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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Year 2076: Background - formerly posted in 'What Went Wrong?'

Hi, if you previously read the post titled '2076: What Went Wrong?' please note that I have moved the three sections of the original post to new posts because each part is really very different and made the original post way too long. The new posts are titled:
Year 2076: The Initial Dream
Year 2076: Background ...(this post)
Channeled: Good, Evil, Malice and Creation

The following narration describes background knowledge related to the initial dream experience. Some of this knowledge was picked up during the 5 day period that I remained awake, my consciousness divided into two parts: my waking self going about my business as normal, and my projected self exploring the past events of 2076 that lead to the tragedy that happened then. (I know, its weird to talk about the future in the past tense, but for me this future has already happened and is now one of my experiences, hence it is the past tense to me.)

Year 2076: Background

The world has been dying for years now. Ten or twelve years ago (2064-2066) the world population peaked at nearly 10 billion people, 400 million in the USA. Then the population everywhere began declining, and it has declined more swiftly with every passing year.

We brought this doom upon ourselves. We had known about the roots of this doom for more than eighty years. There was a delicate balance in the exchange of carbon gases between our atmosphere and oceans called the Atmospheric-Oceanic Carbon Cycle.
This cycle is a semi-organic process involving an initial chemical absorption of carbon gas from the atmosphere by cold salty ocean water. Warmer ocean water released some carbon back into the atmosphere, but there had always been a net carbon uptake by the oceans that helped to reduce the over-all levels of carbon we dumped into our atmosphere daily by burning wood, garbage, dung and fossil fuels.

The net uptake of carbon was helped along by tiny ocean creatures called plankton. The plankton absorbed carbon from the water. As plankton die some carbon is released back into the ocean, which might later be released back to the atmosphere by warmer tropical waters, but a significant amount of carbon absorbed by plankton moved up the food chain. As carbon moved up the food chain some carbon would eventually settle on the sea-floors in the form of bones to become fossil remains.

There were two critical factors in the Atmospheric-Oceanic Carbon Cycle that always produced a net uptake of carbon from our atmosphere that helped to balance the additional burden we placed on our atmosphere by burning carbon fuels. One critical factor was the chemical saturation point, and the other was a biological saturation point.

The chemical saturation point defined the point in the temperature scale where ocean water becomes too burdened with carbon to continue to carry it, and some carbon must be released back into the atmosphere.

The biological saturation point defined the carbon carrying capacity of the oceans (a carbon sink) in terms of the uptake of carbon through the food chain. The oceans could only sustain a finite number of plankton and other creatures in the food chain, and when these organisms had absorbed as much carbon as they possibly could the biological carbon sink reached its saturation point; instead of a producing a net uptake in carbon, the carbon uptake driven by the biological carbon sink leveled off.

Because ocean water temperatures were slowly rising, the chemical saturation point was moving steadily away from a net uptake condition, and the overall ability of the oceans to scrub excess carbon from our atmosphere was also approaching a point where it would level off. When the biological carbon sink became saturated the chemical carbon sink became saturated too, and the oceans capacity to absorb carbon leveled off.
In a very brief time our atmosphere began to turn lethal because the carbon gases our power production industries were pouring into the atmosphere by the tons each day had nowhere to go because the oceans could no longer absorb our excess carbon gasses.

This was disaster was made in part because developing nations had been busily increasing the carbon load on the atmosphere.

In the late 1980’s 90% of the Earth's human population consumed only 10% of their total global energy production. The wealthiest 10% of the world's population was busily consuming 90% of all the energy produced. Everyone everywhere wanted the 'good life', so the rest of the world scurried to catch up to the wealthy energy consumers.

Energy production nearly quadrupled over the past 80 years, and most of that increase was fueled by coal or oil. There were severe natural limits to producing energy by alternative means such as hydro-electric, tidal, geo-thermal, wind or solar generation that meant these alternative energy production systems could not meet the growing demands for more energy from a hungry global community.

Too late, we finally began to deploy solar power satellites, but this would only mean that the energy rich would now become the energy secure.

There still wasn't enough energy to go around, although, had we been able to start the power satellite production much sooner (we had had all the requisite technology for a century, since the 1970's) we might have been able to bring down energy costs and increase production to meet the challenge of an equitable global distribution of safe reliable energy.

Anyway, we didn't start earlier enough or commit enough resources, so when our oceans finally failed we had doomed ourselves. Nearly overnight in geological terms our atmosphere became too lethal to sustain us; we all began to die.

To counter the threat of extinction from pollution nations everywhere were investing all their wealth in arcologies (self-contained, self-supporting city-states). The arcologies were successful for the most part but the social engineering required to adjust populations to their new circumstances was beyond us.

The arcologies became semi-feudal states with a military dictator or some other sort of small despotic ruling class.

All the arcologies became fiercely militant to defend themselves. There simply wasn't room for everyone within them. Americans were among the first to migrate to arcologies, but everywhere across the world people were literally dying to get into them.

In America we were able to migrate nearly 300 million people to arcologies, another 100 million died of lung diseases, although a significant portion of those 100 million deaths were actually 'friendly fire'. People trying to storm over-loaded arcologies for shelter were being killed every day.

Eventually the American population stabilized with 300 million survivors, most of these lived in the arcologies.

Elsewhere in the world arcologies sustained much smaller percentages of their parent countries' total populations, and arcologies unable to defend themselves adequately were dying under the pressure from too many people forcing themselves in.

The arcologies developed feudal cultures because the land around them must still be farmed and hoarded for natural resources. Arcologies competed for resources and required strong militaries to defend their agricultural, mineral and industrial resources as well as their shelters.

An arcology was typically a series of rings of shelters and industries beginning with several large central domes for the ruling elite and their servants, bureaucrats and guards.

These were surrounded by a ring of light industries, military shelters and defenses, which, in turn, were surrounded by a heavy industrial ring. The industrial rings were surrounded by rings of workers' residential shelters and still more defenses. These were all surrounded by rings of shelters for farmers, livestock and miners, with farms and mines surrounding the final perimeter.

The social structure was simplistic, if you didn't do what you were told you died, because you couldn't produce your own air, food and shelter, and any of these could be withheld from you for any reason. Life was that cheap.

Many of America’s enemies resented that America was going to survive while they would die as the rest of the world collapsed under the burden of too many people with too few resources.

With too few resources to maintain strong armies to keep out the choking hordes of people seeking shelter in their arcologies, most of those who might have survived in other nations died as the teeming hordes that had no shelter overwhelmed the few arcologies their nations were able to build.

Missile technology had gotten so cheap that America’s enemies were finally able to afford massive missile farms. They feared America’s SDI (Space Defense Initiative, aka ‘Star Wars’) systems would make us invulnerable and plotted to assail us while the opportunity remained. They infiltrated our orbital defenses and opened a launch window.

So America died.

In less than 90 seconds nearly 300 million Americans were swept away.

America’s retaliation was weak but brutal. Enough of our missiles were launched in counter-attack to kill many of our enemies. Our allies also died at the hands of our enemies, and they launched their own counter-strikes as well.

Altogether nearly a billion people died that day and the global population fell to just above 5 billion.

Another 4.5 Billion or so would die as the momentum of events continued to sweep them away over the next few years.

Nearly 4 billion had already died in the 10 years prior to this cataclysm from lung disease, cancers and civil disorders.

Thanks for reading my blog, while I present this material as a story it was a very real experience for me. Not all our futures are this bleak, and the details of any particular future may differ only slightly or very dramatically. This particular future that I describe in my AD 2076 stories is just the one which appears most probable given the current state of our world. All of the scientific background regarding the potential disasterous saturation of our oceanic carbon sinks is true. We will smother ourselves to death in a relatively short time if we fail to make the changes required to build a sustainable global energy infrastructure based on solar power satellites and terrestrial power receiving antennae grids.

To our future, may it be sustainable, Greg