At a previous post, I spoke about concerns expressed (as I understand) by Miami, Florida real estate agents, about people talking about receding coastlines.
Such talk is bad for business, as I understand; if you want to keep waterfront land prices high, you don’t go around decrying rising waters.
An email from Scott Munro (who graduated from Malcolm Campbell High School in 1963) has been helpful in enabling me to explore the rising-water story further; he told me of a book that would be worth my while to read:
“The main title of the book,” Scott Munro notes in his email, “is ‘The Water Will Come’  by Jeff Goodell, published by Little-Brown, ISBN 978-0-316-26024-4, highly recommended in New York Times review, author interviewed on NPR. This deals not just with Miami, but also other sea level cities, notably Venice, New York and Lagos.”
Scott adds: “People can just google ‘the water will come’. Some of Goodell’s other work shows up there as well.”
Please note: When I share emails at this website, I check beforehand as I have done in his case, to ensure it’s okay for me to post them.
Extreme Cities (2017)
The above-noted discussion brings to mind a brief review for Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (2017) in the April 22, 2018 New York Times Book Review (p. 26).
The above-mentioned review of Extreme Cities (2017) has a few lines in it that caught my eye, given that I’ve been thinking about a dearth of storytelling about disappearing Florida coastlines:
“Of particular value,” according to the review, “is Dawson’s discussion of the way climate change adaptation has been sabotaged, even hijacked, by real estate interests. Cities like Miami and New York continue to build luxury buildings on waterfront land that rising sea levels are expected to overrun. Even in developing world cities like Jakarta, projects billed as climate change mitigation, like constructing artificial barrier islands, are really gussied up luxury real estate boondoggles.”
At the time of this writing, the book has five holds on it at the Toronto Public Library.
The Water Will Come (2017)
The following excerpt for The Water Will Come (2017) (the book that Scott Munro has recommended that I read) from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library website offers a taste of this particular book’s message:
“By century’s end, hundreds of millions of people will be retreating from the world’s shores as our coasts become inundated and our landscapes transformed. From island nations to the world’s major cities, coastal regions will disappear. Engineering projects to hold back the water are bold and may buy some time. Yet despite international efforts and tireless research, there is no permanent solution – no barriers to erect or walls to build – that will protect us in the end from the drowning of the world as we know it.”
At the time of this writing, the book has 22 holds on it at the Toronto Public Library.
The Growth Delusion (2018)
Recently, while visiting the latter section, I came across a book, The Growth Delusion: Wealth, Poverty, and the Well-being of Nations (2018), which addresses, in its own way, the themes that are featured as topics for discussion, at the post you are now reading.
I have a particular interest in the extent to which The Water Will Come (2017) and The Growth Delusion (2018) complement each other, and the extent to which the two studies go their separate ways.
An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library website for the The Growth Delusion (2018) reads:
“The backlash we are currently witnessing suggests that people are turning against the experts and their faulty understanding of our lives. Despite decades of steady economic growth, many citizens feel more pessimistic than ever, and are voting for candidates who voice undisguised contempt for the technocratic elite. For too long, economics has relied on a language which fails to resonate with people’s lived experience, and we are now living with the consequences.”
At the time of this writing, the book (as is the case with The Water Will Come (2017) has 22 holds on it at the Toronto Public Library.
The Coming of the Third Reich (2004)
The reference, in the April 22, 2018 New York Times review of Extreme Cities (2017), to the “discussion of the way climate change adaptation has been sabotaged, even hijacked, by real estate interests,” is of interest.
Along with hijacking one can also speak, in more general terms, of co-option.
I refer, in this context, specifically with reference to the mobilization of anger – the kind of anger that the above-noted excerpt of a blurb for The Growth Delusion (2018) refers to – in the service of emerging authoritarian regimes.
Populist politicians, with strongly authoritarian tendencies, may be closely allied behind the scenes with a wide range of elitist projects.
In election-related storytelling memes, however, such politicians may, nonetheless, excel at attacking technocratic and other elites, further feeding on chaos.
The storytelling of populism, which consistently advances falsehoods and, conversely, relentlessly eschews references to evidence, seeks to convince voters that only populist politicians can determine the way forward – for individual, enraged voters, and for the wider society.
Populism gives rise to its own level of chaos; the chaos, in turn, strengthens the appeal and power of populism and allied phenomena including authoritarianism – which in the course of political messaging, debases and distorts the language of everyday life, and withholds and destroys evidence related to everyday life.
The best overview that I know of, of how such phenomena have emerged in the past, is provided by the first book – The Coming of the Third Reich (2004) – by Richard J. Evans, in a trilogy of studies aimed at the general reader, describing the rise of Nazi Germany.
I have described the work – which in my view is of the highest calibre and relevance – of Richard J. Evans at previous posts.
In his overviews and analyses, Richard J. Evans combines first-rate storytelling, based upon first-hand accounts by central as well as more peripheral players, which he positions within a solid infrastructure of evidence which is derived, in turn, from the author’s strong, in-depth, and thorough familiarity with a huge mass of relevant primary and secondary archival and historical sources.
I have spoken at length (including with reference to minor shortcomings) about Evans’s style of writing at a previous post.
Among other things, I have noted that Evans writes with an evenness of tone, for reasons that he explains in the above-noted preface. He consciously puts aside, to the extent he is able, the “baggage” that a historian otherwise brings to the task of writing a text; he leaves it to the reader to apply the judgements, regarding the events that are described, that may occur to her or him.
Order of the Templars; the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars
Of related relevance are overviews of the mobilization, channelling, and focusing of anger (often in response to stressful economic conditions and military challenges) as a driving force giving rise to phenomena such as the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, as outlined at a previous post.
Going back further in history, the political, ideological, military, and economic forces – and related powerful memes and trends in storytelling – connected with the rise and fall of the Order of the Templars, associated in turn with varied crusades and holy wars, are equally of relevance.
We are concerned, in this context, with the role (and, at times, genocidal consequences) of storytelling in history and current events, as it manifests itself through political memes, slogans, and justifications.
Wider context of life
The wider context is also of interest. A study entitled The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of the Cultures (2017) offers valuable observations regarding the larger context of life.
An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library website , for the above-noted book, reads:
Antonio Damasio makes clear that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells; that our minds and cultures are linked by an invisible thread to the ways and means of ancient unicellular life and other primitive life-forms; and that inherent in our very chemistry is a powerful force, a striving toward life maintenance that governs life in all its guises, including the development of genes that help regulate and transmit life.
Antonio Damasio is also author of Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (1994), which I have just now gotten around to reading after coming across references to the book for many years. An excerpt from a blurb at the Toronto Public Library reads:
In the course of explaining how emotions and feelings contribute to reason and to adaptive social behavior, Damasio also offers a novel perspective on what emotions and feelings actually are: a direct sensing of our own body states, a link between the body and its survival-oriented regulations, on the one hand, and consciousness, on the other. Descartes’ Error leads us to conclude that human organisms are endowed from the very beginning with a spirited passion for making choices, which the social mind can use to build rational behavior.
My note (above) about Descartes has given rise to a separate post, entitled:
Evidence-based communications about climate change
I follow the work of Yale Climate Connections, which is concerned with an evidence-based approach to communications about climate change.
An April 26, 2018 article at the Yale Climate Connections website is entitled: “Climate change communication and activism April brought the 2nd March for Science and the 48th anniversary of Earth Day. As the month ends, here are some titles to help with the work that must follow: communicating climate change.”
The opening paragraphs read:
Last June, Yale Climate Connections published a two-part bookshelf devoted to books and reports on climate change communication. The last book in that selection was published in April 2017.
This bookshelf highlights books published since then and includes recent titles on climate change activism. It includes two new reference works on climate change communication. A separate review of one of these three-volume sets, Handbook of Climate Change Communication, will be posted this summer. The descriptions and links for both of these major releases are at the end of this list.
[End of excerpt]
A five-minute June 18, 2018 CBC The National news report is entitled: “Rising sea levels will put U.S. homes at risk in near future.”
A subhead for the report notes that “The Union of Concerned Scientists says more than 310,000 existing homes are projected to be at risk of flooding every two weeks by 2045. The National visited one coastal community to see how it’s dealing with the problem.”
A Sept. 12, 2018 New York Times article is entitled: “North Carolina, Warned of Rising Seas, Chose to Favor Development.”