Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Saturday, March 02, 2002
Engineering a world

From Biosphere To Technosphere: Stephen R.L. Clark on the need to be able to create a new world for humanity.

Our climate is set to change irrevocably and unavoidably. It is not possible for all the human population of our present Earth to live as expensively as the Western elite. The Earth is just too vulnerable to be a remotely secure accommodation for humankind and its associates. Whether we retreat inside arcologies, or migrate into the Asteroid Belt, we are condemned to find a technological solution to the catastrophe - unless we are prepared to contemplate the death of our children and grandchildren in the droughts, floods, plagues and famines of the late 21st century (I am being optimistic). We have to find out how things work, and how to build appropriate replicas of a working world, even while the way things work is changing. Where shall we put the peoples driven from coastal and island regions? What shall we do with peoples whose land has been eroded or leached clean of nutrients? What shall we do when antibiotics no longer work, animal diseases and plant blights sweep through our monocultures, and the working human population is too sick or too disillusioned to supply the needs of non-productive peoples? No doubt there is, for some, a certain pleasure in imagining the débacle. Some may even imagine that they can stockpile resources and ammunition enough to last out the time. The rest of us may prefer another future. For at the very same time that we can, with reason, expect these horrors, the same technological inventiveness and cultural versatility - and perhaps the same delusions of grandeur - that have been partly responsible for their likely onset, may promise us solutions.

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