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You've presented many of the deeper issues and conflicts in this area. I find that I agree with much of your perspective, and where I go in different directions, it is largely because we have different expectations regarding future technologies. I'd like to say more about expectations.

You remark that "the Crutzen/technoP view places its optimism in technology, a `something will turn up` optimism based on a long history of engineering advances and specifically the series of `miracles` that have been delivered by industrialism over the last 2 centuries." Mind reading is hazardous. Optimism? I can't speak for Crutzen, but I think my closest friends would tell you that my view of the future contains a thick, black mass of near-despair centered on the technologies I expect. And although `miracles` of the last 2 centuries should be reason enough to be sceptical about projections of a carbon-burning civilization in 2100, gazing at trends from the outside isn't the basis of my expectations. Instead, I have for many years looked at technologies from the inside, examining what natural law says about their potential, and seeing how research is moving toward exploiting that potential.

Above, you say that "it's time to junk the whole model of 'engineering the planet,' imho, and learn some biomimicry skills.  instead of treating biota like machinery, learn to make machinery that works like biota, or to work with biota instead of machinery." I am persuaded that the human race is well on its way to doing what you urge by applying the most fundamental molecular-level principles of biological systems to making things. Making high-performance products cleanly, inexpensively, from common materials can provide the leverage needed to make solar power inexpensive and coal absurd, to shut mines, to decentralize production, to make products endlessly recyclable. Enough even to get the damned CO2 back out of the atmosphere and set things right. I'll give you even odds, though, that these technologies will instead be used to destroy everything we care about.

You write of "optimism...placed in people, in the ability of human beings to adapt and, when all other options are exhausted, to do the right thing". But consider the words you then use in speaking of a corresponding "pessimism in technology -- a disillusioned, disenchanted view based on a long history of huckster claims, frantic bandaiding, malfeasance, arrogance and stupidity in grandiose technomanagerial engineering projects". This is pessimism, yes, but technology itself produces no "huckster claims, frantic bandaiding, malfeasance, arrogance and stupidity". Like the optimism, this pessimism is placed in people.

Could you please direct me to a center of progressive vision that looks toward a future of enormously more powerful technologies and is working to shape and share the understanding that might make that future work? It seems that humane people are drawn instead to imagined worlds of shrunken, easily manageable technologies, where the issue isn't explosive potential, but the fear (hope?) that failing resources will make the 21st century blur and shift into a world of locally grown vegetables. This abandons expansive revolutions -- and the future -- to be twisted, narrowed, and directed to suit the power crowd and the hucksters who serve them.

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Regarding the two "stealth hinges", I hope that you aren't inclined to shoot the messenger. I've done my best to present the facts as I understand them, to show why the sunscreen option will be appealing and what I think some of the consequences may be. Showing why it will be appealing isn't the same as liking it or the behavior it encourages.

Regarding Part 1, whether the CO2 problem is insoluble by reductions, if CO2 emissions were stopped today, I think we might be in reasonably good shape (might...), but this is a straw man scenario. My best guess is that the IPCC makes a reasonable range of projections. On the left, some projected emission rates; on the right, their cumulative results:

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The curve on the right keep going up all the way across.

Regarding Part 2, whether it is a false dichotomy to say that are only two options (do nothing or put up an SO2 sunscreen) -- it is indeed false. So far as I know,  however, no one believes that it is true.

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Regarding the feeding behavior of the the profiteers, what you describe seems all to familiar.


Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Oct 15th, 2006 at 06:19:36 AM EST
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