Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Future Earth

by Richard Crews

Here is my picture of future Earth and future human habitation, evolving gradually over the time period of 50 to 500 years from now.

The coastlines shift quite a bit as the oceans rise a couple of feet, and the temperate agricultural zones migrate away from the equator, closer to the poles. But after a century or so global warming has been halted and turned back as emission of greenhouse gases has been curtailed and the shifting albedo (reflectivity) of the diminishing polar regions has been managed through global ecological engineering. The human population stabilizes at around 10 to 12 billion with almost all people living in urban centers--I would call them "cities" except that they are very different from our present concept of "cities": they are green, open places with airy buildings a mile and more high, layered with living, working, manufacturing, trading, and recreational spaces, and surrounded by miles and miles of park-like fields and forests.

Also, billions of people live in floating "Aquarian" ocean colonies. These are spawned from a few dozen equatorial shoreline sites suitable for ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). Each floating colony grows from a single OTEC with associated mariculture and a few hundred acres of fields and forests, orchards and parks around a central city hub which grows more upward (and with its manufacturing and industrial sections growing downward below the surface of the ocean) than outward. Each starts as a colony, culturally and industrially related to a nearby city or mature ocean colony, growing over a century or more from as few as 25,000 people up to 100 million or more before branching off colonies of its own; each starting with a single OTEC and gradually adding several more, along with the development of solar, wind, tidal, and nuclear energy; and each with extensive agricultural resources (farmed with a production density of 50- to 100-times present-day norms), and with extensive maricultural farms nourished by the waters raised from the deep for the OTECs.

The principle large construction materials are plasticized concretes made from mariculture products reinforced by magnesium alloys extracted from ingredients in sea water.

The fundamental social-political organization is democratic socialism (made functionally transparent by evolved information technology), but the cultural personalities of different colony-cities vary widely, as do their patterns of predominant industry, art, recreation, entertainment, etc. There is, of course, a rich flow of trade among the city-colonies and also of migration as people seek out colony cultural personalities that suit them.

The larger, more developed city-colonies also initiate and service space stations, at first in orbit around the Earth but later including bases on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars. These outposts also grow in size and self-reliance, and spawn further space city-colonies, ultimately including massive, continent-size space "ships" (constructed largely from asteroids) that head off, out of the Solar System, to colonize nearby stars.