The Washington Post this week carried an interesting Q&A with Parag Khanna, the paradigm-bending author of the new book, “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization.”
The book includes a number of maps that, the Post promises, “will make you rethink the world.”
Naturally, we zeroed in on Maine when looking at these maps to see what role Khanna believes our state may play on this evolving planet.
What did we find?
It seems Maine may be a significant player in the America of the future.
Khanna urges the North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to largely band together as a united front on the global stage. Doing that would be economically prudent and could position the unified continent as an even greater super power than the U.S. is today, he argues.
Doing that would also tilt the map in such a way that Maine is no longer a northeastern dead end on the American highway, but rather a crucial upper-mid-range transportation hub on what will be an increasingly vibrant Arctic trade corridor, due to the melting of the polar ice caps.
This notion that Maine could take advantage of emerging Arctic shipping routes is not totally new, of course. Icelandic shipping company Eimskip considered that future when it chose Portland as its primary U.S. home in 2013.
But Khanna adds another layer to that realization in his maps. Breaking the country into “city-state” regions, as one of his illustrations does, Portland becomes a more concrete extension of an urban corridor that stretches from Washington, D.C., up to Maine’s largest city.
In this vision of America’s future, Portland is no longer an isolated northeastern city, but a key part — by virtue of being the closest to international markets — of perhaps the country’s most powerful economic engine.
Here’s another look at those aforementioned Arctic trade routes. Note the trajectory of the purple arrow in the bottom left corner of the map, between Baffin Island and Greenland. That’s headed straight to Maine.
But the evolving world doesn’t strictly benefit Portland, Maine’s largest urban center. Aroostook County may also become a more important player on the global scene as well.
In that regard, one last map in the bunch reviewed by the Washington Post might be of particular interest to Mainers.
In it, Khanna looks at how the changing climate might affect how each region might be most productive in the new economy. With hotter temperatures spurring a spread of the drought troubles that have been plaguing the southwest, America’s most fertile agricultural grounds can be expected to retreat north, Khanna argues.
Once America’s breadbasket, before settlers began pushing out west, Maine — primarily northern Maine — is in prime position to regain its place as one of the country’s few remaining food producers, this map illustrates.
We here at the BDN saw hints of this in 2013 with the growth of the state’s specialty beef industry, buoyed by lush, reliable grass (something fewer and fewer states across the country can boast).