Friday, June 05, 2015

Future Planning

 At what point do we begin to consider whether there is anything in the history of human civilization worth preserving for some future species that may either evolve here or arrive from elsewhere?

What would be worth preserving? How? Where? When should the planning and fund raising begin? Who should lead the effort?

Should we include a narrative of global history of some kind? Should we tell the truth about who we were or should we prevaricate? Are we capable of telling the truth about the collapse of our civilization?

Did we, among our various cultures and throughout our history on this planet, produce anything that would be worthy of long term preservation and that would be of interest to or informative for future species?

Or did we not? Perhaps we didn't when it comes right down to it and there's nothing to be done but wait and enjoy what can be enjoyed.

 It's an interesting question.

Of course, we'll probably do no such thing. We'll just accelerate the destruction of the bio-sphere and count ourselves lucky to be so rich.


Purple library guy said...

Global warming and various other human-caused environmental catastrophes are likely to get very bad. But we're not going to go extinct from it. I've yet to see anyone propose a plausible mechanism for that happening . . . well, other than global thermonuclear war. That could happen, but it quite likely won't.

People are very adaptable, very good at altering their environment to support them better, and very voracious. As long as there's a biosphere at all, there will be some humans living off it. Quite possibly a lot fewer than today, but you can get a LOT fewer than today and still have more than through most of history. I don't really understand why quite a few people talk extinction just because there will be horrible catastrophes and drastic impoverishment of the biosphere. Near as I can figure, if there's anything to eat at all, there is no competitor on the horizon capable of beating humans to the food.

Dana said...

And you'll still call that civilization will you?

I would really like someone to tell me *where* humanity will survive, what the shelter will be, what the food stocks will be and so on.

Every time I think about how it might happen I come up with endless war, pestilence and famine.

Where are the groups of people who are preparing to survive? How are they going about it? Children they have this year will need to have skills by their middle years that very few have right now. Are they teaching them to survive in the northern reaches of North America/Europe/Asia where at least habitation might be feasible? Are they starting to build and prepare? Are they all crazy assed armed to the teeth survivalists willing to shoot at anyone who asks for water? That'll work out well.

Explain to me how you see this survival. Cause I don't see it at all.

Purple library guy said...

A civilization? Maybe, maybe not. Depends. It might be quite a few civilizations. There were civilizations before the 20th century, you know. For that matter, a crash in numbers doesn't even imply a crash in technology.

But what it wouldn't be is a "future species", which is what you opened the post with.

Crisis is not eternal. If there's a drastic change in the number of humans the world can support, there will be a massive die-back for a generation or two until we get down to whatever number that turns out to be and overshoot some. It will be horrible, most of us will die if we're around at the time, damage will be incalculable. There will be war, famine, pestilence and death. Millions or billions of people will suffer from not having farming skills or hunter-gatherer skills or decentralized-production skills. All very true.

But once the level is reached, people will start muddling through and conflict will subside. This seems to be what happens in nearly every human die-back due to ecological mismanagement or changes in climate. Much will be lost, but much will remain. Knowledge today is so widely disseminated and so easy to copy that what we lose will be far less than one might expect from ancient falls of civilization. Some people will die trying to learn skills, other people will learn the skills fast enough to live, still others already have them today, and in a couple generations those skills will be universal and will have been refined into a new "state of the art" at some workable technology level.
It may be that due to the relevance of their skills, a lot more Indian peasants, particularly ones in say Vandana Shiva's network of organic producers, will survive than urban Vancouverites. Sucks to be us if so. But it doesn't make the result not a civilization.

Dana said...

So you're assuming electricity, some kind of internet, photocopiers, phones, ham radio etc etc. Not likely. Has anyone begun copying now? Storing where?

Where are these networks of organic producers located? Mostly in India? Warmer climates, as in nearer the equator? What will they be able to grow? Is anyone working on high temperature hybrids for them? Will they have a fresh water source? Will the high temp hybrids be drought resistant? How much would they be able to grow? How will it get to market or is each community going to be self-sustaining? How about self-protecting?

What level will the seas level off at and when? How far inland will mammal life have to go? What will the temperature level off at and when? What latitude will be the cut off points for flora and fauna? For how long will it keep getting hotter and will that heat move toward the poles over time?

How much sunlight will the surface be seeing? Enough for photosynthesis?

Will there be any pollinators?

As the planet warms and animal life begins to migrate toward the poles will human beings become prey for the predators we never think about now? How many food animals we take for granted today will become extinct and how fast?

Is humanity's penchant for violent territoriality going to vanish?

I get that we've survived many cataclysmic upheavals before. I get that some might survive this initially.

I can believe a couple, maybe even a few generations. But not much beyond that.

Anonymous said...

" It's an interesting question.'

My thoughts from a couple years back

Dana said...

Yup. Nice headstone. I guess the piss stains have worn off.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

You don't think all the classic literature, music, poetry, and art are worth preserving for the times?

Just because the world has degenerated culturally, morally, and intellectually doesn't mean there never was anything of merit ever accomplished during mankind's reign on earth.
It only means humankind has collectively lost the ability to appreciate the finer things life and reality have to offer.

Dana said...

Yeah, I do. From all cultures. Including photography.

I'd exclude all religious texts and iconography. For which I know I'll go to hell and all that blather...all religions can fuck off.

I'd include a lot of ancient philosophy, less modern philosophy.

And I'd include a narrative of how and why we auto-exterminated. As a warning.

ThinkingManNeil said...

As much as I, too, see a rather bleak destiny for our civilization and species unless we can abandon capitalism, our slavish dependence on fossil fuels and the illusion that only renewables such as wind and solar can rescue us, as well as the poisonous bill of goods that the political/military/industrial complex keeps selling to our leaders, media, thank tanks, academia, et al, that what we have is democracy and is worth going to war over, I'm very - perhaps even more - concerned with what happens if Shit Head and his cabal of treasonous tarantulas get "re-elected". My mom. who's 89, believes that after all the scandals, arrogance, mishandling of the economy, and attacks on our rights, way of life, and "Canadian-ness" that most Canadians - if not all - will have the clarity and presence of mind to throw the bums out at the ballot box.

I hope she's right, but sadly, I'm nowhere's near as sanguine as she is. As I've said here and elsewhere before, I fear the fix is in, that this coming election has been rigged to return Harper to power through mechanisms far more sophisticated, subtle, and insidious than the Robocalls dry run, that the Fair Elections Act is a big piece of their voter suppression plan, and that Harper, whose megalomanical desire to turn Canada into a 1950's, red Scare, "Father Knows Best" parody of itself is well known to all of us underscores his desire to continue this transformation at any cost, that he is not going to allow the undoing of all his work and his yet unrealized goals at the hands of leftists through something as piddling as an honest election when he can tilt the game in his favour (he probably even feels a god given duty to do oso...)

So what do we do? If C-51 (and gods know what else that may be immeasurably worse that Harper has hidden in the pipe) becomes law, the election falls to the Cons - or he declares the election null and void or some other preposterous "National Terrrorizin' Emergency" - what do we do? Go underground? Wait for that knock - or flashbang - at the 3 am door? How do we mount a resistance to what may be a very real plunge into totalitarianism for our beloved Canada and our fellow citizens?


Dana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Mound of Sound said...

What if we came to accept that mankind does not define Earth's terrestrial life? Why do we think we need to establish human life on Mars?

If there is indeed another mass extinction we probably won't make it. We were lucky at times to survive far lesser challenges during the gentle Holocene epoch of the past 10,000 years.

As with all the previous mass extinction events, new life forms gradually emerge and they're usually unlike those of previous epochs.

If we are serious about perpetuating Earthly life by reaching other planets, why not simply send capsules with the building blocks of life to the most apparently suitable planets and hope that new life can take hold. It won't be human but that shouldn't matter. It would be life, Earthly life. Why should we almost certainly destroy our chances by insisting on it being human life?

Purple library guy said...

Because we're wired to make more of us. This is not just our nature as humans in specific. Every evolved creature is, whether human, cockroach, or orchid. Let's not forget that evolution works two ways: By change, yes, but also by inheritance and the spread of inherited traits. Every living thing comes from an ancient heritage of critters that passed on their traits to their descendants, making more of themselves. Critters who weren't into that, didn't do it, and as a result their traits disappeared.

If the dominant species on Earth was descended from bears, or hive insects, or whatever, it wouldn't matter: No matter who it was, they would be something dedicated to replicating more of themselves (and likely to get in trouble because of it). This will turn out to be true in other places life evolved, as well; it's in the nature of the process, not of individual life forms.