Donnerstag, 18. September 2008


Geoengineering is becoming a reality. It's the supersize, quick fix solution to climate change. We can already alter the face of the planet with single feats of engineering, but even the 3 Gorges Dam has nothing on what's in store next. Perhaps, for the first time ever, this could be engineering at a cosmic scale.

I was introduced to the subject through the realms of impossibilty, by CJ Lim. Appalled at first, I now feel inspired by the blog quoted below. Clearly the idea itself, suggested on the halfbakery, is lunacy, but there is a charming logic to its approach. If our problems are global, why not change the globe?

The July issue of natur + kosmos discussed the 9 craziest ideas to save the world. They broadly fell into 3 categories.

The first; release new, different substances into the atmosphere in the vain hope that it might achieve some kind of balance. One scientist argued for mixing sulphur into the air, another said iron particles should be scattered to sea, and a third confounded them both by saying it was actually the iron particles that should be pumped into the air.
These are the ecohackers. Save the earth through trial and error. I have an image of the planet spasming to powder as mankind desperately swaps chemicals around in a frenzy, hopelessly trying to find the pre Kyoto balance.

Alternatively, plants could provide the answer. Bamboo plantations would harvest carbon from the atmosphere whilst long leaved plants would reflect solar radiation. So called geoengineering lite. Of course we already tried this with biofuel plantations, and it led to global food shortages. Still, with improved land management and farming strategies, this could be an option. The idea of the planet working as one giant farm, every surface in harmonious cultivation is quite nice, but agriculture went out of fashion 150 years ago.

I was most intrigued by the really big scale projects, the pimp my planet projects. The general idea seems to be to accessorise your planet with all matter of orbital power stations, solar umbrellas and other shiny objects. After all, satellites helped facilitise globalised civilisation, so why shouldn't they help save it. I find the image of a flock of space stations and assorted machinery orbiting the planet, collectively protecting us from the terrors of the galaxy (so far only the sun) incredibly romantic. As long as the lights don't go out. Eventually we will have space mines, which catch asteroids and defunct satellites in tractor beams. Until then we can start mining the moon to get the materials and energy for all that bling. The tagline is: push the problem into outer space where it won't be found again for another millenia.

This shouldn't seem as shocking as it does. All the way from Babylonian irrigation channels to today's carbon economy, we've continually traded social flexibility for environmental stability, as and when our climate demands it. We're about to upgrade again.

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