welcome back to the second day of the Emerging Terraformations conference.
I have to say that, although very interested in what's been going on here, the emphasis on air, rather than earth, which is the basis of my fetish, has left me feeling a little ... unfulfilled. Call me single-minded. But I'm learning a lot and I imagine that's what really counts. I'm also starting to change my view, or my understanding, of what is encompassed by "earth" or "geo-" ... I suppose that, although I have very little interest in air as a symbol or element, it's part of the landscape. Not just as a force that shapes the landscape (I always found it singularly uninteresting as such, far less interesting than water) but as a force that enables the life that perceives landscape as necessary or sublime. Maybe that's a stretch. Still considering. But anyway.
We're about to begin, so I'm going to shut up now. Will post now and clean up later.
Jake Metcalf (post-doc fellow in science and justice)
How we can think of sci models and futures as fiction, as a way of coping with risk and hostile futures.
Chris McKay (NASA Ames, astrogeophysics, planning for future Mars missions, human settlements)
"Let there be life: a long term goal for astrobiology"
Mars: far away and ppl don't get upset when you talk about geoengineering on Mars
Provides context for considering it on Earth
Why consider these things? What's the point? On Earth it's survival. On Mars the point is not so obvious. His argument: the point is life.
Astrobiology: study of origin evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. Future is whatever we make of it. Element of human choice.
Propose that overall goal: enhance the richness and diversity of life in the universe.
Implied activities: search for and suport a second genesis of life on other worlds and expand life from Earth.
- search for a second genesis-biologically reversible exploration
- determine if life from earth can grown on mars
- determine if mars can be restored to habitability
Mars: don't send humans because they will contaminate Mars before we have a chance to determine if it has life and its potential for life. First have to sort out this logical mess. But we've already contaminated Mars. Viking and previous missions were sterilized, but since then they no longer needed to sterilize spacecraft. WHY? Each carry on average 100k Earth bacteria. We know where all these pieces are and know that they haven't contaminated. Survives only inside the craft where untouched by UV
3 possibilities for past life on Mars
- no life on Mars, no worries
- realted to Earth life, common origin, few worries
- was a second genesis unrelated to Earth, could be worries
All earth life shares genetic common ancestor. Alien doesn't share common ancestor. Used to mean from a different planet. No longer the case. Now it doesn't share our genetic and biological unity.
Why preserve a second genesis?
- fundamental ethical principles realated to the value oflife and value of diversity in life
- utilitarian benefit from direct study of second genesis
- restoring life and a biosphere to a dead world is a worthy goal for a space-faring people. (looks good on our resume?)
Should microbes have standing: no brush your teeth and wash your hands. On Earth, no. But yes if they're the only reps of a second genesis of life.
Assigning moral status:
- Moral agents are rational - self assigna nd unitary
- moral status is variable and assigned by moral agents based on pain, complex behavior and communication; membership in a set
- examples of set thoery human beings that ar not ration have th same moral stauts as ration humans but they ar enot moral agents, life is sacred.
- two current sets: human, life
Now there are three sets: human, life, life2
Biologically reversible exploration: must continue that.
Do it on the Moon first.
Keep contamination on Martian surface where it's bathed in UV light
Can we restore water on Mars? Fundamental problem to warm up the planet - but we know how to do that. Greenhouse effect.
Could warm it in 100 years, could produce O2-rich atmosphere in 100K years.
We don't know if Mars has the resources to make a habitable biosphere. Probably water and carbon, but maybe not nitrogen.
Two new ethical questions:
- Second genesis
- Life is better than no life?
ON earth life=nature but not on mars
Assigning to Life "intrinsic Worth"
Trying to create another biosphere helps us understand Earth.
Slawek Tulaczyk (Earth and planetary science UCSC, glacial geology)
"Halting Glacial Retreat"
Reason we study ice on Earth is to control it - but this idea is badly received by physical scientists.
- Why he wants to talk about subject
- Evidence from recent geologic past that warmer climates birg higher sea level
- some glaciers melt but he biggest ones lose mass by sliding into the ocean and melting at the ice-ocean interface
- there are specific actions that may help slow down global sea level rise.
Why I study nature: love nature
historically we study nature to control it
What happpend during the last global warming? 20K - 15K years ago.
Sea level rise when planet warmed by 5 degrees C. Rose by 4 cm/year.
120k years ago, last time planet was temp it will be soon. Global sea level is 8 meters higher than it is now. We'll lose major ice sheets.
We don't really know how ice sheets behave under warming conditions.
To get the real sea level rise you have to affect the poles.
So are glaciers melting? Some are (the small ones) but the polar ones the effect is minor. Doesn't lose mass by melting on surface. Ice gets pushed into the ocean and gets warmed by water. That's how it really loses mass.
Most of mass lost at ocean boundary in small areas - valleys and fjords
- 1/3 o glacial ice lsot o surface melting
- 50-60% slide into the ocean or is melted by ocean heat
much of recent acceleration is because of increase in 2.
If you can stop glacial sliding and melting from ocean heat. So how can you do this?
Ice flow in ice sheets organized into flows like rivers. Under ice sheet, water streams. Carry snow toward oceans. If you can slow down pathways you can slow down the melt. Streams sometimes naturally shut down. So maybe we can do that. How?
- drill bore holes through ice and pump liquid nitrogen (what happens when this melts?)
- build underwater dams where warm water has access to the ice sheets -- in discrete places
Easier than managing CO2
- vulnerable parts of ice sheets are small
- interventions are reversible with limited long term consequences
- relatively deserted regions - limited impact on cultures and biology
Take home points:
- most ice is lost due to iceberg calving and ocean melting, not melting on surfaces
- if we can dam up internal rivers of ice and shut ocean melting o fice then ew could slow down sea level rise by up to 3 feet in 100 years
- things that could be done (see above)
- can we afford to do it? can we afford not to do it?
- Easier than management of CO2
Joe Masco (Anthro, U of Chicago, book on cold war)
Projects that coordinate human activity (nuclear technology), coordinating academy, science, economics, politics, can this be done with climate?
How do we think about potentialities?
Walk back to mid-20th and look at ways we've actually done it.
Nuclear weapons changed temporality, ways we thought about future:
- Possibility of no future
- Possibility of utopia, control nature on all scales from subatomic to planetary
US nuclear complex involved in global engineering: atmospheric nuclear tests in 50's and 60's - planetary events (were they intended to be?)
Nuclear contamination created permanent dystopian spaces
- Disney speculation about future tech 1959: countering negative images of nuclear tech with positive images, militarized response to control weather.
- ABC projects mid-60s, project reports: excavating with nuclear explosives, plowshare program
- Canal project elsewhere in Central America, with nuclear explosives
Plowshare program, atoms for peace, during nuclear test moratorium, positive spin on nuclear tech, clean nuclear device.
Imagination for doing large scale engineering has been with us for a while
Power narratives deployed: diff btw scenario, thought experiment, advertising campaign, etc.
Promotional culture apparent - energized science, also a created backlash as ppl understood limitations of these projects.
Changed the way americans think about deep future
- immediate future
- oversold promises of nuclear science - already utopian scenarios before it was achieved
Tech optimism is now left to corporations as a result of all this
If this optimism can be restored?
A terraforming project is happening whether we acknowledge it or not, how can we make a public narrative around it?
If narrative precede public mobilization: what kind of nonmilitarized vision of geoengineering can we produce? what would work?
Have to overcome legacy of these campaigns, skeptical public, when our ideas about tech and future become so naturalized that we can see outside them anymore.
Wow, this conference is a total sausage factory. Bratwurst.
Jamie Wetmore (Science Studies ASU)
Peter Alagona (Environmental History, UCLA)
to McKay: skeptical of scientist who can do ethics, but impressed that McKay gave a standing to microbes.
One talk doesn't change the world. Ethics of astrobiology will be created by groups. Everyone has ethics, inherent in decisions made.
Are you alone in this or are there conversations about ethics? Is it informal or formal? What role does the public play?
McKay: presented his own view. Astrobiology community has engaged in discussion, partic over past 10 years. Dates back to 1997 NASA HQ issued call for papers about the future, ppl formed committees and created symposia, etc. Ppl with backgrounds in ethics, religion, sociology involved. This is informed by a broader discussion. Point that ethics created collectively. Committee on space research, space treaty, planetary protection.
to Slawek: Why aren't UCSC's climate scientists here? If they can't get into sf, what will they get into? Do they see geoengineering as dangerous or fringe?
Slawek: considers self planetary scientist. Minimal perception, minimal commitment of funding. Why climate scientists aren't here? Only one acceptable solution among climate scientists is to stop driving cars/using fossil fuels. Modify lifestyles. Anything else is seen as a detraction from this, not just a waste of time but an enemy. Grew up in communist system, hates self-censorship.
to Joe: Loved the videos. Reaction of audience is laughter because the vision is terrifying. Images aren't as vivid when ideas are presentd today. Was this an image that the scientists bought into or were those scientists also a little fearful. Has an image of individuals with no humility. today, even the most vociferous proponents of geoengineering will express their fear of it.
Joe: Laughter. We have actually wreaked havoc on the planet. Laughter is complex. Awareness, nervousness from a wider understanding of our impact on the planet. Important thing but also nervous thing. Represses thinking about militarism.
(God, the way this guy talks is so humanities! About half his words are jargon that don't need to be there. "organize thinking" "privileged" "craft narratives" "national imaginary" etc.)
50's is era of narrative, but also the era where we start accumulating data sets. What's the diff betw marketing program, scenario, science fiction?
Peter: doesn't have a problem with scientists talking about ethics, but rather with ethicists ignoring the povs of others. Wants to talk about unintended consequences. Environmental History: doom and gloom = declension narrative. Unintended consequences are inevitable and likely to be severe.
Eg.: city on river, constructs levees to protect from floods, then buys increasingly expensive solutions, muddled by weak governance. When the flood eventually comes, it will be worse, and more people will be in its way.
Bathroom break. Missed how this turned out.
Jake Metcalf: Missed his question
McKay: How can we manage a biosphere b/c we'll never know everything? Unintended consequences. Doctor treating himself. Blah blah, saying obvious things. Terraforming Mars expectations lower. What would be a success? Maybe create something that's not like Earth but has its own value.
Slawek: unintended consequences, conversation stopper. So what? Everything we do has unintended consequences. Are these manageable?
Joe: Openness is crucial, secrecy deforms project over time. Funding moved out of Homeland security and into NSA.
Jamie: today is a product of cross-discipline discussions. Much of this is needed. Duh. UCSC, not only are disciplines in different buildings, but they are protected from each other by miles of forest.
Peter: history itself is unintended consequences. ??