[LMB] OT: Practice for terraforming Beta Colony on Earthly deserts.

Matthew George matt.msg at gmail.com
Tue Jun 22 00:56:30 BST 2021

On Mon, Jun 21, 2021 at 1:01 PM Pouncer via Lois-Bujold <
lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk> wrote:

> [ I'm trying out a new "sig" line.  What do you think of
> this Bujold quote?]
> --
> Now, there's this about cynicism, Sergeant. It's the universe's most
> supine moral position. Real comfortable. If nothing can be done, then
> you're not some kind of shit for not doing it, and you can lie there and
> stink to yourself in perfect peace.

I think it's a condemnation of what's actually a pretty good description of
Buddhism, albeit one made with very heavily weighted language.

You're right, of course, that Antarctica is technically a desert - the
world's largest, IIRC.  But it's nature is so different from that of most
other deserts that we don't normally think about it that way.  The
challenges that make even the most ruthless, ecologically destructive, and
'unsustainable' exploitation of Antarctica are so great that no one's
bothered.  Desert soils are often very rich, since precipitation doesn't
carry away water-soluble minerals and nutrients, but Antarctica doesn't
*have* soil.  That isn't buried under a great deal of ice, at least.

The Sahara was created, is being maintained, and is growing, by human
action.  It's the most obvious large candidate for ecological remediation.
Smaller targets suggest themselves, too.  For example, there's a famous
grassland in the New World, mentioned in a Discover magazine article from
many years ago, that once had grasses more than nine feet tall - and is now
a shrubby desert.  Studying it has revealed a great deal about how plants
increase rainfall levels, how desert plants' concentration of nutrients and
water actually reinforce the nature of deserts - and how grazing can
convert a stable grassland ecology into a stable desert by altering climate
equilibria.  But it offers less scope and less reward, so let's look only
at the Sahara for starters.

How would I start remediating the Sahara?  First step, kill the Berbers.
They can't be persuaded to stop, there are too many to control, and
attempting to relocate or control them would require more atrocities than
most organizations would consider tenable.  Global reaction, too, must be
taken into account, and humanity would never permit the steps that would
have to be taken.  Mass murder is the approach offering the greatest
chances of success.

Do you see why I don't usually bother to offer solutions, Pouncer?  Most of
the potential solutions, as opposed to methods of making ourselves feel
good about how virtuous we are, are distressingly Final.  There's no way to
even begin addressing the world's problems in a meaningful way without
killing billions - thus avoiding even more billions of deaths in the
future, but humans aren't good at thinking ahead.

Matt "can't make omelettes without committing genocide" G.

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