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In the context of geoengineering and "the transition to a sustainable economy" I can't help but be reminded of the Kardashev Scale, in which a "Type I Civilisation" is one that "harnesses all the power vailable to an entire planet".
A possible method by which Earth can advance to a Type I civilization is to begin the heavy use of ocean thermal energy conversion, wind turbines and tidal power to obtain the energy received by Earth's oceans from the Sun. However there is no known way to successfully utilize the full potential of Earth's energy production without complete coating of the surface with man made structures. In the near and medium future, this is an impossibility given humans' current lifestyle. We are, however, already "harnessing" Earth's production through our dependence upon ecosystem services, which may prove more efficient and sustainable than our own technology well into the future. If we choose never to fully substitute synthetics for nature's services on this planet, we may still achieve a Type I civilization by assuring that Earth's ecosystem services are maximally functional.
Barring collapse, it is maybe more likely that we will become a Type I civilisation (and beyond: type II would harness the entire energy output of the Sun) rather than stabilize at a constant level, but it is a matter of policy (and hence a matter of choice) whether we try to keep the Earth's ecosystems "maximally functional" or we try to "geoengineer" them. I am not optimistic about the prospects of changing our economic system so the "maximally functional ecosystems" model prevails, and a more equitable global system would be necessary.

According to the wikipedia article I quote, Carl Sagan calculated that Earth was a "Type 0.7 Civilisation". While maybe not on total power output, it is entirely possible that, on ecological carrying capacity, we are approaching the "Type I", at which point we "harness" the entire biosphere. It is again a matter of policy whether we strive to keep the ecosystems "maximally functional".

In this context, I would revisit De Anander's The Future I Was Promised.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 14th, 2006 at 01:45:16 PM EST

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