If we can see it coming …

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If we can see it coming …

Post by Disembodied » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:57 am

… would we do anything about it? Let's assume that the IAU Minor Planet Center spotted a good-sized asteroid - say, 400 metres across - and initial calculations showed that it had a 50% chance of hitting the Earth in 50 years' time. It's a major - really major - project to do something about it, but given the advance warning we probably can do something about it: a solar sail, mining robots hooked to mass drivers, painting one half of the asteroid white, and so on. It would require the nations of the world to work together, but still: deflecting the rock would be an achievable, and desirable, goal.

I think - or at least I hope - we would do something about it. Sure, there would be some people who would claim it was all a hoax, got up by the astronomers to boost their research grants; some would say that 50% was good odds and we should wait and see instead of wasting money; and some would say that they wouldn't be around in 50 years so why should they pay for it? Others would claim that it was God's will; others still would claim that all we had to do was pray, or wear a particular type of hat, or stop breaking our eggs at the wrong end or whatever, and we'd be saved: the human capacity for stupidity and self-delusion is a hole with no bottom. But I'd hope that collectively, as a species, sense would prevail and enough of us would take action and we'd tip the rock just far enough to let it slip past (or, ideally, send it into another orbit altogether).

But I saw this earlier this week:

"More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas"

and, although there's been a bit about it in the media, I don't get any sense that, collectively, we realise that we may all be looking down the barrel of a gun. Not yet, anyway. A 75%+ decline in a massive part of an ecosystem? Is that not a red alert on the same scale as the hypothetical asteroid?

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Re: If we can see it coming …

Post by Cody » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:14 pm

I read that report, via El Reg, with some alarm - the little critters are vital. If that's similar across the world, it's definitely a gun barrel.

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Re: If we can see it coming …

Post by Disembodied » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:43 pm

I worry that this is too diffuse a threat for us to see properly - and by properly I mean in sufficient brutal detail that enough of us can be persuaded to put up with some inconvenience in order to do something about it. A big rock is one discrete problem, and we could agree on and execute one solution to it - but this is a different matter, and prey to all kinds of "It's a lie, I saw a wasp yesterday" know-nothing bozology. Plus, there aren't any multi-billion-dollar, multinational corporations with vested interests in attracting asteroids; whereas agribusiness - a likely culprit or at least a likely significant contributing factor here - will squirm and twist and actively resist any corrective strategy which might diminish its profits.

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Re: If we can see it coming …

Post by Diziet Sma » Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:01 pm

We've already seen so many canaries die and done nothing, that this one won't be any different.

It's just like those trying to "cure" social ills. They won't do (or even acknowledge existence of) the one thing that could actually fix the problems. Which is to admit that the global industrial-capitalist culture we have, IS the problem, and kill it off. We cannot do anything effectual about this new warning sign, because firstly, it would be admitting that our global society is fundamentally diseased, brain-damaged and insane, secondly, it would mean admitting that the myths our society is based upon are untrue, and thirdly, because any measures that might work would result in killing off our global culture.

And that is something that the parasites running this world will never permit.

Our culture has, for thousands of years, declared war on all life-forms that do not directly serve us. The endgame of that mindset is in sight.
Most games have some sort of paddling-pool-and-water-wings beginning to ease you in: Oolite takes the rather more Darwinian approach of heaving you straight into the ocean, often with a brick or two in your pockets for luck. ~ Disembodied

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Re: If we can see it coming …

Post by Disembodied » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:26 pm

It does at least offer one answer to the Fermi Paradox: that the lifespan of a technological civilisation is self-limiting, and short.

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