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Isn't civilisation the problem?

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As critical as the west's financial, energy and environmental situations are, isn't the underlying problem fundamentally civilisation itself? Two assumptions seem to exist at least in the developed world:

 

The assumption that consumption can continue, and infact increase, to meet our desire for an ever higher "quality of life".

 

The assumption that population can increase forever.

 

I can't imagine either of these assumptions ever being confronted and dealt with, so isn't civilisation certain to eventually collapse? Even if we make it through the current problems of governmental finance and replacing oil as the most useful resource, at some point afterwards increased population would cause either a social or environmental problem that would be almost impossible to recover from.

 

Very few people (and even fewer who aren't off-puttingly spirtualistic about it) seem to be considering that our very way of life isnt sustainable long term, so is this just because civilisation could be made to work long term, or just because its so unpleasant to think otherwise?

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Well, not necessarily. Those of us who are interested in actually solving the problems are often those of us who are also very interested in space travel, which would let us get off the earth and harness vastly greater resources.

 

And if you think civilization is bad... what are you doing on the internet?

He just kept talking and talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no one had a chance to interrupt it was really quite hypnotic...

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Well, not necessarily. Those of us who are interested in actually solving the problems are often those of us who are also very interested in space travel, which would let us get off the earth and harness vastly greater resources.

Putting the difficulty, danger and expense aside is this really a solution? All it does is allow us to satisfy our consumption by using extraterrestrial resources which doesnt solve the original problem, in fact would probably worsen the environmental effects here on earth.

And if you think civilization is bad... what are you doing on the internet?

This is a common rebuttal but it isn't really an argument. Not being part of civilisation certainly doesn't alleviate any of its problems, and because of the dominant expansive nature of civilisation reverting back to the tribe-sized autonomous groups of the past, which relied on foraging and hunting in a world of plenty of wild animals and natural growth, just isn't possible anymore with the incredible depletion of sea-stocks and natural wildlife.

 

If you want to hear some arguments for what I think, and don't mind sitting throught ALOT of perhaps unnecessary elaboration, strange pauses and spiritualism I'd recommend checking out Derrick Jensens Endgame:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9os1GFuWJ0

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Thanks for that video, enjoy this guy already. Always interested in philosophical opinions about the future and more proof how fundamental arrogance might be our worst weakness which combined with general intelligence ability can make a combination for a really bad future for humans..

"When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, "I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon."

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Well, not necessarily. Those of us who are interested in actually solving the problems are often those of us who are also very interested in space travel, which would let us get off the earth and harness vastly greater resources.

Putting the difficulty, danger and expense aside is this really a solution?

Yes.

 

All it does is allow us to satisfy our consumption by using extraterrestrial resources
resources which are, for all intents and purposes, infinite.

 

And yeah, just by doing that I refute Jensen's primary premise. Game already over.

 

in fact would probably worsen the environmental effects here on earth.

Utter balderdash. When we can do all our mining OFF the Earth, in places that have NO environment to damage, and materials that aren't under ANYBODY'S land, because there's no life there, when we can even move our population OFF the planet. HOW does that damage Earth? It does the opposite.

 

 

If you want to hear some arguments for what I think, and don't mind sitting throught ALOT of perhaps unnecessary elaboration, strange pauses and spiritualism I'd recommend checking out Derrick Jensens Endgame:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9os1GFuWJ0

 

Lots of flaws in just the first few minutes. He thinks stone-age cultures didn't pollute? Archaeologists learn most of what they learn about ancient cultures by digging through their piles of trash.

He just kept talking and talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no one had a chance to interrupt it was really quite hypnotic...

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This is exactly the kind of argument that gets given, but I don't think it's built on anything but assumption.

Spacetravel isn't easy and it's not cheap, imagine somehow mining and transporting back to Earth, a future Earth with an even greater population and consumption, the tons of the materials that we use on a daily basis, and when you take into account speed limitations the resource harvesting portion of the universe could certainly be seen as finite.

 

If we did find a way to support our consumption from the mining of offworld resources then this would lead to an increase in population of Earth undeniably, which in turn would mean that any non-trivial pollution would add up emormously and cause significant problems.

 

I can't see moving the population off the Earth ever happening. Relocating 6+ billion people would take a scale of technology and knowledge well above what we have, and infact may never be feasible. It's never been shown that the continual advancement of technology is assured.

 

If we could overcome all the technological hurdles then we are still in a situation where we have an ever expaning population and consumption and finite resources, so if the logical conclusion of civilisation isnt collapse is it to just spread outward consuming all resources as it goes?

 

I'm not sure what you mean about the stone age pollutants. For the vast majority of the stone age humans were hunter gatherers living in small probably autonomous groups, a small population and simple living kept consumption low and other than their remains and discarded tools, they did'nt really leave trash.

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1. I'm not sure you have an idea of the amount of debris in our solar system. Let me give you some idea: In a 1km-diameter nickel-iron asteroid, there is around $1.8 trillion of metals. There are between 1.1 million and 1.9 million asteroids larger than that in our solar system. (this is NOT counting the oort cloud, rings of the jovians, moons of planets, or planets themselves. We also have a giant fusion generator that should continuously run for several billion more years, and pumps out far more energy than 300 Earths could utilize.

 

2a. Clearly, we don't have to relocate the ENTIRE population of Earth to have a more sustainable population.

 

2b. So we settle elsewhere. We may not be able to significantly reduce Earth's population throuugh migration, but we can certainly make the growth less than it would have been had everyone stayed home.

 

And of course, there's the fact that if we DON'T utilize space, we're sitting ducks for the next asteroid, comet, flare, or other global disater that comes by. There's the old saying about eggs and the wisdom of having multiple baskets. Now, there are people who would be happy to see the human race die off. To them I say: "Lead by example. The cyanide pill is right over there."

 

And of course, stone-age living was "sustainable..." if you were willing to live miserably and mostly die by age 50. (Another thing the Gods should defend us from, idealists with some romantic notion of the Idyllic Noble Savage. I've done the "survivalist, living in the woods with no gear" thing. Stone age living is NOT fun, and anyone who finds such a state desirable in the long term is, in my opinion, clearly unbalanced.)

 

Space travel is not easy or cheap. NOW. But it's been getting steadily easier and cheaper, which is why countries like China and India are joining rich countries like the US in putting objects and people in space, and planning more expansive programs. It's why Space Tourism is now viable enough that industrialists are spending their fortunes designing and building passenger-worthy spacecraft. Once, vehicular and air travel was not easy or cheap, either.

 

That's the great thing about civilization: we can accomplish things.

He just kept talking and talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no one had a chance to interrupt it was really quite hypnotic...

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Your tone definately fits your avatar doom :).

 

You make a good point about natural global disasters, living sustainably on Earth definately rules out safeguarding against them, so perhaps living doesn't have to be sustainable to work out like sustainable living would long term. If the race would get wiped out after x years anyway, then living past it with a destroyed environment and degrees of social oppression would still be a plus.

 

If that's true then it bodes well for the bulk of your argument, which still seems to rely on using finite resources (no matter how large) and continuous growth.

 

I've gotta point out that nothing can be "more sustainable" only less unsustainable, that crucial distinction has led us into alot of our problems with resources, notably fish stocks and oil.

 

My main concern with space travel is the assumption that it is possible to achieve reliably, and that terraforming is ever really an option, after all we know the physcial detrimental effects on long-run astronauts. Growing up watching sci-fi I used to assume one day we would be terraforming planets, travelling faster than light, using teleporters and forcefields but I haven't seen even theoretical plans for these on a useful scale. We've reached the uncertainty principal in physics, I wonder if there is an upper limit to development in engineering that would make space travel impractical.

 

It is true that pre-agricultural life expectancy was shorter than today, but that certainly doesnt mean thier lives were miserable. Pre-agriculture there was an abundance of natural plant and wildlife which would have made gathering the necessities of life not difficult, that coupled with greater natural health and strength (teeth, bone density, child-bearing) would have made life much easier than living wild is today. Although this is a pretty moot point now as the planet would take an age to get back to anything like that stage.

 

The great thing about civilisation are its achievements that's for sure, but it's the overuse of them which are the foundations of alot of the problems we have today.

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You're forgetting nanotech.

 

Keep in mind that we are building machines ever smaller, ever faster. We have now reached the point where we can begin to assemble molecule-sized machines. In fact, scientists recently built a molecule-sized electrical motor:

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/nanotech-electrical-motor-is-made-from-a-single-molecule/2011/09/07/gIQAxYjW8J_story.html

 

It can't actually DO much yet, but give them a few decades, keeping Moore's Law in mind. (Progress increases exponentially.)

 

Now, imagine billions of tiny machines, living in a waste-disposal unit of some kind, recharged by solar power, whose sole purpose is to disassemble whatever waste products are placed into the unit, back into their component molecules or atoms.

 

The elemental atoms are then taken to another facility, where they are REASSEMBLED into new patterns by fabrication devices, and turned into new product.

 

Virtually perfect recycling. As long as the sun lasts. (And by then, even if we can't find a way around the light barrier, we'll have also achieved the technology required to create generation ships to carry our descendants to the stars in hollowed-out, fusion-powered asteroids.)

 

None of this is "sci-fi" anymore. We have solar power. We already have primitive fabricator machines, that make stuff out of resin or other materials. We're working on nanomachines.

 

after all we know the physcial detrimental effects on long-run astronauts

To be more accurate, we know about the detrimental effects on astronauts who are in unshielded environments that don't provide gravity or a regular night-day cycle. (All problems that would be avoided living in a spinning, hollowed-out asteroid.)

 

No, I've been doing this long enough to know that the only thing that makes space travel "impractical" is our unwillingness to spend more than a twentieth of a pittance on making it practical.

 

That, and the fact that you shouldn't believe TV. Life is not, and most llikely never will be, like "Star Trek."

He just kept talking and talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no one had a chance to interrupt it was really quite hypnotic...

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You're forgetting nanotech.

 

Keep in mind that we are building machines ever smaller, ever faster. We have now reached the point where we can begin to assemble molecule-sized machines. In fact, scientists recently built a molecule-sized electrical motor:

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/nanotech-electrical-motor-is-made-from-a-single-molecule/2011/09/07/gIQAxYjW8J_story.html

 

It can't actually DO much yet, but give them a few decades, keeping Moore's Law in mind. (Progress increases exponentially.)

 

Now, imagine billions of tiny machines, living in a waste-disposal unit of some kind, recharged by solar power, whose sole purpose is to disassemble whatever waste products are placed into the unit, back into their component molecules or atoms.

 

The elemental atoms are then taken to another facility, where they are REASSEMBLED into new patterns by fabrication devices, and turned into new product.

 

Virtually perfect recycling. As long as the sun lasts. (And by then, even if we can't find a way around the light barrier, we'll have also achieved the technology required to create generation ships to carry our descendants to the stars in hollowed-out, fusion-powered asteroids.)

 

None of this is "sci-fi" anymore. We have solar power. We already have primitive fabricator machines, that make stuff out of resin or other materials. We're working on nanomachines.

 

after all we know the physcial detrimental effects on long-run astronauts

To be more accurate, we know about the detrimental effects on astronauts who are in unshielded environments that don't provide gravity or a regular night-day cycle. (All problems that would be avoided living in a spinning, hollowed-out asteroid.)

 

No, I've been doing this long enough to know that the only thing that makes space travel "impractical" is our unwillingness to spend more than a twentieth of a pittance on making it practical.

 

That, and the fact that you shouldn't believe TV. Life is not, and most llikely never will be, like "Star Trek."

*01101000 01110101 01100111*

Don't insult me. I have trained professionals to do that.

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You're forgetting nanotech.

 

Keep in mind that we are building machines ever smaller, ever faster. We have now reached the point where we can begin to assemble molecule-sized machines. In fact, scientists recently built a molecule-sized electrical motor:

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/nanotech-electrical-motor-is-made-from-a-single-molecule/2011/09/07/gIQAxYjW8J_story.html

 

It can't actually DO much yet, but give them a few decades, keeping Moore's Law in mind. (Progress increases exponentially.)

 

Now, imagine billions of tiny machines, living in a waste-disposal unit of some kind, recharged by solar power, whose sole purpose is to disassemble whatever waste products are placed into the unit, back into their component molecules or atoms.

 

The elemental atoms are then taken to another facility, where they are REASSEMBLED into new patterns by fabrication devices, and turned into new product.

 

Virtually perfect recycling. As long as the sun lasts. (And by then, even if we can't find a way around the light barrier, we'll have also achieved the technology required to create generation ships to carry our descendants to the stars in hollowed-out, fusion-powered asteroids.)

 

None of this is "sci-fi" anymore. We have solar power. We already have primitive fabricator machines, that make stuff out of resin or other materials. We're working on nanomachines.

 

after all we know the physcial detrimental effects on long-run astronauts

To be more accurate, we know about the detrimental effects on astronauts who are in unshielded environments that don't provide gravity or a regular night-day cycle. (All problems that would be avoided living in a spinning, hollowed-out asteroid.)

 

No, I've been doing this long enough to know that the only thing that makes space travel "impractical" is our unwillingness to spend more than a twentieth of a pittance on making it practical.

 

That, and the fact that you shouldn't believe TV. Life is not, and most llikely never will be, like "Star Trek."

 

And after all that we can live in a rational anarchy I posted in the topic of statism vs nonstatism.... I like :)

"When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, "I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon."

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isn't the underlying problem fundamentally civilisation itself?

....

our very way of life isn't sustainable long term

 

These are very good questions...

 

What is civilisation (= humanity) and what is its place vis-a-vis the rest of the nature on Earth?

What is sustainability and whether it is a good or a bad thing?

 

I cannot really answer any of these questions, however, I can try to hypothesise on the basis of my personal (rather limited) knowledge and experience.

 

I am puzzled why "man-against-nature" attitude is still so widespread in the world. Even the "gaians", while attributing almost divine characteristics to the planet itself, still assume that man is some kind of foreign object, a vermin, whose activity is at best neutral and most likely detrimental to Earth. It's like people painting by numbers, who can't conceive that you are supposed to also connect the first number with the last...

 

To me, it's more logical to assume that human civilisation is but another tool of evolution of life in the Solar system and the vector of this evolution is simple - expand and grow. Our purpose is to ensure that the type of life which has developed here on Earth spreads out as widely as possible and then competes against other rival life in the Universe if there is any.

 

Rather than looking at Earth as some kind of self-sufficient semi-sentient organism infected by human parasites, it seems more reasonable to me to think of it as fruit, some kind of apple, where humans perform the role of seeds (and seeds delivery).

 

The whole star system can then be both the tree and the garden.

 

The role of the fruit-Earth is then to develop the seeds and to store enough resources for the seeds to germinate until they can sprout to other places.

 

We then have other rocks nearby - Mars (where all we need to do is to come and turn on the lights, basically), Venus (a bit more difficult but with great potential because of proximity to Sun) - rocks, which we can colonise and "get the roots planted".

 

Finally, we have huge fuel reservoirs in the gas giants, which we can use to expand beyond the system (and all the reaction mass in the Oort cloud and Kuiper belt).

 

I have a suspicion, that if and when we find other star systems which have developed life they will be organised in similar way (a star, 1 or more rocky planets in the Goldilock zone, gas giants and broken stuff on the outside).

 

To me, if I look at life from this angle, "sustainability" is not a good thing.

 

Sustainability means you can be forever happy where you are, you don't feel any pressure to do something new, to go somewhere else. If our role it to promote expansion of the Earth life - that's the ultimate failure.

 

And we can't stop now - not when we've already "unsealed" and spent a great deal of the resources. If we stop and fall back now, it will make it so much more difficult for future generations to restart the race. Again, like a germinating seed, once the process started it must continue until its roots take hold or it dies. You can store a seed for very long time in the right conditions, but when the process starts it must proceed...

 

So, none of the above has any scientific substance to it - just my personal thoughts and observations influenced by snippets of science remembered from my student days. But in my eyes it makes more sense than I hear from other sources, so I will stick to it until persuaded otherwise :)

 

Regards

Edited by Guest (see edit history)

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I thought the problem with space travel at the moment was the radiation penetrating the space shuttle, most astronauts have died of cancer haven't they?

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I thought the problem with space travel at the moment was the radiation penetrating the space shuttle, most astronauts have died of cancer haven't they?

 

As far as I remember, of those astronauts and cosmonauts who have died the causes of death were usually one of the following:

- training accident

- launchpad accident

- launch accident

- reentry accident

- plane crash

- car crash

- bike crash

 

Some indeed died from cancer but so did many people...

 

I thought the problem with space travel at the moment was the radiation penetrating the space shuttle

 

I believe the problem is the lack of political will (which = money). Once the desire kicks in, the moneys will pour and technical snags will be sorted out pretty quickly (shielding, propulsion, life support). Most of the solutions already exist (in theory or prototypes).

 

The Western world needs to find where to expand to resume the economic growth. New empire building on Earth does not look realistic or promising. It's only a matter of time until someone will seriously think of political dividends from a massive spaceship building program, asteroid mines, Martian resorts and the jobs and votes it will generate...

 

Regards

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