Transcript: Thomas Homer-Dixon on The Ingenuity Gap | Jan 15, 2005

Thomas stands at a podium and speaks. Next to him are several plastic water
bottles.

Thomas is in his forties and has dark black hair. He wears a black turtleneck
shirt and a black blazer.

Thomas says I'M
GONNA START BY ASKING YOU A
QUESTION.
WHERE WERE YOU AT 4:17 P.M. ON
THURSDAY AUGUST THE 14TH 2003?
YOU MIGHT THINK THAT'S A CRAZY
QUESTION.
BUT IT ISN'T REALLY BECAUSE YOU
KNOW EXACTLY WHERE YOU WERE.
THIS WAS WHAT PSYCHOLOGISTS
CALL A FLASHBULB MOMENT.
AND IRONICALLY IT WAS A MOMENT
WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT.

[Audience laughs]

Thomas continues IT WAS
THE MOMENT OF THE BLACKOUT, THE
GREAT BLACKOUT IN 2003.
I KNOW WHERE I WAS.
I WAS SITTING IN MY OFFICE,
WHICH IS ABOUT 300 METERS FROM
HERE JUST ON THE OTHER SIDE OF
THE FIELD.
AND I WAS WORKING AWAY.
AND THE LIGHTS WENT OUT AND I
WENT THROUGH EXACTLY THE SAME
EXPERIENCE THAT ALL OF YOU WENT
THROUGH.
AT FIRST WE THOUGHT IT WAS A
LOCALIZED POWER BLACKOUT
PROBABLY CONNECTED TO HARRIS'
CHRONIC UNDERFUNDING OF THE
POWER SYSTEM AND VARIOUS OTHER
THINGS, AND WE ALL HAD THESE
HOT, HOT THOUGHTS GO THROUGH
OUR MIND.
AND THEN WE REALIZED OVER TIME
IN VARIOUS WAYS --

A caption reads “Thomas Homer-Dixon. Author, ‘The Ingenuity Gap. Navigating a
New World Symposium. University of Toronto November 6, 2004.”

Thomas says THAT
THIS WAS A MUCH MORE
SIGNIFICANT EVENT.
I REALIZED IT BECAUSE I PHONED
MY WIFE SARAH OUTSIDE OF THE
CITY.
WE LIVE OUTSIDE IN THE TOWN OF
FERGUS NORTH OF GUELPH AND THE
POWER WAS OFF THERE TOO.
SO I PHONED MY FATHER IN
BRITISH COLUMBIA AND HE WAS
LISTENING TO THE NEWS AND HE
SAID THERE'S A BLACKOUT --
ACROSS
THE WHOLE NORTHEASTERN PART OF
THE CONTINENT.
AND I THOUGHT THIS WAS AS A
SOCIAL SCIENTIST I THOUGHT THIS
WAS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME
INTERESTING, SOCIOLOGICAL
INVESTIGATION.
SO I DECIDED TO WANDER THROUGH
THE STREETS OF TORONTO AND SEE
HOW PEOPLE WERE RESPONDING.

[Audience laughs]

Thomas continues I WENT
TO THE CORE OF THE CITY, TO THE
INTERSECTION OF YONGE AND
BLOOR.
THE PEAK, LAND VALUE
INTERSECTION SOME PEOPLE WOULD
CALL IT.
AND, AND IT WAS REMARKABLE.
PEOPLE WERE DIRECTING, WERE,
DIRECTING TRAFFIC.
PEOPLE WERE UNPERTURBED FOR THE
MOST PART, EVEN HAPPY.
YOU KNOW THIS WAS AN
INTERESTING DIVERSION FROM A
VERY, HOT, SUMMER DAY.
AND THEN I TURNED AROUND AND I
LOOKED SOUTH DOWN YONGE STREET
TOWARDS THE CORE OF THE CITY
WITH THE HIGHRISES AND THE
TOWERS IN THE DISTANCE.
AND I SAW SOMETHING QUITE
REMARKABLE.
I SAW TENS OF THOUSANDS OF
PEOPLE WALKING UP YONGE STREET,
WALKING TOWARDS ME.
AS I STOOD THERE I REALIZED
THAT I'D SEEN THIS BEFORE.
SOMETHING LIKE THIS BEFORE AND
I REALIZED THAT WHAT I'D, WHAT
IT WAS, WAS THE SCENE FROM 911
WHEN PEOPLE WERE WALKING OUT OF
MANHATTAN.
AND I THOUGHT A LOT ABOUT THIS
PARTICULAR EPISODE AS I'D BEEN
WORKING ON MY MOST RECENT BOOK.
BECAUSE I THINK IT'S SOMETHING
OF A METAPHOR FOR OUR
DEPENDENCE ON TECHNOLOGY.
OUR DEPENDENCE ON SURPRISINGLY
UNRESILIANT SYSTEMS, ECONOMIC,
POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND
ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.
I DON'T THINK THIS IS GOING TO
BE THE LAST, TIME THAT WE SEE
PEOPLE WALKING OUT OF OUR
CITIES.
OR THAT WE WALK OUT OF OUR
CITIES OURSELVES, AND IN THE
FUTURE IT MIGHT NOT BE SO
BENIGN.
IN THE FUTURE WE MIGHT BE VERY
SCARED, BECAUSE WE CREATED
SYSTEMS AROUND US THAT ARE
EXTRAORDINARILY VULNERABLE TO
COLLAPSE.
AND THEY ARE BECOMING
INCREASINGLY VULNERABLE IN A
VARIETY OF WAYS.
SO MY TAKE HOME MESSAGE TODAY
IS VERY SIMPLE.
WHEN YOU LEAVE THIS SESSION AND
SAY HOMER-DIXON WAS TALKING
ABOUT RESILIANCE.
THAT'S THE IDEA I WANT TO GET
ACROSS.
WE NEED TO START BUILDING
RESILIANCE INTO ALL THE SYSTEMS
IN OUR WORLD.
INTO OUR GLOBAL SYSTEMS, INTO
OUR NATIONAL SYSTEMS,
POLITICAL, ECONOMIC,
TECHNOLOGICAL, LIKE POWERGRIDS
AND INTO OUR PERSONAL LIVES.
WE NEED TO DO THIS AS A PEOPLE,
AS INDIVIDUALS, AS A COUNTRY
AND AS A SPECIES.
BUT INSTEAD AT THE MOMENT WE'RE
GOING IN EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE
DIRECTION.
AND LET ME GIVE, YOU A CLUE OR
SOME EVIDENCE THAT WE ARE GOING
IN EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE
DIRECTION.
AT THE TIME OF THE BLACKOUT I
STARTED THINKING ABOUT ALL
THOSE PEOPLE IN THE HIGHRISES
DOWN ON THE WATERFRONT.
LOTS OF SENIORS LIVE DOWN
THERE.
THESE BUILDINGS ARE 20, 30, 40
STOREYS HIGH.
THE ELEVATORS DON'T WORK.
YOU CAN'T GET WATER ON THE TOP
FLOORS.
THE WINDOWS DON'T OPEN, AND THE
AIRCONDITIONING WAS OFF.
NOW, THINK ABOUT THAT.
THINK ABOUT WHAT WOULD HAVE
HAPPENED IF THAT BLACKOUT HAD
GONE ON IN 35-DEGREE
TEMPERATURES FOR ANOTHER TWO
DAYS, WE WOULD HAVE HAD A
CATASTROPHE ALONG THE
WATERFRONT.
WE WOULD HAVE BEEN TRYING TO
PULL OUR SENIORS OUT OF THOSE
BUILDINGS AND A LOT OF THEM
WOULDN'T HAVE MADE IT.
NOW THAT IS NOT A RESILIANT
SOCIETY.
THAT IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE.
THAT'S A BRITTLE SOCIETY.
IT'S A BRITTLE SYSTEM.
IN MY WORK I'VE BEEN THINKING A
LOT ABOUT THE FORCES THAT ARE
MAKING OUR WORLD MORE BRITTLE,
MORE VULNERABLE TO COLLAPSE OF
VARIOUS KINDS.
AND THE FACTORS THAT MIGHT MAKE
THEM MORE RESILIANT.
I'M REALLY CONCERNED ABOUT
WHERE WE'RE GOING.
AS A LOT OF THE PEOPLE HERE ARE
TODAY, AS ALL OF YOU ARE.
WE ALL HAVE THIS SENSE, THIS
INTUITION, WE'VE SEEN A PATTERN
OUT THERE.
WE SORT OF GLIMPSE IT HERE AND
THERE, THAT THIS IS REALLY BAD
NEWS, A LOT OF STUFF THAT'S
HAPPENING IN THE WORLD.
THE WAY I THINK ABOUT IT IS IN
TERMS OF WHAT I CALL TECTONIC
STRESSES.
THESE ARE DEEP PRESSURES THAT
ARE OPERATING UNDER THE SURFACE
OF OUR PLANET, JUST LIKE THE
TECTONIC STRESSES THAT
CONTRIBUE TO EARTHQUAKES.
THE THING THOUGH IS IT'S NOT
JUST ONE TECTONIC STRESS AND
I'LL TALK ABOUT A COUPLE OF
THEM IN A MOMENT, ENERGY,
DEMOGRAPHIC STRESS, DISEASE AND
OTHER THINGS.
THE THING THAT'S REALLY
IMPORTANT IS THAT THEY'RE ALL
HAPPENING TOGETHER.
WE'VE CREATED A WORLD IN WHICH,
WHICH THERE ARE MULTIPLES
STRESSS.
THEY'RE SIMULATANEOUS AND IN
MANY CASES THEY'RE CONVERGING
AND THAT'S WHAT IS PARTICULARLY
DANGEROUS.
AND AT THE SAME TIME THAT WE'VE
CREATED A WORLD OF ALL THESE
MULTIPLE STRESSES, WE'VE ALSO
CREATED A WORLD IN WHICH WE'VE
CONNECTED EVERYBODY TOGETHER AT
THE SPEED OF LIGHT.
WHERE WE MOVE PEOPLE, MATERIAL
ENERGY AND ESPECIALLY
INFORMATION IN LARGER
QUANTITIES AND FASTER BETWEEN
US THAN EVER BEFORE.
WE HAVE CONNECTED OUR WORLD
BOTH VERTICALLY FROM, FROM
BOTTOM TO TOP.
FROM, FROM THE PERSON TO THE
VILLAGE, TO THE TOWN TO THE
CITY TO THE NATION TO THE
GLOBE, THE BIOSPHERE AND
HORIZONTALLY FROM TOWN TO TOWN
TOWN, FROM CITY TO CITY TO
CITY, FROM NATION TO NATION TO
NATION.
AND THAT'S A SYSTEM THAT CAN
COMMUNICATE SHOCKS AND DAMAGE
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE.
THINK ABOUT SARS.
A DISEASE THAT WENT FROM
SOUTHERN CHINA TO CANADA IN A
WEEK.
THINK ABOUT THE COLLAPSE OF THE
ELECTRICAL GRID.
A FAILURE OF SOME KIND IN, IN
OHIO, THE POWER GRID AND LO AND
BEHOLD TENS OF MILLIONS OF
PEOPLE LOSE POWER IN A WIDE
SWATH OF NORTH AMERICA.
IN TEN OF THE FOLLOWING SLIDES
IS TO GET --
COMMUNICATE THE REALITY OF JUST
HOW SERIOUS OUR SITUATION IS.
THESE, SOME OF THESE SLIDES
PASS WHAT I CALL THE
INTRAOCULAR IMPACT TEST.
THAT
MEANS THEY HIT YOU RIGHT
BETWEEN THE EYES.
THEY ARE REALLY I, I LOOKED FOR
THINGS THAT REALLY CRYSTALIZE
THE ISSUE IN QUESTION.
YOU'LL SEE THAT THE THINGS I'M
TALKING ABOUT RELATE TO THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NATURE AND
SOCIETY.
AND THAT'S -- SO THAT I THINK
THERE ARE VERY INTERESTING
THINGS HAPPENING.
AND I THINK IN MANY WAYS THE
CRISIS THAT WE FACE AS A
SPECIES RELATES TO THE
RELATIONSHIP WE HAVE WITH THE
NATURAL WORLD AROUND US.
NOT JUST THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT
THE RESOURCES WE EXTRACT FROM
THAT NATURAL WORLD.
THE OTHER THING ABOUT THESE
SLIDES IS THAT THEY SHOW THAT
WE REALLY ARE NAVIGATING A NEW
WORLD.
THIS IS A REALLY DIFFERENT
PLACE.
NOW THERE'S THIS PERCEPTION OUT
THERE THAT WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN
LIVING ON THE CUSP OF CHAOS.
THAT SOMEHOW YOU KNOW IT'S
REALLY NOT THAT DIFFERENT YOU
KNOW, SKEPTICS AND OPTIMISTS
WILL SAY, AH, YOU KNOW THE
WORLD HAS ALWAYS BEEN, FELT
THAT IT WAS ON THE CUSP OF
CHAOS, AND THAT WE AND THAT
THINGS WERE GOING HAYWIRE.
BUT THERE ARE SOME NEW THINGS.
THERE ARE UNPRECEDENTED THINGS
HAPPENING ON THIS PLANET.
AND EVERY ONE OF THESE, THESE
THREE SUBJECTS I'M GOING TO
ADDRESS OVER THE NEXT FEW
MINUTES INDICATES THAT THE
WORLD IS REALLY A NEW PLACE.
THAT WE ARE DEALING WITH
UNPRECEDENTED STRESSES.
SO LET'S BEGIN WITH ENERGY.
NOW, THE POINT I'M GOING TO
MAKE QUICKLY HERE BECAUSE LINDA
TALKED ABOUT IT EARLIER IS THAT
THERE IS A, A TIME LAG BETWEEN
THE DISCOVERY OF OIL AND THE
PRODUCTION OF OIL.

A side shows a graph that has the bell curve of oil discovery and oil
production overlapping. The title reads “Decades can pass between oil discovery
and oil production peaks.”

Thomas says OIL DISCOVERY OVER TIME TENDS
TO FOLLOW A BELL CURVE, AND OIL
PRODUCTION OVER TIME TENDS TO
FOLLOW A BELL CURVE AND THERE'S
A GAP BETWEEN THE TWO PEAKS OF
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 50 AND 30
YEARS, MAYBE 40 YEARS.
IN THE UNITED STATES THE PEAK
DISCOVERY OF OIL WAS BELIEVE IT
OR NOT IN 1930.
AND THE PEAK PRODUCTION OF OIL
WAS IN 1970.
AND IN THE LOWER 48 STATES YOU
HAD A DECLINE IN OIL PRODUCTION
STEADILY SINCE THEN.
NOW, WE CAN DO THIS AT THE
GLOBAL LEVEL.
WE CAN SEE WHAT THE DISCOVERY
CURVE AND THE PRODUCTION CURVE
LOOK LIKE AT THE GLOBAL LEVEL.

A graph reads “Global oil discovery peaked in the early 1960s.” The horizontal
reads from 1900-2000 and the perpendicular from 0-60. The graph shows a slow
increase of production and a jagged mountain like pathway for discovery.

Thomas says AND THIS IS WHAT WE SEE.
NOW THESE ARE PROPRIETARY DATA.
OIL COMPANIES DON'T LIKE TO
TALK ABOUT THEM.
THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW
ABOUT THIS FOR THE MOST PART.
THEY TALK ABOUT IT BEHIND THE
SCENES.
THESE DATA WERE RELEASED BY IN
AN INDUSTRY PUBLICATION BY
EXXON MOBILE.
BUT YOU CAN'T GET THE RAW DATA,
SO I HAD TO INTERPRET THEM
MYSELF.
BUT YOU CAN SEE WHAT THE BASIC
GIST IS.
THAT THE DISCOVERY CURVE FOR
THE GLOBE SAYS THAT WE
DISCOVERED, THE, THE PEAK OIL
DISCOVERY WAS IN 1964 AND THE
PRODUCTION STEADILY INCREASED.
NOW, WE HAVEN'T REACHED OUR
PRODUCTION PEAK.
WE MAY BE REACHING IT RIGHT
ABOUT NOW.
BUT THE KEY THING YOU WANT TO
SEE AT THE END THERE, IF YOU
LOOK AT THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF
THIS GRAPH IS THAT WE'RE NOW
PRODUCING ON AN ANNUAL BASIS,
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN FOUR AND SIX
TIMES MORE OIL THAN WE'RE
DISCOVERING.
IN FACT, LAST YEAR WE
DISCOVERED A RECORD LOW OF
THREE BILLION BARRELS OF OIL.
DESPITE THE FACT THAT WE
INVESTED AN UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT
OF MONEY IN EXPLORING FOR IT.
EIGHT BILLION DOLLARS IN
EXPLORATION LAST YEAR AND WE
DISCOVERED FOUR BILLION DOLLARS
OF COMMERCIAL, COMMERCIALLY
VIABLE AND USEFUL OIL.
THIS IS AN INEXORABLE TREND.
IT TURNS OUT THAT AS PRICES GO
UP YOU HAVE MORE EXPLORATION,
BUT YOU DON'T NECESSARILY
DISCOVER MORE OIL.
OVER THE LONG TERM, THIS IS
GOING TO PRODUCE A C-CHANGE IN
THE NATURE OF OUR ECONOMIES.
IN FACT IT MAY NOT EVEN BE, THE
LONG, TERM.
IT MAY BE THAT WE SEE A CHANGE
VERY RAPIDLY IN THE FUNDAMENTAL
PRICE OF ENERGY IN OUR
SOCIETIES.
NOW, I WANT TO EMPHASIZE THE
IMPORTANCE OF THIS.
ENERGY IS THE LIFE, BLOOD OF
EVERYTHING WE'RE DOING.
IN -- DYNAMIC TERMS, CHEAP
ENERGY, HIGH QUALITY ENERGY
LIKE WE FIND IN PETROLEUM
ALLOWS US TO MAINTAIN
COMPLEXITY AT THE CORE OF OUR
SOCIETIES.
IT ALLOWS US TO DO THINGS LIKE
MAINTAIN PLACES LIKE TORONTO.
AND THOSE HIGHRISES WITH THE
AIRCONDITIONING AND THE
ELEVATORS AND THE PUMPS THAT
DRIVE THE WATER UP TO THE TOP
FLOORS.
WITHOUT ENERGY WE CANNOT
SUSTAIN THE CIVILIZATION THAT
WE HAVE AT THIS POINT.
NOW, ONCE WE PASS PEAK OUTPUT
IT'S ESTIMATED THAT IT WILL
DECLINE ABOUT THREE PERCENT A
YEAR.
OUR, THE EXPECTED INCREASE IN
DEMAND FOR OIL WILL CONTINUE AT
TWO PERCENT A YEAR.
SO YOU GET A FIVE, PERCENT GAP
OPENING UP EVERY YEAR.
WITHIN FIVE YEARS THAT GAP WILL
BE 35 PERCENT OF THE REMAINING OUTPUT
OF OIL.
NOW, IF WE THINK THAT OIL IS
EXPENSIVE, 50 DOLLARS A BARREL WAIT
TEN YEARS OR 15 YEARS.
THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
WE NEED TO MAKE A MAJOR ENERGY
TRANSITION IN OUR SOCIETY.
IT'S GOING TO BE OF
CIVILIZATIONAL IMPORTANCE AND
WE'RE NOT REALLY WRAPPING OUR
HEADS AROUND IT YET.
LET'S GO ONTO THE CLIMATE
CHANGE.
THIS GRAPH IS OBVIOUS.
IT'S SELF-EXPLANATORY.
IT JUST, IT JUST INDICATES THE
RELATIONSHIP, THE PRIMA FACIE
AS LAWYERS WOULD SAY.
A FIRST FACE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN C02 INCREASE AND GLOBAL
TEMPERATURE INCREASE.
IT SUGGESTS THAT THERE IS SOME
KIND OF RELATIONSHIP.
I THINK THE SCIENCTIFIC
EVIDENCE AS LINDA WAS
SUGGESTING BEFORE IS PRETTY
WELL ROCK SOLID NOW.
THAT
THERE IS NOT ONLY AN INCREASE,
HAS BEEN NOT ONLY AN INCREASE
IN TEMPERATURE, AVERAGE
TEMPERATURE ON THE PLANET OVER
THE LAST CENTURY OR SO, BUT
THAT AT LEAST A SIGNIFICANT
PORTION OF IT OVER THE LAST 40
YEARS IS --
HUMAN
DUCED, INDUCED.
WHAT SCIENTISTS WOULD CALL
ANTHROPOGENIC.
AND I THINK THAT DEBATE
ALTHOUGH YOU WOULDN'T KNOW FROM
THE WHITE HOUSE'S
PRONOUNCEMENTS.
BUT THAT DEBATE HAS BEEN
LARGELY SETTLED.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

A slide shows a map of the world beginning with the colour yellow in Africa,
South America, Australia, and then North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa
are orange and Canada is red as well as Russia and the northern tip of Asia. The
title reads “Land areas warm more than the oceans with the greatest warning at
high latitudes.” The bottom of the slide reads “Annual mean temperature change,
2071 to 2100 relative mean. Global Average equals 3.1 Celsius.”

Thomas says WELL, THIS IS A MAP OF CANADA
USING THE RESULTS FROM THE BEST
OF GENERAL CIRCULATION MODELS,
MATHEMATICAL MODELS OF THE
ATMOSPHERE.
AND THESE WERE PUBLISHED IN THE
INTERGOVERMENTAL PANEL AND
CLIMATE CHANGE REPORTS ABOUT
TWO YEARS AGO.
THE MOST RECENT EVIDENCE
SUGGESTS THAT THE SITUATION IS
PROBABLY ABOUT THE SAME OR EVEN
A BIT WORSE THAN THIS.
WE'RE LOOKING AT ANNUAL,
TEMPERATURE INCREASES IN
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE BY 2085 OR
SO, 3.1 DEGREES CELSIUS AS YOU
CAN SEE THERE.
BUT WHAT I REALLY WANT YOU TO
LOOK AT IS WHAT HAPPENS TO
CANADA, ESPECIALLY THIS PART OF
CANADA.
TAKE A LOOK AT ONTARIO.
WE'RE LOOKING AT A SIX TO EIGHT
DEGREE INCREASE IN TEMPERATURE.
NOW THE, THE AMOUNT OF INCREASE
WE'VE SEEN IN TEMPERATURE SINCE
THE LAST ICE AGE WAS ABOUT FIVE
DEGREES TO SIX DEGREES CELSIUS.
THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITHIN
THE LIVES OF OUR GRANDCHILDREN.
AND IT'S PRETTY WELL LOCKED IN
BECAUSE THIS MODEL ASSUMES A
DOUBLING OF CARBON DIOXIDE.
THERE'S PROBABLY NO WAY THAT
WE'RE GOING TO AVOID DOUBLING
OF CARBON DIOXIDE IN OUR
ATMOSPHERE.
IN FACT A LOT OF ATMOSPHERIC
SCIENTISTS NOW ARE SAYING THAT
WE PROBABLY ARE LOOKING AT A
TRIPLING OR QUADRUPLING OF, OF
CARBON DIOXIDE IN OUR
ATMOSPHERE.
AND AT THAT POINT THE MODELS
BREAK DOWN.
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN
EXCEPT WE THINK IT WOULD BE
PRETTY BAD.
THIS IS A PLANETARY EMERGENCY,
AND WE'RE NOT TREATING IT THAT
WAY.
THIS IS OF ABSOLUTELY
MONUMENTAL IMPORTANCE TO
CANADA.
IF YOU GET A SIX TO EIGHT
DEGREE INCREASE IN TEMPERATURE
ACROSS A LOT OF CANADA, IT'S
NOT GOING TO BE, WE'RE NOT
GOING TO BE THINKING ABOUT ICE-
FREE SEALANES IN THE NORTHWEST
PASSAGE.
WE'RE GOING TO BE THINKING
ABOUT FOREST FIRES ACROSS MOST
OF THE NORTHERN PART OF CANADA.
WE'RE GOING TO BE THINKING
ABOUT THE FORESTS THAT ARE
DYING WHOLESALE.
A COMPLETE UPHEAVAL OF THE
FLORA AND FAUNA WITHIN OUR,
WITHIN OUR, WITHIN OUR COUNTRY.
THIS IS THE WORLD THAT WE HAVE
TO START THINKING ABOUT AND WE
NEED TO GET OUR HEADS AROUND
THIS NOW.

A slide shows a graph under the title, “The atmosphere’s temperature has risen
abruptly in the past.” The graph has the years below and the perpendicular the
temperature. It reads a red squiggle line that progressively becomes more curved
and closer together.

Thomas says LET'S GO TO THE NEXT SLIDE.
THE OTHER PART OF THIS STORY IS
THAT IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN
IN A NICE, EASY, INCREMENTAL
FASHION.
IT'S PROBABLY GOING TO HAPPEN
IN SHARP, SUDDEN, JUMPS.
IN FACT WHEN WE LOOK AT THE, AT
THE GLOBAL CLIMATE WE FIND THE
HISTORY OF THE GLOBAL CLIMATE
WE FIND THAT IT HAS THIS
CAPABILITY OF REORGANIZING
ITSELF SUDDENLY.
AND PATTERNS OF ENERGY
CIRCULATION AND THE CLIMATE AND
THE ATMOSPHERE AND IN THE, IN
THE OCEANS CHANGE SUDDENLY AND
IT SHIFTS TO A NEW EQUILIBRIUM.
NOW SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE SEEN
THAT AWFULLY, SILLY, MOVIE “THE
DAY AFTER TOMORROW.”
THE SCIENCE WAS JUST, JUST
HORRIBLE.
BUT THEY DID GET ONE THING
RIGHT.
CLIMATE CAN CHANGE IN A NON-
LINEAR WAY.
IT CAN CHANGE IN A DRAMATIC AND
SUDDEN WAY.
NOW, WE'RE NOT GONNA HAVE AN
ICE AGE IN FIVE DAYS.
BUT WE COULD SEE A SIGNIFICANT
CLIMATE CHANGE IN TEN YEARS.
THESE DATA ARE EXTRACTED FROM
ICE, AN ICE CORE IN GREENLAND.
YOU DRILL UNDER THE ICE CORE
AND YOU EXTRACT THE ICE AND
IT'SASICALLY A RECORD OF PAST
CLIMATES BECAUSE IT'S A RECORD
OF PAST SNOWFALLS.
AND WHAT THEY SAY IS THAT
SNOWFALL, 11,500 YEARS AGO,
SNOWFALL INCREASED
DRAMATICALLY.
AND SNOWFALL IS CORRELATED WITH
ATMOSPHERE AND TEMPERATURE.
THE HIGHER THE ATMOSPHERIC
TEMPERATURE THE HIGHER THE RATE
OF SNOWFALL.
AND THAT INCREASE THAT YOU SEE
THERE, WHICH IS BASICALLY THE
END OF THE LAST ICE AGE, THAT
INCREASE IN SNOWFALL RATE
REPRESENTS SCIENTISTS NOW THINK
A SEVEN-DEGREE CELSIUS WARMING.
THEY ORIGINALLY THOUGHT IN
ABOUT A 30-YEAR PERIOD.
NOW THEY THINK IT MIGHT HAVE
BEEN IN A TEN-YEAR PERIOD.
AND THIS CHANGE IS RECOGNIZED
AT CORAL REEFS AND OTHER
SOURCES OF DATA AROUND THE
PLANET.
THIS WAS NOT JUST IN THE NORTH
ATLANTIC.
IT WAS AROUND THE PLANET.
OKAY.
WHY?
WELL YOU MAY HAVE HEARD A
LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE OCEAN
CONVEYER, WHICH IS SOMETIMES
CALLED THE THERMAL HAYLINE
CIRCULATION.
THIS IS A SOMEWHAT COMPLICATED
STORY.
I'M GOING TO GIVE IT TO YOU IN
JUST A FEW SENTENCES.
THIS IS A FLOW OF WATER AROUND
THE PLANET THAT'S EQUIVALENT TO
100 AMAZON RIVERS.
IT'S ONE OF THE MAJOR SOURCES
OF THE CIRCULATION OF ENERGY
BETWEEN THE TROPICAL AREAS, THE
EQUATOR, EQUATORIAL REGION AND
THE POLES.
IT IS DRIVEN PRIMARILY BY WATER
SINKING IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.
AND THAT WATER SINKS LARGELY
BECAUSE IT'S SALTY AND DENSE.
SO THE SALTINESS OF THE WATER
IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC IS
CRITICAL TO THE GLOBAL CLIMATE.
AND YOU KNOW THAT EUROPE AND TO
A LARGE EXTENT THE EAST COAST
OF NORTH AMERICA IS WARMED
BECAUSE OF THE FLOW OF THE GULF
STREAM, WHICH IS PART OF THIS
GREAT CURRENT, FROM THE
EQUATORIAL REGION UP TO THE
NORTH ATLANTIC.
SCIENTISTS ARE CONCERNED THAT
GLOBAL WARMING IS INCREASING
THE FLOW OF FRESH WATER INTO
THE ARCTIC BASIN.
AMONG OTHER THINGS, IT'S
MELTING THE GREENLAND ICECAP TO
THE TUNE OF 50 CUBIC KILOMETRES
A YEAR.
50 CUBIC KILOMETRES A YEAR.
AND YOU'RE SEEING A FLOOD OF
FRESH WATER INTO THE NORTH
ATLANTIC.
THIS IS A, A --

The slide has a title “Fresher water, fresh questions. Melting glaciers and
rising snowfall are making the north Atlantic less salty. Scientist is racing to
determine whether the change could trigger planet upheavals.” Beneath shows
three planet earths through different time periods.

Thomas says
INITIALLY WAS TAKEN FROM THE
NEW YORK TIMES.
IT'S ORIGINALLY FROM RUTH CURRY
AT THE WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC
INSTITUTE OF WOODS HOLE,
MASSACHUSETTS.
AND IT SIMPLY INDICATES THE,
THE --CHANGE
IN THE AMOUNT OF FRESH WATER IN
THE NORTH ATLANTIC IN THE LAST
20 TO 30 YEARS.
I'LL JUST READ THE, THE
HEADING, THERE.
MELTING GLACIERS AND RISING
SNOWFALL ARE MAKING THE NORTH
ATLANTIC LESS SALTY.
SCIENTISTS ARE RACING TO
DETERMINE WHETHER THE CHANGE
COULD TRIGGER PLANET UPHEAVALS.
AND SOME SCIENTISTS SAY WE ARE,
WE ARE ENGAGING IN A GLOBAL
EXPERIMENT AT THIS POINT AND WE
DON'T KNOW WHAT THE OUTCOMES
WILL BE.
WE ARE AS OTHERS SAY, PULLING A
TRIGGER IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.
AT SOME POINT THE GUN'S GOING
TO GO OFF.
IT COULD BE TEN YEARS FROM NOW.
IT COULD BE A CENTURY FROM NOW.
IT COULD BE A MILLENNIUM FROM
NOW.
BUT THE CONSEQUENCES COULD BE
OF GREAT SIGNIFICANCE FOR
WESTERN CIVILIZATION,
ESPECIALLY THE FOOD PRODUCTION
OF PLACES LIKE EUROPE.
NOW THESE STRESSES THAT I'VE
BEEN TALKING ABOUT, ENERGY,
CLIMATE CHANGE.
I ALSO AM CONSIDERING IN MY
WORK DEMOGRAPHIC STRESSES,
DISEASE, THE INSTABILITY OF THE
INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC SYSTEM.
WHAT DO THEY DO TO OUR
SOCIETIES?
WELL, THEY TEND TO WEAKEN
ECONOMIES.
THEY WIDEN GAPS BETWEEN RICH
PEOPLE AND POOR PEOPLE.
THEY LEAD TO INCREASED
FRUSTRATION AND ANGER BETWEEN
GROUPS IN OUR SOCIETIES.
THEY TEND TO WEAKEN
INSTITUTIONS AND WEAKEN
GOVERNMENTS, IN PART BECAUSE TO
THE EXTENT THAT THEY UNDERMINE
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY.
THEY LOWER TAX RATES.
BASICALLY, THESE CHANGES, THESE
STRESSES UNDERMINE POLITICAL
STABILITY AROUND THE PLANET.
THEY EXACERBATE WHAT GENERAL
DELAIR CALLED THE RAGE OF THE
WORLD.
THEY CONTRIBUTE TO THE RISE OF
FUNDAMENTALISM.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME AS ANGER
AND FRUSTRATION ARE INCREASING
AROUND THE PLANET AND THAT THEY
WILL INCREASE FURTHER IN THE
FUTURE AS THESE STRESSES
CONTINUE TO OPERATE AND BECOME
WORSE, THE POWER TO DESTROY
THINGS AND PEOPLE IS DIFFUSING
DOWNWARDS FROM STATES TO
SUBGROUPS AND EVEN TO
INDIVIDUALS.
WE SEE THIS MOST OBVIOUSLY FOR
INSTANCE IN IRAQ WHERE THE
INSURGENCY, AN INSURGENT CAN
TAKE OUT A BLACKHAWK, HAWK
HELICOPTER WITH A ROCKET
PROPELLED GRENADE.
A WEAPON THAT MIGHT COST A FEW
HUNDRED OR PERHAPS 1,000 DOLLARS CAN
TAKE OUT A WEAPON THAT'S WORTH
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
BUT THE MOST SERIOUS PROBLEM
WITH THIS DIFFUSION, THIS
DESTRUCTIVE CAPABILITY IS WITH
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION,
POTENTIALLY THE DIFFUSION OF
CHEMICAL BIOLOGICAL AND MOST
IMPORTANTLY, NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO
SMALL GROUPS.
AND THIS IS A REALLY
SIGNIFICANT ISSUE AND IT'S
SERIOUS.
THE PROBLEM HERE IS MOSTLY
RELATED TO HIGHLY ENRICHED
URANIUM.
THE, THE, THE POTENTIAL
AVAILABILITY OF WHAT IS CALLED
H-E-U, OR HIGHLY ENRICHED
URANIUM AROUND THE WORLD.
THIS IS THE STUFF THEY USED TO
BUILD THE HIROSHIMA BOMB.
WHAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE
THE HIROSHIMA BOMB WAS NEVER
TESTED.
THE, THE TEST IN AT ALAMOGORDO,
NEW MEXICO --WAS OF
THE DEVICE THAT WAS DROPPED ON
NAGASAKI, AN IMPLOSION
PLUTONIUM DEVICE.
THE HIROSHIMA BOMB WAS A GUN,
URANIUM DEVICE.
THE SCIENTISTS KNEW IT WAS
GONNA WORK.
THE SCIENCE IS REALLY SIMPLE.
IF YOU CAN GET HOLD OF 100
KILOGRAMS OF H-E-U YOU CAN
BUILD A BOMB.
NOW THIS
IS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN
BECAUSE WE'VE SEEN THAT THERE'S
WITH, WITH THE RESULTS THAT
HAVE COME OUT OF PAKISTAN,
ESPECIALLY THE KHAN LABORATORY
IN PAKISTAN.
THAT H-E-U AND THE CAPACITY TO
MAKE H-E-U AND TO FABRICATE
WEAPONS, NUCLEAR WEAPONS SEEMS
TO HAVE DIFFUSED TO PLACES LIKE
LIBYA AND NORTH KOREA.
BUT PERHAPS ALSO INTO THE
CRIMINAL NETWORKS OF THE WORLD.
IT WOULD TAKE ABOUT ONE-
TENTHOUSANDTH OF THE H-E-U
AVAILABLE IN THE WORLD TO BUILD
A BOMB THAT WOULD DESTROY A
CITY LIKE WASHINGTON, MOSCOW,
NEW YORK OR TORONTO.
AND WHAT'S ONE-TENTHOUSANDTH?
WELL I'VE DONE A SLIDE TO JUST
TO INDICATE HOW, HOW
SIGNIFICANT THE DIFFERENCE IS
BETWEEN THE TOTAL AMOUNT AND
WHAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED.
THE DOTS ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE
REPRESENT ALL THE H-E-U IN THE
WORLD.

A slide shows a large square filled with many little dots.

Thomas says THE DOT ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE
REPRESENTS THE AMOUNT YOU NEED
TO BUILD THAT BOMB.
AND THAT BOMB WOULD DESTROY THE
WHOLE CITY.
A YIELD OF SOMEWHERE BETWEEN A
TENTH AND 100 PERCENT OF THE HIROSHIMA
BOMB.
ONE OF THE REAL PROBLEMS I HAVE
WITH THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS
THEY HAVEN'T GONE AFTER THIS
STUFF.
WE NEED TO BE TRYING TO FIND
ALL THE H-E-U IN THE WORLD,
GETTING HOLD OF IT AND BURNING
IT IN OUR REACTORS SO THAT IT'S
NO LONGER USEABLE IN NUCLEAR
WEAPONS.
AND THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT RISK
NOW.
GRAHAM ALLISON IS THE DEAN OF
THE KENNEDY SCHOOL OF
GOVERNMENT AT HARVARD
UNIVERSITY, CAME OUT WITH A
BOOK JUST WITHIN THE LAST FEW
WEEKS TITLED “NUCLEAR
TERRORISM.”
AND HE SUGGESTS THAT THE RISK
OF THE USE OF A NUCLEAR WEAPON
IN A MAJOR CITY IN THE WORLD IN
THE NEXT TEN TO 15 YEARS IS
ABOUT 50 PERCENT.
PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE KNOW IN
THIS BUSINESS ARE VERY
CONCERNED.
SO WHAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE OF MY
PRESENTATON TODAY?
THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS.
OUR WORLD IS BECOMING MORE
UNSTABLE AND POTENTIALLY MORE
DANGEROUS.
IN THE FUTURE MORE AND MORE
CHANGE WILL BE SUDDEN, SHARP
AND UNEXPECTED.
SO THE FIRST THING WE SHOULD DO
AS INDIVIDUALS AND AS A SOCIETY
IS GET READY FOR CONSTANT
SURPRISE.
THE WORLD IS GOING TO BE VERY
DIFFERENT IN 20 TO 30 YEARS
FROM THE WAY IT IS NOW.
IT MIGHT BE BETTER.
IT MIGHT BE WORSE.
BUT IT AIN'T GOING TO LOOK THE
WAY IT LOOKS RIGHT NOW, FOR A
WHOLE VARIETY OF REASONS SOME
OF WHICH I HAVE TOLD YOU ABOUT
TODAY.
SOME OF THE CHANGE, THE SHARP,
NON-LINEAR, CHANGE, THE
SURPRISES THAT I'VE BEEN
TALKING ABOUT WILL OCCUR IN THE
FORM OF BREAKDOWNS OF KEY,
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, TECHNOLOGICAL
AND PERHAPS ENVIRONMENTAL
SYSTEMS.
THIS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE
DISASTEROUS FOR US.
IT DOESN'T HAVE, IT MAY HURT A
LOT, BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE
CATASTROPHE.
BREAKDOWN ACTUALLY UNDER THE
RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES CAN OPEN UP
UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITIES FOR
CREATIVE, CREATIVITY AND
RENEWAL WITHIN SOCIETIES.
IT CAN HELP BREAK DOWN
RIGIDITIES OF THOUGHT.
IT CAN HELP BREAK DOWN THE, THE
RIGIDITIES OF VESTED INTERESTS
AND POWERFUL POLITICAL AND
ECONOMIC SPECIAL INTERESTS THAT
BLOCK CHANGE.
BUT WE NEED TO DO WHAT WE CAN
TO PREVENT TRULY CATASTROPHIC
FORMS OF COLLAPSE, WHICH WE I
THINK ARE FLIRTING WITH NOW
AROUND THE WORLD.
IN OTHER WORDS WE NEED TO ACT
TO REDUCE THE DEEP TECTONIC
PRESSURES THAT I'VE BEEN
TALKING ABOUT.
WE NEED TO GET SERIOUS FOR
INSTANCE ON ENERGY ABOUT
RENEWABLES.
IN 50 YEARS WE'LL LOOK ACROSS
TORONTO AND WE'LL LOOK AT ALL
THOSE BLANK ROOFS OUT THERE IN
THE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE YEAR
2000 OR SO, AND WE'LL SAY
THAT'S CRAZY.
THEY WASTED ALL THAT RESOURCE.
WE COULD BE GENERATING 20 PERCENT OR
MORE OF TORONTO'S POWER BY
USING THE ROOFS IN THIS CITY.
THAT IS A WASTED RESOURCE.
WE NEED TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT
REDUCING CARBON DIOXIDE OUTPUT
WAY MORE THAN KYOTO.
WE NEED TO GO 20, 30 PERCENT, and 50 PERCENT DOWN
IN CARBON OUTPUT.
I DON'T THINK MOST PEOPLE
REALIZE THAT YOU CAN HEAT YOUR
HOUSE FROM THE GROUND
UNDERNEATH THAT HOUSE.
YOU CAN USE A, A GROUND THERMAL
HEAT PUMP TO SUCK THE HEAT OUT
OF THE GROUND THAT COMES FROM
THE SUN, AND COMES FROM THE
EARTH UNDERNEATH AND YOU CAN
USE THAT TO HEAT YOUR HOUSE.
AND WHY AREN'T WE DOING THINGS
LIKE THAT?
WE NEED TO GET HOLD OF THE
HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM IN THE
WORLD AND CANADA CAN PLAY A
ROLE IN THIS AND BURN IT SO
THAT IT'S NO LONGER USEFUL IN
NUCLEAR REACTORS, OR IN NUCLEAR
BOMBS.
MORE GENERALLY JUST TO
CONCLUDE, IT'S VITALLY
IMPORTANT THAT WE INCREASE THE
RESILIANCE OF ALL OF OUR
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC,
TECHNOLOGICAL, POLITICAL
SYSTEMS.
AND THIS IS FROM THE TOP TO THE
BOTTOM.
IN COMPLEX SYSTEMS IT ALL
MATTERS.
YOU NEED TO WORK ON RESILIANCE
EVERYWHERE.
AND THIS WILL HELP US PREPARE
FOR A WIDE RANGE OF
CONTINGENCIES.
IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT
EXACTLY WHAT THE FUTURE'S GOING
TO BE, EXCEPT WE KNOW IT'S
GOING TO BE VERY DIFFERENT FROM
WHAT IT IS NOW.
BUT WE WANT TO BE PREPARED FOR
A RANGE OF CONTINGENCIES.
A RANGE OF THINGS THAT COME
DOWN THE PIKE TOWARDS US, SO
THAT WHEN SOMETHING SURPRISING
HAPPENS WE HAVE THE BUFFERING
CAPACITY, MAYBE WE'VE DEVELOPED
SOME OF THE SCENARIOS.
WE'VE THOUGHT THROUGH WHAT, HOW
TO RESPOND TO SURPRISE.
WE CAN DO THIS IN OUR
SOCIETIES.
WE CAN DO THIS AT THE GLOBAL
LEVEL IF WE CAN REACH SOME KIND
OF POLITICAL CONCORD AT THE
GLOBAL LEVEL, WE CAN CERTAINLY
DO IT IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES.
THIS INVOLVES THINGS LIKE THE
REGIONAL OR LOCAL PRODUCTION OF
GOODS AND SERVICES.
REGIONAL AND LOCAL PRODUCTION
OF ENERGY, SO THAT WHEN THE
GRID GOES DOWN IN THE STATES IT
DOESN'T HAVE TO FAIL HERE.
REGIONAL AND LOCAL PRODUCTION
OF FOOD.
ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT
THE MCGUINTY PROPOSAL FOR, FOR
STOPPING THE DEVELOPMENT OF
LAND, FARMLAND AROUND TORONTO
IS THAT AT SOME POINT IN THE
FUTURE WE MAY NOT HAVE A STEADY
STREAM OF TRACTOR TRAILERS
COMING ACROSS NORTH AMERICA TO
BRING US LETTUCE FROM
CALIFORNIA AND ORANGES FROM,
FROM FLORIDA.
AT SOME POINT WE MIGHT ACTUALLY
HAVE TO PRODUCE OUR FOOD
LOCALLY AND IT'S GONNA BE NICE
IF WE STILL HAVE SOME OF THAT
FARMLAND LEFT.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO THE
NEXT TIME THE POWER GOES OFF.
AND I MEAN THIS METAPHORICALLY.
BUT YOU KNOW.
YOU REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS LIKE,
SIMPLE THINGS.
WE DIDN'T HAVE BATTERY POWERED
RADIOS.
WE DIDN'T HAVE FLASHLIGHTS.
WE'D FORGOTTEN THAT OUR PHONES
REQUIRE POWER.
IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE IN THE
HOUSE AND AGAIN I'M TALKING
METAPHORICALLY IN A SENSE, IT'S
NICE TO HAVE IN THE HOUSE A
PHONE THAT YOU CAN PLUG INTO
THE JACK IN THE WALL AND THAT
STILL WORKS.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO MEET
YOUR FAMILY IF THERE IS A MAJOR
CRISIS OF SOME KIND?
MAYBE
YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT WHAT
YOU'RE GOING TO DO TO PURCHASE
THINGS.
HOW MUCH CASH YOU SHOULD HAVE
ON HAND IF THE ATMS DON'T WORK,
THE DEBIT MACHINES DON'T WORK
AND THE VISA MACHINES DON'T
WORK ANYMORE.
BECAUSE
WE ALL FOUND OURSELVES
CASHLESS.
NOW THE REALLY DISCOURAGING
THING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AFTER
THAT BLACKOUT IS WE WERE ALL
SURPRISED BY HOW DEPENDANT
WE'VE BECOME ON ELECTRICAL
DEVICES AROUND US.
BUT THEN SHORTLY AFTERWARDS, WE
SLIPPED BACK INTO OUR EASY,
BEFORE THE BLACKOUT WAYS.
WE BECAME COMPLACENT AGAIN.
WE HAVE NOT LEARNED THE LESSON.
EVEN THE SMALL LESSONS FROM
THAT EXTRAORDINARY EVENT.
IF WE EACH THINK ABOUT WHAT WE
CAN DO TO MAKE OURSELVES MORE
RESILIANT AS INDIVIDUALS, AS A
COUNTRY, WE WILL ALL BE BETTER
OFF, BECAUSE LITTLE THINGS
ACTUALLY COUNT IN COMPLEX
SYSTEMS.
IF WE CAN ALL MAKE A DIFFERENCE
IN LITTLE WAYS IN OUR OWN
LIVES, IT'LL MAKE A BIG
DIFFERENCE OVERALL.
AND MAYBE NEXT TIME THE POWER
GOES OFF WE WON'T HAVE TO WALK
OUT OF OUR CITIES.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[Audience applauding]

Now Tina and Thomas sit across from each other facing the audience. The table
between them has a white vase filled with flowers and a wild plants.

Tina is in her forties and she has a pixie cut with brown hair. She wears a
brown pantsuit with a red pin.

Tina says I WANTED TO START BY
ASKING YOU, YOU KNOW YOU SAY
THAT WE NEED TO BE A MORE
RESILIANT SOCIETY.
WHY IS IT THAT WE SEEM TO BE
BURYING OUR HEADS IN THE SAND
ABOUT THESE ISSUES?
I MEAN WHAT IS IT IN OUR
NATURE?
ARE WE JUST SO OPTIMISTIC THAT
WE ALWAYS THINK THAT YOU KNOW
WE'LL COME THROUGH AT THE END?

Thomas says WELL I
THINK THERE'S A NATURAL HUMAN
TENDENCY TO OPTIMISM.
AND, AND IT'S ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT HAS ALLOWED US TO, TO
PROSPER AND SURVIVE AND THRIVE
AS A SPECIES ON THIS PLANET.
SO THAT'S PART OF IT.
I MEAN WE'RE REALLY GOOD AT
DENIAL.
PART OF IS THAT IT'S DIFFICULT
FOR ONE, ANY, ONE INDIVIDUAL TO
CHANGE THIS BROADER STRUCTRUE
THAT WE'RE EMBEDDED IN.
ONE OF THE REASONS IT'S GREAT
TO SEE SO MANY PEOPLE HERE
TODAY IS BECAUSE COLLECTIVELY
IF WE START THINKING ABOUT
THESE THINGS COLLECTIVELY, WE
MIGHT BE BETTER IN DOING IT AS
A GROUP.
BUT ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS
TRYING TO COMMUNICATE TOO IN MY
LAST COMMENTS THERE IS THERE
ARE ACTUALLY THINGS WE CAN
START DOING INDIVIDUALLY.
I MEAN ITS, ITS IMPORTANT TO
ENGAGE IN POLITICAL ACTION ON
THINGS LIKE CLIMATE CHANGE AND
ENERGY.
BUT YOU CAN ALSO START TO MAKE
YOUR OWN LIVES MORE RESILIANT.
NOW, ITS, ITS NOT VERY, COOL AT
THE MOMENT TO TALK ABOUT A LOT
OF THIS STUFF.
YOU KNOW WE WANT TO THINK THAT
EVERYTHING'S GONNA BE OKAY.
AND I'M SURE IN THE PAPERS
TOMORROW IT'LL TALK ABOUT THE
DOOMFEST THAT TOOK PLACE.
[Tina laughs]

Thomas says YOU KNOW
AND I'LL BE, I'LL BE EXHIBIT A
IN THE DOOMFEST.

Tina says THAT'S RIGHT, YOU WILL
BE.

Thomas says THE
DOOMFEST THAT TOOK PLACE.
BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?
THAT, THOSE DATA AREN'T GOING
AWAY.
THE WORLD'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE
FROM THE WAY IT'S REPRESENTED
IN THOSE, IN THOSE SLIDES.
I MEAN THE SCIENTISTS HAVE
PROBABLY GOT IT MORE OR LESS
RIGHT.

Tina says BUT YOU'RE TALKING
ABOUT REAL CHANGES THEN.
I MEAN IN A SENSE WHAT YOU'RE
SAYING IS WE NEED TO CONSUME
LESS.
AND CAPITALISM IS BUILT ON
INCREASED CONSUMPTION.

Thomas says YEAH.

Tina says DO YOU REMEMBER EVERY
YEAR AT CHRISTMAS TIME I'M
ALWAYS STUNNED WHEN THE
PROJECTIONS FOR THE SALES
FIGURES COME OUT, AND THEY GO
OH, MY GOD, IT'S ONLY UP TWO
PERCENT.
WELL WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?
YOU KNOW BUT IF IT'S NOT UP
MORE THAN, IF IT'S NOT UP MORE
AND MORE AND MORE EVERY YEAR WE
SEEM TO BE AS A, AS A
CAPITALISTIC SOCIETY DISMAYED.
SO HOW DO WE COUNTER THAT?

Thomas says THAT'S
RIGHT.
YEAH YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT
TINA.
AND THAT IS IN A SENSE THE
UNDERLYING EXPLANATION OF THE
SUV, RIGHT?
THE SUV SAVED THE AUTO INDUSTRY
IN NORTH AMERICA, AND, AND
WE'RE INTO A SYSTEM NOW WHERE
FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS WE
HAVE TO SUSTAIN CONSUMPTION TO
SUSTAIN DEMAND WITHIN THE,
WITHIN THE ECONOMY.
OTHERWISE THE ECONOMY DOESN'T
GROW AND IF OUR ECONOMIES DON'T
GROW THEY BECOME SOCIALLY AND
POLITICALLY UNSTABLE BECAUSE IT
BECOMES A ZERO SUM COMPETITION
BETWEEN, BETWEEN THE, THE
WEALTHY ELITES AND THE MIDDLE
CLASS AND THE POOR.
SO AS LONG AS IT'S GROWING
YOU'RE GETTING A LITTLE BIT OF
TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT AND, AND TO
DO THAT WE HAVE TO SUSTAIN
CONSUMPTION WITHIN THE SYSTEM.
TO BE FRANK THIS IS A VERY,
DIFFICULT SITUATION.
I'M NOT SURE EXACTLY WHAT THE
ANSWERS ARE TO, TO THE BROADER
ISSUE OF ECONOMIC CHANGE.
I THINK SOMEBODY ASKED A
QUESTION EARLIER THAT WAS
REALLY IMPORTANT ON THE CLIMATE
CHANGE THING.
WE'RE NOT GOING TO GET ACTION
ON CLIMATE CHANGE UNTIL
SOMETHING REALLY BAD HAPPENS.
WELL WE'RE PROBABLY NOT GOING
TO GET ACTION ON ECONOMIC
REFORM AND CHANGE IN OUR
CONSUMPTION PATTERNS UNTIL
SOMETHING REALLY BAD HAPPENS.
THERE HAS TO BE A SHOCK TO THE
SYSTEM OF SOME KIND.
BUT WHAT WE WANT TO DO IN THE
MEANTIME IS THINK, THROUGH WHAT
WE WOULD LIKE THAT FUTURE TO BE
LIKE.

Tina says YES.

Thomas says AND, AND
IN THE PROCESS WHEN THE, WHEN
THE SHOCK HAPPENS WE'LL BE
BETTER PREPARED TO TAKE
ADVANTAGE OF IT.

Tina says YOU'VE TALKED IN, IN
YOUR WORK ABOUT THE COMPLEXITY
OF SYSTEMS MAKING ANY DISASTER
THAT MUCH WORSE, BECAUSE IT'S
NOT ONE THING HAPPENING.
IT COULD BE SEVERAL THINGS
HAPPENING AT ONCE.
YOU START YOUR BOOK “THE
INGENUITY GAP” WITH THAT
TERRIFYING SCENE IN THE
AIRPLANE IN THE COCKPIT WHEN
ALL THESE THINGS GO WRONG AT
ONCE AND NOBODY QUITE KNOWS HOW
TO HANDLE IT.
THEY LAND THE PLANE.
MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE LOSE THEIR
LIVES.
THERE ARE SURVIVORS.
BUT IS, IS THIS WHAT WE'RE
FACED WITH?
I MEAN IN A WAY IS THAT YOU
KNOW “THE INGENUITY GAP” I
GUESS.
BUT YOU KNOW ARE WE MAKING ANY
HEADWAY IN, IN BRIDGING THAT
GAP?

Thomas says I THINK
WE ARE.
BUT I THINK THAT IT'S HAPPENING
SUBLIMINALLY.
IN OTHER WORDS IT'S NOT
HAPPENING IN REALLY OVERT
POLICIES IN A LOT OF WAYS.
A LOT OF US, THE LARGER
STRUCTURE IS STAYING THE SAME.

YOU STILL HAVE TO DRIVE ON THESE
RIDICULOUS HIGHWAYS TO GET INTO
THE CITY EVERY DAY, BECAUSE THE
INFRASTRUCTURE IS BUILT LIKE
THAT.
BUT WHAT IS HAPPENING I THINK
AND ONE REASON THAT YOU GET
SUCH AN EXTRAORDINARY TURNOUT -

Thomas says TO AN
EVENT LIKE THIS IS THAT PEOPLE
ARE SENSING THAT SOMETHING IS
GOING WRONG.

Tina says MMM-HMM.

Thomas says AND
THEY'RE LOOKING FOR
ALTERNATIVES.
AND I WOULD SAY THAT ONE OF
THE, THE KEY THINGS THAT YOU
HAVE TO START WITH IN
DEVELOPING ALTERNATIVES IS TO
REALIZE THAT THE WORLD IS
REALLY DIFFERENT FROM THE WAY
IT WAS IN THE PAST.
SO THERE'S KIND OF A CONCEPTUAL
SHIFT THAT HAS TO GO HERE, GO
ON HERE.
THIS IS NOT A WORLD IN THE
FUTURE THAT WE ARE GOING TO BE
ABLE TO MANAGE IN THE
TRADITIONAL SENSE, WHERE WE CAN
TWEAK IT IN SMALL WAYS AND, AND
MORE OR LESS PREDICT EXACTLY
HOW IT'S GOING TO DEVELOP IN
THE FUTURE.
IT'S GOING TO BE A WORLD IN
FACT IN MANY WAYS IT'S ALWAYS
BEEN A WORLD THAT HAS BEEN
PRONE TO ABRUPT CHANGES IN
DIRECTION.
WELL WE NEED TO START THINKING
THROUGH COLLECTIVELY AND AGAIN
I DON'T, I CERTAINLY DON'T HAVE
ALL THE ANSWERS.
BUT WE NEED TO START THINKING
THROUGH COLLECTIVELY WHAT THAT
MEANS IN TERMS OF OUR ECONOMIC
SYSTEM, OUR DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM?
WELL THE FIRST THING I THINK IT
MEANS AND I BET EVERYBODY HERE
UNDERSTANDS THIS IS THAT IF YOU
DON'T KNOW WHERE THE CLIFF
EDGES ARE, YOU DON'T PUSH THE
SYSTEM TO THE LIMIT, RIGHT?
SOMEBODY SAID IT'S AS IF WE'RE
RUNNING AROUND REALLY FAST
WITH, WITH CLIFF EDGES ALL OVER
THE PLACE AND, AND IT'S
ACTUALLY LIKE WE'RE RUNNING
AROUND REALLY FAST WITH CLIFF
EDGES ALL OVER THE PLACE ON THE
TERRAIN WHERE WE'RE RUNNING
WITH A BLINDFOLD ON.
NOW ONCE YOU REALIZE YOU'RE
BLINDFOLDED BECAUSE WE'RE NOT
RECOGNIZING WE'RE BLINDFOLDED,
WE THINK, WE THINK YOU KNOW
PEOPLE LIKE ALAN GREENSPAN CAN
MANAGE EVERYTHING IN TERMS OF
THE ECONOMY.
BUT ONCE WE REALIZE, IF WE'VE
REALLY GOT A BLINDFOLD ON THE
FIRST THING YOU DO IS STOP.
STOP RUNNING AROUND.
STOP PUSHING THE SYSTEM TO THE
LIMIT.
AND THEN YOU MIGHT SORT OF PUT
A FOOT OUT AND JUST SORT OF
FEEL THE TERRAIN A LITTLE BIT
AND SAY, OH, IS THERE A CLIFF
EDGE THERE?

Tina says HMM.

Thomas says BUT YOU
KNOW THIS IS AN ARGUMENT FOR
PRUDENCE.
AND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT
PRUDENCE, THINK ABOUT THE LAST
TIME ANYBODY WAS NAMED
PRUDENCE.
[All laughing]

Thomas says THAT,
THAT IS A CULTURAL SHIFT OF
ACTUALLY CONSIDERABLE
SIGNIFICANCE.
[Tina laughs]

Thomas says IF
PRUDENCE IS A PEJORATIVE, A
PEJORATIVE CHARACTER TRAIT NOW,
RIGHT?
WE WOULDN'T HAVE PRUDENCE.
WE'RE A BUNGEE JUMPING,
CULTURE, A BUNGEE JUMPING
SOCIETY.
INSTEAD WE HAVE TO, WE HAVE TO
REINCULCATE WITHIN US AND I
THINK THAT'S PART OF WHAT THE
CONCEPTUAL CHANGE THAT'S GOING
ON.
REINCULCATE WITHIN US A SENSE
OF, OF HUMILITY IN THE FACE OF
THESE FORCES.
A SENSE OF CAUTION AND, AND,
AND RECOGNIZING THAT WE DON'T
REALLY KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON IN
THE WORLD AROUND US SO WE'D
BETTER TAKE CARE.

Tina says WELL OUGHT WE NOT AS
WELL TO INFORM OURSELVES I MEAN
YOU TALK ABOUT WE THINK OH,
GREENSPAN WILL LOOK AFTER IT.
WELL WE HOPE HE WILL CAUSE WE
THINK HE'S SMARTER THAN WE ARE.
AND WHO CAN GRASP THESE THINGS?
YOU KNOW THE, THE WORLD
ECONOMY'S VERY DIFFICULT, OUR
LACK OF SCIENCE.
THE POWER FAILURE'S A PERFECT
EXAMPLE.
I DIDN'T KNOW THAT I COULD TURN
MY GAS BURNERS ON.
THIS WAS A SURPRISE TO ME.
SOMEBODY TOLD ME.

Thomas says WITH A
MATCH.

Tina says YOU WERE SO OUT OF
TOUCH WITH HOW OUR, YOU KNOW I
MEAN HOW DO WE MAKE UP FOR THAT
GAP IN OURSELVES?

Thomas says WELL I
SOMETIMES CALL THIS YOU KNOW I,
I THINK SARAH CALLS ME MACGYVER
SOMETIMES, YOU KNOW.
AND THAT, THAT A LOT I MEAN OF
THESE THINGS WE'VE FORGOTTEN
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES.
IN PART BECAUSE A LOT OF THE
THINGS THAT, THAT WE USED TO BE
ABLE TO DO WE CAN'T DO ANYMORE
BECAUSE THE SYSTEM'S BECOME TOO
COMPLEX.
WE CAN'T REPAIR CARS ANYMORE
FOR EXAMPLE.
WE CERTAINLY CAN'T REPAIR OUR
COMPUTERS.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU
ACTUALLY SUCCESSFULLY LOADED A
PIECE OF SOFTWARE ONTO YOUR
COMPUTER?
[Audience laughing]

Tina says NEVER.
[Laughs]

Thomas says NOW I
THINK THERE ARE SOME GENUINE
ISSUES HERE.
BUT, BUT, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?
I'VE, I'VE MADE IT MY, PART OF
MY MISSION IN LIFE TO TRY TO
SHOW PEOPLE THAT THESE COMPLEX
IDEAS LIKE ENERGY AND CLIMATE
CAN BE UNDERSTOOD BY ANYBODY.
AND, AND YOU DON'T NEED TO
DRESS IT UP IN A LOT OF JARGON.
THAT PEOPLE ARE SMART ENOUGH TO
GET THE BASICS AND THE BASICS
ARE WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE,
START MAKING SENSIBLE DECISIONS
IN YOUR LIFE.

Tina says I JUST WANT TO ASK YOU
ONE LAST QUESTION.
YOU MENTIONED THIS IDEA OF
CREATIVE BREAKDOWN.
OBVIOUSLY WHAT YOU DON'T WANT
ARE SEVERAL BIG THINGS
HAPPENING AT ONCE, WHICH WOULD
BE A CATASTROPHE.
YOU SAID, YOU SUGGESTED THAT
THERE IS A KIND OF BREAKDOWN
THAT IS NOT ONLY INEVITABLE BUT
PERHAPS, GOOD.

Thomas says THIS IS
AN ARGUMENT THAT COMES MOST
RECENTLY OUT OF THEORIES IN
ECOLOGY THAT LOOK AT HIGHLY
ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS AND HAVE SHOWN
THAT THE HIGHLY ADAPTIVE
SYSTEMS OF ALL KINDS, WHETHER
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT IMMUNE
SYSTEMS OR ECONOMIES OR
ECOLOGIES GO THROUGH CYCLES OF
GROWTH AND BREAKDOWN.
AND THAT THE BREAKDOWN PROCESS,
IT'S A CONSTRAINED FORM OF
BREAKDOWN BUT IT IS ESSENTIAL
TO ADAPTATION, ABSOLUTELY
ESSENTIALLY.
NOW THIS CONCEPT HAS BEEN
CAPTURED ACTUALLY IN ECONOMICS
BY JOSEPH SCHUMPETER THE GREAT
AUSTRIAN ECONOMIST'S EXPRESSION
CREATIVE DESTRUCTION.
THE IDEA THAT A HIGHLY ADAPTIVE
SYSTEM HAS TO GO THROUGH
PROCESSES OF, OF BREAKING APART
CONNECTIONS WITHIN THE SYSTEM.
LIBERATING THE CONSTITUENT
PARTS OF THE SYSTEM AND
ALLOWING THEM TO RECOMBINE IN
NEW WAYS.
NOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO IS DO
THAT AND THIS IS ALL VERY
ABSTRACT AT THE MOMENT.
BUT YOU WANT TO DO THAT WITH
THE LEAST HARM POSSIBLE.
YOU DON'T WANT THIS KIND OF
DEEP COLLAPSE WHERE THE WHOLE
SYSTEM CASCADES DOWN.
I SORT OF THINK OF IT LIKE THE
TOWERS IN THE WORLD TRADE
CENTRE PANCAKING ON TOP OF EACH
OTHER.

Tina says MMM-HMM.

Thomas says INSTEAD
YOU WANT TO HAVE, YOU WANT TO
HAVE A BREAKDOWN THAT'S
CONSTRAINED WITHIN CERTAIN
SECTIONS OF THE SYSTEM.
AND THEN THERE'S A REGENERATION
AND THEN SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENS
SOMEWHERE ELSE.
AND IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO MANAGE
THIS SPECIFICALLY.
BUT IF YOU WANT TO LOOK AT AN
OCCASION WHERE WE'VE SEEN THIS
IN, IN WESTERN SOCIETY THE
GREAT DEPRESSION WOULDN'T BE A
BAD EXAMPLE.
AND IT'S A VERY, INTERESTING
EXAMPLE BECAUSE IN THE UNITED
STATES FDR USED THE GREAT
DEPRESSION AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO
RADICALLY REFORM THE AMERICAN
CAPITALIST SYSTEM.
NOW YOU CAN HAVE, WE CAN HAVE
ARGUMENTS ABOUT WHETHER THAT
ULTIMATELY WAS A GOOD THING OR
NOT.

Tina says MMM-HMM.

Thomas says BUT, BUT
IT WAS CERTAINLY A VERY
SIGNIFICANT ADAPTATION TO A
CHANGED WORLD.
AND, AND HE COULD ONLY DO THAT
BECAUSE OF WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN
TERMS OF THE BREAKDOWN OF THE
SYSTEM UP TO THAT POINT.

Thomas says AND YOU,
BACK IN THE 1930S PEOPLE
THOUGHT THAT THIS WAS, THAT
THESE WERE THE LAST DAYS --

Tina says YES.

Thomas says OF THE
CAPITALIST SYSTEM AND HE FOR
ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES SAVED
IT.
BUT THE OTHER PART OF THIS
LESSON IS THAT IN EUROPE OF
COURSE, THE DEPRESSION LED TO
HITLER AND NATIONAL SOCIALISM
AND,AND THE CATASTROPHIC WAR.

Thomas says PART OF
WHAT, PART OF THE ARGUMENT I'M
DEVELOPING IS THAT, IS THAT WE
CAN ANTICIPATE IN THE FUTURE
THAT THAT THESE THINGS ARE
GOING TO HAPPEN.
THIS IS, WE'RE NOT GOING TO
HAVE A NICE, LINEAR PROJECTION
OF INTO THE FUTURE AND
EVERYTHING'S GOING TO GET
BETTER AND BETTER.
THERE ARE GOING TO BE SHARP
SHOCKS AND SOME OF THEM ARE
GOING TO BE NEGATIVE.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS, IS BE
READY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF
THOSE IN WAYS THAT ARE
CONSTRUCTIVE, RATHER THAN
LETTING THE DEMAGOGUES AND THE
EGOMANIACS WHIP UP FRUSTRATION
AND ANGER AND HOSTILITY AND
CREATE VIOLENCE IN THE SYSTEM
BECAUSE, BECAUSE OF THE
BREAKDOWN.
SO, SO THERE ARE CONTINGENT
MOMENTS IN HISTORY WHERE YOU
CAN TURN THESE THINGS TO
ADVANTAGE OR TO DISADAVANTAGE.AND
KNOWING ABOUT THOSE, THAT THOSE
ARE COMING --

The caption reads “Special Thanks to Random House of Canada.”

Tina says MMM-HMM.

Thomas says WE DON'T
KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY'RE GONNA
LOOK LIKE.
BUT KNOWING THAT THOSE ARE
COMING --
CAN HELP.

Watch: Thomas Homer-Dixon on The Ingenuity Gap