Iconoclast | continued from p. 38
course, his references to Dante and The
Divine Comedy—which I’ve never read and
hope never to have to read—are deemed
quite authentic, undoubtedly including the
one quote repeated throughout the novel:
“The darkest places in hell are reserved
for those who maintain their neutrality in
times of moral crisis.”
the beginning of the Industrial Age. Again
everything remained stable until around
1900, and then, well, the lines on the chart
dramatically swing upwards. Factors on the
chart include surface temperature, popula-
tion, CO² concentration, gross domestic
Product (as opposed to Gross National
Product, the things we make, while GDP
includes services such as funerals and body
shops and lawsuit awards), loss of tropical
We don’t want government to do what exactly?
Tell us we have problems? The media can do that.
Of course Dan Brown will tell you, too.
So what is this “moral crisis” that is the
infuriating focus of Inferno Although
Brown declares that organizations and
events are all fictional, two clearly are not.
One is the World Health Organization
(WHO), the medical arm of the United
Nations, and the other is the Vatican,
Brown’s favorite target in his novels. The
event is the attempt to control the world’s
bulging population. The WHO distributes
birth control training and condoms to
the masses living in poverty in the Third
World, and the Church marches in right
behind them and tells the faithful that they
will go to hell if they use them. According to Brown (another probably accurate
fact), unopened condoms are creating
an environmental disaster in some Third
The charts that Brown uses in the novel
are also probably very accurate. One shows
that from 7,000 B.C. until around 1900 the
world’s population remained steady below
1 billion people, with a slight bulge in the
14th century that was reduced dramatically
by the Black Death—the plague brought to
Venice by ships full of rats from China—
and after the population was reduced we
had the Renaissance. Knowledge, trade and
prosperity brought with it better medicine
and higher birth rates, hence by 1901 the
world’s population climbed to about two
billion, and has kept growing since then.
Now, some 112 years later, it has passed
seven billion, according to the WHO, and
by 2050 it will be perhaps half that again.
The other chart is a combination of fac-
tors that have changed since 1750, basically
rain forests and woodland, species extinc-
tions, motor vehicles, water use, paper
consumption, exploited fisheries, ozone
depletion and foreign investment.
No Novel Thinking
This, of course, is not new thinking.
Earth is slowly—well, maybe not slowly,
but certainly steadily—killing itself and
everyone inhabiting it. There are too many
of us, and millions starve to death each
year. Infant mortality, even in the U.S., is
climbing because the birth rate is climbing.
(Surprisingly, in certain European nations
and Russia it is declining—do they know
something Congress isn’t telling Ameri-
cans?) Many nations can’t feed themselves,
and millions, especially in Africa and the
Middle East, are unemployed. What do
these people want? Do they seek food, or
perhaps birth control? Nope. They want
insurance industry, and take a look at
your nearest Interstate highway. There are
arguably more cars and trucks. This means
there is slower movement at rush hours, in
turn producing more pollutants. This also
means there are far more accidents and
traffic-related deaths. One could talk all
day on a cell phone on some backwoods
country road and be perfectly safe, but that
can’t be done on an urban freeway.
Sea level rise is another of those “end of life”
scenarios that will plague us in the coming
decades. Entire island nations may disappear.
Coastal cities will look like Venice does today, and
Venice itself will be a good place to catch fish.
weapons. What do the rest of us think they
are going to do with them? Dan Brown
only hints at the answer to that one, and
you don’t want to know. Dante’s Inferno is
where we are headed if we don’t do something soon.
What is the impact of all this on the
insurance industry? Start with the auto
that will plague us in the coming dec-
ades. Entire island nations may disappear.
Coastal cities will look like Venice does
today, and Venice itself will be a good place
to catch fish.