DIY Disaster

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August 4, 2013 by losingourcool

There are way too many do-it-yourself disasters these days. From Al Jazeera English:

Recently, Astronomy magazine asked, “Is this our final century?” In an article under the same title, astronomer Martin Rees raised the possibility that any one of several highly improbable hazards could cripple or even destroy civilisation on this planet: large-asteroid impact, mammoth solar flares, or maybe the explosion of a nearby star.

We have no control over such hazards. But, Rees pointed out, there are other extremely improbable world-wrecking catastrophes that could be set off by humans – if, say, an extra-powerful particle accelerator were to create a black hole that could consume the Earth. That sounds pretty bad, but Rees warned that we should not be too reluctant to use high-stakes technologies: “Innovation is always risky, but if we don’t take those risks, we may miss out on disproportionate benefits.”

But similar logic, unfortunately, is routinely applied not only to improbable mega-hazards but also to more common climatic and seismic hazards that, increasingly, are spinoffs of our everyday productive, profitable activities. There would clearly be risks in reining in economic growth; however, carrying on with business as usual will lead to increasingly frequent and destructive natural disasters.

In sum, the number of disasters is increasing thanks to forces stretching from one end of the world economy to the other: the technologies now used in mining hard-to-get fossil fuels; greenhouse emissions from burning those fuels; and many of the lucrative but ecologically suicidal and inhumane economic policies and practices that those potent energy sources make possible.

Preventing those perennial disasters, whose roots run so deep under the world economy, will be much more difficult than, say, knocking a big incoming asteroid off course. But while we don’t know if or when that asteroid is coming, we can foresee all too well our dismal prospects if we persist in our ecologically suicidal ways.

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