Geodesign #4: We have identified eight key defining moments as an introduction to this emerging design movement—from mushroom clouds to democratic geodesign.
When the first nuclear implosion device was tested at 5:30 am on July 16, 1945 at the U.S. military test site around 210 miles south of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Physics Nobel Prize winner Isidor I. Rabi eye-witnessed 'a new thing had just been born; a new control; a new understanding of man, which man had acquired over nature.'
A new thing had just been born; a new control; a new understanding of man, which man had acquired over nature.
With one gigantic Big Bang, humanity could create such a strong geological and atmospheric force that can turn asphalt and sand into glass-like rock formations and impact the waves that bring energy from the lowest atmospheric layer to outer layers up to space. With the Big Bang humans truly became a geological force.
Influencing the weather
Humanity has always attempted to manage the climate. Many cultures around the globe developed rituals to either provoke rainmaking or prevent storms. These rituals are still practiced today as part of the innate and intimate relationship between humans, the four elements and the cosmos once created through the Big Bang. Yet, we humans introduced a fifth element into the cosmological balance: technology. Earth, air, water, fire and now technology are in a constant choreography of designing the interconnected Earth system.
Yet, we humans introduced a fifth element into the cosmological balance: technology.
Since the earliest documentation of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere provoked through our industrial activities, scientists have been speculating with the possibilities of technological interventions to make use of or counteract the potentially grim developments. Already back in 1908, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius estimated the climate effects of doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. His research and “hope to enjoy ages with more equitable and better climates” led him to suggest deliberately interfering with the chemical make-up of the atmosphere.
What followed were many years of local and regional weather experimentation. On the east side of the iron curtain, the Soviet Union had established an Institute of Rainmaking in Leningrad that laid out the first stages of cloud seeding to alter the weather. Whilst on the west side of the Iron Curtain, the U.S. carried out experiments to stimulate ice-crystal formation and trigger precipitation. Some of the weather engineering technologies were eventually applied in the Vietnam War during Operation Popeye, to deterior the road conditions in Vietnam through increased precipitation. In contrast, precipitation-prevention technologies found application during the Olympics in 2008 in Bejing. Over 1000 rockets were launched into the sky to release silver iodide to keep the skies over the National Stadium clear until the end of the celebrations.
Over 1000 rockets were launched into the sky to release silver iodide to keep the skies over the National Stadium clear until the end of the celebrations.
Designing our climate
Whilst the super nations were altering weather patterns on small-scale to gain a strategic advantage on the battlefield or to maintain favourable weather conditions, the concerns for global warming continued to grow. As early as 1965, "deliberately bringing about countervailing climatic changes," such as "raising the albedo, or reflectivity, of the Earth'' was raised as a possibility in the landmark report “Restoring the Quality of the Environment”.
In 1991, a new serious interest for large-scale intervention in the climate system was provoked by the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. It formed a cloud over South-East Asia with a radius of around 400km. Among many other side-effects, this cloud is said to have caused a 0.5 degree of decreased temperatures. It sparked an avalanche of new planetary solar-engineering methods for example, reflecting UV rays back with thousands of space mirrors.
we might not have the luxury of taking geoengineering off the table in order to combat the climate crisis
How can we make sure that the inevitable technologies to control the climate, do not uncontrol the climate elsewhere? How can we make sure that we have a solid structure of social organization that enforce the on going process of geodesign in a democratic way to benefit all entities on this planet?