CONTRARY BRIN: Saving the world? Hopes rise

Been busy shoveling mud here in SoCal… The last atmospheric river storm left a trail of damage across California, with catastrophic flooding, landslides, sinkholes, power outages and evacuations across the state. And the latest broke levees, forcing thousands to evacuate near Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, these rivers will not ease California’s ongoing drought over the long term.

As temperatures continue to rise, atmospheric models project that two out of three glaciers may be lost by 2100.

On the other hand, a recent United Nations report indicates that the ozone hole over the Antarctic is slowly beginning to shrink. If current policies are maintained, the ozone layer may be rescued from CFC damage, and heading toward restoration within decades. And my children still (in their 20s) stare at me, unable to visualize, when I tell them that the air – when I was a kid – ‘hurt to breathe.’  Oh, also, there are more whales now than at any time since the 1840s. So don’t let anyone tell you that we are unable to see and respond and solve crises!

1- We can… and do.

2- As for those who yowl that it deters action on other perils, if we pat ourselves on the back for previous, great accomplishments? Such people are raving idiots who care more about their own sanctimony guilt trips than actually getting things done.

Dig it, solving problems requires confidence that you can! 

Want more examples?

== Areas of progress ==

First, good news predicted by Pohl & Kornbluth, back in the 1950s!  Cultured meat is on the horizon: “From science fiction to reality, ‘no kill’ meat may be coming soon.” Different from plant-based meat substitutes. More than 80 companies are staking a future in the space.  And in total, this could be as much of an Earth saver (and karma reducer) as anything else on the horizon,.

More transformative than that? In Finland a startup is producing protein could be grown in a “bioreactor” using nothing but CO2, electricity, water, nutrients like nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and potassium — and a few bacteria. Together, they would ferment like yeast in bread dough or beer, and the result would be Solein — a tasteless white powder that looks like flour and can be flavored and added to food. The Solar Foods blog points out how much water it takes to produce one kilo of beef protein: 130,610 liters. And that kilo of protein from dairy cattle requires 450,440 liters. For one kilo of Solein: 1,490 liters.

Lab-grown alternatives may help reduce dependence on palm oil – associated with significant deforestation in tropical areas.

One of you wrote in to inform me that my concept (in Existence) of “peecycling” or getting Phosphorous out of urine – soon to be a crisis and absolutely necessary – has long been done in places. “Milwaukee has been peecycling since 1926. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District manufactures Milorganite. This fertilizer is made by feeding the sewerage to microbes which are separated out and dried. The result is an organic fertilizer with 4% phosphorus.”

Another form of ocean based recycling… or rather carbon capture. Gregory Benford is involved in a project to take farm crop stubble – very hard to use in any modern way without burning – and deposit it as ‘dross’ into deep ocean caverns where the carbon will stay. Much as I depict in the Brightness Reef trilogy. The company will sell carbon offset credits. Better than burning, one supposes. 

But the next item is bigger and should no longer be at all controversial.

== Ocean fertilization… simply proved ==

We no longer need tepid, tiny scale experiments in ocean fertilization… the approach to both reducing atmospheric carbon and increasing fisheries that I described in Earth (1990)… since the massive plumes of soot from Australian forest fires did it, already, on a huge scale. And the results are in

Wind drives transport of aerosol cross the Southern Ocean within a week.

•Chlorophyll enhancement is identified along the trajectory of aerosol.

•Oceanic phytoplankton restored the carbon released from forest fire.

•Ocean mitigates the impact of episodic event by fixing released carbon dioxide. Calculations of carbon released during the fire versus carbon absorbed by the oceanic phytoplankton bloom suggest that they were nearly equal.

I have yet to see any studies of the effect of the phytoplankton blooms on the food chain, fisheries and such but some claim anecdotally that whale activity burgeoned.

All of you puritans blocking experiments in fertilization of fast ocean currents, get over youselves. We are in a crisis. 

As my bro Kim Stanley Robinson says: “It’s all hands on deck! Only doing lots of things, in parallel, can offer hope.”

== Technology helps ==

Meanwhile, the rate of rollout of budget-friendly electric vehicles is going faster than predicted and there are some voices claiming the marginalizing of internal combustion engines could happen a full decade ahead of expectations.


Five new technologies helping scientists detect, track and study polar bears in their natural environment.

Researchers have split seawater (without pre-treatment) to produce green hydrogen (via electrolysis) an improvement over current methods which require highly purified water. 

Water pipe robots may be able to efficiently patrol thousands of miles of water pipes, in order to detect and stop billions of liters of water leaks.

From turbines and pumps and stoves to more ecologically conscious products: here are twenty-two inventions that may make a dent in saving the earth. 

Peter Diamandis offers  a survey of the top six humanoid robot companies, including Optimus by Tesla, Beomni by Beyond Imagination, and Atlas by Boston Dynamics.

The iPhone 14 lets you find a satellite overhead that can transmit a text or emergency call even when in the utter boonies.  It’s not quite the peer-to-peer text passing system that I urged Qualcomm to develop, 15 years ago (they did! But the cell companies refused to use it.) But this is a fine thing. (See my decade-old rant demanding such moves, to enhance civilization resilience! 

Meanwhile… Exxon’s 1970s internal climate prediction models – not released to the public – were uncannily accurate. Which means that those company executives who quashed the reports…

== Covid effects on politics? ==


The US suffered over a million excess deaths due to Covid-19 across the pandemic. The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that “political affiliation has emerged as a potential risk factor for Covid-19,” and that significantly more Republicans than Democrats have died from the virus since the introduction of vaccines in early 2021 to protect against the disease.

 The study found that death rates from Covid-19 were only slightly higher for Republicans than Democrats during the early days of the pandemic, before vaccines became available. But by the summer of 2021, a few months after vaccines were introduced, “the Republican excess death rate rose to nearly double that of Democrats, and this gap widened further in the winter of 2021.” 

Had my own brush with Covid – much eased by vaxxing, ensuring it was just a mild flu…  Still went ahead and got the Omicron jab befor my coming trip to DC.

Here’s a stat worth pondering. Note that Paxlovid saved the lives of many who ‘don’t trust science.’ I wish I were kidding.

Thrive & persevere!

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