Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The inability to adapt to the place so many choose

Sharon Astyk has a very interesting article about whether people need to move to cope with the rapid dislocations of man-made global warming. She is a very strong “localist”, who is generally not in favour of moving, but she does admit in a very practical manner that those who want to reduce energy consumption and cope with the effects of a hotter climate with very different rainfall patterns to those under pre-industrial CO2 concentrations will have great rouble and cost doing so, and that people do very little research about the likely future of places such as southern Australia.

Astyk argues that there are times when people simply cannot adapt to a locality in which they are residing by such means as ability use water with the utmost prudence that will be required as the subtropical arid belt moves from central Australia poleward to southern Victoria, Tasmania and the southwest of Western Australia:
“ That is, if you live in a very hot, dry place, and are an expert desert dweller, gifted at retaining and using every drop of water prudently, and comfortable living without lots of input or air conditioning, and happy to live on the diet that grows there well, great, you and your descendents will probably do very well there if anyone does.”
She also says that people in the rapidly growing housing developments typical of suburban Australia and Red America will very much struggle to cope if they are far from urban job centres. This is a trend that can be seen as alarming: for no useful reason I think there is a desire to promote Melbourne as a “world city”. In reality the city proper is very small compared with suburbs that culturally have very little connection with the education- and business-oriented central city. How such a city would fulfil this role with a climate like the Simpson Desert has historically had is a serious question: the few developed cities in deserts, like Phoenix and Las Vegas, have been the definition of sprawl. With the development of underground coal gasification, the supply of water for southern Australia via desalination seems assured for many hundreds of years. Indeed, I imagine that even if Europe and Asia phase out non-renewable energy, Australia’s energy use will keep increasing as demand for air conditioning becomes year-round and more intensive as the hot air is brought down by the super-monsoon.

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