(Note: this is an idea I’ve been thinking about for months, it is hastily written, poorly researched and submitted to the internet as a provocative idea. I encourage respectful, constructive, non-judgemental dialog.)
Space exploration and climate crisis have more things in common than you might initially think. Common conclusions might say we've got to get off this planet before we destroy it.
Well, indeed that is one view, that feels to me irresponsible at best. (There are far better reasons for space exploration and it puts a huge burden on space exploration to include life support for initial journeys.)
Climate Change is a critical step towards positive space exploration/development - not because we’ve fucked shit up bad enough to dirty our home environment - but because we now know for certain that we puny humans can influence something as big as our home climate.
I think that’s pretty awesome.
I’ll repeat that - I think it’s awesome that humans can influence the global biosphere through our small, individual actions.
Right now, there’s an argument around climate change. Part of this is because we have changed our climate in a way that we extrapolate trends as negative for life. We’re increasing the temperature of the planet and this impacts many systems and ecosystems that found stability in our previous temperature range. The fear with an increasing global temperature is that these ecosystems will collapse - which will have a negative impact on food production, water, plant and animal life. Keeping on this trend, life as we know it must change. In the past climate adjustments, life has changed and adapted to the climate.
Several years ago (2011), I’ve wrote a post how Climate Change is Good.
I think it's a little audacious to think us puny humans are going to do something so dramatic as to KILL THE EARTH?!?! Now, what global warming may do is make the environment inhabitable for human and other current life as we know it. (Past science shows our climate has not always been hospitable for the kind of life that exists today.)
But in the scheme of the universe - a universal timescale - maybe we puny humans are a mere blip. Who really cares whether we live or die? (Except us.) I don't have the kind of preciousness or urgency around this topic or the survival of the species.
It’s been a two years since I wrote those words, and while I mostly agree with what I wrote, I am now thinking beyond human survival.
You see, we’ve made these changes unconsciously. With actions were did not fully understand the consequences. It’s only now that we are beginning to understand the full power we have over our environment.
But there’s another group of scientists and thinkers (I have to assume they exist, but I have not yet gone to find them) that see the positive and critical important to understanding how to change our climate and the active desire to change climate on a planetary scale.
We’re headed to Mars. I imagine that planet to be 100xs as inhospitable as my beloved Mojave desert. After some time of exploration there, if it is at all possible to adjust, influence, change the climate - we will attempt to do it.
Will Mars (or another planet) be our first attempts at climate change? I highly doubt it. You see, we’ve *already* done it. We’ve already successfully changed the climate here on earth. However it’s not necessarily in a direction that supports current existing lifeforms.
As a futurist, there’s one thing I know for certain - change always occurs. You can never turn back the clock, you can never return to the past. Current climate discussion is a dichotomy - there’s a group of people who are saying we have to turn back the clock (impossible) and return to some vision of the past and a group of people saying humans have no impact on the climate (naive).
There’s a different view. I don’t blame the human species for our faults. The problems we have today are a direct result of our success as a species. (I wrote a 1st place award winning paper about it.) We don’t - and shouldn’t - give up or stymie our successes. But we need to think about the situation differently.
Can we admit that we unconsciously changed our climate?
And then, can we learn to consciously change our climate to be more hospitable for life?
To encourage life to flourish?
I don't see why not. We have the technology.
I’m well aware of the Limits to Growth. That we are on track to hit the limits - and then collapse as a species. (I wrote another award winning paper on the Demographic Transition - the systematic understanding of population explosion through birth rates - mostly in developing nations like Africa and India.) I also know wildcards make linear projections a moot point. Paradigms shift, making the problems of the past obsolete.
Ramez Naam tells the story of kerosene replacing whale oil in his book The Infinite Resource - thus stopping the decimation of whales. I like the story of Mpesa - the mobile phone minutes that became a currency. You can linear extrapolate mobile phone adoption in developing nations all you want, but you’ll never find the wildcard (m-pesa) in those charts. (Ps. Wildcards emerge.)
That’s the territory we are in with climate change.
It’s a problem we can not solve with any paradigm that exists today. And you know what, that is FANTASTIC!
How do we solve climate change? Engage humanity around space exploration. For us to survive - as human beings - not uploaded intelligences or robotic explorers (nothing wrong with either of these) we need first hand knowledge on how to consciously adjust our climate. And I’m not talking about shooting sulphur into clouds either. I’m talking about everyday actions, everyday people can make. We need an understanding of what is exactly impacting the environment and how. And with as little finger pointing and negative judgement. Then we need to understand - systematically - the leverage points and put systems in place to encourage behavior that changes the climate in positive ways.
All of us on this each have contributed to the unconscious adjustment of our environment.
Thanks to science tools, methods and sensors, we are *beginning* to understand the results of our actions. We can learn from our actions and understand - consciously - what we each need to change within ourselves - to not just survive as a species, but to stretch beyond some of our wildest dreams.