114/365 – Urban energy vulnerability

All that stands between us and freezing in the winter
All that stands between us and freezing in the winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every once in a while, I think about how we’d survive without electricity.  This is mainly a winter thought, although people have died in heat waves in recent summers.

But picture a cold snap in winter, temperatures below zero, and suddenly the power goes out.  Your fireplace is only going to help until you run out of firewood (and old furniture and books).

If I take a moment to plot negative strategy, i.e. “think like the enemy,” I realize they could destroy a city by simply blowing up the grid at some key juncture, or cutting off the natural gas pipelines that feed more and more of our power plants.  Makes me hope we keep a plentiful supply of coal on hand in the case of having fuel, and that we could whip up a new high-tension line if needed.  I might also consider a backup generator at the old hacienda, if I let these thoughts get into a survivalist mode. (And of course, I know a close relative who heats the house with wood.)

66/365 – Let’s try a partition of Palestine

Scan from “Issues in the Middle East,”Atlas, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 1973. Public Domain]
Scan from “Issues in the Middle East,”Atlas, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 1973. Public Domain

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations passed Resolution 181 that called for a partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. (See map) Jews accepted the resolution, but Arabs opposed it. On May 14, 1948, the British mandate was terminated and at midnight the Jewish state of Israel declared its independence. The new state came under immediate attack from the Palestinian Arab population and the armies of the surrounding Arab countries, Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Isreal held out, I wouldn’t say they “won,” and gained some territory, but Egypt held the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (of the Jordan River) was held by Transjordan, now called Jordan. These same areas are still under dispute, and here’s why: The 1948 war caused nearly 700,000 Palestinian Arabs to become refugees who fled Israel for camps maintained by the UN in neighboring Arab states. With the exception of Jordan, Arab countries generally refused to allow Palestinians to settle outside the camps or to be granted citizenship. More tomorrow.

65/365 – Roots of the Conflict

Shagbark hickory trees have always impessed me with their dark strength and slight sense of foreboding.  Here I brightened them up a bit, because I'm an optimistic guy.
Shagbark hickory trees have always impessed me with their dark strength and slight sense of foreboding. Here I brightened them up a bit, because I’m an optimistic guy.

Ever wonder when all the fighting in Israel started?

I remembered something about 1948, and Googled it. Turns out that war, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (which most Israelis call the War of Independence or War of Liberation, and Palestinians call the Catastrophe), was the first for the newly declared State of Israel, but that fighting between Jews and their Arab neighbours had been going on a long time.

But staying with 1948 for a moment, after the Israelis held off the attack by Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, new borders were drawn creating the Gaza Strip (held by Egypt) and the West Bank (held by Jordan). These are still problem areas today.

But way before that there was an extended period of colonialism where the Western nations took over vast areas of the rest of the world and their “territories.” Most of the Middle East was part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire until WWI, when Turkey was on the losing side. France and England carved up the Ottoman provinces, with Syria going to France and Mesopotamia and Palestine to Great Britain. So all the borders in the area were decided by European colonial powers and not by local folks.

In 1922 the population of Palestine consisted of approximately 590,000 Muslims, 84,000 Jews, and 72,000 Christians, but every year briought more and more Jews fleeing persecution in Europe. Jewish settlements were frequently attacked, and from 1936-1939 there were widespread riots as part of the Great Arab Revolt or the “Great Uprising.” British forces, supported by 6,000 armed Jewish auxiliary police, suppressed the riots.

By 1939, Britain had begun to severely restrict further Jewish immigration, but the start of WWII cut the flow to a trickle anyway. More tomorrow.

 

64/365 – The Clash of Cultures

A ray of hope? The view through dome at my place of work inspired me to take this shot today.
A ray of hope? The sky beyond the dome at my place of work inspired me to take this shot today.

Three faiths come together in Jerusalem, three branches of the same tree, children of Abraham, people of the book.I sit here with one of those books, Al-Qur’an, which talks of the others. An example at random, from book 9, Repentance: “God had verily bought the souls and possessions of the faithful in exchange for a promise of Paradise … This is a promise incumbent on Him, as in the Torah, so the Gospel and the Qur’an.”

And I have another book, Fighting Terrorism, by Benjamin Netanyahu, who is right this minute forming a government in Israel after their recent parliamentary election. One of his key thoughts sticks with me: “The soldiers of militant Islam do not hate the West because of Israel, they hate Israel because of the West.”

The West, you see, is the Great Satan to them, and Western culture must be destroyed at any cost, at all costs. Why? Because it uproots and changes what they see as a perfect, God-given system of laws, the sharia, and the male-dominated culture that virtually enslaves women. They’re right, MTV cannot coexist with the burkha, that shroud of shame.

So there’s a knife aimed at your throat if you believe in women’s rights and free expression and charging interest on loans. What are you doing about that? Is there anything to be done? This is something I want to think about and learn about and work to avert and quell.