from the world's big
Climate Catastrophe and "Chaos Wars"
Stewart Brand is an author, pioneering environmentalist, and former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, which he published from 1968 through 1998. In the early 1960s he served as an infrantryman in the U.S. Army and was subsequently associated with Ken Kesey's "Merry Pranksters" movement. He is president of The Long Now Foundation and co-founder of the Global Business Network (GBN), a consulting firm that helps businesses, NGOs, and governments plan for multiple possible futures. His most recent book, "The Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto," was published by Viking-Penguin in 2009.
Question: What’s a realistic best-case and worst-case scenario for climate change?\r\n
Stewart Brand: The worst-case scenario for climate, and where the environment might go, in this century is James Lovelock's. He did a book called the Vanishing Face of Gaia; he's the Gaia hypothesis guy. And he's basically saying there's good indication from past records that the earth might re-stabilize at a slightly higher temperature, 5°C warmer than now and then level off again. One problem with that is the carrying capacity for humans in that world is about a billion to about a billion and a half people. In other words, the difference, six or seven billion at that point, would be killing each other off over vanishing resources because of drought and rising sea levels and so on. So that's a future which we can see right now in **** of basically drought is war. That's how it plays out. It's resource wars, it's chaos wars, it's environmentally failed states, it's a really ugly world. And I don't think many environmentalists would be the ones to be a part of the one or one and a-half billion at the end. It would be military people. That's a hard-fought world.\r\n
The best-case future, I don't think we've actually figured out yet because the current idea of the best case is that we use a whole lot of renewable and nuclear and everything else and basically get, as someone named Saul Griffiths says, thirteen terawatts of new, clean energy as basically replacing coal, and to some extent natural gas and oil. That involves tens of thousands of square miles of solar farms and wind farms and reactors and geothermal and on and on and on. And when you add it all up and it’s pretty horrifying to contemplate building and contemplate connecting all of it to, by grid to where the people are, which is not usually where the wind or the sun is. And doing all of that in a political environment which is still debating whether or not we even have the climate issue and time is wasting.\r\n
So, the best case so far is actually pretty grim, and then that forces me back to why is James Lovelock optimistic, why am I still smiling? It may well be that the experience that we had in England and in America during the second world war gives us perhaps an unwarranted optimism that, you know, this is 1938 and we're doing various forms of Munich and pretending to ourselves that the problem is not as deep as we thought but lots of people are realizing and muttering to each other, you know the problem is really, really serious and it can become quite terrible and we don't know what we're going to do about that. So, there's this strange period of denial, and argument going on. But on the other side of it, if we mobilize and this time there's no human enemy, except ourselves in a weird way, so it would be a world mobilization. It could be a pretty exciting time and it’s actually something that makes me regret being 70 years old because I'll probably miss the most exciting stuff in this century as the world deals with taking hold of the planet at planetary scale with things like geo-engineering, with things like radically redesigned agriculture, radically redesign cities I hope which would be way more fun than even they are now. It's going to be an exciting time, a weird time, an unpredictable time, a fast-moving time, and I hate to miss it.
Recorded on November 17, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen
Pioneering environmentalist Stewart Brand lays out a doomsday scenario for global warming—and a best-case scenario that’s also "pretty grim." So why is he still smiling?
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>