Heyerdahl’s “Mini-Polar Shift”

Heyerdahl’s “Mini-Polar Shift”

Letters to the Editor: Save the planet. Read Thor Heyerdahl’s ‘The Making of the Modern World’

Posted on January 6, 2018.

Editor’s note: In her January 1 interview with EconTalk, Harvard economist Linda B. Martinez asked whether, today, we can be optimistic about the economy while acknowledging the challenge of climate change. The conversation was originally published on February 27, 2016. Professor Martinez has now given us a chance to answer the question with some comments here. What follows is a response by EconTalk editor in chief Charles K. Polsky, published on January 10, 2019 here: https://econ.st/30QeK6.

It is, in many ways, amazing. If you spend 10 minutes with Heyerdahl, you’ll never forget his words to Bill Moyers: “I thought you were going to write about me.”

Thought you were going to write about me? Heyerdahl was a scientist who went on a five-month voyage aboard a 15-ton ice-breaker to illustrate the impact of climate change on human societies. He gave the first public lecture on global warming in the United States. He wrote a book; he wrote a television show called The Ice Pirates. His last book, The Making of the Modern World: The Natural History of Population, was just published.

Heyerdahl is an extraordinary man. You can see this, if you want, in our interview on April 7 when I asked him, point blank, if he thought there was a chance that this century might see an “extinction year” for humans. He didn’t think so.

In the interview, I asked him the same question about the possibility of a “mini-polar shift”—a shift that could be either positive or negative depending on the details of our global warming history. This was a real possibility. What does Heyerdahl think of this prospect?

His answer is both sober and visionary

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