Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our To-Do List

     Our To-Do List

     What are we humans here for? I propose that the Gaia, a self-adjusting biosphere, cultivated our evolution to perform four tasks. We are well on the way to completing the first task, we have started on the second, and we have made plans for three and four.

     The first task is:
     Reclaim Carbon.
     There are vast stores of carbon abandoned underneath Earth’s surface, in the form of gas, oil and coal. Meanwhile the planet has been suffering from recurrent ice ages. Greenhouse gases would prevent more ice ages; these gases are released by fire, which our kind is good at making. Our kind survived several ice ages by the use of fire, and in the current interglacial, we have been taking steps to ensure that the ice does not return.
     Some have theorized that ancient Chinese rice farming released enough methane to ensure that the North American continent is not now under a kilometer of ice. So we’ve been changing the climate for a long while now; to our advantage.

     So far; but excess would be to our disadvantage. If we burn up enough oil, then the climate will warm, the icecaps will melt, the oceans will rise, and this will flood out the coastal cities…

     … and thus self-limit the process, in true Gaian cybernetic style!
     Assuming that civilization survives completing the first task, then our second task is:

     Eat the Asteroids.

     By asteroids I mean the Earth-crossing asteroids. There are hundreds of them out there, boulders and flying mountains, all playing tag with our planet. Every hundred million years or so one of them collides with the planet, and  there’s a mass extinction. This is an intolerable state of affairs, and I propose that we do something about it.
      So I say that we set our greediest corporations, run by our most ambitious billionaires, out on a quest for gold and glory. Let them mine the Earth-crossing asteroids to oblivion in search of precious metals, but also carbon and water, just to keep the operation growing. Let them blast and smelt and leave behind rubble.
      Thus they’ll save the planet, and at a profit too. How Gaian!

       The first task is well under way, we have started task two, but so far we can only speculate about tasks three and four:

                Terraform Mars.
                Move Earth Out.
        For the Sun is warming up, and in a billion years time it will warm Earth enough that water will escape its atmosphere, and the oceans will dry up. Yes, that’s only a billion years, not five billion years. Four gigayears lost! An intolerable state of affairs; something must be done.
        So we, or someone at least as clever as we, ought to move Earth’s orbit out from the Sun, and do so before a billion years are up. I’m not sure we’ll be the ones to do it; it’s too easy to temporize.
        But I am mildly confident that we could at least terraform Mars. It’s not a job for a corporation, nor even a government; it would take a religion. But I think we could do it, and so reproduce Gaia; and we’d do it just to have neighbors to complain about. Again, how Gaian!

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