In the beginning… one last chance

March 4, 2009 at 12:20 pm 1 comment

I have decided to start this blog with a sense of urgency, and in honor of Darwin’s recent bicentennial celebration, I will start out with the theme “survival of OUR species!” The following interview with James Lovelock, founder of the Gaia Theory, was in the New Scientist last month.

One last chance to save mankind

The interview takes a necessary tone, in my opinion. Whenever I read about the new green movement, I wonder if people are being serious. Carbon offsets? Get real. For example, Al Gore has done more than the average human to make the world aware of the problem… but he is part of the problem too. His huge home in Tennessee uses something like an order of magnitude more energy than the average house. So how does he reconcile this? By stating that he buys carbon offsets.

So basically if you have enough money, you can spew as much carbon into the atmosphere that you want, as long as you buy a tree in the Amazon…

Back to the article, an excerpt in Q&A format is below.

Do you think we will survive?

I’m an optimistic pessimist. I think it’s wrong to assume we’ll survive 2 °C of warming: there are already too many people on Earth. At 4 °C we could not survive with even one-tenth of our current population. The reason is we would not find enough food, unless we synthesised it. Because of this, the cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90 per cent. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less. It has happened before: between the ice ages there were bottlenecks when there were only 2000 people left. It’s happening again.

I don’t think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to handle what’s coming up. Kyoto was 11 years ago. Virtually nothing’s been done except endless talk and meetings.

What Lovelock is saying, and I agree with, is that if we don’t get our act together NOW, then we are in trouble. Modern day humans, or maybe it’s the new American way, seem to have lost the ability to plan for the future to avoid disasters, and we have become a reactive society.

The temperature rising is more than the oceans rising a few inches… although that in and of itself is disastrous! It has a huge impact all over the world. So now you can’t live in Manhattan, or any other coastal city so you move inland… that’s find and dandy, but you still need to eat!

So just go to the store and buy some food? Oh yeah, we forgot about where food comes from. Things like land, water, and CLIMATE need to be in the right conditions. So Lovelock says the population could be as low as ONE billion at the end of this century. Maybe this is a good thing?

It’s a depressing outlook.

Not necessarily. I don’t think 9 billion is better than 1 billion. I see humans as rather like the first photosynthesisers, which when they first appeared on the planet caused enormous damage by releasing oxygen – a nasty, poisonous gas. It took a long time, but it turned out in the end to be of enormous benefit. I look on humans in much the same light. For the first time in its 3.5 billion years of existence, the planet has an intelligent, communicating species that can consider the whole system and even do things about it. They are not yet bright enough, they have still to evolve quite a way, but they could become a very positive contributor to planetary welfare.

I agree with the bolded part above. The only problem is that we are at over 6 billion now, so going to 1 billion will require some tough times ahead. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe life would be a lot better if there were only 1 billion mouths to feed. That’s less food, less cars, less medicine, less everything that is needed. So that’s good for our grandchildren… that is if your grandchild is one of the 1 billion remaining…

And I don’t think the rich will be immune to this problem. Having money to buy food only works if that money is worth something to those with the food. In addition to the decline of our economy, and our savings, there is the added problem of how much food is worth in the future times of famine.

If I have just enough food stockpiled for my family for a year, and there are massive famines going on around me, how much is that food worth? Do I sell it for a million dollars a can… or maybe a billion? Why would I do that? I can eat the food in the can, but I can’t eat money, which isn’t even in the form of gold, but rather some digits on a bank server somewhere.

So I don’t want to be all doom-and-gloom, but I do think we need to refocus TODAY. We need to invest in real science to find solutions. And we need to change our habits. If we don’t, the future habitat will change our habits for us…

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Evolution of video games and violence… but not what you are thinking!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Enelusstesk  |  April 4, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Great site this mathgeneration.wordpress.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

    Reply

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