[ExI] Terraforming Earth

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Wed Sep 6 23:48:56 UTC 2017

On Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 12:24 PM, Tara Maya <tara at taramayastales.com> wrote:
> It seems to me that the only real way to do that is to use technology to extend land that families can move onto, develop themselves, in the old frontier fashion. Not at a lower technological level, the way most “off the grid” types now, but in a way that decentralizes but extends the grid—in a high tech way. Cheap, easy to use tech that turns dead land, like tundra, desert and empty ocean into territory where people can build houses and towns and new states.

The main challenge there is not environmental but urban, specifically
transportation.  People have been gathering in cities since ancient
times, but especially since the Industrial Revolution, because being
so close to distribution centers and other people makes life better in
so many ways.  Better paying and more diverse jobs, access to services
that are only practical to implement for city-sized crowds (and thus
that rural folk must do without), not needing to spend so much time
going from place to place ("wonders of the scenic journey" aside, as a
day-to-day matter most people prefer whatever practical option is
closest to teleportation that technology and circumstance make
available), et cetera and so forth.

Nothing is preventing people from building cities on a particular
patch of tundra or desert (Phoenix, for example) if there is good
enough reason to build there.  But there isn't, for the most part.
There is reason to build out along the edges of existing urban areas,
but there is a limit to how practical that is (until and unless a new
industrial center springs up, reducing commute times in its area and
spawning its own suburbs).

> Energy and liquid water seem to be the biggest challenges on land.

If you want this in a microcosm, look at plans to urbanize the Pacific
side of the San Francisco Bay Peninsula region (San Mateo & Santa Cruz
counties).  There is a lot of undeveloped land, within easy commute
distance of a region (the SF Bay side) with lots of jobs and lots of
people wanting to live in the area.  Developing a hilly area with that
nearby should be easy relative to planting a city in desert hundreds
of miles from the nearest significant civilization, right?  But if you
investigate, you will soon discover that mere transportation - simply
getting people and supplies in and out of the region, day by day - is
a larger issue than energy and water, even just looking at
technological (rather than political, legal, and financial) factors.

(I once wrote a science fiction setting where a colonized planet had
two main settlements, one industrially-focused and one
biologically-focused, on the planet's two main continents.  They built
a long bridge between them...and some people settled in along this
bridge, starting at either end, as well as a midway waypoint since the
bridge took 2 days to cross with the colony's starting technology.
Since this was a primary economic focus of the planet, the bridge
cities grew naturally, both outward and along the bridge until they
met, resulting in a megacity focused around the bridge - with
redundant spans sideways and vertically added over time, of course.
You might try envisioning turning California Highway 92 or 84 into a
smaller version of that, where they pass over SF Bay and/or over the
hills to the west.)

> While I expect most food production to be dominated by a few huge companies, I think that having thousands of tiny, family owned farms/gardens, which operate autonomously enough to not be the main occupation of the family who owns them, would be fantastic.

If they just operate and manufacture food without that much daily
involvement by the family, what is to stop a corporation from buying
them up as the investments they are?  And then you get back to huge
factory farms, as demonstrated today.  It's almost as if antitrust
needs to be applied to farms (except, there aren't quite that few
farming corporations).

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