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Book Review: A Life on Our Planet

I recently read David Attenborough's witness statement and have posted a review of it here.

Comments

  • 1.

    I get a "404" on the link to the review.

    Comment Source:I get a "404" on the link to the review.
  • 2.

    Ah, you are quite right! I think one needs to be logged in to view it. Let me just do a quick copy + paste here.

    Comment Source:Ah, you are quite right! I think one needs to be logged in to view it. Let me just do a quick copy + paste here.
  • 3.
    edited July 18

    Book Review: A life on our planet

    Recently I read over the course of a few days this book, which is David Attenborough's autobiography and witness statement regarding his view of the strange times we are living in. It is organised broadly into three main sections: a very focused autobiography, which briefly summarises his career over the decades from the 1930s to the present day; a short warning as to what might happen over the next century if risk mitigation actions are not taken quickly enough; and a third part explaining broad strategies regarding what risk mitigation might look like, informed by some of the best current opinions in the conservation movement and also real world examples.

    In the first part, he describes how the world has grown from having about 2 billion people when he was born, to having almost 4 times that number today, in simple statistics at the start of each chapter, along with two other statistics: atmospheric ppm of CO2 and remaining wilderness. Wilderness decreases from 66% in the 1930s to less than 35% today, quite a big (and alarming) drop.

    In the second part (working from memory) he mentions the Great Acceleration, and also the Great Decline. The Great Acceleration is a period starting from the end of the Holocene (which David places in the 1950s (other authors suggest earlier dates, but that is the one given in this book)) and the start of the so-called Anthropocene, wherein human development indices across the board start shooting up like hockey sticks. The Great Decline represents a corresponding exponential decline in habitat, biodiversity, and, in short, an ongoing mass extinction event caused by the increasing footprint that our species is making on our planet.

    The pragmatist might ask, so what? Sure, it might be a bit wasteful to loose all that irreplaceable information regarding species biodiversity and all of those pretty ecosystems, but that doesn't matter right? We can just convert everything to farms and aquaculture, and things will be fine.

    But that isn't what will happen if we ignore these problems. David Attenborough gives two illustrative examples.

    The first example is of the city of Pripyat, an example which he uses via ancient storytelling device to bookend his account. Pripyat is the city where the Chernobyl nuclear reactor was situated - a city which had to be abandoned due to radioactive fallout, not slowly, but suddenly. The people of that city were going about their everyday lives, when suddenly, one day, over a course of minutes, something catastrophically went wrong, that killed many of the people in the city - deaths from radiation leakage from the reactor. The city then became unliveable for people. Only recently has a concrete shield been placed, carefully, by engineers in radiation suits, around the old reactor core. In the meantime, the wild has reclaimed the city, and it is now a national park.

    Another example, not from David's book. I recently travelled to see some waterfalls in my area - Agnes falls - and was struck not only by the beauty of them, but also by something which was so neatly illustrated by the flow of water.

    If you look very carefully, you will see at the top a calm, mirror like state to the water. Things look peaceful, serene, normal. Indeed, if one walks further back along the river, that is the state of it for many many hundreds of metres. But then, very quickly, the state of the system changes. There are rapids. Then, out of picture, there is a fall of about 40 metres down into the gorge below.

    I took this picture a number of years ago in San Diego.

    This sleepwalking into catastrophe or frog boiling in hot water thing is quite understandable. David refers to this in his book as "shifting baseline bias". We normalise our views of the world based on what we see and experience.

    David gives another analogy in his book, that of bacteria in a petri dish. If one introduces bacteria to a petri dish in a growth medium, i.e. source of plentiful food, there will be a series of stages that the population of bacteria goes through. Phase 1 is an adjustment phase, the so-called "lag phase". In this, the bacteria adjust themselves to the medium, and figure out how to thrive in it. After that, the population enters Phase 2, the log phase. The bacteria have figured things out in this environment, and sure oh boy oh boy is it good here! Hey, tell you what, I'll grab this piece of real estate here, and divide, and then you folks can grab those bits, etc etc.

    Phase 2 is characterised by exponential growth in the population of bacteria. But, of course, the petri dish is finite.

    So at a certain point the bacterial population reaches and begins to exceed the carrying capacity of the dish. The death rate of the bacteria starts to catch up to the birth rate. The population plateaus for a bit. This is Phase 3, the stationary phase.

    But then the environment for the bacteria collapses. There is no more food. The waste that they have expelled becomes increasingly toxic to them.

    There is then a massive dieback of the bacterial population. This is Phase 4, the death phase.

    Comment Source:# Book Review: A life on our planet <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Recently I read over the course of a few days <a href="https://www.amazon.com.au/Life-Our-Planet-Witness-Statement-ebook/dp/B0892876CX">this book</a>, which is David Attenborough's autobiography and witness statement regarding his view of the strange times we are living in. It is organised broadly into three main sections: a very focused autobiography, which briefly summarises his career over the decades from the 1930s to the present day; a short warning as to what might happen over the next century if risk mitigation actions are not taken quickly enough; and a third part explaining broad strategies regarding what risk mitigation might look like, informed by some of the best current opinions in the conservation movement and also real world examples.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the first part, he describes how the world has grown from having about 2 billion people when he was born, to having almost 4 times that number today, in simple statistics at the start of each chapter, along with two other statistics: atmospheric ppm of CO2 and remaining wilderness. Wilderness decreases from 66% in the 1930s to less than 35% today, quite a big (and alarming) drop.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the second part (working from memory) he mentions the Great Acceleration, and also the Great Decline. The Great Acceleration is a period starting from the end of the Holocene (which David places in the 1950s (other authors suggest earlier dates, but that is the one given in this book)) and the start of the so-called Anthropocene, wherein human development indices across the board start shooting up like hockey sticks. The Great Decline represents a corresponding exponential decline in habitat, biodiversity, and, in short, an ongoing mass extinction event caused by the increasing footprint that our species is making on our planet.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The pragmatist might ask, so what? Sure, it might be a bit wasteful to loose all that irreplaceable information regarding species biodiversity and all of those pretty ecosystems, but that doesn't matter right? We can just convert everything to farms and aquaculture, and things will be fine.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But that isn't what will happen if we ignore these problems. David Attenborough gives two illustrative examples.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The first example is of the city of Pripyat, an example which he uses via ancient storytelling device to bookend his account. Pripyat is the city where the Chernobyl nuclear reactor was situated - a city which had to be abandoned due to radioactive fallout, not slowly, but suddenly. The people of that city were going about their everyday lives, when suddenly, one day, over a course of minutes, something catastrophically went wrong, that killed many of the people in the city - deaths from radiation leakage from the reactor. The city then became unliveable for people. Only recently has a concrete shield been placed, carefully, by engineers in radiation suits, around the old reactor core. In the meantime, the wild has reclaimed the city, and it is now a national park.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Another example, not from David's book. I recently travelled to see some waterfalls in my area - Agnes falls - and was struck not only by the beauty of them, but also by something which was so neatly illustrated by the flow of water.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:embed {"url":"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-PW6elLNk8","type":"rich","providerNameSlug":"youtube","responsive":true,"className":"wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"} --> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-youtube wp-block-embed-youtube wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-PW6elLNk8 </div></figure> <!-- /wp:embed --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>If you look very carefully, you will see at the top a calm, mirror like state to the water. Things look peaceful, serene, normal. Indeed, if one walks further back along the river, that is the state of it for many many hundreds of metres. But then, very quickly, the state of the system changes. There are rapids. Then, out of picture, there is a fall of about 40 metres down into the gorge below.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I took this picture a number of years ago in San Diego.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:image {"id":6590,"sizeSlug":"large","linkDestination":"media"} --> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><a href="https://confusedgremlin.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/img_20150403_102620.jpg"><img src="https://confusedgremlin.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/img_20150403_102620.jpg?w=1024" alt="" class="wp-image-6590"/></a></figure> <!-- /wp:image --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This sleepwalking into catastrophe or frog boiling in hot water thing is quite understandable. David refers to this in his book as "shifting baseline bias". We normalise our views of the world based on what we see and experience.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>David gives another analogy in his book, that of bacteria in a petri dish. If one introduces bacteria to a petri dish in a growth medium, i.e. source of plentiful food, there will be a series of stages that the population of bacteria goes through. Phase 1 is an adjustment phase, the so-called "lag phase". In this, the bacteria adjust themselves to the medium, and figure out how to thrive in it. After that, the population enters Phase 2, the log phase. The bacteria have figured things out in this environment, and sure oh boy oh boy is it good here! Hey, tell you what, I'll grab this piece of real estate here, and divide, and then you folks can grab those bits, etc etc.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Phase 2 is characterised by exponential growth in the population of bacteria. But, of course, the petri dish is finite.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So at a certain point the bacterial population reaches and begins to exceed the carrying capacity of the dish. The death rate of the bacteria starts to catch up to the birth rate. The population plateaus for a bit. This is Phase 3, the stationary phase. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But then the environment for the bacteria collapses. There is no more food. The waste that they have expelled becomes increasingly toxic to them.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There is then a massive dieback of the bacterial population. This is Phase 4, the death phase.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->
  • 4.

    So! If we keep blithely treating the world like our handbasket, what does the future hold in store for us? Not too much in the way of good, is essentially the thesis of the legendary conservationist. In the 2030s: if deforestation of the Amazon is not arrested, a phenomenon known as forest dieback will begin with the remainder of this amazing ecosystem, as the microclimate drops below a tipping point where the rainforest is self-sustaining. The Arctic will also be ice-free. This will have knock-on effects to ocean ecosystems that rely on the algae that grow under the sea ice to feed the fisheries in the Arctic that feed the predators, including us. Algae are in a sense a keystone species in the Arctic, and their ability to provide nutriment to life in that frozen wilderness will cease the moment it is no longer frozen. The Earth's albedo will shift and reflect less sunlight, thereby accelerating the heating process.

    In the 2040s - the melting of the permafrost, and the unstoppable release of stupendous amounts both of carbon dioxide and of methane into the atmosphere: "a tap which we will never be able to turn off". Methane is a far more potent greenhouse house than CO2.

    In the 2050s - the carbon count in the atmosphere enters its own great acceleration, accelerated by wildfires and thaws. CO2 enters the ocean and forms carbonic acid, altering the pH of the water, and ultimately causing dieback of anything remaining in the seas that hasn't already been fished out. Up to 90% of coral reefs, nurseries for fish upon which we all derive sustenance, and upon which 1/2 a billion people derive their livelihoods, will die, potentially within the space of a few years. Commercial fishing in the open ocean would cease becoming viable.

    By the 2080s - agriculture on land could see depleted soils, smaller harvests. There would be food shortages.

    Then, by the 2100s, there could be a worldwide humanitarian crisis.

    This is a bleak forecast. Of course, this is just one scenario. It is a scenario that assumes no other forms of catastrophe apart from the life support system that holds the planet's ecosystems together failing apart, and causing famine. There are potentially other failure modes as well.

    So how do we pull ourselves back from the brink? We are on our canoe, rowing down the river. We hear the rushing waters ahead. How much time do we have to turn the boat around? The canoe already has some speed. We know we are going to enter the rapids. We know, in principle, that the rapids are survivable. We also know, instinctively, that our global civilisation will likely collapse if we go over the falls. So we have a daunting task - how do we prepare for the rough waters ahead, and steer back to the placid safety of the waters we have just now started to leave?

    The solution that David suggests is outlined in his book in four broad brushstrokes: manage the oceans properly, by more carefully stewarding them and taking the interest, rather than the seed capital i.e. the core fish stocks; manage the land properly, by valuing rainforest and biodiversity properly, and by engaging in regenerative agricultural practices; use less land, by eating less meat, and allowing the wild to return; and reach peak population/"peak human" faster, by accelerating countries through their demographic transitions and providing access to education and opportunity for everyone.

    The obstacles are (amongst others): entrenched interests; interstate competition; coordination problems; development and sequencing of the requisite technologies and approaches; implementation of sensible policy; seeding sufficient political will and desire for change.

    The benefits are many. David neatly illustrates how sustainable practices which increase biodiversity can not only lead to risk mitigation across certain planetary health indicators and benchmarks, but also can yield economic and social dividends as well.

    So how much time do we have? How much margin do we have? It is a bit unclear, but David handwaves and mutters something about a "carbon budget", which presumably is linked to trying not to exceed 2 degrees celsius above the baseline from some ... starting date, and "3 decades to get things right". i.e., we have until 2050, and we really needed to start doing things yesterday in terms of the urgency of many of the things that need to be planned, sequenced, and actioned.

    I think I wrote about rewilding a while ago here (thesis: sufficiently advanced civilisations become eventually invisible) and here (fusion power and vertical farming are cool!111one).

    Before I discuss this though, and my view on navigating the next few decades, I thought I might first discuss narrative.

    We are, amongst other things, a story-telling species. Stories are not just a form of play. They are an essential form of planning, a way of searching the space of possibilities past, future, and present, and commenting on what has been, what is now, and what might yet be. The narrator is an explorer, charting a course through a dense jungle (so to speak!), ideating both what could be and reflecting on what has been. In this sense, narrative is essential, as without it, it is difficult to plan effectively.

    Stories were also the first way that we transmitted culture between ourselves from generation to generation, and they continue today to be an essential part of the flow of ideas from concept to implementation.

    In this sense, authors have a key role in helping to determine ways through the rapids ahead, and they have an ethical responsibility to frame things in a way that look for the gaps in the mess to safety, rather than staring at the accident and then becoming part of it. When one does a defensive driving course, one of the advanced techniques is essentially just this; if one sees a hazard or a developing situation up ahead of you, don't, whatever you do, focus on the problem - focus on the solution - your exits, and how to avoid and/or manage and mitigate the emerging risk.

    (As an aside, for some interesting theorising on narrative and storytelling in general, I greatly recommend this series of blog posts on Ribbonfarm.)

    Comment Source:<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So! If we keep blithely treating the world like our handbasket, what does the future hold in store for us? Not too much in the way of good, is essentially the thesis of the legendary conservationist. In the 2030s: if deforestation of the Amazon is not arrested, a phenomenon known as forest dieback will begin with the remainder of this amazing ecosystem, as the microclimate drops below a tipping point where the rainforest is self-sustaining. The Arctic will also be ice-free. This will have knock-on effects to ocean ecosystems that rely on the algae that grow under the sea ice to feed the fisheries in the Arctic that feed the predators, including us. Algae are in a sense a keystone species in the Arctic, and their ability to provide nutriment to life in that frozen wilderness will cease the moment it is no longer frozen. The Earth's albedo will shift and reflect less sunlight, thereby accelerating the heating process.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the 2040s - the melting of the permafrost, and the unstoppable release of stupendous amounts both of carbon dioxide and of methane into the atmosphere: "a tap which we will never be able to turn off". Methane is a far more potent greenhouse house than CO2.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In the 2050s - the carbon count in the atmosphere enters its own great acceleration, accelerated by wildfires and thaws. CO2 enters the ocean and forms carbonic acid, altering the pH of the water, and ultimately causing dieback of anything remaining in the seas that hasn't already been fished out. Up to 90% of coral reefs, nurseries for fish upon which we all derive sustenance, and upon which 1/2 a billion people derive their livelihoods, will die, potentially within the space of a few years. Commercial fishing in the open ocean would cease becoming viable.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>By the 2080s - agriculture on land could see depleted soils, smaller harvests. There would be food shortages.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Then, by the 2100s, there could be a worldwide humanitarian crisis.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This is a bleak forecast. Of course, this is just one scenario. It is a scenario that assumes no other forms of catastrophe apart from the life support system that holds the planet's ecosystems together failing apart, and causing famine. There are potentially other failure modes as well.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So how do we pull ourselves back from the brink? We are on our canoe, rowing down the river. We hear the rushing waters ahead. How much time do we have to turn the boat around? The canoe already has some speed. We know we are going to enter the rapids. We know, in principle, that the rapids are survivable. We also know, instinctively, that our global civilisation will likely collapse if we go over the falls. So we have a daunting task - how do we prepare for the rough waters ahead, and steer back to the placid safety of the waters we have just now started to leave?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The solution that David suggests is outlined in his book in four broad brushstrokes: manage the oceans properly, by more carefully stewarding them and taking the interest, rather than the seed capital i.e. the core fish stocks; manage the land properly, by valuing rainforest and biodiversity properly, and by engaging in regenerative agricultural practices; use less land, by eating less meat, and allowing the wild to return; and reach peak population/"peak human" faster, by accelerating countries through their demographic transitions and providing access to education and opportunity for everyone.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The obstacles are (amongst others): entrenched interests; interstate competition; coordination problems; development and sequencing of the requisite technologies and approaches; implementation of sensible policy; seeding sufficient political will and desire for change.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The benefits are many. David neatly illustrates how sustainable practices which increase biodiversity can not only lead to risk mitigation across certain planetary health indicators and benchmarks, but also can yield economic and social dividends as well.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So how much time do we have? How much margin do we have? It is a bit unclear, but David handwaves and mutters something about a "carbon budget", which presumably is linked to trying not to exceed 2 degrees celsius above the baseline from some ... starting date, and "3 decades to get things right". i.e., we have until 2050, and we really needed to start doing things yesterday in terms of the urgency of many of the things that need to be planned, sequenced, and actioned.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I think I wrote about rewilding a while ago <a href="https://confusedgremlin.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/rewilding-as-the-logical-outcome-of-civilisation/">here</a> (thesis: sufficiently advanced civilisations become eventually invisible) and <a href="https://confusedgremlin.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/vertical-farming-practical-with-fusion-power/">here</a> (fusion power and vertical farming are cool!111one).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Before I discuss this though, and my view on navigating the next few decades, I thought I might first discuss narrative.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We are, amongst other things, a story-telling species. Stories are not just a form of play. They are an essential form of planning, a way of searching the space of possibilities past, future, and present, and commenting on what has been, what is now, and what might yet be. The narrator is an explorer, charting a course through a dense jungle (so to speak!), ideating both what could be and reflecting on what has been. In this sense, narrative is essential, as without it, it is difficult to plan effectively.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Stories were also the first way that we transmitted culture between ourselves from generation to generation, and they continue today to be an essential part of the flow of ideas from concept to implementation.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In this sense, authors have a key role in helping to determine ways through the rapids ahead, and they have an ethical responsibility to frame things in a way that look for the gaps in the mess to safety, rather than staring at the accident and then becoming part of it. When one does a defensive driving course, one of the advanced techniques is essentially just this; if one sees a hazard or a developing situation up ahead of you, don't, whatever you do, focus on the problem - focus on the solution - your exits, and how to avoid and/or manage and mitigate the emerging risk.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>(<em>As an aside, for some interesting theorising on narrative and storytelling in general, I greatly recommend <a href="https://www.ribbonfarm.com/series/narrativium/">this series of blog posts</a> on Ribbonfarm.</em>)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->
  • 5.

    So, how do we manage and mitigate the unfolding developments around us - locally and globally? How do we mobilise both in our neighbourhoods, in our states and nations, and at the level of international organisations like the UN in order to get done what needs to be done?

    Certainly, one solution is definitely to decarbonise. But that is not enough, we need to reduce our footprint on the planet. And for that, in my view, we need to plan carefully and effectively to pave the way for a machine civilisation.

    What is a machine civilisation? A machine civilisation is a civilisation wherein citizens reside in some form of city memory, and may choose to avatar in the physical i.e. non-digital world, but may often prefer not to. i.e., in a machine civilisation, we are all effectively cyborgs.

    Of course, many might recoil at this, but I think it is an essential progression. We cannot keep on using the planet like we are. We need to drastically reduce our carbon footprint. Earth Overshoot Day is something that was mentioned in the book (this year it falls on July 29. i.e., we are currently drawing down the Earth's life support reserves at almost twice the rate that they can be currently replenished by the remaining global ecosystems). The only way per my mind that we can sustainably keep - and even increase - our numbers, is by stepping towards a state wherein our civilisation becomes a machine civilisation (I believe Robin Hanson has his own favourite take on this sort of idea, which he outlines in his book "Age of EM" (which I have not read as yet, and which I probably should)).

    But, but but .. I hear you say. You can't just ... encourage people to upload themselves to some sort of ... system. That's monstrous! Computers can't support consciousness, hardware can't think - you'll be destroying people's minds and souls! Yet, I reply - what is a brain if not just a particularly complex piece of organic hardware? Advances in electronics, computation and our understanding of the brain will continue over the next few decades. We should seek to capitalise on these developments if we can.

    Would this be enough? Decarbonising our sources of energy and drastically decreasing our footprint on the world? Maybe not. We would need the entire toolchain for the production of bits and pieces for our civilisation to become sustainable as well. Everything we use to fabricate whatever form of hardware should ultimately be reused, redigested, and recycled into something new and important later. We would also need to carefully steward and tend the wild of the planet, and make sure that it is in good order for whatever remnant of humanity still opted to remain in baseline state; not to mention the general ethos of caring for other creatures, in view of potential sources of Excession.

    So - decarbonisation of our economy, making sure that our industrial processes are sustainable, conservatorship of the earth, and a machine civilisation (refer also to James Lovelock's recent book Novacene). Sounds good.

    Of course, none of this would happen instantly. There would be a rough period of transition, and there are obviously still a large number of advances still required in order for this vision of the future to even be feasible - let alone politically viable.

    Therefore, there is a need to sequence a series of intermediate steps in our journey back to the placid, calmer waters of the river prior to the rapids. We need to triage our patient and made sure that we supply the essentials to keep it going, to buy time for the necessary advances and developments to occur.

    Much of what David suggests in his book in part three is good advice in this respect. I've already summarised some of it above, and I won't go into too much detail regarding the points he makes - you'll need to read his book for that! - but basically, his suggestions are: increase biodiversity, reduce land use, manage human population levels, and increase biodiversity. Biodiversity is the big byword here - life looks after its own, the ecosystems of the earth are self healing, so anything that encourages ecosystems to flourish and heal will help to buy time.

    While we're carefully doing that, we should relentlessly pursue methods to mitigate various forms of risks caused by there basically just being too many of us. Clean energy, via renewables, or solutions with "regret" such as gas, nuclear, or hydroelectric power if need be. Decommissioning of coal and oil plants. Investment into nuclear fusion. Quantum computing, artificial intelligence - true artificial intelligence - and neuroscience. Investment in education, to empower and uplift all across the world.

    Investment in the church, to support this uplift of people across the world and reach peak human faster, as well as to decrease corruption, improve international cooperation, and lead to greater economic efficiencies. (This investment would also sow hope, a sense of mission, and sow the desire to do good and to make a difference, in a kind of flywheel effect. It would foster wisdom as well. Wise leadership and wise decision making over the coming decades is sorely needed!)

    Investment into water purification technologies, such as those using reticular chemistry or that which I mentioned here. Investment into carbon capture and storage technologies, again potentially using reticular chemistry. Research into proto-nanotechnologies in general. Research into biochemistry and biotechnology. Collection of seedbanks and genetic assays of threatened species, so that in principle we can recreate specimens of these creatures and eventually reintroduce them back into the wild if they die out now. Conservation programmes in general.

    Investment in infrastructure, in sustainable cities, in smart agriculture, in robotic farming. Investment in drafting and passing in state legislatures sound economic and social policies that consider things holistically, without neglecting the need for our societies to ultimately be sustainable. Mobilisation of investors, stewards, and custodians of the global economy (of which the Ceres consortium is a notable example) to ensure that the right things are being prioritised and invested in.

    Many more things that I've overlooked, too, should likely be pursued.

    Nothing is off the table - basically, this is about making sure that, within another 100 years, we don't enter Phase 4. Nobody wants to enter Phase 4 if they can help it.

    Comment Source:<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So, how do we manage and mitigate the unfolding developments around us - locally and globally? How do we mobilise both in our neighbourhoods, in our states and nations, and at the level of international organisations like the UN in order to get done what needs to be done?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Certainly, one solution is definitely to decarbonise. But that is not enough, we need to reduce our footprint on the planet. And for that, in my view, we need to plan carefully and effectively to pave the way for a machine civilisation.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>What is a machine civilisation? A machine civilisation is a civilisation wherein citizens reside in some form of city memory, and may choose to avatar in the physical i.e. non-digital world, but may often prefer not to. i.e., in a machine civilisation, we are all effectively cyborgs.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Of course, many might recoil at this, but I think it is an essential progression. We cannot keep on using the planet like we are. We need to drastically reduce our carbon footprint. <a href="https://www.overshootday.org/">Earth Overshoot Day</a> is something that was mentioned in the book (this year it falls on July 29. i.e., we are currently drawing down the Earth's life support reserves at almost twice the rate that they can be currently replenished by the remaining global ecosystems). The only way per my mind that we can sustainably keep - and even increase - our numbers, is by stepping towards a state wherein our civilisation becomes a machine civilisation (I believe Robin Hanson has his own favourite take on this sort of idea, which he outlines in his book "<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Age-Em-Work-Robots-Earth/dp/1536619590">Age of EM</a>" (which I have not read as yet, and which I probably should)).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But, but but .. I hear you say. You can't just ... encourage people to upload themselves to some sort of ... system. That's monstrous! Computers can't support consciousness, hardware can't think - you'll be destroying people's minds and souls! Yet, I reply - what is a brain if not just a particularly complex piece of organic hardware? Advances in electronics, computation and our understanding of the brain will continue over the next few decades. We should seek to capitalise on these developments if we can.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Would this be enough? Decarbonising our sources of energy and drastically decreasing our footprint on the world? Maybe not. We would need the entire toolchain for the production of bits and pieces for our civilisation to become sustainable as well. Everything we use to fabricate whatever form of hardware should ultimately be reused, redigested, and recycled into something new and important later. We would also need to carefully steward and tend the wild of the planet, and make sure that it is in good order for whatever remnant of humanity still opted to remain in baseline state; not to mention the general ethos of caring for other creatures, in view of potential sources of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excession">Excession</a>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>So - decarbonisation of our economy, making sure that our industrial processes are sustainable, conservatorship of the earth, and a machine civilisation (refer also to James Lovelock's recent book <a href="https://www.amazon.com.au/Novacene-Coming-Hyperintelligence-James-Lovelock-ebook/dp/B07RM3GPB6/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1BFXW9RO92ABM&amp;dchild=1&amp;keywords=novacene&amp;qid=1626341556&amp;s=digital-text&amp;sprefix=novacene%2Caps%2C1072&amp;sr=1-1">Novacene</a>). Sounds good.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Of course, none of this would happen instantly. There would be a rough period of transition, and there are obviously still a large number of advances still required in order for this vision of the future to even be feasible - let alone politically viable.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Therefore, there is a need to sequence a series of intermediate steps in our journey back to the placid, calmer waters of the river prior to the rapids. We need to triage our patient and made sure that we supply the essentials to keep it going, to buy time for the necessary advances and developments to occur.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Much of what David suggests in his book in part three is good advice in this respect. I've already summarised some of it above, and I won't go into too much detail regarding the points he makes - you'll need to read his book for that! - but basically, his suggestions are: increase biodiversity, reduce land use, manage human population levels, and increase biodiversity. Biodiversity is the big byword here - life looks after its own, the ecosystems of the earth are self healing, so anything that encourages ecosystems to flourish and heal will help to buy time.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>While we're carefully doing that, we should relentlessly pursue methods to mitigate various forms of risks caused by there basically just being too many of us. Clean energy, via renewables, or solutions with "regret" such as gas, nuclear, or hydroelectric power if need be. Decommissioning of coal and oil plants. Investment into nuclear fusion. Quantum computing, artificial intelligence - true artificial intelligence - and neuroscience. Investment in education, to empower and uplift all across the world. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Investment in the church, to support this uplift of people across the world and reach peak human faster, as well as to decrease corruption, improve international cooperation, and lead to greater economic efficiencies. (This investment would also sow hope, a sense of mission, and sow the desire to do good and to make a difference, in a kind of flywheel effect. It would foster wisdom as well. Wise leadership and wise decision making over the coming decades is sorely needed!)</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Investment into water purification technologies, such as those using reticular chemistry or that which I mentioned <a href="https://confusedgremlin.wordpress.com/?p=6449">here</a>. Investment into carbon capture and storage technologies, again potentially using reticular chemistry. Research into proto-nanotechnologies in general. Research into biochemistry and biotechnology. Collection of seedbanks and genetic assays of threatened species, so that in principle we can recreate specimens of these creatures and eventually reintroduce them back into the wild if they die out now. Conservation programmes in general.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Investment in infrastructure, in sustainable cities, in smart agriculture, in robotic farming. Investment in drafting and passing in state legislatures sound economic and social policies that consider things holistically, without neglecting the need for our societies to ultimately be sustainable. Mobilisation of investors, stewards, and custodians of the global economy (of which <a href="https://confusedgremlin.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/the-ceres-consortium/">the Ceres consortium</a> is a notable example) to ensure that the right things are being prioritised and invested in.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Many more things that I've overlooked, too, should likely be pursued.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Nothing is off the table - basically, this is about making sure that, within another 100 years, we don't enter Phase 4. Nobody wants to enter Phase 4 if they can help it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->
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