The sky is not the limit.

Another of Marshall’s entries in the series he calls “Power of Place,” this one involving looks through the geographical lens at maybe not the first countries or locations you might think of when you think of our planet’s future. There are some surprising discoveries. Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in alternative energy and, following in the footsteps of Bahrain and UAE, is pussyfooting around the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel.

Crown Prince bin Salman was one of the first Arab leaders to lose patience with what he sees as a refusal by the Palestinians to compromise with Israel…This rapprochement by several Arab countries is a sea change in policy and proves wrong most of the Middle East experts, who said the Arab countries would never agree to peace with Israel without the creation of a Palestinian state. While they were watching a tiny piece of land, the rest of the world was moving on.

The Sahel region on the African continent is beset by war and desertification, which puts the countries in the Sahel and all of their neighbors to the north and south at risk as well. Erdogan in Turkey’s ambition is to bring back the Ottoman Empire (they even call themselves Neo-Ottomans), which brings unpleasantly to mind Vladimir Putin’s dreams of a return of the Russian Empire. All this while Turkey’s relationship with the West steadily deteriorates.

…the S-400 had been designed to shoot down the US F-35 stealth fighter…In early 2021 Ankara opened negotiations with Moscow to buy a second S-400 system. A few weeks later President Biden made his displeasure clear by recognizing the “Armenian Genocide” to the absolutely fury of the Turks.

Meanwhile, across the Aegean, Greece has discovered natural gas offshore and is determined to claim it for its own, and they know that

…the Americans are looking for a more reliable partner, and it hopes to replace Turkey as the key NATO member in the Aegean.

Due to their mountainous terrain the Greeks may not be able to feed themselves but they’ve certainly got all the coastline necessary to squirrel away any number of naval bases.

The United Kingdom has a future as a new and improved Switzerland, so long as they can hold on to Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Ethiopia, the only country in Africa that was never colonized, is emerging as a 21st century power with whom to be reckoned in spite of its landlocked status. Australia, Iran, Spain come under review, too, and Marshall ends with a chapter on space, where Russia has already tested weapons in low earth orbit and where the great powers look naturally to be repeating their previous mistakes at home. He isn’t entirely pessimistic, however, including a page and a half “What if?”

In ten years’ time the International Space Station becomes the “International Musk Spacetel”–a billion-star twenty-room hotel where guests can take in the sights and eat the finest gastronomical freeze-dried food…In twenty years’ time spaceships are refueling in low Earth orbit, en route on long journeys across the vast reaches of space….By 2060, serious “terra-forming” is underway by the hundred-strong multinational team on Mars…It’s projected that by 2075 it may be possible to walk on the planet’s surface without a space suit.

If only. In defense of this giddy optimism he quotes Arthur C. Clarke:

…every revolutionary idea passes through three phrases characterized by the views of its critics: (1) “It’ll never work–it’s pure fantasy”; (2) “It might work, but it’s not worth doing”; (3) “I said it was a good idea all along.”

Marshall concludes

Now we’ve actually reached the high ground; it is manifestly our destiny to go higher, and we will get there more quickly if we do it together. The sky is not the limit.

Jean-Luc would agree. An engrossing and informative read, recommended.


Dana View All →

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