Some perspective

Imagine if 7 billlion people had always lived on a dust-bowl Mars-like planet with no life outside of the base stations. Imagine if that’s the way it had always been. Imagine if that was humanities’ entire existence, on the red planet…

With that in mind, I’d like to do a little thought experiment. I want you to imagine what would happen if we were to start exploring the solar system, from our home Mars.

The closest other world, Earth, looks very promising. We’ve spent a hundred trillion dollars on this latest space mission, okay. It’s been 30 years in the planning stage alone…

So we go to this new place called ‘Earth’.

And we don’t find another dust-bowl freeze-your-arse-off planet with no oceans, a toxic atmosphere* and a severe lack of oxygen. We don’t find it to be uninhabited. We don’t find the gravity extremely off-putting. We don’t find a desolate, barren wasteland devoid of all life like the home planet. No.

Instead, what we encounter is another world no unlike this one, the one we already know as ‘Earth’, exactly the way it is now, but without all the humans. Without any civilisation.

Imagine if we found 60 amur leopards, 400 Sumatran tigers, 880 mountain gorillas, 1826 giant pandas, 4080 snow leopards, 4848 black rhinos and 10000 blue whales!

Impenetrable jungles! Countless species of insects! Fish! Crustaceans! Molluscs! Birds! Frogs!

“Frogs? What an unusual name. What are they? Oh they’re slimy but harmless critters –amphibians– that thrive both on the land and in the water and use jumping as a form of locomotion.”

[Read more…]

What this scientist thinks of NASA’s 2035 mission to Mars…

The 2035 Mars space mission is said to cost an estimated US$1.5 trillion.

What are my thoughts on this? That sounds like an aweful lot of money to me — to keep four to six people alive on another planet— in my view it’s money that could be put to far better things, like keeping 7 or 8 billion alive on this one.

To put things into perspective, it’s the equivalent of spending 94% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product… for what? A dozen or so people to have the trip of a lifetime… at the most? That’s one hell of an expensive postcard!

If I personally had US$1.5 trillion dollars to play with and I wanted to ENSURE the future surivial of the human race, why, do you know what I’d do? I’d buy up all the wilderness areas up in poorer countries. I’d abandon that silly space mission. That’s what I’d do. And this is coming from someone that liked reading Carl Sagan’s cosmos… [Read more…]

Be the change you want to see in the world.

There’s a lot of pessimism at the moment about our long term future. Will we still be here in a 100 years’ time? 1,000? 10,000?

It’s clear that we need some pretty significant changes if we’re going to survive as a species for that amount of time…

What do most people do about it? They go home and watch TV because they’re depressed about the whole predicament. I’m not even going to label the problems. But my point is that most people distract themselves any way they see fit. They fall into the trap of hopelessness. They end up doing jack shit. In short, they don’t change. [Read more…]

Why do you buy?

Just a few decades ago, the reason we gave to buy something new was because our product simply broke and it could no longer be repaired. So we had to replace it. Fast forward to today, and we find that many products are no longer repairable because to do so is deemed ‘uneconomical’. These days, the art of repair seems to be all but completely forgotten.

Not too long ago, when we needed to replace something, sometimes we could even replace it with an identical model. How many times does that happen today? Never. Why? Because even if we wanted to, a product’s life cycle is so short that it is no longer possible to buy the exact same item even only 1 or 2 short years later.

Nowadays we have to buy a completely new replacement product. We have no choice. We can’t buy the same item even if we wanted to! We’re increasingly forced to live in a more ‘disposable’ world!

But what about our environment? Redesigns require more design time, new moulds and new machinery. Redesigns require new instructions, new packaging.

I am going to argue here and elsewhere that all product cycles which are shorter than necessary are sheer environmental folly. I am going to argue that product cycles need to be much longer, that the products themselves should be user-serviceable wherever possible and that replacement parts should be freely available (and for a very reasonable cost).

I think product designers have a special ethical obligation to design for the long-term not the short term. Just because you can create something new doesn’t mean that it is any good. I believe that a great design will stand the test of time. I believe that customers will return to reliable, trustworthy brands –even decades later– provided that their products have been shown to endure.

And I think consumers have an equally special ethical obligation to keep things for as long as possible. Not only is this much better for the environment, but I think we’d actually be happier for it because we’d get more satisfaction buying things that we actually need, when we need to. I almost never throw something out because I get bored with it. I always try to find a new home for my old products. I’m hoping that you will too.

You might complain that the cost of a new replacement battery or charger or whatever hardly makes it worth your while. “…for only 15 dollars more I can get a brand new XYZ…”, I hear you say. The reason for that is partially because of supply and demand. If more people bought just the replacement parts instead of the whole darn new thing, the cost of the replacement bits would surely plummet, due to the economies of scale.

This is Pluto speaking here.

>sign the petition to reinstate Pluto‘s full planet status<
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown


This is Pluto speaking here.

Look, I wasn’t very happy when some scientists took away my “full planetary” status in 2006 without even consulting me directly. And I’m not alone.

I’ve been thinking about it – and this whole ‘dwarf’ designation has never really sat well with me ever since. And my moon Charon is not to thrilled about it either… because that would make her the moon of a dwarf planet, aka a “dwarf moon”.

Especially when you say that I’m a dwarf planet, and then go on to say “which is not really a planet”. Imagine how Jupiter would react if you said: “Jupiter is a gas giant planet… which is not really a planet!” !!

And then you gave me a number. What do you call it? “Minor planet designation”. Wait a second. Let me look that up. Let’s see here, what have I got, I knew I had it somewhere… “134340”. That’s it. “134340”. That doesn’t sound very special to me. One minute I’m named after a God. And the next thing someone has placed this completely arbitrary bogus number IN FRONT OF my name. Not after it mind you. BEFORE! Like this: 134340 Pluto. One-three-four-three-four-zero-pluto. To a planet, this is invective! [Read more…]