At some time we all should become aware of how the human species is driving planet Earth to the end of its days. Unfortunately, the scenarios depicted in countless science fiction movies and books are increasingly closer to becoming a reality.
You may see yourself as someone aware of the dangers but consider whether you use any of these products at home: toothpaste with microbeads, hand wipes, coffee pods, sunscreen… Do you have something similar at home? Then, you’re damaging the environment more than you think.
Also, the headlines about natural disasters on TVs across the world (and this is not restricted to tsunamis, earthquakes or torrential rain) are directly caused by human beings. For example, a study revealed that the Great Pacific garbage patch contains up to 16 times more plastic waste than was estimated until now. It extends across an area that is triple the size of France and it is spreading exponentially. This contamination is destroying such wonders as the Great Barrier Reef and many other species, which are dying as we watch.
Fortunately, institutions and governments have been working on plans and strategies to fight against contamination produced by plastic. Different lines of research are looking for the developments needed to build a world with no plastic waste by using biodegradable material; plastic that becomes fuel; or such as science-fiction sounding solution as managing waste organically with caterpillars that degrade polyethylene.
In addition to simple technology (low-tech) solutions, such as recommending that people use their personal vehicles less or recycle more, there are market-wide solutions such as taxing carbon and trading rights of emission or incentivizing industries to adopt cleaner power, thermal and transportation technologies. This includes innovative proposals such as geoengineering solutions, large-scale climate intervention to counteract global warming (managing solar radiation or reducing carbon dioxide). What can we do to avoid exhausting our planet this quickly? Experts recommend two other complementary approaches:
- Alternative energies: renewable energies such as wind, solar or geothermal power, which are based on natural, clean sources of inexhaustible resources are the great hope in energy transition. However, at the moment they are still insufficient. Lighting a room with a potato, generating energy from our tears or producing biomass from carrots, and even leveraging water evaporation to extend our planet’s lifespan – these may seem somewhat incredible alternatives but science has shown they are encouraging options for the future of our species.
- Genetic modification of the human species: human engineering predicates the biomedical modification of human beings so that we may adapt to life on planet Earth under the effects of climate change while, at the same time, reducing its effects. In his article, Matthew Liao suggests solutions such as inducing pharmacological intolerance to meat; limiting human development so that we are literally smaller; reducing birth rates by boosting intelligence; or even pharmacologically inducing selflessness and empathy.
The future of our planet is in our hands. How far are we willing to go?
Paz Palacios for OpenMind