By Enrique Lescure
Recently, studies have shown that wildlife populations have declined enormously in the world, by one third if we look at land-based species, and with over two thirds if we take a closer peek on marine life. A large part of this – especially regarding the valuable oceanic ecosystems – can be explained with direct exploitation (like overfishing or poaching). However, another explanation could be that we as a species are “out-crowding” other species, not by covering all of the planet with urban areas (though this kind of expansion also is problematic), but especially through the amount of space needed to produce food currently.
An issue of space
Food. Alongside water one of the two essentials to sustain the human body and thereby the human civilization. Today, food production is increasingly transforming the face of the planet, especially regarding the usage of space. Corn, wheat, rice, nuts, tea, coffee – but also food components like palm oil are produced on a large scale, transforming entire regions into monocultural landscapes, perfectly assimilated to maximise the space for useful economic growth.
Of course, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are frequently used. While mining as an activity often is more directly harmful to the local environment, monocultures are a direct killer of biological diversity and leads to species more and more being crowded together in isolated patches of wilderness. This leads to problem such as more frequent starvation, inbreeding, cannibalism and external stress to animal species, and they respond by dwindling in numbers, thus furthering the process of environmental degradation.
Mass deaths are natural occurrences in nature, but what we must realise is that this mass death is caused by the activities of our civilization.
Don’t we have a shortage of food?
If you would like to contend with me that we today face a shortage of food, I can respond by saying that there is a consensus that we today are producing more food than the current amount of people on Earth can consume. That we still have widespread poverty and starvation in parts of the world such as Subsaharan Africa and India can not be attributed to any planetary scarcity of food.
Using space more wisely
As a planetary civilization, approaching the level where we can create a Type 1, we should definetly be using space in a wiser way. During the 17th century, Japan was steadily approaching an ecological crisis created by the overusage of the limited woodland reserves on the Japanese archipelago. To solve these issues, the Tokugawa Shôgunate imposed a series of measures (some which would be considered draconian by today’s standards) which averted the crisis and prevented starvation.
Europe approached a similar situation during the same period, and solved it by colonialism and proto-industrialization, while Japan solved their renaissance-era ecological crisis through using space more wisely. Today, with the Earth rapidly approaching a mass extinction, we cannot solve this crisis by large-scale colonialism (Mars will not be terraformed for many millennia).
With using space more wisely, I am referring to the cessation of the construction of suburban housing areas, so typical for the late-modern west, and instead construction more habitats vertically and more based around tenements, and possibly even arcologies (single buildings that can house several tens of thousands of people comfortably).
Such arcologies can, as illustrated by this image, contain their own ecosystems and farms, which could sustain at least a part of the demands of the citizens of the structure. The arcology would be a minor city in its own right, with its own hospitals, education systems, recreation spots and sporting facilities.
Since the amount of suburban areas (at least in the US) starts to be visible from space, it would be a good transition project to build human habitats on more limited space. This however will not wholly address the issue of food production, since urban farming cannot under any circumstances sustain the entire needs of the planet.
More vegetarianism, less meat
The nutrition we get from eating meat is “immensely wasteful” and contributes greatly to the addition of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Moreover, the meat industry is treating intelligent beings in ways which would evoke nightmares if they were conducted on human beings. Meat consumption is largely on the increase in the growing economies of the east, mostly because meat has traditionally been seen as an “upper class” luxury. Meat also contributes to heart diseases. While EOS under no circumstances advocates the ban of eating meat, we would suggest the creation of a way to estimate the cost of goods which take into account their long-term effects.
A more efficient way to utilise space on Earth and allow areas and regions to be freed up for a return to a more wild state, would be to increasingly move human activity out into the great blue. The Pacific Ocean is covering very much of the planetary surface, and an increasing transfer of human activity there could serve to free up space. The Pacific region, as well as other oceans, can be used for both human habitation and food production.
It would also expand our knowledge of space settlement and of creating new cultures which would be more resilient. Seasteding could in an organised way become the great new frontier and a way to put pressure off the continents. However, there needs to be a coordinated effort to not deplete the fragile ecosystems of the oceans, or add to the pollution.
What are your ideas?
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