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Posted: 9/12/2010 11:40:54 AM EDT
http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/12/george-will-earth-doesn-t-care-what-is-done-to-it.html?from=rss

The Earth Doesn’t Care


About what is done to or for it.



The cover of The American Scholar quarterly carries an impertinent assertion: "The Earth Doesn’t Care if You Drive a Hybrid.” The essay inside is titled "What the Earth Knows.” What it knows, according to Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics, is this: What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.

For example: The world’s total precipitation in a year is about one meter—"the height of a golden retriever.” About 200 meters—the height of the Hoover Dam—have fallen on earth since the Industrial Revolution. Since the Ice Age ended, enough rain has fallen to fill all the oceans four times; since the dinosaurs died, rainfall has been sufficient to fill the oceans 20,000 times. Yet the amount of water on earth probably hasn’t changed significantly over geologic time.

Damaging this old earth is, Laughlin says, "easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.” There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, "and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.”

Laughlin acknowledges that "a lot of responsible people” are worried about atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This has, he says, "the potential” to modify the weather by raising average temperatures several degrees centigrade and that governments have taken "significant, although ineffective,” steps to slow the warming. "On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.”

Buy a hybrid, turn off your air conditioner, unplug your refrigerator, yank your phone charger from the wall socket—such actions will "leave the end result exactly the same.” Someday, all the fossil fuels that used to be in the ground will be burned. After that, in about a millennium, the earth will dissolve most of the resulting carbon dioxide into the oceans. (The oceans have dissolved in them "40 times more carbon than the atmosphere contains, a total of 30 trillion tons, or 30 times the world’s coal reserves.”) The dissolving will leave the concentration in the atmosphere only slightly higher than today’s. Then "over tens of millennia, or perhaps hundreds” the earth will transfer the excess carbon dioxide into its rocks, "eventually returning levels in the sea and air to what they were before humans arrived on the scene.” This will take an eternity as humans reckon, but a blink in geologic time.

It seems, Laughlin says, that "something, presumably a geologic regulatory process, fixed the world’s carbon dioxide levels before humans arrived” with their SUVs and computers. Some scientists argue that "the photosynthetic machinery of plants seems optimized” to certain carbon dioxide levels. But "most models, even pessimistic ones,” envision "a thousand-year carbon dioxide pulse followed by glacially slow decay back to the pre-civilization situation.”

Laughlin believes that humans can "do damage persisting for geologic time” by "biodiversity loss”—extinctions that are, unlike carbon dioxide excesses, permanent. The earth did not reverse the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today extinctions result mostly from human population pressures—habitat destruction, pesticides, etc.—but "slowing man-made extinctions in a meaningful way would require drastically reducing the world’s human population.” Which will not happen.

Sum Total: Being Green Isn't Ne Behind every statistic, there's a good story: facts and figures can add up to something greater than themselves.

There is something like a pathology of climatology. To avoid mixing fact and speculation, earth scientists are, Laughlin says, "ultraconservative,” meaning they focus on the present and the immediate future: "[They] go to extraordinary lengths to prove by means of measurement that the globe is warming now, the ocean is acidifying now, fossil fuel is being exhausted now, and so forth, even though these things are self-evident in geologic time.”

Climate change over geologic time is, Laughlin says, something the earth has done "on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.” People can cause climate change, but major glacial episodes have occurred "at regular intervals of 100,000 years,” always "a slow, steady cooling followed by abrupt warming back to conditions similar to today’s.”

Six million years ago the Mediterranean dried up. Ninety million years ago there were alligators in the Arctic. Three hundred million years ago Northern Europe was a desert and coal formed in Antarctica. "One thing we know for sure,” Laughlin says about these convulsions, "is that people weren’t involved.”

Link Posted: 9/12/2010 11:43:02 AM EDT

I always try to make this point to people: 12,000 years ago there was solid ice a mile high where you're standing. CO2 from SUV's didn't make it melt.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 11:44:53 AM EDT
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 11:54:36 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/12/2010 11:54:44 AM EDT by eracer]

Only our descendants really care.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 11:56:55 AM EDT
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 11:59:35 AM EDT
A coworker of my mine pointed out an interesting opinion: The only thing that we, as humans, can do to the Earth is render it uninhabitable for humans. Once we are gone, the Earth will eventually recover from whatever we did to it.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 12:18:24 PM EDT
Like a parasite crawling across the body of a dog, we go about our daily lives, unaware of the creatures and higher consciousnesses that we have not the ability to comprehend. Someday we may become aware if we aren't brushed off first.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 12:29:30 PM EDT
I'm happy to see other people get it.

Posted Via AR15.Com Mobile
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 12:31:52 PM EDT
Oh mother Gaia when wil they ever learn.
Ban lead ammo, and if off to live in harmony with Alaskan bears.....





Link Posted: 9/12/2010 12:36:24 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Kitulu:
A coworker of my mine pointed out an interesting opinion: The only thing that we, as humans, can do to the Earth is render it uninhabitable for humans. Once we are gone, the Earth will eventually recover from whatever we did to it.


If we get into an increasing temperature/CO2 feedback loop we can destroy our atmosphere and lose our water. Look at Venus.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 12:50:13 PM EDT
The Earth doesn't "care" about the long run either.

And as far as Venus goes, what CO2 concentration leads to a runaway greenhouse effect? And what level of Marxism leads to a runaway tyranny effect?
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 12:57:51 PM EDT

Originally Posted By DarkNite:
Originally Posted By Kitulu:
A coworker of my mine pointed out an interesting opinion: The only thing that we, as humans, can do to the Earth is render it uninhabitable for humans. Once we are gone, the Earth will eventually recover from whatever we did to it.


If we get into an increasing temperature/CO2 feedback loop we can destroy our atmosphere and lose our water. Look at Venus.

Yes because a planet orbiting at 150 million kilometers is going to have the same dynamics as one 50 million kilometers closer to the sun.

Link Posted: 9/12/2010 1:07:42 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Old_Painless:

Seems like some Book told us this fact, over 3,000 years ago.

"Men come and go, but earth abides forever."

Good thing that was such a novel idea...
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 1:08:42 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Kitulu:
A coworker of my mine pointed out an interesting opinion: The only thing that we, as humans, can do to the Earth is render it uninhabitable for humans. Once we are gone, the Earth will eventually recover from whatever we did to it.

Absolutely.

When people talk about "saving the earth" they are really talking about saving man. Still a noble goal, but expressed dishonestly.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 1:14:04 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/12/2010 1:14:31 PM EDT by Soylent]
Originally Posted By Airwolf:

Originally Posted By DarkNite:
Originally Posted By Kitulu:
A coworker of my mine pointed out an interesting opinion: The only thing that we, as humans, can do to the Earth is render it uninhabitable for humans. Once we are gone, the Earth will eventually recover from whatever we did to it.


If we get into an increasing temperature/CO2 feedback loop we can destroy our atmosphere and lose our water. Look at Venus.

Yes because a planet orbiting at 150 million kilometers is going to have the same dynamics as one 50 million kilometers closer to the sun.



Well, the Venutians didn't have to drive as many Hummers to get there. Obviously.

"The Earth Doesn't Care" because it can't. It's an orbital body of minerals and some gases formed out of the detritus floating in the vicinity due to the physics of gravity.

It is a non sentient, unliving thing. It would be exactly the same to pick up a rock and wonder how it feels about anything at all. Exactly the same.

Now, pollution and extinctions driven by population pressure can affect how we or our descendants think or feel about it. Loss of arable land due to poor farming practices, etc. can cause us trouble. But the earth will keep on spinning along it's orbital path until it is destroyed by the Sun as it goes into it's final throes and ceases to be an engine of life on this mudball.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 1:17:05 PM EDT
I miss seeing George! he is alot like mc4h and I miss him too
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 3:04:51 PM EDT

Originally Posted By momar:

I miss seeing George! he is alot like mc4h and I miss him too

Know how I know you're high?
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 3:07:26 PM EDT
man is pretty arrogant to think we can have a whole lot of effect on the earth.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 4:27:15 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Airwolf:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtqSPahiMxw


Great clip. The planet is fine, the people are fucked.
Link Posted: 9/12/2010 7:28:26 PM EDT
OP - What is your point? Since something - that no one who advocates for environmental responsibility said would happen - isn't going to happen we ought to... what? What should we take away from this?

Originally Posted By eracer:

Only our descendants really care.

Yep. Too bad for our descendants that we don't give a shit about them.
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