Forces of Nature: Our Quest to Conquer the Planet

Image of Forces of Nature: Our Quest to Conquer the Planet
Author(s): Barry A. Vann
Publisher: Prometheus Books (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 342 pages
List Price: $26.00

Human population trends have always been at the mercy of Earth’s climate, says geographer Barry A. Vann. Since prehistoric times, nomadic people have migrated to where food and water were plentiful. When scarcities made hunting and gathering no longer an option; then they would settle and commence farming. Even then, they would adapt the layouts of farms, villages, and eventually cities to the climate conditions.

Vann anticipates that throughout this century we, like those earlier generations, will have to adapt where we live and how we build to Earth’s climate. He sees trouble ahead due to climate change and population growth.

Much of Latin America will be overcrowded by mid-century. Populations will double in 13 countries, among them Mexico and Panama. Since rising sea levels will engulf coastal areas, more people will amass onto North and South America’s inlands. Vann fears mass destruction of remaining rain forests to make way for farmland, and overall exacerbations of poverty and malnutrition.

Communities will need to rely on technology to survive, Vann says, including disaster-proof building construction design, tornado early-warning systems, and underground storm shelters. Development in South America will be safer if planners exempt more rain-forest areas from building. And no construction should take place on floodplains.

The United States has long been a magnet for immigrations, but it will impose restrictions as its capacity to accommodate more immigrants declines and world population growth continues, Vann believes. More would-be immigrants will have to remain in their native countries, which will force those countries to improve their economic and domestic conditions, and to develop vital building-design and natural-disaster-preparation technologies.

Vann shows a keen eye for the patterns of history and what they can tell us about the future. Historians and futurists will both find Forces of Nature an engaging read.