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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The Chapstick At The End Of The World

Masterful dystopian novelist here, reporting on the predicted end of the world as we know it.

So, dear readers, shall I advise you to stockpile gold bullion and bullets? Noooo, actually end-of-the-world economics will not be based at all on gold — can’t eat it, and it won’t prevent sunburn or cure warts or do anything else useful, therefore you won’t be able to trade it for much because in addition to being useless, it is heavy to carry around. You and everyone else will have more important things to think about than jewelry.

Ok, what about bullets? Yes, you would think they might be a good medium of exchange, at least until they are all used up or the guns break or rust. But bullets will not be a universal currency — only those with the right type of guns that utilize the type of bullets you happen to have will be interested in bartering with you. And once you’ve given them the bullets for their gun… well, how long will they let you keep the stuff they just gave you for the bullets? Maybe this will work if you have more and better guns than they do. But the odds are against being able to get the stuff you want with bullets, unless you put the bullets in your own gun, thence to rob and/or kill, which brings up more fundamental issues than dystopian economics…

Returning to the subject at hand, let’s look at other possible media of exchange. How about coffee? Soon to become rare, coming all the way from Central and South America, and valuable as a stimulant. Say, speaking of stimulants, might as well throw some of that Columbian marching powder on the back of the donkey or in the hold of the sailboat as you bring it north…

Hmmm. Sailboat — now there’s an idea — a boat that can carry heavy loads from place to place without fossil fuel. Might be handy to have.

But since not everyone will acquire a sailboat — or a donkey — just in case the world might come to an end, let’s bring this down to a more basic level. How about band-aids and antiseptic ointment? Aspirin? Chapsticks? These are small and inexpensive items, easy to stockpile, that just about everyone will want once the world comes to an end, since there will be a lot of headaches, infections and chapped lips. Two chapsticks for a chicken? Well, alright, I’ll make it three.

In
image
We Trust.
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