From the NYT
The Message of Thomas Friedman’s New Book: It’s Going to Be O.K.
By JOHN MICKLETHWAIT NOV. 22, 2016
Micklethwait is editor in chief of Bloomberg News
and before that editor in chief of The Economist
THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE
An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations
By Thomas L. Friedman
486 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $28.From Donald Trump to Brexit to Marine Le Pen, one thing that unites the unhappy West is a profound sense of mystification. Across Europe and North America, people have an acute feeling that their world is accelerating away from them — but they can’t quite understand why. There is no narrative. Hence the attraction of leaders who “tell it like it is” and identify convenient scapegoats, like immigrants or the European Union. …The problem is that our capacity to adapt is being outpaced by a “supernova,” built from three ever faster things: technology, the market and climate change.
I don’t get the status appeal of claiming that climate change is happening fast. Wouldn’t it be more prestigious to say, “Sure, you can barely notice the climate changing with your own senses, but if you read the scientists aggregating enormous amounts of data from around the world using sophisticated statistical techniques, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
It could be that climate change could speed up in the future, but right now it’s pretty slow.
For example, I was pretty obsessed with things like the tree line at high elevations when I was a Boy Scout in 1970-71. Above a certain elevation, the growing season is just too short to support trees. For example, in Southern California, Mt. San Jacinto above Palm Springs has trees all the way to its peak at 10,831 feet. However, Mt. San Gorgonio at 11,503 feet is known as Old Greyback because it’s summit is above the tree line: tree species on the top exist only as shrubs a few feet tall. In the Sierra Nevadas to the north the tree line is a little lower because of the altitude / latitude trade-off. So I went to look up whether global warming has raised the tree line over the last 45 years. In turns out, according to Wikipedia
, that scientist have created theoretical models predicting that the tree line will rise in the future if global warming continues and/or happens. But there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that anything noticeable has happened since I was 12.
It’s hardly a “supernova” of ever faster change. For example, the NYT recently trumpeted the bad news that in Niger, the average temperature has gone up 0.7 degrees centigrade over the last four decades. That’s not nothing, but it’s awfully hard to notice in your daily life.
In contrast to climate change, demographic change is awfully obvious and does vastly more to explain “Donald Trump to Brexit to Marine Le Pen” than climate change. But for some reason it’s not something that we’re supposed to pay much attention to. Thus:
The chapters on climate change and the market are stuffed with similar nuggets. But Friedman also shows how all three forces interact, complicating and speeding up one another. In Niger, climate change is wrecking crops even as technology is helping more children survive, so a population of 19 million will reach 72 million hungry people by 2050.
So you are supposed to take away the message that causality runs from Climate Change to population growth. And, although Micklethwait isn’t going to sully himself by mentioning immigration, if you are wondering why your recent trip to Paris kind of failed to live up to your expectations of the City of Light due to all the Third Worlders cluttering up the avenues, well that’s due to Climate Change too. Sure, 0.7 degrees doesn’t sound like much, but you can’t go around asking Africans to have a more sustainable of children. Because Demographic Change just isn’t a Thing, while Climate Change is a Thing you are allowed to worry about.
African overpopulation seems like the least difficult global crisis to do something about. Most of the rest of the world has brought their fertility under control. It’s just that nobody wants to be so crude as to publicly suggests to Africans that they do the same. It seems kind of racist to suggest that if the world has eight times as many Africans in 2100 as in 1990, that might not be a wholly wonderful thing, so nobody mentions it.
Commenter FactsAreImportant observes:
For the past few decades, an increasingly popular cliche has been to insert “increasingly” in front of an adjective even when there is no real evidence that the adjective is actually increasing. Friedman, the lazy cliche-slinger par excellence, uses the trope here in its “ever faster” incarnation:The problem is that our capacity to adapt is being outpaced by a “supernova,” built from three ever faster things: technology, the market and climate change.But behold. Friedman introduces a new cliche, an increasingly new and insightful cliche, the cliche of intersectionality.Friedman also shows how all three forces interact, complicating and speeding up one another.Not only are all the derivatives positive (all the forces are “speeding up”), but all the cross-derivatives are positive as well (all the forces are “speeding up one another”)!So, Friedman’s insights and farsightedness are not just increasingly insightful and farsighted any more. No. His increasingly insightful insights and farsighted farsightedness are interacting and accelerating each to increasingly higher levels of intersectional insightfulness and farsightedness. He has become a raging, swirling vortex of insight and farsightedness.