The World Turned Upside Down

It’s not often you can point to a week in history and say with confidence that ‘today the world changed utterly.’ Unfortunately for us we’ve just had such a week.

Look at the agricultural front, so far nothing has really been said in the west, although I’ve noticed a couple of the papers starting to run stories about possible food shortages. Apparently the Chinese government, which seems to think about these things rather more than our governments do, has stockpiled 70% of world Maize stocks, 51% of world wheat stocks and “Enormous quantities of US Soya.” World food prices are rising as countries scrabble about looking for supplies to carry their own populations through to the next harvest. Given that there isn’t a lot of hope of much planting in the Ukraine this spring, and that Russian farmers have been locked out of the domestic credit market just when a lot of them would be looking to buy seed, Russia might be joining in the desperate scramble for grain.

If looking for agricultural support payments, then I think you might have to look hard. As an example, Germany spent 47 billion euros on defence in 2021. This is 1.5% of GDP. It has announced that it will increase this to at least 2% of GDP which means 62 billion euros a year, but with an extra investment of 100 billion euros as an extra top up.

https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/germany-hike-defense-spending-scholz-says-further-policy-shift-2022-02-27/

All this is on top of paying for covid and desperately trying to arrange energy policy. So whilst nations want more food, I will be interested to see what happens to various schemes. At the moment it looks that all government would have to do is point out how food prices are rising, take off the brakes and let us farm.

On the energy front things are mixed. If you want to have another international conference to discuss getting to carbon zero, you could doubtless have one, but obviously to get the Russians you’d have to accept their puppet Ukrainian government as entitled to negotiate for the Ukraine. On the other hand, even the most blinkered politician has realised that relying entirely on Russian gas was never a good idea. So in the long term it looks as if European countries (including the UK) will be going over to renewables, with nuclear to balance out the supply when renewables fall short. (Which was something gas did fairly well for us in the UK)
Unfortunately in the short term, we are probably in for a couple of years of pain and backsliding. Not only are the Germans pondering keeping their nuclear plants going, they are also pondering burning more coal. Apparently the International Energy Agency has pointed out that dropping your thermostat by one degree would save Europe 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year. We may have to see a culture shift, wear more in the home, burn less fuel. There again this has been the message for two or more decades from UK governments of all parties, and indeed Labour, the Coalition and the current Conservative government have all jacked up energy prices to both deter use and to use money raised to subsidise renewables. Now it’s being jacked up even more. As somebody who has never lived in a house with central heating I find people’s homes too warm anyway but I don’t want to trespass on private grief.

Then there are going to be deeper effects that are unquantifiable. I’m sure we can all remember pictures of shattered German cities taken in 1945. But by the time a previous generation saw those pictures the war was largely over and the German death camps had been liberated. Yes they saw Dresden but they also saw British forces liberate Bergen-Belsen. I make no moral equivalents, I point no fingers at our own day, but it is likely you are going to watch European cities destroyed on prime time TV as smart phone footage reaches our broadcasters. This could go on for month after month.

Then we could have millions of Ukrainians settled in European countries. People who can never go home and who may eventually become citizens. What impact will a quarter of a million Ukrainian widows and fatherless children have on British Politics? I suspect those who support Putin’s ‘denazification’ of the Ukraine could struggle to gain electoral acceptance.

Also if we go back to a full cold war, UK defence spending will increase and the armed forces will grow. Will we have to reintroduce conscription? Will it just be for those who self-identify as men, or is it going to be an equal opportunities experience?

♥♥♥♥

There again, what do I know? Speak to the experts

As a reviewer commented, “Another gentle and entertaining read about the pros and cons of Farming, ably assisted by Sal the collie dog and Billy the feral farm cat.
As always, I’m amazed Farmers make enough money to keep their farms and families going, given the ‘guidance’ given by the ‘experts’ in government and the Civil Service…”

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35 thoughts on “The World Turned Upside Down

  1. Doug Jacquier March 6, 2022 at 5:18 am Reply

    A vintage rant, Jim. You must be getting old. 🙂

  2. rootsandroutes2012 March 6, 2022 at 6:25 am Reply

    Rather measured and thoughtful for a rant I’d say, Doug. The implications of that parting shot about self-identification deserve a post all to themselves.

    • jwebster2 March 6, 2022 at 6:42 am Reply

      I remember a leading American feminist looking back and commenting that the American women’s movement took off after the end of the Vietnam war for good reason. Why fight for equality when equality means you get conscripted to fight in Vietnam.

  3. Eddy Winko March 6, 2022 at 7:11 am Reply

    Far too optimistic for a rant.

    • jwebster2 March 6, 2022 at 7:14 am Reply

      And I haven’t once blamed things on the moral failings of a younger generation 🙂

  4. M T McGuire March 6, 2022 at 8:23 am Reply

    It’s not a pretty picture any way you look at it, is it.

    • jwebster2 March 6, 2022 at 9:04 am Reply

      Sadly, no 😦
      I think one consolation is that the Chinese are now pondering whether Taiwan is worth the damage sanctions would do to their economy
      And whether the Chinese Communist Party could stand the recession
      It’s a hell of a job when you’re a communist party who depends on middle class prosperity 🙂

      • M T McGuire March 6, 2022 at 9:30 am

        I’m impressed with the Ukrainian president and it’s grim spectating on what are probably the last few days of his life. It’s also rather grim to think that he’ll almost certainly die a horrible death by torture … Probably after watching his wife and kids go first. 🥺

      • jwebster2 March 6, 2022 at 9:55 am

        yes, his life expectancy is not good 😦

  5. Books & Bonsai March 6, 2022 at 10:14 am Reply

    I am trying not to think of all the ramifications, Jim, so no thanks for this post. None of it sounds like being fun, so I’m opting out. Permanently, if pushed…

    • rootsandroutes2012 March 6, 2022 at 10:36 am Reply

      I’m not sure opting out is a luxury any of us will turn out to have.

      • jwebster2 March 6, 2022 at 1:04 pm

        But we have to carry what was good into this new world

      • Books & Bonsai March 6, 2022 at 7:33 pm

        Not literally, anyway…

    • jwebster2 March 6, 2022 at 1:03 pm Reply

      We need both light and shade, and I want to be able to turn to people like you two for the light. There’s only so much darkness we can cope with and I’m trying to clear my decks, ready to try and find the positives in the new world. There will be positives, I’ve tried to flag stuff here. But I felt I need to face into the bitter wind and faced down the truth 😦
      Remember Galadriel, “‘I know what it was that you last saw,’ she said; ‘for that is also in my mind. Do not be afraid! But do not think that only by singing amid the trees, nor even by the slender arrows of elven-bows, is this land of Lothlórien maintained and defended against its Enemy. I say to you, Frodo, that even as I speak to you, I perceive the Dark Lord and know his mind, or all of his mind that concerns the Elves. And he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed!'”
      We have to be ready to make sure the new world has the good stuff still in it

      • Books & Bonsai March 6, 2022 at 7:31 pm

        Beautiful recall from my favourite story, Jim. Perfect reminder of the need to challenge the odds! 💕

      • jwebster2 March 6, 2022 at 7:54 pm

        Yes, we have to remember what is good and what matters. To quote again, “The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” 🙂
        People will still be reading those words long after this unpleasantness is forgotten

      • Books & Bonsai March 7, 2022 at 8:29 am

        Yes, I agree. We all have a fund of strong and powerful words to lean on, Jim…

      • jwebster2 March 7, 2022 at 9:48 am

        Think of the world that Lord of the Rings came out of, the horror of the trenches, the madness of the 1930s and 40s. This era will produce words that will live on longer than the madness 🙂

      • Books & Bonsai March 7, 2022 at 6:57 pm

        Quality endures, Jim. Thank goodness!

      • jwebster2 March 7, 2022 at 8:07 pm

        It does indeed 🙂

  6. Dan Holdsworth March 7, 2022 at 10:40 am Reply

    Well, with a bit of luck one of the first casualties over here will be the risable Climate Act, which was never really achievable in the timeframe set out, and which is not now achievable given all the additional debt we will be carrying.

    • jwebster2 March 7, 2022 at 11:11 am Reply

      I suspect that this is going to be one of the battles fought in the future. Once the politicians who created the various acts are off the scene, I suspect their successors will be keen to put in place something that they have a hope of achieving
      Also I suspect priorities will change

      • rootsandroutes2012 March 7, 2022 at 11:22 am

        It’s all in the timing, and it may be that priorities change too late.

      • jwebster2 March 7, 2022 at 11:30 am

        Apparently the secret of good comedy is timing 🙂
        My gut feeling is that we will, as usual, muddle through. We’ll miss arbitrary deadlines, but they will doubtless be replaced by others

      • rootsandroutes2012 March 7, 2022 at 11:35 am

        …which would be fine if the original deadlines were much more ambitious than they needed to be. Unfortunately, that’s a situation you’ll rarely see in the real world – the ones we’ve got will have been watered right down so as to make them sufficiently inoffensive to be signed off at the end of a negotiating process.

  7. fgsjr2015 March 7, 2022 at 11:25 pm Reply

    The fossil fuel industry and ally governments can tell when a very large portion of the populace is too tired and worried about feeding/housing themselves or their family, and the virus-variant damage still being left in COVID-19’s wake — all while on insufficient income — to criticize them for whatever environmental damage their policies cause/allow, particularly when not immediately observable. In fact, until early last October, I had not heard Greta’s name in the mainstream corporate news-media since COVID-19 hit the world.

    Meantime, global mass-addiction to fossil fuel products undoubtedly helps keep the average consumer quiet about the planet’s greatest polluter, lest they feel and/or be publicly deemed hypocritical. …

    Collectively, human existence is still essentially analogous to a cafeteria lineup consisting of diversely societally represented people, all adamantly arguing over which identifiable person should be at the front and, conversely, at the back of the line. Many of them further fight over to whom amongst them should go the last piece of quality pie and how much they should have to pay for it — all the while the interstellar spaceship on which they’re all permanently confined, owned and operated by (besides the wealthiest passengers) the fossil fuel industry, is on fire and toxifying at locations not normally investigated. …

    As a species, we can be so heavily preoccupied with our own individual little worlds, however overwhelming to us, that we will miss the biggest of crucial pictures.

  8. Chris Kemp March 9, 2022 at 12:41 am Reply

    Apparently the Ukranian Tax Office has announced that captured Russsian tanks and AFVs do not have to be declared for tax purposes! That should serve Putin as fair notice that he is personally doomed.

    Regards, Chris.

    p.s. I haven’t fact checked this as it is too good not to pass on as unsubstantiated news 🙂

    • jwebster2 March 9, 2022 at 5:57 am Reply

      I saw the same announcement on the BBC so I think we can consider it substantiated and do our tax planning accordingly 🙂

  9. Chel Owens April 10, 2022 at 6:07 am Reply

    🤦‍♀️ So many leaders 🐝 do not believe

    • jwebster2 April 10, 2022 at 6:13 am Reply

      I suspect some of them are learning the hard way

      • Chel Owens April 10, 2022 at 6:18 am

        I actually hope so.

      • jwebster2 April 10, 2022 at 6:28 am

        Well a lot of them are looking awfully silly at the moment for the policies they were following. Angela Merkel must go down in history as the politician who timed her retirement perfectly 🙂

      • Chel Owens April 10, 2022 at 6:22 pm

        Gotta be remembered for something…

      • jwebster2 April 10, 2022 at 6:29 pm

        🙂

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