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The Ends of the Earth
Alex Steffen, 24 Mar 04

Bruce's column this month looks at five underheralded ways the world seems to be in deep trouble: global dimming; asteroid strikes, especially those caused by gravitational instability in the solar system; the apparent slowing, then speeding, of the Earth's spin; supernovae and other cosmic disasters; and the fact that the planet is quickly becoming uninsurable -

"Planetary insolvency: How would insurance companies pay for the devastation if an extinction-level asteroid were to collide with Earth? They wouldn't. They'd go broke. Worse yet, storms, floods, fires, and earthquakes could do the job first.
Evidence: A 2002 report issued by reinsurance behemoth Munich Re Group notes that insurance payouts for natural disasters are rising as climate change kicks in and more people in disaster-prone areas buy policies. If the trend continues, by 2050 payments will exceed the combined current GNP of every nation on the planet, no asteroid required.
Implications: In a brief 50 years, Mother Earth will be disrupting human enterprises faster than we can rebuild them. Earth will be bankrupt and no longer a viable commercial concern. What will life be like then? Well, nobody knows."

It seems more and more that, if you're the sort of person who enjoys terriblisma, who feels a sense of gratified awe when contemplating catastrophes from afar, well, these next few decades should keep your plate full of diasters, threats narrowly averted and dangers of which we're only just becoming aware.

On the other hand, if we're lucky, they'll also be full of widespread selfless heroism, a renaissance of innovation and a new vision of planetary responsibility. So it's a crapshoot, really. Play your chips where you will. (thanks for the nudge, drk!)

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asteroid strikes? :D

also fwiw, thought you might be interested in the latest ed. of europhysicsnews!

dealing with physics in the developing world: "When looking through the scientific literature, most of us will agree that not much happens in physics in developing countries. Yet, as physicists we all agree that physics can address a large number of problems that developing countries have to face and find cheap and easy solutions to many of them, e.g. production of solar energy, monitoring of urban and rural pollution, medical applications, water purification, etc."

also came across a nice quote...

"Unless it has its own scientists and technicians, no country can call itself free. This involves the whole problem of scientific and technical training from secondary education to fundamental researchÂ…"

with the corollary...

that in a ostensibly globalised world noone is really free unless unless all peoples have not only have access to science and technology, but the means to become scientists and technicians...


ps a related article in physics today :D

Posted by: drk on 24 Mar 04



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