Saturday, May 20, 2006

Why the LUF?

My wife asked my at some point "What is the point with LUF? You guys talk about colonising other planets, but don't we have enough problems on the Earth now? Wouldn't it be better to spend that money on fixing poverty, climate problems, pollution and wars, to mention a few things, without actually spending all that money on going to Mars?" Then she went on "If we can't sort out the way we deal with these things down here, then we are just going to make the same mistakes if we get to Mars. And then we don't deserve to spread out and destroy another planet."

In many ways I think she is right. However, I do believe that we have all the eggs in one basket at the moment and it is not impossible that humanity will get wiped out by a stray comet, as we saw a nice example of on Jupiter with Shoemaker-Levy not so long ago. Does humanity deserve to spread our wings beyond the planet Earth? I believe that we do. I think that the universe is a beautiful place. But if there is nobody to observe it, what point is there then with something of beauty? And to date, we have not found any trace of anyone else out there observing. Although we have barely started looking yet.

But, on the other hand, I do believe too that we need to sort out or mess here on the planet. And a mighty mess it is. For the last couple of years I have been studying environmental science at Stockholm University and it is depressing to learn about all the fascinating ways we are destroying the planets ecosystems. What you read in the press is not even a beginning of a description of what is going on. I had an idea about this before I started this programme at the university, but I did not realise that it was as bad as it is.

I knew that I needed to do something else with my life than to "sell better computer marketing tools to marketing people, so that they can make more money for the faceless shareholders" most who do not need more money anyway. So I quit my job to take a year sabbatical to think about things. I worked some on OTECnews and with The GreenOcean Project (I still do) before I ended up at the university. The sabbatical turned out not to be a year, but a full degree programme at the university.

So what does this have to do with the LUF? Well, the LUF was inspired by The Millennial Project, a book by Marshall T. Savage, which you can read about in some of the links on this site. Some of the first parts of the vision outlined in the book was how to use Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) to generate renewable energy, produce fresh water in abundance, supply nutrients for mariculture (aqua-culture in the ocean) and cold water to cool and humidify greenhouses (greenhouses are a later addition). All in a very environmentally friendly way. Much more so than using traditional methods of today.

I got interested in this part of the vision, partially because there are plenty of people interested in private space programmes today, and I think that you guys don't need my help to get those space planes off the ground (so to speak) but much fewer people are spending money on OTEC. Which is a very promising part of the required solution to the massive problems which are facing humanity today, in the shape of climate change, water shortage, over-fishing and soil destruction. All which are going to be a real problem. Not to forget that we have a growing population. We are going to be 9-10 billion people "real soon now" and these people have to be fed, watered and housed.

I believe that we need to get our eggs distributed to multiple baskets, but we have a problem of our own making in front of us which could be problematic enough to deal with if we do not get our act together. The effort spent on renewable energy, combating over-fishing of our oceans and water and soil issues are nowhere near enough what needs to be done to ensure we do not face a crisis in one or several of these areas in the next 20 years or so. 20 years may seem like a long time to you. But when you look at how long time it takes to get significant changes done in these areas you soon realise that we are pushed for time.

So I cheer you guys on when you work on a way to get people to Mars, but I spend my time trying to ensure that there will be people and ecosystems around to supply the substantial amounts of resources that are going to be needed to go to Mars. It would be real stupidity to have shiny new Mars rockets and but failing ecosystems, mass water shortages and starvation. But then, humanity does seem to favour stupidity...

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