by Jean-Pierre Voiret for the Saker blog
A fact practically never mentioned in the Western mainstream media is the fact that the People’s Republic of China has recommended a few years ago that in the interest of peace and development, our humankind should feel as a ‘Community of common destiny’ (Ren lei ming.yun gong tong xiu: 人类命运共同休). This recommendation was not only stated as an essential foreign policy goal of the People’s Republic herself, it even found entrance in a United Nations resolution on Human Rights. The phrase was also included in the preamble of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China when its constitution was amended in 2018. However until now, these fact found no echo whatsoever in our media and in the consciousness of the Western peoples.
Suggesting this type of international consciousness to raise our feeling of being a community in this world is not new. The great German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz had already suggested in his 18th century publication Novissima Sinica that great cultures, like the Chinese and the European culture, should come closer, expand their intellectual exchanges, and raise commonly the consciousness for global human problems and potentials. After him, many other intellectual brought forward proposals for bringing together human cultures, for example through the exchange of students. As an instance of such proposals, which very often were far from abstract, let us mention the following proposition written by a certain F.H. King in 1911 in a book published by the Organic Gardening Press (sic) of Emmaus, Pennsylvania: “It is high time for each nation to study other nations and, by mutual agreement and cooperative effort, the result of such studies should be made available for the rest, so that all may become co-ordinate and mutually helpful component factors in the world progress. One very appropriate and immensely helpful means for attacking this problem would be for the higher educational institutions of all nations , instead of exchanging courtesies through their baseball teams, to send select bodies of their best students, under competent leadership and by international agreement, both east and west, to study specific problems. Such a movement, well conceived and directed, manned by the most capable young men, would spread broadcast a body of important knowledge which would contribute immensely to world peace and world progress. If some broad plan of international effort such as is here suggested were organized, the expense of maintenance might well be met by diverting so much as is needful from the large sums set aside for the expansion of navies; for such steps as these, taken in the interest of world uplift and world peace, could not fail to be more efficacious and less expensive than increase in fighting equipment. It would cultivate the spirit of pulling together and of a square deal, rather than one of holding aloof and of striving to gain unneighbourly advantage”.
Was that not a very insightful proposal, written but 3 year before the beginning of WW I?
Now, mentioning the cost of navies as a superfluous expense of money which could be better used for peaceful aims was certainly no melodious sound to British ears at the time. But considering what armaments cost the World today and how huge the debts carried by many states have grown, it really seems that steps in the direction of peace and development instead of war and destruction have become essential for mankind. Let us imagine what could have been done on this planet alone with the 6500 billion dollars spend in the past years for war in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen! Is it not crazy to see that this insanity goes on and on, now in the Ukraine, instead of nations sitting together to develop means of peaceful collaboration and development which would bring riches not only to the poor but also to the rich themselves through intelligent investments?
However, the world is now changing, and the Asian powers in general feel that the planet is going through a very important period of development, and the international system is going through a moment of great transformation. This transformation is occurring in favor of the Asian powers in general, i.e., China first and foremost, and the main Asian states such as Russia, India, Iran and Turkey. These forces feel that they are witnessing a historical turning point in which they are regaining their civilizational weight and influence on the world, which had been lost during the past 500 years.
The Asian states are still witnessing disparities, rivalries, and disagreements among them, the frameworks of cooperation between them are still developing and have not yet been crystalized, and part of these main (Asian) countries still have partnerships with the West. However, all of these states share a feeling that this world is becoming more pluralistic and more balanced, and that they are facing a great historical moment that they can seize to take away from the West a part of its domination and hegemony over them, whose consequences were at the expense of them and their people.
Now the west, instead of feeling provoked and defied could also seize such opportunities, take advantage of a very possible peace between the two geopolitical blocks and regain the prestige lost in long colonial and neo-colonial enterprises. These enterprises did bring profits, but they also cost huge losses and, after each world war, brought huge risks of total financial collapse.
Also, the domination and hegemony of the west upon Asia, Africa and the Near East was not achieved without mighty political costs, and the question is if these costs were not much higher than the advantages that could result from exchanges and commerce with these countries, provided they have first developed to technically equal partners. This is China’s opinion, and the current Chinese policy shows, especially in Africa, that the Chinese government and the Chinese economy feel that developing Africa, and later trading with this then more developed Africa will bring more advantages than practicing a colonial policy there.
They also think that the time has come to throw down the limits of consciousness which hinder the citizens of the world to genuinely feel as citizens of the world. For instance, China declared herself ready to conduct more international cooperation and exchanges with countries committed to peaceful use of outer space. “Foreign astronauts are welcome to visit China’s space station and join Chinese astronauts in making more positive contributions to exploring the universe and building a community with shared future for mankind” (Asia Times, 2022.07).
So what sort of project should be started to bring about into mankind the needed feeling of intelligent cooperation on worldwide projects worth the efforts?
In my opinion, there is currently one project that could succeed in showing that common development is of great advantage for all the nations participating in the effort:
The re-greening of the Sahara desert.
Currently, that is since a few years, the climate of the Mediterranean basin seems to show an increase of climate instability. Rain in North Africa ceases earlier, the desert expands, Spain, Italy and Greece are now so dry that even the rich Po valley in North Italy is showing diminishing crops. On top of this, huge forest fires devastate each summer Greece, Spain, Italy and even France. As for the countries further north, their problem is weather instability: Germany, that was shocked by huge floods in the Ahr-valley last summer, has also forest fires like France this year.
Everybody laments climate change, but those who hope to solve these problems with such low efficiency techniques like wind mills are like children trying to stop a flood by throwing small stones in the river. The world need real solutions, and human creativity is the solution.
Human creativity begins with analysing the problem. Let’s do that.
In the Summer months, the north-east trade wind is getting weaker in the Atlantic Ocean, and humid air volumes are brought over the Sahel zone towards North from the West African monsoon zone. This takes place in July and early August, when around 100 to 200 mm precipitations makes savanna grass grow in the Sahel. In our days, however, it seems that going further north, these huge volumes of humid air rise higher than before in the atmosphere of the desert. In this way, the rain-containing air masses reach altitudes like thirty thousand feet above sea level – higher than in earlier years, because the heat emitted by the Sahara seems to be growing: As the humid air masses reach the first sand dunes of the desert, the huge heat reflection by the dunes send them higher and higher. Every pilot flying north from Bamako or Niamey can confirm that: as soon as he reaches the desert, his plane is lifted higher by the air masses even if he, the pilot, does’nt pull his controls!
After the humid clouds rise so high in the air over the desert, it is obvious that no rain comes downs on North Africa and on the Mediterranean basin in the summer months – hence the dryness and the forest fires. The rain comes down when the clouds get cooler after reaching more northern latitudes, after having passed the Alpes. Thus for example the “tropical” rain that came down on the Ahr-valley in Germany in the summer 2021.
The only solution to solve these problems and solve the dryness nuisance of the Mediterranean Basin would be the re-greening of the Sahara desert.
Now, around 5000 years ago, the Sahara desert was indeed green!
The scientific study of the Sahara desert has shown that this part of the world has been alternatively infertile, or green with vegetation: in the course of Earth history, the Sahara desert has seen 230 periods of vegetation growth alternating with dry climate phases! In the middle of the Holocene climate phase, around 6000 years ago, the Sahara actually had cattle breeding and cultivation. Rock engravings existing in the Hoggar and the Tibesti regions of the Sahara show that. These pictures also show gazelle herds and vegetation. The current dry climate phase began 3500 to 4000 years before Christ. But from those times, huge water reserves still exist underground, the so called “aquifers”. Some aquifers are salty, but most of them are sweet water. Under Ghaddafi, Libya started pumping water from the aquifers and greening efficiently parts of the desert. Huge plantations of corn have been growing south of Benghazi until they were destroyed as a consequence of the US-induced civil war. Fear that the water reserves will soon be exhausted are not justified: the reserves are so huge (more than 100,000 cubic miles, alone for the Nubian aquifer, the Sahara biggest underground water reserve!) that it would take thousands of years to use it up. And until this happens, humankind will have solved the problem of atomic fusion and will have unlimited energy at her disposal to desalinate sea water.
Now what about the costs? During the last twenty years, as we said, the West has spent 6500 billion dollars for wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen! Only a portion (only a portion!) of this gigantic amount of money would have sufficed to make the Sahara green again, and so to avoid the humid air masses rising to huge altitudes over the hot desert. And the sales of irrigation equipment and the building of water pipelines in the Sahara would have secured huge profits for a great many enterprises in Israel (irrigation technology), in the USA and in Europe. Not to mention the huge savings obtained by avoiding future forest fires around the Mediterranean basin, and by stabilizing the weather from the equator to northern Europe.
Instead of incredibly expensive wars, which bring no positive results neither for the West nor for Africa, the nations of Europe and Africa ought to organize a conference for re-greening of the Sahara. The United Nations could organize such a conference and later supervise the project. A huge project indeed, but cheap compared to the wars of the last twenty years. And able to secure a huge contribution to the nourishment of Africa‘s northern half.
If leading nations are able can come together to realize common space project like Space Lab, why not working together for the re-greening of the desert. Wouldn’t that be a task more worthy of human efforts than fighting and killing? Wouldn’t that contribute to making mankind finally feel as a family, as a community of common destiny, able to give itself sensible and positive aims?