Environmental degradation will be the controlling factor in the world for the next 10,000 years. Modern human society won’t survive as we know it for 10,000 years but humans will. We will survive because, if low intelligence mammals could survive the Chicxulub asteroid 65 million years ago, then highly intelligent, future predicting and informed humans should be able to survive even greater catastrophes.
Modern society has a population of roughly seven billion people which is fourteen times more than were living in 1625 when there were only about half a billion. Those people were almost all agriculturists eating locally grown food which was produced by direct human muscular effort of people known personally to each other. There were some draft animals and there were other direct natural sources of energy such as wind for windmills, and sailing ships, and running water for water mills and wood for cooking and heating. That there are fourteen times as many people now is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas for power and secondarily to more efficient plants and animals bred to produce more of what humans want and need. Now North America has only three percent of their population living directly on farms and yet they produce enough food to feed themselves and a billion more people and still have land enough to grow crops for gasoline. If everyone was raising food by hand again the population would probably drop below what it was in 1625 because the soil has been drained of its nutrients.
Our politicians have for half a century been claiming to make the United States energy independent if elected but during those many elections we have gone from being an exporter of energy to a huge importer. Even if we fully exploited our local oil resources, which would cause grave (if temporary) risk to our environment, they would soon be gone and we wouldn’t have solved our energy problem. There are other possibilities for energy, like tar sands and coal, but they are more expensive and cause even more damage to the already rapidly degenerating atmosphere. And even if these were fully exploited they wouldn’t last three hundred years, nor will uranium. To give that some time perspective, think of the many famous public buildings in Europe—the Cologne Cathedral, for example—that are three times that old and used every day. If the people who constructed that building had lived as our present population does, the Earth would have been a scorched desert before Columbus sailed. Or a similar time comparison gives that same devastating result from George Washington or even Lincoln to the present.
The Earth will be a very different place in 10,000 years and many of the things we take for granted now will have retreated to mythic status. One thing can be certain: those distant people will hate and loathe us for destroying a heavenly Earth and leaving them with a vastly inferior substitute—a by then refurbished Hell. Our present Gods will be like the gods of ancient civilizations and be considered as Lucifer is now. Only having been real people rather than stone images of stylized concepts we will be hated with more focused intensity because of what we did which we didn’t have to do but did anyway.
Perhaps modern technology will be able to make efficient solar cells and wind collectors with which to power our electric societies. I am fond of using giant kites to capture oceanic winds and using the power to create electrical energy intensive products like ammonia, aluminum, even fuel on barges at sea. But even if all of these technical products were perfectly functional it wouldn’t make any difference in the 10,000 year long run if there wasn’t a stable world wide population. That must be the ultimate goal if humans are going to be living above a sub-savage existence raising mice for farm animals because all the other farm animals were lost in the wars.
The world still has a huge store of atomic bombs and this week it was reported that South Korea had a ship intentionally sunk by the poverty stricken North Koreans. But if the vastly richer but non-nuclear South Korea challenges the North Koreans they will be attacked with atomic weapons. This is a tiny incident which could prove disastrous, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which triggered other countries into launching World Wars One and Two. In my long view of 10,000 years it seems inconceivable that in one of those years some atomic bombs wouldn’t be used and trigger an all out war. We have already had a couple of close calls. Nuclear war is more likely than not and so that distant future world will be vastly degraded from the present. That coupled with the hot house environment, being created in times of peace, that is also inevitable when current fossil fuel burning trends continue, which will leave those future people little of our good Earth left from which to derive a livelihood.
How can we now create a backup for humanity?
I have proposed The EarthArk Project for seeds and storable technology high in Antarctica and The Lifehaven Project on small islands with a few people and animals in highly survivable situations. Also there is the possibility of creating structures throughout the world which would survive for a civilization 10,000 years in the future to be rebuilt upon. But, what would that look like? I have been exploring the creation of buildings, transportation systems, and city environments which would be easy to re-inhabit after a very long time. The modern society is built upon such rust prone foundations that without constant human maintenance most of these things will be piles of rubble in a hundred years and almost unidentifiable remnants in archeological digs 10,000 years from now. Ancient Rome has left us the Pantheon as a model of just how long a well constructed building can last but we modern people build very little to those enduring standards. Perhaps it could begin as an architecture school project to get this long term project started.
Build a model city to 10,000 year standards.