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Earth 2100, Tonight
Alex Steffen, 2 Jun 09

So a ways back I was interviewed pretty extensively by ABC in preparation for their special "television event" Earth 2100. It airs tonight:

It's an idea that most of us would rather not face -- that within the next century, life as we know it could come to an end. Our civilization could crumble, leaving only traces of modern human existence behind.

It seems outlandish, extreme -- even impossible. But according to cutting edge scientific research, it is a very real possibility. And unless we make drastic changes now, it could very well happen.

Experts have a stark warning: that unless we change course, the "perfect storm" of population growth, dwindling resources and climate change has the potential to converge in the next century with catastrophic results.

ABC has gathered an impressive list of planetary futurists, including John Holdren, Joseph Tainter, Janine Benyus, Thomas Homer-Dixon and others. I'm honored to be in their company.

The show airs tonight, June 2, at 9 p.m. E.T. I'll be watching, if I can find a place with a TV.

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Comments

glad they finally got to the solutions ... 12 minutes before the end.


Posted by: Megan Dietz on 2 Jun 09

That Lucy scenario in Earth 2100 was supposedly the "worst-case scenario", but the horribly bleak future it portrayed already featured tons of progressive and proactive efforts such as renewable energy technologies, electrified transportation, huge infrastructure projects, etc. That supposedly worst-case scenario therefore assumes no Republican Presidents and Congresses between now and 2075, so Lucy wasn't really the worst-case scenario now, was it?


Posted by: CNBC Sucks on 2 Jun 09

As far as mainstream conglomeration/corporation media goes, this wasn't too bad. Take in mind that when presenting any topic to a mass of people, the LCD (lowest common denominator) needs to be catered to, so the ideas presented couldn't be too progressive. Politics were touched on briefly and in a general sense, as was the economics of it all. Religion however, wasn't mentioned. I bring up economics (monetary-based system) and religion, as I feel those two enterprises are obstacles to a successful future. Eradicate these two antiquated human inventions, and technology and social cohesion can progress unhindered.
...and then back to my unreality...


Posted by: Tavis Allen on 2 Jun 09

The best thing about Earth2100 was its use of the graphic novel format. Of course, it made ABC look cheaper than Jack Benny on a blind date, but it was the best aspect of the program.


Posted by: Ron Henzel on 3 Jun 09

Religion is as much an especially powerful means to achieve social-ecological resilience (i.e., good stuff) in the future, as an obstacle.

Tavis, technology unhindered could be the worst thing imaginable for humans.


Posted by: Josh Stack on 3 Jun 09

To Megan's point, I tuned in about 14 minutes before the show ended. 2 minutes of sheer hell followed by 12 minutes of (relative) hope. I was pleasantly surprised to see the network tapped your expertise, and their inclusion of you added a lot of credibility. So I went to bed not feeling so damned awful about breeding. Thank god I didn't tune in for the first 45 minutes or I'm sure my dreams would have taken on an apocalyptic Mad Max quality.


Posted by: Ed on 3 Jun 09

Ed, it was 2 hours long! So it was an hour and 48 minutes of hell!! Although, to be fair, I didn't see the first half. I was holding a salon discussion on idealism at my house until 10 pm. What a funny contrast between our very uplifting discussion and the "realistic" view presented on the program?

I wrote about it on the blog today ...
http://www.thesunnyway.com/index.php/site/comments/idealism_and_realism_salon_of_possibilities_and_abcs_earth_2100/


Posted by: Megan Dietz on 3 Jun 09

After several years of on-off reporting, writing and televising the issues in the UK to mixed success, it will be interesting to see if the different style of US TV will make a bigger impact.

It's going to be an interesting cultural experiment - elites in Europe have for a long time had difficulty properly communicating with the rest of humanity. The LCD mentioned by Tavis may yet come to our rescue...


Posted by: John Kazer on 3 Jun 09

Tavis, I agree with you regarding the role of religion (in some ways). However, revelatory religion (Christianity etc.) is not going to go away - it's in our genes/wiring...

However, it is possible to view the world as being in our charge from within Christian belief (I don't know enough about others).

Nature religions may have an interesting role to play but I'm not sure they have the power - they seem to be more about a state of mind than revelation... And as we know from green marketing, altering 6 billion people's state of mind is pretty tough!


Posted by: John Kazer on 3 Jun 09

The bias against religion here is myopic. Sure, religion has been utilized as tool to sanctify destruction of the natural world. But so has a deep trust and belief in technology and technological science. That does not justify a blanket condescension, e.g., those of faith as antiquated members of a LCD class. That environmentalism is that of the past, and has failed, utterly and miserably to protect the natural world.

Here's a good example:

http://ncronline.org/news/ecology/thomas-berry-101

Regardless of what you believe, the world is in our charge. This is an Anthropocenic reality, a new Law, really...humans are a geologic force. But we are not, as some have written, as Gods...but rather just a simple and simplistic force of destruction based on our Industrial way of life.

Do you really believe that technology unhindered, i.e., out of any evolutionary context, can ultimately be good for humanity?


Posted by: Josh Stack on 3 Jun 09

I have been depressed all day. I grew up in the 70s and 80s in a family that believed in global warming then. This show makes it seem like there is no hope. I mean they seemed to be doing a lot - solar, wind, farms etc... Besides stopping the use of all energy and cars right now, I don't see how there is any hope.


Posted by: Mark on 3 Jun 09

This program seemed like a good, hard-headed look at what could happen to HUMAN life in the future. I fully expected a program like this to to anthropocentric, but some of the comments made about how humans 'dominate' the planet and how 'life' could be extinguished by our actions were simply ridiculous. First off, we're not nearly as biologically successful as some insects and bacteria as far as. Secondly, people need to realize that our efforts to conserve and protect the environment are first and foremost meant to save US, HUMANS. 'Life' will go on just fine without us. Humans as as species save wildlife because they think certain species pretty cool/cute/useful not because of their 'right' to exist. ALL biological species are destined to go extinct at some point, and others will pop up to take their place, that's the way it goes. I think the most interesting question is whether or not we ARE special - whether or not we actually can, as a SPECIES, regulate our own growth and maintain a habitable environment. Earth 2100 presented a scenario that played by the rules: we are NOT special, we are just organisms and try to survive and reproduce, individually, as best we can.


Posted by: Karl on 3 Jun 09

I only learned about this on the evening it showed. And to be frank, I avoided watching it because it's on ABC.

Why?

Because I expected it to be a Stossel Fest, in which we'd learn from fossil fuel funded think tanks that all we have to do is loosen regulations and accept the wonder of Clean Coal to fix the problem.

Now I feel bad about missing it.


Posted by: Stefan Jones on 3 Jun 09

Thomas Berry - sadly died this week and a fascinating sounding character, I will read some of his work.

One thing about the recent upsurge of interest in climate change etc. in the US is the apparent view that it's a new idea and no-one else has been grappling with these ideas (publically) for the past 10 years or more.

I find this annoying and a shame - has the US got nothing to learn from what's already been discussed? Why is the list of "planetary futurists" cited by Alex at the start entirely American?

Why the long debate in US political circles about the merits/demerits of carbon trading and taxation when the EU has been running a carbon trading scheme for several years? The literature comparing these concepts is huge, just read it!

At least the public debate is now possible...

Yours in contradictory frustration and relief,
John


Posted by: John Kazer on 3 Jun 09

John:

It is a shame. It is difficult, these days, to see the set of visible futures (as scenarios) as anything other than disintegration, and collapsing toward a Flat, Dark World (rather than Flat, Wired and Light as Friedman and others would have it).

That applies too well to our current thinking in policy, politics, and technologically- and politically-driven science. We measure our attention span in news cycles and economic quarters...and it seems we're doing the same, more and more, with our science, history and all else. It's a broken feedback loop, really. We're stuck, and probably destined to forgot (or already have forgotten) the lessons and bright research of the past, i.e., the massive amounts of literature that you cite, and thus relive it, as a Dark Age.

Spirit and the diversity of cultures, i.e., the Ethnosphere as Wade Davis calls it (the sum total of all human imagination, dreams, myths, laws, etc. from the beginning of time) is a key source of adaptive tools and solutions to the problems currently confronting us all. And when some would dismiss belief and religion immediately out of hand, well...that ignorance and bias overlooks the immense good already done and immense potential as opportunities to achieve the same goals!


Posted by: Josh Stack on 4 Jun 09

i we wont to survive we need not only cut the use of fosil fuel. we need to cut our numbers as well. we can't survive like this breeding witout a control for e long period of time, none of the so called green way of life can support billions of us. even if we manage to build green cities, we will only delay that kind of future, but it will come. we need to:
1. cut population to 500 000 000 or less
2. create new economic system that is not based on money
3. create one goverment for entire planet
4. put all the scintists on developing tehnology for clean energy
If someone is interested in details send me an e-mail janus.kei@mail.com.
because there are many other points to add


Posted by: Janis Keiss on 7 Jun 09

Karl, we can't know how well life will recover after our depredations. Remember that most biologists considered the world to be in the sixth great mass extinction already in the '80's, before the effects of gw has really started to kick in in earnest. GW can be seen as its own great extinction event. So we have two (at least) on top of each other.

I agree with most here that this was surprisingly good for MSM. The impending collapse of the Arctic ice cap will move the moment of doom up to...this summer?


Posted by: wili on 10 Jun 09

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