Hope Comes From Science

Of late I have been rather obsessed with the coming darkness. Death. Ragnarok. Mass extinction of all life on Earth. My own situation as a pessimist quickly approaching the end of my own personal life has probably colored my obsession to a very large degree. And I should point out, my own prognosis is not going to change for the better. I do not have the financial power to prevent the problems I already have using modern effective healthcare. I am personally doomed. But even though the whole world seems easily as doomed by climate change, that doesn’t mean everyone shares my sad fate. There are potential solutions to the problem that only require the people who do have the financial power to fix it to decide that life on Earth has more value than their personal wealth and privilege. (Uh-oh… there’s a dependence on goodness where it seems like none actually exists.)

I often turn to science and books by very smart people to give me ideas that comfort me and give me hope. I recently did some binging on YouTube’s Answers With Joe. He does an excellent job of providing answers to things that worry me underpinned with scientific facts.

Thomas Malthus (from Wikipedia)

I have been worried about the environment from the times in high school science class when we learned about Paul Ehrlich and his book The Population Bomb.

Then we were learning about how the overpopulation of the Earth and its attendant need to produce food for all those people threatened massive famine, resource scarcity, and eventual extinction for humans. It was pointed out that, at the time in the 1970s, we were using chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the fields in Iowa to increase yields that would not only pollute the water and air in Iowa, but would eventually make its way through the watershed system into the oceans where it would overstimulate the algae and create an ocean environment throughout the world devoid of oxygen, fish, and all other lifeforms. I could see the threat and the validity of the science that Ehrlich had done.

Paul Ehrlich

I learned, over time, that population stresses do not necessarily cause extinction events in a matter of decades. The 1980s came and went and we were not extinct, despite eight years of Ronny Ray-gun, the jelly-bean president, and massive success in increasing food production. As Joe does an excellent job of explaining in the video above which you didn’t watch, population problems proved at least partially self-correcting. Families generally slowed their growth rate as health and wealth improved and made them more productive, more intelligent, and better able to support the heavy layer of living people that now covered the Earth.

Recently I became obsessively and pessimistically concerned with the dire predictions of environmental scientist Guy McPherson. I do recognize that his work reflects the extremist point of view among climate scientists, but ;there are a number of facts that he presents that are irrefutable in the same way as the arguments of… Paul Ehrlich.

In the second video above that you also didn’t watch, Joe explains how the problem of greenhouse gasses can be undone by renewable energy, carbon capture and air-scrubbers, and the search for viable products made from CO2, helping to reverse greenhouse gasses. He also explains how chemical cooling of the atmosphere and actual planetary weather control are possible. Technology already exists to solve the climate problem. The only drawback is that somebody has to pay for it. And the people in control of that kind of financial power are all entitled low-down greedy bastards that would rather build massive survival bunkers in the Ozarks than pay for the rest of us to survive. So, there is hope, which comes not with a grain of salt, but with a giant’s saltshaker filled with rock salt. Still, it isn’t time for all of you to give up. Just me. I am the one most completely doomed.

3 Comments

Filed under battling depression, commentary, farming, feeling sorry for myself, humor, insight, Liberal ideas, pessimism, sharing from YouTube, strange and wonderful ideas about life

3 responses to “Hope Comes From Science

  1. Malthus was wrong. Population doesn’t necessarily increase exponentially. We are not simple replicating machines.

    It turns out that as affluence climbs and survival of the individual is ensured, there is less need to produce lots of children to support one in one’s old age. The answer then is to bring the rest of the world from the “have nots” into the “haves” category.

    Increasing affluence also reduces the importance of organized religion and associated dogmas. Birth control becomes accepted and we no longer have a moral duty to be fruitful and multiply. We can play around with the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy, self-actualization. So far, we aren’t very good at it and most just settle for entertainment.

    And as it turns out, technology is what is growing exponentially. Technology is what limits food production. New technology is what allows us to see the damage that old industrial technology is doing to the planet and offers a realistic chance to mitigate.

    Right now the most exciting thing on the horizon is the development of useful fusion energy. (There is an old joke that has been in play since the 70s: Every 30 years we get 10 years closer to practical controlled nuclear fusion. They weren’t pessimistic enough.)

    The first productive fusion plant (ITER) is expected to come online in the mid-2020s. Completely self-sustaining, with 50 MW input and 500MW output. From there it is a matter of scaling it up to useful economic levels, say multiple GW with reduced construction costs. Eventually, large scale burning of fossil fuels will become obsolete. So will vast windmill and solar farms which have their own issues.

    We could even start sucking the CO2 back out of the atmosphere. It can be sequestered in building materials or buried in a subduction zone and returned underground from whence it came.

    In the meantime, the oceans may rise a bit, agriculturally productive land may shift north. It has happened before and will happen again. At one time England was a major grape producing country, Greenland had lots of coastal green. A bit more distant in the past, the Sahara was covered in grass and hippos grazed along a vast freshwater sea. Climatologically diverse nations with high levels of technology and low population densities will fare better than small, overpopulated or technically backward nations. Less fortunate countries will face a crap shoot as to whether things get better or worse.

    The US can afford the huge civil engineering projects we may need. We currently produce five times as much food as we need domestically to eat and most of that is very inefficiently produced. Much of the rest of the world is not so lucky and will need help. I’m not worrying about famine here but there could be a long recession while we adapt. Or the response to the crisis could launch an economic surge.

    People like the little adrenaline blip that comes from a scary story. Global extinction is just another scary story.

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