Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Ideas Take Time to Bloom

Many, many of my emails say the same thing, in a good way:

"I never heard of polar cities before. But it's a very interesting idea, if nothing else."

[A couple of times in the course of my lunch with Professor James Lovelock......our conversation......"Humanity will be reduced to a few breeding pairs." -- UK reporter Fiona Harvey]



A blogger notes: --

-- [ As Nassim Taleb suggested, “The world has changed too fast for our genetic makeup. We are alienated from our environment.”

He also frequently reminds us that humans are poor at predicting the future, partly because of the probable impacts that we know nothing about at the present.

For example, he suggests that “What is surprising is not the magnitude of our forecast errors, but our absence of awareness of it.”]


Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, over at Dot Earth, comments:

Apropos the illuminating post and the response regarding population and foresight, I’ll emphasize ....that so far as the environment goes, humans are only doing what life has done for billions of years — consuming at the maximum rate it can for the purposes of immediate growth, with little regard for the long term consequences for either the future state of the planet or even the long-term self-interest of the species itself.

A classic case of this is the oxygenation catastrophe when blue-green algae took off. One could even argue that in the long-run — tens of millions of years, mass extinctions and catastrophe can have certain beneficial effects, such as the rise of multicellular life in the wake of oxygenation. Are humans just the next dinosaur-killing asteroid?

What makes things different this time round is that the potential agent of catastrophe has a considerable ability to foresee the consequences of its actions, and modify actions accordingly.

That puts it all firmly in the domain of ethics and morality, which which are not words one would want to apply to blue green algae or asteroids.

Following concepts of Teilhard de Chardin, we are now in a fundamentally different era of Earth history, which future paleoclimatologists may well call the Noozoic. We have to make an active decision about what the future should look like.

So far, though, it seems to me more like we are behaving like blue-green algae."

Unknown said...



Should people carry on having children, if the world that awaits them is so full of horrors?

”Oh, yes. Dash it all, if our ancestors long back faced with similar things hadn’t had children, we wouldn’t be here at all. That’s why I’m not a pessimist.”