Where is Earth going?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Dreamwalker, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. Dreamwalker Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    4,205
    Ok, I hope this fits in Science and Society...


    So, many economies of western nations are trying to grow, and most do exactly that. Some more than others, but each year, nations try to increase their economy.
    A question: Is that really necessary? Or even realistical?

    An economy cannot grow for ever, that is just not feasible, at some point a maximum has been reached. But this does not only affect international stock markets, it affects the whole earth, the nature if you want to call it that way. The growth of the humans and their society are stripping this planet of resources and destroys ecosystems. Ultimately, we will destroy the whole planet and ourself.

    Of course, voices will say that this is overdramatized, right? There will always be resources, the human society will prosper and so on.

    Well, how should that be possible? Resources like oil will run out eventually, and faster than many people think. Granted, if the use would not increase by a big margin, they should last for some decades, even centuries. But something like that is a stupid outlook. The human population will grow, even thought the rate with which we procreate has gone down.

    For that, some numbers:

    World Population around 1800: 1 Billion (Milliard) people
    World Population around 1900: 1.5 Billion people
    World Population around 2000: 6.5 Billion people
    Estimated world population 2030: 8.5-10 Billion people

    Another factor: Other countries are developing, many African nations are getting more industrial and their standart of living increases. The same goes for China and India, the countries with the biggest population. This means that more people use up oil for combustion engines. But that is not the only problem, far from it. Another thing; right now, we humans use about 40% of all the plants on the earth for food, either to feed us or to feed the animals we eat. Most African and Asian countries are still eating plants, but the wealthier they get, the more meat they will consume. And you need much more plants to feed a cow that you are going to eat afterwards. As a result, the per head consume of plants will grow exponentially, hence more useful plants would need to be cultivated and planted. That again would result in a reduction of the natural plants, which, in turn, will kill off animals that life from these plants, which, in turn will bereave other animals from their prey...
    In short, it would destroy a great part of the ecosystem.

    Looking at China as an example, they need more water to irrigate their fields, so they have built some gigantic dams and lakes. The local flora and fauna was flooded and how long will the Chinese be able to use those lakes? They have the sandiest river in the world, and build the biggest dam in the world to collect its water. This will probably result in a pretty sandy lake in a matter of decades. Apart from that, they already drained some other rivers to get water for their fields, and drained the water that collected under the earth over some thousand of years. Some rivers no longer flow the whole year since too much water has been used, and the ground water which was reached after only 3-4 meters can now be found in a depth of 37 meters...
    Furthermore, some Chinese rivers are heavily polluted by the fast growing industry, all the animals in and around the river died and the water cannot be used to irrigate plants anymore.
    So, if China's population grows, and it is sure to do that, they would have to import grain and wheat. Not that big a deal, if you look at it in a limited area and timeframe. But the other countries, even those with an overproduction will need more food, and there are many other ascending countries that will also demand wheat and grain. Over a long timespan, there would not be enough food. Another factor, the price of those demanded products would be very high, as a consequence, many poor African states could no longer import the wheat and grain needed to support their inhabitants...

    A nice outlook so far, isn't it? Perhaps I should go on.

    So, there are many countries that are advancing fast, their population will increase, as will their consume of various goods.

    In this light, how long can an economy grow? And is this growth really desireable?
    Oh, and would not the use of oil increase? And what about all the CO2 in the atmosphere? Do you think that some really big holes in the ozone layer would make it easier to grow crops? And the air pollution would increase alongside the economy and industry of the upcoming countries. Now, does anyone still feel the need to drive around in SUVs?



    Well, I have some other aspects, but first, this is quite long enough, second, I do not want to write anymore, third, I might put them into other subforums since they have different characteristics.
    All in all, this is just a text to make people conscient about the rest of the world, intending to make them less shortsighted in their actions and aims.
    And, this text was inspired by the book "Die Zukunft des Lebens" / "The future of life" written by Edward O. Wilson, can only recommend reading it. It deals with global problems but also focuses on localised events all over the world, giving a good perspective of what might happen.
     
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  3. anotheressence Registered Senior Member

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    So do you expect everyone to just stop?
     
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  5. Dreamwalker Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Did I say that? What would stopping be good for? No, I want people to act with more foresight instead of planning only for their own generation or country.

    You know, one could stop using that much oil for example. Not only valuing a country by its economical growth would also help.
    Also, it only gets worse, at some point, yes, everyone has to stop or we will be stopped. Earth and its resources and capabilities of reproduction are not infinite. Someday we will reach a boundary, and I do not think that that would be a nice experience.
     
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  7. weed_eater_guy It ain't broke, don't fix it! Registered Senior Member

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    You're assuming a lot here, Dreamwalker. First, that we are not going to develop any new means of energy production to replace coal and oil industries in the next few decades. It will happen, especally if an oil shortage becomes a reality, because oil prices will go so high up that the demand for new energy technologies will skyrocket. Major coorporations looking to go after this major piece of change will spend many times what they're spending on todays research of fusion, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. etc. etc. The outcome of this economic reaction will be a whole new line of energy systems that are oil-independent, and likely to provide very cheap power very efficiently.

    Secondly, you're thinking that all of the fresh water will be depleted and we'll make massive deserts. Granted, we've done this a little already. But an easy way to overcome this is to do decelenation. Unfortunately, it takes alot of energy to do this kind of purification. I think the means of making fresh water will go hand in hand with the energy problem because after we engineer new energy production methods, they're likely to make power alot cheaper than oil power is today, letting developing nations have the opportunity to have ample power to make their own water. That is assuming that people in these developing countries can stay together long enough to make the neccesary infrastructure for something like that stay stable.

    Third, the food problem?!?! What food problem?!?! I would really like to know where you got that 40% figure, because human consumption doesn't even come close to that amount! And even if it somehow did, there wouldn't be much chance that we'd "destroy the world" from deforestation. You take on the concieted philosophy so many environmentalists take on when they decide to join Greenpeace: that humans are so freggin powerful that we can "destroy the world". Guess what, we can't. Even if we blew every damn nuke in existence up so that the whole world was so irradiated it glowed green, in a few thousand years, forests and wildlife would have likely taken over again in another beautiful cycle of life. A food shortage wouldn't come close to the devistation of nuclear war, so any outcome can't be extremely horrible. Ecosystems whill be altered, but not by an extreme extent. The fact would be that humans would take a harder hit from a food shortage than the environment itself. It'll be fine, while we're pumping out more babies than we can feed so that, unfortunately, starvation would be wide-spread. Our screwing around will ironically screw us over, but wouldn't put nearly as big a dent in the environment as you suggest.

    You also think like many people mistakenly believe: that we'll "run out of resourcees". Oh my god, WHERE could they all be going!!! Absolutely nowhere. It's not like we throw our trash away by blasting it into the sun or anything, it stays on THIS PLANET, thus as long as we can recycle it (which we can and we will), we can ultimately use any element or compound over again. All we need is an abundant supply of energy, which, ahha, is our next-door fusion reactor shining beams of light right onto my hands as I type. Plus, Earth isn't all we have. Humans have accessed the materials from earth's crust only (as far as I know we havn't extracted ore from the mantle). We'll be digging deeper, we'll be going to other moons and planets, we'll have access to much much more raw material, so even if we could "use up" earth's resources, there's plenty of other places to shop.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the concern people have for the way we're treating this world, but in the long run, we're just not as powerful as we think we are. It also ultimately doesn't matter because we are only one of the forces acting on Earth. I think if the earth is ever in real danger of being "destroyed", it would be because of an outside force, such as a hypernova, or a comet, or a solar instability, or something like that.
     
  8. Dreamwalker Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    4,205
    Oh, I am quite aware that we will never destroy the earth, or the live on it. Hey, after all, there are even one-celled lifeforms living thousands of kilometers under the mantle of the earth. They would not be bothered. There are organism that can take a thousand times more radiation than any nuke on earth could produce.
    But, earth cannot support an ever growing population and consume. That is not possible. Recycling? Oh, you can make dust, sand and ahes into food? And so efficient that humans can still procreate exponentially? Great, show me. Another factor, the exponential increase would mean that the mass of all humans would be bigger than that of the whole earth in a matter of centuries... No matter what great technologies you have that I am totally unaware of, it is not possible to support ourselves in such a case.

    Coming back to destruction:
    But we would destroy a great deal of the flora and fauna that exists in sensitive enviroments. As a fact, we already did so.
    As for food, did you happen to read ho overfished the oceans are? I think that it was in the media some days ago, at least here in Europe. Many kinds of fish are so overfished that they are nearly extinct. I suppose that if you do not care for a variety of fish, that is no big problem. The fact that many African states have a shortcoming of fish because their government gave the EU a license to fish in front of their coasts, whereas the citizens now lack an important protein source, is that not a problem?
    What would you do against that?
    I am not only concerned about us humans, there are other species on this planet, and they have a right to live too, why do we have the right to just kill them and destroy their enviroment?

    And yes, I am assuming quite a lot. And I know that the mass of this planet stays the same, but not everything can be used or transformed by every organism and there is no guarantee that we will be able to in the near future.
    The fresh water issue... I never said that we will run out of fresh water, I only said that there is not enough to support an ever growing popultion.
    What is decelenation? Do you perchance mean "desalination"? If so, yes, that might be a possibility. If that is feasible on a global basis? I do not know, but it is worth a try, isn't it.
    This leads to the alternatives for oil. Yes, alternatives are researched and employed, and in some years, they might be an adequate substitute for oil. (Except in those industries that need oil as ingredient for other products of course) But, to make those technologies globally available, those states that have the means and money would face great costs, and most would act egoistical. Still, I never said that it will be that way and we will all die and whatnot. But, I said following thing: All in all, this is just a text to make people conscient about the rest of the world, intending to make them less shortsighted in their actions and aims.
    And you surely cannot deny that many act shortsighted. Acting after the scheme: Oh, we are running out of oil shortly, lets take the next best way, if that doesn't work... well, that is not our problem.

    Food problem? Oh, I must have misinterpreted all those starving people all over the world...
    Anyway, how much do you think we need for our food production? Of all the plant mass of this planet?
    Secondly, I also bound the food problem to something else, the growing world population and the growing wealth. Look at it this way, humans in poor countries eat rice or other plants as main food source. In wealthier countries, people tend to eat more meat, but for a Kilogramme of meat, you need about 10 Kilogramme plants, while a human needs about 1 Kiogramme of plants (those in poor countries have a lower daily ration). Now imagine millions of people starting to eat more and more meat, as a consequence, the consumation of wheat, rice, etc. increases exponentially. And there is only so much space for food production... No food problem? I suppose some peopel disagree with that.
    Furthermore, I took China as an example. In abot 5-10 years, China will be unable to support their population with their own crops. They would have to import on a big scale, that would take a lot of wheat from the world market and the price would increase. African countries that are depended on import of cheap wheat will be left in catastrophical circumstances.

    Oh, but before there would be a global food shortage, we would try to use every available piece of land to grow food and eat every digestible animal. Are you sure that that would not destroy millions of years of evolution? You know, I have written that whole text because there are people like you...
     
  9. ScRaMbLe Chaos Inc. Registered Senior Member

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    666
    I'm a firm believer in the Gaia theory. The earth will cull our numbers long before we can destroy it.
    Thats not to say that we won't lose probably around 90% of the current animal species in existance, i think this is inevitable. The only species which will remain are the ones which are most valuable to human existance, ie food and the cute fuzzy ones which everyone will campaign to save. "wildlife" will become a term of the past, man made habitats and tiny fenced off national parks (only the ones which dont contain anything worth mining) will be where we go to see "nature". I think its vital that we as a race start an "ark" project. Taking reproductive DNA from every species remaining and storing it for safe keeping.

    Humans will never die out, unless, except as mentioned, from an outside source. We are incredibly adaptive, but it will be a different world. Everything will become so expensive that war over resources will become a constant state, even more so than it already is. You think the "havenots" have got it in for the "haves" now?... wait til they get organised.

    But this too will just be a passing phase, might last hundreds of years, might last thousands, but eventually technology will progress to enable all remaining humans to live a life relatively free from want. Mars will probably become an industrial planet, if they find and free enough water there. Some might say that's a pipe dream, but once the cost of everything on earth rises exponentially it will look a lot more feasable.
    Thats when we'll pull the "ark" out and start turning the planet back to its former glory. A somewhat plastic landscaped glory to begin with,but it'll get there eventually.

    Things might pan out this way, they might not, we all know a storm is coming, but at the end of the day, no-one can really say where the lightning will strike.
     
  10. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    9,232
    There was a professional footballer with the Dallas Cowboys in the lates 1970s who said "If you say it, then you do it, it ain't bragging".

    We have been in the middle of accelerated species extinction for the last 12,000 years. This is a mass extinction event comparable with the demise of the dinosaurs. Peter Raven of the National Academy of Sciences projects 2/3 of all species will be extinct by 2300. The primary reason for this is the exploding human population.

    If I say it, then I do it, it aint conceited. Take your head out of the sand, and your rhetoric out of your thought processes.
     
  11. weed_eater_guy It ain't broke, don't fix it! Registered Senior Member

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    by "food problem" I was refering to the supposable shortage of food you forementioned, not the fact that we are not distributing this food correctly amongst the people of the world. And yes, as the population expands, the environment will take a hit, weaker species will not survive, but who says that's such a bad thing? This would be humans achieving symbiosis with the enivronment. Eventually we will overfish to the point where fish populations will dwindle small enough that it will be impossible to catch sufficient amounts to even pay for trawler fuel, and we will come to a point where feeding the population is too difficult to do. As disgusting as I feel saying this, we'll either die off from starvation or have enough foresight to enforce birth control methods. Either way, humanity will eventually encounter a balance with our surrounding environment, even if it costs the planet of the less significant life forms. If we're lucky, we'll start off-world colonies requiring resources to be hauled from earth, including plants and maybe even animals. The result would be a larger proportion of natural pressence than human seeing as the symbiotic balance would be achieved while the environment is larger.

    I totally agree with scrambler, an Ark Project would probably be our best bet, knowing that our expansion is going to wipe out some species that may one day be extremely important, even if evolutionarily they won't be compatible with our rapid expansion. I'm also in favor of Gaia theory, that earth is a macro-organism and humans are but an element of it. Our explosion of human activity is a wild-fire in this macro-organism, one that was induced by it, and will in turn affect it adversly. and because nature abhores a vacuum, I think we're the natural responce to expand. by the time humans are extinct, we would probably have spread our nature to many planets, likely in many star systems.

    Now by concieted, ophiolite, we'd be refering to the fact that people think they can change the world exactly the way they want for the better. people want to protect every single animal, plant and crap-eating fungal mold the same way we want to keep every piece of crap in the attic that we don't look at but once a decade or so. we want to stop expansion, stop producing things, stop doing anything that could possibly disturb this pristine attic of ours. Well no matter how we try, no matter how many resolutions the UN passes, or how many of those resolutions are actually enforced (imagine that...), we are going to expand and there is no stopping it. Sure, it sucks that wildlife is going to die, especially the very beautiful ones, like condors and whales, but it's going to happen simply because we are not in as much control as we lead ourselved to believe. Take my head out of the sand?! I couldn't be as short-sighted as you if I tried.
     
  12. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Go on, make an effort.
     
  13. ScRaMbLe Chaos Inc. Registered Senior Member

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    when a zit gets too big, the bacteria drowns in its own shit, but you know another will pop up eventually. Same with humans.
     
  14. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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    You can only pour water into a cup for so long before it overflows, seems pretty simple. But folks will come up with any number of complex rationalizations to justify being able to ignore the future and selfishly only worry about themselves now, rather than their very own childrens future.
     
  15. weed_eater_guy It ain't broke, don't fix it! Registered Senior Member

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    Oh damn, you actually think we have CONTROL over the situation, don't you all?!?! WOW!!! We're going to stop hunting endangered animals but the UN will take insufficient action to stop it and it'll happen. Kyoto protocol isn't adopted by many countries because it is flawed. Even if we came up with a perfect plan for the world, someone will disagree with it and worsen the global problem! I agree, it might get bad, but hell, what are we going to do about it? Put economic sanctions on everyone? Make littering a capital punishment? How about we gas ourselves so that a future inteligent race can pick up where we left off? We'll talk and talk and blame each other for not taking action but it IS INEVITABLE. Humans are going on this dangerous trend we ignore and there's not a whole lot we can do to stop it. Maybe that's why we ignore it so...
     
  16. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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    It could just be that our type of intelligence simply isn't geared towards long term survival.

    Oh well, as much as for selfish reasons I worry for myself and my children . . . species come and go. Something else will gladly take our place!
     
  17. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

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    If we killed off 90% of the muticelled animals on earthand turned the planet into a toxic hellhole, I think things will be business as normal in only a few hundred years. You would see a diversification of rat, roaches, and pigeons to fill every vacant role. Zebra mussels, crabgrass, and asiatic ladybugs would become our new wildlife.

    Heck, I am pretty sure things will develop whose entire niche is sucking up the crap our species throws out. Seaweed that makes its living sucking up nitrogen-fertilizers spewing down estuaries. Maybe something will even learn to love atmospheric sulfides, ozone, and carbon monoxide.

    My point is, this isn't the first time a species did what we are doing. The first plants crammed pollution into the air in the form of oxygen. It not only sickened things, it burned them. Later, when plants developed cellulose, nothing was evolved to eat their waste. Most of the coal in the world is from this short time when woody material just built up on the ground.

    Something will learn to eat our waste. Then we will learn to eat it. It might just take some time or a swing of biological engineering.
     
  18. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    I can mark you down as a pessimist then. Fortunately there are many people out there taking a proactive stance, working quitely towards improving things, or at least slowing the rate of detrioration [Why some of them may even be concerned over that crap-eating fungal mold.]Forty years ago we didn't even know we had an environment to worry about. The situation 'on the ground' has deteriorated, but the situation in peoples' heads has improved, because the problem is recognised, even it seems, by pessimists.
     
  19. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    The world? ...oh, you mean people ...the population will steal from the future to maintain our precarious position until it all collapses like a house of cards. The world itself will suffer huge losses of diversity, culture, beauty and health from which it will take thousands, even millions of years to fully recover, having lost the genetic variation that would have speeded up adaptation. Our best hope is a nuclear holocaust or a pandemic of disease that selectively destroys Republicans.
     
  20. marv Just a dumb hillbilly... Registered Senior Member

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    The answer is Soylent Green! In respect to spidergoat, I won't even suggest that Democrats should go first!

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    The height of arrogance is when we Homo sapiens sapiens think that we could ever "destroy" the Earth. When our course is run, we'll be replaced by something else. Not to worry!
     
  21. Dreamwalker Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    You know, no one really thinks that earth will be destroyed. But we are destroying ecosystems and kill off all kinds of animals. We are destroying millions of years of evolution. I know that something will come after us, nonetheless, probably 99% of the various animal types will be exterminated. And I do not think that we have a right to do that.
     
  22. ScRaMbLe Chaos Inc. Registered Senior Member

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    Exactly. Once its gone its gone, there is no way to replicate natural ecosystems to the extent of their original complexity, we just don't have enough knowledge of the intricate and minute relationships between contributers to the system. There are so many bizarre and beautiful lifeforms on earth that we could learn so much from and will probably never get the chance.
     
  23. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Thank you Scramble and Dreamwalker for destroying Marv's argument, such as it was, as effectively as we are destroying the Earth. (Marv, you dumbshit, when people say 'Earth' in this context they don't mean the whole planet; they mean the tiny thin bit on top that's moderately hospitable for a rapidly diminishing number of life forms.)
     

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