No government today is capable of addressing problems uniquely developing under humanity today -not democracy either, nor present-day 'scientists' either. The entirety and vastness of this 'uniquely developing
phenomenon' is discussed in one place -and one place alone-
Human Nature and Continuing Human Existence
Dec 10th 2009 Economist Magazine
The future of the Arctic
The bleakest outlook in the world
Oil, gas, shipping and overfishing all threaten northern waters
[two book reviews]
On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear. By Richard Ellis. Knopf; 416 pages; $28.95. Buy from Amazon.com
After the Ice: Life, Death and Geopolitics in the New Arctic. By Alun Anderson. Smithsonian; 304 pages; $26.99. Virgin Books; £20. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
THE Arctic is changing faster and more dramatically than any other environment on the planet. The ice that defines it is melting with alarming speed, taking with it life that can survive nowhere else. Oil, gas, shipping and fishing interests have
been heading into the newly open water, with diplomats, lawyers, and now authors, in their wake.
In “On Thin Ice” Richard Ellis, a writer and illustrator, paints a natural history of the icon of the north, the polar bear. Well-versed in the complicated history and politics of whaling, he describes the long tradition of Arctic
explorers who proved themselves by taking on the white bear. Admiral Nelson’s encounter as a plucky 14-year-old midshipman fighting only with the butt of his musket is surely a myth, but others are true.
Young bears, captured as they swam after the bodies of their newly killed mothers, were caught and sent to zoos and circuses. One early 20th-century big-top act featured 75 polar bears at once. Even today, zoo enclosures are still
typically a millionth of the area of a wild adult’s range. The climate is rarely suitable: the resident polar bear in Singapore has turned green from algae growing within the hollow hairs of its coat.
Mr Ellis draws on the accounts of other writers and historians, and often returns to the threat that hunters pose to the survival of the species. Although banned in Norway, America and Russia, the killing continues in Greenland and
Canada, where hunters in helicopters and skidoo-riding Inuit Indians both use high-powered assault rifles to bring down their quarry.
Ironically it is in the waters towards the north of those two hunting nations that the ice will last longest. In his new book, “After the Ice”, Alun Anderson, a former editor of New Scientist, offers a clear and chilling account of the
science of the Arctic and a gripping glimpse of how the future may turn out there.
Not that scientists have all the answers. Neither atmospheric scientists nor oceanographers can adequately account for the speed of the changes. It is not for want of trying. Fridtjof Nansen’s pioneering journeys at the end of the 19th
century and early 20th century first hinted at the whirling of the ice pack. Cold-war submarines then mapped the shifting ridges running beneath it. Satellite surveys and large arrays of iceberg-mounted probes are a useful addition, but much is still
done by hardy individuals camped out in the cold.
Mr Anderson looks in on the extraordinary, tiny world of the tributary system within the Arctic ice, formed by trickles of briny water which gets squeezed as it freezes. But from the bear above to the microscopic wonders within, all are
doomed once the summer ice goes, which is expected to happen at some point between 2013 and 2050.