Bru Pearce Blogs
Without life, Earth would be a very different place, probably much more like Venus, very hot with no seas, a CO2 and nitrogen atmosphere and clouds of sulphuric acid; a wholly inhospitable place! It is life based on a common genetic structure (of which we are one of the most recent and advanced incarnations) that has manipulated the planet into the state it is in today.Life has created oxygen and removed greenhouse gases so as to produce an atmosphere that is conducive to its evolution; it has maintained the oceans, built mountains and adapted the atmosphere to the increasing power of the Sun and regulated the temperature of the planet. Life has even been able to repair the Earth’s environment after major geological or astrological events have disrupted it causing great extinction events. As such, all life forms on earth are part of a terra-forming Life Entity, within which every individual life form is related, each is a part of an unbroken chain of genetic reproductions events that started 4 billion years ago.
Until very recently the Life Entity constructed, maintained and managed its environmental support systems automatically. Through the complexity of evolution and natural selection; a series of checks and balances has ensured that no single species dominated to a point that the overall environment was massively disrupted. These checks and balances were sufficiently robust to allow the Life Entity to adapt and survive major physical events, such as extreme volcanic upheaval or asteroid strike.
At times some species that where highly successful have had major effects on the structure and balance of parts the environment, such as forcing change from woodland to savannah which in turn has altered microclimates and these changes have driven further evolution of life forms. This includes Man who first started to emerge some 200,000 years ago, clearing lands and changing the species distributions as populations expanded out of Africa. Along the way some of mans actions may have already forced changes to Earth's climate. For example, hunting mammoths to extinction may have allowed the northern boreal forests to expand and changing the albedo of the land by reducing snow cover (darker trees absorbing more of the suns energy than reflective snow cover) and hastening the end of the last ice age.
The Life Entity’s resilience and success has come out of its staggering complexity, from the smallest microbes to the largest trees and animals. It is often the very smallest life forms that evolved first, that play the greatest role in re-stabilising the earth systems when they are disrupted. From plagues that wipe out over-successful species, to photo plankton that can re-establish atmospheric conditions after a geological or astrological catastrophe.
Human population had been kept in check by food shortage or disease right up until the time that the Industrial Revolution got underway 200 years ago. Then we inadvertently began our first big geo-engineering experiment; burning fossil fuels, leading to a doubling of CO2 levels over the past 40 years. In doing so we have released fossilised energy from the Sun that had been locked up over the millennia and changed the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and the Earths energy balance. Using this energy has allowed massive human population growth through the development of advanced agriculture and science and, in particular, medicine, which is holding back the natural checks and balances of starvation and disease.
The advent of science and man's capacity to understand the cosmos marks a metamorphosis of the Life Entity. Man has become the conscious brain of the Life Entity taking the system off automatic and putting the Life Entity in control of its own future. One of the effects of this is that everything speeds up dramatically including evolution, as Man takes control of genetically sequencing his own, and potentially of every other, life form on the planet. In doing so, the Life Entity is taking a massive gamble: will the intelligence residing in man prove to be sufficient to fly Planet Earth now that the autopilot has been switched off?
This gamble of metamorphosising from automatic to conscious development may however be essential to the life cycle of the Life Entity. Within about 1.5 billion years the Sun will become so much brighter that it will be beyond the capability of the Life Entity to maintain a liveable environment on this planet. Therefore it will have to migrate. It's a gamble because if it all goes wrong now and there is another mass extinction event, 1.5 billion years may not be sufficient time for intelligent life to evolve again and for the Life Entity to kick back into conscious development.
To reach this point in its evolution, the Life Entity has borrowed heavily against the energy deposits it has laid down. But we human novice pilots are not doing that well and now, as Earth's energy balance is disrupted, temperatures are rising and feedback loops have been set in motion, the gamble may be going badly wrong.
As the consciousness of the Life Entity, responsibility falls to us. We may already be at a point where simply changing to a renewable energy economy will not be enough, or we won't be able to do it fast enough. It may therefore be necessary for us to start geo-engineering the Earth's climate. At the very least it looks as though it will be necessary for us to undo the last geo-engineering experiment and scrub vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and oceans. It also appears likely that in the short term, we will have to take action to physically correct the Earth's energy imbalance through reflective or shielding technologies.
Geo-engineering has become an emotive word, tinkering with the planet’s atmosphere when we only have a general grasp of how it works is fraught with danger. Many geo-engineering solutions that involve cooling the planet, risk masking underlying problems and could have unforeseen effects.
So as a first vital step and as an absolute priority, we should be putting far greater resources into understanding how Earth systems work. So that we can manage the life support systems on this planet and give our Life Entity the time and capability to reach out to other homes in the cosmos.
The time is coming to embrace geo-engineering, (after all we already have 4 billion years of experience in it behind us!).