Everyone wants to predict the future, but Laurence Smith actually does so in his new book, “The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Our Civilization’s Northern Future” (Dutton, 2010).
The definition of a winner and loser depends on your point of view. There will be a surprising rise of indigenous power; from a human rights perspective, the indigenous groups are huge winners.
During the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, these people were pushed out, but in recent years there’s a been a rise in aboriginal power. It started in 1971 in Alaska with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Throughout most of northern Canada, they are all urbanizing and moving to cities. It’s a young population. Kids there today don’t want to live in a cabin, hunting and fishing; they want to live in town with a Wii.
Looking forward to 2050, the developed countries will be elderly. Fertility rates are falling all around the globe. Every place where women have more education, they choose to have smaller families.
Up to 30% of undiscovered natural gas in the world is in the Arctic. Most of it is in Russia. Russia is the natural gas giant and will be even more so in the future.
Access to clean water is the greatest sustainable challenge in our century. You don’t even need to invoke climate change to understand the water stress we’ll face.
It won’t completely melt, but when it first begins to melt, sinkholes open up and the roads buckle, crack and fall. You can build on permafrost, but once it cracks and buckles -- this can cause buildings built on top of it to crack and then collapse.