The news today is of a rebirth of the Limits To Growth issue that this planet faces.
People are talking about this “down to earth” set of topics again which is very, very good.
We hope that some conversations start like this:
Him: So we should force population control?
Her: No. No… no no no no no. That is not the idea and it won’t work anyway, check China and India for historicals. There is NOT a population problem, there is a Resource and Area limitation problem. A planet is what it is, it has what it has and no more. There can never be too many people, but there can be too many people in a place not able to support their numbers. No planet can get around this.
Him: So we need another planet?
Her: We need more area with resources, so once we get past the pre-Copernican warm and comfy feeling that “The Whole Wide World” is all that we have to work with then we have to start doing real comparative planetology. And once all of the actually available areas – not fluffy exoplanets until we have the tech to get there – are judged with their positives and negatives and potentials in the near to far terms, we have to ask the question “Is a planetary surface, any planetary surface, really the best place for an expanding technological civilization.”
Him: But you can’t lift enough people fast enough to overcome the rate of births, we’re past the tipping point of birth rates. You can’t free up the Earth by moving just a few thousand off of it or even a few million. It’s the two trains leave the station math problem.
Her: That is likely true. So the real question is how do you get humans to not have such a growth rate in areas where a population level is limited by available resources.
Him: And we’re back to forced sterilization.
Her: No. We at a point where we can look where resource availability is low and the population growth rates are highest and find out why. A small fix may make a big difference. One topic that developed countries overlook is that underdeveloped countries still have the need to have lots of kids because those kids are traditionally the machines they use to gather enough food to barely get by. If a family had a tractor instead of an ox (which is still a real technology out there past our borders) then the work takes less children. Such a family would then have the option to send one or two kids to school instead of putting them in a field. Higher education leads to awareness of options beyond making more babies at younger ages.
Him: But the reason they don’t have tractors is they don’t have the money for them.
Her: And they don’t have the money for them – or the money to invest in more productive modern techniques of agriculture – because they don’t have enough surplus to sell because they need to make more food to barely feed more children. Yes, it is a cycle. A cycle that needs to be broken.
Him: And tractors blow out pollution…
Her: In the US we are in an electric vehicle revolution, electric tractors are a real possibility.
Him: You like looking at the core and you miss the big one there. Electric cars in the US are mostly really Coal powered. Mostly they do little to help the pollution problem.
Her: Ahhh. And you might be missing a core in this very conversation… what if instead of using Coal, which is just a battery for a very small relative amount of energy that fought its way through the atmosphere millions of years ago, what if instead we could go to the pure source directly and eliminate the middleman and the millennia or “processing time” it takes to make that battery? What if we could get the free high output energy directly?
Him: Solar power, yes it is coming but still the efficiency is not there and as soon as nighttime starts or a cloud rolls overhead the power is gone. That means we need better batteries and HUGE ones for more than just a single house to have its lights on for a few hours each night. And remember that batteries are toxic so you haven’t gotten around the pollution issue, you’ve just moved sideways.
Her: That is all true.. unless you can get out of the nighttime and cloud limitations. And you can.
Him: You can’t stop night from coming.
Her: No, but just 8 minutes away from any place on Earth there is no more nighttime and no more clouds. Remember your Copernicus… Earth is not the center of the universe, the “whole wide world” is not the whole of what we truly have been given to work with. 8 Minutes from where you are the power is streaming past us non stop, no indigenous native culture to kill to get it, no wars to be fought to get at a small patch of land hiding it from miners. Space, even just our small local neighborhood of it is very, very big. Imagine the Sun, the energy is pouring out of it in every direction billions of square miles are seething with the pure good stuff, more than we could ever dream of over-using and with billions of years more coming non-stop and just being thrown away.
Him: Solar Power Satellites, Peter Glaser, Bill Brown, Gerry O’Neill, yeah, yeah. Big in the 80’s but if it was so perfect then we’d be doing it. The systems are too big to launch.
Her: Actually, the high tech parts are a workable mass to launch… it’s mostly the dumb support structures that make up over 90% of the actual mass of any factory construction. The dumb girders are too much for even our very best chemical rocket tech to launch but remember, Earth is not the only place to get dumb mass.
Him: We don’t have a big scifi Lunar space fleet.
Her: We Humans never, ever have what we don’t think we need. Talking this out shows that there truly is a real need. But more importantly to the specifics of this line of talking… once you look beyond the common and incorrect idea that everything in space has to be launched from Earth, and always with rockets, options start appearing. Ever heard of a Mass Driver?
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