[CEE/PCC] Laurence C. Smith: "The world in 2050: Four forces shaping civilization's northern future"

Start Date/Time: Thursday, January 27, 2011, 3:30 PM
Location: 220 More Hall

About the Speaker:
Dr. Smith's research interests focus on hydrology and the effects of climate and environmental change, especially in northern environments. He spent 15 months traveling the Northern Rim and other parts of the world to find out what our future will look like. He visited remote Arctic villages, lived on a Canadian icebreaker, interviewed lumberjacks, diamond miners, seamen, and government officials, and even met his wife in the Finnish Lapland along the way. Smith published a book based on these travels, THE WORLD IN 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future, presenting his comprehensive and balanced vision of our future—and surprisingly, the news isn't all bad.

Could the twenty-first century see the decline of the southwestern United States and European Mediterranean, but the ascent of the northern United States, Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia? UCLA hydrologist and Guggenheim Fellow Laurence C. Smith's seminar has the same title as his recent (2010) book. He shows how and why the north has become increasingly vital to global human survival and prosperity. Smith's sweeping vision of what the world might look like in forty years' time is assembled from his comprehensive - and balanced - analysis of four global forces: Smith's core argument is that four global forces - demography, natural resources, globalization, and climate change - put unprecedented pressure on the world to expand north. The planet's northern quarter of latitude, he concludes, will in many ways become more pleasant, prosperous, stable and powerful as a result of these pressures. It will possess the largest remaining wildernesses on Earth, abundant water and energy resources, milder winters, immigrant-friendly cultures, and be the most desirable place to emigrate and work. These and other factors explain why the population of Canada, for example, should rise more than 30% by 2050 - a rate of growth rivaling India. From temperatures to water supply, from safe cities to gross domestic product, he argues that our planet's livability is moving from south to north.