Carl H. Flygt
It’s starting to look like we’re going to need to take scientific control of the Earth’s atmosphere. Hurricanes are getting stronger, leading apparently to regular disruptions of lifestyle and oil supplies, droughts persist in the Middle East and Africa, leading to and cementing intractable social conflicts and unpleasant and barely tolerable weather persists over much of the world’s continental mass, leading to excessive real estate prices in places like California and Hawaii. What we need are smoother weather patterns, where atmospheric moisture is removed and increased according to plan, where temperatures remain more or less isothermal across latitudes and where vegetation and ocean currents are made to harmonize with an overall optimization of pleasantness and predictability. No more hurricanes, no more tornadoes, no more monsoons, no more extreme winters, no more sweltering and stagnant summers and the stagnant forms of culture and consciousness that go with them. Rather, we should aim for an ideal weather, given the parameters already set, but perhaps gradually alterable, by things like mountain ranges, ocean circulations, land masses and other cosmic factors like the tilt of the earth’s axis.
One experiment we might try, beyond the one we are already running with greenhouse gas emission, is to cool the Gulf of Mexico. For much less than $200 billion, the projected cost of cleaning up after Katrina, we could tow a significant number of Arctic icebergs into the Caribbean Sea next July, and maybe that would lower the surface temperatures by enough to blunt next year’s onslaught of hurricanes. If that showed promise, perhaps we could mount huge solar powered water purifiers and icemakers on barges and station them out there. Maybe we could build an undersea wall somewhere that would alter the Gulf Stream enough to get some of that warm water out of the Gulf. Fiddling scientifically with these factors could be no worse, and possibly significantly better, than the unscientific fiddling we have already done.
The weather patterns in the Middle East represent an analogous challenge. The intransigent attitudes of revenge and self-immolation of that area stem in large part from the fact that the place is a natural wasteland. If mangoes and oranges could be plucked from verdant and healthy trees wherever one went, if clover and honey were readily available everywhere in the natural environment, if warm, gentle rain showers occurred every other day between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m., no one would be planning to blow himself up in a local marketplace, and if he were, he would be viewed by the locals as genuinely anomalous. This is basically the neocon vision of the Bush administration. Install enough air conditioned shopping malls stocked with enough shiny things worth working hard to own, and Middle Eastern society will reorganize along progressive lines, gradually forgetting its ancient and backward religious motivations. It might actually work.
Global warming may be a blessing in disguise. Now that America herself is under assault as an unintended consequence of her own profligate habits of consumption and wealth generation, she will certainly turn her considerable engineering talents to the problem of optimizing the global weather. And if anything can be imagined to complement an environmental movement of the mind, which externally at least is what my theory of conversation amounts to, it is a planet settled in life, in light and in an atmosphere as benign, healthy and perpetually pleasant as that of the Fijian islands.