Follow the money, Deep Throat said. McKenzie Funk has done just that in Windfall (Penguin Press, 310 pages, $27.95), which takes the author to two dozen countries to examine the economics of global warming.
Not surprisingly, Funk finds that oil companies like Shell do whatever they can to maximize profits, devastating the arctic and ignoring the objections of local Inuits. But he also finds surprising responses to climate change, such as a newly nationalist Canada sending soldiers to guard freshly exposed land in the Northwest Passage, and Greenlanders trading natural resources once buried by ice for an influx of cash to financially free themselves from Denmark. One revolutionary leader in Greenland boils it down to game theory: "We're very aware that we'll cause more climate change by drilling for oil. But should we not when it can buy us our independence?"
And, as Funk discovers, melting ice uncovers all sorts of new markets. Like in the Alps, where a new Israeli desalination machine is combating a melting glacier and a dearth of new snow.
Funk's case studies paint a broad picture of how the world reacts to climate change, each study presenting a new problem and expanding the reader's point of view beyond the simplicity of fear. Funk urges us to think about whether our responses to the environment serve the interests of social justice. He offers no solution beyond a reality check. He also sympathizes with the underdogs, noting that the people who cause the problems in the wealthy Northern hemisphere won't have to face the most dire consequences. "I believe it is naive to hope that we in the north will significantly cut emissions or consumption...because we personally feel threatened," he says, revealing the absurdity of our desire to chase a target that is moving faster than we can hit it. Either way, though, don't doubt someone's getting rich.
GO: McKenzie Funk reads at Powell's on Hawthorne, 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 228-4651, on Monday, Feb. 10. 7:30 pm. Free.