“After the Ice”

When discussing how the Arctic is in peril, it seems the polar bear gets all the attention. The predator of the North may be in trouble, but that is not the only thing that is at stake. In his book, “After the Ice”, Alun Anderson explores the Arctic and what will happen to the region, and the rest of us, if the ice that covers the Far North disappears.

Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of “New Scientist” magazine, takes a broader scope in this book than the usual “man-made global warming is destroying the wildlife”. While he discusses this possibility, much of his investigation relies on first-hand exploration and interviews with those who actually live in the Arctic. It is not so much an expose of how the traditional life of the Inuit will be wiped out (although he does discuss how their culture will be effected by the chimeral Arctic geopolitics and climate change), but more to do with how the geopolitics of the involved might affect the region and the world itself.

The nineteenth century competition to find the Northwest Passage has evolved into a updated script for the twenty-first century, where the battlefield is one for resources such as natural gas, oil, and other mining concerns. In the midst of all these immediate business interests is how much the five countries who claim sovereignty are responsible for sustainable development, and how much of their national rights they should be giving up for the rest of the world in a climatic future that seems hard to predict. It is difficult to tell a country to stop harvesting for their economic interest in the name of global warming when the data seem hard to really quantify. Conflicts between the five most relevant countries, the United States, Canada, Norway, Russia, and Denmark could ensue as well. Anderson posts several conflicts of interests between some of these countries, and talks about the possibilities of conflicts of interest and what it could mean for those countries and the international community.

One interesting theory Anderson discusses is how the ice melting affects global warming. In the current year of 2010, it has been one of the coldest winters for much of the Northern Hemisphere. So where is this global warming that everyone has been talking about? Anderson cites with clarity how warming at either of the pole causes climate change, regardless how much snow fell in London or New York. A warming sea at the poles of the earth can mean disaster for the rest of us. To give a fair assessment, Anderson cites several ways that it may be possible for humanity to survive and thrive in this new reality.

Anderson tries to give a balanced treatment of the ice issue in his book, discussing the possible fate of the Arctic without being anti-business or anti-development. But he does not shy away from the negative effects that man might be wreaking on the planet. He suggests a particular means to mitigate climate change in the immediate future; one that interestingly enough, does not involve curbing greenhouse gases. His description of how the ice far away affects all the rest of us is a reminder that what happens far away does have an impact, and what we do has an impact more far reaching than we realize, both politically and environmentally.

One Response to ““After the Ice””

  1. Kathy T says:

    Yes we impact environment daily. This is an interesting book review.