Children, for your future safety, step away from the equator. Move in an orderly fashion towards the poles. We have our stardate set on the year 2050, and things are very different around here.
In this current year of 2012, we are waiting to get past the Apocolypse in December, as foretold by the Mayans, after which we can settle into a 47-year lull until we hit the next big year of hyperbole. While the year 2020 sounds cute and looks very stylish, there’s nothing quite like a mid-century to get the predictions flowing. Enter 2050, the year when everything converges/distintegrates/rolls over and plays dead. If nothing else, it gets us half-way to 2100, when most of today’s readers will be dead, but never mind, as the planet might be useless anyway.
Unless you live in Greenland. Business will be booming due to a warmer climate, allowing for settlement on the formerly icy tundra, and the new wealth from oil will be pumping out of the Artic. (Not one to miss out, China already plowed through the North Pole this year and has applied to become an official “Artic” nation. They must know something).
In his lauded book The World of 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civiliztion’s Northern Future, author Laurence C. Smith predicts the “new north” will rule the world, with Russia and Canada emerging as the biggest winners. The 2010 book tops the Amazon.com list of more than 1,500 books with some connection to 2050—some more histrionic than others. Smith’s approach is as measured as one might expect from a Guggenheim Fellow who hails from the UCLA department of geography. It’s a matter of latitude, without the attitude.
And it has pictures! The photo that freaked me out was of a dead bear in 2006, later confirmed as the first known hybrid of a grizzly and a polar bear. A polzy bear? A grizlar? It seems so wrong, but the bears are apparently down with the swirl. For those of you too dense to make the real connection, the changing climate has brought them together.
The statistic that freaked me out was the so-called population bomb that will bring the world from 7 billion people today to more than 9 billion in 2050. Every day, the world’s net population increases by more than 200,000 people—as if the entire population of Reno cloned itself every day. Talk about your Reno 9-1-1. As we have been told by Thomas Friedman, the world is getting too crowded, too hot, and too connected for its own good. Tick tock tick tock . . .
To these three ingredients, Smith adds a fourth dimension, called “resource demand,” or in other words, people treating the world as their own personal Wal-mart with no spending limit. Just imagine . . . how many people would get trampled on Black Friday, if Wal-Mart announced that, exactly at 5 a.m., . . . everything would be free.
Instead of focusing on the inevitable chaos, Smith draws attention to the potential winners that have previously been stuck under the permafrost. All that melting water will be extremely valuable (he calls it “blue oil”), because the hotter portions of the planet are also predicted to become drier, thereby leaving billions of people in the dust. In the year 2050, mass migration is so in.
The USA does pretty well because of Alaska, and Scandinavia also reaps the benefits from years of socialized medicine and mandatory education. But the new BRICs will be RC Cola—Russian and Canadian. Put them together, just like the grizzly and the polar bear, and you have a recipe for world domination by the Rus-Cans.
Now you know where your children are in 2050, eh? They are employed near the North Pole in Murmansk—installing air conditioners.