Yoichi Funabashi called for attention to similarities and differences between the 1930s and today in his opinion piece “Were the 2010s a return to the 1930s?” in the Jan. 11 edition.

A clear difference lies, he says, in that the populist movements today lack the militaristic slant of the 1930s, and that climate change fosters international cooperation.

This argument seems too optimistic to me. Climate change has already started to change the landscape in areas like the Arctic zone and fields such as water resources, that will in turn raise tensions across borders.

Major powers, some brazenly denying the feared consequences of climate change, are racing to exploit undersea resources as well as seek a foothold for their armed forces in the Arctic, taking advantage of the disappearance of the icecap.

In contract to those greedy powers’ contests, the conflict over increasingly unstable water resources bear far more serious and existential meaning. But even more serious is the prospect of mass migration of climate refugees. It would not be limited to the region around the Mediterranean and across the U.S.-Mexico border as we see now.

If water disputes and treatment of climate refugees become violent, develop into international conflicts and provoke competing nationalistic sentiments, who could say that the populist movements today remain free from the militarist slant of the 1930s?

Armed forces and populist movements in some countries are growing more nationalistic, and no one would be able to preclude the possibility of these two elements of any nation uniting into a bellicose nationalistic power.

A more menacing fact is the invisible forms of warfare that did not exist decades ago: aggression from space and cyberwarfare. The latter might begin as a scam email no one suspects, and develop into sabotaging of important infrastructure and full-fledged warfare.

Funabashi pins his hope on young activists, without mentioning the cynical and hostile attitude expressed toward them by the old ruling class of most countries.

For his hope to avoid proving empty, we must make best efforts to provide a better arena for the young to play, vanquish the bigotry of the old, allocate as many financial resources as possible to scientific and engineering research into environmental problems, including those involving water, and form an international framework that checks armed conflicts, as opposed to what the U.S. is doing now. Are we ready?


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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