16 Apr Life is like a PC
In her book, “The World is Blue“, Dr. Sylvia Earle, the National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, uses the analogy that Life is like a PC and human beings are wantonly destroying various components in the PC, without realizing that the PC could crash as a result.
If Life is a PC, then humans represent the CPU that is overheating the PC even as it is frying various components on the motherboard. The scary part is that the applications running on just two of the seven cores in the CPU are responsible for most of the overheating and the component frying, since most consumption is occurring due to the top 2 billion of the nearly 7 billion humans on the planet. To make matters worse, Bill Gates is dedicating $50B of his money along with $30B from Warren Buffett in order to boot up the same applications on the other five cores in the CPU. One would think that he would spend some of that money to swap out the software on the problem cores, but…
Bill Gates has been crashing PCs for a living. This time, it is serious!
In the case of Life, the crashed PC might take about 10 million years to reboot, going by the last 5 major crashes that have occurred. The last crash was when the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. The rebooted PC will most likely be powered by a brand new CPU, just as the dinosaurs were replaced by mammals and eventually humans. Therefore, it is a good idea for humans to change the software on the problem cores to prevent all that overheating and component-frying before the Life PC crashes.
Despite the hype on the publicity blurbs, in my opinion, Dr. Earle’s book is not the “Silent Spring” of our generation. You won’t catch Rachel Carson recommending that humans confine their DDT spraying over 70% of the earth’s surface, in the vain hope that the other 30% will clean up the resulting mess.
The Earth has been sending all sorts of signals that it cannot support even 2 billion ultissimo predators, to use Dr. Earle’s characterization. It is not right for her to criticize the Japanese and Norwegian appetite for whale meat, while defending the American appetite for beef. Yes, there are a billion odd cows on the planet while there are only a few thousand whales left, but all those cows didn’t spring out of natural ecosystems. While the Americans may not have eaten all the mountain lions, the Indians may not have eaten all the tigers and the Chinese may not have eaten all the giant Pandas, they all might as well have done so. They certainly caused the habitat losses that has resulted in the near extinction of these magnificent animals through their appetite for beef, milk and pork, respectively.
Therefore, it doesn’t make sense for Dr. Earle to claim that humans can somehow optimize the Earth’s photosynthetic bounty through careful resource management, and thus sustainably support 7 to 9 billion ultissimo predators in the future. I wouldn’t think so. At least, not a chance as predators.
It would seem that there is no way of stopping the Life PC from crashing without changing the software in those two problem CPU cores and before it infects the other cores. The new software should have sound power management to prevent overheating and must respect the roles of all the components in the PC to ensure that they don’t get fried. That requires a spiritual awakening among the top 2 billion human consumers worldwide, which cannot be achieved by simply reserving 30% of the ocean as marine sanctuaries, while encouraging human depredation on the remaining 70% of the high seas.