Archive for August, 2014

Writing Celebrity?

Almost thirty years ago, I attended a science fiction and fantasy convention on the east coast, where a then-popular writer was toastmaster, and he made witty remarks, and was in fact the toast of the convention. Around fifteen years ago I attended a large national convention in the Rocky Mountain area, where, again, another locally popular writer was toastmaster and made witty remarks and was generally fawned over. What I’ve found interesting was that the first writer sold a handful of books, then a few written-for-hire Star Wars books, and then essentially vanished. The second writer sold one book, had a falling out with his editor, switched publishers and his second book flopped miserably, but remained a “celebrity’ for another few years before fading from view.

These two examples represent perhaps the extreme, but their cases are far from rare. There are other authors who sold well for decades and were never “celebrities,” except perhaps to a few hundred fans… and tens of thousands of readers who never thought of them as celebrities, just good writers whose books those readers bought… and bought. And then there are the handful of “rock-star” writers whose few public appearances at signings engender lines around blocks and limits on how many books the author will sign for any one individual.

From what I’ve observed over the years, there’s only a marginal relationship between having a celebrity “personality” or public attractiveness and being a good or popular writer, because I’ve seen poor writers treated as celebrities, and good ones who sell well but not spectacularly almost ignored at conventions and signings. Yes, there are good writers who are celebrities, and some are handsome or beautiful, but some are not.

The most obvious problem with being a celebrity is that it requires time, and in that respect, I’ve been most fortunate to be modestly recognized, but never a celebrity. If celebrities aren’t available to be celebrities their appeal fades quickly. At the same time, if celebrity is based on writing books, the time required to appear takes time away from writing, and fewer books get written… and celebrity fades, unless, of course, it’s fanned by a multi-million dollar television spin-off. Then too, for some writers, adulation and praise goes to their heads, and they become, as one publisher put it, “uneditable,” which usually lowers the quality of what they write.

Over time, though, one way or another, the celebrity fades. It fades more quickly for those writers with less ability, but it fades for all “celebrity” writers… and in the end, the books have to stand on their own, and some do. Most don’t.

So if you have the skill and talent and good luck to become a celebrity writer, enjoy the ride while it lasts, because that part of your writing career always ends before you think it will.


I recently ran across a Pew Research Center national poll about the police actions and killing of Michael Brown, the eighteen year old black male shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. The poll’s results were interesting, in that roughly 2/3 of black respondents said that the police had gone too far, while only 1/3 of white respondents felt that way. Now, many people would immediately claim that such differing reactions represent either white racism or black overreaction. While some of the white response likely is racist, and some of the black response overreaction, I have strong doubts that majority of the difference between whites and blacks represents those at all. I suspect it represents something far deeper than hatred, racism, or prejudice, not that I’m condoning or excusing any of that.

The problem with ascribing the differing reaction of whites and blacks to racism is that racism and overreaction are too simple an answer, and, more important, attacking the problem by trying to eliminate racism or overreaction won’t solve the deeper difficulty lying behind that difference in opinion.

From what I’ve observed, both directly and indirectly, over a moderately long life, and what is also revealed by various studies, is that, in general, but not necessarily in all individual cases, blacks and whites react differently to authority, particularly “white” authority. Like it or not, white authority has a history with the various black subcultures of supporting white suppression of black rights. It doesn’t matter that this white authority today ranges from not very much different than in the past in some areas to close to equal treatment in others. The perception by all too many blacks, particularly young black males, is that police authority is to be distrusted, avoided, and sometimes even flouted. Given history, and given the way the enforcement and provisions of law, particularly drug laws, where drugs prominent in the black drug culture receive far stiffer sentences than the same drugs used by whites, if in different formulations, this distrust, anger, and resentment has a basis, if sometimes tenuous, in fact.

On the other hand, whites, again in general, but not necessarily in all individual cases, have a far more positive experience in dealing with law enforcement.

This difference in outlook further gets exacerbated by economics and by reality. Again, like it or not, police are far more likely to encounter violence and life-threatening situations in economically depressed areas, and far more areas where blacks live are economically depressed. Then add to that that young males are more likely to act out and do stupid things than any other age group, and unemployed young males even more so, and add onto that the factor that a greater percentage of young black males are unemployed. All of these factors make police far more wary and frankly skeptical of groups of young blacks. That skepticism, especially when overtly displayed, in turn fuels resentment and anger among minorities, especially blacks. By the same token, the often seemingly arrogant reaction by young blacks when stopped or questioned by police doesn’t make matters any better… understandable as that reaction is when those stopped are innocent.

All of the outcry over Michael Brown also tends to ignore that being a police officer in the United States is a dangerous job. According to FBI figures, over the last ten years, on average 170 police officers died every year in the line of duty, roughly half of whom were shot. More than 50,000 officers were assaulted each year, and more than 15,000 were injured every year. With 300 million firearms in circulation and a long history of violence, the United States is not the safest nation in the world for police officers, and the majority of areas with high levels of economically depressed blacks are even more dangerous. The leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 44 is homicide, and in something like 90% of those shootings, the shooter was black.

Compounding this problem is that the statistics show police distrust, in general, nation-wide results in black arrest rates that are far higher than for whites – even when the statistics show that blacks are no more prone to certain types of law-breaking than are whites. Marijuana use rates, for example, are the same for whites and blacks, and with more than six times as many whites as blacks in the U.S, one might think that the arrest rates would be similar, but a New York Times study noted that blacks are four times more likely to be arrested and charged than whites.

In an interesting counterpoint, there have been demonstrations, but no violence to date, in Salt Lake, where last week a “non-white” police officer shot and killed an unarmed 20 year old white male. Unlike in Ferguson, the officer was wearing a body-camera, although the photos have not yet been made public. I do think that body and police car cameras would be a very good start in Missouri, and everywhere, since at the very least, they would eliminate much of the speculation about who did what and when. So would better training in how to approach individuals about whom police have concerns. Again, studies show that greater politeness by police actually reduces violence and confrontation, which actually makes the police safer as well. More ethnic balance in police forces is also useful, particularly in places like Ferguson, where only three out of fifty-three officers are black.

Nonetheless, with all these factors in play, in some respects, it’s amazing that there aren’t more incidents between police and young black males. I frankly don’t have an answer, easy or otherwise, but I do have great concerns that the extremists on both sides are making matters worse, one side in demonizing the police and the other in demonizing young black males. Both sides have legitimate concerns and worries, but a “them” versus “us” confrontation isn’t going to do much to improve things in Ferguson… or anywhere else.

In Praise of Excellence?

Except that the vast majority of people not only don’t praise excellence; they don’t even recognize it. They only think they do. This is to a greater or lesser extent in all fields, even in science.

In 1912 the German geologist Alfred Wegener proposed the idea of continental drift, now called plate tectonics, and he was ridiculed by the scientific community. It wasn’t until more than 20 years after his death in 1930 that his ideas gained credibility, and are now accepted by that same science community. It goes the other way as well. When he died in office in 1923, President Warren Harding was beloved and respected. The revelations and scandals that followed showed his ineptitude and the corruption of his administration, including the infamous Teapot Dome scandal in which Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall received substantial bribes to secretly lease a Naval Oil Reserve to private oil companies for nominal rates.

Study after study has shown that taller men are thought to be more competent and that they’re paid more than shorter men. The same studies show that there’s absolutely no correlation between height and performance, yet people consistently praise and reward taller men consistently more than shorter men.

I’ve seen the same thing in writing. Readers praise what is popular, and few seem to realize that popularity and excellence are not synonymous. On the other side, I’ve seen academicians and critics praise tedious and obscure prose as excellent because they apparently believe that complexity per se equates to excellence. Certainly, the World Science Fiction awards (the Hugos) have become, if they always weren’t, a popularity contest among attendees of the convention.

My wife, who is a professor of music, opera director, and performer, sees the same thing among music lovers. When she’s explained why a particular piece of music is excellent, she’s often gotten the reaction of, “I know what’s good,” from people who have virtually no background in music. They know what they like, and that’s what they think is good.

This is a close to universal human trait. When most people say that they praise excellence, what most of them are praising is at best the appearance of excellence. What they praise is charisma, presentation, appearance, or whatever else appeals to their tastes, biases, and preconceptions.

Paradoxically, that trait may also explain the popularity of sports. Charisma doesn’t make you faster if you’re running track or a competitive swimmer. It doesn’t score points if you’re a football or basketball player. Being tall helps, but it doesn’t make you a better tennis player or basketball player. For all the faults, and there are many, in amateur and professional sports, excellence is largely decided on performance, unlike in government, politics, and business, where a minimal level of competence and a maximum level of appearance and charisma will get most people further than maximum ability combined with merely average levels of charisma and appearance.

So… think about it when you’re judging people… or art, writing, music, or any number of things. Are you judging the actual excellence, or the appeal to you?


The word “mindset” is so descriptive. The most common definition is something along the lines of “an established set of attitudes held by an individual.” We all have mindsets of one sort or another, beliefs or attitudes, but the most dangerous problem with any mindset is that too often long-established or firmly held mindsets make it impossible to see beyond one’s own assumptions and beliefs. I’m not advocating either changing or not changing one’s beliefs when they come in conflict with another’s, but I am saying that, for all too many people, their mindset makes it impossible for them to see problems, especially problems that others face.

In a previous blog, I mentioned an individual who said that rising sea levels weren’t that big a problem – that people could move. This individual lives in a wide-open state with good highways where the poorest individuals have at least limited freedom of movement. This person was literally unable to comprehend that someone living on an island in the Maldives or any other of innumerable low-lying islands has nowhere to move, and most have no funds with which to move, and that, these days, very few countries will accept such refugees.

My wife the professor attended a meeting dealing with the problems of sexually abused women in certain Middle Eastern countries and was astounded to hear college-educated women ask such questions as, “Why don’t they leave?” “Why do they put up with that?” Some of these women, and they were not unintelligent, could not comprehend the fact that in more than a few strict Islamic societies, women are chattels, with no rights beyond what their father or husband grants them. Without rights, they cannot own property, and even their clothes belong to a man. If they are raped, even if they fight valiantly and they are innocent of anything except being a victim, they can be killed because they have “dishonored” their husband and family. This isn’t hyperbole, but fact, yet it is so far from the experience, especially of “liberated” and privileged Americans, that many cannot accept that fact and place a certain level of responsibility upon the “dishonored” women. And even today, as recent statements by at least one American politician have demonstrated, some American males still manifest a version of blaming the victim.

Gender-based wage discrimination exists in the United States, and it is more prevalent in Utah. Last week a group presented a statistically-based initiative pointing this out, which received state-wide media attention. Several days after that I got a blog comment declaring that the state is opposed to such discrimination, and that the commenter had never seen such discrimination. The state may indeed be “officially” opposed to such discrimination, and that it is technically illegal, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that such discrimination is not subtly encouraged by the dominant religion, which I also believe to be the case. Regardless of my mindset and beliefs, however, the documented disparity for pay between men and women holding the same jobs is more than a mere belief… and it didn’t “just happen.”

Mindsets come in all varieties. Liberal educators, in particular, have the mindset that everyone can benefit from an education and that if one praises students to raise self-esteem, that praise will solve half the problems immediately. Conservative educators believe that the business model will solve educational difficulties. Neither mindset seems able to observe that reality differs from their beliefs. The praise-team approach hasn’t worked, and neither has the business model, except in filling college faculties with underpaid adjunct instructors and dumbing down courses because simplified and objectified courses are easier to teach and grade. For that matter, excessive praise does the same thing.

The business mindset that profit is everything is destroying the American economy and middle class, and possibly even society if it continues unchecked, and so few business leaders seem to see that. It’s not that profit isn’t important, because it is. It’s just that profit can’t be the only goal, or the goal that reduces all other business objectives to third-tier tasks that are only undertaken if they don’t reduce profits in the slightest. By the same token, automotive unions pursued the highest possible wage and benefit package for their workers, regardless of the long-term goals… and now Detroit is almost a ghost town and millions of former middle class workers have suffered hugely.

Getting locked into your mindset so tightly that you cannot see beyond it is almost inevitably a recipe for some sort of disaster, and yet, the worse things get, the more tightly most people hold to an ever-narrower mindset. As if what got you into trouble will get you out… except it’s not your mindset; it’s other people’s. But how do you know when that’s true, and when it’s the other way around, if you can’t see beyond your own mindset?

The End of Everything? From So Many Mighty Powers?

Have fantasy and science fiction become a choice between the endless series and the “end of everything” fiction, with the middle ground being the endless series attempting to fight off the coming apocalypse, otherwise known as the end of everything? And of course, these days in fantasy there are more gods, goddesses, sorcerers and sorceresses, demigods and demons, and various powers of incredible might and unfathomable evil than ever existed in all the belief systems and divine pantheons in all of human history. And then there are the vast and sinister conspiracies that are so well organized and so secretive that, if unchecked, they will rule the world, yet are so often stopped in their tracks by a single bumbling wizard or barely trained whoever or whatever.

The media arena doesn’t have quite the variation, but has a definite emphasis on the evil supernatural, depicted in terms of blood, gore, and sex that would have seemed far beyond decency for movie-goers of 50-60 years ago.

So… why all the incredible evil, the almost unimaginable power, gross sexuality, and all too vividly depicted gore? What is it about American society today that finds all this so fascinating?

Do so many Americans believe that the end of the world, or their way of life, is coming to an end? Or are they so jaded that the simpler evils and triumphs enjoyed by earlier generations fail to move them? Or do they lack the imagination to picture the impact of less vividly described or viewed pleasures and punishments?

Or is it that all too many of the current generation of Americans have no real idea, no personal experience with starvation, death, brutality, tyranny, and the crushing burden of true slavery or even the grinding wage slavery of a century ago? Oh, everyone in range of mass media sees the pictures, hears the trained solemnity with which talking heads present yet another death or disaster. And Americans behave as if the everyday world in which they live is beset with terror, danger, and death, when the fact is that, for all the faults our society has, today we live in a society with one of the lowest levels of overall danger in human history. And, sad to say, even the less privileged position of poor minorities today is far less dangerous the the average middle-class life of less than a century ago.

But then, perhaps too many Americans revel in media death, depravity, and danger because so few of them have truly seen or experienced much – or any, in some cases – of it in real life, and not as the media once put it, “up close and personal” [which was never really either], unlike previous generations who did experience more than most ever wanted, and that may be why they wanted more uplifting entertainment.

As for me, I don’t claim to have experienced it all. If I had, I’d already be dead, but I’ve seen more than enough, and experienced enough of the less than wonderful times, that I find no appeal in the “darkest side” of fiction and media… and still wonder about why so many seem to revel in tales so dark that the darkest of what I’ve written seems light by comparison, despite the fact that some of my work is, beneath the surface, rather dark.


Religious extremists all over the world, and in the United States – as well as religious figures who would never consider themselves extreme – are currently demonstrating the dangers when religious true believers hold power and government. In the Middle East ISIS is busy exterminating anyone who doesn’t hew to their extremist views. Iraq is being torn apart over religious differences. Religious differences accounted for the civil war in Sudan, one of the bloodiest and possibly the longest civil war in Africa, which lasted fifty years by some accounts, and now a prominent radical Islamic cleric is declaring that women and children of faiths other than Islam are no different from soldiers and can be killed according to the words of Muhammad. Mass killings for religious reasons are now endemic in Nigeria, where the Islamic Boko Haram movement has slaughtered thousands and kidnapped and possibly killed hundreds if girls and young women. In Myanmar [Burma] Islamic/Buddhist strife is rising. Religious killings continue to rise in Pakistan.

Whether believers in any faith want to acknowledge the role religion plays, it’s rather obvious to me that the vast majority of believers are totally convinced that their beliefs and ways are the only “right” way to live, and far too many of those believers feel that any ends justify the means in giving their faith the power to compel others to follow those “right” beliefs. The religious “moderates” differ from the extremists in this only in the degree of compulsion they believe is permissible. Thus, in the United States, evangelical Christians trumpet “religious freedom” and attempt to use the laws, rather than bullets and blades, to impose their beliefs on others who do not share their views. This is more civilized than slaughtering those who oppose you, but the principle is still the same – using a form of power to force compliance with a religious belief.

This is, of course, more obvious where I live in Utah, the all-but-in-name theocracy of Deseret, where sixty percent of the population is LDS and ninety percent of the state legislators are LDS, and where nothing of significance opposed by the LDS Church can be enacted, where the wage differential between men and women is among the highest of any state, if not the highest, reflecting the very obvious, but always denied, patriarchal dominance of the culture.It’s also the state where Cliven Bundy, the rancher who provoked an armed-standoff with the BLM and who owes millions in unpaid gazing fees addressed a meeting of the American Independent Party last week, declaring that his armed resistance to the BLM was inspired by God and that, in effect, he was only supporting the Constitution, Jesus Christ, and the LDS faith. While several prominent LDS individuals claimed Bundy did not represent the LDS Church, officially the Church has not taken a stand. It’s rather interesting that Kate Kelley can be excommunicated for advocating that women be allowed into the LDS priesthood, while Cliven Bundy can offer armed resistance to the federal government after failing to pay grazing fees and claim God was behind him… and remain in good standing with his church.

But that exemplifies the underlying problem with religion – for true believers, adherence to belief trumps everything… and that’s exactly why the Founding Fathers didn’t want government making any laws that amounted to establishing a religion – a principle that the Roberts Supreme Court seems to avoid considering.


Much has been written about technology, and there’s been a great deal of discussion for at least a century about technology, its benefits and drawbacks, and rebellions against its use in replacing old ways go back at least as far as the Luddite Rebellion in England in 1811. Although that rising and some twenty years of violence against machinery replacing laborers has been too often depicted as mindless violence against better technology, it was anything but mindless, and it wasn’t directed so much against better technology as against the economic and social impacts created by the use of that technology, which replaced modestly paid skilled work with low paid and almost poverty level semi-skilled work in the textile mills and elsewhere, leaving weavers and textile artisans literally starving in some places.

There’s no doubt that technology has improved the quality of life of those who benefit from its use, but what tends to get overlooked in the praise of technology is that, while technology often “solves” problems of the society which employs that technology, there are always those who bear the costs of those improvements, costs which are not inconsequential, and the employment and utilization of new technology in turn creates its own set of problems, problems which, almost invariably, are dismissed by the innovators who benefit from the technology, but are lamented loudly by those who suffer from it.

The industrialization and “technologization” of the United States created great wealth and a much higher standard of living for the upper class, the middle class, and initially, the working class. It also created in the beginning almost intolerable conditions in factories and sweatshops, incredible environmental problems, and air and water pollution, none of which were addressed until legislation forced the users of technology to do so. High-tech industry is pursuing the same path, except the pollutants are now include trace amounts of highly toxic substances, greenhouse gases, chemical-laced waters from fracking, and continued atmospheric pollutants. With the advent of highly automated manufacturing, the costs of many goods has declined, but that automation – and the outsourcing of formerly skilled and semi-skilled manufacturing jobs – has decimated the formerly economically prosperous semi-skilled working class in the United States, one of the reasons why whole urban areas, exemplified by Detroit, have become economically depressed, with swathes of barren and abandoned structures. The wide-scale use of personal higher-tech transportation has created cities where breathing the air is hazardous to health, and the indiscriminate use of medical antibiotics, while clearly benefitting people overall, has also resulted in the creation of more and more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Each “improvement” in technology has, in fact, also created another level of problems, and each higher level impacts a wider area, to the point that new technologies are having global impacts. Pesticide residues are now routinely found in the arctic ice. CFCs diminished the world’s protective ozone layer, actually destroying it in places. Tiny bits of plastic are found in all the world’s oceans with negative impacts on the aquatic eco-system world-wide.

Yet, if we abandoned technology, most of the world’s current population would quickly starve. At the same time, because technology is a tool, and one whose costs of use fall disproportionately on those who do not benefit, as well as increasingly on the world as a whole, and one whose advancements inevitably create new and different problems, seeing technology as the total solution to all current problems is a fool’s game. Like all tools, technology can and will be misused. As with all tools, those with power will attempt to use it for their own personal benefit, regardless of the cost to others. And those who suffer most from its use will oppose it, at times close to mindlessly… and the politicians who, unhappily, are the only ones with the power to restrict its misuse and regulate its beneficial use, will listen only to money and votes.


The author David B. Coe (also writing as D.B. Jackson) wrote a piece last week on his pet peeves, one of which was reviews – reviews of any sort. Among other things, he made the point that we writers are ultra-sensitive and that one nasty or negative review remains indelibly etched in our minds, to the point that he can quote from such a review, even if it appears amid a host of positive ones. I’m not quite that sensitive, and I can’t quote the reviews I hated word for word, or maybe I’m a bit more able to mostly ignore such reviews – after the initial fuming and muttered, and sometimes not so muttered, words – feeling that those few reviews are the result of a certain lack of understanding. And part of the profession is understanding that certain reviewers and certain editors simply don’t like certain approaches… and never will. Nonetheless, even telling oneself that doesn’t lessen the initial sting.

It’s possible that any writer can write and publish a bad or substandard book. But no writer published for years by an established press is going to write bad book after bad book – because a string of truly bad books won’t generally sell [there are doubtless some very limited exceptions to this observation, because there are exceptions to every generalization]. So if a reviewer continually pans an author’s books, while other reviewers offer favorable observations, all that means is that the reviewer either hates that author [sad to say, it does happen] or that kind of book. And if a writer sells lots of books and lots of reviewers don’t like that writer, then it’s pretty clear that the reviewers don’t want to look at what makes that writer popular… and there are some books that tell a great story in absolutely terrible prose, and others that use brilliant prose to tell what amounts to an unworkable story. [I read one of those earlier this year.]

The problem most writers face is that we want people to like, or at least appreciate, what we write, no matter what we may say in public, and any writer who denies this is either lying or self-deluded (and there are almost NO exceptions to this generalization). We all think we have a story to tell, if not many stories, and that we can tell them in a way that readers will enjoy and appreciate. The problem, of course, is that no writer can appeal to all readers, no matter how much we writers tell ourselves that if readers just tried a little harder, they’d really like us. Nope. It doesn’t work that way.

And that means, like or not, writers have to expect at least an occasional review where the reviewer really doesn’t understand what’s going on or is so tied to his or her preconceptions of how a writer “should” have done it… and that gives the writer license to fume about “idiot reviewers.” There are books, very occasionally, that do deserve scathing reviews, but far fewer than reviewers think there are, and there are a lot of books – most of them – that could be better, but what too many people tend to forget is that writing is a business, and if I, or any other writer, spent the time necessary to assure that a book had absolutely not a single error, both the publisher and I would be broke. Very, very good in technical terms is possible; faultless is not economically practical, something that too many readers don’t seem to get… or just don’t consider. My long-time editor, David Hartwell, has often said, “A published novel is an unfinished book,” or words very much to that effect, also observing that any book could be better.

But the bottom line is that no one likes really nasty criticism, especially criticism that we feel is unjustified… and writers are people, and we don’t like it any better than anyone else. As for the comment that such criticism goes with the job, it does indeed, but keep in mind that comparatively speaking, most writers make far less than professionals in comparable fields, and very few of even the highest paid ones make anything close to what investment bankers, specialty surgeons, senior partners in law firms, or corporate CEOs do, and very few of those individuals face the public scrutiny that writers do. Of course, they should, but that’s another story.


The other day I overheard a conversation in which one person made the observation that already rising sea levels were affecting millions and that in a century, higher sea levels would make many places inhabitable, if not destroy them. The other individual replied, “So? It’s not the first time that’s happened. Let ‘em move.”

A third person said, “It won’t be a real problem for centuries.”

A few days later, in referring to the thousands of children who have recently flooded into the southern United States, someone else said, “Just send them all home. We’ve got enough problems.”

I wish these were isolated instances, but I’ve heard more and more comments along these lines in recent years, dealing with everything from global climate change to mid-east violence to immigration and air pollution, and almost all of which were along the lines of, “It’s not that big a problem, and it’s not our problem.” Those words remind me of the most likely apocryphal words of Marie Antoinette who reportedly said, upon hearing that the poor of Paris had not even bread to eat, “Then let them eat cake.”

The Russian aristocracy didn’t think the problems of the poor and middle class were their problems, and the British and the French didn’t want to get involved in German politics when a certain rabble-rouser began rallying the disaffected to his cause, because it really wasn’t their problem if a few Jews were being persecuted. Neither did we freedom-loving Americans care much if minorities in Europe were being stripped of their rights; we didn’t care until it became our problem.

What most people don’t want to understand is both the physical and financial impacts of global climate change, and the impact those have on everything else. History shows that comparatively modest climate changes, on the global scale, far less severe than those we face, have toppled quite a number of civilizations, as have mass migrations of people. We’re now facing the largest change in the global climate in at least human history, and something like fifty percent of the human population now lives within sixty miles of the ocean coastline, including the majority of mega-cities, with trillions of dollars of buildings and infrastructure.

Hurricane Sandy was only a class two hurricane when it hit New York, and it caused more than $75 billion of damages, and there are whole communities that still have not recovered or been rebuilt almost two years later. What happens when water levels rise further and storms intensify, which they have been doing? Add to that the fact that the entire U.S. infrastructure – highways, bridges, power and water systems, dams, and ports – is generally in poor condition and vulnerable to disruptions.

Yes, climate change is nothing new, if more widespread and occurring more quickly, and neither are social and political unrest, and, unfortunately, neither is the human desire to believe that such matters are either not a problem or are someone else’s problem.