rfmcdonald: (Default)

  • The CBC u>notes the consensus that the new Ontario minimum wage will not hurt the economy, overall, but provide a mild boost.

  • The Toronto Star notes that, from 2019, analog television broadcasts will start ramping down.

  • The Toronto Star notes that high prices in Ontario's cottage country are causing the market to expand to new areas.

  • Gizmodo reports on one study suggesting that Proxima Centauri b does have the potential to support Earth-like climates.

  • Gizmodo notes one study speculating on the size of Mars' vanished oceans.

  • Quartz reports on how one community in Alaska and one community in Louisiana are facing serious pressures from climate change and from the political reaction to said.

  • CBC notes an oil platform leaving Newfoundland for the oceans.

rfmcdonald: (Default)
CBC reported on the grim findings of the researchers who determined why the mammoths of Alaska's Saint Paul Island, last of their kind, died out.

St. Paul Island's mammoths were a vulnerable population that probably never numbered more than 30, [one researcher] estimates. Pinpointing the cause of their extinction "just sort of underscores the precariousness of small island populations to what seems like fairly subtle environmental change."

Even today, the crater lake that the researchers studied is only a metre deep. The researchers drilled through the ice in winter, into the layers of sediment deposited on the bottom of the lake over thousands of years.

There they found mammoth DNA, spores of fungi that can only live in the fresh dung of large mammals like mammoths, and the remains of aquatic insects that contain chemical information about water levels over the lake's history.

Together, the data pinpoint the time of extinction at 5,600 years ago — about 900 years after the date of the youngest mammoth remains ever dug up on the island — and chronicle the deterioration of the lake during the last days of the mammoths.

The result doesn't just solve a longstanding mystery about a puzzling extinction.

It may also be a warning about the seriousness of a problem that has never been linked to extinctions in the past, but is relevant for human communities in our own age of rapid climate change, rising seas and a coastal flooding[.]
rfmcdonald: (Default)
CBC notes a social media campaign intended to revive an indigenous language of Canada, Gwich'in.

A Gwich'in woman is using social media to get people speaking one of the most endangered languages in Canada.

Although nearly 10,000 Gwich'in people live in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alaska, a United Nations study estimates just a few hundred fluent speakers of the Gwich'in language are left.

"We don't have time to wait for another generation or so to really work on bringing the Gwich'in language back to being spoken more," said 23-year-old Jacey Firth-Hagen.

Just over a year ago, she sparked a social media campaign called #SpeakGwichinToMe.


More, including an interview, at the site.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
The Dragon's Tales linked to Andrea Thompson's Scientific American report noting that the Alaska permafrost is set to melt, with potentially catastrophic results for climate.

Up to a quarter of the permafrost that lies just under the ground surface in Alaska could thaw by the end of the century, releasing long-trapped carbon that could make its way into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming, a new study finds.

The study, detailed in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, maps where that near-surface permafrost lies across Alaska in more detail than previous efforts. That detail could help determine where to focus future work and what areas are at risk of other effects of permafrost melt, such as changes to local ecosystems and threats to infrastructure, the study’s authors say.

About one quarter of the land in the Northern Hemisphere is permafrost, or ground that stays frozen for at least two years. Some of it has been in that frozen state for thousands of years, locking up an amount of carbon that is more than double what is currently in the Earth’s atmosphere. But with temperatures in the Arctic rising at twice the rate of the planet as a whole, permafrost across the region is beginning to thaw, releasing that carbon from its icy confines.

“There’s a lot—a lot—of soil carbon that’s below ground in these Arctic and boreal systems,” U.S. Geological Survey scientist and study co-author Bruce Wylie said. “That’s the big threat.”


rfmcdonald: (Default)
Bloomberg's Peter Levring explains what I think is Greenland's perfectly justifiable exemption from the global climate deal. The major issue is that other Arctic areas lacking comparable near-independent states--Russia, the United States, and Canada come to mind--can't claim this.

The ink hasn’t yet dried on the UN climate accord and one of the territories most at risk from global warning is already demanding an opt-out.

“We still have the option of making a territorial opt-out to COP21," Kim Kielsen, the prime minister of Greenland, said during a visit to Copenhagen on Monday. "We have an emissions quota of 650,000 tonnes of CO2, which is the same as a single coal-fired power plant in Denmark, or a minor Danish city."

Kielsen oversees a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. With a size roughly that of Mexico and a population that’s smaller than the Cayman Islands’, Greenland is the least densely populated country in the world. More than 22,000 people live in the capital Nuuk, while the remaining 34,000 are dispersed over an area of 2.2 million square kilometers.

As a result, the most common way for locals to traverse its icy expanses is via highly polluting planes.

"We want to solve that issue as we have considerably larger geographical distances to cover,” Kielsen said after a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen and their colleague from the Faroe Islands, another autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Eli Kintisch's National Geographic report notes one minor, but still life-complicating, change in Alaska consequent to global warming.

Building an underground ice cellar to store bowhead whale and other meat in Barrow, Alaska, is no small task. Even in the summertime, permafrost is hard as a rock a foot or so below the surface.

Last year Herman Ahsoak employed a jackhammer and drill to construct a cellar for the whaling crew he has captained for more than a decade. But in the spring, melting snow penetrated the hatch, and the 14-foot deep cellar “filled all the way to the top with water,” Ahsoak says.

Maintaining ice cellars has always been hard work for subsistence hunters in Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States. But warming temperatures have now rendered many of these underground freezers unusable. (Read about how rising temperature are also threatening desert life.)

Increasingly, ice cellars that generations of native Alaskan communities have relied upon for storing food are melting, according to tribal elders and researchers. In addition to the warmer temperatures, coastal erosion and geologic ground disturbances are exacerbating the thaw.

“For many cellars even if [the temperature is] below freezing it’s not cold enough to keep meat safely,” says geophysicist Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Al Jazeera America's Ryan Schuessler notes how the Aleuts of the Bering Strait area, who in the two decades after the end of the Cold War began to restore their ties, are now facing division as Russian-American relations deteriorate.

Patricia Lekanoff-Gregory remembers when a delegation of American Unangax flew to Russia’s Komandorski Islands to meet their kin in the early 1990s.

Lekanoff-Gregory’s father made the journey to Russia as the global euphoria at the end of the Cold War reached far north, into the Bering Sea. She said her father, who is elderly and asked her to speak for him, said the Russian and American Unangax were sitting on either side of a room, staring at each other in silence, told to wait for the official interpreters to arrive. But they couldn’t wait. Soon enough, the two groups were shouting words in their native language to each other. “Seal.” “Table.” Hugs. Tears. The two communities had not met in decades.

Lekanoff-Gregory has traveled to the Komandorski Islands five times since her father’s journey. She’s hoping to go again in the coming months to help teach Russian Unangax traditional hat making.

“They’re just finding out they’re Native again,” she said of the Russian Unangax, citing the cultural damage from the oppression they faced during the Soviet era. “But money is harder to get, and it’s getting more expensive [to go there] now.”

While some other Native communities that straddle the Russia-U.S. border have protections that allow for direct visa-free travel between the countries, no such arrangement exists for the Unangax. The efforts to reconnect Unangax communities across the border in the remote North Pacific remain at the mercy of deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington, and locals say it’s getting harder to keep the cultural exchanges going.

“Bringing a couple of people [from Russia to Alaska] is an expensive proposition,” said Jim Gamble, the executive director of the Aleut International Association. “And one that we can only do once in a while when we gather enough funding together. And it’s similar going the other way.”
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg View takes a look at the controversy surrounding the restoration of Denali as the name of the highest peak in Alaska.

For decades, this has been a low-profile dispute pitting Ohio Republicans (who have been loyal to the assassinated president from the Buckeye State) against Alaskans of all political stripes -- most of them Republicans -- who used the older name. No less a partisan conservative than Sarah Palin has referred to “nature's finest show -- Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun.”

But as soon as Obama became involved, many Republicans from the lower 48 who probably couldn't tell you what state the mountain was in last week started protesting against the gross abuse of power intended to erase white people from U.S. history.

One of the stronger findings about the presidency from political scientists is that when presidents associate themselves with an issue, voters -- Democrats and Republicans -- tend to line up strongly for and against it based on party loyalty. This isn't just about Obama; the same thing happened on small and big things alike when George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were presidents. (Democrats turned against a mission to Mars when Bush proposed one, for example.)

[. . . W]hen all that’s needed is to win over members of his own party, presidential speeches that polarize can be extremely helpful. This was true during Obama’s first two years in office, when Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate. It has also been the case recently with the Iran deal: Obama may have deliberately chosen a partisan path to ensure that Democrats in the House and Senate stayed on board.
rfmcdonald: (Default)

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about the simple pleasures of her life.

  • Centauri Dreams discusses 2014 MU69.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that less that 0.3% of galaxies could host Kardashev III civilizations.

  • Kieran Healy shares his paper "Fuck Nuance."

  • Joe. My. God. notes the unhappiness of one American conservative with the restoration of Denali's name.

  • Language Hat mourns poet Charles Tomlinson.

  • Marginal Revolution argues that China's 2008-era debt binge is now coming back to haunt it.

  • The New APPS Blog discusses the role of philosophy in making life decisions.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw dislikes the rhetoric and institutions charged with guarding Australia's borders.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that the reports of Russian losses in Donbas are likely false.

  • Torontoist is unimpressed by the satirical musical version of Full House.

  • Towleroad notes an American conservative who is going to continue participating in Scouting despite its new gay-friendliness.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that secession rarely works out well for seceding entities.

  • Window on Eurasia notes a prediction that Ukraine is now on track to go west.

rfmcdonald: (Default)
In her Slate article "The Soviet Military Secret That Could Become Alaska’s Most Valuable Crop", Sarah Laskow took a look at an apparent upsurge in interest in Alaska in cultivating Rhodiola rosea as a cash crop suited for the harsh climate.

Al Poindexter’s front yard in the south-central plain of Alaska has been taken over by a spread of more than 2,000 cell trays, each growing dozens of plants that look “like something you’d expect from Mars,” he says. The little ones look like little nubs; the larger ones are no more than an inch tall and feature a spiral of fleshy leaves.

“I tried killing it—you can’t kill it. That’s my kind of plant,” says Poindexter. “It can go weeks without water. Moose don’t eat it, rabbits don’t eat it, weather doesn’t seem to bother it. It’s a real easy plant to grow.”

This is Rhodiola rosea—golden root, rose root—a succulent that was used for centuries as folk medicine and once considered something of a Soviet military secret. Decades ago, the Soviets realized that Rhodiola could boost energy and help manage stress. These days, a small group of Alaskan farmers are hoping that it could enter the pantheon of plants (coffee, chocolate, coca) whose powers people take seriously—and, along the way, become Alaska’s most valuable crop.

In Alaska, farmers spend a lot of time trying to coax plants that would prefer to be growing elsewhere into surviving in Alaska’s tough conditions. Rhodiola, though, comes from Siberia’s Altai Mountains, and it seems right at home in the frigid ground.

“It’s actually an environment that the plant wants to grow in, as opposed to everything else we grow in Alaska,” says Stephen Brown, a professor and district agriculture agent at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. “It’ll grow in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. It wants our long days. It’s already coming up out of the ground—and the ground’s still frozen."
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Neil MacFarqhar in
  • The New York Times took an intruiging look at Russia's Kamchatka peninsula, positioning the remote territory as being on the verge of being the next Alaska.

    When Vladislav Revenok, an Orthodox priest, first participated in the obscure Russian version of Alaska’s Iditarod, he found himself in places so isolated that he was mobbed by villagers demanding to be baptized. They told him he was the first priest to visit the outback of the already remote Kamchatka Peninsula in about 50 years.

    “Only a few small villages see us,” Mr. Revenok, a veteran musher, said by telephone after finishing the arduous 17-day race in late March. “When I arrive at the finish line and see all those people waiting — journalists, the crowd, so many cars — I feel like I am arriving back on a different planet.”

    Kamchatka’s very isolation once afforded a measure of protection for its astounding beauty: a crown of 300 volcanoes, including around 25 that are still active; a central valley of erupting geysers; rivers so red and so thick with spawning salmon that walking on water seems distinctly possible; oceans inhabited by crabs the size of turkeys.

    Even many locals do not know the peninsula that well. About 80 percent of the population lives in three southern cities. But isolation no longer provides the same insurance. Kamchatka is caught between ambitious plans to develop untapped resources like gold and oil, and efforts to preserve its natural splendor.

    Oil exploration has started in the Sea of Okhotsk, which separates the peninsula from mainland Russia, and the first natural gas wells now operate onshore. Two gold mines are already working, and 10 more are in the planning stages.

    Local officials want Petropavlovsk to become the main transit harbor for hulking container ships that can deflect ice as they ply the Arctic route between China and Europe. In addition, the government is trying to raise the number of tourists to 300,000 from 40,000 annually.
  • rfmcdonald: (Default)

    • blogTO shares vintage photos of Weston Road.

    • Centauri Dreams features a guest post on the fast radio bursts that had all astir.

    • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper about the circumstellar disk of AB Aurigae.

    • The Dragon's Tales notes problems with Russia's development of a stealth fighter.

    • Language Hat links to an examination of the way the words "chikungunya" and "dengue" are used to describe the same disease.

    • Languages of the World takes a look at one dying Russian dialect of Alaska.

    • Lawyers, Guns and Money is surprised anyone is surprised Britain is spying on Argentina.

    • Marginal Revolution notes that demand in China and India is already driving research and development.

    • Peter Rukavina looks at the mechanics of the Internet presences of Island political parties.

    • Savage Minds announces the return of the intermittant online anthropological journal Anthropologies.

    • Transit Toronto links to a collection of Greater Toronto Area transit news.

    • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts at length to the finding of the report on Rolling Stone's mistaken rape story, noting that the fraternity in question has a good case for libel.

    • Window on Eurasia notes Crimean Tatar news outlet closures and notes that Ukrainian government ministers widely speak English.

    rfmcdonald: (Default)
    CBC's Tracy Johnson described how, at least judging by the examples of Alaska and Norway, Alberta squandered its oil wealth.

    In the next week, Alberta will release its third-quarter fiscal update. It's not going to be pretty.

    Premier Jim Prentice says the drop in energy prices, particularly for oil, has drained $7 billion from government revenues. This fiscal update is widely expected to show the province sliding into a deficit for the current fiscal year.

    A report from the Fraser Institute says it didn't have to be this way, and that with some restraint, Alberta could still be in surplus and have saved billions in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

    Ten years ago, before the boom started in earnest, Alberta spent $8,965 (in 2013 dollars) per person in program spending. This does not include capital spending on items like hospitals, schools and roads.

    The report argues that had the province increased program spending in the following years at the rate of inflation plus population growth, it would have spent $295 billion on programs over the next nine years.

    Instead it spent $345 billion, a $49-billion difference. Last year alone it spent $8 billion, a little more than the expected hole in next year's provincial budget.
    rfmcdonald: (Default)
    NPR earlier this week took a look at the Alaskan port of Whittier, noteworthy for housing most of the town's population and business in a single building.

    Whittier, Alaska, is a sleepy town on the west side of Prince William Sound, tucked between picturesque mountains. But if you're picturing a small huddle of houses, think again.

    Instead, on the edge of town, there stands a 14-story building called Begich Towers — a former Army barracks, resembling an aging hotel, where most of the town's 200 residents live.

    Writer Erin Sheehy and photographer Reed Young visited Whittier for a report, "Town Hall," in The California Sunday Magazine.

    [. . .]

    Finding your way to the remote town isn't easy. You can get to Whittier by sea or take a long, one-lane tunnel through the mountains, which at any given time only runs one way.

    "It's still a fairly inaccessible town," Young says. "Plus, at night, they close the tunnel completely."

    Then there's the weather: The 60 mph winter winds are brutal. That's why residents inside Begich Towers have everything they need under one roof.

    "There's a laundromat, a little market," Sheehy says.

    "And there's a convenience store," Reed says. "There is a health clinic." It's not a hospital, but they can handle minor ailments.

    There's even a church in the basement.
    rfmcdonald: (Default)

    • 3 Quarks Daily considers the ethics of suicide.

    • Slate's Atlas Obscura blog shares photos of Second World War relics in Alaska's Aleutian islands.

    • The Big Picture shares images of Australia's doll hospital.

    • blogTO lists five things Toronto could learn from New York City.

    • The Dragon's Tales notes China's growing presence in Latin America and observes that apes and hmans share the same kind of empathy.

    • Joe. My. God. notes the coming out of an Irish beauty queen.

    • Marginal Revolution expects inequality to start growing in New Zealand.

    • Discover's Out There looks forward to the new age of exploration of Pluto and the rest of the Kuiper belt.

    • The Planetary Society Blog shares beautiful photo mosaics of Neptune from Voyager 2.

    • The Search examines in an interview the use of a hundred million photo dataset from Flickr for research.

    • Torontoist notes a mayoral debate on Toronto heritage preservation.

    • Towleroad observes that a pro-GLBT advertisement won't air on Lithuanian television because of restrictive legislation.

    • Window on Eurasia suggests Ukrainian refugees are being resettled in the North Caucasus to bolster Slav numbers and predicts the quiet decline of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

    rfmcdonald: (Default)

    • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly comments on her search for belonging.

    • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that estimates the number of flares among brown dwarfs based on observation of red dwarfs.

    • The Dragon's Tales links to a Foreign Affairs article arguing that Eurasian integration has been hurt by Ukraine.

    • Joe. My. God. notes that the Pet Shop Boys have called for a mass pardon of Britons convicted of violating past laws banning gay sex.

    • Language Log's Victor Mair notes the widely variant translations of different Chinese languages and registers by online translators.

    • The New APPS Blog notes that Switzerland would be a good model for the democratic European Union.

    • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that Mexico is on the rise.

    • Understanding Society's Daniel Little studies the public opinions towards welfare states and the role of the market in the United States and Nordic countries.

    • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the limit of the treaty powers of the American federal government. Could the US sign over Alaska to Russia?

    • Window on Eurasia notes that the Ukrainian crisis has reenergized NATO and links to a Russian writer who argues that Russia is set to become a civilizational empire, not a nation-state.

    rfmcdonald: (Default)
    VanCityBuzz' Kenneth Chan notes that apparently China is considering funding a high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Vancouver (via Siberia and Alaska).

    I'm impressed by the scope.

    (Business in Vancouver suggests that the rail link could be a convenient way to export large amounts of Albertan oil to China.)

    China is contemplating on building a high-speed railway that will link Beijing to Vancouver, a 13,000 kilometre route that will cross Siberia and reach Alaska through a 200 kilometres long tunnel under Bering Strait – the narrow point between the two continents.

    It was reported on state-run television and the Beijing Times newspaper earlier this month. According to another report by the English language version of China Daily, “The project will be funded and constructed by China. The details of this project are yet to be finalized.”

    From Vancouver, the line will branch on to continue to Eastern Canada before reaching its final destination on the American East Coast.

    The line would be 3,000 kilometres longer than the epic Trans-Siberia railroad with trains traveling from end to end at an average of 350 km/h, completing a one-way trip in about 37 hours.

    One estimate pegs the cost of building such a line at $2 trillion with the main engineering challenge revolving around the technology needed to construct the Bering Strait undersea tunnel – a length four times that of the Chunnel between the United Kingdom and France and an area known for its seismic activity. The economics behind constructing and maintaining such expensive infrastructure is also in question.

    The ‘China-Siberia-Canada-America Line’ is among four international high-speed railway projects being contemplated by the Central People’s Government of China. The Beijing Times also lists three other lines that will connect China to London (through Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow), Central Asian nations, and Southeast Asia.
    rfmcdonald: (Default)
    Over at the revivified Arctic Progress, Anatoly Karlin writes about what he thinks are the bright prospects for the countries bordering the Arctic in an age of global warming. Once there was a dynamic "Latin Rim" in the northwestern Mediterranean; there still is a "Pacific Rim"; soon, there may be an "Arctic Rim", perhaps replacing equatorial regions facing runaway climate change.

    [F]or all their successes, the BRIC’s may not fulfill their expected roles as the stars of the global economy in the 21st century. The level of education is horrid in Brazil and atrocious in India; without the requisite human capital, these two countries will find it difficult to rapidly “converge” to developed world standards. China is much better off in this respect, but its high growth trajectory may in turn be disturbed by energy shortages and environmental degradation. China produces half the world’s coal, which is patently unsustainable given its limited reserves. But since coal accounts for 75% of China’s primary energy consumption and fuels the factories that keep its workforce employed, there is little it can do to mitigate this dependence. Meanwhile, China’s overpopulation, pollution and climate change predicament is so well known as to not require elaboration. Many other countries flirting around the edges of BRIC status – Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam, etc. – face serious challenges in the form of low human capital, uncertain energy and food supplies and a rising incidence of AGW-induced droughts, floods and heatwaves.

    There is one global region that may hold the key to resolving these intertwined problems – and even to become a major pole of global growth in its own right. For the most part, it is now an empty wilderness, but climate change is opening it up as potential living space. Its exploitation has the potential to halve the length of global freight transport routes while increasing their security, uncover sizable to gigantic new sources of hydrocarbons and minerals, and stabilize global food prices through the expansion of arable land. Its experience of management and conflict resolution may inspire a global model of cooperation – or it may degenerate into an economic, legal, or even military battlefield over shipping routes and sub-sea resources.


    What will the region's prosperity be based on?

    Beginning with the shipping and energy industries, the influence of the Arctic will eventually come to encompass the entire world. Assuming that efforts to quickly cut greenhouse gas emissions are unsuccessful, and that geoengineering is either not attempted or doesn’t work, then many of the middle regions will become too hot and dry for sustained agriculture (and maybe human survival), and masses of climate refugees will try to migrate north. The center of global economic growth, politics, and perhaps – in the far future – population, will come to rest within the Arctic Circle.

    This process will likely be accompanied by mass upheavals, societal collapses, famines, border conflicts, maybe even bigger wars. But as usual misery contains the seeds of opportunity. It is not impossible that the farsighted individuals who are now buying up Canada’s islands or Siberian riverside lands are positioning themselves or their heirs for lordships and kingdoms in 2200.

    But let’s focus on just the next three decades. The opening of the Arctic by various “push” factors (overpopulation, global warming) and “pull” factors (shipping routes, resources) will create demand for infrastructure, housing, associated services, etc. Buying up strategic lands, routes and infrastructure in the Arctic region offers one of the best, and most overlooked, rates of return in the world today. Take inspiration from OmniTRAX, a Colorado-based company that bought the derelict Port of Churchill and its railway from the Manitoba government for a bargain basement price of $10 in 1998. Now that Hudson Bay has become clear of sea ice during the summer, these assets are receiving tens of millions of dollars of investment from the Canadian government.


    Go, read.
    rfmcdonald: (Default)
    80 Beats' Andrew Moseman lists five areas of the world peculiarly vulnerable to the human demand for oil and accident.

    After the fallout from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—the dispersal agents, the containment domes, the apologies, the blame game, the court rulings over who should pay, the know-nothing punditry, and all the environmental wreckage—offshore oil drilling will go on. The cold truth is that we need the oil, and under the sea is one place we can still find it—in part because extracting it is sufficiently difficult that companies focused on easier-to-get deposits in the past.

    There’s plenty of oil under the Gulf, which became perfectly clear when responders couldn’t stem the flow of the current spill, allowing thousands of barrels to leak into the water every day. But other undersea sites are loaded with oil—and are similarly expensive and risky to exploit.


    The North Slope of Alaska and the Sea of Okhotsk, with their very hostile climates and inaccessibility, are two areas of concern, as is the purate-infested Gulf of Guinea off of Nigeria and Cameron, and deepwater oil reserves adjacent to politically unstable Angola or located under geologically unstable and very deep salt formations off the Brazilian coast.

    Any other suggestions, people?
    rfmcdonald: (Default)
    The recent discovery of large amounts of water ice on the Moon, buried in permanently shadowed craters, and apparently sufficient in volume to support lunar settlements, got me to thinking about Alex Tabarrok's Marginal Revolution post "Was Alaska a Good Buy?".

    The U.S. bought Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. At the time the purchase was derided as "Seward's Folly," but today it's common to compare the purchase price with Alaska's gross state product of $45 billion and claim it a resounding success. But is that the right comparison?

    [. . .]

    Was total world product increased by the U.S. purchase? To the extent that the Russians would have held on to Alaska and would not have been able to fully exploit Alaska's resources in the 20th century then perhaps the answer is yes. But if the U.S. had not purchased Alaska it's plausible that Great Britain would have. So if the counter-factual was British purchase, then US purchase simply resulted in a redistribution of resources from British/Canadians to Americans with no increase in net wealth.

    Moreover, given the ease of immigration at the time, economist David Barker argues that it's closer to the truth to think that the redistribution was nominal only, i.e. from Alaskans calling themselves Canadians to more or less the same Alaskans of the same wealth calling themselves Americans. But why should other Americans be willing to pay for this nominal redistribution?


    In the case of lunar colonization, assuming that the enterprise turned out to be profitable at some point, given the current lack of interest in manned space travel beyond Earth orbit never mind colonization, could the case be made that that this would create value that would otherwise not have existed at all? In a counterfactual where Alaska remained uncolonized by anyone, there still would have been trade with the ex-Russian America's indigenous population. The moon doesn't have any natives to trade with, so the profits would accrue disproportionately to the colonizer, creating wealth where there was none and thus an incentive for acquiring the territory.

    The colonization strategy does remind me of the debt-driven growth of Dubai, founded on the certainty that the city-state could prosper as a financial sector, with very heavy investment in infrastructure and the presence of an inexpensive, mobile, and easily disposable labour force (as Noel Maurer wrote). Would Cabeus City face the same economic challenges as that Persian Gulf city? Or would they be worse--Dubai's trading partners are obvious, but who would Cabeus City trade with?

    Development strategies expressible in terms of single-digit percentages of gross planetary product strike me as problematic.

    Thoughts?

    Profile

    rfmcdonald: (Default)rfmcdonald

    August 2017

    S M T W T F S
       1 2 3 4 5
    6 7 8 9 10 1112
    1314151617 18 19
    20212223242526
    2728293031  

    Syndicate

    RSS Atom

    Style Credit

    Expand Cut Tags

    No cut tags
    Page generated Aug. 21st, 2017 08:19 am
    Powered by Dreamwidth Studios