Saturday, September 30, 2006

Poscards from a Post Human (pt 3)

I've been going over the notes from the future, trying to absorb not only the information, but the implications. What was I supposed to do with all this? Why tell me?

I hesitate to share most of what has been layed out before me, in such terse, stark emails. But I'm going to need help. It's too overwhelming.

Want an example? Ok, here's an extract from one...
Global warming was real. But then, so was the solar sunspot cycle which caused global cooling. Unfortunately, they came at the same time.

Turned out that the various factions squabbling over whether the earth was warming, and if it was whether or not it was caused by man or whether this is just part of a natural cycle...they were all partially correct. Each had a piece to the puzzle, but each was apparently more interested in proving the others wrong than to put enough of the pieces together to make out the emerging picture.

It appears that right about when the world finally started to wake up to the escalating problem of global warming, the normal cycle of Solar sun spot activity reached a lull and mitigated the effects.

But only for about ten years.

Once the solar activity started its climb again, the world had spent an additional ten years of not just ignoring the warming problem, but exacerbating it. With the contributions of global greenhouse gases and solar activity combining, global temperatures shot up. And reached a tipping point.

There used to be a tremendous amount of methane and carbon dioxide trapped deep in the sea and under the permafrost, kept locked in hydrate layers under low ocean temperatures and the pressure of the land and sea above. Did you know that methane is about 20 times stronger as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide?

At the poles, warming occured quickly - as the ice melted, the albedo of the ground was lowered (less refleced sunlight), and the ground absorbed even more heat, accelerating the effect. And the poles were where the hydrate deposits were concentrated.

The polar ocean blew its lid. Literally.

As the permafrost melted and the ocean temperatures rose, there were more and more frequent episodes of "methane burps," a hundred-fold expansion in volume of the methane, carbon dioxide, and other volatile gasses in what used to be the locked freezer box of the arctic circle. All over the polar region there were vast bubbles, water spouts, earth and sea crumbling and cracking open as geysers of volatile gasses spewed into the air.

As the methane started its immediate interaction with the oxygen in the air, the carbon dioxide, heavier than air, would flow back down and out from these burps, smothering all living things in its path. Millions died before we could evacuate everyone down away from the poles, which had become a fickle abatoir. And we moved them from the only temperate regions left on the planet into the lower latitudes and what had now become a tropical hurricane machine of epic proportion.

These massive releases of greenhouse gases caused further rapid warming, which in turn released more hydrates, in a feedback loop. We later understood that such events had happened before. The Permian extinction event, in which 70-90% of all plant and animal species went extinct, was one. That time it was basalt magma eruptions which tipped the balance.

This time, it was us.


You see? There are so many more little vignettes like that, touching on global ecology, economy, scientific developments, social change, and other areas, and I am failing to see how they all fit. And more importantly, why they're being sent to me. What I'm supposed to do about them.

I go back to the first emails that started all this, and have a glimmer of hope in what he (I?) said. "...this kick-ass post-human world in which I now live..." Despite the messages detailing all the craziness, the mass deaths, the wars, the mistakes of science that took even more lives...despite all this, that must mean that things got better, right? That mankind came out of it all ok. That even I, and others of my time, survived to see a better day dawn.

But then I read another missive of misfortune, and I wonder...was that instead just my tendency toward bitter sarcasm coming out in the end?

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