Time running out:
For the past few months the weather here in Florida has varied between outright chilly and pleasantly cool.  Usually by this time it is beastly hot.  That heat is going somewhere, and I doubt it’s southward.  When I look at maps of upper air circulation in this hemisphere, it looks like a lot of heat is going to the Arctic Ocean. It was a warm winter up there, so this just might be the year, rather than 20 years hence, when the melt back of the sea ice up there gets far enough north to uncork the North Pole.  Then a northern cyclone can set up – probably not, but it could.  Air coming from the south rises over the pole (you remember, of course, that in the summer more solar energy comes into the Arctic than elsewhere so when dark seawater absorbs it, things heat up), and the usual coriolis effect drives it in a circle, a great storm of a size on the order of the size of the planet.  If (big if) a leader starts down to the South Pole, a guess would be that the coriolis could push it against the east side of the Rockies and father south against the west side of the Andes and it will dump its water as it cools.  What will that be?  A few feet deep of snow?  A couple miles deep of hail? 

It’s not my field, but I think the moral is that the high tech resources we revel in are not assured by any cosmic principle; we could lose them.  So if there is a crisis brewing, delay is folly.

A friendly neighbor was enjoying an afternoon off working in the sun and enquired, purely out of good will, what I was up to.  Right … so I said I was trying to save the babies.  He gave the usual response that babies couldn’t need much saving since there are too many.  So I answered that for 30 years the high income nations had not been able to have enough babies to replace themselves.  He was appalled.  Good man.

So I tossed him another stat.  Now I again venture outside the field good sense should hold me to, but after Apartheid was eliminated, South Africa became the darling poster child of progress and the new world order.  But then some embarrassing things showed up, so they figured out a new way of calculating wealth and decided that South Africa was not the biggest economy in sub-Saharan African, Nigeria was and had been for many years.  Accordingly some rich businessmen decided to celebrate the advance of the new poster child.  Alas, about that time a Muslim group in the north with a name of something like “Thinking is Blasphemy” kidnapped a large number of girls and young w0men, who have not been heard from since.  But Nigeria elected a president who was a strong man, and the problem was at least contained.  Then there was the terrible Ebola epidemic; Nigeria responded rapidly and effectively, so that is now done.  Well done, Nigeria, acting like a responsible power.

But now I read this in the Scientific American (vol. 316 no. 4,
April 2017 page 20) in a section labeled with unseemly irony “Advances:” a famine has almost wiped out the children under 5 in Nigeria.  On a closer inspection, it says malnutrition has weakened their immune systems so a sufficiently hideous epidemic could wipe them out.  After that rant about the North Pole, I’m hardly the one to be saying, “Come, let us maintain our composure and be guided by facts not fears.” 

But really.  I didn’t even know they had a famine.  The high income world looks set to stop having babies within 10 years and the middle incomes are 40 years behind, but there is not sufficient time to change either case.  I’ll spare you the arithmetic, but the low income countries are only 25 years behind the middle income countries, and there are four years in which you could save something, maybe a tenth of the billion they represent, if we all started to pull together right now, which we have not.

And now the biggest economy in the low income world poised to lose a 5 year cohort?  A four year cohort from that part of the world holds all the hope for the future of humanity.  Wouldn’t that be important?

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