Maybe by 2050 all this snow and ice will melt. And, after reading Laurence C. Smith’s The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future, you get the impression that you might want to be in Canada when it happens.
The book presents a relatively optimistic view from sea traffic across the Arctic to potato farms in Greenland. It seems awfully optimistic about countries bordering the Arctic peacefully settling claims to the resources opened up, and way too optimistic about people’s ability to settle water disputes amicably. There’s a glowing, rose-colored glasses description of how aboriginal populations in Canada are claiming power and reclaiming their land. Things don’t look so good to the Sami or the aborginal peoples in Russia, who are largely being sidelined to “preserve their culture”.
The book tells some strange stories of the North. For example, during WWII, Canada allowed the American Army to build the Alaska Highway, so they could ship airplanes to Russia. And there are huge cities in Siberia which are nearly inaccessible except by ice roads in the winter.
On the down side, but as the permafrost melts, land traffic runs into trouble. On the downer side, oil extraction from the Albertan tar sands is strip-mining the land and turning it into Mordor, but there’s too much money in the project to stop it. And for a real downer, there’s the Pentagon Report which paints a worst case, all-out war scenario.
And in the meantime, we get to enjoy the Siberian air sweeping down the north.