By Alex Kinnison, copyright 2001 Ravenware Industries.
When I was younger, I despaired of and for Man and what he does to his nest. This nest, this home of ours, this place that shaped us, Earth. Oh, I can live with war, I can live with the violence of war, thrift, and all the other man-on-man actions. In fact, I celebrate them .
But what man does to his homeland, his nest, was hard to understand. The penalties the earth and other species paid for manÕs existence was hard to understand, hard to justify, hard to qualify as actions that benefit either party. In fact, I had reached the conclusion that the most noble thing man could do for his role in the ecosphere was to remove himself. Stop reproducing. Endit.
The image I held in my mind was of the last man scrawling ŅWe tried and failed. We have removed ourselves.Ó in blood on the steps of the Taj Mahal. As that, and all the other works of Man faded a new species would arise which would do a better job.
That vision is flawed. Conscious racial suicide is not an evolutionary path. Unconscious suicide, a failure to adapt and extinction, is right and proper, but choosing to become extinct is anti-evolutionary.
Soiling ones nest and suffering for that is more than a human problem, animal over populations result in ecologic disasters and massive die-offs. They donÕt think, they blindly destroy and die or adapt.
But humans think, make tools, and make decisions. What is the proper role of man in relationship to his environment?
Man and his environment. A subject that's been written on in so many different ways, by so many different authors, by so many different cultures, in so many centuries, in the 5000 years of man's written history. Roman authors discussed the results of over farming, over development, over trade , to the surface of mother earth. More recently, the industrial revolution created whole new science of understanding man's impact on the environment. ŅSmogÓ came into being in the Industrial Revolution, where the thick coal smoke mixed with fog to paralyze 19th century London. Move through the 20th century with a greater and lesser awareness of the impact on the a of man's activities on the environment. And apex of this is in 1970 with a first creation of ecology day, Earth Day. This was raising the white and green banner with the green e, the flag to wave forevermore to demonstrate man's commitment to the earth and man's respect for his environment. An obvious pipe dream, as the green ŅeÓ flags were manufactured in unregulated, pollution-spewing sweatshops in the Far East to be tied onto the radio antennas of oil-smoke belching VW buses driven in protest across America.
ThatÕs perhaps too harsh. The ecological movement of the early Ō70s brought a longer term awareness of the impact all our actions have, whether they affect those actions or not. It's 30 years later. Communism has disappeared in Eastern Europe, and as those totalitarian governments fell we get a glimpse of what the lack of environmental understanding, and environmental caring , coupled with a modern industrial society could do to an environment. The desolation in Poland their rivers of sludge in East Germany all pointed to a deeper understanding That without a clear plan in without clear goals and a clear understanding of the results, what man and modern industrial society was capable of doing to the planet was beyond anyone's ability to repair, and beyond anyone's vision of what we could possibly let happen. So what's the stake? We know what is at stake, but what should we do to prevent its? Can our nation World Trade Organization create an ecologically and environmentally friendly world based on trade sanctions? Can a United Nations which has taken 50 years to be even trivially important, take on the mantle of global environmental protector?
What we see in Eastern Europe, what we see in the Hanford nuclear wasteland in Washington state, what we see in the Japanese nuclear plant where workers are mixing plutonium in a bucket, what we see is we don't have a chance to make a mistake. Man's relationship to his current environment is such that any mistake we made can be fatal to man and so devastating to our ecosystem that it could take millennia to recover.
Don't worry about dear old Earth. A millennium of recovery for Earth is just a blink of time, not a problem. The earth doesn't mind , the earth will recover, but man will be gone. Using the tired old example, but something you must internalize deeply, Dinosaurs ŅruledÓ the Earth for 120 million years, then all but vanished. 120 million years. Even by our most liberal estimates Man has been hanging around just 4 million years, the ecosphere would hardly remember us at all.
And that's a very interesting message. It's a very interesting message that the earth is showing us, and it's a very interesting observation on the evolution of man. Man is not the only creature on the face of the earth that modifies its environment. And is not in fact the only creature on the face of the earth that modifies his environment to his own detriment! Or to the detriment of other species. But the difference this subtle difference, the reason why man has to learn, but the reason why a man has to take a new Path, is because man is the only species that can befoul his environment and learn to live with it.
Men creates an environment that is intolerable to him ,then learns to live with it. He then learns to either live a different way so he doesn't use the resources that are no longer there, or develops a new tool a new process, a new way to do the thing that he destroyed. Man's intelligence allows him to live with, or become, his own disasters.
But what does this really mean? What this really means is that man has evolved himself out of the ecosphere that shaped him. Man has reached a point in his evolution where he can move faster than environmental processes .
Men's intelligence, men's hands, men's ability to work together as a purposeful unit, allow him to escape the ravages of his own actions. That does not mean man does not have an impact on the environment! What that means is man's impact is on everyone in the environment but himself. So man blithely skips around the damage he's caused or adapts, but other species, other aspects of his environment have been changed and have suffered because of his actions. Once again, what should man's role and man's responsibility be to make us fear?
Nothing. Now that man has evolved past the ecospheres' gentle guidance, now that man has evolved to the point of self evolution, now that man can change himself and his environment at faster than geologic speeds, it is time for man to remove himself from the slow steady plotting of geologic environments.
Think of it; Pollution is the next motivator in evolution. When our species was young, an occasional slow climatic change, or the abrupt impact of a volcano, was the ecological stimulus applied to push the evolutionary process forward. We now create our own evolutionary ecological changes. We have reached a point where we can stimulate changes in t he race through our own actions. We become self-evolving.
With the advent of self evolving man the proper location is a self created environment. No matter what men does , no matter how high a his ideals, no matter how rigorous his planning and his execution of those plans, he can not control adequately his impact on the environment. That native environment, this Earth, is a process still changing to allow the evolution of other species. It is critical to remember that every living thing on earth is evolving, every cell of plankton is part of an evolutionary flow for the species plankton, every forest is an environment for the evolution of trees.
The Earth will never be done being an evolutionary process for millions of species. Humans are just one. YouÕve heard ŅMan is the top of the evolutionary chainÓ. ThatÕs accurate, but the incorrect conclusion drawn is that there is an end to evolution, and if there is a species who is on top then nothing further will happen. Obviously incorrect, and obviously a mental mistake that colors the options our race has. WeÕre the ŅtopÓ. Good, great, the evolutionary process on Earth has created a species that is in many ways admirable, and the ŅprocessÓ should be very proud!
But in the same way a great composer does not stop composing after one master work, the Earth is obviously not done creating species that can fill the ŅtopÓ slot, nor is is necessary for there to be only one top species. However, the skills we learn as the top, primarily the skill to adapt the environment to ourselves, and to self-evolve, means that the slower processes Earth uses to evolve other species is short-circuited. Evolution of others still continues, the indestructibility of the cockroach attests to that.
However we humans donÕt do the same job as a complete ecosphere. We modify environmental factors that affect us, we donÕt provide the complete eco-change a slowly moving biosphere does. To assume that we can live in harmony with a planet-bounded environment is pure hubris! Once we begin the to think, once we began the to operate on our environment based on intellectual, and not instinctual , beliefs, then we are assuming that we understand not just our own actions that the echoes of those actions, this speed of those actions, and the goal of all the hundreds of thousands of evolutionary steps being taken every second. And thatÕs absurd.
Using our best technology, the fastest computers, are most gifted scientists, we can't even model the simplest of natural processes , how can we pretended to understand how the power plant affects a forest three thousand miles away? And we shouldnÕt want to. The process of Earth is masterful at this. As my childhood posit asserted, if we remove ourselves then the Earth will mold a new top species at once, and some species will attain the level of ecological control we assert. Not the day we vanish, not in the next 1,00 years, but at some point in the next 4 billion years.
What do we do now? WeÕre blocking, or misguiding, the evolutionary process for the next 1,000 top species by our own focus, and we cannot help that. Our very nature the nature that the Earth created in it's slow evolutionary way, determines that we will continue to mold the ecosphere for ourselves. We can either wallow in shame and attempts to control something we have no way of understanding, or we can take the intelligence path and remove ourselves to an environment where are impact will be only on ourselves, where are impact will be understood, where from start to finish the environment is ours.
Are we back to a special suicide and a giving up.
The proper environment for the future evolution of the human species is an artificial environment in space.
An artificial environment allows genetically altered strains of corn to not affect natural corn . A space environment allows an experimental nuclear reactor to go super critical, to explode, with the only impact been on those who choose to participate in such an experiment. An artificial space bound environment allows those who choose a themselves from experimentation from the risks others choose to bear, and to be happy. Want to race 16 cylinder smoke-spewing automobiles? Aim a 50 mile mylar mirror at an asteroid for a year, apply spin to the rock. When the molten rock has expanded to the track size on itÕs interior that you would like, fold up your mirror and let it cool. Punch a hole in the side to drag a chunk of ice from Saturn in, let that melt and blow off into steam in the residual heat, giving you some ponds and half your air. refit that hole with a large window, your 50 mile mirror can now be trimmed down to perhaps 2 miles, aim it at the window, nice heat and light. Punch a hole in the other side, smaller this time, to bring you and your buddies cars in. Have a great time! Spew all the hydrocarbons you want, the only ones youÕre hurting are those who choose to be there and revel in oil in their lungs. Want a pastoral life, back to the soil? Do the same thing with a chuck of stone in space, grind the stone to dirt, drag worms, butterflies, and cows from earth, and set up your paradise.
Irresponsible? Why? Not your cup of tea? Yes, certainly, if every environment was perfect for everyone how homogeneously boring that would be.
Our goal should now be to move every human from Earth to an environment of their own choosing and desire in space. What better way to go even further in self-evolution?
Feel that humans would be more intelligent and active in a 30 percent oxygen environment? Build one, move 50,000 of your fellow believers inside, and live, reproduce, and adapt for 10,000 years. Every idea we have, every sane to insane plan for ecologic balance can be built, each can be tested, and each will produce a different next phase in human evolution.
Let the Earth go back to what it does best, taking millions of years to sculpt a subtle change in species so they can take the next un-self-directed change, while we hare off in a thousand directions self-applying environmental changes that stimulate evolutionary adaptations.
Its possible now. We have every piece of technology available today to undertake the task, all we need is the will.
We lack the will because we lack the vision. Our perception of Space travel, colonization, is so narrow. We think in terms of 60 billion dollar space stations that hold 6 people at a time. We think in terms of checklist-precise days where every breath is calibrated and planned by a bank of engineers.
There are easier ways to go, with the vision and will. And with the acceptance of minor failure. The human race documented the loss of 14 people in a 40 year history of space travel. And we grieve over those 14, the Challenger explosion almost killed our space program. Again, absurd! Think! On average, every day in the United States 130 people die in automobiles. 130 per day just because they didnÕt care to fasten a seat belt, or chose to drink 10 beers before they drove home. We shake our heads, but death happens, car crashes are regrettable but we have to be able to zip around our towns fast! Apply the same reality, the same pragmatism, to space! STOP sending double-PhDs into space to build a space station. Send high school dropout iron riggers. One dies per week because he was sloppy? The same thing happens every week on construction sites in the U.S.
We need to dumb down space. Space travel isnÕt special. Space travel is just going real fast to a new place for humans to live and be sloppy, stupid, productive, happy, and self-guided. Each time the Shuttle takes off it dumps a huge pressure vessel into the ocean. Think of it! For a few hundred pounds more fuel we could stick that external fuel tank into orbit, shove some lights, water, and food in it, and you have a orbital colony for 500 people. ItÕs built to hold pressure, itÕs over-built to be a safe haven to live in. Not your ideal environment? Maybe not, but it may be the ideal environment for an extended family living in the filthy shanty towns outside Mexico City.
Not your ideal environment? Then make it so! And thatÕs a simple start with almost no thought or planning. Think of what we can do with will, with a plan, and with the knowledge that every now and again one of these will fail and hundreds will die rather dramatically. So what? ThatÕs not callous, thatÕs reality. In the last week here on earth over 100 people died in melees at Soccer matches in Africa! Would;t we rather risk those same deaths in moving people to an environment that might make their entire lives better, free of crowding, free of filth, free of the vagarities of disease and indifference? We have outgrown our parent, the Earth. SheÕs asking us to take the next step. The next step is outwards, where we can shape our destiny with no impact on the environment on this earth.
Lets go. ItÕs up to you.
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