Surviving Climate Change by way of Art & Science

Surviving Climate Change by way of Art & Science

By Doug Czor,  Images from Doug Czor’s Art Notebook #1

BioDome
BioDome

During the early 1970s, Historical Geology classes in the School of Geology forever changed my perspective on hope for the survival of humanity.  The study of Geology is like reading the great history book of planet Earth.  Each layer of sediment or rock became the pages and chapters in an account of Earth’s geologic changes, and how our environment arose to what it is today.  As I read the book and listened to the lectures, I was astounded that each chapter seemed to end with a great planet-wide, mass extinction of life, apparently caused by some form of climate change.  On a geologic time scale, major climate change can be caused by: geologic changes in Earth’s structure, its orbital position in relation to the Sun, the variable energy output of the Sun, impacts from interstellar objects, or other cosmic events.

Biodome section
Biodome section

I suddenly realized how dangerous it is for humanity to live within this thin atmosphere, as well as orbiting so close to our own variable star, the Sun.  Even though only a very few professors were writing about climate change during my college years, I considered how we might survive the next mass extinction event.  Would we be hit by a comet, or suffer from a mega-volcanic blowout?  I wondered how my own life and family might be affected by imminent climate changes.

Building with ledges growing.
Building with ledges growing.

Forty-two years have passed from the time I was first troubled by the mass extinction events found in the geologic record.  Now everyone is talking about climate change.  Humanity’s expansion to cover the Earth was not only due to cooperative intelligence, but also due to a plateau of temperature stability between the usual rapid swings in the average atmospheric temperature.  We were fortunate to arrive into the extremely stable and warm Holocene interglacial period (Table 1).  During my early college years, I speculated that, even if human engineering increased the temperature of the atmosphere a few degrees, our extinction might inescapably be caused by the addition of another much larger, and unexpected environmental force.  For instance, what might happen if we combine the lesser, human-engineered climate change with a major, planet-wide, geologic heating of the ocean floor?  Might this combination trigger a massive release of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, from the ocean floor?  Long before civilization existed, sudden and large climate shifts are frequently found throughout the geologic record (Tables 2 & 3).  In order for humanity to survive a mass extinction event as well as climate change, perhaps we must engage the situation on an entirely different level than we are attempting today.

Tubular building with ledges growing.
Tubular building with ledges growing.

The School of Geology, University of Minnesota, is especially suited for the study of recurring glacial ice ages.  The northern Midwest and Canada have been re-sculptured many times over millions of years by the edge of an ice cap that receded and extended from the North Pole.  The Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario), were originally huge troughs gouged out of the bedrock due to a one-mile thick ice cap on-the-move.  Due to a warming trend that started thousands of years ago, the ice cap thinned and receded northward.  The result of this migration produced thousands of smaller, freshwater lakes that now cover the region.  These smaller lakes were originally pockets of ice from the remains of landlocked icebergs, melting amid glacial sediment.  The ancient soils of the region now produce a tremendous abundance of crops for modern farming.  The Twin Cities, Chicago, and other Midwest cities became rapidly expanding hubs for one of the most successful agricultural regions in the world.  The population boomed, and universities arose abundantly throughout the region.  However, only a very few wondered how long this abundance would last.  What pedagogical methods might we employ to inspire change in our society to a more scientific culture, thus to ensure survival during a mass extinction event as well as the resulting climate changes?

Dome with solar collectors.
Dome with solar collectors.

The ebb and flow of the northern polar ice cap in a series of ice ages, warm interglacial periods, and ages of desertification, are found in the rhythm of Earth’s symphony.  I wondered what would happen to humanity, if the current interglacial period, in which we live, might become an age of desertification with the Arizona Sonora Desert marching eastward across southern United States.  How could the typical family survive this scherzo movement of an age of deserts where Palm trees could be planted along the latitude of New York and the Twin Cities?  How could the typical family survive this desert age, and then in allegro be plunged back into another ice age?  Will we move underground? (1)

Phytodome
Phytodome

Scientific researchers have identified only a few of the forces that change the temperature of our planet and its atmosphere.  Some believe that as our Solar System orbits around the Milky Way Galaxy, it encounters massive, nearly invisible clouds of Dark Matter (2).  As the Sun and the planets of our Solar System slam into clouds or waves of Dark Matter, might each of the planets warm from even this infinitesimally small interaction (Dark Friction?) with Dark Matter?  Might also the Sun’s nuclear fires heat up, as it burns through a cloud of Dark Matter?  Other researchers argue that high points in the fluctuation of incoming cosmic rays, penetrating our atmosphere, produce corresponding worldwide cloud covers.  It is uncertain how much of an effect humanity has on Earth’s climate; however, it is certainly a death-defying notion for us to ignore the large-scale forces of nature.

X-section building & growing slab
X-section building & growing slab

X-section building & growing slab
X-section building & growing slab

One way that we might improve the survivability of humanity during an extinction event and/or climate change is to increase the number of creative, scientific people among our populations.  It is easier now for someone to be a scientist.  One no longer needs an advanced degree in order to be a scientist, only an interest in the universe, and the ability to be logical.  Previous to the 1970s, the definition of science and physics was constrained to subjects that could only be described mathematically.  However, a few researchers were beginning to discover unusual mathematical patterns that appeared to be biological or life-like, rather than ordered or geometric.  During the mid 1980s, a revolution in science was triggered when the Santa Fe Institute (3) brought together the top researchers of these mathematical phenomena.  Complexity theory was born and soon spread throughout the scientific community.  Today, with the discovery of complexity theory, fractal dynamics, chaos theory, synergy, and quantum entanglement has expanded the definition of science and physics beyond what can only be described mathematically to include the seemingly spiritual or metaphysical universe.  Thus, the cultural walls surrounding science and physics have been reduced, providing a gateway to a much larger percentage of our populations the opportunity to truly embrace science.  Even if the student has not yet graduated from High School, one can be a scientist.  Stay-at-home moms and dads can be scientists.  The more scientific people that exist in a society, the more likely that society, engaged in preparations for climate change, will modify their covenants and replace old, inefficient architecture, obsolete transportation, food, and energy production systems.  It is possible that a more scientific society might also develop systems resilient to the unforeseen extinction event.

Cultures that mistrust science place all of humanity in danger of extinction.  For example, previous to Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642 AD), scientists were mistrusted, and sometimes burned as heritics.  Had the advancement of science during the proceeding classical period (8th century BC through the 5th century AD) continued without interruption, we might now be a thousand years, or more, ahead with advanced eco-cities and a thriving space economy.  Commercializing space for raw materials would have given us space tugboats and barges operating in the Earth-Moon system ready to capture comets and asteroids.  This shipping commerace would have given us the ability to seize and secure planet-killing asteroids and comets.  Today, we have only begun to track the more than 10,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets.  At this time, it is very doubtful that we have the ability to prevent an impact from a planet-killing object.  Considering the frequency with which large objects were found to have struck the Earth, and the very slow development of space technology, it is approipraite to say that we have unwittingly been subjected to a position of great danger.  This is only part of the problem.  Mega-volcanoes can also cover the Earth’s atmosphere with a blanket of dust that darkens the sky for years.  Imagine for a moment a ten-mile wide hole in Earth’s crust opening to expel a white hot, vaporized rock geyser that shoots from sea level up to the top of our atmosphere where millions of tons of dust spread out like a black umbrella, covering the Earth, and stopping all agricultural production for years.  How could nations prepare their city-farm technologies to weather such an extinction event?  One way might be to first greatly increase the numbers of  scientific-thinking people through the use of Art & Science as well as Art & Technology in order to create a new, globally-networked, scientific and technological culture.

Algae Wall
Algae Wall

The themes of Art & Science and Art & Technology could provide a way for many cultures to become more confident with the ideas of science and technology.  The amalgamation of art (4), science (5), and technology blends the creative spirit from all three, forming a special pedagogical tool that could be used for the advancement of new technologies, innovation, and change.  Furthermore, when the storyteller overlaps the mythos side of art with the logos side of science and technology, one is able to achieve a synergy of thinking that can catapult students into cultivating alternative strategies, technical competencies, and new critical thinking skills.  Students equipped with this synergy can better catalyze cross-fertilization between disciplines; thus, accelerating their technological aptitude, as well as mobilize the spread of a global scientific methodology.  Might this encouragement also lubricate both the freedom to think logically and nurture the imagination necessary to disband the same cultural walls that presently obstruct our survival?

Working as a professional scientist or physicist is truly a challenging position in our world.  The love of learning and the quest for knowledge that a scientific person strives for must be tempered by careful awareness of political, religious, and economic forces.  Naturally, all of us are consciously and subconsciously swayed to distort facts by political or religious forces during our attempts to solve some dilemma.  The most difficult idea that a scientist encounters is how to begin working on a problem with an open mind, as well as without prejudice.  In addition, our ego misleads us into thinking we are, or may someday be able to understand the real world.  We try to understand, but the microscopic and macroscopic universe is far more complex than we can even imagine.  We are born into an apparent finite world; therefore, we think and calculate in finite concepts.  For instance, most scientists believe in the “Big Bang Theory”, as well as the universe is a certain size; however, quite the opposite is the more likely situation.  Because we cannot truly experience infinity, we probably will never understand the idea of an infinite universe.  It is possible that neither the biological, nor the digital brain will ever be capable of grasping the meaning of an infinite system.  One evening, when I tried to comprehend the concept of an infinite universe, I felt a type of ascending mental displacement.  Upon rising from my telescope, I stumbled out the back door, and fell into the pine needles, laughing until I could return to our reality.  I ask you, what percentage of our world do you think is infinite?  There is so much more to the composition of our world and universe than we will ever fathom.  I believe that it is only with great humility, a spiritual belief, and the gift of science that humanity will have any chance to survive the combination of climate change, our own successful globalization, and some unexpected extinction event.

An inspired scientific citizenry is probably the most dependable of the many pathways for humanity to recover from our shortfall and subsequently begin to solve planet-size problems.  The inspiration generated by Art & Science, as well as Art & Technology are, I believe, the most powerful tools a people can assemble in the case for the survival of humanity.  If the present movements of Art & Science and Art & Technology succeed in spreading their message worldwide, humanity might one day avoid being extinguished, and discover that infinite ground of being.

Here is a partial list of organizations at the forefront of this movement:

http://www.exploratorium.edu/
http://www.leonardo.info/
https://www.khanacademy.org/
http://www.societyforscience.org/
http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/
http://www.learningscience.org/
http://www.usfirst.org/
http://www.explora.us/en/
http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/
http://iaaa.org/
http://www2.fi.edu/
http://www.iteea.org/Networking/networking.htm
http://www.engineeringforkids.net/home
http://www.dst.gov.in/scientific-programme/inspire/ser-inspire.htm

 

Table 1

ClimateChg-Table-1

Table 2

ClimateChg-Table-2

Table 3

ClimateChg-Table-3

 

References:

(1) Loretta Hall, (2013), “Underground Architecture and Sustainable Design”, Retrieved from http://www.subsurfacebuildings.com/DiggingfortheGreen.html
(2) Definition of “Dark Matter”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter.
(3) Santa Fe Institute, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Fe_Institute
(4) Definition of “Art”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art.
(5) Definition of “Science”, http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/socialsideofscience_05, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon.
(Table 1) Robert A. Rohde, (2009), “Holocene Temperature Variations” [Chart], Retrieved from http://globalwarmingart.com/.
(Table 2) Robert A. Rohde, (2009), “Ice Age Temperature Changes” [Chart], Retrieved from http://globalwarmingart.com/.
(Table 3) Robert A. Rohde, (2009), “65 Million Years of Climate Change” [Chart], Retrieved from http://globalwarmingart.com/.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *