World leaders are currently convening in Paris for an unprecedented meeting in which they are expected to resolve to implement measures to curb a supposedly catastrophic increase in the average global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, deemed to be a scientific certainty by various oracles, unless we change our ways. There is much to be said about this meeting; not only that it is premised on a scientific fraud (that carbon dioxide is far from the main cause of climate change on Earth), but also other biting ironies such as even the fact of the meeting itself in a city reeling from a terror attack just weeks prior caused by a complete failure of world leaders, led by President Obama, to deal with an actual global crisis emanating from a part of the world which has been overrun by chaos.
But there is also something else to be said about COP21 and the state of the world in general at this time. It reflects a complete misunderstanding of the role of the human species on this planet. Fools at COP21 will panic as they come up with carbon footprint-counting measures somehow imagining that in doing so they will save the planet from mankind. Others have a more sinister view, such as prominent members of the British royal family who have taken on a prominent role at the event and have made their views public in the past. They likely do view such people as fools: they know that many of the measures urged relate directly not so much to stopping climate change, but to a crushing of the economic development of mankind, especially in populous parts of the world which have many millions to lift out of dire poverty.
These individuals prey on the stupidity of people, who have been made to believe that mankind and the planet are bound for catastrophe unless we essentially cease the course of human progress. The truth is the complete opposite: that the only catastrophe for man and the planet will result from a failure to continue what is, in fact, natural: the progress and intensification of man’s economic activity.
Some would immediately dispute this: “Aha, but we aren’t natural! We are just so self-centered as a species, that’s why we say we are … blah blah...”
The idea that mankind’s activity is the first unnatural thing to have occurred on the planet is foolish. Is it different than anything which came before? Yes. But as some great scientific minds have noted after much study, what man does characteristically also represents a continuation of previous natural processes on Earth, in that they were never stagnant.
Russian-Ukrainian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945) wrote much about this, and his words are certainly worth reflecting on today, in the real crisis in which we find ourselves.
What is “Natural,” Anyhow?
As the founder of the science of biogeochemistry and author of “The Biosphere,” among many other qualifications which could be listed, Vernadsky is an authority on what is natural.
Vernadsky’s early studies ranged from crystal structure to soils, all the while he was interested in drawing more general conclusions about the distinction between what he called living and non-living matter, and well as each as a system, which he referred to as the biosphere and lithosphere.
V.I. Vernadsky (right) and colleagues
Vernadsky further elaborated the meaning of the term biosphere, first used in 1875 by geologist Eduard Suess, who simply meant by it “the place on the Earth’s surface where life dwells.” Vernadsky focused on characteristics of the biosphere, specifically how it functioned as a unified process, and most importantly, how it changed.
In 1938 he wrote: “The evolution of the biosphere is connected with the intensification of the evolutionary process of living matter.”
In many writings by Vernadsky spanning the 1920’s and 1930’s he wrote specifically of the evolution of the biosphere which is characterized by an ever-increasing intensity of what he called the biogenic migration of atoms. He even asserted that this requirement determined the survival of species: those species able to further intensify the activity of the biosphere would survive, and those who could not would die off.
There is much more to be said and also read about this. But especially in the late-1930’s, Vernadsky’s studies focused heavily on another “sphere” which was completely unique, yet consistent with what he knew of evolution. It was called the noosphere, otherwise known as scientific thought as a planetary phenomenon, also the name of one of his later works from 1938. Although a thorough and decent translation of this entire piece has yet to be done in English, we can still draw from as yet incomplete and unofficial translations which have been done of portions of it, to gain some more insight about this unprecedented, yet natural, phenomenon.
Scientific Thought as a Geological Force
Vernadsky further specifies that the noosphere is not only scientific thought acting on a planetary-scale, but the associated intensity of this action, which he refers to as a great geological force.
Let’s allow him to speak for himself, as he did in the referenced 1938 piece:
"...the main influence of human thought as a geological factor is expressed in its scientific manifestation: it mainly builds and guides the technical work of mankind, which is transforming the biosphere."
“...we must note and take into account that the process of evolution of the biosphere, its transition into the noosphere, clearly manifests as an acceleration in the rate of geological processes. The changes which are presently manifesting themselves in the biosphere through the course of [the last] several thousand years in connection with the growth of scientific thought and the social activity of mankind, have never existed in the history of the biosphere before.”
“The biosphere transitioned into a new evolutionary state more than once. New geological manifestations which had never existed before emerged. This occurred, for example, in the Cambrian, when large organisms with calcium skeletons came into existence, and in the Tertiary (or, possibly, at the end of the Cretaceous), 15-80 million years ago, when our forests and steppes were coming into existence, and the life of large mammals developed. We have also been living through this presently, for the past 10-20 thousand years, when man, having developed scientific thought in a social environment, has been creating a new geological force in the biosphere, unprecedented in it. The biosphere has transitioned into, or, more precisely, is transitioning into a new evolutionary state-- into the noosphere-- is being transformed by the scientific thought of social mankind.”
“We are currently living through an extraordinary manifestation of living matter in the biosphere, genetically connected with the emergence of Homo Sapiens thousands of years ago, the creation, in this way, of a new geological force, scientific thought, dramatically increasing the influence of living matter on the evolution of the biosphere. Completely encompassed by living matter, the biosphere is increasing the geological force of living matter to an apparently unlimited degree, and, being transformed by the scientific thought of Homo Sapiens, is transitioning into one of its new states-- into the noosphere.”
Evolution never reverses--there is always progress.
One of Vernadsky’s main conclusions about the evolution of the biosphere is that it has a clear direction which does not reverse. One of the main examples he uses in this 1938 paper which pertains to the biosphere is that of cephalization, a phenomenon studied in particular by J.D. Dana. This is an evolutionary trend whereby the development and support of the central nervous system became increasingly important for organisms. There are other examples to draw upon, such as the increase of biogenic migration of atoms mentioned earlier. Vernadsky is also emphatic that the development of the noosphere is no different:
“As a manifestation of living matter, scientific thought cannot be in essence a reversible phenomenon-- it can stop in the course of its motion, but, once created and manifested in the evolution of the biosphere, it carries in itself the ability of unlimited development in the course of time.”
Man as a natural, lawful being (when thinking scientifically)
What would be unnatural for mankind would be to act in such a self-sabotaging way as to attempt to reverse the development of the noosphere, and, lest anyone forget, for Vernadsky this would also be unnatural from the standpoint of the evolution of all living matter on Earth!
"Man, in all of his manifestations, comprises a definite, lawful part of the structure of the biosphere. The explosion of scientific thought in the 20th Century has been prepared by the whole foregoing biosphere and has deep roots in its structure--it cannot cease and turn back."
"[Man] comprises an unavoidable manifestation of a great natural process, lawfully stretching throughout the course of, at least, two billion years."
Hell on Earth without the noosphere, not because of it
Writing in the years prior to World War II, when many parts of the world faced serious crises, Vernadsky wrote with conviction that this was not any inevitable historical outcome somehow linked to human nature (or carbon dioxide). On the contrary, he viewed it as a result of man failing to grasp his own nature:
"In the present times, under the influence of the surrounding horrors of life, along with an unprecedented flowering of scientific thought, it has become necessary to hear of the approach of barbarity, of the breakdown of civilization, of the self-annihilation of mankind. These attitudes, and these reasonings appear to me to be consequences of insufficiently deep penetration of scientific thought into our environment."
It should also be said that the noosphere need not be a concept limited to planet Earth. Vernadsky said it was natural that mankind colonize the Earth, and knew that we would venture into space. It could be stated that while mankind is from the Earth, we are not of the Earth. In truth, the noosphere is, as Vernadsky wrote “the kingdom of reason,” and by that definition it is unlimited.
The noosphere knows no bounds
In the collective mental fog that largely surrounds the discussion of climate change, people start to think that we were only allotted a certain number of years of industrial progress, and our time is up. This is reflected in actual, utterly meaningless statements such as “we have already used ⅔ of our carbon budget!”
People who say such things should save their breath (they can believe they are helping the planet in doing so). The only case in which mankind would face a limit to our potential to grow would be a subjective self-imposed limit, such as the current mass delusion around anthropogenic climate change, or even without that, a given phase of human society in which we relied on a fixed conception of the natural resources available to us. We have barely begun to fully utilize the potential of nuclear fission power, not to speak of fusion.
Vernadsky was clear about this. He wrote of our unlimited potential, but was also aware of the problem of relying on a fixed idea of resources to serve as our power supply. However, he maintained his confidence that scientific thought could meet such a challenge, as we have done time and time again--- American economist Lyndon LaRouche has written volumes on this topic as well-- disproving the foolish theories of the likes of Thomas Malthus.
For the time being, let’s end with some of Vernadsky’s clearest statements on this. They certainly serve as a breath of fresh air, but they must be more than that-- these are words to stand by and defend, and doing so is only human.
“We are present at, and are actively participating in the creation of a new geological factor in the biosphere, unprecedented in its power and in its unity.
It has been scientifically established for the last 20-30 thousand years, but has been clearly manifested at an ever increasing rate only during the last millennium.”
“The envelopment of the whole surface of the biosphere by a unified social species of the animal kingdom-- by mankind-- has been completed after many hundreds of thousands of years of unstoppable, tempestuous striving for it. There is no corner on Earth inaccessible to mankind. There is no limit to our possible population growth. Man, through scientific thought and through his life, socially organized into states, and guided by technology, is creating a new biogenic force in the biosphere, which is guiding his population growth and creating a favorable conditions for his population in parts of the biosphere, earlier impenetrable to human life, and even in places where there was no life before.
Theoretically, we cannot foresee a limit to mankind’s potential.”