Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - Page 8 News List


Environmental D-Day

The recent interview with Laurence Smith (“Northern Lights,” page 13, Sept. 22) about how climate change might positively impact nations that lie north of 45 degrees latitude was well reported. Smith’s book, The World in 2050, is an important one, too. When it was reviewed last year in the Seattle Times, the reviewer said that Smith in the final analysis “comes up with some bleak conclusions.”

The Taipei Times asked Smith if he had read the Seattle Times piece that concluded that the future looked grim and if he agreed.

“I’m optimistic,” Smith told the reporter, adding: “There are lots of reasons for optimism … That being said, looking at climate change, I am actually quite pessimistic.”

The Seattle Times said that the book was “an important book, a wake-up call for doubting Thomases who believe it’s OK to drive gas guzzlers because they can afford it. As I read it one thought I never had before kept reoccurring: Thank goodness I’m old.”

While Smith remains an optimist in his public lectures and on his international book tour, as he told the Taipei Times, he is in fact “quite pessimistic” when looking at what’s happening to our world in terms of climate change.

Smith is right to feel pessimistic about what we are doing to this Earth, and it is high time that everyone becomes grim and despairing about the future because of what we are doing with fossil fuels.

While Smith believes that nations in the northern regions will benefit in the short term from climate change — longer summer agricultural seasons, shorter shipping routes through an ice-free Arctic — he also says that in the long term, if there is to be a long term, we must stop using fossil fuels, tone down our luxurious lifestyles and start living in a more -environmentally friendly way.

I myself am a pessimist and I feel that by 2050, 2080, 2100 for sure, the Earth’s population will have been decimated by catastrophic climate events that will see more than 8 billion people die and leave only 200,000 souls eking out a sad existence in those regions above 45 degrees latitude. It’s not going to be a pretty picture and we have to stop fooling ourselves and pretending that everything is going to be okay.

Everything is not going to be okay.

How loud must one shout from the rooftops to alert the world to the fact that we are in dire straits? We are looking at life in “polar cities” by the year 2080, and not a sanitized Hollywood view of such a science fiction scenario.

Indeed, we are headed to hell on Earth. Smith does not want to say this in public because he is a respectable professor from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a book and a career to promote, and I salute him for his probing research.

I am glad he came to Taiwan to speak at the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation’s MediaTek lecture series, as he has an important message.

However, Smith’s message is not enough. It is time to drop the optimism and become realistic about humankind’s future.

If we do not collectively act right now, then we will be doomed. What does it take to wake a sleeping planet? Do people think that life in polar cities is going to be fun — and a financial boost to economies?

We are headed to hell on Earth. We will live, those of us who survive, that is, in desolate polar cities. Enough of this pretty academic rigamarole about a happy future in what Smith calls “northern rim countries.”

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