by John Brian Shannon | January 28, 2015
The world in which the young Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was raised was about as far removed from today’s world of 30-second sound bites and instant gratification as one can imagine.
The former King of Saudi Arabia, who passed away on January 23, 2015 at the age of 90 years, was a witness to profound changes during his life.
The year of Abdullah’s birth (1925) was a time before passenger airliners and before the widespread use of instant communication technology such as telephones and television.
In 1925 the Empire State Building wasn’t yet an architect’s dream, and the outrageous act of driving from New York to LA was considered a crazy stunt for people with too much time on their hands, trying to get their picture in the local newspaper.
The world was recovering from World War I which wasn’t called by that moniker back then. It was referred to as The Great War and spoken of in sombre tones, so fresh it was in people’s minds.
The stock market crash of 1929 hadn’t yet occurred, nor the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, scheduled passenger aircraft, the Cold War, the creation of NASA (let alone landing on the Moon), nor did the modern-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia exist — a country which was founded and adopted its constitution on September 23, 1932 when Abdullah was a boy of 7 years of age.
At the time of Abdullah’s birth, the state of Israel hadn’t yet been created and wouldn’t be for 23 years. The only people in the Levant were Bedouin tribes who had freely roamed Palestine for hundreds of years.
The Arab-Israeli Six-Day War occurred when Abdullah was 42 years old and the Commander of the Saudi National Guard.
Perhaps seeing the futility of war explains Abdullah’s genuine attempt to forge a fair and legitimate peace accord with Israel. As Crown Prince, Abdullah proposed a reasonable peace accord (to Arial Sharon, then Prime Minister of Israel) known as the Arab Peace Initiative.
In March 2002 Abdullah (in his capacity as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia) presented the Arab League with his comprehensive proposal to end the Arab–Israeli conflict.
Crown Prince Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative was unanimously endorsed by the Arab League
A brief synopsis of the Arab Peace Initiative follows:
(a) Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon;
(b) Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194.
(c) Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In return the Arab states will do the following:
(a) Consider the Arab–Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region;
(b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace
Making his case to the Arab League in March of 2002, (then Crown Prince) Abdullah concluded his speech by saying;
In spite of all that has happened and what still may happen, the primary issue in the heart and mind of every person in our Arab Islamic nation is the restoration of legitimate rights in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon….
We believe in taking up arms in self-defence and to deter aggression. But we also believe in peace when it is based on justice and equity, and when it brings an end to conflict.
Only within the context of true peace can normal relations flourish between the people of the region and allow the region to pursue development rather than war.
In light of the above, and with your backing and that of the Almighty, I propose that the Arab summit put forward a clear and unanimous initiative addressed to the United Nations security council based on two basic issues:
…normal relations and security for Israel in exchange for full withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories,
…recognition of an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital, and the return of refugees. — excerpt from a 2002 speech to the Arab League, by Abdullah who was at the time, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (Retrieved from Wikipedia)
King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue
Another one of Abdullah’s major initiatives was the creation of the KAICIID Dialogue Centre (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) in Vienna, Austria.
Every religion is represented at the Centre and the Vatican has Founding Observer status with calls by many for the Vatican to assume full membership in KAICIID.
The opening ceremony was attended by Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and hundreds of religious leaders.
Prince Saud said he hoped the center would “bring peace and understanding between the various religions. Religion has been the basis for many conflicts.”
The center, launched by Saudi Arabia as an international organization with multifaith oversight, aims to help religions contribute to solving problems such as conflicts, prejudice and health crises rather than be misused to worsen them.
“The prime purpose is to empower the active work of those in the field, whether in the field of dialogue, of social activism or of conflict resolution,” said Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen, representing Judaism on the nine-seat board of directors. — Arab News
King Abdullah spent billions on new universities
Another of Abdullah’s major successes relate to his strong belief in higher and accessible education for Saudi citizens.
For students who travel abroad to study, each receives a stipend from the Saudi government of $1600/mo. to insure that Saudi students would never find themselves in a position (via a lack of personal finances) to place a burden on any foreign university or nation.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Abdullah created the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) which is a showpiece university with links and academic exchanges to the world’s leading universities and itself is a stunning architectural accomplishment.
This was accomplished in spite of certain sects that display a very anti-technology bias, who live in the Kingdom in large numbers.
Click here to visit the KAUST photogallery.
King Abdullah creates the Muslim world’s first all-female university
And in an Islamic-world first, Abdullah created the only all-female university in the world; Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU).
All on-site administration staff are women and all programmes are tailored to meet the needs of female students.
Not only is a stunning, multi-billion dollar site, it is completely self-contained with it’s own above-ground transit system, police/security, babysitting, Hospital, and other services for women — and it is powered completely by renewable energy.
Click here to view a stunning interactive overview of the campus.
King Abdullah’s Social Reforms
Abdullah’s domestic policy could best be described as ‘brave, but steady reform’ within the extremely conservative nation.
We must always remember that the same people who chant ‘Death to America’ also chanted ‘Death to Abdullah’ when he moved to allow municipal elections (to be held later this year) and to allow women to drive cars (still a work in progress).
The rulers of Saudi Arabia want women to be able to drive cars, but nobody wants to die in an anti-women-driver terrorist attack. And who could blame them; Would you want to die in a terrorist attack, even for that noble cause?
Even Saudi women aren’t willing to die to gain that right. And certainly not Western women, who rail against this sexist construct at least ten-times-louder-and-more-often than their Saudi counterparts.
Here is a secret fact known only to those who’ve visited the Kingdom: Many women (especially teens with their father’s permission and borrowed ID) dress as men and drive around town (but obviously, not to the lingerie store) to run their errands.
The majority of people try not to notice the thin disguise and understand these women are merely trying to protect themselves from attack by a deranged, extremist male person.
The problem of course, is that they are uninsured drivers. And when accidents happen (and they do) it can become a comical event, with the father breathlessly showing up to explain to police how it was that he crashed the car — but had to leave the crash scene for a time.
(The old: “Officer, my father had to jog home to take his heart medications because of the scare of the car crash. I’m on my cellphone giving him directions on how to find his way here.”)
Some police go along with the charade and wait for the father (or brother) to show up and name the father (or brother) as the driver involved in the crash — but other times the police arrest everyone and charge them with lying to police. And entire families have had their insurance policy cancelled.
A story to laugh about with your grandkids if you get a ‘good cop’ — or an event which traumatizes an entire family if the Haia police catch you.
The Haia are the ‘morality police’ who are in charge of keeping ‘decency’ in the society and sometimes the Haia police will charge traffic police officers with ‘undermining society’ for knowingly going along with such charades. (Unfortunately, those helpful officers often get fired in such cases)
Probably just one more reason why Abdullah cracked down on extremists in his country during his time as reigning monarch. The single most successful nation in the world (as judged by numbers of terrorists captured, convicted and sentenced) the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia often sentences terrorists to lifetime imprisonment for people who plan terrorist acts — or beheading for those who actually commit terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia.
Hey, if you don’t want to do the time, or put your neck on the line, don’t do the terrorist crime. Pretty simple.
Saudi Arabian Relations with the United States
Abdullah, while a strong defender of Islam and of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, also saw the wisdom of continued businesslike relations with the United States.
At home, Abdullah was forced to defend his reforms — even as some in the West attacked him for moving too slowly.
When extremists from both sides of the political spectrum are attacking you with equal fervor, you know you’re doing it right!
U.S. President Barack Obama saluted the late king’s commitment to close U.S.-Saudi ties.
“As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions,” Obama said in a statement. — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Through very challenging times and in only 10 years — Abdullah of Saudi Arabia moved his country ahead by 25 years. By any standard, Abdullah was a friend to his people, to his own religion and other religions, and to this world.
by John Brian Shannon | January 19, 2015
What’s lacking in the world these days is a grand overriding global vision, one that large numbers of people can buy-into.
The entire world bought-into Perestroika and Glasnost, culminating in the end of the Cold War and the only reason it ended, is those policies appealed to large groups of people worldwide.
The imagination of the global public was captured *and only thereby* did the Cold War end. Ergo, voters put the people into office who shared their dream of ending the Cold War.
Similarly, did South African apartheid end.
Someone created a vision to which many millions of South African and global citizens could buy-into and people voted into office those who would carry out their wishes on the matter.
So many other examples exist; ‘The New Deal (FDR), Victory in WWII (Churchill), the Moon Shot (JFK), civil rights (MLK), Playing the China card (Kissinger), the PC (Steve Jobs / Bill Gates), I could go on at length. But you get my point.
Stifling individual visionaries is non-productive. Yet it seems to be the new norm.
Not all visionaries are perfect, not all visions are inspired, but it was a visionary who created the wheel, not an incrementalist. We can all see the profundity of that vision.
He or she, may not have created the best wheel at the time, but the manifestation of that vision has moved our civilization by orders of magnitude.
Under the umbrella of a grand and popular vision, the will of millions (perhaps billions) of citizens can be galvanized toward a common cause. The Moon shot is a great example of this — but in the absence of a grand overriding vision, civilization eventually falters. Everyone on the planet can be ‘part of the solution’. Unless we bungle it, that is.
Presently, the grand overriding vision is to attack suspected terrorists and to degrade the status of ordinary Muslims in our own, and their own, countries. That’s not a vision. Nor is it wise.
And slamming Vlad Putin in the media is not visionary.
“Demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.” — Dr. Henry Kissinger
What we need now is a real vision that most everyone can buy-into. We need ‘Larger than Life’ stuff — not this B-movie script stuff.
One script that millions and perhaps billions of people could buy-into, is an accelerated change-up to renewable energy and high fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.
For example, 50% of all electricity produced in the world by 2020 should be sourced from renewable energy. And a 95 MPGe standard for new vehicle fleets.
Let’s not fool ourselves, doing so would NOT be as difficult as the Moon shot, NOT as difficult as ending the Cold War in practically a matter of months, and NOT as difficult as ending South African apartheid within a handful of years.
Still, it would be a grand enough and difficult enough vision to capture the world’s attention and galvanize people towards a unifying and noble cause.
Reaching 50% of our energy needs with renewable energy is a vision and a goal that everyone could feel good about and thereby want to buy-into.
We can take a profound step towards this worthy goal by acting on one of the following choices:
- Remove the $600 billion dollars of annual fossil fuel subsidies over 10 years
- Dramatically ramp-up renewable energy subsidies to match fossil fuel subsidies
- Institute a carbon tax that reflects the actual cost to society of fossil fuel use
Any one of these plans would work.
I favour the (2) option — “Dramatically ramp-up renewable energy subsidies to match fossil fuel subsidies” — with equal subsidy amounts for renewable and non-renewable energy in every year to 2050. To be followed by complete cessation of ALL energy subsidies (renewable and non-renewable) on January 1, 2051 for a truly level energy playing field after that date.
We’d be leaving a cleaner world to our future generations and saving our economies trillions of dollars in environmental costs and healthcare costs.
And all that’s stopping us from that worthy and noble goal is a lack of vision and will.
In 20 years, wouldn’t it be great to look back and say;
‘By replacing fossil fuel use with renewable energy, billions of people are now breathing clean air, enjoying increased lifespan and quality-of-life, and we’ve saved trillions of dollars in carbon/climate mitigation costs.’
And those old enough at the time could say; ‘We built that.’
How a New Energy Policy can Save the EU | January 11, 2015
by John Brian Shannon
An accelerated switch to renewable energy is the path to EU jobs and prosperity
Europe is on shaky ground. There is even talk in some quarters that the euro, and consequently the Eurozone, may not last a year.
Critics of the European Union itself are predicting that continued austerity measures, the elections in Greece, petroleum price instability, and Russian moves in Ukraine, may all conspire to topple the Union.
Of course, this is a subject of ongoing debate. Eurozone backers say that the present economic morass will end and that the UK and other nations will join as full members in the coming months, resulting in a unified and complementary economic zone ready to take on all of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Success Stories Throughout History
Throughout history, various leaders have ‘risen to the occasion’ to provide visionary leadership — seemingly ‘rising out of nowhere’ to inspire great love among the public for a cause, and on account of their great vision and leadership impossible feats occurred on their watch due to the combined willpower of millions of thereby-inspired people.
People are individuals, and no matter how many individuals there are in a country or an economic union, at the end of the day every one of them are individuals living inside a larger society. Therefore, leaders must appeal to those things important to their citizens.
In Life; All a person really needs, is a person (or something) to love.
If you can’t give them that, give them hope.
If you can’t give them that, at least give them something to do.
Leaders who can inspire love for the country through their vision and charisma, have the effect of giving each individual in the country something to love. Or at the very least, give them hope.
Where would the United States have been without FDR?
The New Deal was a series of domestic programs enacted in the United States mainly between 1933 and 1938. They included laws passed by Congress as well as presidential executive orders during the first term (1933–37) of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The programs were in response to the Great Depression and focused on what historians call the 3 R’s: Relief, Recovery, and Reform.
That is; Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. — Wikipedia
The success of the New Deal is beyond dispute. Without it, the United States would not be half the country that it is today.
Where would Great Britain have been without Winston S. Churchill?
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer (as Winston S. Churchill), and an artist. Churchill is the only British Prime Minister to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature since its inception in 1901, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. — Wikipedia
In between lecturing Hitler and Mussolini via his weekly radio broadcast, Winston Churchill painted a realistic picture for Great Britain’s citizens of the sacrifices they would be forced to endure in order to win the peace, and painted quite a different picture for them of life under Nazi occupation.
Rather than be cowed by a more powerful aggressor, Churchill inspired his people to valour and sacrifice. And they responded powerfully.
What would our 21st century world have become had Mohandas K. Gandhi not perfected the art of non-violent protest?
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the preeminent leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Indians widely describe Gandhi as the father of the nation.
Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India.
Gandhi attempted to practice nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. Gandhi’s vision of a free India was based on religious pluralism.
Imagine if every protest movement since 1947 hadn’t been influenced by Gandhi. Almost certainly, the anti-Viet Nam protests and the civil rights movement in 1960’s America would have led to civil war.
Due to Gandhi’s example, individuals who were part of the anti-war movement or the civil rights movement protested — peacefully for the most part — and to great effect.
John F. Kennedy’s decision to not be cowed by the USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev, led eventually, to the end of the Soviet Union
Had JFK not stood up to Soviet adventurism in Cuba and South America, the geopolitical world would have evolved very differently The USSR would have, in short order, controlled the Western democracies completely.
By utilizing the economic advantage inherent to capitalism, by ordering a Moon shot, and by not backing down against the communists in Viet Nam, JFK neatly avoided playing the Soviet gameplan — and instead played a gameplan that favoured the strengths of the democratic West.
In short, he turned a negative situation into a positive one for the United States.
All of these visionaries gave citizens reason to love their country, to hope for a better future, to employ their good will and energies — towards solving the almost unsolvable problems of their time. (Love, Hope, Do)
Without that overarching vision promised by their political leaders, without that hope in their hearts, and without some means to express their goodwill and energy, citizens wouldn’t have united in large numbers to solve the near-insurmountable challenges of their era.
Now is the time for visionary EU energy leadership
Making the case for the European Union to adopt a ‘50% renewable energy by 2020’ portfolio:
Effectively this becomes an ‘air-quality and jobs mission’ for citizens and governments:
The vast majority of Europeans want a renewable energy future.
They know that the technological hurdles have been overcome, they know that many Pacific Ocean island nation-states and Indian Ocean islands now run on 100% renewable energy, they know that Norway is powered by 100% renewable energy and that Iceland has surpassed 76% renewable energy use.
They know that Sweden gets 51% of its energy from renewable energy, and that Latvia, Finland, Austria, and Denmark aren’t far behind. They see Estonia, Portugal, and Romania getting more than 25% of their electricity from renewable energy and they see Germany’s Energiewende setting records in renewable energy output every month.
Other nations in Europe have surprisingly advanced renewable energy programs and will surpass their renewable energy target before 2020.
Renewable Energy provides massive employment opportunities
And it is becoming apparent that when compared to the fossil fuel industry, the renewable energy industry provides thousands more jobs per million people. Always handy to have a job to go to.
Energy Price Parity and Subsidy Regimes
Not only has some renewable energy approached price parity with conventional energy, in some cases it has surpassed it. Especially when the massive global fossil fuel subsidies that topped $600 billion in 2014 ($550 billion in 2013) are factored in.
Meanwhile, global renewable energy subsidies barely hit $100 billion in 2014, the majority share of it in China.
Worried about fossil fuel subsidies?
They’re peanuts compared to fossil fuel externalities.
Fossil fuel subsidies of $600 billion (globally) are one thing. But it now appears that the economic totality of fossil fuel cost to healthcare systems, to livestock health, the agriculture sector, the global climate, regional climate (local drought or flooding) and damage to outdoor concrete and metal structures may now exceed $2 trillion dollars per year.
China reports 410,000 premature deaths per year are due to air pollution. The U.S. admits to 200,000 premature deaths by air pollution and as many as 400,000 premature deaths per year occur in Europe due to our overuse of fossil fuels.
How much renewable energy can we get for $2.6 trillion dollars, please?
It’s not that fossil fuels are intrinsically bad, or evil. It’s not that the people who run those companies are bad, or evil. It’s not the shareholder’s fault either.
It’s just that too many of us are using fossil fuel.
And nobody is forcing us to buy it. If there are reasonable alternatives to fossil fuel overuse, then citizens are making a conscious decision to pollute the air, rather than choose those alternative forms of energy.
But if no reasonable alternative exists for citizens to purchase (and yet consumer demand is there) that is primarily the fault of policymakers.
The solution to the fossil fuel subsidy and externality problem in the EU? Renewable energy
With the right vision and leadership, getting the EU to a 50% renewable energy minimum standard by 2020 is eminently possible.
There are no technological hurdles that haven’t been solved.
There simply exists no public outcry against renewable energy power plants.
Grid parity (with low subsidy) is now the norm — even against massively subsidized fossil fuel and nuclear power.
And several countries around the world already run on 100% renewable energy. One of them is in Europe — Norway. So it can be done.
It’s no longer about;
How much will switching to renewable energy cost us?
It’s now about;
How much will renewable energy save us?
Each euro spent on renewable energy installations (actual installations, not more endless research) could save two euros of fossil fuel subsidy and three euros of fossil fuel externality cost — although there is a time lag involved before healthcare systems, ranchers, farmers, and owners of infrastructure see declining costs.
Following the 1/2/3 fossil fuel subsidy and externality equation, we see that if the EU suddenly installed 10 billion euros worth of wind turbines and solar panels (displacing the equivalent amount of fossil electrical generation) the EU would save 20 billion euros of subsidy, and would over 25 years, save 30 billion euros in heathcare costs, costs to livestock health and agriculture, and outdoor concrete and metal infrastructure repair costs.
Spending 10 billion to save 50 billion — for a net save of 40 billion euros over 25 years. Not bad.
Spending 100 billion euros to save 500 billion — for a net save of 400 billion over 25 years, that works too.
So, denizens of Europe, how much fossil fuel electrical power production would you like to replace with renewable energy?
The EU should move to a 50% renewable energy portfolio by 2020 and make it Priority Mission #1 for citizens and governments — an energy ‘New Deal’ for EU citizens
In order to plan for a clean EU energy future, we need to look at where the European Union is today and make a responsible plan, one that displaces fossil fuel electrical power production without placing undue economic hardship on existing electrical power producers.
A ‘can-do’ attitude, one that doesn’t ignore the many positives associated with an EU-wide 50% renewable energy standard will be required to meet the challenge
The best candidate for an EU switch to renewable energy?
Malta is presently striving to meet its target of 10% of energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. However, Malta could easily convert to 100% renewable energy in as little as 24 months.
Malta is a tiny island nation and other tiny island nations have successfully transitioned to 100% renewable energy — and it took them only a few short months to accomplish that goal.
Malta’s electrical grid produces 571 MW at peak load and uses expensive imported fossil fuels.
Replacing Malta’s fossil fueled electrical grid with a combination of wind turbines and solar panels is well within our present-day technical capabilities and would save the Malta government millions of dollars per year in fuel and healthcare costs.
A low-interest loan from the EU to cover the capital cost of wind and solar power plants and some basic technical support is what Malta needs. Nothing more complicated than that.
How would replacing Malta’s present electrical power generation with 100% renewable energy benefit the EU and the residents of Malta alike?
The wind turbines and solar panels / inverters, etc. would be sourced from the EU. In fact, European sourcing could be a requirement of obtaining the EU financing for the project.
All of the engineering, manufacturing and installation / grid connection would be performed by EU workers.
Malta’s residents and visitors would thereafter enjoy clean air, lower healthcare costs, a better quality of life, and could say goodbye to toxic and expensive, imported oil.
From 10% to 100% renewable energy within 24 months — now that would demonstrate EU political and environmental leadership!
Granted, Malta has the smallest electrical grid in the EU. But it’s a place to start, a place to set a baseline for the learning curve to 100% renewable energy on a per country basis.
By converting island nations like Malta and Cyprus to 100% renewable energy first, solid standalone renewable energy power generation experience is gained, and upon completion can serve as models for standalone systems on the continent.
To get to 50% renewable energy in other EU states merely means scaling it up.
The Next Step for the EU
During the darkest days of recession in early 1980’s America, newly-elected President Ronald Reagan didn’t appear and suddenly solve America’s economic problems.
He told Americans (very convincingly) that they had it in their power to solve their own economic problems and arranged some temporary loans to Chrysler and other companies — and cheered by his vision and leadership, they responded powerfully — ending America’s recession.
Someone in the EU needs to step up now, leading the charge to improve EU air quality, to lower the rate of illness and premature deaths due to air pollution, to lower the damage to livestock / agriculture, and to concrete and metal infrastructure — thereby creating tens of thousands of well-paying jobs — by insisting on a minimum of 50% renewable energy standard by 2020 for all EU nations. Neatly ending the EU’s present recession.
And that great, overarching vision, in itself, will be the thing that EU residents will love, hope for, and willingly agree to do, for the next five years.
Let’s roll up our sleeves, people. We’ve got work to do.
- Total global renewable energy investment was $310 billion in 2014 (Bloomberg)
- Global Warming: More than Half of All Industrial CO2 Pollution Has Been Emitted Since 1988 (Union of Concerned Scientists)