One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet: Beyond Sustainability.

First Published:

Table of Contents

Our planet is finite. There is a finite surface, finite resources, and even finite time.

On a planet without humans, there would be as little as 25 million years remaining for any complex life.

It took until around the 1700s for many to know the finite surface, and until the 20th century for many to consider implications of finite resources and think sustainability. One finite planet is about the next step: recognising that time is also finite and, even provided humanity does nothing to end things prematurely, there is as little as 2% of the time Earth can support now remaining. Sustainability alone, is a death sentence.

Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.”

Attributed to Kenneth Boulding in: United States. Congress. House (1973) 

Our planet is finite. There is a finite surface, finite resources, and even finite time.

On a planet without humans, there would be as little as 25 million years remaining for any complex life.

It took until around the 1700s for many to know the finite surface, and until the 20th century for many to consider implications of finite resources and think sustainability. One finite planet is about the next step: recognising that time is also finite and, even provided humanity does nothing to end things prematurely, there is as little as 2% of the time Earth can support now remaining. Sustainability alone, is a death sentence.

One Finite Planet: Pro-humanity Environmental Advocacy.

Humans have the potential, through our societal evolution capability to develop a solution to the constraints of One Finite Planet. Humans must both exist sustainably and step up and overcome the constraints of One Finite Planet.

Anti-humanity environmental advocacy takes the position that the planet would be perfect without humans, as it is they alone who are ruining the planet. The thinking is the planet does not need humans, their science, or their technology. It is my belief that this thinking is flawed and misses that humans alone can save the planet from inevitable natural disaster.

The problem I have with this thinking, is that it completely overlooks that the planet is also finite in terms of time. If you map the timeline of the solar system on to one year, life on Earth began in January, but is now into the last two days before all life on Earth ends.

Given that even the time the Earth will support life is finite, to ignore our finite constraints, is to just accept that eventually all life on Earth, including us, will come to an end. And in geological time, soon.

Yes, humans can be the cause of the problems for life on Earth, but without some species like humans, there is no solution to the timespan of life being very finite.

Pro-humanity environmental advocacy is that, yes, humans need to look after the planet, but the planet also needs a species like humans, with those advances in science and technology, to prevent, or at least defer, the otherwise inevitable fast approaching end to all life on Earth.

Although that sounds a bleak outlook, provided no one starts a nuclear war, we don’t face another Chicxulub impactor event, gamma ray bursts, or other tragedy that either extinguishes all life, or more likely, completely disrupts human existence, we should have as at least around 25 million years before life on Earth comes to an end. Yes, it could take a million years for us to have the technology to save life on Earth, but the planet does need humans, or at least some other species with the potential to cheat the end that is otherwise inevitable.

Looing to the future is rare. Until recently, no one seemed to think about whether activities were sustainable for even a few centuries. It seems a challenge to get people to worry about human induced climate change, perhaps because it only effects the next generation. People question why humans of today, should worry laying the groundwork to avoid a threat, that will not even crystallise before their grandchildren’s grandchildren would likely face the consequences?

One reason could be if we care about our legacy. When the time comes that humans can escape the limitations, or deal with not being able to survive, would we want to be thought of as representing an era that ‘did our bit‘?

Plus, there is a sense of long-term purpose. Many people have already adopted enough causes, but long-term goals for humanity can be vague, and “saving the life of an entire planet from eventual oblivion” is not a bad long-term goal.

For some people, religion defines their goals. If there is a god, perhaps just as this dog did not intend the domain of humans to be constrained to within a ‘garden of Eden’, or one part of Earth, the domain was never to be constrained to just one planet within a vast universe, or constrained to the time that planet would support life?

For me, “ensuring the continuing survival of the life of an entire planet”, is worthy of inclusion within the goals for humanity, although, just as with battery hens, the goal does need to be higher than just survival.

In practice the goal on “ensuing survival”, becomes one of continuing to pursuit of knowledge and the evolution of technology whilst living sustainably, and as luxuriously as possible. Given that any significant expansion beyond our one finite planet could take at least a millennium, for generations to come, it is about the journey, not the destination. Sustainability and the best possible life for humanity are the foreground, with solving ‘one finite planet’ proving the long-term meaning of life.

The One finite planet website.

Topics, subtopics and explorations as puzzle pieces of a big picture.

Most explorations or ‘exploratory papers’ lead to other related explorations, that become grouped into one or more subtopics and broader overall topics.

The top level: Uniting vision of all pages.

Continued evolution of human society though ‘Tools‘.

From improved clothing though to the internet and smartphones, the possibilities for new tools enabled by new technologies and new knowledge are ever accelerating. These not only bring us ever further along the path being able to extend the existence of life as we know it, but can also enhance our lives, and our ability to all exists resource rich sustainably. The advancement of knowledge and technology is not only essential for the continued existence of the species of planet Earth, that advancement can also make us happy.

Sustainability.

Short-term thinking is the enemy of sustainability. Even sustainability extremists can think short-term, as without humans and technology, sustainability is at least certain until the CO2 has to be too low. Progress extremists can make the same type of mistake in underestimating how long we need nature. Yes, perhaps after we have 100 Earth size planets, we could afford to let our original home suffer, but we should always have the mission of extending the existence of as much life of Earth as possible!

Bon Voyage!

A person seeing what they consider a wonderful home, can think either:

  1. It is my dream to be able to live in a house like that.
    • Or
  2. I want to live in a world where everyone could live in a home as nice as that.

I have to love the idea of option 2, so that is the philosophy I apply on these pages.

The site Title: One finite planet.

Because we all, myself included, keep forgetting we exist on one finite planet.

It is not just economists who seem to forget exponential growth cannot continue forever.

One, because given it took 4 billion years before life could exist on the surface of this planet, although it will clear take a long time, with only 25 million years remaining for life here, finding another is essential.

Finite, because no matter how obvious it is the planet is finite, our planet is large enough for us to mistakenly overlook that the planet being finite impacts everything, from the environment to the economy.

For me, the combination defines our existence, presents us with a challenge, and a mission to solve that challenge. The definition of sustainability

If humans were already living on an infinite number of planets, then it would not matter that every individual planet was finite, because overall we would have an infinite environment. Reality is, we are at the very least centuries from even one true second planet, with the clock ticking on how long we can survive on this planet.

Population: Topic zero.

The first optic I explored was population. When I was a child, it seemed it seemed everyone accepted continual population growth as normal and could continue forever. It felt like a belief beyond question, almost following from the ‘go forth and multiply’ from religious text. As a result, I had grown up assuming that all life on Earth was constantly increasing in population. Then, it dawned on me that, given we now know the earth is far, far, older than assumed when the biblical texts were created, and long in the past the Earth would have reached its limit if even very slow population growth was sustained over even tens of thousands of years. That finally a triggered a series of light bulb moments of realisations of what I had previously been missing.

In the end, the final picture I have arrived at, is that evolution has resulted in species that can survive for millions of years on a finite planet, and as most species would devastate their own environment within even 5,000 years of unregulated population growth, the fittest species regulate population growth.

Most of our current challenges, from environment, through to how we should live, and how to live together, face huge challenges as a result of the fact that our planet, which for early man seemed infinite, is now noticeably finite.

All of the topics on this site, have a connection with the understanding that we exist on one finite planet. For science topic, the relationship is sort of inverse, as this topic focuses on either basic research for other topics, or explorations of other basic research.

The topics of one finite planet.

Population.

Overpopulated?

What should the global population be? Should we have more people? Or less? How many?

It turns out the answer depends on how much your wealth, or share of the planets resources, exceeds that of the average person.

Less people would increase the wealth of the average person, but more wealth would creates more for those with the greatest wealth and power. This is why wars are all about bringing more people and their lands into empires.

Explosion.

As already explained, as a child of the population explosion of the 20th century, my first fear was this explosion could not continue on a finite planet.

Economics and Consequences. (housing, solutions)

What steps are required to deal with impacts of the either rise or falls in population.

Much of our economic systems was designed in the population explosion, with a focus on leveraging the explosion to create wealth for a rich and powerful minority. The biggest challenge faced by economics today, is how to evolve the system for a ‘post population explosion’ world. Fortunes will be won on lost depending on who gets its right.

Principles.

What determines population, and what population is ideal?

As explained by David Attenborough, population and the environment are linked.

Environment.

Sustainability. (Sustainable vs Finite.)

To early man, our planet appeared infinite.

We now understand that every species has an environmental footprint, as we evolved technology and numbers such that our footprint is noticeable, we eventually learnt a new concept: sustainability.

While the usage of the term sustainable for long term use of a natural resource dates back to  Hans Carl von Carlowitz in 1713, it was not something most people were considering, even after 10 centuries of human civilization.

It was in the 1970s, at the height of the population explosion, when Green political parties first emerged that it became clear that sustainability became a key issue for a significant number of people.

The topic of environment covers:

  • understanding the environment.
  • humans existing without destroying the environment.
  • the environment existing without destroying us humans.

Climate Change.

Covid-19.

It is hard to ignore Covid-19, from when I first suggested it was going to be a wild ride in January 2020.

Clearly the environment is linked to population, and Covid-19 is part of that environment

Threats (others)

This section is currently empty, as no threats beyond Covid-19 and climate change are currently being closely analysed.

Principles. (theory)

How does climate work?

Influence, Wealth & Power.

Influence Industry.

Throughout history, there has been power plays to convince a large population of people to act in a certain manner. There have always been leaders who sought to expand the population they influence in order to increase their power and wealth.

The ability to influence people has now become arguably the largest industry the world has seen, and logic dictates one of the key goals of influencing people is to build empires by encouraging increased population.

Leaders, Followers and Propaganda. (Power)

There is a continuum between leaders who serve the people, and leaders who seek power so the people can server them.

  1. Fragile Democracy.
  2. WWIII – Russia? China?
  3. US 2020 Election

Othering, Tribalism, Terrorism and Religion.

As populations grow, divisions emerge. This topic focuses on the emergence as populations grow.

Wealth and Power: Farming humanity.

This focuses on the link between the influence of wealth, and the implications on a finite planet.

Tools, Toys and Superpowers.

It turns out that through tools, humans can evolve even without updating our genes, and this evolution has enabled humans to dominate this finite planet, and may eventually enable expansion beyond.

Do our ‘tools’ give us superpowers as individuals?

EVs.

The impact of peak population is that humans need to reduce their environmental impact, which means ending the use of fossil fuels, even if it means significantly disrupting two globally significant industries: the oil, gas and coal, and the automotive industry.

  • Living with EVs
  • Reference
  • Impact.
  • EV & Renewables: The realities behind the problems. ( answering the questions)

Robots. (coming soon)

Web Tools.

Bags & Miscellaneous: Other Tools, Gadgets, Enhancements, and Reviews.

Bags (coming soon).

Science (and philosophy)

Science is all about the ground rules of the universe.

Finite Planet and beyond.

What are our boundaries?

Society: Distribution of finite wealth and resources.

  • Wealth Distribution & Inequality
  • Future of Work and Basic Income.
  • (and free trade)

Pure Science and Perception.

The basics, sometimes because someone asked, others times, because I asked.

Includes perception, and is the universe we perceive the real picture?

Technology.

What can we build with our knowledge gained through science?

Finite World: When the world of humanity progressed to ‘finite’.

To the first people on Earth, it must have seemed that no resource was finite, virtually nothing had any known limit. It is not that people believing things infinite, it is that numbers seemed unknowable, and undetermined seemed equivalent to without limits.

There were always new lands to be discovered, hunting animals did not noticeably impact their population, nor did gathering fruit and vegetables make an impact. Fishing did not noticeably impact fish populations.

Most things remained finite until around 1650 CE. At that time no individual even knew of all the continents on Earth making even the amount of land seem unlimited. Sustainable was not a concept people needed to contemplate, as it seemed every thing humans did was inherently sustainable.

Fast forward to the 21st century and there has been a population explosion dramatically increasing the number of humans, and an industrial revolution increasing the impact individuals have on the planet. Now, most people see ‘sustainable’ as essential, but in surprisingly many ways, there are still people who do not, deep down accept the Earth is finite, and sustainability is essential.

One Finite Planet and Sustainability: It is all relative.

Nothing is sustainable without constraints. Every ‘sustainable’ practice is only sustainable within limits as to the number of people who can engage in the practice and the length of time it can continue. In practice, ‘sustainable’ means ‘more sustainable’ rather than absolutely sustainable. Even ‘sustainable’ farming has a limit to the scale and thus the number people it can feed, and on a planet with a finite life, cannot exist forever.

A question becomes, how many people need to be supported for how long for something to be ‘sustainable’? As an extreme example, even breathing air has a limit to the population size before it become unsustainable. There is always a limit.

Some people see perpetual population growth as sustainable, and within a sufficiently small window of time it is sustainable. Others see burning fossil fuels as sustainable for as long as 50 years, and in their eyes that is sustainable, while younger people, or people who care about younger people, may require a longer time to be sustainable.

Then there are others who are in denial. Prior to around 1650 CE, everything seemed sustainable, some feel that whatever has worked since then, must be able to work forever.

Updates.

  • 2017 December 31: First Published.

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