Thursday, December 02, 2010

the scares

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as a kid i read stephen king's It.  the next few weeks were full of nightmares and fear of darkness.  even some formerly pleasurable activities, such as bathing or walking in the woods, were frightening from associations with scenes from the book.  It was the scariest thing i'd ever read.

eventually that fear faded into nothing and now i look back at it with a kind of nostalgia for the innocence of youth.

"we all float down here"

a few weeks ago i read a book much scarier than It, called the vanishing face of gaia, by scientist james lovelock.  most books/documentaries on global warming are formulaic, following the usual pattern:

conflict (global warming is a major threat to us)
climax (we make lifestyle changes, have more respect for the environment)
resolution (catastrophe averted)

t.v.f.o.g. doesn't follow this formula.  not at all.  lovelock argues that we can't prevent global warming, and it's about to get a lot hotter.  when earth settles into its new homeostasis, about 3/4's of the land will be scrub desert.  many species will go extinct.  billions of people will starve to death.  billions.

lovelock pretty much takes all of that for granted.  and it will happen soon.  he predicts that by 2040 western europe will be desert.

in the meantime, he suggests the U.S. and other western nations consider suspending their democracies in favor of benign dictatorships to enable faster action.  we should construct nuclear reactors to power settlements of the future in places like alaska, canada, and siberia.  also, we should look for ways to preserve/restart civilization after most of us die.

Gaia says: "bye people!"

t.v.f.o.g. forced into that above pattern might look like this:

conflict (we recognize a global disaster as it begins to crush us)
climax (catastrophic loss, civilization routed, we die by the billions)
resolution (small communities of survivors scrape out a hard living on a planet that resembles Dune)

OR, we could look at it from Gaia's perspective.  then it fits well.

conflict (homo sapiens altering environment, disrupting ecological equilibrium)
climax (several positive feedback mechanisms engaged, lead to much hotter planet)
resolution (deviant species neutralized, equilibrium regained)

scary because it might be true.  climatologists usually don't present scenarios so devoid of hope, but there are psychological, political, and social reasons for them to provide hopeful solutions.  lovelock is an independent scientist, beholden to none, and his Gaia hypothesis is upsettingly credible.

lets say lovelock is right and evidence increasingly supports him.  at what point will our political leadership accept it?  imagine obama outlining this scenario in front of congress, or even at a climate summit.  he'd be shouted off the stage and accused of fear-mongering.

how will the average person deal with this as it occurs?  i doubt people will remain orderly and philosophic as they starve.  there will be riots, martial law, and ultimately, societal collapse.

how should we live if this is the future of the planet?  is it irresponsible to have children?  should you move to the (currently) frozen north and build a well-provisioned, hidden bunker?  if you do have children, be sure to train them in marksmanship and desert survival techniques.

ammo:  currency of the future


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3 comments:

S said...

hope is what fuels the hearts of the bold. I have hope the future will be bright. Might take some time and effort but it's gonna be fine

Come At Me Bro said...

Mad max is awesome!

stm said...

@S, i certainly hope you're right. if lovelock is right, however, earth will soon have a much reduced capacity to sustain us. if there's only food enough for 2 billion, many will be hungry.

but in the meantime, i'll hope lovelock is wrong, and that scientists engineer nutritious plants that thrive in arid regions.

@Bro, yea!