minute we are bathed in the byproduct of the most resourceful element in our galaxy- the sun. Wind power is virtually limitless, unless one day the wind stopped blowing. Nuclear energy, although still harmful to a certain degree is also basically limitless and thousandfold times less harmful than fossil fuels. Motion energy is, again, endless. So what is the problem then?

In many ways the problem is the most serious and dire one we have. The resource that we lack does not belong to the physical world and yet, it is the thing we lack the most: will. It is the will to change that’s carving one of two paths for the future history of our world and our species and all the species in it. Notice how I put “the world” ahead of everything else? That’s because whether we make this place a shithole or a paradise, the world survives without us- it’s impossible for the inverse scenario to happen. We cannot survive without the world. Our greed and insatiable appetite for quick profits and “act-later” attitudes is fast outpacing our very own survival. I think it’s obvious to see why, after all we don’t have a colony in the moon to go to, or space cities we can take refuge in. This is all we have… well, this is all we have, our generation of humans. But what about the next generation or the next or the one after that- what will they have? Or actually more like, what will they have left?

And this brings me to the stupidest reason we can possibly find to not act.


When That Happens I Will Be Long Dead


This is perhaps the more irresponsible position to take. Whether you have kids or not, being a responsible human being means looking out for the world of the future, for the generations that will come after you.

If you live in what’s called a “first-world” country (a term I despise), then you were born with the luxury of not having to fight for food every day of your life- hopefully. Imagine a world where every single day your biggest fear is to find food only to have to kill for it, even if it’s from your own family members. If we continue on the path we’re on, eventually that is what will happen in a 3-4 degree world. It will not happen overnight, but each barrel of oil more that we burn will inexorably lead us to the collapse of modern civilization. And those who live in the cusp of 2-3 degree change, or 3-4, or 5-6 (if there are any people left in the planet), will undoubtedly curse us all. But what does it matter, we’ll be dead, right?

The point is to take a responsible approach. In the same manner that we resent past generations for past atrocities, future generations have one of two paths carved out for them: they will either be part a futuristic, sustainable global civilization that will do great things, far greater than we can ever imagine; or they will dwell in an uninhabitable lawless wasteland where there will be no more future for the human race. And one of those futures will happen by how we act today.

Can we possibly hope to change?


Cool It!


If you’re anything like me, you probably freak out when you spill juice on your carpet (I do it all the time) or when your bathroom looks like Gollum made it his lair, or when the dishes pile up everywhere. You set a day to just clean and you do it. And again, if you’re anything like me, you probably feel amazing once everything is nice and clean and sparkling. Okay I pay for people to do it, but the whole point is that you like your environment clean. So why is it such a crazy idea to want an extended part of your environment, mainly the environment, as clean as you’d want your house?

I see the whole environmental issue effectively as a non-issue, but rather a matter of commmon sense. When non-environmentalists grill people for being whiny about wanting to have a clean world, basically what they’re saying is “Why the hell woudn’t you want a big oil spill in that water you drink, are you against progress or what?” At least that’s what I hear.

Chances are you will read this blog, just as you have done with many others, be concerned for about 10 seconds, maybe even donate $5 to a local group and brush it off thinking you did your part. Throwing money at the problem will not fix it. But it just so happens that there is something you can do that is effective and inexpensive, and it all starts with how you live.

You don’t need to go out there and try to change governments and destroy oil rigs. By doing simple non-intrusive things at home, you can do your part. Here are some you can try:

  • Conserve water whenever possible by taking shorter showers, watering your lawn a bit less and recycling water.
  • Recycling. Using less plastics and more organic stuff can make a great impact!
  • If possible, change your energy demands. If it’s within your means, install solar panels in your home and/or switch to alternative methods of energy: wind or solar. If not, then even changing the light-bulbs at home to more energy-efficient ones can make a big difference and it’s relatively cheap.
  • Tough it out a bit during the summer and winter. Keep your thermostat a bit cooler in the winter and a bit warmer in the summer at home and not only will you be helping the environment but also your pocket.
  • Think green! Get plants a lot of plants for your home. It’ll look nice and it will oxygenate your house. And if you can, plant trees! Maybe one or two will not make much a difference, but it does make a difference.
  • Reduce the fuel you burn. Buy more energy-efficient vehicles and try to stay away from big gas-guzzlers. Explore your city more instead of traveling by car or plane. Or try to save fuel whenever possible.
  • Talk about it. You’re bound to catch someone’s attention. Tell people the good things our planet is losing to burning fossil fuels. And scare them with the possible future realities if necessary. But overall spread the word.

Right now it’s too late to reverse the course of a one-degree increase. But it’s not too late to stave off disaster. All it takes is a little will. If you love your state like I do, if you love your country like I do, if you love this world like I do, I urge you to show it. Change the culture. Maybe it’s time for a new slogan: Don’t Mess With Planet Earth!



And as always I leave you with this little gem… enjoy 😀




Interesting Reads:

For a chilling description of degree-by-degree destruction check this out:

Old Hot Tensions or New Cold War: How World War 3 With Russia Will (Probably) Never Happen

Every now and then my dad and I engage in lively, and sometimes fierce, debate regarding the state of affairs in the world. We discuss our ideas and points of view as if by talking about it we could somehow dissolve the animosity that seems to be so commonplace nowadays. My father not only very knowledgeable but also one of the most interesting people I know, makes those little conversations quite fun and challenging. Most often than not we agree on many things, but every now and then there are inevitable crossroads where neither will make it easy for the other to get his point across. Just as he does, I too try to inform myself about what’s happening in the world when it comes to politics and things of that nature and just like him I am happy to learn new things that I didn’t know before. Some of these talks will stretch on for hours and even continue on in other phone conversations and unfortunately sometimes we will not concede to each other’s points no matter what the other person says. But when we do, we both agree that the other had the better argument.

One of those highly polarizing subjects that we often touch on is U.S.-Russia relations where I will usually side with the U.S. in mostly every aspect and where he always sides with Russia. It comes as no surprise to either one when during the natural course of a phone call the subject will “casually” come up with one or the other asking, “Hey, did you hear about what’s going on in ____?” And that’s when we both know it’s game on.

While the conversations might seem redundant at times, the news (and the growing divide between countries) will always provide new material for us to toss back and forth. My father’s view is usually that America’s “imperialism” and meddling is growing out of control and will eventually start a war that we will not be able to contain- among other things. In calm contrast, mine is that while the U.S. has committed barbaric acts of violence and does meddle in world affairs to a degree, that in many cases Russia is no better, at in most cases is worse. I typically refrain from using the phrase “the better of two evils” because I have such a loathing for it, but I wouldn’t be completely wrong in saying it.

During our exchanges we will both accuse each other of blind allegiance and of only considering information from biased sources; as if a third party was completely impartial and objective- something which is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Among the other charges, he will usually accuse me of either blowing up the subject out of proportion and I of him undermining it, or vice-versa. He will usually say that China and Korea are still Russia’s allies and that in the inevitable war that is to come they will side with the Russians. I, on the other hand, will usually concede the point that while China is still Russia’s biggest ally, before a war breaks out they will do everything earthly possible to avoid one. But our biggest disagreement lies in the assumption that a war between the U.S. and Russia (which is starting to look more and more like the old Soviet state it once was) is not only near but inevitable.

While these debates are lighthearted and many “facts” will be tossed around in the heat of the moment, at times I am left thinking of the very real possibility that it might actually happen. I analyze as many factual things as my limited knowledge permits me and I come to conclusions. Of course I am not 100% sure of my prognosis, and should a war ever break out between the U.S. and Russia, I’ll be the first to apologize provided I’m not ash by that time- not that it would matter any.

But while a war with Russia seems unlikely, it’s worth going into detail about why that is. And more importantly, why the peculiar behavior from Russia’s side if they don’t intend to start a war with the West. China, which would also be a serious contender in a war and a country that has been racking up its military over these past several decades, is even less likely to enter into a war with the U.S., although tensions still run high in that front too. This is not to say that a third world war still couldn’t happen. But I believe our priorities need to match our reality. Before the conflict in Ukraine, there was a considerably higher possibility to enter into a direct armed conflict with North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and even Saudi Arabia than there was with Russia. Things change quickly, I know, and although none of these countries possess anywhere near the military power that China and Russia have, some of them do enjoy their support which complicates things a bit. However, I have come up with five reasons of why I believe that a direct war with Russia is nothing more than a dangerous dick-measuring contest between two countries with a historical tendency to fuck with each other.


1. The Semblance of Democracy


I heard somewhere that even the semblance of democracy is important because that means that a country is ready to embrace it, even if it’s in its most basic form. I really wish I could remember where I heard or read that particular quote because I’m sure the person who said it probably had something else interesting to say, so again I apologize. But it is true that the semblance of democracy is the first step towards a stable community run by the desires of those governed and not who govern.

In the most recent survey by, an organization which measures the index of transparency in countries around the world reported that Russia currently occupies number 136 out of 175 countries in the index of corruption. That’s really bad considering that only 175 countries were surveyed. The United States comes in at 17, Germany at number 12, France at 26, with Ukraine being the most corrupt country in Europe with a rating of 142.  At this, there is still a fundamental disparity between the styles of government between the West and the East, something that no doubt causes waves in geopolitics. It almost seems as if shifting from the reigns of a Communist vanguard, Putin has found in a democratic Russia the room he needed to implement his desired policies with little or no opposition. Whether his aim is to defy the west and reposition Russia to a top place in world politics or to completely turn back to Soviet-style politics is speculation, but there is no doubt that his defiance put us at a very uncomfortable position, that of knowing what we’ve always known, that we’re not the only players around.

I could go into detail about Putin’s puppet government, but in this section we’re just trying to see why even the semblance of democracy in an obviously not-so-democratic nation can help thwart a war between the East and the West.

It makes you wonder what would happen if Putin blatantly announced that Russia would be going back to Communism. Surely a lot of partnerships would collapse, economically, militarily, politically, and even its closest-trading partners in that side of the world would start to get nervous at the prospect, China for one. Having that kind regressive sentiment still carries a lot of stigma. The question then is not how many partners is Russia willing to lose to go head-to-head with the West in a war, but rather who of the partners it’s loosing. There’s no doubt that Putin would be applauded by leftist nations all over the world. The man is already popular with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, but now he’s also warming up to other South American nations that have historically or currently politically have gripes with the United States. Could these nations, plus some Asian and African nations, garner enough support for another Cold War siding with Russia? There is no coincidence here, most of these nations, including some factions in Mexico that were quickly disbanded due to Mexico’s proximity to the U.S., were openly Marxist Socialist or otherwise Communist and sided with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But could we go as far as saying that a new Cold War would begin? This is an interesting but fearful answer to contemplate.

My honest answer is I don’t know, but I also believe that it would be highly unlikely seeing how the prosperity of this country, and this one and this other one, not to mention Russia’s economy– countries where the Soviet Union had a strong grip- has dramatically improved since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is highly unlikely that any of those now-sovereign independent states, many of which now enjoy the protection of NATO, would ever support a regression. Let’s go so far as to say that only Russia becomes openly Communist again without invading countries or meddling in the affairs of other nations, it’s possible even its closest allies like China- which whom Russia enjoys a privileged position- would be wary of doing business with them due to the complexity of Communism in politics in today’s world.

This is good for the rest of the world, because even if Russia doesn’t truly belong in the circles that the West has created for itself, it belongs to that trading partnership and is welcome to receive its benefits. A war with Russia will never start as long as it enjoys the strong concessions provided by democracy, or by Brittish-American-style Capitalism. Does that mean that trying to improve its influential position, especially in the case of Ukraine, will not lead it to start a war? No, it doesn’t mean that, but again, Soviet-style imperialism is hard to hide nowadays.


2. Economics: China’s Growing Influence


Today, Russia and China enjoy a cozy relationship that was almost non-existent in the last years of Communism in Russia during the Sino-Soviet split. However, it seems that through calculated partnerships and strategic alliances, China’s sphere of influence has spread to cover now much of Asia and even the Latin American world as well. Here in the United States the insatiable craze for  Chinese trade that we have- which is also starting to wear thin- has allowed our country as well as theirs to prosper through mutual agreements and indeed also disagreements.

At the beginning of last century and during the start of the Cold War, Russian-style Communism was the perfect blend of social, political and economic elements to create the perfect alternative to the capitalistic democracy of the United States and similar sociopolitical systems of Europe. But as the years and leaders came and went and that romantic spirit of revolution waned, an almost antagonistic sentiment began to settle not just within the Politburo but also in the population of the Soviet Union itself. It was then that China took the torch and became the new model to follow. Chairman Mao Zedong and his “Cultural Revolution“, which was a brutal revival of the Chinese revolutionary sentiment that rebranded Communism and begun a new era of industrialism in the Eastern world. China quickly changed from being just a satellite state for the Soviet Union to becoming a top player in its own right.

Of course we know now that China is not the Communist nation that a young- or even an old- Mao aspired to build, but that in essence it is sort of like a hermit crab, a Capitalist hermit crab wearing a Communist shell. During the massive economic expansion that China went through in the 70s and 80s by opening up more to the West (something that Russia missed out on for obvious reasons), the Chinese grew their economy exponentially by more than 20% in some cases, quickly turning the country into a military and economic power.

USA and China.

Obvious disparities between the U.S. and China still exist, many based on culture differences, historical events, current alliances, economic models and, indeed, show of force; but overall, the business partnership that has allowed China to quickly become the second largest economy in the world after the U.S. while keeping the stability of the region fairly calm, has allowed both countries (China and us) to assert a major influence in that side of the world. This complex business partnership that begun some decades ago allowed a somewhat disenfranchised Asia to gravitate more towards China’s sphere of influence rather than Russia’s. And while the Western world seemed, for the most part, united against Eastern Communism, the East began to appear fractured as many Communist factions started to implement their own versions of the socio-economic and political system. In a word, China became somewhat of a good friend to the U.S., which was of course what the United States wanted and needed.

By the 1980s it was becoming more and more apparent that the partnership between China and the West would give the U.S. an important foothold in the East. Today, although tensions grow and diminish in Asia, China is still a good mediator between Western powers and hostile states such as North Korea and at times even between Russia and the United States. Even though the American dollar still dominates world markets, something that China’s powerful economy is working hard to change, with trillions of dollars at stake, it seems both countries would rather trade money than bullets. It’s also important to note that the massive purchase of American debt by China binds them in a strange way to us- if we can only hope they don’t ask for all their money all at once. There are problems that arise from this sort of mildly dangerous trade, one of those being that China might see the rift between U.S.-Russia relations as an opportunity for economic supremacy in a vie of military conquest towards eradicating the West. This is a real possibility, but until now it hasn’t had significant gravity to warrant hostile action on our part.

But to be honest, it is hard to imagine which side China would take if a war between the U.S. and Russia were to break out, after all China has been Russia’s trading partner for much longer than it has been America’s and what’s more, they share a border. We should also consider the recent developments in geopolitical events mainly the island disputes between China and Japan, of which the U.S. is a staunch ally. But I believe that if tensions start becoming unmanageable, China will use every resource available to resolve whatever differences diplomatically rather than militarily.


3. Isolationism


Think of the world as it is today. With the invention, or rather commercialization, of the internet, the world is now more connected than it has ever been before. I wouldn’t be surprised if a study produced results pointing out that the world is a little bit more peaceful, in part, to this collective thing that humanity has invented for itself. Today the power to speak to any human being on the planet (or even outside of it) in real time can be handled by any six year old with a mobile device and connection to the internet. The planet is quickly and willingly becoming more connected in mostly every aspect and the old policies of self-isolationism can no longer protect countries from the influence of the outside world. Take for example self-isolated countries such as Cuba and North Korea. These countries probably have the natural resources to survive independently of any other nation, unfortunately for them they only posses these resources and none other. In times of distress they can only depend on their own ingenuity to resolve their own problems and when those natural resources they depend on diminish, they have no outside help.

This wouldn’t be so bad of course if the leadership guiding these nations was disinterested in power and wealth. Unfortunately that’s not the case and as a result, their populations suffer immensely, in most cases lacking even basic human resources. It’s evident then that in this modern age we live in, isolationism for any country, whether self-imposed or as punishment by the conglomerate of nations that surround it (speaking in a political context), is in effect the kiss of death. In fact, no country in the world can now survive without the help of another. At this moment, Cuba is aided by many nations around the world and with the policy change under President Obama, the old embargo is expected to be fully lifted and a new partnership will begin between Cuba and the United States. But even North Korea, also known as the “Hermit Kingdom” for its aggressive self-imposed isolation, enjoys a military and economic alliance from one of its biggest sponsors- China.

Berlin Wall Credit: "Berlinermauer" by Noir at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Berlin Wall
Credit: “Berlinermauer” by Noir at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

During the years of the Cold War when no trade agreements were allowed between Western countries (mostly Capitalist) and Eastern countries (mostly Communist), even isolated Russia traded with its satellite states and other neutral countries. There are many here in the United States that call for the self-isolation of our country and to stop meddling in other nations’ affairs. While I partially agree with the second part, I don’t think the first is a realistic goal at all.

According to our Republican politicians, and Conservatives throughout, Putin has made all the right moves in this political chess game being played at the global level. But as near-history has proven, Obama’s bloodless policy has not only worked better than military action, but it has repaired the somewhat damaged relationship between the U.S. and Germany over allegations that the N.S.A. had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone. This is a very good thing since Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande are some of our closer allies in that side of the world, and the people who are willing to stick our their necks so close to the Middle East and to Russia for us.

This strengthening relationship with the Europeans means that we are united against Putin’s shenanigans where it pertains to Ukraine and Georgia. It almost seems like deja vu what’s happening in Ukraine after the events of 2008 when Russia invaded another sovereign country in its backyard, Georgia. But the NATO alliance of which the U.S. and several European countries are members of, will not allow another invasion to go unresolved. But rather than fighting the Russians with conventional wars in their own turf (of which even a united Europe is incapable of doing), instead they turn to economics as way of fighting the Russians.

Last year, the meeting of the G7, formerly the G8, rejected to be held in Russia as a protest for the blatant act of invasion on Ukraine. And just a month ago Angela Merkel said with confidence that if Russia continues on this path with Ukraine, it will not be invited to the next G7 summit hosted by the German chancellor.  Take into account that the G8, now the G7, is not your typical college club. The G7 is a group of the seven most powerful nations in the world in terms of economy, military, and influence, and being shunned by the group can not only cost a country a lot of money, but also influence. When all G7 countries forcibly removed Russia from membership, that act sent a message that they will not tolerate one of their industrialized partners to behave like bullies.

With an already shrinking economy, the combination of sanctions imposed on Russia by Europe and the U.S. and the low price of oil will further drive down their economy, and with no way for foreign investors to take a stake in Russian goods, the Russians are quickly being isolated from the world stage. There’s only so much a country can do by itself. Even the very charitable IMF (International Monetary Fund) could not rescue Russian banks from the economic crisis of last year. These effects are being felt by the Russian people who, while at first supported the campaign in Crimea, now support instead a balance in Russian economics, and more importantly a drop in food prices.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia has retreated into a capitalism-style economy that is self supporting. But this strategy is not free. There is already an ongoing effort that’s gaining momentum to curb Russia’s energy supplies on Eastern Europe. The natural gas demands are to be supplanted by American natural gas reserves as a counter-measure to Russia’s Gazprom, the company that supplies Ukraine at steep prices that the current government is unable to pay up front.

By reading this you might think that it is a dangerous thing to bully Russia into isolation, but an isolated Russia, although still powerful and influential, is less likely to start a war with the United States- and NATO for that matter- without first having the support of more powerful allies. Agreed, economics alone perhaps will not stop Russia from starting a war, but it certainly does help. Hopefully, Russia will choose to go the diplomatic route instead of going to blows with the world.


4. Global Terrorism


After the Cold War ended, conventional wars quickly become obsolete in light that there were very few worthy contenders to fight with. Even the American military campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan were little more than invasions. While one could make the case that these military campaigns were nothing more than an oil-grab or legitimate defensible invasions to depose a dictator, is up for individual debate. What we can be sure of is that global terrorism has changed the way the world conducts military operations, and the renewed involvement of intelligence services is reminiscent to the age of espionage during the Cold War.

Aided by one side or another (the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan to fight the Russians, or the North Vietnamese to fight the Americans), these groups, some of which are now players in today’s conflicts, mainly in the Middle East, now wage a different type of war against the West; this is not a war of allegiances or for territory, it is a war of ideas- holy war. Jihad, or holy war, against the “West”- a term not indicative of a region of the globe but an umbrella word to cover all of the oppressors of the Middle East and basically anyone who is an infidel, or an enemy of Islam- is indiscriminate of anyone. Even Muslims fall prey to the brutal tactics now in full effect by terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS. And unlike the conventional enemies of before, up until a couple of years ago the enemy was invisible.

If we remember Russian imperialism during the Cold War, there is no way we can dismiss the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 80s. Could it be that the freedom fighters of yesterday (or the terrorists of today) realized that Soviet Russia was just America’s counterpart in the East? Perhaps. What we know for sure is that in this fight no one is safe, least of all civilians.

A few weeks ago, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, a pair of Japanese journalists were captured by the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL) and were executed after the group failed to collect a hefty ransom that in all probability they knew they wouldn’t get. Now, Japan is considering amending their constitution, which expressly forbids Japan from building an offensive military, to aid in the “war against terror.” In similar situations other civilians of different nationalities have also been captured by the terrorist group and executed violently.

It is, to a certain degree, understandable why IS would have a deep hatred for the U.S., but to vow the destruction of Japan is something that falls a bit off the realm of reason. Not only is Japan a peaceful nation, but it doesn’t even have an offensive military. This just comes to show that the irrationality of these terrorist factions, not just Islamic but all terrorist factions around the world, is causing the world to unite against them. The effectiveness of these groups is rooted in three things: one is that they are totally and completely devoted to their beliefs and they are incredibly organized to carry them out; the second reason of why they are effective at what they do is that they take advantage of the goodwill of democratic nations and their tolerance; and the third thing is that they take advantage of the disagreements between these nations.

Russia must be united in this goal to eradicate global terrorism so that conventional wars with serious adversaries can resume. I obviously joke in that last part. But what is true is that it is easier to divide and conquer than to conquer. Of this I am obviously speaking of the visible divide that exists between industrialized nations such as the U.S. and Russia which makes it easier for these other players to take advantage of the situation and benefit from it for their own purposes. A divided world is exactly what they want.

The political games played for the supremacy of the region could be an indication as to what sort of plans one country or another has for that region of the world. I speak of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, the arming of Syria and the support to Iraq by Russia, the thousand alliances that are made and broken in the region and the million of details that go with them. Let’s not forget that although the Middle East is a patch of desert in the middle of nowhere, it’s also a gold mine with  seemingly inexhaustible oil reserves that the world wants a part of. Again, nothing in this life is free. With that oil comes something even more polluting, a slew of complications that are born out of the interests of all these different groups vying for what little natural resources this tiny part of the world has.

These tensions arising from warnings between the two powers exacerbate the dire situation that we find ourselves in. Where Russia doesn’t belong, perhaps the U.S. doesn’t belong either. But in protecting the interests of the United States (I will not say “protecting democracy or the free peoples or the Middle East” or any other such nonsense), it is unlikely that the U.S. will leave the region alone anytime soon. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that just because U.S. boots are on the ground close to Russia that the Russians will just walk away. It’s not gonna happen. But is that enough to spark a war between the two countries? I am very skeptical that it will. Russia, like the United States, will protect its interests wherever it sees fit, interests that everyday are threatened more and more with the looming shadow of the Islamic State. If Russia vows to drive away these terrorists, you can be sure that its actions will also turn it into a target for ISIS, just like anyone else.

Although the situation that we find ourselves in is infinitely more complex than it was during the Cold War, I believe that through cooperation the enemy can be defeated. I do not forget that Russian authorities warned the F.B.I. about Tamerlan Tsarnaev (one of the Boston Marathon bombers) before he entered the U.S.- and the United States and its allies shouldn’t forget either. Admittedly, we dropped the ball on that one and civilians were murdered. But the cooperation was there.

If there’s anything that we should be thankful for now is that ISIS has grown to be big enough to spot. However, as big and mighty as the U.S. military is, if we want to deal effectively with global terrorism we will need all the help we can get. That’s a little hard to do when you are fighting wars all over with the people having the same problem as you. Not only must we appear united against terrorism but we must actually be united.


5. Common Sense: The Worst Is Over


Back in the 60s, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the U.S. and Russia to the brink of destruction. The world watched nail-bitingly as President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev faced off in the highest tensions the world had seen since the Iron Curtain came down over Europe.

Before the United States unveiled humanity’s deadliest weapon by dropping it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and thus evaporating more than 200,000 people, the world was a bit more ballsy, going in and out of conflicts without much care for the people that fought them. But when the mushroom cloud rose high in the sky, it was obvious that this new weapon was a game changer in many ways. The Russians feared that the delicate balance of power had shifted dramatically and they worked arduously to produce an atom bomb of their own to counter the threat that they faced from the West.

By the time the Cuban Missile Crisis came around nearly 20 years after the invention of the atom bomb, both the United States and the U.S.S.R. were siting on a pile of about 20,000 nuclear and hydrogen bombs (an even more powerful weapon) and ICBMs*. [1] Although more than 18,000 of those were owned by the U.S., the other 2,000 that Soviet Russia owned was still a large enough stockpile to pulverize everything on the planet.

Fortunately for mankind none of those nukes were ever launched. It was then that humanity realized that the huge boulder hanging over their heads was held by nothing more than a thin thread with two men holding the scissors. During these early years of the Cold War, there was a very serious probability that by the end of the decade the world would be in ashes. Even after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the proliferation of nuclear weapons continued to massive levels peaking at 62,000 nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the entire planet many times over.

The scary thing is that while the C.M.C. was probably the closest we ever came to annihilation, it was not the only close call. There are at least five others, not one but two of them involving serious computer malfunctions that nearly caused us to bomb the shit out of each other, situations only averted by the good reasoning of soldiers from both sides that no doubt did not wish their two countries go to war. This mutual sentiment of coexistence surely contributed to the dismantling of nuclear weapons and the beginning of cooperation between the two countries with programs like SALT, after a tired and scared world counted the days until one leader or the other decided to end countless lives and kill every living thing at the push of a button.

To many it might seem like an ironic and dark twist of fate that during the Cold War the world was probably due to the very delicate balance of power protected by nuclear deterrence from both sides. However, this illusion of balance was maintained solely through fear. The M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) protocol dictated as much, and both countries were well aware of the kind of mayhem that they would be causing should a real war between them would ever happen. Although proxy wars of more conventional fare were fought and many people did die, at the very least we can say that the world did not disappear in the blink of an eye.

Even before the end of the Cold War, both the Americans and the Soviets began making progress to reduce the amount of W.M.D.s each possessed and continued working together well after it. One of the strongest indications that peace between the two countries will remain, at least at the non-nuclear level, is that we’ve been through it before and both nations know of each other’s capabilities to wage a war with the capacity to destroy everything and everyone on the planet.

Today many protocols and organizations exist solely to avoid the doomsday clock from ever reaching midnight. For fear that the 20,000 nuclear weapons that the U.S. and Russia still have might spark a nuclear war that most likely will drag most other countries in, these organizations and even the leaderships of our countries, I believe will work to eliminate every option before going to blows with each other.


The Importance of ‘Probably’


Although the Ruso-Ukrainian situation is severely hindering any effort for Russia to regain its seat as part of the G8, and exacerbating a terrible situation that is starting to turn our worst nightmares into realities, I believe there is still hope that a war can be averted.

This past Sunday a ceasefire devised by Germany’s Merkel and France’s Hollande and agreed upon by Russia’s Putin and Ukraine’s Poroshenko began between the Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military. Until now the truce has held sporadically, and some fighting still continues, some say at the behest of Putin who doesn’t seem to be all that serious about keeping the truce. Where the West is concerned, most of Ukraine would rather belong to the European union rather than form part of the Russian bloc that seems to be resurging. The Russians are well aware of this, but fearing that Ukraine will join NATO, Putin seems to be utterly prepared to hold the country at ransom to prevent that from ever happening. Crimea and now other parts of Ukraine under the control of the separatists are that leverage.

ukraine russia and europe


This all sounds very grave, but it seems that neither side is 100% ready to officially christen the follow-up to the first Cold War by starting a proxy war. If my dad were to tell me that he believes that another Cold War already broke out, to a certain degree I would feel inclined to agree with him, all the symptoms are there after all. But just as the United States feels that arming Kiev, secretly or openly, is the first step to a war, Russia also knows the consequences of arming the rebels. And each knows that what both are doing is just pushing that clock closer and closer to midnight.

While I base my opinion on what I observe, my entire argument also rests on something that is completely beyond my control, on the hope that both countries maintain some sort of civility and clear headedness through every step that as nations of power have to forcibly and inevitably engage in to resolve this.

To bet against this is stupid to the point of irrationality. People need to remember just how incredibly frail is this relative peace we have today, and how much we have to work to improve it. You must make the effort to see the reasons I’ve listed as the only barriers against global war and be alarmed at the fact that these things are what’s keeping the world “safe”, as if we had nothing else to base peace on but threats. It’s shameful that it is a sad reality to consider the new normal. Again.

Reality proves that there are those who are more right than others, but the United States as well as Russia need to engage in honest, purposeful diplomatic conversation to avert another major political and military disaster a mere 15 years into this new century.

Hopefully, the next time I talk with my dad, this reality I speak of will not be so grim.  Hopefully the talk will remain hypothetical and nothing else. Hopefully neither one will ever have to find out which side would win because make no mistake, no one will win, least of all the people who have little or no say in their country’s policy. Hopefully “probably” is enough to stop the world from tearing itself apart. Hopefully.




[1] “Historical Nuclear Weapons Stockpiles and Nuclear Tests By Country.” Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Last modified 8 January 2015, at 11:26. Accessed 18 February, 2015.




*Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles allows for a cross-continent payload delivery, which is a missile with several warheads that has the capacity to reach targets across the world.

**G7- The group of seven allied economic powers which include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the United States, Canada, and Japan.

*** North Korea’s official name is DPRK or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


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