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We’re all in this thing together

We’re gonna work it out

By Ricky Browne

With today’s lead story in much of the world’s media that the world is now in a Code Red due to human-caused climate change, the outlook appears bleak. But couldn’t there be a Planet B right here on Earth?

Some may believe, like Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1970’s, that the world is coming to an end. Some may believe that the global poor must remain poor, continuing to consume as little energy as possible, so that the world’s rich can continue their comfortable lifestyles.

That seems to be the underlying message to much of the “Code Red” news about global warming and all the catastrophic effects it will have on the climate.

But another view was put forward decades ago by US soulsters The O’Jays with their 1977  hit “We’re all in this thing together”.

The O’Jays work it out

“We’re all in this thing together

We gotta work it out

We gotta work it out” goes the chorus.

The poor don’t want to remain poor – they want to have the same kind of lifestyle they see Westerns enjoying via TV and Hollywood.

The problem is that a billion and more people in China aspire to European and North American lifestyles – with air conditioning , lots of heating for the summer, cars and flights – all of which means fuel consumption and energy production.

So do India’s one billion and more people. And so would Africa’s 1.4 billion people if they only got the chance.

Must the poor remain poor?

People in the first world , developed world or whatever you want to call it, are not willing to step back in time to try and stem global warming. They do not want to deny their children the comfortable life style they grew up with, where they have some basic necessities which are considered luxuries by much of the world’s poor. Things like hot water, electricity, washing machines, barbeques and microwaves.

“Just because you live high on a hill

And I live down here on the ground

All the things that going on that’s affectin’ me

Indirectly affects you whether you know it or not” the O’Jays sing.

But yet, if this climate change is to be halted or slowed, it will mean that the developing countries or third world as we used to call it, will have to find billions upon billions to combat global warming just as the first world will have to do.

Expect people to continue to look for better. June 7, 2014 – Mediterranean Sea / Italy: Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa. Photo: Massimo Sestini/Polaris

Wherever they get that money from, it will likely mean less money to invest in their people’s health and education and housing. It will mean that their poor will remain as poor as ever unless they can come become new technological centres that produce – in an environmentally friendly way – the things we will need to reduce environmental change.

That will mean that the great divide between the quality of life in the first world and the quality of life in the third world will remain and possibly even widen.

That will mean that there will be continued or increased rates of unofficial immigration, where the world’s poor will continue to try and break into the wealthy citadels that exist on the other side of the Rio Grande or the other side of the Mediterranean.  

“Don’t you see they’re messing up the water

Where in the world can we get more water from?

Oh, how smart can man be

When he’s polluting precious air?

That kind of thing won’t get us anywhere” the O’Jays reason.

Looking ahead, while some lands may disappear under rising sea levels – including perhaps a few micro island nations, (sucks to be the Maldives for instance) more and more land will become fit for habitation.

Male, capital of the Maldives Photo: Sakis

That includes the completely uninhabited continent of Antarctica, where new crops could be grown, forests planted and new cities emerge. That would open up 14.2 million kilometres of new land.

Is anybody home? Paradise Bay in Antartica Photo: Britannica

As the Amazon rainforest diminishes, maybe the world will see fit to regreen the Sahara, so that it can return to the dense jungle that it once was, instead of its sands ever expanding southwards.  That’s another 9.2 million kilometres that could open up to vegetation and population rather than the current wasteland that it has been for thousands of years.

Further north you have the tundra of Siberia and of northern Canada and Alaska which could also be opened up to new crops and people.

This planet is not a big blue marble. It is a living thing, which is constantly in flux. We are told that we humans are causing this current climate crisis. But in every crisis there is opportunity. A global crisis means a global opportunity.

It may mean a great paradigm shift in global thinking away from the fairly modern idea of the nation state and towards a more “we’re all in this thing together” approach.

But on the other hand it may not. Antarctica is already sliced like a pie into various national segments – so each one of the possessing nations could seek to develop and colonize their slices.

Sliced up like a pizza — though Argentina and the UK eventually face off for another Falkland Islands/Malvinas-style conflict. And maybe Chile too. Diagram: discoveringantarctica.org.uk

According to the Antarctic Treaty seven countries own parts of the Antarctic – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK. However, most countries do not recognise those claims, including the United States. Additionally, at least seven other countries also have research facilities there, including: Brazil, India, Italy, Russia, Pakistan, Ukraine and the United States.

So as Antarctica starts to open up to the possibility of colonization there is lots of room for territorial disputes.

Northern Canada already belongs to a wealthy nation , Alaska to the USA, and Siberia to Russia. They may have their own funds to develop their own territories, but with an eye to saving the planet from further harm.

The three territories that make up Northern Canada – Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut make up about 3.5 million kilometres.

Alaska has an area of about 1.7 million kilometres.

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska with a population of about 250,000 people

The extreme north of Russia, which includes much of Siberia, makes up about 5.5 million kilometres.

And don’t forget Greenland, the largest island in the world, owned by Denmark, with a tiny population and an area of 2.166 million kilometres.

The Sahara is a different story. It too is divided between several nations, but must of them if not all of them are poor and can not develop the Sahara by themselves. They would need global assistance.

At least 11 African countries make up the Sahara, including Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco,  Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia.

The Sahara desert has an area of about 9.2 million kilometres. Most of it is unpopulated except for a long the Nile and some coastal cities. Excluding the Nile valley, it has a population density of less than one person per square mile.

Timbuktu in Mali is one of the largest cities in the Sahara

Perhaps the best-known city in the Sahara is Mali’s Timbuktu – the global definition of isolated – with a population of 54,000.

If these three areas  — Antarctica, the northern tundra and the Sahara were replanted it would create great opportunities for some of the world’s poor to improve their lives in new territories.

And we haven’t even considered Australia in all this.

The three areas together represent a total area of about 20 million kilometres – most of which are underpopulated if populated at all, and which could at least theoretically be changed to oxygen-producing landscapes to help lower rising CO2 levels.

“The priorities of life are confused

Being misused every day

They’re sending rockets to Mars

While people on Earth they starve

How long are we going to let this keep going on?”

This total of 20 million kilometres may be much smaller than the 145 million kilometres of land offered by Mars – but its nothing to sneeze at either.

Mars doesn’t have to be Planet B Photo NASA

Ideas of finding and colonizing Planet B – likely Mars – are fine and may be necessary in the long run for humanity to survive. But before that opens up there are parts to this planet that are really like Planet B, and they can help to minimize the effects of human-caused climate change, while increasing the quality of life of billions of less fortunate people.

“We’re all in this thing together

We gotta work it out

We gotta work it out”

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