[p2p-research] Fwd: 20 Theses against green capitalism

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Tue Aug 11 06:44:07 CEST 2009

Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
> It would be hard to do this as a crash program. People would die pushing 
> to build launching rockets that would fail explosively. The first seeds 
> would fail undoubtedly. Thousands of engineers would collapse at their 
> desks from heart attacks from the stress of impossible deadlines. When 
> the seeds worked, most of the early habitats would become deathtraps for 
> any early visitors. Like a trip to "the New World" it would be a one way 
> voyage for most. Maybe millions of people would die over the next decade 
> or two trying to make this work as soon as possible as a crash program. 
> But we could try. We have thousands of ICBMs (rockets) that could be 
> converted to help with this project, just sitting there, ready to launch 
> today. And after ten or twenty years of such disasters, we'd start 
> seeing successes. It would probably not cost more than a trillion 
> dollars a year for a decade or two to see a huge success. That is about 
> 1% of the world GDP. That is the US defense budget plus interest on the 
> deficit (also mostly defense related). That is the amount of money 
> expected to flow into charities over that time period. Seriously, if 
> these were species threatening issues that you outlined, to not do this 
> would be incredibly foolish, even costing tens of trillions and millions 
> of (volunteer) lives.

Now, as I said, I don't think there is any reason to do such a crash program 
on a war-footing, and any such money would be better invested for 
sustainability on Earth first. But, building on this theme, for fun, let's 
just calculate the rough cost to evacuate the Earth so all the resource 
doomsters are "left behind" if they want. :-)

Current launch costs are about US$10,000 a pound. People on starvation diets 
might weigh about 100 pounds. So, that's about US$1 million per person for 
launch costs using today's technology in small production runs. I feel it 
reasonable to assume that if we were going to launch billions of people into 
space, launch costs would come down by at least a factor of ten to US$100K 
per person, considering how people are already talking about such lower 
costs, and the actual energy to lift someone into space if you can do it 
really efficiently (space elevator) is maybe US$200 worth of electricity:

We could burn coal to make the fuel for the rockets. :-) A Saturn V could 
lift 262,000 lb to low earth orbit, or about 1000 emaciated people also with 
162 lbs of protective padding for chairs, etc. The mass of a Saturn V fueled 
is about 7 million pounds, so that is 7000 lbs per person (mostly fuel), or 
about the weight of a big SUV per person. The metal weight is about 500,000 
or about 500 lbs per person, or the weight of a very tiny car. So, that is 
easily feasible for our infrastructure to churn out per person for everyone 
in the world, considering there are close to a billion cars in the world 
today. Since we're evacuating the planet, we could melt down all the 
construction equipment and so on, so we might not even need to do much extra 
mining. And that is with 1960s technology, presumably rockets today with 
things like carbon fiber composites could be much lighter and more resource 
efficient than the 1960s Saturn V that got humans to the Moon.

So, seven billion people soon, minus a few doomsters, times US$100K per 
person, is US$700 trillion. The world GDP is about US$60 trillion, so, in 
round numbers, this is about ten years of world economic output to put 
everyone into space.

We can assume that with these self-replicating space habitat seeds that an 
entire space infrastructure is being prepared for free from sunlight and 
lunar ore and asteroidal ore (though it might take some time to produce it 
on an exponential growth curve). So, we only need to get people into low 
Earth orbit and shuttles can ferry people without luggage beyond low Earth 
orbit to a life of abundance produced with resources from space.

Also, since we're evacuating the entire planet to leave it as a nature park, 
we don't need to do any upkeep on infrastructure as it is all abandoned. So, 
we can devote close to 100% of the industrial base to producing rockets. 
Also, people in space can still provide services to Earth like telemedicine 
or teleoperating mining equipment and launch control, so essential services 
can be kept going the whole time even as the last person goes on the last 
rocket (except the doomsters who want to stay :-).

The Earth's ozone layer might be greatly damaged by all that rocket exhaust, 
but let's assume seven billion space faring humans can fix that from space 
somehow, like with tuned lasers. :-) And if they can't, well, they don't 
live on Earth anymore anyway, and the extra radiation may increase the speed 
at which the planet generates new species to make up for the current mass 
extinction humans are causing. :-(

So, within ten years of the success of these space habitat seeds we could 
get all but the doomsters off planet. :-) So, ten years more after a 
previous twenty years of dedicated efforts to build the first seeds and a 
first self-replicating habitat that can produce more seeds (plus an 
extensive defacement of the Moon for materials close to Earth: :-)
Or, ten years of evacuation, plus (guessing) twenty years of prep time, and 
that's thirty years altogether.

So, I'm suggesting, within thirty years, humans, as a species, with today's 
technology (actually, just 1970s technology), could evacuate the planet 
entirely -- except for the doomster "meek" -- who shall inherit the Earth 
and then can fight it out over their unimaginative view of depleted 
resources while the rest of humanity lives in abundance. :-) As Gerry 
O'Neill asked his students, what is the right place for a technologically 
advanced society? And the answer he got, based on access to energy and raw 
materials and no pollution worries, was space, not Earth.

That does not mean you can't have a technologically advanced civilization on 
the planet Earth, of course, as long as you live within local energy budgets 
(which are thousands of times what we use from the Sun). You would also need 
to recycle close to 100% to avoid polluting the biosphere. And on Earth, you 
should not grow too much beyond continually expanding better design to do 
more with less or to make new types of dirt into useful resources without 
hurting the biosphere much in the process. But even by those standards, and 
considering the ocean is mostly empty of humans, we could probably support 
one hundred billion people on the Earth in cities, easily, using sustainable 
urban technology (assuming not many of them wanted to do real camping as 
recreation, which would tax the rest of the biosphere). With ocean 
seasteads, most of those one hundred billion people might even have 
ocean-front condos. :-)

Note that naysayers at this page suggest there being no point to evacuating 
the Earth to space as there is nowhere to go; but they don't understand that 
you could "live of the land" in space if you prepare it first with an 
automated infrastructure:
   "Why might we have to evacuate earth?"

Now, would I suggest we do this? No. Would there be obstacles and so on? 
Yes. Would most of humanity go along with this? Probably not, as many people 
have an attachment to the land of their birth. Would lots of people die of 
heart attacks on the way up? Probably. Would plenty of stuff go wrong and 
hundreds of millions of people die (10%? 20%? 90%? 99%?) if this sort of 
thing got rushed, like entire habitats and space ships blowing up for stupid 
reasons, or there being unforeseen cancer hazards, or there being malicious 
computer viruses destroying life support systems, and so on? Almost certainly.

Would the money be better spent fixing up the Earth first, just from an 
ethical perspective? Surely -- maybe the last thing we want is a solar 
system filled up with the same kind of people who could not make a good 
thing work out on Earth when they had it easily within their technical 
grasp. As I say, the best reason to go into space is because we are happy 
down on Earth and think it might be fun to have cities in space too. And as 
above, I am guessing we could support more than ten times our current 
population in urbanized seasteads.

My point is not that we *should* do any of this evacuation into space, but 
that we *could*. It is to suggest that, with a little imagination based on 
existing research studies done by NASA (and then buried), the numbers 
actually work out (with some handwaving. :-) So, a total evacuation of the 
Earth for space could be plausibly done within the lifetime of probably 
anybody on this list (even though you might have to go on a starvation diet 
for many months, and you'd need to leave everything behind except your 
underwear to cut launch costs. :-)

So, the implication, if such a thing is within our plausible grasp, is that 
there is cause for hope. It is to suggest that everything people are going 
on about in current politics, how we need to spend all that money for our 
"protection", or how we are running out of oil or iron or whatever (anything 
except helium that nobody talks about), it's all just all scaremongering 
from a technical perspective (even if the social issues of inequity or 
change are real, and I'm all for addressing them).

So, with that as a background possibility, that within thirty years almost 
every middle-aged or younger human being alive today could be living in 
space in relative luxury, I just don't see the point for the gloom and doom 
about running out of oil, global climate change, etc..

Again, global climate change and Peak Oil may be serious problems, ones that 
may cause immense amounts of human suffering, but they are only serious 
*social* problems. There are easily approachable politically (tax fossil 
fuels and redistribute the taxes as a basic income), technically (deploy PV 
& other renewables), and/or space-related (as above) solutions.

People are all too willing to say, "we have billions of people trashing the 
planet", while not accepting that "we have billions of people who could fix 
the planet or come up with other creative ideas too" (and already have, as 
I've gotten these sorts of ideas from many who went before me).

So, call me a technical optimist, but a social pessimist. :-) Which may make 
me a nice complement to the social optimists but technical pessimists one 
often reads, like the ones writing the 20 theses that started this thread. :-)

Now, if we can find someone who is a social optimist and a technical 
optimist, we'll be set, as they may actually accomplish something. :-)

"Think globally, act locally, plan modestly. (René Dubois)"

Obviously, the suggestions above fail on the "modest" part. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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