Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gwynne Dyer on Our Future

I have been writing lately about environmental degradation and the bleak future that seems to await us. On that theme, (and because I have a busy morning ahead of me) I am providing a link to an article by Gwynne Dyer, who argues that because of our huge global population and our interconnectedness, there is only one way to stave off total collapse: using our technological and scientific abilities to radically reduce the pressure we are putting on the earth's natural systems.


  1. I understand Dyer's position but it's one of desperation. It's the ultimate Hail Mary pass. There are many geo-engineering options but they all have one thing in common - they shift consequences away from those who can afford them and onto the backs of others. China, for example, has options that would be potentially dangerous to North America. Think we would sit by and let that happen? It's one thing to rampantly bugger the poor and vulnerable in the southern hemisphere but quite another to do the same thing to the northern gentry.

    Geo-engineering is also fraught with risks of failure from unanticipated side effects. We can create masses of CO2 absorbing algae in the oceans but not without hastening the toxic acidification of these waters and the destruction of their fish stocks.

    Another pitfall to geo-engineering is sharing or compensation. Are the beneficiaries really willing to dig deep to compensate those inujured for their benefit? Isn't it easier, far cheaper - and ultimately safer - just to wage war on them?

    And then there's the timing factor. We may have already left it too late. At this point we may be unable to avoid tipping points that will trigger natural feedback mechanisms or runaway global warming.

    Sorry, Lorne, but I think we're Easter Islanders now. We can't even handle the adaptation challenge much less accept the remediation problem. And, while we can throw our very finite resources into geo-engineering experiments, that requires us to abandon both essential adaptation and remediation. Geo-engineering is an admission of defeat and a rearguard action at best to cover our retreat.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful reply to Dyer's article. I think you make some excellent points here, and I completely agree with your assertion that each change sets off a chain reaction in nature that we lack both the ability and wisdom to foresee.

    That being said, I did like his ideas about how to achieve a degree of food security and at the same time take some of the pressure off the earth, although I suppose even the use of the energy that would go into such a plan would likely have unforeseen consequences as well.