Eugene Linden
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Lastest Musing
Time Warp on Climate Change

 

In yesterday's New York Times, there were two articles on climate change. The first was a front page piece about how President Obama will try to end-run Congressional paralysis on dealing with climate change by seeking to update the existing Kyoto treaty in ways that comm...
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Featured Book

The Ragged Edge of the World
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endangered animals
rapid climate change
global deforestation
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Books

Winds of Change
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Afterword to the softbound edition.


The Octopus and the Orangutan
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The Future In Plain Sight
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The Parrot's Lament
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Silent Partners
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Affluence and Discontent
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The Alms Race
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Apes, Men, & Language
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This web site contains links to Eugene Linden's essays, articles and books on a wide range of topics ranging from environment to social and economic issues. There are articles on the science and dynamics of climate change and the possible social, economic, and environmental effects of global warming ( including some of the first national articles on rapid climate change). Other environmental articles deal with endangered animals, the biodiversity crisis, threats to water supplies, global deforestation, and the politics of environment. The site also contains links to Linden's writings on social issues ranging from the plight of indigenous peoples to dynamics of financial markets. Some writings look forward offering future predictions about how such factors as the wage gap, population pressures, migration, and the rise of religious fanaticism might bring increased instability and drastic change.

-- Eugene Linden

the ragged edge of the worldThe Ragged Edge of the World


A species nearing extinction, a tribe losing the last traces of an accumulation of centuries of knowledge,  a tract of forest virtually untouched since prehistoric times facing the first incursions of humansóhow can we begin to assess the cost of the increasing disappearance of so much of our natural and cultural legacy? While these losses occasionally garner headlines, the pressures on earthís remaining wildlands and tribal peoples are unremitting and mounting.

For forty years Eugene Linden has explored environmental issues in a series of critically acclaimed books and in articles for publications ranging from National Geographic and Time to Foreign Affairs. His diverse assignments have frequently taken him to the very sites where tradition, wildlands and the various forces of modernity collide. In The Ragged Edge of the World, he recounts his adventures at this volatile frontier, where he has witnessed the dramatic transformations that follow in the wake of money, development and ideas as they make their way into the worldís last wild places.

Linden tells this story through encounters at this movable frontier. He takes us from Vietnam where exciting new species are being discovered near the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail to New Guinea and Borneo; from pygmy forests to Machu Picchu; from the Antarctic, where the entire ecosystem is changing, to the Ndoki, long celebrated as the most pristine rainforest in the Congo, which, even though it now has protection, suffers impacts from the outside world as dust, a portent of an ominous drying, blows in from the north. Even in the face of so much harm, however, many efforts at preservation have succeeded, and Linden charts the pioneering projects the protection of Midway Atollís vast albatross colony and Cubaís vigilant guardianship of its spectacularly beautiful landscape.

An elegy for what has been lost and a celebration of those cultures resilient enough to maintain their vibrancy and integrity, The Ragged Edge of the World captures the world at a turning point with a compelling immediacy that brings alive the people, animals and landscapes on the front lines, as change continues its remorseless march.

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Short Take

Since 1998, when The Future in Plain Sight was published, I’ve been watching the nine clues to future instability that I put forth in that book come into to the headlines one by one, and, unfortunately, way ahead of schedule. The basic argument in TFIPS is that the contours of the future might best be glimpsed through the filter of stability. While predicting whether we’d all have personal flying machines is a fool’s errand, we could know a lot if we could make an informed guess as to whether the future was likely to be more or less stable than the present.

With that in mind, I proposed nine, long wave-length trends/clues that strongly implied that the future would be less stable than the present. After exploring how different an unstable world is from a relatively stable one (less investment and innovation, religion/family/clan more important, etc), the book offered a series of scenarios set in the year 2050, which tried to put some flesh on what such a future might look like.

Alas, it looks like we won’t have to wait until 2050 to see this unstable future. We have had vivid, real world examples of the disruptions wrought by religious extremists (the chapter “The Rise of the True Believers” was written before the religious right gained ascendence here, and radical Islam began its bombings and wars); a disappearing Middle Class (“the Ubiquitous Wage Gap”); markets wrecking economic chaos (“Hot-Tempered Markets”); and so on.

And now, with the Ebola crisis, unless the world takes action real fast, we are going to witness the unholy synergy of three other clues offered in the book – “Infectious Disease Resurgent,” “A Biosphere in Disarray,” and the inherent instability of swollen, emerging nation cities. Wholesale ecological disruption very likely played a role in Ebola jumping from its animal host to humans, its emergence also signals that the “honeymoon” from infectious disease that started with sanitation in the late 19th century and the discovery of antibiotics in the 20th, is coming to an end, and the swollen cities of emerging nations are providing the springboards for the return of the microbes.

In the years since I wrote that book, I’ve looked back many times, wondering whether I was wrong about any of the clues, or whether I missed one that I should have added. One such candidate for inclusion is the rise of international criminal gangs. The drug cartels and their affiliates have made much of Mexico to dangerous to travel, and similar, large scale criminal enterprises destabilize scores of cities around the world.

As for a clue where I might have overstated the threat, there is one that bears directly on whether or not the world will contain the Ebola threat. That clue focused on the destabilizing aspects of the emergence of megacities. Given their size and importance to regional economies, it is easy to see how problems in a megacity could bring down an entire nation’s economy. What happens to Japan, for instance, if radiation from Fukushima continually worsens and makes Tokyo uninhabitable, or, what happens to Brazil if large parts of Sao Paolo really do run out of water, as is threatened now? On the other hand, these giant cities also create a critical mass of intelligence and the capital to deploy it. There's a ray of hope in the fact that an Ebola carrier made it to Lagos, the very poster child of a city always on the verge of collapse, and yet the city was able to respond and contain the disease. If the home of kleptocrats and email scams can deal with Ebola, maybe other African cities can too. Go Lagos!



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