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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cultivating Potatoes and Hysteria

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You have no idea how difficult it is to train a lap dog to attack people," an old friend recently told me.

"Why would you want your dog to attack someone?" I asked.

"Seven million people are already out of work," he explained, "and that number will grow. It's time to start thinking about how to protect myself when all the new criminals start roaming the streets."

Along with the warmer weather I have noticed a surge of apocalyptic premonitions in the media. From morning until night, we hear endless details about the shooting rampage by a disturbed Moscow police officer. In addition, we are bombarded with news of an imminent swine flu pandemic that is sweeping the world and approaching Russia. One of the most popular themes on morning television is how many more Russians are cultivating potatoes this year at their dachas.

Last week, Vedomosti published a study by U.S. consulting company Eurasia Group that predicted the increasing likelihood of an uprising in Russia. Commentators on Ekho Moskvy radio discussed the same theme throughout the next morning. I imagined dacha-goers listening to the news and plowing up their flowerbeds to plant potatoes to tide them over during the hard times ahead.

But what I found most disturbing was a series of three articles published in Novaya Gazeta in April that contained correspondence between jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and science fiction writer Boris Strugatsky. The theme: The world's hydrocarbon reserves are running out, no viable alternatives have been found and the planet faces an imminent acute global energy shortage. Within the next 10 to 15 years, people everywhere will reject democratic values, and regional wars will break out over access to oil fields and fresh water. But there was one optimistic note amid all of the gloom and doom: The human race will survive as a species.

Those predictions make my hair stand on end. You have to agree that an all-out war for every kilowatt-hour of electricity is far worse than any financial crisis.

In this regard, I recalled former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov, whose fate mirrors that of Khodorkovsky's. Both have been charged with embezzlement.

In addition, Adamov wrote a series of long articles in his own defense that were published in Izvestia. I therefore turned to Adamov for commentary as a "colleague" of Khodorkovsky's in the sense that both worked in the energy field, published articles and have been serving prison terms on charges they insist were trumped-up.

"We have enough oil for at least 100 years," Adamov said. "Although it will become increasingly expensive to extract. But we have sufficient coal for 500 years," he said. "If humanity can get by for the next 500 years, what's the point in getting worked up about an apocalypse?" he asked. Adamov added that new nuclear technologies could provide sufficient energy to both rich and poor countries for the next several thousand years.

After finally hearing the opinion of a specialist, I was able to relax for the first time in recent weeks. I also gave myself a pat on the back for not caving in to the mass hysteria by sending my 7-kilogram West Highland terrier to training school to protect me against the enraged mobs of unemployed workers. Nonetheless -- just to be on the safe side -- I decided not to go to my dacha this weekend. Had I gone, I may have been tempted to tear up my lawn and plant potatoes, as all my neighbors are doing.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of IFRA-GIPP Magazine for publishing business professionals.