Okay, I stumbled upon this thread by accident looking for something else, started reading and am... utterly incredulous at the current debate which seems to be the conflict of "explode into the universe like a blight and keep consuming" versus "Go back to pre-story humanity and never do anything clever again" as if those are the only two options. This sort of One Or The Other argument, yes or no debate is something I've seen a really irritating amount of, especially among the countries that consider themselves to be under the label 'the western world'.
The question I always have in my head is: Can you people conceive of a number higher than two in day-to-day life. I don't doubt that you can, the question is rhetorical, but it's definitely what you're making it look like. People always seem to show a slightly distressing tendency to think in opposites, absolutes and extremes despite the fact that on any degree of close inspection, these do not exist in the universe. This is a part of the problems that are being raised here
Despite the opinions of both of the 'extreme' paradigms, there is actually such thing as balance and synthesis, especially
in this situation. Both too much technology and none at all are both non-desirable at this point. A good goal, I think, would be to find a route where we can be both human and sustainable, after which we can move on to exploration, science and creativity. Because it can be done. Communities in various parts of the world demonstrate this today in places like Australia, New Guinae, parts of Polynesia, Lakdha and various tribal cultures. And the lifestyles demonstrated there, whilst taking quite a bit of work (fun work, though), are also compatible with clean technologies (I shall be defining 'clean' as 'not doing damage to ecosystems on either the global or local scales).
Human technology and methods can be of great benefit to earthbound "Nature", but only in rational moderation. One thing that I think really has to stop is inventing expensive contraptions to do things to which a simple solution already exists. There are thousands of these, but the two examples I use that are very common in western society are the dishwasher and the escalator. Bottom line, we knew how to do the washing up. Generally somewhat more efficiently than one of those big white box things, and doing the washing up is really quite fun in it's own small way, nice easy work to keep you occupied while your food starts to digest, the water feels good on your hands. And escalators? Elevators I can understand to an extent, but the sole purpose of an escalator seems to be to ensure people get as little exercise as possible in a public building. Both redundant, both pointless, arrogant wastes of electricity that could be better spent on other things.
Another really, really good example of a solution that we hit on early, abandoned for shinier things, and that should be returned to if the paradigm below is applied, concerns privies: The composting toilet is really the most clean, elegant and beneficial way a human can take a crap. Contrary to popular myth, they don’t smell any more than flush toilets, if well maintained they are far from unpleasant, and they make f’king fantastic compost. After three years, every spare nutrient and mineral from a given visit to the jakes will be back in the soil of your garden. But with large towns and cities getting more and more distant from agriculture and the haphazard building styles making public and personal compost heaps on that scale very hard to manage (as well as, sensibly for once, the risk of the not-yet-composted standing manure being at risk of getting washed out in floods and spreading disease. We can scratch that problem now, though) sewers were invented and things went downhill from there (not that, at that time, they were all that high up the hill in the first place, I have no idealism of the past. But some things worked
). If people in westernized nations started growing their own food in multicrop zone gardens again, it would take a lot of pressure off many people to provide for themselves in fiscal terms, provided they were willing to make an investment of resources and exhausting-but-fun effort to start with, we could bring back composting loos on a large scale, and the fertile gardens will lessen people’s dependence on exploitive economies and… you get the point, I hope. A lot can be accomplished if shit happens responsibly.
So I think a good starting point as a "Goal of Humanity" would be to formalize and popularize the sort of green technology and design equivalent of Occam's Razor:
Can we accomplish this with a process that is simpler, has less environmental impact and is nicer for both people and the rest of the planet in general within it's specific context
. The context bit is incredibly important. And, if you find a design does not fit this paradigm, find a better solution and also apply the razor to the new solution, and so on until you find something contextually optimal.
This principle is widely recognized within the environmental community (it's a friend of mine's day job, in management terms), and I'm really surprised how it doesn't seem to be absolutely bleeding obvious to various people as it is to those who know it. But it really ought to be a universal rule of thumb.
And if employing these methods means completely redesigning large systems, subverting traditions, going against the status quo, massively changing or even abandoning entire economies, then have at it and take pictures!
We can learn a lot from the past (pretty much every era had it’s pros and cons along some line of development or other. I propose we nick the pros and leave the cons where possible) and from existing biological systems, whilst staying incredibly “modern” in terms of taking the good bits of this era, too, like the internet.
As long as people are provided for and happy on the lower levels of a Maslow pyramid and it’s being done sustainably and renewably…
I’m not saying it will be in any
way easy, but for the most part the work is quite a bit of fun it’s
And after that, we can get on with having fun and inventing things creating and exploring and finding stuff out, as long as we remember to play nice with all the organism and systems we share this corner of the universe with. I advocate simpler processes and learning from the past, but I don’t condone regression in any way (well, you can if you want to, just don’t try to make anyone who doesn’t want to)
By all means technology, when it’s sustainable! By all means art! By all means building cities on the ocean! By all means fascinating new developments in science (I speak as an insatiable Philomath here), as long as important systems are not damaged in the process.
When I talk of finding simple solutions, I should clarify that I support widespread automation replacing a lot of menial labour wholeheartedly. I’ve worked in a few factories, they were shit. Though hopefully local food, open manufacturing and localized production can largely obsolesce mass-production on a lot of levels.And by all means space!
Once we design launch vehicles ships that are honestly safe, have a minimal footprint, and bring moving people and things to orbit into reasonable cost margins. Then we can go out to explore and experience and invent new ways of living, all the interesting stuff about space exploration.
But not to mine. Never for resources, except for what you need to make a habitat. Because we don’t need them. it’s much simpler to “apply the razor” and use the abundant resources that people don’t seem to realize we still have, with resource recovery, recycling those eye-wateringly large mines of rather complicated, but recyclable, wasted resources that are our dumps. To have a chance of living realistically on our planet, let alone in space, we need to have no concept of waste material. For some people, that’s already a reality.
To regress wouldn’t prevent our extinction, asteroids and snowballing tend to have a habit of showing up now and then. And for most people, especially considering the population is as large as it is today, it’s not very pleasant.
But nor will “progressing” in the way that a lot of people seem to think is the only option. Work of that sort is all grey, and the golden tree of life is green.