Monday, February 21, 2011
The World In 2050 Four Forces Shaping Civilizations Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith
Laurence C. Smith is a geographer and a professor of earth and space science at UCLA. This book is about much more than climate change. It is about how the arctic is changing. This change is fueling a race for new resources in oil, natural gas, fisheries, mining, shipping, and open land.
In the beginning of the book, he focuses on four forces that bring change to the world; demographics, climate change, natural resource demand, and globalization. All of these are increasingly important. Global temperatures are rising, there are more people, more people are moving to cities, there is less water and other resources, and trade is more interdependent worldwide.
I think he may be wrong about some things. He does not factor in new technologies like urban farming, wave power, or digital fabrication. He is basing his predictions on there being no major breakthrough technologies.
The book is fascinating. It is easy to follow the changes he is describing. Brazil, Russia, India, and China are becoming manufacturing powers. India's cities are going to be the largest in the world.
We get to read about the consequences both negative and positive of the four forces. One thing I found especially interesting was his description of how wildlife and plant life are starting to move northward towards the heating arctic. I especially liked his description of a hybrid grizzly/polar bear.
In the second part of the book, he describes how the NORC countries; Canada, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and the United States are going to benefit in some ways from the opening of the arctic. Part of this description is how the United Nations arctic treaties are cementing the NORC countries peaceful control over the area.
Russia and Canada will be the futures largest suppliers of oil and natural gas. Also, there will be more water in the north as the arctic warms, and the southern countries water supplies dry up. The predictions show a pattern of rising importance for the northern countires.
We also learn how native populations in the Arctic will become more important, just like in Alaska where land and oil rights were given to many native Americans; in Canada, a whole new territory called New Nunavut has been carved out of the Arctic for the Canadian native peoples. It is being developed along a similar pattern to Alaska.
This is a fascinating story. I think the changes he is describing will be much faster than Laurence C. Smith anticipates. He is using very mainstream measurements.. There is a lot in this book worth thinking about.