Reflecting on COVID’s impact

Nobody wants to read about COVID-19 anymore. It’s like mentioning the IBI (incoherent bloviating imbecile) “Bad form, son, bad form.”

But, we still talk about COVID amongst ourselves. The new variants—will we need a booster for the zeta variant this fall? Will the more virulent variants finally eliminate the anti-logic conservatives? Will Fauci run for President? Should I keep wearing my mask, after all, it saved me from getting any air-born illness, including the seasonal flu.

And indeed, there are various societal changes, many of them beneficial, from having survived COVID-19.

  • Reduction in influenza. Incidents of the “flu” are nearly non-existent. Swapping out a much more deadly disease for our yearly fever-body-ache-runny-nose may not have been a wise trade. But, the near elimination of the “common cold” has proven humans really can change their behavior.
  • Millennials learned to cook. (And thousands of tons of Blue-Apron/Hello Fresh Styrofoam containers now fester in our landfills.)
  • We connected with our immediate families. (Like one long Thanksgiving dinner.)
  • We taught corporate management working from home will not render us all slackers and destroy businesses.
  • Home schooling became the only way to learn — but who would want to? Except, if you can get a college degree online
  • We bought more exercise equipment (that’ll wind up on Craigslist this summer). We turned Jeff Bezos into a mega-billionaire — by all means, order that shit online! We drank ourselves silly, wallowed in depression and discovered many of us have Ciliac disease.
  • Professional sports died. Geeze, I wish. By-all-means, keep paying those buffoons the millions they (do not) deserve.
  • Pharmaceutical companies expanded vaccine technology. The impact of future diseases will hopefully be reduced due to advances in how vaccines are designed and produced.
  • Proved we can live a less planet-attenuating lifestyle. I mean, I don’t care if Global Warming roasts us all alive. The planet is not a thing that needs saving. (Remember, I’m 90% Nihilist.) However, if we wanted to extend the Holocene out indefinitely, 2020 showed that humanity can live a less rapacious lifestyle.

And, of course, COVID showed us a few shifts in behavior that are nonsensical or downright unfortunate.

  • Fewer cars on the road resulted in MORE deaths? Yup. It seems that wide-open highways induced the idiots of the world to drive way faster, without their seat belts and while under the influence.
  • The CDC became unreliable. The United States’ preeminent health agency turned into a factory of lies.
  • We learned to shun our neighbors. “Stranger! Quick, cross the road. They might be infected.”
  • Theaters died, restaurants vanished, hundreds of thousands of small businesses withered away.

However, recall that after the Black Death, the plagues of the mid-1300’s, life became better for the survivors. The labor shortage allowed wage increases for the poor and the shift in power is thought to have led to the the Renaissance.

And the best example of success from calamity, from the ashes of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, mammals arose, and with them the greatest vermin—humanity—this side of Tau Ceti.

roses of success chitty chitty bang bang
“Up from the ashes, grow the roses of success.”

Writer’s Log: 2350

  • February: Crawled out of my cave, looked around and crawled right back in.
  • March: Bah!
  • April: Still nope.
  • May: Fingers itching, must be vaccine side-effects.
  • June: Fuck me. Alright, alright, just quit squeezing my frontal lobe.

[Back cover blurb]

A-Nihilists: Tribe of Annihil-Nation

Members of a growing anti-society movement continue to expand their attacks against anyone and everyone. If you believe in anything, God, morals, society, human rights, animals rights, Save-the-Planet, free school lunches — you are a target. A-Nihilists are here to destroy you and everything you believe in. They live solely to convince you of the absurdity of existence.

Kamus joined at fifteen. His first act involved the explosive destruction of an I-15 bridge that spanned the Virgin River in St. George, Utah. It didn’t go well. He and his partners underestimated the concussive power of one-hundred pounds of ANFO (ammonium nitrate & fuel oil). But mostly, it was the too-short fuse Kam had used on the M-80 that detonated the makeshift dynamite.

Mistakes are often the best teachers. That is, if you can survive them.

Years later, that first lesson became a seed of doubt.

“If my purpose is showing you your purpose is bullshit…”

Somebody is responsible

I’ve been on a Bulfinch’s Mythology bender lately.

Why? Maybe because I recently finished watching “The Good Place” and “Good Omens” on Netflix, both of which I recommend. But, I also had a desire to know more about a certain Roman/Greek god Bacchus/Dionysus. (Don’t the Romans seem like god thieves?)

Regardless, I got to thinking about WHO DREAMED ALL THIS SHIT UP? Think about it, there was somebody, at some moment in the past, who had the inkling to say something akin to, “Boy, that’s some hardcore white streaks shooting down from the stormy sky. Someone must be throwing them. Maybe, yeah, maybe his name is Zeus.”

SOMEBODY had to have that first thought. Sure, there may have been discussion or what have you. But there was an original human who had that very first notion.

And then I got to thinking about all the other gods. And all the other words. And all the other ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ELSE.

“I sure am thirsty. I think I’ll drink some of that, um, trizzick. Uh, no. Bakabaka? Naw. Water. Yeah, I’ll call it water.”

Imagine, every word ever spoken was first spoken by one dude (or dudette). Every word. Somebody did it first.

And every thing created, every food eaten, everything. Somebody had to have done it first. Millions of unique names and objects.

And not just once, thousands of times for the same thing. How many languages have a word for “water”? All of them?

Individuals, millions of them, in their own time and minds, are responsible, at some point in the past, for every single word we utter, every thing we use, and every notion we understand.

 

 

Mitigating Humanity’s Existential Risk

Elon Musk wants to preserve the species. The ONLY way, he thinks, to do this is to make humanity a multi-planet race.

Ignoring the fact that the Universe is Absurd, that ultimately everyone and everything will dissolve into the void, let’s examine the factors that support or refute his hypothesis and come up with an alternative.

Let’s say we want to plan humanity’s continued existence out a billion years, out to when the Sun begins to bloat and heat Earth’s surface to the point of boiling off the oceans and roasting the biosphere to a crisp. What will we need to prepare for?

  • Asteroid/comet impact
  • Super volcano eruption
  • Narrow beam gamma ray burst
  • Solar eruption
  • Nuclear war
  • Plague

There are other risks that don’t really rise, realistically, to the level of “end of days”: antagonistic AI, global warming, alien invasion, and those unknown unknowns. But I wager that humanity’s existence is not actually threatened by such things.

I’ll clarify here that we’re not talking about human civilization. Let’s start first with just persisting the species out into the future a few thousand to a few million years. Yes, we stated that a billion years is our target, but let’s start small and see how far we can get.

There are a few factors we’ll need to address. The first is timing, how quickly will humanity need this capability. Then there are resource requirements, sustainable independence, minimum viable population, and, if we want to retain or return to a technological civilization, the reemergence of industrial capability. We won’t get to all of these but we’ll skim over them for completeness.

Why are we bothering with this discussion?

Right. Here’s the gist: I posit that there’s an alternative means of human preservation that we should be pursuing right now, in lieu of and/or in addition to, spreading humanity’s legacy out among the planets.

What are we afraid of? We’re afraid of the surface of our planet becoming uninhabitable. Mitigating every one of the above listed risks involves sequestering an enclave of humanity *somewhere* safe, for years if not decades. We want to hide out in some protected, self-sufficient place until we can resume activities, hopefully Earth-top-side.

What if the surface of Earth never returns to a livable state? Bah! Five massive extinction events resulting in five returns from the brink of annihilation prove that, until the Sun swells to consume the inner planets, Earth will always return to a state of habitability.

Is space the only alternative? If not, then where, other than the surface of Mars or the Moon, can we squirrel away a self-sufficient, re-emergent pocket of humanity?

Queue the music…

Under the sea.
Under the sea.
Darlin’ it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me.

Who’s up for a little cocktail (sauce)?

A city on Mars?

Bullshit. Build a city at the bottom of the sea. Or deep within the Earth.

Such a metropolis would be protected from cosmic radiation, volcanic winter, nuclear fallout, a ravaging plague of zombies, and all the toxins and trauma, malcontents and mayhem. We wouldn’t need to spend $billions blasting resources into space. Or traversing billions of miles of a very nasty inter-planetary void. We could leverage all the benefits of cheap labor, cheap materials and exhaustive know-how right here where we need them.

Within a few years we could build a vast network of cities, all self-sustainable, all independent. Such preserves could be supported by tourism yet isolated at the first signs of trouble.

Every disaster movie ever made makes provisions for such failsafe protections of humanity. And there’s a reason why — it make sense. Even if (or when) the worst of the worst calamity takes place, the buried and submerged cities would weather the situation far more easily than some half-baked outpost on Mars could survive the decades alone without support from Earth.

Eventually, if humanity can survive its own self-made ills, it might construct the means to disperse its seed into the cosmos. (Why we, here and now, should give a shit about that, is beyond me.) But, even if Elon wants to immortalize himself as some savoir of Humanity 2.0, then building a city on Mars shouldn’t be the first step. Establish a subterranean city for the Morlocks and Mermaids and then shoot for the stars.

Comparing a Martian colony to Nemo’s Atlantis we have the following factors:

  • Timing: How long will it take to get a viable habitat built, stocked and operational? Do we have 10 years before the next apocalypse? 50? We don’t really know, but surely sooner is better. With Nemo City we could start tomorrow.
  • Resource requirements: Besides air, water, nutrients and nearly everything else, what does Mars need to establish itself as a potential sanctuary for, not just humanity, but all of humanity’s dependencies? Think biosphere/ecosystem here. Again, for a earthly solution, all the stuff required for existence is right outside our front door. For Barsoom City? Oy! Maybe you won’t have to bring dirt for farming (provided you can wash the peroxide salts from the Martian soil).
  • Sustainable independence: Will a Martian colony EVER actually become independent? With technology, industry,  agriculture and growth enough to blossom and return the favor back to Earth? Sure science fiction thinks so. But reality?
  • Minimum viable population: We know humanity prospers in the gravity well, with the oxygen levels and sunlight saturation of Earth. On Mars? What strange illnesses will reveal themselves, both on the red planet and along the months long trip to get there? Will human births suffer? Human fertility? What of restocking Earth with surplus Martians and surplus supporting biota (animals, plants, bacteria and fungi)?
  • A technological civilization and the reemergence of industrial capability: It took humanity thousands of years, and terrajoules of energy to lift itself up to a technological society. Will Mars be able to repeat this?

Elon, do you really want to preserve humanity? If so, maybe you could turn your sights down from the heavens to the ground beneath your feet. Use your Boring company to tunnel into the earth and there build an actual salvation city.