Vote early and move past the election

The Wall Street Journal says the human race had better get used to the cold.

It’s time to take a gut check regarding short-term bunkum and, instead, ponder the long term.

If you’re like me, for example, this election season has become agonizing. Don’t those nauseating television commercials turn your stomach? I say vote early and move on. Pick a good book, look ahead and tune out politics.

My book choice: The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith. I’m going to thump for it this whole column. Never before have I devoted an entire column to one book, but this one is well worth it.

The author, a Guggenheim fellow, is vice chairman and professor of geography and professor of earth and space sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles.

He wrote a thought experiment book on the world to come some four decades before it arrives. He says modeling capabilities are good enough, but he acknowledges at the same time that it’s a daunting task.

Smith analyzes four global forces: 1) demography; 2) growing demands that human desires place on natural resources, services and the gene pool; 3) globalization; and 4) climate change.

Sounds dull, but it is riveting. It’s the most thought-provoking tome to pass my way in years. Some verbiage from the dust cover flap:

“Smith combines the lessons of geography and history with state-of-the-art model projections and analytical data—everything from resource stocks to age distributions and economic growth projections. But Smith offers more than a compendium of statistics and studies—he spent 15 months traveling the northern world, gathering personal insights and interviews. These stories resonate throughout the book, making The World of 2050 an extraordinary human work of scientific investigation.”

Here are short takes showing why this book should be your next good read.

“For over 100 years, the United States was the world’s dominant oil producer,” Smith wrote. “Then, in October 1970, its domestic production peaked at just over 10 million barrels per day—about the same as Saudi Arabia’s production today—before beginning to fall.

“American oil companies launched an epic search to find new domestic reserves. Within 10 years the United States was drilling four times as many wells as during the peak, but its production still dropped anyway—to 8.5 million barrels per day and falling. By December 2009, it was down to just 5.3 million barrels per day. So much for ‘drill, baby, drill’ as the solution to energy supply problems.”

Smith wrote of water and snowmelt, as important or perhaps more so for our area.

“This seasonal shift to earlier snowmelt runoff portends big problems for the North American West and other places that rely on winter snowpack to sustain agriculture through long, dry summers. California’s Central Valley—the biggest agricultural producer in the United States—depends heavily on Sierra snowmelt, for example. But the long-term projection for health of the western U.S. snowpack is not good. It has already diminished in spring, despite overall increases in winter precipitation, in many places.

“By late 2008, Tim Barnett at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and 11 other scientists had definitively linked this phenomenon to human-caused climate warming. This is not good news, they wrote in ‘Science’, warning of ‘a coming crisis in water supply for the western United States.’”

Smith’s major theme is that northern latitudes will increase in importance, saying in effect: Go north, young man. He offers food for thought long past Election Day. Our leaders should think so far ahead.