Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Technology's Promise:

Michael Anissimov: Though most environmentalists center their efforts around preserving currently existing biodiversity, forward-looking environmentalists should look towards not just preserving the already existing biodiversity, by setting environmental conditions conducive to the development of millions of new species and a planet covered in luxuriant foliage. By using vertical farming, which will be demonstrated as proof-of-concept within years, and closed-cycle manufacturing, we can minimize our footprint and sustain upwards of 100 billion people with negligible environmental impact. The current impression that the planet is overpopulated is a selection effect resulting from people living in crowded cities, concentrated by technological and economic necessity. Decentralized manufacturing and high-resolution virtual communication will allow a more evenly distributed populace.

Some, like environmentalist Bill McKibben — have said “Enough”, enough technology, enough life, enough progress. Unsurprisingly, I disagree. Looking back from the perspective of a world more than 20 times lusher and Nature-filled than today, with more than 20 times more people distributed evenly across huge tracts of land now practically empty, it will be hard to say, “we should have stopped when we were just at 5% of this potential”. There have been other times in history with just 5% of the biomass and life of today — immediately after major mass extinctions. If today’s world is “enough”, then why stop there? Why not revert back to a world with even less biodiversity and biomass? It would be a surprising coincidence if the current biomass is just right, rather than too little or too much. Those arguing otherwise are just products of their environment — the glacier, desert, and steppe-covered poverty of the Late Cenozoic.


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