Friday, 29 March 2013

Solving the World's problems

This article is not composed to be comprehensive:

I sometimes miff dedicated pessimists with my unswervingly optimistic take on the potential and future of humans and the planet we inhabit. My take on the developments of the world is what forges this view. When I look at not only the adaptability and creativity of the individual but of the collective it can't help but reassure me of humankind's potential facility to perpetuate itself indefinitely.

If we look at the reduction of the ozone layer and the way regulation and phasing out of CFCs and HCFCS has and is drastically slowing down the reduction of ozone molecules–indeed the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is reduced–we observe an example of the proactivity of humans to recognise and act upon scientific data in a positive way (see Diagram).

If we look at issues that could lead to humans becoming extinct, specifically effects we have on the planet that could lead to a total breakdown in the ecosystems that support us, then this is a different issue to animals losing their respective geographical ranges due to the encroachment and reordination of ancient habitats; I personally have no fears for either scenario. I feel we will do whatever we need to do to perpetuate human existence whatever future form it might sculpt itself into. I am aware of the fact that gene banks (also seed banks) that store genomes of endangered species of all descriptions (vegetable,animal etcetera.), for a lot of people is not a happy compromise to the idea that these species will inevitably become extinct, but sadly that is the way it will surely go. At least the documenting of said genomes will give us options to not lose–and to possibly recreate–millions of years of evolved diversity and genetic resource.

The resculpting of existing ecosystems on Earth, by humans, is not something we should be worrying about as regards human extinction, or indeed the causation of the Earth to become unable to sustain human life into a distant future. Also the Earth itself has its own regulatory systems, and coupled with human ingenuity I can't see humans not continuing as a species.

The issue of CO2 increasing and our transition from a fossil fuel energy reliance is something being widely addressed throughout all walks of technological development. And indeed it has served to aid and catalyse a redress in the attitude that energy efficient systems are not necessarily important, as systems that produce more product for less energy resource input are actually more productive and more profitable, and this is something big business is increasingly aware of.

We can't, in the next century or so, psychologically rely on fusion power to save our skins, as it is not likely to be available for–from a positive viewpoint–around 50 years. We are moving slowly towards more use of renewable power generation. Nuclear power has a role to play and fossil fuel use in tandem with carbon capture techniques and ideas like using night-time energy produced by power stations to input alternative mobile energy solutions into the mix, like cars running on compressed air etcetera: will all add up to improvements. But we do need to find an abundant source of clean and safe energy that could solve the energy crisis.

Thorium reactors are an option because thorium is widely abundant on the Earth. When the choices were made over which heavy elements would best serve the energy industry, uranium was opted for as it had the potential to easily produce materials that can be used in construction of nuclear weapons: it was a doubly persuasive option. The easy enrichment of uranium and plutonium that use of uranium in reactors optionises lead to monetary backing for uranium over thorium; despite the fact there is a lot more thorium available, it is regarded as a safer substance to produce power with, and it produces a more efficient reaction, it was overlooked and left as an undeveloped thread. China is now spearheading further research into developing viable thorium reactors, with a working reactor scheduled to be up and running by 2015. And indeed due to the nature of the substance much smaller reactors are a realistic proposition. Implementation of  thorium reactors and renewables as the World's main energy sources could give us the time we need to master fusion.

If we can produce energy in a clean way, in sufficient quantities, then the issue of CO2 saturation will be widely negated. Electric cars, hydrogen cars, compressed air cars, all having their place in minimising ongoing risk of climate change. And the potential for single-stage rockets to transport people across the world for much less energy could revolutionise the airline industry. So we have a very good chance of slowing, halting, reversing negative impacts of rising CO2.

Ok, so if we look at a worse case scenario with CO2 levels rising far enough to plunge the Earth into an ice-age-type phase, I think we would see increased precipitation in regions like Australia leading to a return of rainforest, ice sheets descending upon Northern Europe etcetera amongst other environmental shifts caused by said ice age. But are these really planet killers? I don't believe so–but definitely a stronger wakeup call and–we all have something to live for.

I firmly believe in a perpetuation of human existence, though we are likely to, sadly, not lose genetic diversity itself, but the species that are able to actually live through their lives in reality will be massively reduced (at least in the real world; simulations may very well continue to offer said species a haven to continue evolving, maybe even at an accelerated rate). Maybe we will maintain habitat for a certain amount of living life, depends on finding space as the earth becomes highly populated.

This future will never be attractive to conservationalist and conservative viewpoints, but such ideologies will be swept away by the necessities of an ever burgeoning wave we call the Human Race.

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