We are not prepared for what Mother Earth is throwing at us

In order to truly understand the geopolitical and geoeconomic paradigm of the world, we have to understand the geophysical. That was the main point Cleo Paskal made at yesterday morning’s New America Foundation event. She is the author of the new book Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map. Sounds interesting right? It was very interesting actually.

Her speech touched upon a few topics, the main ones being how environmental change presents challenges for physical infrastructure, service infrastructure, and legal structure. Before we take a quick look at these, let me clarify on what Cleo Paskal means when she says environmental change. Environmental change is a broader term which includes changes that would exist in the absence of climate change.

So Cleo Paskal cites hurricane Katrina as an obvious example. The levees broke, there was a lack of town planning and there was large scale subsidence. The damage to physical infrastructure was immense. The main point being that all of those things could still happen in the absence of climate change.

Furthermore, damaging physical infrastructure naturally leads to damaging service infrastructure. What if Washington DC were to experience a flood? What would that mean for the metro? I think it’s very easy to see how service infrastructure would be affected.

The not so obvious challenge environmental change presents is the legal one. For example, there is a type of bilateral maritime border agreement called equidistant borders which basically means that the maritime border is drawn right down the middle between two nations. So for example, if there were two countries that were 100 miles away from each other, the border would be drawn 50 miles out from the coast. But then the problem becomes what to do if you lose some of your coast due to rising sea levels? Do we redraw the border?

What about small island nations? Once they disappear, who controls that area of the ocean? Cleo Paskal stressed that our current legal structure is not sufficient to take into considerations those factors. These are very complicated issues that we need to figure out if we are to avoid conflict.

To stress my point again, we are not ready for Mother Earth. We are not ready politically, economically or physically. The bottom line is that we have to learn how to adapt to environmental change or else Mother Earth is going to kick our butts.


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