Vanishing Ice and Future Economics

In my novel, TWIST, set in the year 2075, the seas have risen as a result of global warming, inundating the coastal cities and driving the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi River valley. The current exhibition at the Whatcom Museum, entitled Vanishing Ice, presents a sobering visual record of the process that has been taking us there for the past 250 years.

Seventy works of art – photos, videos and paintings by a range of international artists – depict alpine and polar environments, highlighting the massive recession of glaciers and ice fields, the fundamental changes caused by global warming.

This leads us into another dimension of dystopian economics, as a follow-up to my previous post, The Chapstick At The End Of The World: the increasing economic value of an ever-more-scarce ecology.

Vanishing Ice by Noble -- Click To Enlarge

In the utopian scenario, we foresee wealthy ecotourists paying big bucks to visit the last few penguins and polar bears in their native habitat. For example, here is a print from the museum show by Anne Noble, entitled Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica, and described as follows: “Anne Noble juxtaposes Antarctica’s seemingly inaccessible landscape with empty plastic chairs that perhaps represent the droves of tourists eager to experience the ice before climate change transforms the continent. A sense of loss pervades her work, as Antarctica becomes yet another commodity for the taking.”

Vanishing Ice by Braasch -- Click To Enlarge

But then there is the dystopian vision of this future, in which desperate tribes of humans armed with pointy sticks fight for control of the few remaining repositories of fresh water, since the glaciers and snowfields which fed them are long gone. Take a look at this pair of photos of the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, the more recent shot in 2005 by Gary Braasch, compared to Arthur Oliver Wheeler’s 1917 image. From the description in the museum exhibit:“ [they] confirm the scientific data that the Athabasca Glacier has lost half its volume and retreated almost a mile (1.5 km) since its discovery in 1898.

Hate to be Mr. Negative, but what do you think? Take a look at Vanishing Ice and decide for yourself.

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