The Day of the Triffids
Popular Science describes geoengineering schemes to pour granulated iron into the seas, install space parasols, plant giant artificial trees equipped with filters and mimic volcanoes to counteract Global Warming. "As the war on global warming heats up, some scientists argue that meddling with the environment might be the only way to save it."
The phenomenon of consciousness has allowed humans to imagine themselves apart from nature, even though man and his ancestors have been interacting with nature for the last 60 million years. Today it is still possible to imagine that plans to "save the environment" or "reduce the carbon footprint" can occur in some space other than the one that men as part of nature share. Human acts have always affected nature by affecting mankind itself. "No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." Therefore every effort at changing human activity changes the environment. Carbon trading, bans on recreational travel, limits on industrial output, population control policies, the mandatory use of certain kinds of lightbulbs, etc. all change the environment. They are intended to and their use would be pointless otherwise. They all change the environment and the sole justification is that they change it for the better.
Even those schemes aimed at "simplifying life" or going back to older "appropropriate technology" can never succeed in rewinding history the way we can run a DVD backward in the player. Efforts by Luddites to return to the past never actually resurrects past history; it only changes the trajectory of the future. We are doomed to live in the future and even Criswell in Plan 9 From Outer Space knew this.
Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.
Therefore the difference between Al Gore's schemes for undoing Global Warming and the geoengineers who plan to seed the world with artificial trees or simulated volcanoes is one of engineering soundness. They are not essentially different in concept. They all aim to manage the environment. Where they vary is in their method.
The danger in this line of argument -- for environmentalists at least -- is that it threatens to pull the Cause of Preventing Global Warming down from its altar and make it simply another human activity which must be evaluated on its merits. Once this descent is accomplished, we might ask ourselves disturbing questions such as whether limiting industrial activity might not cause more human suffering than it prevents; whether it is not cheaper to adapt to climate change than to change it. We might have to revisit our engineering assumptions by inquiring into whether in fact solar cycles or other causes other than named in Dogma heat -- and cool the earth. It might cast certain popular fads in a bad light, by forcing us to inquire into whether it really makes sense to have a 10,000 square foot mansion as long as we purchase carbon offsets; or whether there is any rationality at all to using one sheet of toilet paper when answering the call of nature. The danger to demoting the Cause of Global Warming to just one of many schemes to engineer nature is that it makes us ask scientific questions about what are really religious matters.
But maybe we prefer Pantheism to science. And therefore it is best to close with another quote from Plan 9 From Outer Space, which seems so apt upon the matter. The heck with science. Let's tear down civilization anyway because we're all guilty. Guilty. And somebody's got to pay for it.
Tanna: Eros, do we have to kill them?
Tanna: It seems such a waste.
Eros: Well, wouldn't it be better to kill a few now than, with their meddling, then permit them to destroy the entire universe?
Tanna: You're always right, Eros.
Eros: Of course. But those are not my words; those are the words of the Ruler.