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THOMPSON: Wildfires, pandemic, climate change make it tough to be an optimist

August 09, 2021 - 12:00 PM



I’ve been an optimist my entire life. Admittedly, that’s not always easy. After all, we’re dealing with climate change…as if it is not killing us. And we’re not doing much better with a pandemic and widespread ignorance that’s killing us at an even faster pace.

We’re breathing smoke from a million acres of fires throughout western Canada and the United States. Oh, and world peace…well, it’s not looking any better today than it ever did.

So, I shouldn’t be surprised in such dystopian times by an odd mix of the very rich and academicians planning - or at least researching - the best places to be when the world starts to fall apart. And yet, I am.

A couple of Brits published a study last month that ranked the best places to be when the world starts to rip apart at the seams. Excuse the incredulity, but this is like ranking the best places to be onboard the Titanic on April 15, 1912. If memory serves…all of the Titanic sank.

Aled Jones, director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and co-author, Nick King, researched and analyzed wide-ranging data and reported in a journal called “Sustainability” that islands win out over nations with land borders.

New Zealand comes out on top, followed by Iceland, Australia, Ireland, the U.K., and the U.S. Canada is ranked seventh. Perhaps we’d have done better had we been an island, eh?

Not wishing to impugn the two researchers (too much), I could more easily buy into the islands-are-safer-places theory if technology hadn’t thrust rockets with nuclear warheads well beyond sticks and stones as weapons of choice in a what-have-we-got-to-lose nihilistic fight to the finish.

I’m sorry, but I don’t see Russia, China, France - or any other nation that could mount a nuclear attack - accepting their end the way an early loser might walk from a Texas Hold- Em poker tournament.

On the surface, ranking spots on Earth where people can exist…I hesitate to use the word live…might make sense. The Brits took the University of Notre Dame-GAIN Country Index, which uses two decades of data across 45 indicators to rank 181 countries annually based upon their vulnerability and their readiness to successfully adapt.

Apparently, if your country has agricultural land to feed your population…that’s a plus. And you’re going to need water (the fresh stuff not that salty stuff surrounding your island), good healthcare, ecosystem service (think natural resources), developed infrastructure (transportation, sewage and water treatment) and people trained to respond to threats caused by climate change (think floods and such).

If you live with your head in the ground…or some other dark place…I guess you can buy into this. After all, some people believe vaccinations are more deadly than diseases…and that former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of the basement of a pizza place in Washington, D.C. Millions of people believe this crap…so, a ranking of places to hold off Armageddon must really seem reasonable.

Earlier, I mentioned a link between academicians and the wealthy…with each coming to similar conclusions on where to go as things fall apart in the world. Well, the rich have a long history of making dreams - or nightmares - into reality. Some billionaires have already built elaborate bunker-style homes in…you guessed it…New Zealand. 

Look, I get it that some like to plan their lives so fully…so completely…that having even a theoretical place to go when the end is near might bring some sort of peace of mind. Still, I’m pretty sure - in fact, I’m willing to bet - that New Zealand or Ireland or Tasmania Customs and Immigration folks won’t welcome visitors when the dreaded day comes.

Those choosing between the U.S. and Canada, remember the states have more of everything…including guns and ammunition.

And those who aren’t billionaires…well, they might have to settle for really remote areas in Kansas or Montana in the U.S. and Manitoba or Haida Gwaii in Canada. At least the latter has plenty of fish.

Playing survivalist in bunkers could get old and boring after a few years. But after eating thousands of Army Surplus Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)…most would have likely taken their own lives.

It must be tough being a pessimist…always thinking the worst. Yes, we have fires and a deadly pandemic and climate change that threatens nearly every aspect of our lives. I’m sure it was pretty depressing in the good ole days after a few decades of bubonic plague…and when dying from an appendicitis attack was a certainty.

I don’t know, folks. We can fret and worry and ultimately turn against each other…using our energy to plan escapes and fighting for the last whatever. Or, we can optimistically face facts and act together on problems that threaten all of us today.

Maybe I’m off base here…but I don’t think so.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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