Dr. Laurence Smith (of the UCLA Geography Department) on "The World in 2050"

Mar 28, 2012

On today's show, we speak with Dr. Laurence Smith, a professor of geography at UCLA, about his much-discussed book, "The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future," which first appeared in 2010 (and which The Wall Street Journal called "lively and impressive...[and] among the first in what promises to be an important publishing category, the explication of how the human landscape will be altered by artificially triggered climate change"). Dr. Smith will give the free-to-the-public 2012 John Wesley Powell Memorial Lecture here at the University of Tulsa on Sunday, April 1st, at 7:30pm. His address is likewise called "The World in 2050," and it will happen in TU's Lorton Performance Center as part of the joint meeting of the 15th Annual TU Student Research Colloquium and the 86th AAAS Regional Conference. (You can learn more about this meeting, and about the Powell lecture, here.) One critic, writing about Dr. Smith's book in Booklist, has noted the following: "How will civilization change over the next 40 years if humanity balloons to nine billion, sea level rises by a foot and atmospheric temperature by several degrees, and globalization continues apace? From those assumptions, Smith, a university-employed geophysicist, posits answers with a focus on the Arctic Ocean and its coastline. Familiar with the Far North through scientific field trips, Smith embeds personal observations into his predictions about the effects of boreal warming. Becoming more accessible to ships, Arctic regions in Russia, Alaska, and Canada will experience a raw-materials bonanza, with oil, natural gas, minerals, and water resources likely to be exploited as permafrost melts and summer sea ice recedes. Festooned with data, his discussions of such prospects valuably avoid either environmental or industrial advocacy and lay a factual foundation for his readers to learn how demographic and economic trends in the world’s southerly population belts might influence development of the Arctic. Concluding with a half-dozen events that could upset his forecast, Smith exhibits trend-spotting skill in this readable account of the Arctic frontier."