Planet Earth and What We're Doing - And How To Fix It
Friday, September 24 2010 @ 05:41 PM EDT
Contributed by: richardpitt
I created the "Planet Earth" topic because I just finished reading an article from Wired Planet called "Terraforming Earth: How to Wreck a Planet in 3,000 Years (Part 1)"
Hancock Wildlife Foundation is built upon the work of David Hancock, whom I've known for over 25 years now. We've spent long hours talking about our views on what man is doing to this planet and we come at the topic from two very different backgrounds and initially with two very different points of view.
Without putting words in David's mouth, I think I can characterize him as part of the solution instead of part of the problem - at least as much as possible within the limits of also being able to affect real change in as many people as he can. He might have been like some and gone "off grid" to live in isolation but "environmentally friendly" - but no, he's done other things and helped in other ways.
David early on was close to the birds he's most known for his teaching and researching about. He's watched the demise of species in many areas and participated in the re-introduction of them from stocks he's caught and raised personally. He believes in zero population growth as being fundamental to fixing the most basic problems of our planet - that of man's continued expansion at the peril of the other inhabitants of the planet; the fish, birds, mammals, insects etc. Nothing but the complete halt in population growth will make enough difference in the long term to save our planet from devastating consequences of the things we are doing to it.
I, on the other hand, come from a background of the typical middle-class North American family of the mid to late 20th century: 2.5 children per family (I'm one of 3 brothers and I have 2 sons myself now) and always striving to have bigger and better things to play with. I have a technical bent and read a lot of science fiction. Maybe I've been biased to ignore the planet's plight by my perception that science can either solve the immediate problem or provide a long-term solution in the form of new planets we can expand to as we out-grow this one.
The problem is, no scientific solution is going to happen soon enough.
Man has been screwing up planet earth for a long time; much of it with the mistaken belief that it was simply too huge for man to really do any damage to.
Today we (at least some of us) know this is not so. Man is very capable of screwing up not only individual ecologies, but the whole planet, to the point where we now are radically affecting the whole planet in many ways, not the least of which is through weather transformations which, if not actually caused by "global warming" are certainly caused by measurable shifts in evaporation and heat reflection/generation patterns caused by amongst other things, black roofs on our buildings, clear cut forestry practices and burning large amounts of fossil fuels.
I'm not going to get into the argument over global warming; whether it is real or not, whether man or the sun or extra-planetary dust clouds or any one of dozens of potential influences might or might not have an impact on it.
No, I'm going to deal with things like long-line trawling and shark finning and over-fishing and plastic waste and oxygen dead-zones and such. I expect we'll get into things like oil spills and such too - things that you can see and measure and predict.
The article I reference above points out that over the past 3000 years man has had very measurable impact on our planet. We've built cities that cover over what used to be oxygen producing plant life that cooled the specific areas with buildings and concrete that no longer cools but instead absorbs light and gives off heat via our black roofs and grey concrete.
We've built dams that have flooded valleys and changed the amount of water in the air through evaporation. Did you know that the Aswan Dam on the Nile river in Egypt has been predicted to never be full because it has such a large potential flood area that the evaporation alone would keep it from filling? Just dealing with the massive amount of evaporation compared to the river before the dams were constructed is a full-time job for diplomats it seems.
I don't know how many people this planet can deal with "comfortably" (for both man and the rest of the inhabitants) but I'm personally certain that it is fewer than we'll have in the next few years if we don't slow and stop our population pressures somehow.
The problem is, growth is inherent in our whole civilization it seems. The "Fed" (money people) see lack of financial and economic growth as a bad thing - and it goes on from there. Nowhere is status quo seen as good and certainly, nowhere is retraction or contraction seen as good.
Man has inertia that simply has to be overcome if we as a species in specific and a planet in general are going to survive. We have to overcome that inertia, both in our own lives and in our dealings with our fellow man, government, industry and the rest of the inhabitants of this planet.
We all have to become part of the solution instead of continuing to be part of the problem.