Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Young Woman, Go North

by Tom Phillips
October in Siberia 

Flying from New York to Tokyo and back in late October, we looked down and saw endless stretches of uninhabited, frozen land – in northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Russia's Kamchatka peninsula. The topography was normal –  mountains and valleys, rivers of ice – but the weather was not suited to civilization.

Meanwhile we read in the New York Times that by the year 2100, the Persian Gulf may be too hot to support human life – that spending even a few hours outdoors would overtax our capacity to ventilate and hydrate our bodies.

What is to be done?  Amidst all the hand-wringing and doomsday scenarios, one notion keeps poking at my mind.    

Would it be wrong to suggest that as global warming increases, it will open up new areas for human habitation, even as it shuts down others?  It's too late to undo the effects of 150 years of industrialization. So we may have to do what humans have always done – migrate in search of greener pastures. Such pastures are already opening up – e.g. in Greenland, the ice-­capped continent that now has a growing season on its southern fringes.

Three of our daughters have already migrated to cooler climes – two to Seattle, one to the San Francisco Bay, where high ground and the natural air conditioning of the Pacific Ocean protect cities from excessive heats and flooding.

But why not go all the way? Twenty years ago, a fellow writer at CBS News announced she was quitting and taking off for Alaska.  Asked if she was looking for a job, Maureen Clark said -- No, I'm looking for an adventure.

A Google search reveals that she eventually got both – becoming a public affairs officer for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, writing and photographing the great outdoors of the biggest, most northern state.   

Commending such a step is not to minimize the damage and suffering that are inevitable from global warming, or to suggest that nothing needs to be done.  There is no easy solution for many people, particularly the poor in low-lying tropical countries.  But for the human race as a whole, we may have to move, or die.  

A hundred years from now, the Persian Gulf could be uninhabitable, and Florida will probably be under water.  So, why not beat the rush?  To paraphrase Horace Greeley, “Young Woman, Go North.” 

Or to quote Calvin and Hobbes:  Yukon Ho!

-- Copyright 2015 by Tom Phillips 

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1 comment:

  1. Another remarkable reflection.
    And refreshingly hopeful perspective on implications of global warming.