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Airports are in interesting window into architecture and perceptions of the future. When I landed at Vienna International in 2010 it was as if I landed back in the 1970s. In contrast, Frankfurt Airport was the closest I’ve felt to really be pushed into the “gleaming future” you sometimes see in science-fiction films.

With that in mind, lately I’ve been thinking that for some reason the airport at Detroit reminds me of what the future was going to be like in my childhood of the 1980s.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Future 
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700px-BIG_LEAF_MAPLES_HOHIn an article titled Restored Forests Breathe Life Into Efforts Against Climate Change, there’s an interesting portion which talks about how farming techniques relate to reforestation:

Around the world, trees are often cut down to make room for farming, and so the single biggest threat to forests remains the need to feed growing populations, particularly an expanding global middle class with the means to eat better. Saving forests, if it can be done, will require producing food much more intensively, on less land.

Life is about trade-offs, even if you don’t want to admit it. Organic farming uses more land to produce the same amount of food. Basically, it’s a luxury good if you can afford it (and highly profitable for agribusiness!). The poorest farmers in the world are organic producers because they have to. There are many downsides with industrial agriculture, but one of its upsides is that it produces the maximum amount of calories using the minimum amount of land. New England reforested in part because much of the farmland was abandoned due to low productivity (and the availability of much better land in the Old Northwest territories amenable to farms which could take advantage of economies of scale). One major tool of modern farming, genetically modified organisms (GMO), has been resisted and stymied for several decades by public suspicion and adherence to the precautionary principle (e.g., many types of plants which could be easily GMOed are not even in the United States). Most of the time environmentalists are quite skeptical of GMO because of the precautionary principle, but the fact is that “natural” local organic farming can have a much larger carbon footprint than something artificial. To some extent all of human life is touched by artificiality today.

27-shanghai-artist-impressionAnother developing trend which opens up the potential for rewilding spaces now given to human habitation, would be a transition toward greater density and urbanization. As someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest it is striking that here you have a land of contrasts, as small rural towns dependent on logging decline, and the greater Portland and Seattle metropolitan areas have ballooned. Urban dwellers venture to the outdoors quite often, but they do not live in the wild. A shift toward density and vertical habitation would likely result in greater economic efficiency and reduced carbon footprints.

The irony is that the lowest impact future in relation to the environment may be the most ‘high tech.’ A world of mechanized farms growing bioengineered crops, meat cultures grown in vast industrial vats, and the predominant form of habitation being within organically developing arcologies which replace the megacities of today is positively out of science fiction. But, it would also be a much greener world than the ‘natural’ alternatives. With the exception of a scenario that includes mass die off of most of the human race.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Future 
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Life Expectancy Rises Around the World, Study Finds:

A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a new report, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases more associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease.

In the West declinism has set in, for legitimate reasons. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t getting better in the rest of the world. They are. What irritates me is that some of my acquaintances who fancy themselves cosmopolitan internationalists nevertheless engage in declinism, despite their avowed concern for the well-being of humans as a whole. Yet their fixation on the decline in the relative status of their own societies, and their own status, reveals the transparent false signalling nature of their cosmopolitan internationalism.

Mind you, I think it is legitimate to worry about your own, and your society’s, position the relative order of things. But to constructively address this issue you need to not confuse your own station with that of the aggregate whole.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Future, Futurism 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"