Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Geography books

Review copy received: The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future, by Laurence C. Smith. The thesis evidently involves global warming making the Arctic more important in geopolitics. Interestingly, I recently saw Robert Kaplan on Fareed Zakaria's excellent new show GPS, discussing his book Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (of which I've also requested a review copy) and making a case that Russia willl be a lesser power than China because the latter has a long warm-water coastline and the former is stuck up there in the Arctic. They can't both be right.

UPDATE 9/20: Actually, the Smith book suggests that China eventually might buy -- or even just take -- thinly populated sections of Russia for itself, so maybe the two books are not so contradictory. Monsoon publisher, am still waiting for my review copy.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, but if we have enough effects from positive feedbacks, we get runaway global warming, and many things in our conventional thinking will not matter that much. We may all be very busy trying to figure out how to grow crops and trying not to war over sparse resources. Think about all the heat not reflected back into space by the white ice caps, all the tundra releasing methane. Lots of black swans. We are not only loading the dice, we are creating dice that can roll 13s, 14s, 15s, and things can happen that didn't happen before because there weren't the conditions.

Eli Brennan said...

My understanding of this debate, from a shallow interaction with the Law of the Sea ratification debate, is that the Arctic Renaissance argument depends mainly on warming creating sea lanes that become important.

Different modeling suggests different degrees of this effect, and these (potential) sea lanes are additive from my understanding- so they don't displace currently available transport/power-projection options.

That may go some ways toward reconciling these views... though I wish i had time to wade into the books to check.

dan said...

Tidbit on the Smith book, he met his future wife in Lapland of Finland while researching the book. Two, the photo in the WSJ oped he wrote looks a lot like my polar cities work you might someday want to blog about polar cities see images here,, approved of my James Lovelock and featured in the New York Times Dot Earth two years ago

if interested, Siber-san, please contact me at danbloom in the gmail dept

I have reason to believe the Dot Earth will dish soon about Smith's NEW NORTH ideas....

Kenneth Silber said...

Thanks, Dan. Some interesting designs for polar habitats there.