“’Robocopping’ the Planet: Geo-engineering the Planet’s Climate system,” Mickey Glantz 1 June 2010

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies

Published on June 01, 2010 with 4 Comments

Mickey Glantz,

1 June 2010

Almost twenty-five years ago, the Hollywood movie Robocop appeared on the silver screen. The plot summary was quite simple, according to IMDB: “In a dystopic** and crime ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the police force as a powerful cyborg,” part human and part machine. robocop-bigposter-orig

It seems that the scientific community and governments around the world are following the Robocop plot, applying it, by analogy, to plant and animal species around the entire planet. For example, we continue to drive animals in the wild towards extinction but try to save a few for our zoos. Other species, known to be endangered, have continually increased in value to those who seek their products – the rhino for its horn (an alleged aphrodisiac in Asia) and the lowland gorilla for its paws (used as ash trays!) are two prominent examples. Less well known are the wetlands that are everywhere being drained and the rainforests that are worldwide being cut down for political and economic reasons. Indeed, we persistently destroy good, productive farmland and then attempt to grow the same amounts of food in less suitable soils and climates.

These are but a few apt examples around the planet of the Robocop analogy: we destroy different parts of the earth’s surface then we resort more and more to technologies to create artificial environments to replace those environments we have destroyed. This growing trend has led to a nasty cycle wherein artificially created ‘technovironments’ are becoming more valuable to people, both economically and perceptually, than those natural environments that are being replaced. In recent years, this situation has emerged in consideration of the global climate system.

A couple of thousand scientists from around the globe have published their consensus view that many human activities are now producing greenhouse gases that are intensifying the naturally occurring greenhouse effect. As a result, the atmosphere of planet earth is heating up. The concern is that this heating will increase temperatures by at least 2 to 3 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century if not sooner. The question, of course, is whether or not societies and the ecosystems on which they depend can adapt to the changes that accompany climate change, especially at the rapid rates at which those changes could realistically occur. The consensus of those couple of thousand scientists who participated in the 4th assessment report of the Nobel Prize winning IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) appears to be that societies will be unable to keep up with those changes; even so, there is as yet apparently not enough political will to stop the industrial and land-use practices that continue to produce such greenhouse gas emissions.

Enter Robocop . . . by analogy. The response of some key members of the scientific communities in both the USA and Europe has been to propose various ways (theoretical conjectures, really) to control the planet’s climate, either by ratcheting down the temperature or at least controlling it so that it does not turn into a runaway greenhouse effect. They have proposed mimicking volcanic eruptions by spewing aerosols into the stratosphere, evaporating sea water to brighten lower level clouds that prevent the sun’s rays from reaching the earth’s surface, putting millions of mirrors in space, creating artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide out of the air, and so on.

The reality is that a field of artificial carbon-sucking tree-like technological devices is not a forest. Nor will it ever be. Pumping ever-increasing amounts of societally emitted greenhouse gases into the air is converting our atmosphere into an artificial (non-natural) environment. The question is when is a cyborg no longer a cyborg? At what point does replacing yet another living part of the planet with yet another technological device, further converting the cyborg – which is, at this point, partially natural life and partially designed machine – turn the entire planet into little more than a crudely assembled technological device? When does the earth as ‘technovironment’ become a much less-than-perfect “Robocopy” of the original living system so well described by James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis?James Lovelock

Geoengineering schemes are being proposed because governments seem to have put on the back-burner efforts to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. They are likely to muddle along until a full-blown climate crisis occurs. They will continue to build coal-fired power plants, while trying to figure out how to suck that excess carbon dioxide out of the air. They will continue to cut down forests and try to manufacture artificial trees. They will do anything they can to continue “business as usual” and therefore they will not reduce the carbon emissions on which they now depend for economic development. In other words, their true interest lies in “Robocopping the planet’s climate.” If adaptations through such science fictions are allowed to continue, humanity is lost.

The reality is that modern humans have not been around very long. Policymakers should be reminded each day of this truism: while we need much of the natural environment kept intact, it does not need us at all.

** Dystopia: An imagined universe (usually the future of our own world) in which a worst-case scenario is explored; the opposite of utopia. Dystopic stories have been especially influential on postmodernism, as writers and filmmakers imagine the effects of various aspects of our current postmodern condition, for example, the world’s take-over by machines (The Matrix); the social effects of the hyper-real (Neuromancer); a society completely run by media commercialism (The Running Man); the triumph of late capitalism (Blade Runner); bureaucratic control run amok (Brazil, 1984); and so on.


There are currently 4 Comments on “’Robocopping’ the Planet: Geo-engineering the Planet’s Climate system,” Mickey Glantz 1 June 2010. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. Thanks Mickey.
    The biblical saying – “You shall reap what you sow” or karma is relevant to what humans have been doing to the environment. And we don’t know what we are going to harvest from Geo-engineering.

  2. What follows is a “bolus of insight” from a great poet regarding a breach between a civilization and “the strong earth”.

    The Purse-seine, by Robinson Jeffers, 1937

    …….I cannot tell you
    How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible,
    then, when the crowded fish
    Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall
    to the other of their closing destiny the
    Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body
    sheeted with flame, like a live rocket
    A comet’s tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside
    the narrowing
    Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up
    to watch, sighing in the dark; the vast walls
    of night
    Stand erect to the stars.

    Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top
    On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light:
    how could I help but recall the seine-net
    Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how
    beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible.
    I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together
    into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now
    There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable
    of free survival, insulated
    From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all
    dependent. The circle is closed, and the net
    Is being hauled in…….

  3. We are not bound to win but we are bound to be true; we are not bound to succeed but we are bound to live up to the light we possess.
    -President Barack H. Obama, (quoting former President Abraham Lincoln)

    Truth is not only violated by falsehood;
    it may be equally outraged by silence…. See More
    -Henri-Frederic Amiel

    Speak out as if you were a million voices.
    It is silence that kills the world.
    -St. Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380

    • thanks steve, you send quotes of others but what does STEVE think? (in his own words).

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