Stephen Emmott is a chief techno-wizard at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England. His brilliant young scientists are doing research in complex natural systems. Their objective is to invent miracles. They want to program ordinary cells to perform photosynthesis, so we can produce food from sunlight, without plows and seeds. Agriculture can’t feed ten billion. The goal is to delay the onrushing planetary emergency, and push aside annoying obstacles to perpetual growth.
Much of the public seems to be paying little attention to the emergency, if they are aware of it at all. Biking around the university town where I live, I don’t sense a crisis of overpopulation. I don’t sense that global carbon emissions have increased 400 percent in my lifetime. The squirrels, opossums, ducks, and blue jays have not gone extinct. Life seems normal. Everything is OK. Right?
A wealth of information can be found online, but many internet factoids are generated by slippery gangsters who accumulate riches by accelerating the planetary emergency. You see their work hundreds of times every day. Among their favorite tools are magical rubber stamps that imprint [SUSTAINABLE] with subliminal green ink — [SUSTAINABLE] soil mining, [SUSTAINABLE] forest mining, [SUSTAINABLE] fish mining, [SUSTAINABLE] growth, [SUSTAINABLE] development, and on and on.
Emmott’s clan of brilliant scientists is an oddity. They do not have the rubber stamp. They are not wearing choke chains that will be jerked if they express ideas that offend the mighty. They will not lose their jobs if they conclude that we are in the midst of a planetary emergency. When thinkers are free to learn without blinders and hobbles, they come to perceive reality as an intense whirlwind of out-of-control juju. This can be a head-snapping experience.
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