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A Hole In the Ocean: The Earth and other Sinking Ships, What to do first?


Imagine you are on a large, modern, ocean liner. Curious about such a huge vessel, you decide to go on a unsupervised tour. Wandering the labyrinth of decks, holds, hallways, and stairway, you are surprised to step in a puddle of water. You think, “What the hell is?” You look about. There’s no one in sight, no crew, no passengers. Maybe you’re lost. You spot a sign on a bulkhead, it says, Galley #1.

“Ah, the galley,” you think,  “No wonder. Some waiter probably spilled something on the way to the dining room.” You go on your way.

A little further down the hallway, you find more water on the floor, a little deeper: “Oh man, this waiter must be drunk or something. He’s gonna catch hell for this mess.”

You go further, and you find more water, deeper water. “Hmmm, not good.”

You open a door; find yourself on the landing of a stairway that runs down a deep hold. You see the ships engines at work. You are in s a huge cavernous hold several decks deep; brightly lit by scores of work lights suspended from the ceilings, walls, and stairways.

In one corner of the cavernous hold you note some crewmembers in a group, apparently working on something. You go over to them and you see they are all huddled about one worker who is drilling a hole in the floor.

You tap a crewmember on the shoulder and ask, “What’s going on? What’s he doing?”

“Oh, nothing,” replies the sailor, “We’re trying to find a leak.”

Alarmed, you ask him urgently, “A leak?”

“Yeah,” explains the sailor, “we started taking on water about a hour ago but we can’t find the source of the leak. We started on the deck below, but there was nothing there that we could see. It was all filled with water, so we decided to come up to this deck and see if we could locate it here.”

You ask, with increasing anxiety, “Why are you drilling here to find a leak that you think is below?” 

“Because,” the sailor says, obviously vexed, “the water is too deep below! What the hell do you expect us to do?”

“Stop drilling, for one thing!” you snap back.

“Look mister,” says the sailor. “This is an unsinkable ship. Just relax. You don’t belong down here anyway.  Go above and have a drink. Calm down. These are all watertight compartments. You’ll be fine.”

This scenario comes to mind as we learn today that levels of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere has reached an all-time high and is increasing exponentially. 

What to do?

I’m with the curious passenger, above. My advice “STOP DRILLING.”

Ok, I know the sailors didn’t drill the first hole, and humans didn’t produce the first CO2, but we are all in the same ‘sinkable’ boat.

Now what? Five 'easy' pieces

  1. Immediately use existing technologies to reduce emissions (control of pollutants, re-engineer the existing distribution systems (put power grids underground (as they are in most of the developed world, except for the USA), adopt smart-grid engineering designs).
  2. Immediately invest in research and development of alternative energy technologies from across the spectrum of non-fossil fuel, and non-nuclear sources. We know where the sources (holes) are.
  3. Reconsider agricultural strategies to take environmental impact into consideration when cycling crops and developing land use strategies.
  4. Tax the crap out of fossil fuels (use the proceeds to invest whatever the private sector is too greedy to consider). Use bio-integrated recycling and filtration techniques to protect water supplies and generate energy.
  5. Reconsider our transportation and communications strategies for cargo and passengers.  Connect markets to achieve more effective access to the products of human talent, innovation, and intelligence.-DLH

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Comment by Ralf Lippold on November 23, 2012 at 22:02

Thanks David for this wonderful story! 

And yes, the five actionable points are in tune with my thoughts, and actions as an individual. So we are already TWO. 

Who's next?

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