“Dieselgate” and What It Means For Diesel’s Image

With 25% better fuel economy and lower carbon emissions than their gasoline-powered equivalents, diesel engines once promised a cleaner future for the automobile industry. Lately, however, the reality has become messy.

Reducing levels of soot, dust and other particulate matter released by diesel-powered vehicles had long been the foremost challenge facing the diesel industry. Exposure to these substances was linked to high incidence of respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and bronchitis. Nonetheless, the issue was largely resolved during the 1980’s with the introduction of particulate matter traps, capable of filtering-out 95% of these harmful substances. In recent years, however, diesel has encountered a new challenge: reducing its NOx or, nitrogen oxide, emissions.  

Research has found that NOx emissions are more harmful to respiratory health than CO2, and according to The Economist, are the cause of a large number of premature deaths—perhaps 58,000 a year in America alone.  Given that diesel engines release NOx at twenty times the rate of gasoline-powered engines, car manufacturers have found themselves compelled to search for a solution.  

Diesel-powered trucks and large passenger automobiles have successfully employed “selective catalytic reduction”, or SCR, to cut NOx emissions. SCR works by reducing NOx to harmless nitrogen and water through a chemical process that takes place inside a catalytic converter installed within the vehicle. However, the bulkiness of the converter and the rest of the SCR apparatus has prevented the technology from being used as effectively on lightweight, family-sized diesel cars. This has forced car manufacturers, like Volkswagen, to search for alternatives.

After failing to design a system capable limiting NOx emissions while also maintaining its guaranteed high level of fuel economy, Volkswagen resorted to installing what are called “defeat devices” inside a number of its automobile models. Banned by environmental regulatory agencies worldwide, “defeat devices” allow a vehicle to “sense” when it is undergoing an inspection and distort emissions readings in order to meet the required standard.

Last September, after an investigation conducted by the EPA revealed that Volkswagen was “cheating” on its emissions tests, the company came forward and admitted to installing the devices inside 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. Since coming forward, the auto-making titan has endured tumbling stock prices and endless lawsuits. More turbulence in sales and additional lawsuits are expected to follow.  

General mistrust in diesel as a result of the controversy, now referred to as, “Dieselgate”, is beginning to manifest itself worldwide. In January of this year, French government authorities raided the offices of diesel-car manufacturer, Renault, after discovering that like Volkswagen, a subset of its vehicle models were exceeding limits on emissions. The company has since recalled more than 15,000 of its cars and according to The Financial Times, has experienced a sharp decline in shares as a result of investor fears. Renault is denying that it “cheated” and has attributed the discrepancy in emissions readings to a “calibration error”. Nevertheless, the incident has undoubtedly helped to further tarnish diesel’s image.

Despite the trouble Dieselgate has fomented, there may perhaps be a silver lining after all. In particular, the discovery of the Volkswagen’s wrongdoing, in and of itself, shows that regulatory agencies and governments are beginning to enforce their emissions standards more rigidly. What Volkswagen and Renault have experienced will perhaps serve as a warning to all other automobile manufacturers that noncompliance with these standards will be met with severe consequences.  

- Konstantine Tettonis

Photo: The Independent

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Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Eva is still Eva--A Greek Village Unchanged

 Photo: Konstantine Tettonis

Photo: Konstantine Tettonis

Over two-hundred kilometers from Athens on the southern tip of the Peloponnese, a man takes a long drag of his hand-rolled cigarette, calmly gazing about the sleepy town square before him. Referred to by locals as a village, not a town, Eva is home to slightly over one-thousand people including Panayiotis, the owner of one of its only two restaurants.

As his last patrons depart for the night, Panayiotis reaches into the breast pocket of his windbreaker and grabs a fresh cigarette. Before putting his lighter to it he breaks the silence: “So, let’s talk politics.”

Cautious not to spawn the political strife plaguing the country’s capital in their own village, most people of Eva shy away from “talking politics”. However, this is not the case for everyone. Notorious for being one of Eva’s more outspoken conversationalists, Panayiotis sees no reason to silence himself. This is because according to him, his village is largely immune to the effects of the country’s economic crisis and thus, the political strife born from it.

 One might ask Panayiotis, why Eva of all places? The man explains that his people are much more economically self-sufficient when compared to their city-dwelling compatriots. In particular, he points to the villagers’ ability to produce their food locally, many even on farms and gardens in their own backyards. 

If one were to observe Eva from a bird's-eye view, Panayiotis’s claim wouldn’t seem unreasonable. As if it were required by law, on almost every plot of land grows at least one olive tree and one fig tree. Tomato gardens, grape vines and lemon trees are also not an uncommon sight. In many cases, one would not be surprised to find chickens, goats, even a lamb or pig roaming the premises. Panayiotis himself admits that much of the food he serves to customers is grown on his farm, situated only a few kilometers away.

According to Tzanetos Karamichas, head of the Pan-Hellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives (PASEGES), this capacity on the part of Greeks to produce their own food represents a competitive advantage in need of more attention.  Speaking at a PASEGES conference in Thessaloniki, Karamichas reported that the country produces almost twice as much rice as it needs while reaching close to self-sufficiency on a lot of fruits and vegetables. He went on to state: “We have to stop undermining Greek agricultural production and terrorizing people about not having enough to eat if the country goes bankrupt. We can surpass self-sufficiency, create new wealth and support the country.”

Before leaving for Greece this summer a family friend advised that I pack a few jars of peanut butter into my suitcase. He warned that the country, already in the midst of an economic crisis, was also on the verge of experiencing a food shortage.  However, not much to my surprise, when I arrived I found myself in a society, not entirely untouched by economic crisis but certainly not deterred by it. How long this way of life will last is uncertain but for now, Eva is still Eva and Panayiotis is still Panayiotis, probably lighting his next cigarette as I type these words.

 -Konstantine Tettonis

 

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Keystone: Can we move on?

 Photo: NBC

Photo: NBC

Before making his decision on the Keystone XL bill, which would commission an oil pipeline system to transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, President Barack Obama has vowed to first fully consider the plan’s potential contribution to global warming. However, as he awaits an environmental impact report from the State Department, environmentalists seem inexplicably content on continuing to rally behind the “Anti-Keystone” cause, given what is transpiring directly in front of them.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the U.S. has increased its network of oil pipelines by almost a quarter over the past decade. Katie Valentine of ThinkProgress discusses this phenomena and how pipelines just like Keystone XL are being granted approval with little resistance, in her article, “While We’ve Been Debating Keystone, The U.S. Has Grown Its Pipeline Network By Almost A Quarter.” According to the article, since 2012, “…more than 50 pipelines have been constructed, approved, or are in the process of being built.” She writes, “Also since 2012, 3.3 million barrels of oil per day of pipeline capacity has been built in the U.S. — a figure that dwarfs Keystone XL’s capacity to ship about 800,000 barrels per day.”

So, after years of debates, protests, and even presidential vetoes, neither side—neither proponents nor opponents of the pipeline—have reached their objective. That is, the Keystone supporters have failed to pass the Keystone XL bill and, evidently, environmentalists have failed to stop the growth of U.S oil pipeline networks. 

Given the stalemate on the pipeline, the obvious question has become “Could there have been a different way?” In other words, were there any viable alternative pipeline plans proposed over the past seven years, ignored by policymakers, which could have been accepted both by environmentalists and Keystone supporters? Since this controversy began, contributors to well-known U.S. news publications have not only been expressing their feelings on the decisions being made, but furthermore, potential alternatives to them. Perhaps considering some of their recommendations may spark ideas of our own. What follows is a compilation of recommendations that have been proposed since the start of the New Year.

The first is from January 11th of this year by the editorial board of the Washington Post. In the article, “Return the Keystone XL Issue to Reality,” the board argues that the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline bill—before the Senate finally passed it—was being “blown far out of proportion.” At the time, while environmental activists insisted that President Obama take a hardline stance against the pipeline in fear of climate degradation, Republicans demanded that the Senate pass the bill an approval of it, citing the potential for job creation and decreased dependence on foreign oil. According to the article, both sides were moving the debate for the bill, “farther from reality,” through their exaggerations of its costs, and conversely, the overselling of its benefits. In order to stop wasting additional legislative time or grief, the writers urged President Obama to either sign the bill or strike a deal with Republicans in exchange for environmental concessions.

The recommendations of Washington Post’s editorial board must have been overlooked because on February 24th, President Obama vetoed the bill and returned it for congressional action sent it back to Congress. On the same day, The editorial board of USAToday took a firm stance against the veto in their article, “Override the Keystone pipeline veto: Our view.” The board article argued that the Keystone bill, which had recently been vetoed by President Obama, ought to be passed. It claims on the grounds that the benefits of Keystone outweighed its costs, which are were inevitable given that the Canadian oil will would be produced, extracted and exploited, regardless of whether the pipeline is was built or not. In order to bypass what the writers viewed as the cause of unnecessary political drama, they asserted that Congress must override the president’s veto and pass the contentious legislation.
Conceivably, some sensed that this idea—to override the veto—would not end up well. On February 24th, the editorial board of The Washington Post re-asserted that the Keystone XL controversy has been overblown and exceedingly drawn out. In response to the veto, their article, “Focus Legislative Energy on a National Carbon Policy Not Keystone XL,” argued that environmentalists have, “…turned what should have been a routine infrastructure question into an existential war.” As an alternative, the editorial board suggested that environmentalists begin to focus on the root of the problem: carbon emissions. According to the writers, instead of wasting more time on the Keystone Bill, environmentalists needed to concentrate their efforts on national carbon policy in order to reduce the demand for dirty fuels, which, unlike the pipeline, directly cause harm the environmental detriment.

The failure by Congress to override the presidential veto perhaps inspired more alternative solutions such as the one proposed by The Washington Post.  In his article, “Don’t Kill Keystone. Regulate it,” Jonathan Waldman of The New York Times suggested that policymakers must remove themselves from the confines of the Keystone controversy and focus on the bigger issue at hand. Waldman urged President Obama to take a “bold stance” and approve the Keystone Bill in exchange for demanding stricter pipeline inspecting standards and safety measures. Some of his recommendations include: “More frequent inspections, lower criteria for intervening in response to corrosion and requirements that the information be made public.” In addition, Waldman writes that Obama should ensure that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is better funded, and allocated increased enforcement powers, including the ability to impose fines on policy violators. To him, given that the oil will be produced regardless of whether the pipeline is built, this plan would be more constructive and further effective in protecting the environment.

It is time for these imaginative but realistic policy recommendations to be heard. Given that the past environmental impact reports have assured that the pipeline would cause little environmental harm, it is unlikely that President Obama will come back with a “no” due to environmental concerns. Regardless, whatever he comes back with should be the end of it. The President needs to have a firmer stance on the issue for the impasse to finally wane. This is because the Keystone stalemate has lasted so long such that each side supposes that it is too late to turn back. Both sides know that by conceding, it is losing. 

The primary problem with the Keystone debate is that both sides have lost prospective. If environmentalists allow the bill to be passed, although hundreds of pipelines have recently been approved with little resistance, the building of Keystone would be one HUGE loss unlike any other. If Keystone supporters fail to pass the bill, a precedent might be set for other pipelines to be blocked in the future. Not to mention, similar to environmentalists, if the supporters of the pipeline concede and fail to carry out their plan, their legitimacy is also tarnished.  Regardless, policymakers on both sides need to open their eyes and check their watches. They need to open their eyes to the broader issue that Keystone represents and move toward addressing that, rather than Keystone itself. They need to check their watches and realize the time we have lost. Time is ticking, and along with it, an opportunity to consider diverse policy solutions to the Keystone issue.

- Konstantine Tettonis

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Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

As the World Heats, McKibben Weeps

 Photo: Hongkiat

Photo: Hongkiat

We are a generation of record-breakers and trendsetters. In its press release last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed that 2014 was the hottest year in history. According to WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud, fourteen of the fifteen hottest years have all been in this century.

“We expect global warming to continue, given that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the increasing heat content of the oceans are committing us to a warmer future,” said Jarraud. “ In 2014, record-breaking heat combined with torrential rainfall and floods in many countries and drought in some others consistent with scientist’s expectations of the effects of a changing climate.”

We have entered into age in which humans are dominating nature unlike ever before. The word nature itself originates from the Latin word natura, which in essence, means birth. Phrases like, “the birth of all life” and “Mother Nature,” which echo the original use of the term, no longer make sense. Natural phenomena like temperature and rain have now lost their mystery and fantasy – over the past several centuries, mankind has established themselves as the drivers of these things. Not only this, but humanity has more established themselves as Mother Nature than nature itself.

In his 1989 book, The End of Nature, Bill McKibben mourns the loss of nature’s independence as a separate force detached from human influence. He depicts a scene in which the sound of a chainsaw spoils the serenity and pureness of the remote forest he inhabits. He writes, “The sound of the chain saw does not blot out all the sound of the forest or drive all the animals away, but does drive away the feeling that you are in another, separate, timeless, wild sphere.” Although, McKibben may not be saying that nature is ending, he is saying that our conception of it is. With record-breaking heat and the onset of other human induced changes to our climate, the notion of us living in a world beyond us sadly seems to be fading away. 

- Konstantine Tettonis

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Foreign Media in Rival Nations Capitalize on Brown and Garner Fallout

 Photo: The Garamut

Photo: The Garamut

As social upheaval in the United States has intensified following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the world has been watching intently. Since the crisis began to unfold this past summer, foreign journalists covering the deaths, the verdicts, and the protests have helped propel the complex domestic issues that America faces into international focus. As a result, one largely unforeseen consequence for Americans has been brought to light—the use of the protests across the country for propaganda generated by America’s foreign rivals and enemies.

Listed below are titles and links to stories compiled from major news publications based in countries around the world, specifically, those that are frequently at odds with the United States on the international stage. These stories characterize public sentiment – or, more likely, the foreign government’s sentiment – toward the United States following the conclusion of the grand jury investigations into the Brown and Garner cases. Although the pieces range from op-eds to regular news stories, each helps to paint a picture of how foreign media, especially in America’s rival countries, are shaping public perception toward the United States in the aftermath of the Brown and Garner grand jury investigations.

Iran

Tehran Times: “America has long cultural history of anti-black prejudice: critical theorist”

Iran Daily: “Beyond the police bullets and chokeholds. A deeply racist society in America”

China 

Xinhua: “Commentary: Ferguson riot reveals U.S. racial divide, human rights flaw”

China Daily: “Ferguson anger rooted in racial inequality”

Russia

Russia Today: “Ferguson grand jury decision divides America”

The Moscow Times: “Dolgov: U.S. Should Worry About Human Rights in Ferguson First”

By taking an even cursory look at the articles above, it becomes immediately clear the degree to which America’s rivals have capitalized on the United State’s internal struggles. As the L.A. Times writes, “For countries that are often on the receiving end of human-rights lectures from Washington, the situation in Ferguson has presented an irresistible opportunity to turn the tables and accuse the U.S. of hypocrisy.” As people from Moscow to Shanghai read these stories, whatever image they may have had of America as a defender of freedom and equality becomes tarnished – and the image promoted by their governments of America as a hypocritical, capitalist, and imperialist country becomes reinforced.

The clashes in Ferguson and others throughout the country will continue to be used to make harmful generalizations about the United States. When people in Tehran read that “violence is ‘institutionalized’ in the United States” or when Cubans ask, "Is the Ku Klux Klan coming back with force?" America’s credibility as a peacekeeper and its status as a symbol of freedom throughout the world becomes laughable. Regardless of any which position Americans might hold regarding the controversies surrounding the deaths of Brown and Garner, for the sake of America’s reputation, peaceful protest and reform through policy, not violence, is the only way of regaining the world’s respect and demonstrating the true American way – or at least the best way to provide less propaganda fodder for America’s enemies.

- Konstantine Tettonis

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Russia’s Rebound: Breaking Up with the United States, Getting Together with China

 Photo: CNTV

Photo: CNTV

Late this October, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled the commencement of yet another rough patch in U.S.-Russian relations. In a speech he made at the Valdai Club, an annual gathering of international officials and foreign media representatives, Putin accused the United States of trying to “reshape the whole world.” Referring to United States involvement in the conflict over Ukraine, the Russian president added that Russia “is not asking anyone for permission” in its conduct of world affairs.

As Russian estrangement with the West has worsened since the Ukrainian crisis, the nation seems to have begun engaging in its own pivot toward Asia. According to his statement to the New York Times, the Russian ambassador to Washington eluded to the possibility that Russia may seek to challenge U.S diplomatic efforts in Asia: “You are pivoting to Asia, but we are already there.” At the Valdai Club, President Putin reasoned that given China’s geographic proximity and growing importance in the world economy, not cooperating with the new world power would be simply “shortsighted.”

As part of the two countries’ new effort to strengthen diplomatic ties, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with his Chinese counterpart Defense Minister Chang Wanquan last week to discuss their interest in “pragmatic cooperation.” The Russians and Chinese have already agreed to hold multiple joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean and the Pacific by 2015. According to Shoigu, the Sino-Russian relationship will be key to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region: “Amid a highly volatile world situation, it becomes particularly important to strengthen reliable good-neighborly relations between our countries.”

Despite warnings by Russian leaders against this notion, the Russian pivot to Asia is a direct response to deteriorating relations with the West following the Ukrainian crisis. Growing economic and diplomatic pressures imposed by Europe and the U.S. have made Russia look toward Asia to fill the economic void that Europe once did. According to The Diplomat, China’s National Petroleum Corp. and Russia’s’ Gazprom have already signed an energy deal which will make China a major importer of Russian natural gas for the next 30 years. With sanctions deterring activity between Russian and European markets, Russia has turned it’s head from West to East and found an even larger market in a more hospitable diplomatic climate.

Russia’s sudden pivot to Asia begs the question of whether imposing economic sanctions was the most apt choice in reacting to the Ukrainian crisis. Although the public may have cried for action to be taken in response to Russian aggression, and imposing sanctions may have seemed like the least costly response, the situation must be considered from more of a analytical perspective. Given Putin’s willingness to bear the costs of economic sanctions, logically, he must have known that complying with Western mandates would have proved even more costly. Russia chose to bare the cost of sanctions imposed by Europe and the West by using an alternative: Asia. 

- Konstantine Tettonis

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Hopes for Cypriot Unification Combust

 Photo: SOPAS Corporation

Photo: SOPAS Corporation

“Ethnicity is almost never the root cause for ‘ethnic conflict.’”- Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since 1974, after a military coup backed by Athens prompted Turkey to invade the northern portion of the island. A decade later, the Turkish-held region declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a separate entity from the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus. As peaceful negotiations over the past several years were beginning to lead toward warmer relations between the Turkish north and Greek south, controversy in managing the newly discovered oil deposits has caused hopes for unification to dissolve.

In 2011, Noble Energy (NBL), an American oil and natural gas production firm, discovered giant natural gas reserves off of the country’s southern coast. According to CNN, if brought to market, the resources would represent more than 100% of Cyprus’s GDP.

Late this past summer, President Nicos Anastasiades of the Republic of Cyprus highlighted that the return on these findings has the potential to be more than just financial: “The benefits out of the exploitation of the wealth of energy is going to the interest of all the people of Cyprus whether they are Greek or Turkish Cypriots.” However, the chances that this oil will help unify the island in the near-future have since been squandered. For the second time last month, Turkish scientific ships, accompanied by warships, were reported to be conducting seismic surveys inside of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The objective of their exploration was to evaluate the seabed’s potential for oil drilling.

Turkey’s actions have sparked outrage from Cypriot politicians. While Ankara argues that it does not recognize Cyprus or its right to exploit offshore energy, the drilling license for the entire region had already been awarded to Cyprus as it lies within its EEZ. Nonetheless, Turkey's Prime Minister told a press conference: "We have the right to conduct seismic studies there, according to the agreements signed between Turkey and the Turkish Republic of northern Cyprus. We will always use this right." In response, Cyprus has begun to press the European Union for “resolute action” against the Turkey, on grounds that the intrusion violates its nation’s sovereignty.

The Cyprus dilemma is fueled not by competing ethnic groups but by competing economic interests. Both sides refuse to lose out on the island’s potential economic value, especially now that oil has been proven to exist nearby. The question is: Who does the oil belong to—the Republic of Cyprus or Turkey? Considering the rights to drilling were already given to Cyprus by the European Union, an institution that Turkey seeks to become a part of, it is surprising that Turkey has not backed down. It is contentious enough that Turkey refuses to recognize the Republic of Cyprus--an EU member country--as a sovereign state, but it has now chosen to directly ignore guidelines enacted by the EU. These recent policy decisions on the part of Turkey make one question its motivations for seeking EU membership in the first place, because protecting states’ rights to sovereignty was surely not one of them.

- Konstantine Tettonis

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Can Climate Change Spawn Another ISIL?

 Photo: Public Library of Science

Photo: Public Library of Science

In the midst of grappling with security threats ranging from ISIL to Ebola, the Pentagon has identified a new “immediate risk” to national security. On Monday, The Department of Defense released a 20-page "2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap," in which it classified climate change as no longer a future security risk, but now, as a present day threat.

According to the report, the changing climate will have serious implications for military operations, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, supply chain activity, and the maintenance of training and equipment installations. Yet, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stressed that the crisis’s implications are even wider in scope. At the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Peru earlier this week, he characterized climate change as a “threat multiplier.” In his speech he cautioned that climate change has the potential to intensify many of the challenges U.S. defense strategy is forced to confront today, including the rise of armed insurgencies.

The DoD’s report sheds light on how the effects of climate change can contribute to political unrest, especially within developing nations: "These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources." The report goes on to describe how competition for resources is often ground zero for “extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.”

As the New York Times points out, the Islamic State has capitalized on the scarcity of certain resources, including food and water, in order to seize political power. The increasing demand for these already scarce resources allows groups like ISIS to tighten their grip on the people they are subjugating. In the past, resource scarcity has bred conflict in places like Sierra Leone, Haiti and Angola. However, as climate change continues to intensify, not only will it help spark new political conflicts, but it will also help to fuel ones that are already occurring. With the climate crisis continuing to unfold, resource competition will inevitably surge, and so too will political unrest – leaving the Department of Defense to prepare itself against whatever threats next present themselves.

- Konstantine Tettonis

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

It’s Wei Qi, not Chess: China’s growing relative advantage in Africa

 Photo: World Policy

Photo: World Policy

Although China may not be bent on global domination, it has a strategic ambition: the nation seeks to reclaim the power and respect that made it such a singular entity years ago. For thousands of years, China viewed itself as the “Middle Kingdom,” or the center of the universe. It saw little incentive to pursue anything outside of its vast territorial boundaries. Today, things have changed: China’s hunger for new land, raw materials and markets is leading the Chinese to the continent of Africa, where the nation’s influence is far more than simply budding.

In his book On China, Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger accurately characterized Chinese foreign policy in the context of one of its civilization’s most enduring games, wei qi. The wei qi player aims to encircle and capture all of her opponent’s pieces on the board. Unlike in chess, the objective of wei qi is not to achieve an all-out victory, but to claim a relative advantage. 

In the theoretical game for Africa, the Chinese seem to be gaining a relative advantage over the West. In 2009, China surpassed the U.S as Africa’s largest trading partner with the Sino-African trade relationship valued at $200 billion in 2013. The Chinese have penetrated African markets through the exchange of cheap manufactured goods and the construction of infrastructure such as airports, railroads, and dams. In turn, the Chinese have secured key natural resources (namely, oil and minerals), which account for 80% of their trade with the continent. In addition, by the end of 2009, nearly 50% of China’s cumulative foreign aid went to African countries.

Chinese influence in Africa has drawn the attention of the United States. In response to the new global power’s growing involvement on the continent, the United States has been taking steps to highlight its commitment to African nations. This summer, President Obama convened the U.S-Africa Leaders Summit, where the president distinguished the U.S and China’s intentions in Africa by saying, We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources; we recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people and its talents and their potential.” Although the summit also set out to address critical issues including human rights and access to healthcare, the summit was seen largely as an effort to begin countering Chinese influence on the African continent. According to an article in South Africa’s Business Day prior to the Leaders Summit, “the US government was running the risk of missing the African bus.” This conference was perhaps an opportunity to catch the “bus” at the next stop.

Kissinger writes that there are multiple ways of succeeding in a game of wei qi. However, the most talented players do so by placing their pieces into empty spaces, mitigating their opponent’s strategic potential. Africa can be perceived as this new “empty” space on the board, with China in the process of filling it. Africa’s untapped natural resources and markets will help China increase its relative advantage over the West in this round of global wei qi.

Konstantine Tettonis

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Race with China—The Environmental Leg?

In late April, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, China, revised its environmental protection laws for the first time in twenty-five years. According Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, the revisions will allow for stricter punishments against companies or individuals caught polluting the environment. This comes after the country had long rejected adhering to clean energy standards in fear of hindering its economic growth and production.

China’s shift in position regarding clean energy regulations can be attributed to the hazardous consequences of pollution the country is now witnessing on the health of its citizens. Faced with high levels of water and soil contamination, declining animal populations, and dangerously low air quality, Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, stated that China is ready to “declare war” on pollution.

Although the idea may seem laughable at first, can China simultaneously be “declaring war” on the U.S. in terms of challenging it to adopt more clean energy policies? While the U.S has always remained at the forefront of the international environmental movement, it has been just as stubborn as China in accepting clean energy standards. However, now, a week after China made its bold move to increase its enforcement of environmental law, the Obama administration unveiled a sweeping climate change report termed “The National Climate Assessment.” The report lays out specifically what effects climate change is having on certain geographic regions of the U.S. and what could happen if they are not addressed. In response to the rollout, the administration is expected to make more of an effort to expand its climate initiative.

If China wanted to challenge the U.S., it certainly did. Now that China has taken the international clean energy initiative more seriously, the pressure is on for the U.S. to follow. However, this may not come easy. According to The New York Times, as the Obama administration is beginning to shore up public support for the president’s climate policies, Republicans are already accusing the President of plotting, not a “war on pollution” but a “war on coal.” The release of the new report is sure to cause a major political battle this upcoming summer, and rest assured, the international community WILL be watching.

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Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

The Great Schism Finally in Reverse

This year’s Easter falling on the same date for Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics characterizes the ever-improving relationship between the two Christian denominations. The Orthodox and Catholic churches split after their historic “schism” in 1054. However, since the middle of the 20th century, dignitaries of the long disconnected faiths have made great strides toward increasing communication and cooperation. 

Last year, the spiritual head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew I, attended the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis. This was the first meeting of its kind between leaders of the two churches since their schism and helped continue the discussion for ecumenism, or the promotion of Christian unity. Goodwill between the two faiths is expected to continue as Bartholomew and Francis have made plans to meet each other on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem in May.

Two historically divided faiths reconciling their differences peacefully will serve as a positive example for other antagonistic religious factions. Although the idea of the Orthodox and Catholic churches integrating may be idealistic at best, simple dialogue and deference between leaders of the faiths will undoubtedly go a long way in mending their hackneyed divide. Heads of spiritual groups currently in violent conflict should turn to the West and realize that conflicts, no matter how deep-seeded they may be, can be resolved.  

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Reading Rec: The Drone Race Takes Off On Multiple Fronts

In 2011, The New York Times published an article titled, “Coming Soon: The Drone Arms Race.” The article foresaw a new “Arms Race” commencing, this time not in pursuit of the nuclear bomb, but in a new weapon, which to some is even more startling— the unmanned drone. Defense departments in nations across the globe have recognized the drone’s utility in combat and surveillance due to its precision, agility, and elusiveness. According to President Obama regarding drone operations: “Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.” The technology has been aggressively pursued and proliferated by countries in fear of falling behind one another militarily.

The competition for drones exists not only in the defense sector. Large private sector companies are beginning to wage their own wars for the technology in order to “stay ahead of the curve.” The Wall Street Journal released an article yesterday announcing that in the midst of Google and Facebook’s, “…battle to extend their influence,” Google has acquired a maker of solar-powered drones. The drones it plans to develop, will allow it to deliver faster data speeds to its customers.

I highly recommend reading the WSJ article. Keeping in mind the technology’s current military applications and combat capabilities, while reading, I couldn’t help but question whether the technology is potentially helping to weaponize private companies. The idea that Google or Facebook would ever attempt to physically harm anyone seems farfetched but with the power of the Internet expanding and its security becoming proportionally more questionable, these questions need to be raised. Given the significance of the services that these companies provide, if the technology fell into the wrong hands, the fallout would be catastrophic. With this considered, can private companies be trusted with drone technology? Is the “Drone Race” in the private sector, safe?

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Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Should the U.S. Fear the Rise of China? A Former Ambassador’s Take

The United States and China seem to be in a race of sorts, competing for economic influence, military power, and political control.  Although the U.S. is still in the lead, China is not far behind, hot on its heels. Should the U.S. fear that China will soon overtake it?

In a discussion he had with my international affairs class, the Honorable Winston Lord, former U.S. Ambassador to China and Assistant Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, shared why he strongly believes that the rise of China will prove to be no match for U.S hegemony.  He used what he called his “Eight Fearless Statements on China” to commend China for its astounding rate of growth, but also to assert that there exist contradictions in the nature of this growth which will ultimately allow the U.S. to maintain its long-held supremacy.

Lord’s “Eight Fearless Statements” are as follows:

Statement One: “The Chinese economy is an unstoppable juggernaut.”

The rise of China is the most astonishing economic rise in history. It has had 10% annual growth for over 35 years, its per capita income has increased from $200 to $6000, and it has lifted 500 million people out of poverty. Not to mention, the Chinese rank #2 in the world in GDP,  #1 in exports, #2 in imports and #1 in foreign reserves.  They are rapidly gaining technology for future growth, expanding in their construction of infrastructure, and encouraging more university education.

Statement Two: “The Chinese economy will hit brick walls.”

Its population of 1.4 million distorts statistics: although it ranks #2 in the world in GDP, its per capita income remains ranked #92, nestled between Bosnia and the Maldives. In addition, China has major shortfalls when it comes to acquiring natural resources and providing its citizens with clean water and energy. According to Lord, “The changes in Chinese cities will take your breath away…that’s the problem.” The pollution in Chinese urban centers is among the worst in the world and poses a huge risk to the health of its growing population. Lord asserts that this growing population, in addition to suffering from pollution related health issues, will inevitably endure a greying crisis. In two years, its labor force will begin to decline. Currently, the ratio of working to retired is five to one but in less than twenty years, this ratio will go down to two to one. However, Lord states that the root of the issue is the Chinese’s lack of ingenuity. He uses the example of the iPhone, saying that the Chinese are good at building the popular phones, but not inventing them.

Statement Three: “China’s military is growing and becoming an ominous threat.”

The Chinese defense budget is equivalent to the next twelve Asian countries combined. The country has made upgrades to its nuclear program, major advancements in space, and has built the world’s largest army. The growth of its navy has allowed it to further intimidate its neighbors in Southeast Asia and also complicate U.S. defense strategy. In addition, it is beginning to use unconventional military tactics in combating U.S. strategy including destroying U.S. satellites and engaging in cyber warfare.

Statement Four: “Chinese military power is grossly exaggerated.”

China has fourteen neighbors (the most in world) and is forced to address numerous territorial disputes between groups with cultural, religious and historical animosities toward each other. The U.S. on the other hand shares a border with only two nations, both of which are its allies, and two oceans. Additionally, the U.S. has a military budget four times that of China and a large lead in technology, weapon systems and combat experience.

Statement Five: “Their political situation is remarkably stable.”

China’s leaders have defied history; they have sustained rapid economic growth while giving their citizens little political freedom.  Although there have been small pockets of unrest, they have been for the most part contained. The middle class and graduating students, who currently bear exceptionally high rates of unemployment, have accepted the basic deal of the party:  “Make money or don’t make trouble.” The combination of rising living standards, satisfying people, nationalism, and sweeping censorship and repression suggest that the party is in firm control.

Statement Six: “However, Tiananmen Square can be right around the corner.”

Even by Chinese official count, there are five hundred major political demonstrations per day. These demonstrations are prompted partly by humanitarian aspirations for greater freedom but largely by people’s discontent with health issues caused by pollution, land grabs by local governments, the safety of food, and ethnic unrest. Since there is no rule of law, independent court system or freedom of the press, the people’s only modes of dissention consist of either taking to the streets or expressing themselves through social media—which is becoming the major agent of discord. Because of this, China has spent more money on internal surveillance than it does on its formal defense budget, showing that,  “…even though China may have swagger abroad, it has paranoia at home.”

Statement Seven:  “A rising China is supplanting American influence in Asia and throughout the World.”

China’s remarkable growth and decisive actions pose a sharp contrast to the inefficiency and indecisiveness of democracies in the West. Some countries around the world are being seduced by China’s mix of capitalism, socialism and political control. Its economic influence is growing and is becoming the prime trading partner for almost every country in Asia. In addition, the country is forming economic ties with Latin American and African nations by making investment deals that have no strings attached on human rights or the environment. Furthermore, its gigantic market is so attractive that businessmen, newspapers, and universities are extremely reluctant to attack or resist Chinese censorship to repression.

In regards to Chinese political influence, its navy is increasingly clashing with neighbors in disputes over surrounding water and islands. Its UN Security Council veto and mounting influence in international trade organizations is allowing it to protect its commercial links with nasty regimes around the world and actions proposed by the international community against them.

Statement Eight:  “A limited and challenged China is no match for the U.S.”

China’s political system and defense of malicious regimes around the world makes Chinese soft power “an oxymoron.” Its short list of strong allies, which consists mainly of Pakistan and North Korea, lessens its appeal to other countries looking to make military alliances. Territorial disputes and other questionable activities are driving other countries closer to the U.S.

It is only in the economic realm that China can quite possibly match the United States. In terms of every other index of power, China cannot compete. America’s superior military might, technological advancement, entrepreneurial spirit, better demographic tendencies, and new energy trends like shale, will mean further growth for America but a brick wall for China.

When asked how he would sum up these contradictions on the Chinese scene, Lord said this:

“When I think of China and its problems, I think of a Chinese pilot with a plane full of passengers. The pilot is like the leadership of China and he announces to his passengers, ‘We have good news and bad news: The good news is, we are way ahead of schedule. The bad news is, we are lost.’ If they don’t fix their problems they can be lost and loosing altitude in the next decade. “

So, should the United States fear the rise of China, or welcome it?

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

A Sea of Uncertainty: The Future and The Internet

As we return from spring break and reluctantly resume our daily routines, start the week with Konstantine’s post on the future of the Internet.

With our tiny hands gripping the warm metal door handles of our minivan, my twin brother and I would desperately wait to hear the liberating beep and rescuing click that signaled their unlocking. When we were finally able to slide the doors open, all we saw in front of us was the clear blue ocean, begging us to dive in. Despite our jubilation and state of captivation with the sea and sand before us, we knew all too well what was to come: ”STOP!” As my mother whitened our bodies with SPF 70, us vehemently resisting her every attempt to apply “just a little bit more,” my father would slowly walk toward us — towels and toys in tote. Before we made our mad dash across the hot sand and into the cool waters of the Mediterranean, my father knelt down and stared into the eyes of my brother and I.  He would repeat a phrase, one I thought I understood until now: “The sea is selective, slow at recognition of effort and aptitude, but fast in sinking the unfit.”

My father was a Merchant Marine and graduate of Fort Schuyler Maritime Academy, where every cadet was required to learn this phrase by heart.  Whenever he would repeat it to my brother and I, I would ask him what he meant. Instead of breaking down the quote word by word, my father would cut straight to the point: Be alert and be prepared for anything.

I eventually memorized this quote, just as my father had — perhaps due to the amount of times we had gone to the beach when I younger. However, as a student studying international relations in the 21st century, this quote still resonates with me, but now on a different level. In observing the world around me, I realize that it is similar to the sea that my father spoke of: “…selective, slow at recognition of effort and aptitude, but fast in sinking the unfit.” With competition for international power and authority on the rise, it is important to understand that in order for this nation to metaphorically stay “fit,” it must remain alert and prepared to respond to any threat that may arise.

According to TIME.com, in wake of the revelations brought about by Edward Snowden with regards to the NSA’s Internet surveillance strategies, the United States has agreed to relinquish control over the Internet’s Domain Name System, which translates numerical addresses into recognizable Internet names. The move would ultimately turn over the Department of Commerce’s ability to distribute the numbers that make up Internet addresses — primarily through the use of the non-profit organization, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which facilitates this process— to another entity not specified yet. This comes as other nations are beginning to pressure the United States into allowing for more international oversight in monitoring worldwide communications.

Overall, the private sector seems optimistic about the transition. In a statement provided to TIME, Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist wrote, “The Internet was built to be borderless and this move toward a more multistakeholder model of governance creates an opportunity to preserve its security, stability and openness.” However, not everyone agrees with Cerf. Many feel that this “openness” poses a threat to national security. Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich tweeted last Friday: “Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the Internet to an undefined group. This is very, very dangerous.” Despite their differences, both sides recognize that the transition that the government has agreed to make is sure to have implications for Internet security.

With the U.S. becoming the target of more cyber crime and terrorism plots, it is reasonable to question whether any reduction in America’s ability to monitor the Internet will prove to hinder its overall capability to protect itself against threats. Now that the U.S is slowly losing power over the Internet, who will take over? Despite its goals to allow for more oversight, should the U.S. concede security for transparency?

According to the Wall Street Journal, “…this is a concession by the U.S. While the Commerce Department rarely intervened publicly in ICANN’s affairs, the implicit threat of its ability to do so will be gone.” Although the U.S. has long expressed its intentions to eventually open control of Internet operations to the rest of the world, given the new threats that exist today, this may be imprudent. The article in the Wall Street Journal goes on to say that the transition “…could have an unforeseen impact in the future, particularly if cyber weapons continue to play a larger role in military and counter-intelligence activities.”

In a sea of uncertainty and in an ever-changing international landscape, it is vital for this country to remain fit to compete. Although the U.S. may be eager to finally resolve its NSA fiasco, perhaps it needs my mother’s “STOP!” and my father’s reminder. Countries with power will stay afloat, while countries that are unprepared to respond to threats to this power will be quick to sink. Concessions, no matter how righteous they may seem, have consequences. Can the U.S. afford to make this concession and hand over the Internet?

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

George Washington, Alexander the Great,and Papou

My grandfather, or “Papou,” as we like to call him, is a humble man who still drives a red 1995 Ford Taurus. He always wears his brown low-cut boots and grey slacks, and will, at all times, have one of his 99-cent baseball caps on his head. His daily routine consists of driving to 86th street to pick up the newspaper, checking in on his brother at the Veterans Hospital, and having coffee with some of his friends. He seems like any other older man relaxing and enjoying his “golden years.” Had I not been a curious eleven-year-old, I might still believe just that; but it was then that I discovered Papou was far from ordinary.

When you are a little boy in 6th grade, you think that every immigration story involves a boat and Ellis Island.  You imagine families tightly packed on the deck of a vessel, eagerly awaiting their arrival in the land where “the streets are paved with gold.” I had assumed that this was my grandfather’s story until, one day, while snooping around my grandparents’ attic, I came across an old photograph that was nestled inside a small coffee can. After I wiped away the dust and stared at the photo of the soldier, I ran downstairs to my grandfather and asked him, “Papou, can you tell me about this picture?”

For the next few hours, my grandfather mesmerized me with his stories of Nazis and World War II, combat and The Korean War.  I assumed Papou simply left Greece, became an American citizen, and then lived happily ever after. I never imagined that scar on his left leg was a hidden remnant of his experiences as a soldier. His stories had me hooked.

A few weeks later, when my history teacher, Ms. Gilson, announced that we would be participating in the National History Day Fair competition, it was an easy decision for me to research the Korean War, the event that had damaged the leg of my very own Papou.   Not only was I excited by the war stories themselves, as any eleven-year-old would be, but I felt obligated to bring these stories of sacrifice to light.  I didn’t want his scar to be a secret any longer.

My budding historian instincts made me want to fill in Papou’s stories with more context. I rented documentaries about the war and about soldiers who were on the frontlines; I googled as much information as I could. What I learned made me realize that my grandfather was just as much a part of history as George Washington or Alexander the Great. History wasn’t textbook blabber; it was stories of real people–women, men– grandfathers.

When I asked Papou why he had never spoken about his scar before, he responded, “Nobody ever asked.”  From that moment on, my learning became personal.  When I’m taught an event in history, Papou’s scar, which is indelible on his body and in my mind, motivates me to learn more than dates and important figures.  It drives me to fully understand the human impact of history.

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

Greek Oil—Not from Olives

Light at the end of the tunnel can sometimes be blinding. As it records its first account surplus in recent history, Greece is seeing the light and is actively taking steps to allow for future economic growth. However, if not taken carefully, these steps can lead the country in the wrong direction.

In an effort to attract greater foreign investment, the Greek Energy Ministry is planning to open its country’s doors to permit the exploitation of oil and natural gas reserves beneath the Ionian and Aegean seas.  According to news reports, Greece claims its reserves contain US $600 billion in potential energy resources. If tapped, the reserves would make the country the top oil-producing nation in the Balkans.

Although Greece may be looking ahead into the future, perhaps it is not looking far enough. Traditionally, the Greek economy’s subsistence has hinged on the success of its tourism industry, which contributes around 15% to its GDP annually. This 15% depends largely on the ability of Greek businesses, namely hotels and resorts, to consistently provide visitors with a sparkling vacation atmosphere. Breathtaking views from rooms overlooking pristine beaches that lead into the crystal-clear water of the Mediterranean Sea are what satisfy tourists and make them return. If they slide their balcony doors open to the sight of giant gray refineries, and ominous-looking oilrigs in the near distance, the 15% we saw earlier vanishes.

According to Reuters, Greek Energy Minister, Yannis Maniatis, stated, “Today we have opened a new page for the Greek market.” His optimism is understandable; $600 billion can indeed, “open new pages,” even for the Greek economy. However, if the Greeks wish to keep their 15%, they need to be aware that tourism and drilling go together like olive oil and vinegar — they just don’t.

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.

The Final Frontier: A Public or Private Venture?

Here’s the first blog post of the semester, as well as the first post of our new blogger, Konstantine Tettonis! We’re all very excited to have him on board. 

When we say, “The Final Frontier,” we no longer look west, towards the Pacific; we look up, to the sky. Cowboys, horses, and stagecoaches have no use in the exploration of this new frontier. Instead, rockets, aircrafts and rovers will be necessary to chart the unknown and mysterious expanses of Space. Needless to say, this frontier will prove to be much more expensive to explore than the last. The question is: Who should fork over the money, the government or the private sector?

Budget appropriations for space exploration programs have been in decline since the Cold War years. In 2013, the U.S federal government allocated around 17 billion dollars towards funding NASA. Since it retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, the bulk of NASA’s operations have been focused on studying human-induced changes to the Earth’s atmosphere. Nonetheless, NASA still conducts space-flight programs—just not by itself. To send its astronauts and cargo to space, it now uses privately owned spaceships and transportation vehicles. NASA provides contracts to private sector space transport services, most notably, SpaceX, in order to use their launching capabilities to send its research material and other cargo into space.

However, companies such as SpaceX are capable of much more. Currently, the transport service is working on a project that would send the first humans to Mars. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, stated that the company would be able to make the colonization of Mars a reality in the next 10-15 years.

The extraordinary capabilities of the private sector beg the question: why is the government still involved? Private sector companies have more money and more interest in space exploration than the government does—so why not let them fund it? In the same interview with the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk stated, “We want to be like the shipping company that brought people from Europe to America, or like the Union Pacific Railroad…we want to facilitate the transfer of people and cargo to other planets.” So, does the private sector need the U.S to lead the way into this new frontier, or can it go it alone? Regardless, saddle up, because it is going to be an interesting next decade for space exploration.

Comment

Konstantine Tettonis

Konstantine is a senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Politics and minoring in Environmental Studies. He is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. As part of a Greek-American family, Konstantine makes his heritage an important part of who he is and enjoys visiting Greece every summer. His particular areas of interests in international affairs include energy and the environment, development economics, and international security issues. He values his diverse internship and work experiences as they have helped mold his current academic interests and future career aspirations. Konstantine aspires to go on to law school after college and eventually become involved in policy-making.