Thursday, October 6, 2011

Geoengineering - Know know know know know

Geoengineering research is necessary. It is essential for scientists to convince themselves how horribly one bunch of meddlers can screw up the planet for the rest of the planet if they start messing with it. The scientists need to be convinced scientifically so they can convince non-scientists with whatever it is that makes those idiots believe anything. I don't know, boobs with a head on top that talks in small words on the right cable news channel. A reality TV show called "AtmosFear" where people try to see how long they can hold their breath.

I got a link to a Guardian article this morning titled "Big names behind US push for geoengineering" and my instinct reaction was "No no no no no no." I realized I was like that cat in the video that went around this week. It was clearly a cat in much distress and it made me very uncomfortable but it made over a million people laugh hysterically. People are sick in the head.

Are these twisted people going to think it's funny when some ill-informed self-centered asshole decides to fertilize the ocean with iron and then billions of fish die from the toxins released by the bloom of a different kind of phytoplankton than the one they MEANT to fertilize? When somebody sprays the sky with crystals and it rains down in another country and makes all their wheat taste like onions?

My opinion about geoengineering is the same as remediation. Consider the impact of how they earned the money that they want to spend on the project. Is it a good way to transfer ill-gotten gains to scientists like me that need jobs taking samples and writing reports? If you like how that math works out, maybe I'm ok with it. But usually I say "Don't pick at it." Waiting for nature to put back something people screwed up might take longer, but for some systems gradual change is best. If somebody drives their superyacht into a coral reef, sure, make the owner pay a marine engineering company to go put a bandage on it and finance monitoring the natural recovery. Hurricanes break coral reefs too. What happens if somebody stops those from happening? (The Guardian story says somebody is working on that.) I think diversity depends on parts of the reef breaking off and growing back. And I think diversity is good. I would like better data to back up my feeling though, and one way to get people with money to pay for research is to let them break stuff then punish them with fines.

My super empathetic reaction to any suggestion to modify natural systems is to put myself in the place of every organism and mineral in that system. I usually feel it is going to be distinctly not better for some creature. It's a food web, water cycle, etc. Interdependencies are immense. We don't know. We don't even have our best people on it. The typical human reference frame where "better" is defined as "better for the humans with the most money and influence" makes me extremely uncomfortable. Like the cat. So stop it. Just stop what you're doing that makes the cat do that. If you're working on finding out what makes the cat do that so you can tell everybody so they never do it to another cat, maybe it's ok. But hurry up. It's not funny, it's mean.


  1. Barbara, I think this is one of your most astute commentaries to date. I've never seen the video of the cat, but I get the idea. My thoughts are that not only do humans suck at foreseeing the consequences of their actions, but we really suck at it when the greediest or most power hungry get involved in decision making.

  2. Thank you. There are so many examples of humans making things worse by trying to fix them. The only time human intervention is better than letting nature balance itself is when the anthropogenic damage is Superfund site bad. If humans do that to the planet then there needs to be a multinational Superduperfund. And it should pay to build space ships so we can get off the planet until it recovers by itself.

  3. Moments after I wrote that last comment I saw this link in a tweet from @absolutspacegirl. NASA worked out how to build colonies at the libration points between Earth and Moon back in the '70s. Superduperfund! Let's do it!