TED Conversations

Pabitra Mukhopadhyay


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Is it time we rethink geo-political divides?

Ahmad Bashir Laltoo is an agricultural laborer. He does not own any land and has two cows. He takes the cows to graze and in that adventure gets jailed by Indian Border Security Force for trespassing into a sovereign country. Malati Dutta got arrested by Bangladesh Rifles found sleeping under a tree that she did not know belong to a foreign country. Both of them asked where exactly on the ground really was the line that divides their land, river and sky as out of bound.

Though sparsely populated, Bering Strait divides US from Russia. Does it really?

The Guarani Aquifer, located beneath the surface of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, is one of the world's largest aquifer systems and is an important source of fresh water. It is estimated to contain about 37,000 cubic kilometers (8,900 cu mi) of water, arguably the largest single body of groundwater in the world. Whose is this treasure?

If Crimea joins Russia, will the history of its natural resource flows through Ukraine for millenia change overnight?

As terrestrial resources dwindle, is it time for us to rethink geo-political divides? The idea that an imaginary line drawn over earth subsequent to a war or a political upsurge can take care of transboundary natural resources?

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    Mar 29 2014: In my experience, when we come to know and understand our true nature, in fact, the nature of all beings in Nature, it is inescapable to see that we are all in this together, here on Mother Earth. We are intimately and inextricably interconnected and interdependent. Whether rich or poor, smart or ignorant, well or unwell, famous or unnoticed, powerful or weak, we are all here together and any individual's well-being is ultimately tied to the well-being of every other being. In fact, the higher one is in any hierarchy, the more dependent one is upon all who are below.

    Our political borders are completely artificial and arbitrary. Our individual or group claims to resources are arbitrary. All resources available from Mother Earth in reality "belong to" and should be equally available to all beings. This does not mean all resources should necessarily be exploited, as through extraction or pollution or any form of desecration. On the other hand, that does not mean we should not utilize Earth's resources to our advantage, as long as we do so in a reasonable manner that does not jeopardize our environment, our home, and does not empower and enrich a few at the expense of many.

    Geo-political divisions create, promote and perpetuate divisions among us, as well as between us humans and all the non-human beings. This is dangerous and ultimately threatens our survival. Our only possible sustainable approach - an approach that is necessary for our long-term survival - is the elimination of all artificial and unnecessary divisions, and promotion of mutual respect and support so everyone may thrive and realize their highest potentials. We need to learn to share and share alike.

    Will we ever be able to accomplish this? I don't know. If we are able to, it will undoubtedly take a long time - long beyond our time here on earth. Probably long beyond even seven generations; perhaps beyond seven times seven generations. Do we have that long before we exterminate ourselves?
    • Mar 29 2014: Will we ever be able to accomplish this?

      If we don't we won't survive. I don't think we have millennia gently unfolding in front of us to evolve...
      But i am hopeful, the tide has turned in the depth of the ocean :)
      Thank you !
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      Mar 29 2014: Carl,
      I could not have said it better. I believe that the idea of statehood/Nationality (geo-political ) has run its course and is outdated. I agree with Benedict Anderson's theory of imagined community.
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    Mar 25 2014: Many colonial borders were drawn along rivers. Typically a single community lived on both sides of the river and got split into two seperate countries. This is very prevalent in Africa and the Indian sub-continent is most probaly the prime example of artificial separation driven by political agendas. It also clumped groups together, that would not otherwise have had a common politcal agenda. Sadly I do not believe that the world has the maturity to address this.
    • Mar 26 2014: The most peaceful places on earth are cemeteries.
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        Mar 28 2014: The difference between wild and cultured pearls focuses on whether the pearl was created spontaneously by nature – without human intervention – or with human aid. Pearls are formed inside the shell of certain mollusks as a defense mechanism against a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside the shell, or an attack from outside, injuring the mantle tissue. The mollusk creates a pearl sac to seal off the irritation. Pearls are commonly viewed by scientists as a by-product of an adaptive immune system-like function.

        Bryan, you irritate just enough to make people think deeper ... and create a pearl of wisdom ...Your contributions are the "spices and herbs" of TED Conversations. I might have blown your cover but I can't help saying it.

        Wish you best of health to keep doing what you're doing ...
      • Mar 29 2014: "Only dead have seen the end of war"
        Who said this ? And what did he ( somehow i am sure, it's ' he' ) mean ?
        Thanks !
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          Mar 30 2014: I would think it means that while you're alive there are many frictions and conflicts with other people and it's difficult to avoid them.
    • Mar 29 2014: One side of a river exists by the virtue of the other. It's easily grasped rationally , but could we understand it politically, nationally...personally?
      If we could we would celebrate diversity without borders.

      " Sadly I do not believe that the world has the maturity to address this."

      I don't think we can go back and we don't have to, probably we should elaborate new mature attitude/thinking?
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    Apr 9 2014: Watching closely the Ukrainian crisis, I'm asking myself the same question. What determines Crimea as "Russian" or "Ukrainian"? Russia quotes history to claim the territory. But how far in history shall we go? Crimea was Ukrainian for the last 60 years. Before that, it belonged to Russia for 100+ years. Before that, it belonged to Ottoman Empire - shall it be Turkish? Before that it was... who cares now?

    The borders are about control over resources. Some borders are drawn through the desert and, perhaps, nobody cares where they are exactly. But put there a single oil well and immediately there will be a need to define which country owns that particular square mile of land. History of the region or people living in the region do not matter. What matters is who can claim the land and protect it. This is how it is in Crimea and everywhere else.

    We can rethink geopolitical divides all we want. But they will still be defined using the same principle.
  • Mar 31 2014: It's been "time" to rethink geopolitical divides for centuries. Nobody does it, though, because the paradigm is a zero-sum game.
  • Mar 26 2014: Who gets to run this One World Government?
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      Mar 26 2014: Bryan, That's a good question. But our political world is actually a system of anarchy, where technically no one has ascendency over another. The idea of Nation is contrived and possibly outdated. We are seeing the signs of unification (albeit unsatisfactory) like UN and European Union.
      Come to think of it, as long as one has enough not to ask, steal or beg from other, it is ok. When the stock runs low, the geo-political divides will be challenged. Whether that challenge will be peaceful or military is anybody's guess.
      • Apr 11 2014: All political systems are contrived. We lie and say that our favorite system isn't.
    • Mar 30 2014: Burger Flippers Will Run This Government !!
  • Apr 13 2014: So long as the gap between countries exists,which includes living standard,security,economical opportunity. For instance,Mexican trespass the border with US, to seek for a better life, more diverse scope of playground. To protect its superiority and resource,Americans would tighten its control over the border. This actually indicates a deep cause of the act of defending its interest,that is selfishness. Americans will not be willing to share their own country's privileges with people outside. Same set of thinking applies to every country who has superior strengths. As a result,rich countries divides themselves from poorer countries in order to stay richer,happier,what the so-called doomed countries' struggle does not concern them.
  • Apr 13 2014: So long as the gap between countries exists,which includes living standard,security,economical opportunity. For instance,Mexican trespass the border with US, to seek for a better life, more diverse scope of playground. To protect its superiority and resource,Americans would tighten its control over the border. This actually indicates a deep cause of the act of defending its interest,that is selfishness. Americans will not be willing to share their own country's privileges with people outside. Same set of thinking applies to every country who has superior strengths. As a result,rich countries divides themselves from poorer countries in order to stay richer,happier,what the so-called doomed countries' struggle does not concern them.
  • Apr 12 2014: If I was President of the World, watersheds - the high ground that divides river valleys - would be boundaries. So, the entire Danube catchment area would be in one administrative region instead of several, and each tributary river that feeds into it would be a subsidiary region of the Danube region. As World President, I would get to decide which language gets forced onto the greater region and whether the subsidiaries are allowed to keep their traditional language as an official second language. If the word "Danube" was originally a Hungarian word then they will all have to learn Hungarian. North of the Panama canal would be officially English speaking; south, Spanish. Brazil, I mean Amazonia, will be allowed to keep Portuguese, I mean West Iberian, as their second language because I am nice, it's nothing to do with me being Portuguese...
    ...would all this solve the underground aquifer rights problem?
  • Apr 12 2014: To be less intelligent or poor or less knowledgeable has always haven been disadvantage of all life form from microscopic to whale. Martin Luther one said: You will know you are the chosen of the God by your Fruits; He meant Princes are chosen ones and peasants are not.

    That is how stars form too. The law is Universal.
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    Apr 11 2014: tough question, Pabitra. Actually, if you live near a border, I think it would be responsible to try to find out exactly where the border is and respect the border?
  • Mar 30 2014: Its a good Idea . But , its only a idea . Just look at India, Where new states are being created based on mojority of the particular section of the community,caste and language spoken.

    Don't you think that the say way different nations would have come into existence ?

    Unless and until people across the globe raise their level of thinking above the community,cast,language and religion the idea cannot be manifested into reality.

    Are people across the globe willing to give up their narrow thinking about belonging to particular community,cast,language and religion ?

    As per the news Crimea has joined Russia because there are majority of Russians.

    Do you think that this merging of Crimea into Russia is based on an Ideal of being human beings and also its a great cause and a role model for others ?
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      Mar 30 2014: :-) :-) I think you are mixing up the idea of nation and/or political statehood with ethnicity and/or religious/cultural identity of people. India was never a nation so to say, it was a subcontinent of a cultural/religious/ethnic melting pot. The idea of nationhood was imported during British subjugation of the people of the subcontinent from the west by leaders who were clearly influenced by western education and enlightenment.
      This diversity still flows as an undercurrent through Indian society and manifest as partisan and separatist movements. I am sorry if I sound somewhat anti-nationalist but that is how I see things. I think India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar can easily form an Indian Union with porous border and co-exist with much less tension and greater peace.
      The Cultural and Ethnic identities can thrive better co-currently than nations.
      EDIT: And yes, it is just an idea. I have no agenda here nor do I want to preach it.
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    Mar 29 2014: It is time to rethink geo-political borders; but we shouldn't have any rosy dreams of all our problems being solved by some new thinking.
    Wars and conflict over resources is as old as humanity. Geopolitical divides helps more in keeping the peace; a world without borders would present its own hideous challenges.
    The focus should be on diplomatic engagement between governments.
    I dont understand what you mean when you say "as terestial resources dwindle".
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      Mar 29 2014: 'The focus should be on diplomatic engagement between governments.'
      I don't know, you think we are faring well?
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        Mar 29 2014: Not very well. More can be done; so far we've got something that needs detailed improvement.
        Without borders all we'll have will be old-fashioned raids.
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          Mar 29 2014: That depends on how you define borders. EU is going fine. Europe has learnt from cross border conflicts in a hard way.
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        Mar 29 2014: It works in Europe; but it is not a global panacea. I know that Africa does not have the same definition of 'borders' as Europeans.
        So I guess the redefinition of borders has to be within specific cultural contexts.
        • Mar 29 2014: "It works in Europe..."

          It doesn't , apparently !
          I live in Crimea , it was Ukraine a week ago and now i am forced to take Russian passport and obey the laws of RF. Nobody even asked my opinion; i am just one/many who were not asked.
    • Mar 29 2014: "we shouldn't have any rosy dreams of all our problems being solved by some new thinking."

      Our problems have been created and are maintained/ perpetuated by old thinking.
      Crisis is the opportunity, it's become a media cliche, but it's actually true and not clearly understood, for new thinking is the only opportunity and it's enough, IMLTHO .
      • Mar 30 2014: "It doesn't , apparently !
        I live in Crimea , it was Ukraine a week ago and now i am forced to take Russian passport and obey the laws of RF. Nobody even asked my opinion; i am just one/many who were not asked."

        I hope by now you have understood and learned a lesson that there indeed exists some "Out of Control" things .

        I am curious to know that what changes you will do to which controls you so that you will have control over the out of control things.

        Chillax !
        • Mar 31 2014: Hi , :-)
          my comment was addressed to the person who naively believes that borders in Europe are sacred. I tried to challenge his belief with a fresh example. I have serious doubts that i've succeeded :)

          I hope by now you have understood and learned a lesson that there indeed exists some "Out of Control" things

          Nothing new for me here,there was no need for the lesson.

          what changes you will do to which controls you so that you will have control over the out of control things.

          As to my experience, change comes when you are ready; nobody can do change.
          And talking about 'out of control' things, there is one age-old way, which is next to impossible to implement: part with your ego. The only thing that controls you, is your own ego, the rest of 'being contoled' comes with, it's a package. If you can change the rules that controls you, you can change the rules you can't control.
          Do you know any other way ?

          Re : As per the news Crimea has joined Russia because there are majority of Russians.
          People here are divided into those who can't care less and those who have no clue what they are talking about !
          Don't take me wrong, i don't blame anyone.
  • Mar 29 2014: Natural resources should not belong to a government or corporation and must be made available to all people but managed so that it is not squandered away.

    Energy production has always been a fight between countries. Those that have the energy have controlled the world but with solar, wind and other alternative energies available it takes that power away and some countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US do not want to lose that grip on energy.

    I read today that the US is fighting India producing solar power because India wants the solar equipment to be made only in India. What right does the US have to stop India from manufacturing the equipment they need or buying it wherever they want?

    The US has been a slave to Saudi for oil for many years but now with fracking they have reduced that control and are doing the same thing to other countries.

    The next big fight will be over water but there is already technology to desalinate ocean water and that is in development.

    Once countries no longer depend on the world powers for energy, food, water and other resources government corporations will lose money, power and control and their usual answer to that is to create wars so that they can steal or destroy the resources of others to keep them in slavery.
  • Mar 28 2014: Pabitra

    I wish to thank you, because I have not thought along these line in a long time.
    Let me remind you that you eluded to the idea that Man was overpopulated and was the destroying all the vegetation. I asked that you promote a solution without using human intelligence, which you have failed to do.
    There is no question, none at all, that there is a tipping point in population and resources. This was never the debate.
    You bestowed on the worm the capacity to reason, in that he best, more than Man, understood and planned for food shortages. A fallacious and vacuous position.
    And yes, if one has the intelligence to note a problem, to complain of such a problem, then most assuredly one has a responsibility to solve that problem lest one becomes part of the problem. The world does have a problem with the over population of whiners, complainers and those who chatter of knowledge.
    Gullible is a word I would not use. I have seen war and too much of inhumanity. I have also seen the savagery of the animal world. Let us vilify, condemn the predator who stalks and feeds on a defenseless deer, The spider who preys on the trapped. Unlike that animal we learn, because we can reason and we can build on that foundation,
    You appeal to reason to understand a problem, that is not the solution. The solution is reasoning an answer, not in the chatter of supposed knowledge or simply, as rap music, a mindless chant of repetitive mind numbing nonsense.
    You appeal to reason for the "transgression of planetary boundaries" What does that mean? Should we not pass such boundaries? Should we better arm for their protection? And how many non-mortals do you converse with?
    I am not impressed with quotes or references, as you have given, as I find the their use tends to indicate a personal lack of knowledge and a weakened position.
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      Mar 29 2014: Charles,

      Your evaluation of me may be true or it may not be but that's a moot point. I thank you because you have at least accepted that there is a problem here concerning the 'special' humans and their activities on earth. I hope that is due to the weight of facts and figures some of which I presented, so let's leave aside debating on my scholarship. :)
      Sometimes it is very important to understand a problem and some problems are so complex that 'if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem' sounds too hollow a corporate cliche. Sometimes it may take generations to understand and appreciate the problem in honest and engaged light. For example Peter Vitousek has pointed out a problem without offering a solution.
      I do have some thesis about the solution and it is too radical for a casual debate. Moreover it would require, in the first place, giving up the preferred position of humans as special and distinct from animals to a large degree. I'd, for now, indicate a few areas where a possible solution may lie.
      #By reason modern human diet contains more calories in certain parts of the world which is biologically unnecessary, even detrimental and that 'special' diet is subsidized by 2/3rd of world population who suffer from malnutrition. It is reversible.
      #By reason, a huge live stock support has been designed by humans that forms a substantial and avoidable part of human appropriation of the total terrestrial photosynthetic produce. It is reversible.
      #By reason, humans are poor conservators as we observed Earth Overshoot Day on August 20 2013.

      In a family where one of the members is extremely intelligent, it will be rather sad if that member basks in the glory of being 'special' when the whole family is suffering.
      • Mar 29 2014: Pabrita

        It is difficult to respond to your post. It is, as all your posts, a convoluted and contrived fear mongering attempt to advance a socialist global agenda.
        To assert that humanity should be reduced to a lower form of life by decree, is most certainly totalitarian in substance, which is the position, I believe, you are coming from. Such a claim is the herding of humans as cattle, separating out those that best support the needs of the ruling class. You promote a continuation of disease, hunger, starvation, war and ignorance.
        You note problems so complex that they cannot be gone into thoroughly, I have discovered that such talk denotes deceit, as we are seeing here in the States.
        As I read your words; visions of "1984" run though by mind combined with the climax of the movie, Soylant Green.
        I wish no further communication Sir, as I cannot deal with such kingly arrogance that has such a low value for human life.
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          Mar 29 2014: That would be rather unfortunate sir but the problem seems to be entirely yours. It appears that you are premeditated in your approach of evaluating a stand rather than a rational examination which you yourself promoted to begin with.
          May I remind you that i referred works of myself and eminent scientists to support and explain my position and up till now you produced nothing but diatribe.
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    Mar 28 2014: Pabitra, the thinker-philosopher! Great topic for research and conversation. It would be great if there are more participants all over the world joining this forum because there are so many spots or territories that are under contention. The more the better.

    Very timely topic!
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    Mar 26 2014: G'Day Patibra,

    I think that Juan has made some good points. I might add that there is a hard wired basic animal instinct we are dealing with and that is marking our territory. What I see happening is that the stronger animal of us will take the better territory. We may be classified as "human" but we are after all the animal on top of the food chain.
    Maybe as our science fiction writers tell of an invasion of Martians, could the world come together to face an outside threat. Even then I am not sure.
    • Mar 26 2014: The better writers make it plain that any "unity" is purely a military alliance with no lasting political alterations.
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      Mar 26 2014: Hi Mike! Good day to you too. :)
      I am not sure if the issue is about maturity or pure necessity of survival. I have a hypothesis of epochal change of world views for reasons that are more necessity oriented than planned reforms. We embarked on modernity from medieval world through Renaissance when religion could not lead us out of a social stagnation.
      I agree with your 'territory' hypothesis but it is based on 'pack' hypothesis. Animals do understand how not to plunder their resource base beyond its capacity.
      • Mar 28 2014: Pabitra

        Animals, other than Man, do not possess the capacity to understand a resource, it's bounty or scarcity.
        I am always appalled at the notion that other animals possess some great wisdom that is lacking or withheld from the human brain. Animals do plunder their resources. They like us are burdened with the inability to survive without food. Herds will die off because of over grazing, consequently causing their predators to die.
        Perhaps, it might do well to look at Man in a more positive light. With that in mind we can build, as opposed to demean a uniqueness, the capacity to reason, which if embraced and nurtured will solve all problems, domestically and universally.
        Man is a toddler in an evolving universe. Does it serve a purpose to tell this toddler that because he does not speak or walk well that he is stupid, less than a french fry.
        I do not know what the universe holds, but I feel sure that there is nothing greater than a reasoning mind. We have one. Let us embrace it. The universe is ours, the family of reasoning beings--.
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          Mar 28 2014: The last I checked, humans were appropriating over 40% of total terrestrial photosynthetic produce. That I guess is one toddler with unusual hunger in a creche of million toddlers .
          I respect your opinion. But I am appalled at the notion that homo sapiens are anything special despite their power of reasoning.
          Finally, I am very unsure if the Universe is ours exclusively.
      • Mar 28 2014: Pabitra
        You may be appalled, but humans are special, very special and it is time we began to understand that. It is precisely, the no better than a worm thinking that devalues human beings. It is that thinking that furthers that idea of war, in that, humans are the fodder for wars to be used to advance the greed for wealth and power of the few.
        In your, "The last I checked--" is a bit elusive in meaning. Are you saying that we should begin a systemic killing of humans to lower this percentage of intake. More and greater war will ensure that.
        You pose a problem of food intake and over population of humans without a solution. Without using the power of reason, relying on what tools you think a lower primate might have or perhaps a worm, provide a solution. Or you can wallow in the delight of warm moist soil, as a worm might do and take pleasure in that, which you have no ability to understand, comprehend or define.
        All that is perceived to exist is defined by Man, by reasoning Man. That which we cannot perceive, is wondered by a reasoning mind.
        It is we who know and understand that the universe exists. It is we who begin to understand and answer our own questions, not the worm, not the french fry. It is ours. This understanding, not shared with french fries, although I have tried, but to no avail, is an understanding of all advanced reasoning life forms. I do not think that we, humans, are alone in this talent. The universe is to big, to vast to be so arrogant.
        Life, of all varieties, is a precious commodity and it is the reasoning mind that comprehends that, no other animal does. This in itself is a testament to reason and the stewardship that accompanies that power.
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          Mar 28 2014: Each living being is special, each grain of this universe is special in that sense. You appeal to reasoning, and I am simply using it. Am I posing a problem? Or you are ignoring the facts, observations and information? Are you not proposing a notion that one has to have a solution to talk about a problem?
          The last I checked was about 10 years ago. It is hardly elusive rather researched, peer-reviewed and documented.
          By power of reason it does not seem possible to me that a finite resource base can be infinitely exploited in the name of human ingenuity. The resultant economy and market systems appear absurd to me.
          "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." -- Kenneth Boulding, economist
          One has to be seriously gullible to ignore the cruelty,destruction and mayhem that are human's history, and notwithstanding the pinnacle of arts,technology and science that humans created.
          The appeal to reason is necessary for us to see the transgression of the planetary boundaries as seen by one mortal named Rockstrom.
          I am not ashamed of being human, no. I simply see no reason why I should see humans as special in any intelligent way.