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Letters from Downunder

How to get saved

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error - Bertolt Brecht, The Life of Galileo, 1939

(5/2016) Well, I was going to write about the Panama revelations and the fallout that will happen, but got so sick of gloom and doom that it became time for something a bit more uplifting. Besides I didnít understand it, anymore than any of you. Those bad guys have harnessed a few savants to obscure the obscure. Give me quantum any day. Mind you, thereís so much doom out there that the placard carriers are having a field day, and even the gloom deniers are anything but happy. Anyway you already have enough drama and angst to cope with. I canít trump that. So hereís the news that may have been lost in cloud zero.

Science will not solve climate change, not that itís a problem for solving. Itís not a problem at all, just a condition that cannot be reversed quickly or easily. Nothing except nature will actually fix it, and then not for a few hundred years, but thatís better than the doomsayerís thousands. But by golly science is trying. Scientists do not throw their lab coats in the air and declare itís too hard, they go off at tangents, get a piece of DNA from the problem and apply for grants. Modern research does not take holistic views Ė thatís the realm of philosophy Ė because they have learned that many hands make light work, even if that ethereal stuff in schizoid, never knowing if itís a wave or a particle, but they know they can get it to work if they keep trying. Edison did.

So, a bit at a time, they have come up with strategies to save the planet, just like Hollywood says they will. Firstly, they invented carbon capture. Oh. Sorry, that was engineers about 50 years ago, and theyíre not really scientists because they insist on dealing with things you can touch or feel, but carbon can be pumped underground and kept in chains without food or exercise, and they can claim it as scientific because no one else will know. Secondly, It can also be utilized by plants. That was discovered a couple of hundred years ago, but as it was a scientific one, thatís near enough, so they have been going around telling everyone to plant more trees. Except that they donít speak much Spanish or Indonesian, so the clearing in South America and Indonesia is increasing faster than a Macdonaldís waistline, and it will not be long before the Amazon jungle will be saying sayonara as it hitches a ride on the melting ice caps. Besides, not many scientists are in politics, and the green groups have made big drums to beat out the rhythm. Even they are no match for the business of politics or the politics of business, and here in Australia, where there is a thousand acres of desert scrub for every citizen, we cannot wait to make a forest a future novelty in a zoological garden.

Then thirdly thereís a wonderful new bug, (well, itís only a few million years old), one thatís better than the clandestine kind because it doesnít need power, which lives in the ocean. Down a ways, for sure, near a vent in the floor, but it actually uses carbon dioxide for food. A bit like plants, expect it has no light for photosynthesis, so it uses enzymes. This is the most recent find, one that has promise, meaning scientists are getting a dose of confidence. This bug can convert the gas to a solid, releasing oxygen. Wow! Surely thatís proof of science saving us again.

And thereís more technology that scientists think of as science that promises even more exciting ideas. Oh, well, hereís the gloom. Sorry, couldnít put it off. There are about 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually. All the science mentioned above could account for removing less than 0.1% even if they were operative, which none are. What we produced used to be stored in the oceans as well as the forests, but as the oceans warm they can absorb less as we ramp up the output. Itís not the only greenhouse gas: Nitrogen dioxide and methane are in the mix, and I frankly donít want it served up as food and air to my grandkids, but it will be.

Science is powerless to change that, and only governments have a hope;, but havenít yet got a dose of the scary reality. Commerce has always been in the way, and we will never give up the status quo in favour of a future dynamo. Unless we are forced to.

Science the wunderkind will continue producing gee whiz things, and we will be so far ahead in communications, virtual reality and robotics that we will gladly accept redundancy as a race. Science it merely a human construct after all, and although it is engaging and awe inspiring, itís just as happy to make a world fit for the next race as it is for us.

And we can surely ask it to ready us for the new world Ė help us splice our DNA to produce gills, allow our skin to selectively sequester carbon, acid proof our internals, allow us to survive on half the oxygen. Thatís how weíll be saved. The human race is safe from extinction, just as the dinosaurs were Ė they became lizards.

You may think your elections are rigged, out of kilter, that thereís nowhere sensible to go, and whoever gets to be president will possibly have your best interests at heart. Itís not hard to sympathise, but Iím just glad we can still wave from the deck of the Titanic at the icebergs.

Lindsay, Down Under

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker