There have been a number of interesting articles have come across my desk in the past few months (some technological, one on civil disobedience), so I thought I would describe them briefly. I recommend that the interested reader explore them all from the original sources listed.
First, some fascinating technological results:
As regular readers of this blog will likely know, I do not accept that global warming is a technological issue. However, we have been so resistant to deal with the problem, that our major current need requires technological solutions. Most importantly, we need to stop the production of the greenhouse gas sources of climate disruption. And at this stage, we likely also will need ways in which to safely remove carbon dioxide (amongst other gases) from the atmosphere; most of the possible means of geoengineering a cooler planet as simply too unexplored, and consequently of high risk to unexpected, and dangerous, outcomes.
This article describes a process that is still in the developmental stages, but likely can be safely scaled up to global levels for safe permanent removal. Unfortunately, part of the developmental process is currently through the US Department of Energy, and thus will likely require approval by the new Trump administration.
20170109 The Vertical Farm
One of the major needs of our growing world population will be reliable food production. This article describes a fascinating process, utilizing aeroponic farming (more efficient than hydroponic) in vertical layers, again likely one that can be scaled to global levels. To quote from the article:
a complex of two hundred buildings, each twenty stories high and measuring eighty feet by fifty feet at its base, situated in some wide-open outlying spot . . . could grow enough vegetables and rice to feed everybody who will be living in New York City in the year 2050.
The footprint of such an buildings would only be a few city blocks, yet provide food for many millions. Amazing. (Incidentally, typical of The New Yorker, there are a number of cartoons scattered throughout the article. Enjoy.)
Again in the line of food production, this article describes some of the many ways in which genetically-modified organisms are contributing to our culture. Although I have some reservations concerning GMO processes (the underlying safety is still poorly explored — but for me it will take several hundred years to have adequate information; I also recognize that modern technology offers fascinating opportunities.
GMO yeast are now able to produce what is likely to be an adequate “milk,” with 98% less water consumption and 65% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It remains to be seen as to what such substitutes will offer, but as indicated earlier, it is one of the fascinating technological advances that may offer considerable relief of the consequences of our culture.
Now some comments.
From my perspective, the problem of technology is that it is both potentially part of the solution and part of the problem. Modern technology is both dazzling, and distracting from the issues with which we need to deal.
Even one hundred years ago, many major philosophers (Bredyeav, Ellul, Lewis — see my book Acedia for details) recognized that technology was dehumanizing and took on a life of its own, distracting from the issues of how to have a mature culture. Even at its best, technology is a means to reduce greenhouse gases, perhaps also to reduce cultural impact in other ways — but technology does not manage our incessant need for consumer products, nor over-population. On the force field of change, technology moves us away from negativity, but does not move us to a vision of who or how we want to be as a culture.
A final reference, then, on some cultural movement — an interview with several individuals who are engaged in civil disobedience, to which I append an open letter to former President Obama written by one of these individuals.
We have a choice as to how we live our values. As indicated earlier, I believe that civil disobedience is a necessary exploration in our current cultural psychosis.