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From Muscles to Molecules

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earth.jpgBY BEN LAUER

What if we were able to step outside of ourselves and observe the Earth from above the Troposphere over the past 1,000 years? What would we see?

That was the question posed by Lewis Gilbert, IonE's managing director, at last week's Frontiers in the Environment talk, "From Muscles to Molecules: A Revolution in the Earth System." The answer, Lewis suggested, reveals a startling process of human-controlled change. 
Gilbert's Frontiers presentation aimed to shift the scale of the conversation to a collective look at human activity, especially over the last millennium. Gilbert's external visualization revealed that under this current phase, processes are controlled by the planet's most dominant species, humans. From this broad view, one could see that this one species has the ability to manipulate its existing physical environment, in many cases beyond its own control. A transition from the Metabolic Age, which tied energy closely to food, to the Molecular Age, where energy from fossil fuels could be used not just for heat but to power machines, has led to many negative consequences for many species, including humans.

And the current course of the human species is unlikely to change, Gilbert points out. After all, cultures still reliant on the Metabolic Age are likely to move toward the Molecular Age. With this in mind, Gilbert maintained that the technology-driven direction of our society still has the potential to cure many of Earth's maladies, and a scientific collaboration centering around climate change is most likely to suit that current direction and yield the most effective results. 

Toward that end, Gilbert suggested that the solution will come in the form of a technological invention of conversion that would effectively reverse the course begun in the 19th century and somehow take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Essentially, Gilbert argues, human creativity needs to be at the forefront of any solution. In a written summary of the talk he writes with both caution and promise, "Humans have an exceptional ability to imagine the future; they also have a propensity to yearn for the past. Wisdom in the current situation would emphasize the imagining and minimize the yearning."

Watch "From Muscles to Molecules: A Revolution in the Earth System."

Ben Lauer is a student at Macalester College in St. Paul and a communications intern with IonE.

Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Creative Commons.

1 Comment

very beautiful and amazing for this world

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Hoff published on October 23, 2012 6:04 PM.

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