The Impossibility of Vacation: Signal on the Beach

The Impossibility of Vacation: Signal on the Beach

As you can see, your average Signalista has a tough time unplugging from the world of global politics, even on vacation. Even on the beach. Here’s a little window into what it’s like… a prose poem by yours truly and Willis Sparks.


 

You’re on the beach. The sun blazes in a cloudless sky. Seagulls glide silently overhead. The soothing rush of the waves lulls you into a moment’s peace as you gaze at the water.. The level of the water. How much will it rise because of global warming in the coming decades. Three meters? Four? The fragmenting of the Paris Accords will definitely make it worse.

Well, in the long run we’re all dead anyway. Wasn’t that Keynes? For now this will be a perfect day. August is the best…. A lot of world leaders probably hate August. The 1991 Soviet coup against Gorbachev happened in August. So did the ruble crisis seven years later, a national humiliation that helped lay the groundwork for a strongman like Putin to take charge.  Nixon resigned in August 1974. I wonder what Robert Mueller is doing today. He’s probably wearing a tie..

The sky! That pristine blue dome. Above that blue are 1,700 satellites, used for navigation, military applications, and communications. The Chinese and Russians have developed technologies to shoot them down. President Trump is mulling a new Space Force to deal with it, though the Pentagon isn’t on board yet...

Good thing this beach isn’t so crowded. Bondi beach in Australia is crowded. Too crowded. That country’s population surge (it’ll reach 25m people three decades earlier than expected) is straining cities, clogging up beach access, and fomenting a backlash against immigration that could really roil politics there…

Pebble beach or sand beach? The age old question. China’s leaders are at the beach too. Every August, they spend two weeks privately plotting strategy at a beach resort called Beidaihe. It looks nice in the photos. Sand, it looks like. Wonder what they’re talking about today…. A face-saving compromise with Trump? How to keep North Korea on track? It’s hot. Maybe a dip in the water would be nice…

What beautiful water… What the… is that a garbage bag? That could kill a seagull! There’s a four-in-five chance that this bag  is from Asia, you know. That rapidly growing Asian middle class is buying more stuff and throwing out more trash than ever. The logistical and political hurdles to dealing with that problem are … what’s that smell? Is that… those kids are smoking weed! Are they vaping or is it a joint? What was that report about how Lebanon could bring in an extra $500m in export revenues if it legalized cannabis…

It really is hot out here. I’m thirsty. Water is important. Hope India never tries to use its upstream control of so much of Pakistan’s water supplies for political purposes. Kaboom. Wonder what’s happening in Egypt’s dispute with Sudan and Ethiopia over Nile water resources. Maybe it’s time for lunch. . .

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In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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