(quinnums/Flickr)

Newsflash: The end is coming, but we’ll get over it. So says local science journalist Annalee Newitz in her new book, “Scatter, Adapt, and Remember.” Humans, Newitz writes, have avoided extinction time and time again, and our chances for survival in the face of catastrophe are better than ever. Newitz, the editor of the science fiction blog, “io9,” joins us in studio to discuss the book.

Guests:
Annalee Newitz, author of "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction;" and editor-in-chief of io9, a daily publication that covers science and science fiction.

  • Chris OConnell

    Is there any doubt that one of the purposes of space exploration is to search for another place to live as Planet Earth becomes uninhabitable to humans? Our ilk can only milk it so long.

    • Bill_Woods

      “The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn’t have a space program.”

    • Kurt thialfad

      Why not stabilize our own population growth?

      • Mare Bear

        We are already overpopulated. Comments about other problems always seem to ignore the “elephant in the room” – which is overpopulation of humans. Educate women, give them health care and the right to manage their own reproductive choices and work choices — that is, the autonomy enjoyed by women in the US, Canada, Europe … and population will drop as studies show women tend to delay child bearing if they get an education and work.

        • chrisnfolsom

          This is also an issue of stable governments as much of the child issue is security. If you don’t have a bank to put savings in, a house to come home to, and health care to keep your children alive, not to mention an environment without war – you have to have a lot of children for your own survival, or you will be homeless and penniless on your own in your old age – its not their fault.

    • Ehkzu

      We will never find another place to live. No other planet in our solar system is inhabitable or even terraformable, and it would take our fastest spacecraft over 70,000 years to reach the nearest other star (Proxima Centauri), with no guarantee that that star has habitable planets.
      And even if a few people on a colony ship could get there through living many, many, many generations on the ship–and the ship didn’t break down irreparably over those 70,000 years–99.9% of Earth’s population would still be hosed.
      Venus could be made habitable through installing a “parasol” at its L1 position to cool it down (the surface is now hot enough to melt lead) and then crashing innumerable ice comets into the planet to give it water…it would only take a few million years of unrelenting effort that absorbed most of Earth’s collective GNP to accomplish it….

      • chrisnfolsom

        People don’t realize that Earth as we live here today is in a specific period where things are as calm as we know. There are so many variables and we really are at the point where we can control many aspects of our weather and environment, but we need to talk and organize.

  • Commnt8r

    Does your guest know about biomimicry? It is being used more and more to guide the development of buildings and built environments – city planning. There is a recent report called the Genius of Biome, and an architect at global fiirm HOK proposes to use biomimicry to rebuilt post Superstorm Sandy.

  • Kurt thialfad

    Are you a proponent of stabilizing human population growth? Today the US is the 3rd most populous country, after China and India, in a world of over 7 billion people. How many more, carbon dioxide producing humans can the planet take? And not that only one country among the top three has a national population policy.

    • jurgispilis

      So right on! If we don’t manage our numbers, nature definitely will!

    • chrisnfolsom

      There are some natural limiting factors of illness and rescources. I like to think of humanity as the human petree dish. We need to treat ourselves as one large group and realize that a bad sickness could (will) hit us hard and we are not beyond a war, and if we dont watch it food and other rescources will create large problems.

  • Robert Thomas

    This sort of speculation is a lot of fun!

    Writers for _Wired_ are very amusing.

    But who can doubt that the most likely response that the developed world will have when

    1) it finally internalizes that abrupt, human-driven climate change is a threat to its existence and

    2) the rest of the world has more dire things to deal with and can’t afford to pay much attention

    will be the sad but inevitable decision to do away with several billion helpless people, probably among those inhabiting Africa, Asia and Latin America?

    How is this reasoning escapable? I mean, as long as we’re “thinking about larger narratives”.

    • Ehkzu

      Not to mention the fact that oxygen is not a “natural” part of the atmosphere. It’s the byproduct of plant processes–and 3/4 of the world’s oxygen is produced by the tropical rain forests, which are being cut down so rapidly it’s easily visible from space.

      Which would mean, if need be, going to war with the tropical countries that are allowing this to occur….

  • Ehkzu

    This program has been going along for 40 minutes without one word about the reason why human carbon emissions are threatening our (and other species): overpopulation.
    If there were one billion humans (as we had in 1800) instead of seven billion, none of the things we do as a species would be impacting global climate.
    Conversely, none of the mitigation measures discussed will help if the population keeps growing at the rate of over 140 more people on Earth every minute, as is the case now.
    And even now we’d need 1.7 Earths to sustain our current numbers indefinitely.
    So we don’t just need population stabilization–we need population reduction, or we will inevitably make the planet considerably less habitable than it is now.
    China’s One Child policy anyone?

    • Karl W. Braun

      If by “carbon” emissions you mean CO2, this is all based on a dubious proposition which pretty much has run its course. Many attempts have been made to determine the earth’s human carrying capacity, starting with Malthus and more recently Ehrlich et al, but it seems that human population can continue to rise. If anything, perhaps the world in general should be brought up to the living standards of the developed countries, which seem to have the lowest levels of population growth.

      • Dr. A. Cannara

        You might want to study the carbon cycle”, Karl, because you clearly don’t understand it.

  • Andy

    while new tech developments are certainly fascinating, doesn’t this skirt the issue that cities by their nature are extremely resource demanding? isn’t this just as much an issue of culture and social organization than tech?

    • Ehkzu

      Cities are not necessarily that resource-demanding; far worse is the suburban sprawl that’s eliminating huge amounts of American farmland. And cities can be made far, far more energy-efficient, starting with turf & shrub roofs to all buildings and making the buildings thick-walled and small-windowed (as is true of traditional architecture in Arab desert countries), so they need less power consumed for air conditioning.

      • Andy

        the problem is that citizens require food. that in and of itself is an extreme resource demand. with agriculture, erosion and desertification follows. always. unless that food is grown solely for subsistence around the immediate population around that produced food, more land and more resources will be needed to feed cities, restarting the whole process of erosion, desertification, and resource expense to produce more.

        • chrisnfolsom

          Unfortunately the only solutions is holistic which means we will have to give up some freedoms and the false idea that we are all in complete control of our own domain….we all know we are not running at our highest efficiency, but to get more efficient we will need to be more organized which means less of this crazy unregulated free market capitalism – we still need to have and reward innovation, but as it works today is a problem.

  • chrisnfolsom

    We really need to work with the politics of this and work with the Science/climate change deniers. But, we need to do it in a strategic way as just clashing against them and their beliefs. In dealing with some online it is quite depressing and we can see the political implications of people who would rather ruin “the government” then give in, or learn. We need to use our science and knowledge to first work with our people so we can really maximize our ability to perform some of these solutions.

  • Chris OConnell

    We are in a mass extinction period right now. Species are dying off every day. Our time will come.

    • chrisnfolsom

      I think if you believe the earth if 6000 years old this means nothing to you – if you have any knowledge of how crazy the earth’s history has really been – even in the not too distant past – you will be scared, but still not really aware…

    • Karl W. Braun

      Which ones, pray tell?

      • Hopefully you.

        • Karl W. Braun

          That’s species, Mr. hammermann. See ya!

  • chrisnfolsom

    Regarding the ocean acidification – as an aquarium enthusiast I have seen this when you have and imbalance in your aquarium to the point that you can see damage on fish scales and snails (and many other effects) just because CO2 was just “a little bit higher” and I know those with Salt Water aquariums have the same situation with reef tanks.

    • Ehkzu

      Within 50 years the Earth’s oceans will be too acidic for shellfish to secrete their shells and hard corals to build their homes. Then the world’s shellfish and coral reefs will go extinct, along with the habitats for food fish that go with that. Instead we’ll have algal slime mats and huge jellyfish.
      Yum.

      • chrisnfolsom

        I hope not, as there will be many other problems – as coral reefs are nurseries for many of our fish AND many fish cannot grow to adults in this environment so they will also be gone …

  • chrisnfolsom

    To all the deniers – I am sympathetic to your position, but your argument has little validity unless you live on your own and use no “scientifically” created devices as you have already given into science to support your life so please get out of the way when they tell you something you don’t like as you are already dependent on them for your survival.

    • Kurt thialfad

      What is a denier? We have holocaust deniers, evolution/creation deniers, AIDS deniers, and climate change deniers, etc. What is denier? A denier is someone who has a point of view on the Holocaust, on AIDS, on Evolution, and on climate change, etc. But his point of view is not exactly the same as your point of view.

      • chrisnfolsom

        There is a difference between denying, or disagreeing when you have conflicting facts to work with and do not cling to beliefs which are not based on any facts or observation. I understand the conflicts, but many things based on religion have had to change and will continue to – you have to adapt, we all do – scientists most of all as new findings constantly change their views, or evolve into new views. If your God, or religion cannot work within the science we are currently working with then there will continue to have problems.

        If you strategy is to destroy or discredit the institutions and individuals doing the work which besides filling in the gaps of our evolutionary models also provides research and students curing disease, weather (global warming), developing materials science and all the other incredible things our schools provide – I and many will not allow it. I am done “being nice” to people who continue to undercut the very things we need to progress as a country, a world, a species.

    • Karl W. Braun

      What the “deniers” deny is speculation and alarmism posing as science instead of being based on unbiased observation and experiment.

      • Dr. A. Cannara

        What deniers avoid are facts, like sea rise, acidification, etc. They hide in variability of the wimpiest fluid on earth — air — and its temps.

        They’re afraid to address sea rise, which anyone can measure, because it demonstrates 2 facts: grounded ice is melting, and sea water is getting warmer, thus expanding. Karl should be able to determine the ratio of these two effects on sea levels.

        Deniers/fact-avoiders also avoid the very clear reality of where the CO2 now in air & seas has come from. They know they have no way to dispute isotopic analysis which clearly identifies the carbon we’ve added as fossil.

        So, we get continual rehashing of complaints about IPCC models, silly emails, etc. about air temperatures, because fact avoiders have to stay clear of indisputable facts that prove them not only wrong, but suggest they have ulterior motives.

        Perhaps the best of these was the Kochs hiring UC’s Muller to do the Berkeley Whole Earth temperature study, hopefully to discredit the observations of world air temperatures. Unfortunately for the Kochs. Muller & his students determined the published temp records quite correct, and Muller flipped from being a modest GW denier to what any true scientist would be — an acceptor of facts… http://tinyurl.com/cee5glv

  • Dr. A. Cannara

    Climate issues & sea rise are real, and are peanuts compared to ocean acidification. Before 2050, sea chemistry will have been altered to shut down both the natural carbon sequestration cycle and the basses for most sea food chains, upon which even humans depend for 20% of all food protein.

    Today, ocean pH averages levels not seen for >200 million years.

    Anyone not explaining acidification and the combustion industry’s free conversion of >500 billion tons of fossil carbon into $ in their accounts, is not helping to get what needs doing today done.

    Dr. A. Cannara
    650-400-3071
    http://tinyurl.com/7o6cm3u

    • Karl W. Braun

      At most, the pH of the oceans has gone from 8.2 to 8.1. Anything greater than 7.0 is alkaline. Seawater is heavily buffered and tends to stay within a narrow range, though it can vary a bit locally and temporally.

      • Dr. A. Cannara

        Unfortunately, Karl, the fossil, sediment and isotopic records show otherwise. The last glacial period ended with pH at ~8.3. Before the Steam Age, it was 8.2. It’s now 8.1 and less in some regions, especially where coastal upwelling of deep waters occurs.

        The rate of change has increased along with our rate of combustion — now ~9 billion tons of CO2 per year. About 40% of historically-emitted CO2 is now in oceans, adding carbonic acid, like soda pop. That will continue even if we stopped all combustion tonight.

        Natural buffering isn’t capable of our exceeding the natural carbon cycle by a factor of ~30 each year. And, 7.0pH is meaningless as a safe goal, because the carbonate chemistry of oceans and their carbon-sequestering creatures requires a net alkalinity above 7.9pH. We’re heading down to that before 2050.

        You can find all the data on the subject easily via NOAA, USGS, AAAS…even Google. The myth that anything above 7pH is good is just as much a myth as the Tooth Fairy.

        And, the problem is far more imminent and serious than either global warming or sea rise.

        Call me if you can’t find documentation. Karl.

        • Dr. A. Cannara

          My “~9 billion tons of CO2 per year” should have read either ~9B tons of Carbon” or “~27B tons of CO2”.

          In either measure, we swamp the natural carbon cycle by a factor of ~30, and have been doing similar for many years.

        • Karl W. Braun

          I’m using standard chemical definitions of pH. A pH of 7 is termed neutral, anything less is acidic while anything greater is basic or alkaline. So the contention is that the oceans are becoming less alkaline. Now the 8.3 you mention occurring at the end of the latest glaciation was of course an estimate taken by indirect means, by means of a proxy. What is the associated margin of error in this case?

          I would be pleased to view any documentation that you find to be most relevant on this matter. You may provide links here as a reply, or on FB under my name.

          • Dr. A. Cannara

            Karl, you understand the English language, right? So your desperate wiggle that “acidification” must mean that something is now below pH 7.0 is false. Like “sweetening” doesn’t mean something “sweetened” is now “sweet”, acidification doesn’t mean something is now acidic. To use your own words, it’s “less alkaline” and “more acidic”. We know you know we know you know this, Karl.

            So, now that all here see you’re willing to manipulate our language to try to shore up a weak argument, you already know where you can find all the info you want about ocean chemistry and acidification that’s been moved by human fuel burning over just 150+ years to values not seen in over 200 million years.

            You can start with Caldeira’s work at Stanford & CMU, DePaolo’s Planetary Sciences group at UC Berkeley, and you can even look up things like Vostok ice cores, fossil & sediment analyses, etc.

            You have a very cutesy FB page, Karl. Spend some time on pages that deliver real information.
            ;]

  • Mare Bear

    It is utterly shocking that “we will get over it” is the message Ms Wilson wants to impart. Human beings are overpopulating the planet, and this and the consequent increase in greenhouse gases, notably CO2 but there are others, is causing our planet to develop a greenhouse effect: global warming.

    Here’s the projection and a brief explanation of the map of warming temperatures on Earth through 2100, from NASA:

    http://www.weather.com/video/earth-scary-scenario-by-2100-38145

    NASA has developed an entire website about climate change:

    http://climate.nasa.gov/
    – See more at:
    http://www.pacificariptide.com/pacifica_riptide/2013/07/peter-loeb-sues-city-of-pacifica-over-highway-widening.html#sthash.5XWxhOj0.dpuf

  • Anne Tigan

    Has Annalee Newitz read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? She puts great stock in our brilliant tool-making ability. but you need raw materials first.

  • Yeah, she underplayed the ongoing warming disaster taking place as we speak. Here’s the rub for humanity; its not sea level rise, or bigger hurricanes, or even ocean acidification (though that’s major as an extinction causer); it’s massive AGW drought caused famine that will kill billions!!! In the last 5 years Europe, America, Russia, Australia have suffered unprecedented droughts, with 40-60% crop failure. When that happened in 2 or 3 areas at once, there won’t be food for 7 bil humans, food will go up 5-10-fold in price and a billion odd people will starve to death. Civilization may break down under the strain, countries invading neighbors with water + food, and bird flus will rip through the billions of weakened and starving people. Sulfur abatement (injecting sulfur into jet exhausts) will be launched to cool the baking planet, to increase more and more as the CO2 load rises- which may destroy the ozone layer, and certainly will acidify the oceans. I expect all this to start within 10 years.

    None of those mass extinctions were caused by a life form- we are the ultimate parasite, and will pay a terrible price for it soon. We are not immune from the iron laws of overpopulation- we are deer headed for a crash. In Jared DIamond’s brilliant analysis of collapsed and sustainable civilizations (Collapse), the primary destroyer of Mayan, Greenland Norse, Anasazi, etc.. was climate change. I’ve written on this since my second article 33 years ago: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

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