Eugene Linden
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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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Articles by Category
endangered animals
rapid climate change
global deforestation
fragging

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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publications

This space will eventually contain Eugene Linden's articles and essays on environment, nature, war, and other issues.

Eugene Linden's Publications

 

Books [reverse chronological order]

THE RAGGED EDGE OF THE WORLD: Encounters at the Frontier where Modernity, Wildlands and Indegnous Peoples Meet. Hardcover: Viking, April 2011. Plume, April 2012.

THE WINDS OF CHANGE; Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations . Hardcover: Simon and Schuster; Feb. 2006.

THE OCTOPUS AND THE ORANGUTAN; More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. Hardcover: Dutton; Aug. 2002.

THE PARROT'S LAMENT; And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. Hardcover: Dutton; Sept. 1999. Softbound and 11 foreign editions

THE FUTURE IN PLAIN SIGHT: Nine Clues to the Coming Instability. Simon and Schuster: August 1998. Soft: Plume; Feb. 2002

SILENT PARTNERS: The Legacy of the Ape Language Experiments. Hardcover: TIMES Books; April 1986. Soft: Ballantine; August 1987. Foreign: Dobutsusha Ltd., Japan; 1987.

AFFLUENCE AND DISCONTENT: The Anatomy of Consumer Societies. Viking/Seaver Books: 1979.

THE ALMS RACE: The Impact of American Voluntary Aid Abroad. Random House: 1976.

APES, MEN, AND LANGUAGE. Hardcover: Saturday Review Press/Dutton; Jan. 1975. Soft: Penguin; Feb. 1976, revised edition, 1981. Seven foreign editions.

Selected List of Articles [reverse chronological order]

The Call of the Wild, Parade; April 22, 2007

Cloudy with a Chance of Chaos , Fortune; Jan. 23, 2006

Seeing the Forest: Conservation on a Continental Scale, Foreign Affairs; July/August 2004

The Nature of Cuba, Tiny frogs. Vst swamps. Pristine rivers. Whether by design or default, the island boasts the Caibbean's best-kept wildlands. But for how long? , Smithsonian, May, 2003 [COVER]

Who's Going to Pay For Climate Change?; The threat of lawsuits — and an exodus of insurance companies — may finally force corporations to think green, Time.com; February 7, 2003

Eugene Linden Diary, Slate; June 25-28, 2001.

The Road To Disaster; If Brazil paves this route through the Amazon, the earth's largest rain forest could go up in flames, Time; October 16, 2000; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 96. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

The Big Meltdown; As the temperature rises in the Arctic, it sends a chill around the planet, Time; September 4, 2000; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

Condition Critical; An exclusive look at a U.N. assessment of Earth's ecosystems shows they are strained to the limit, Time; Spring 2000; STATE OF THE PLANET; Pg. 18. [COVER]

Bats And Brokers; Looking for clues to explain Tuesday's market gyrations? Observe a bloodsucking mammal, Time; April 17, 2000; Pg. 92.

Facing Our Ecofolly; Environmental abuse and overpopulation mean the worst is yet to come, Time; January 31, 2000; TIME LATIN AMERICA; LATIN AMERICA; Viewpoint; Pg. 19.

 

Forcasting the Digital Age, Slate Dialogue; First entry: October 14, 1998.

Volatility: Get Used to It; The global market magnifies our worst instincts, Time; September 28, 1998; INT TIME ATLANTIC; Viewpoint; Pg. 89.

Smoke Signals; Vast forest fires have scarred the globe, but the worst may be yet to come, Time; June 22, 1998; ENVIRONMENT/PLANET WATCH; Pg. 50.

How to Kill a Tiger; Speculators tell the story of their attack against the Baht, the opening act of an ongoing drama, Time; November 3, 1997; TIME ASIA; Pg. 24.

What Have We Wrought?; Our descendants in the next century may find themselves paying dearly for the material magic of the consumer society, Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; OVERVIEW; Pg. 10.

Legions of the Dispossessed; Land degradation is creating multitudes of ecomigrants who cross borders and threaten the security of nations, Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; VIEWPOINT; Pg. 28.

A World Awakens; History Shows that societies pollute first and pay later. Will the new awareness change our ways before it’s too late? Time; November 1997; TIME ASIA SPECIAL ISSUE/OUR PRECIOUS PLANET; PERSPECTIVE; Pg. 80.

A Way to Break the Impasse on Global Warming, The New York Times; September 27, 1997, Saturday, Late Edition - Final, Section A; Page 15; Column 1; Editorial Desk.

From Rio to Ruin?; Maybe not. As the U.N. Dithers, the poor take action, Time; July 7, 1997; VIEWPOINT; Pg. 33.

Antartica; Warnings from the ice the conventional wisdom is that climate change will be gradual and moderate. But what if it is sudden and extreme? A frozen wilderness may hold the answer, Time; April 14, 1997; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 54. [INTERNTIONAL COVER]

Global Fever; Climate change threatens more than megastorms, floods and droughts. The real peril may be disease, Time; July 8, 1996; ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

The Tree Gods Are a Bit Testy, The New York Times; June 22, 1996; Op-Ed.

The Exploding Cities of the Developing World, Foreign Affairs; January/February 1996;

ESSAYS; Pg. 52.

The Tortured Land; An epic landscape steeped in tragedy, Siberia suffered grievously under communism. Now the world’s capitalists covet its vast riches, Time; September 4, 1995; Pg. 42. [COVER]

 

Chain Saws Invade Eden; Vast, pristine forests in South America's sparsely populated Guyanas ought to be safe. Not so., Time; August 29, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 58.

Ancient Creatures In A Lost World; In an isolated, rugged region that divides Vietnam and Laos, scientists find a trove of new species, Time; June 20, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52.

Population: The Awkward Truth, Time; June 20, 1994; U.S. Edition, ESSAY; Pg. 74.

Tigers On The Brink, Time; March 28, 1994; U.S. Edition, Pg. 44. [COVER]

Burned By Warming, Time; March 14, 1994; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 79.

 

Sustainable Follies, Time; May 24, 1993; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

Who Lost The Ozone?; How the world waited too long to rescue the shield that protects earth from the sun's dangerous UV rays, Time; May 10, 1993; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 56.

Will the System Defeat Al Gore? Time; February 1, 1993; U.S. Edition, ESSAY; Pg. 74.

Megacities,Time; January 11, 1993; U.S. Edition, Pg. 28. [COVER]

The Green Factor; Does protecting the planet destroy jobs? Time; October 12, 1992; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 57.

The Last Eden; A trip into a remote African rain forest is a journey back in time to a world where the animals have never encountered humans. Time; July 13, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 62. [COVER]

Summit To Save The Earth; Rio’s Legacy; Time; June 22, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 44.

Summit To Save The Earth; Population: The Uninvited Guest, Time; June 1, 1992; U.S. Edition, Pg. 54.

Apes and Humans: A curious kinship, National Geographic; March 1992. [COVER]

Demanding Payment for Good Behavior, Time; February 3, 1992; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 52.

 

Hot Air at The Earth Summit?; As the U.S. stonewalls a Rio meeting, citizens offer a planet-saving proposal, Time; November 4, 1991; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 77.

TIME cover story: ">Lost Tribes, Lost Knowledge, Time; September 23, 1991; U.S. Edition, CULTURES; Pg. 46. [COVER]

Foreign Aid; Good Intentions, Woeful Results; How an ambitious environmental program ended up damaging the tropical rain forests, Time; April 1, 1991; U.S. Edition, WORLD; Pg. 48.

Endangered Earth Update; Is the planet on the back burner?; War and recession may be grabbing the headlines, but the relentless trashing of the world’s air, land and seas continues apace, Time; December 24, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 48.

The Last Drops; Population growth and development have depleted and polluted the world's water supply, raising the risk of starvation, epidemics and even wars, Time; August 20, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 58. [INTERNATIONAL COVER]

Dashed Hopes and Bogus Fears; The Smithsonian chronicles an unpredictable Information age, Time; June 11, 1990; U.S. Edition, TECHNOLOGY; Pg. 58.

Earth Day; Will the Ballyhoo go bust? Time; April 23, 1990; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 86.

Can We Really Understand Matter? Time; April 16, 1990; U.S. Edition, SCIENCE; Pg. 57.

 

How the Earth Maintains Life; An intriguing scientific theory continues to win adherents, Time; November 13, 1989; U.S. Edition, IDEAS; Pg. 114.

Special Report: Greening of Geopolitics; How the U.S. Can Take The Lead in the Third World; First: stop sending mixed signals, Time; October 23, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 63.

Playing with Fire; Destruction of the Amazon is "one of the great tragedies of history", Time; September 18, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Cover Story; Pg. 76. [COVER]

Putting the Heat on Japan; Accused of ravaging the world's forests and seas, Tokyo starts to clean up its act, Time; July 10, 1989; U.S. Edition, ENVIRONMENT; Pg. 50.

BIODIVERSITY; The Death of Birth; THE PROBLEM: Man is recklessly wiping out life on earth, Time; January 2, 1989; U.S. Edition, PLANET OF THE YEAR; Pg. 32. [COVER]

 

 

Putting Knowledge to Work; Suddenly, artificial intelligence produces some results, Time; March 28, 1988; U.S. Edition, TECHNOLOGY; Pg. 60.[COVER]

Boom in the Bust Market; Taking Stock in Bankruptcy, Time; October 12, 1987; U.S. Edition, ECONOMY & BUSINESS; Pg. 52.

The Gambia; signs in the wilderness, The Atlantic; March, 1986; Vol. 257 ; Pg. 32.

Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom Inc., April, 1984, THE AGE OF THE ENTREPRENEUR; Pg. 64.

Politics Means Getting To Say You’re Sorry Wall Street Journal, Op-Ed 1984.

The Demoralization of an Army: Fragging and Other Withdrawal Symptoms Saturday Review; January 8, 1972.[COVER]

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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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