The global energy landscape is changing fast

Over a fifth of Europe’s energy was generated by solar panels and wind turbines in the first half of 2020

The global energy landscape is changing fastPeak oil demand is approaching fast – and earlier than anticipated. It’s not that oil won’t be required in the years and decades to come. It will still be in demand. But the world won’t be critically, crucially and strategically dependent on oil, as it is today. This year may be the turning point for…

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynasty

They were canny, enduring and keen on expansion. In the end, however, the empire couldn't survive the First World War

The Habsburgs: Rise and fall of Europe’s premier dynastyThanks to a voluble professor of European history at University College Dublin, the Habsburgs first piqued my curiosity in the early 1960s. Then the interest lay dormant until a chance 2011 visit to the imperial crypt in Vienna’s Capuchin monastery. In operation since 1632, the crypt contains the tombs of more than 140 Habsburg royalty.…

Exiting the lockdown with care and intelligence

Recognizing the devastating consequences of allowing the COVID-19 lockdown to go on indefinitely, Austria is gingerly moving forward

Exiting the lockdown with care and intelligenceSebastian Kurz is Austria’s 33-year-old chancellor. He’s also one of Europe’s most interesting political leaders. And as Austria takes its first steps towards exiting the COVID-19 lockdown, he’s putting himself out front again. First, a backgrounder on Kurz. With his youth, charisma and all-round media savvy, Kurz may superficially strike Canadians as an Austrian version…

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequences

How about Scottish independence and Irish unification, just to start the conversation?

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequencesLet’s do a thought experiment. We’ll begin by making two speculative stipulations. First, assume that Boris Johnson comes out of the United Kingdom’s Dec. 12 general election with a comfortable Conservative majority. Thus empowered, he pushes his new European Union withdrawal agreement through parliament without any material amendments and the U.K. then leaves the EU…

How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at war

Under the leader ship of Eamon de Valera and with a very small army, virtually no aerial capability and little naval service, Ireland was a sitting duck in the Second World War

How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at warAs we approach the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, it’s worth remembering that many of the countries caught up in it were unwilling participants. Rather than enlisting in a universal crusade against the evils of Nazi Germany, they wanted nothing more than to stay out of the conflict. For instance,…

The unsung heroes of Waterloo

The Longest Afternoon, by historian Brendan Simms, provides depth, nuance and new insight

The unsung heroes of WaterlooAlthough I considered myself reasonably well informed about the June 1815 Battle of Waterloo, the critical role of the King’s German Legion (KGL) and La Haye Sainte slipped below my radar. That’s been rectified by The Longest Afternoon, a slim volume from historian Brendan Simms. Simms, born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, is…

Human spirit has the strength to tear down walls

Many walls remain in the world, including physical ones and those of racism, sexism and economic injustice

Human spirit has the strength to tear down wallsThe most significant global event of my lifetime has been the fall of the Berlin Wall. It not only changed the geopolitical climate we live in, it also demonstrated the power of the human spirit. As a teacher, I often bring up this event. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently spoke to the graduates of Harvard…

The failure of an American president to compromise

Woodrow Wilson failed to accept the limitations and checks explicit in the American democratic system

The failure of an American president to compromiseWhen the Paris Peace Conference opened on Jan. 18, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson seemed to be at the top of his game. America’s entry had played a critical role in ending the First World War and Wilson’s famous Fourteen Points were acclaimed as the blueprint for a just settlement and a future world where…

Endeavour’s voyage of enlightenment added a hemisphere to the world

And, according to author Peter Moore, the endeavour attitude is characterized by dreaming of our better angels, not by acquiring more stuff

Endeavour’s voyage of enlightenment added a hemisphere to the worldMy daughter choreographs reading that plays to my whimsical non-fiction interests through Christmas gifts of books. This year, I carefully opened a beribboned volume by British author Peter Moore entitled Endeavour: The Ship and Attitude that Changed the World (2018). Right away, I recognized Endeavour as James Cook’s ship on his first epic voyage of discovery…

Buying used: 2010 Audi R8 has ‘collectible’ written all over it

The full measure of the high-end European sports car, with a symphony of mechanical noises emanating from the engine

Buying used: 2010 Audi R8 has ‘collectible’ written all over itBuilt on the Lamborghini Gallardo platform and patterned after one of Audi’s LeMans racers, the Audi R8 was introduced at the Paris Auto Show in 2006. Initially offered as a two-door hardtop, and later as a Spyder convertible, it was an instant sensation. Easily the most eye-catching production car ever put forward by the German…