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The Big Picture
Alex Steffen, 31 Jan 08

Jamais has a great piece up on the wider forces crafting our future:

Climate Chaos: Twenty years is the outside limit of how long we have to make the global changes (in our energy grids, urban designs, transportation networks, agricultural processes, industrial processes, taxation policies, trade policies, etc.) required to avoid real disaster. It's also probably about right for figuring out which geoengineering strategies are the least likely to make things worse. We know what we need to do -- we simply need to do it.

Resource Collapse: Oil. Water. Topsoil. Fisheries. Seeds. Arable land. Copper. Food. Name a resource fundamental to the maintenance of our civilization, and it's probably at risk of collapse in the next two decades. All of these can be mitigated, managed or replaced in time; again, it's a matter of making the decision to do so. Some of the solutions will require transient sacrifice, but many will make our lives demonstrably better. Unfortunately, all require upsetting the status quo.

Catalytic Innovation: A number of potentially-transformative technologies have a real chance to show critical breakthroughs by the late 2020s: Molecular manufacturing; artificial general intelligence; synthetic biology; human augmentation biology. Individually and combinatorially powerful, how they emerge will depend on political, economic and cultural choices made today. As catalysts, they can reshape the tools we have to manage the other drivers, offering new pathways to succeed, and new models of risk.

Ubiquitous Transparency: The catalytic innovations change what we can do, but ubiquitous transparency changes what we can know. Sensors, cameras, networks, augmented reality, lifelogs, mirror worlds -- these change our relationship to each other, our communities, and our planet. These technologies are quite far along, meaning that in twenty years, systems for ubiquitous transparency will be deeply-embedded, mature and unavoidable. Whether they'll be one-way or two-way remains an open question.

You should go read it in its entirety, and then hit some of his other brilliant posts.

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Here is an analogy of climate change.
If one were to stand on a pier and push by yourself, with all your might, against the hull of a great ocean liner, eventually you would notice it beginning to move and then suddenly it would be moving as much as you wanted to push it. It would then take as long as it took to move it, to stop it, by pushing from the other side. But it wouldn't stop moving until pushed against enough to overcome the momentum that you had built up in it in the first place.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution we as a community of nations have pushed the climate into a momentum against which we must, as a community of nations, push like blazes in the other direction.
As Jamais point out, it is not impossible and in fact it is quantifiable and with the numbers of humanity present today, as opposed to those present when the process was begun, It really shouldn't be percieved as insurrmountable. It took quite a few generations to get us into the current situation and it may take quite a few to get us out of it, but it is not impossible. It just needs us to all get behind the push in what ever way we can.
Since the first Moon landings, there have been quite a few people who seriously propose that 'we' just have to invest in space exploration and logically we should abandon the Earth. The option of abandoning the Earth is not only nonsensical, since we as a species are of the Earth and not of the Moon, no disrespect to the Moon, but it is THE grand cop-out of the modern era to think that just because we have been negligent in our stewardship of the Earth, that we should compound the failure by abandoning it and all and any attempts to rectify the problems for which only we can be held accountable.
Our survival and indeed the survival of all species that exist today does not have a bankruptcy option. We can-not just walk away and start again on the Moon or anywhere else for that matter. The notion that we can entrust the future of humanity to an elected Adam and Eve who just pisses off and to hell with everyone else is really just a total failure of nerve on the part of completely selfish patriarchs (driven by senior patriarchs with vast investments in coal and oil probably) who imagine only their own progeny boarding some ludicrously expensive gas guzzler on a jouney that is destined to go f'ing nowhere.
For everyones sake, such thinkers have to get off that trip, come home, and start pushing against the momentum of climate change with the rest of us instead.
In our own ways, that is all we have to do. Jamias' understanding of the situation is one heavily invested in hope and positiviness about the capacity of other humans to also appreciate what possibilities he can see. I too see such hope but I can also see that my analogy above applies as much to the chemical problems of climate change as it does to the philisophical dilema of percieving hope in the face of the impending calamity.
My rip about those who would abandon the problem is my ascertion basically, that such lack of faith in human ability to transform solutions from the problem is primarily rooted in some people's complete disconnectedness from the intrinsic basis of our own life form.
That is, that we are as natural to the Earth as soil and trees and therefore we can't just leave. This is our heaven and our hell and we ain't going nowhere else to solve the problems of living here. The fact that the idea exists that we can in some way just leave, is one based in a committed disconnectedness to Earth as a source of life.
This is a religious problem and therefore i think Jamias list should include a new way of religiously understanding our basic Earth belonging. Not should, but will, eventually. God willing. Or is that Goddess?

Posted by: simon seasons on 1 Feb 08

In connection with this post, I wonder if there might be some way of convincing one or two newspapers in the USA, maybe the Seattle papers first, or the SF Chronicle, or any newspaper anywhere, to start setting up a daily one-page or two-page "Climate Change News Round-up", just like the Sports pages or the Business section, to give readers useful information about climate change issues, both pro and con, so the news is balanced, and so the rightwing nuts won't complain. Report the news about climate change in a special two-page section every day, 4 pages on Sunday. With photos and interviews. If indeeed we are in a new kind of World War, as Patrick Mazza noted in the fall, and yes we are in World War X right now, and this is a Long Emergency, shouldn't the daily papers get behind this and start publishing daily news section about global warming? Who needs 4 pages of sports news? Not important. One page is enough. But I wonder if any editor anywhere on the planet is brave enough to start this trend in his or her newspaper. Before the sea levels rise. Before the temps go up 6 degrees. Now. To raise awareness.

Posted by: Danny Bloom on 7 Feb 08



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