Storms are blowing work off course

The Netherlands had three “named storms” last week: Dudley, Eunice and Franklin. These are storms with 100+ km/h wind speeds, and they can do lots of damage: blowing down trees, pushing cargo boats off their moorings, disrupting flights, etc.

For me, they were inconvenient because I could get the train to work. Luckily (?), COVID has made everyone familiar with zoom, so we met online, but the interruption reminded me of what I wrote in 2016:

Colder winters and stronger storms will force humans, activities and infrastructure into unfamiliar territory. Impacts will be felt at all levels and sectors of society as “weird weather” disrupts agriculture, tests heating and power infrastructure, stresses ecosystems, and forces people to revisit habits of work and life…
People will cope in different ways. Virtual business meetings will become more common, family reunions less frequent… Innovations in technology and best practices will reduce or perhaps even overcome these losses, but “perfect storms” of bad conditions will surprise and kill us.

The good news is that technology has indeed helped with recent weather interruptions. The bad news is that some cannot switch to technology and that the damages of storms may outpace the solutions of technology.

But think ahead. What if there’s “no point” of going to work, either for logistical or cultural reasons. Will people sit at home, staring at screens all day? Will they earn enough from where-ever their work is to pay the costs of where-ever they live? Will someone with more talent and lower costs take their job? Will they even want to work without the human contact we’re chemically and socially evolved to seek and enjoy? 

I don’t want to live in the matrix, and I have the luxury of choosing to work, but I don’t think that’s true for 80% of the world’s white collar workers. What about those who do physical, location-based work? Maybe they will be busier coping with bad weather, maybe they will be replaced by robots.

My one-handed conclusion is that climate chaos, by limiting our transport options, is going to limit our range of choices, travel, work and life.

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Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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