a bonobo humanity?

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

Posts Tagged ‘migration

global warming worries

leave a comment »

Gaia Vince strikes me as a positive type, as opposed to an optimist. An optimist, as I see it, is someone who just feels that the future will be better than the past – that ‘something will turn up’ – while a positivist (not of the logical type) explores and promotes solutions, generally with the requisite realism – nary a solution that doesn’t entail its own problems.

Nomad Century is a remarkable book, which tries to pack as many possible solutions to the global warming situation as possible in a couple of hundred pages, while recognising that the situation is already serious enough to warrant collaborative international action to support the most vulnerable, who are also largely the most innocent in terms of creating the crisis. In this post I’ll try to summarise these ideas and solutions, principally for my own referential purposes.

  1. Migration

Our history is all about migration. I’m a migrant. Nations, borders, passports and visas are ultra-modern phenomena. Migration has brought helpful genetic input to receiving populations. Clearly we will not bring global warming to less than 1.5c before 2050, probably not even close. We have a responsibility to help those who will increasingly suffer from drought, flooding and fire in coming decades. And while migration is generally a benefit to all, in spite of xenophobic attitudes, planned migration will be much more successful. The United Nations, and other international organisations that have some heft in the world, need to step up as the situation worsens. We need to recall that global society is entirely reliant on movement – of goods. Australia was once a hub of manufacturing. I know, it provided me with employment for much of my youth. Now those goods, including motor vehicles, are pretty much entirely imported, while we rely on exports, mostly of iron ore, coal and gas, to China, Japan and other Asian countries. International trade has expanded muchly in recent decades, creating levels of interdependence never before seen, and yet we tend to be obsessed with guarding our borders. To quote Vince:

As humanity faces its greatest environmental challenge – a population of 10 billion people, resource limitations, and a demographic crisis – we should not be handicapping ourselves by limiting our most important survival tool. We will only meet our global challenges through planned and extensive human movement and redistribution…. we need lawful, safe, planned and facilitated migration.

2. Population

I recall as a kid reading, probably in an out-of-date textbook, that our human population was around 3 billion. In fact we got to one billion early in the 19th century, after some 300,000 years of existence. The World Population Clock now has it at a little over 8 billion, and it will certainly be over 9 billion by mid-century. However, in most WEIRD nations the growth is slow or negative, while nations such as Niger and South Sudan have much higher birth rates. This raises issues around ageing populations, which could be balanced by immigration.

In 2008 the world population became officially more urban than rural, and internal migration to cities continues apace. Cities and their governance and future planning are thus becoming an increasingly vital factor in climate change mitigation. With effective collaboration within and between urban centres, solutions to urban problems re pollution and carbon emissions can be multiplied and shared. The greening of cities is often seen as a benefit in itself, which citizens of differing ideologies can get behind. Environmentalist writer Ihni Jon quotes city planners in Darwin:

We’re trying to create a more pleasant environment in the city for people to roam around and hang out more, which could help the economy of our city. ‘Creating a pleasant condition’, or ‘creating a destination’, has become the motivator for planners to be engaged more with nature and the environment in general.

Then again, the question needs to be asked – how bearable will the environment be in a city like Darwin in the second half of this century? Today is the first official day of spring in Australia, and it has just been announced that the winter just completed was the warmest since records have been kept. And so it goes.

3. Decarbonisation

Everybody is talking about this, but fossil fuel emissions continue to increase. As Vaclav Smil tells us clearly in How the world really works, we’re far from finding ‘replacement’ energy for air travel, shipping and agriculture. Our agriculture industry has been revolutionised since the early 1900s by the mass-production of ammonia (NH3), As the Climate Portal puts it:

…ammonia has to be made at a high pressure under high temperatures—meaning it takes a lot of energy to manufacture. Most of that energy comes from burning fossil fuels like coal and methane gas, which give off the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the main cause of climate change.

CO2 emissions from ammonia production make up between 1% and 2% of the whole. Emissions from agriculture in general make up around 12%, while a little over 14% comes from transportation. Arguably the sector that can most ‘easily’ be transformed is the ‘general energy’ sector – households and businesses using fossil fuel-based electricity, and gas, for heating, cooling and multitudinous appliances. But we’re a long way from making inroads even in this sector, and we’ve only just managed, more or less, to convince the general population that global warming is a real thing with serious consequences for the biosphere.

With the human population very much on the rise, and the ongoing quest to raise living standards for all, the pressure is on to find solutions. Nuclear fission is an option, and it’s disappointing to note the degree of misinformation around this technology. Australia would be a better location than most, but there seems little public appetite here, perhaps because our climate and open spaces are so well suited to solar. Much has been reported about small modular reactors (SMRs):

The term SMR refers to the size, capacity and modular construction only, not to the reactor type and the nuclear process which is applied. Designs range from scaled down versions of existing designs to generation IV designs. Both thermal-neutron reactors and fast-neutron reactors have been proposed, along with molten salt and gas cooled reactor models.

Again, the appetite just doesn’t seem to be there, and nuclear fusion, which I’ve recently written about, looks to be far into the future still.

Lifestyle change, in terms of what we eat, how we build or refit our homes, and how we recycle our waste, will help, but not enough. A sense of urgency is rising among the cognoscenti, but with the world so divided in other areas (Russia, China, Iran, the USA, etc), it may take a real kick up the biospheric arse (a devastating El Niño?) to wake us up to truly collective action. Meanwhile, we may need to loosen our cherished borders a bit to help those already affected by global warming.

There are some interesting techno-solutions I’ve half-learned about through reading Nomad Century, and I’ll try to learn more about them via a future post.


Gaia Vince, Nomad century, 2022

Ihni Jon, Cities in the Anthropocene, 2021


Vaclav Smil, How the world really works, 2022


Written by stewart henderson

September 4, 2023 at 8:50 pm

the help

leave a comment »


too much imagined in a smile, or not

that is the question.

youth, age, weave with guilt and fading hope

smiles and glances, wondering at wondering.

language will fix it, and it will

fix it.

Her need is clear, surely, and I can help.

No matter that I can help others, many others.

My choice is selfish, not immoral.

Think of the harm principle.

And fuck you.


It will probably not come to that anyway,

and life will go drearily on.

Written by stewart henderson

August 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Posted in refugees

Tagged with , , , ,