Finding A Way

I just finished reading Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. It’s a novel worth the time to read, but it will consume some days. Dealing with the geopolitics and technology associated with climate change, especially the trifecta of increasing heat, rising oceans and seas, and increasingly violent and larger storms, Stephenson puts the details to work in the novel right from the beginning: a small jet can’t land in its destination of Houston because high temperatures bring on thinner air. There’s not enough lift to sustain the small jet.

Two other interesting aspects struck me in this huge book. One was a story related to London’s mayor and the 1953 flood. After the flood, engineers came up with a solution but were stopped from implementing any changes for twenty years as political infighting took over. By the time the solution was accepted and a consensus achieved to build it, the solution was already overcome by new problems because these things — climate change, rising waters, etc. — are not static, friends.

The second intriguing, amusing, and probably prescient aspect regarded how Americans responded to rising waters and more flooding: they raised their houses and began building them on stilts. That caused a boom in the house-raising/stilt industry. And sure, you can see that, right? People in their houses on stilts, looking out windows, safe, but surrounded by water. It’s one, the sort of approach people will take, adopting a limited, short-term idea that addresses only their personal issues. Two, it’s the sort of business idea that others will eagerly seize and press, making money while they can. Greed, you know.

That second point reminds me of anti-vaxxers and COVID-19. (BTW, the world has endured several more COVID pandemics between 19 and the book’s period.) They don’t trust the government; don’t trust the vax; don’t trust the medicines. Yet, that’s where most rush to be saved while their loved ones look on and damn the government for not doing more.

Meanwhile, wealthy people in the novel, like the billionaire character, raised his Tudor-style mansion and guest houses and outbuildings, and built a mesa out of clay, high above the flood waters, so they can keep living a safe, comfortable life.

Anyway, the book offers deep ideas on the world’s vectors from where we are to where we might be. It will make you think, or at least caused that in me. Cheers

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