Wednesday, October 28, 2009

General Freestyle sarcasm

re: An Ice Free Boom - FP Comment - Barry Zellen- Posted: October 27, 2009, 7:24 PM.

If there ever was an example of how out of touch with the world some people are this is definitely it.

Mr. Z here calls himself a climate change optimist. He believes that with the Arctic Ocean slated to be ice free during the summer by 2050 at the latest, we are on the cusp of an international cultural renaissance because it will be easier to trade across the arctic, linking North America and Europe to Asia in a way they never have before. Canada's Inuit peoples will gladly give away what bare remnants of their culture that remain for resource riches and white-collar culture as their traditional homelands become Fort McMurray north, and all the resource-hungry nations will agree to a territory treaty that everyone is happy with for eternity.

Mr. Z theorizes that after the arctic ice melts we can cut greenhouse gases using the arctic ocean by the decreased distance between locations, and that shipping lanes will be easily protected from piracy and terrorism. He finishes his grand vision of the future with the line "we can welcome the many changes that this new day will bring together — not just East and West, but North and South as well." That's right folks, melting arctic sea ice and opening up shipping lanes in the Northern hemisphere is somehow going to bring the northern nations closer together with the Southern hemisphere, which of course will only be affected by the ice-free arctic summers with massive hurricanes, droughts, floods and infestations of invasive and opportunistic species.

There is so much wrong with his logic here that it's really hard to figure out where to begin. Perhaps he means North and South will be closer together because the severe environmental and economic conditions in poorer southern nations will force more people from those nations to migrate to the north. Perhaps he means these nations can grow economically by undercutting the northern nations and doing all the shipping themselves. We may never know.

What of the pirates? Are they unable to rob ships on the Arctic for some reason? Maybe we can re-train polar bears to stop them. Obviously the pirate terrorists won't be thwarted by arctic sea ice.

Mr. Z is sure disgruntled Inuit peoples won't be engaging in any piracy - he points out that they've been seeing the destruction of their culture (presumably by ours) for over a century and they're ready to accept and get really rich and have no problems whatsoever to all the resource development that will be happening. Nope, none at all. The complete destruction of your society in the name of capitalism, that doesn't cause depression and isolation. Not in this man's universe.

Ignoring the fact that not having an ice-free arctic is part of the reason people are concerned about greenhouse gases, Mr. Z suggests we could cut greenhouse gases in shipping by the reduced distance between locations. Perhaps we could also minimize the effects of overfishing by fishing from this untouched area too. After all, those whales can figure out a different way to communicate besides singing, it's not as if the jump in traffic wouldn't in itself raise water temperatures, nor is there any reason to think that increased traffic (ie: economic growth) in the Arctic might not necessarily result in a decrease in traffic in the Pacific, Atlantic or Indian oceans. It would be ludicrous to even conceive of the idea that releasing hot greenhouse gases in the condensed, low temperature arctic wouldn't lead to other climate problems down the line.

Russia, having recently gone to the trouble of sending a submarine to the north pole and dropping a flag at it to signify it was their territory, will be a worry-free new trading partner. The eastern members of the EU can attest to this.

Now, to be fair, I'm somewhat of a climate change optimist myself. I occasionally fantasize about living in a post-reality world, climbing through the ruins of modern civilization, salvaging whatever I can, driving my beat-up alcohol-powered muscle car around a bleak and alien landscape and protecting beautiful maidens from zombie mutant dinosaurs with my martial arts powers*.

The chief (and scary difference) between my zombie apocalypse fantasy and this man's economic explosion driving world peace vision is that some of this man's expectations are sure fire bets, in that the arctic sea ice will melt, and the arctic will become a new shipping lane. But currently only a handful of countries have any sort of real access to the Arctic ocean, and all of those countries are industrialized. Chances are any industrialization of the arctic will result in greater climate transformations, which will result in more industrialization.

Perhaps the problem with this man's logic can be best summarized in his statement "While we can mourn the passage of an era and the loss of a unique ecosystem, we can also celebrate this tremendous transformation of the world, and the long-awaited final chapter of the Ice Age. Tomorrow’s Arctic will no longer be on the periphery but a “Midnight Sea” at the midpoint of the world’s sea routes, like the silk road of ancient times." which in non-business language translates to "We might be destroying everything unique and beautiful, but think of all the money we'll make!"

* The author of this piece possesses no martial arts powers.

1 comment:

Mr. Z said...

Eric - intriguing analysis!

Good points on piracy - Arctic waters may not be inherently immune to piracy. I was initially thinking the increased distance from sanctuaries in failed states would tend toward a more peaceful trade route - but some consider much of Siberia to be akin to a failed state, so there may indeed be some piracy risk in an open Polar sea.

...One quick clarification; by "North and South," I actually meant northern and southern Canada - but not the northern and southern hemispheres (which falls outside the scope of my inquiry).

Hey, it'd be fun to chat about this stuff on your radio show sometime!


"Mr. Z."
Author of "Arctic Doom/Arctic Boom: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in the Arctic" (Praeger, October 2009)