Making Whether

This Bloomberg Cleaner Tech (!) article about whether humans can control forces beyond our control (the weather) accidentally highlights the ways we ignore the choices and actions well-within our grasp:

In an effort to control future rainstorms, scientists in Japan are working on an ambitious government-backed project involving everything from giant curtains floating on the sea to fields of wind turbines to protect the island nation. Their goal, they say, is to turn extreme weather into “a blessing” — if it works.

The effort feels ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel, but it’s attracted dozens of researchers across Japan. The team, led by Kosei Yamaguchi, an associate professor at Kyoto University, is focused on reducing so-called “guerrilla” rainstorms that can bring large quantities of rainfall within a short period of time. Their goal is to develop an array of weather control technologies that can reduce deluges to manageable rain and roll them out by 2050.

It’s the shiny-object school of journalism – the very next words in that article are the subhead ‘Dams in the air’ – we need something new/fresh/exciting/risky/improbable/easy to attract eyeballs and viewers and clicks. What actually happens even when this works – and let’s not consider whether it’s the true function (whoopsie!) – is that people simply move on.

That’ simply moving on’ repeated over and over into perfection becomes its own feedback loop. Not sure ‘soothing’ is the right word, but numbness definitely follows. An ensuing restlessness opens the door to helplessness, what can I do, what does any of it matter? At the bottom of that fountain (l’eau impotable) lies despair. And adding in the crucial context for a business publication, of course Billions are at Stake. And they certainly are. But which billions, other billions, are left unconsidered.

Image: cloud seeding rocket (Photographer: Zhang Haiqiang/VCG/Getty Images)

Then What?

So, I guess it’s pretty sure bet that we will run out of petroleum before we fatally poison the planet, at least by burning oil for energy. In other words, the planet would be much worse off if there was an unlimited supply. Hence will the Earth save itself by running out of easily accessible fossil fuel deposits.Peak oil hysterics aside, you can tell this is true by how oil companies were reacting to war planning in 2002, verified by a recent document dump:

The British daily, The Independent, has been given 1,000 documents detailing talks between the British government and oil companies such as BP and Shell in fall of 2002 about their share in Iraqi petroleum. The memoranda were gained through Freedom of Information requests over five years by the activist Greg Muttitt, who has a book forthcoming. The documents flatly contradict denials 1) by Shell that its representatives met with the Blair government on Iraq at that time; 2) by BP that it had “no strategic interest” in Iraqi petroleum, and 3) by Tony Blair himself that it was a “conspiracy theory” that he was interested in Iraq’s petroleum as a motive for war.

In every decade since the 1950s, fewer and fewer big new petroleum fields have been discovered. Companies such as BP and Exxon-Mobil are desperate for new fields to exploit and fearful for the future if global oil production has peaked or is about to do so. Iran and Iraq hold most of the likely big reserves of unexploited oil known or suspected to exist in relatively easy-to-get-at regions.

That, plus ads for the Nissan Leaf and it all adds up to a bit too much protesting while the companies maneuver behind the scenes, as much as there remain scenes and any ability or desire to orchestrate behind them.

BUT, even with all of this and the planet saving us and it from ourselves, it still does nothing to change the fundamental predicament: How to get around? This has to be plugged into where and how we live, even outside of the resource scarcity environment we have entered. Indeed it is the namesake and patron of said environment, and these would tend to be only signifiers of a, if not the, greater issue.

If this is optimism…