Thursday, April 12, 2007

Buildings Declared Safe!

My April Fools Day post about buildings causing the rapid decay of the Earth's orbit was, of course, a spoof. I've had enough e-mails about it to know how Orson Welles felt! So, really, buildings are OK.

Yet, by design, the spoof was not entirely (or even a little) off point to my recent series of posts. After all, the focus on climate change these days is not just that climate change is happening, but that humans are contributing to it. If the climate change many postulate will occur in the next 100 years were purely a natural phenomenon, like the decay of the Earth's orbit (yes, it is naturally decaying, but don't worry--it is happening really, really slowly!), we'd be discussing it in vastly different terms. We might be considering how human behavior adjustments could alter the path on which nature otherwise would take us, but we would most likely not be vilifying particular sectors of human society quite the way we are today.

As with my post about buildings and Earth's orbit, however, that's not what many believe is happening. There is evidence that humans are contributing to climate change, and some sectors of society more so than others, so accountability is on the table. Yet not all the postulated climate change is necessarily attributable to human-induced effects. So I tried through my spoof to show how complicated it is to try to sort out natural from human-induced effects and to design responses.

Some of the current rhetoric on climate change provided fodder for the spoof. After all, much like growing carbon sequestration forests to reduce climate change, removing mountains to reduce "rapid orbital decay" tends to confuse cause and response--why remove a mountain (or grow a forest) to offset a human-induced effect that can be controlled at the source? Similarly, the idea of ocean-going vessels carrying huge, heavy payloads to "steer" the Earth's orbit is akin to all the talk about adaptation to climate change. Yet, to ignore the opportunities presented by carbon sequestration and adaptation to climate change is to potentially make the consequences of climate change even more severe. We're in a pickle.

All a long way of saying, don't worry, it's OK to live in and enjoy your building, but don't get too comfy. That said, I am still working out my take on markets and cumulative effects. That's proving, to me at least, as difficult to work through as the idea of steering the Earth between MAXCAT and MINCAT!

And for anyone still concerned about the effects of buildings on Earth's orbit, worry no more. In the upcoming issue of Orbitological , Professor Truman Holtobar shows that buildings are not the problem at all. Rather, the real problem is....


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