However, just speculate with me.
Right now one of the main reasons for economic disparities on earth are climate disparities. We have dry regions, we have hot regions and we have cold regions. The ideal region on earth would be one with temperate conditions, a bit like Florida or the south of France, right? We do not want the world to have to live like in Saudi Arabia or the arid places of Bolivia or Alaska or the tundra’s of Russia. In a perfect world it would all be roughly of the same temperature. However what we certainly do NOT want is to melt the icecaps and flood everything with (what would amount to) 60 meters of water. Provided we could actually even out global temperatures, which is a ridiculous idea to begin with. Or is it? Let’s start with the simple version.
Let’s approach this in the ‘fuck you I can do what I want’ unilateral style. Let’s say I have superpowers and I have a trillion euro. Let’s assume I can teleport stuff in a High Earth Orbit at a whim. Having this ability I could implement just about any kind of engineered structure into orbit. Of course I can’t, and nobody can, and the idea is just idle fantasy, but bear with me for now. It is a flight of fancy making a point.
Let’s say, I live in the Netherlands and I am so fed up with the frigid winters here, and the long depressing darkness in winters I wanted a viable engineering solution. This engineering solution would entail increasing the amount of sunlight in an area over [part of] the Netherlands by an appreciable amount for half the year. So we would need a means to deflect an amount of sunlight, positioned in space, that stays in a roughly predictable spot throughout the winter season, is mechanically predictable, needs very little or no maintenance, would ideally be self-regulating, would be lightweight, economical to deploy. The surface we are talking about is about 30 or so kilometer of very thin highly reflective parachute like material – think of it like a slowly unwapping parasol of gossamer metallic foil (probably thin gold composite foil) not weighing much at all, but as it rotated covering a sunflower area many tens of miles big. The initial structure in space shouldn’t be much bigger than a large building – when deployed such a wrapped up entity could be literally bigger than the province of Zuid Holland. It would be clever use of origimi, and since it floated in space, it would stay there (if placed smartly) forever.
The question is, are there stable geostationary orbits that (accounting for solar pressure) catch the sun’s rays predictably and consistently allowing them to be focused (with minimal corrections in terms of rockets or guidance systems) over years, and allowing a reflection to be cast on a specific spot on earth? If there is
We need just a bit of extra light. The percentage of light we lose annually isn’t so much, relatively speaking. So catching some light, and adding it to a specific spot on the surface (adding a second sun in the sky) would be equivalent to turning that spot on earth into a tempera region all year round. By cleverly making the sunflower arc away in summers (or migrate to a corresponding region on the southern hemisphere?) the benefits would only be relevant when needed. Pay as you go, so to speak. Not only could you do this during the day, you could also engineer an increased daylight time (which has vastly increased benefits from the viewpoint of the 24 hour economy, as well as human psychology). In fact we would be able to locally banish the night into oblivion. The vampires of the world would howl in indignation.
This is of course a silly argument. Or is it? Just think of it. How much would it cost to ferry a self-deploying, self-unwrapping, self-stabilized, smart designed structure in space that is able to reflect a predictable amount of sunlight on a seasonal basis, in a very precise designated spot? Once deployed how many third world dictators formerly shirking pax americana rules would then be wetting their pants that such an array could be focused in a more tight configuration on their capital city..? (burning the ants..). On that same measure, what if Craig Venter launched ten of these things today, what would stop him dictating terms to the world and become emperor of terra in a matter of a year? Once these structures are in space you can do pretty much nothing about them. Oh yes you can nuke them and hope that when you do you don’t paralyze half the world with EMP.
But seriously, this is out of the box thinking. The argument is quite simple – the project is a ludicrous and highly offensive notion, probably insanely expensive (or is it??) that would upset natural order (or would it???) and would not be worth it in terms of benefit (or maybe it would). It is a thought experiment. Just envision the net effect if an area like Boston or Moscow, which suffers from fairly severe winters, would not have very mild winters. Imagine such an area having a second sun between october and march, slowly emerging as a pinprick, brightening over the weeks, and becoming a somewhat diffuse but bright and blazing arc nearly as warm as the sun itself at Yule, then dimming again. The best thing is such a surface could be composed of many surfaces each giving its benefits to many scattered parts of earth. In fact, we could not just benefit northern regions, would could literally also shade the hottest regions around the equator in this manner.
A typical bridge holds cables that stretch to the moon and back, in terms of length. So engineering wise we can make structures that are big. We don’t need to limit ourselves in terms of lack of imagination. We can make structures that are literally tens or hundreds of miles long, as long as we have a good reason. The good reason is like always profit. To make this work we need logistical assets and materials. The materials are there, in space, in the form of near earth asteroids. They can be reached and mined by spaceships about as or little more convoluted as the current international spacestation, so we can do it. We can literally bring structures in space right now that can do the logistical part of taking engineers, robots and astronauts to near earth astronauts (which in some cases as big as a small mountain) and ferry them back to earth safely. Doing so would take significant investments in terms of training astronauts, implementing structures on earth, launching rockets and building stuff in space. The argument is of course ludicrous – if we can do this ‘build big mirrors in space to illuminate cities‘ we can do far more useful things’, but for the sake of the silly argument let’s stick to this. The cost would be gargantuan. But my point is the revenues would be gargantuan too. Imagine, Boston and Moscow, not having winters. It isn’t about playing god, it’s simply an engineering solution to nature sucking balls.
The economic argument
What would this project cost? Ten trillion EU? A ludicrous sum of money What would it generate? I would say by any factor, initially far more. And better, in doing this, we would create an infrastructure to create even more value. My argument is that to send astronauts in space to create mirrors that create auxiliary suns in space is ludicrous, but we live in such a ludicrous universe it makes sense. The idea to spend trillions on such a project is grotesque and offensive and an affront to the starving billions, but to NOT do so, may be an even great stupidity and offence and affront to starving billions. The sheer economic benefits of people working in shirt sleeves in an area around Moscow and Boston 12 months every year would be far in excess of trillions, and once we do this with one city, we will probably want to do this with every city north of Paris in short order, if only to save on street lighting, or to be able to have palms growing in our streets, or to save on heating. And this is just the implementation of large suspended reflective strips of foil suspended in space. It is a cinematic ‘bruce willis’ style example.
the Naturalness argument
This is ‘unnatural’. However, the is no such thing as natural. Watch the above video of Zizek again. We risk regarding nature as some kind if iconic deity, or some kind of harmonious ideal. This simply is a misrepresentation. If we define nature as a concrete argology on mars filled with teeming greenhouses as far as the eye can see, then that will be nature. We can engineer nature. Nature is nothing eternal. Nature is constrained and limited and temporal. If we do not act prudently we can just as easily stomp over Nature and destroy our assets, even if we stubbornly or selfishly refuse to believe such a thing possible. We can literally destroy our means to exist by denying our power. In doing so we only prove our stupidity and our impotence.
The Legal Dimension
Right now there is no law, no ruling to stop me from doing this. Ofcourse, from a logistical perspective I can’t. The idea is ludicrous. I am a nobody. I can’t go into space and decide to unilaterally ‘add a sun’ out of sheer celestial conceit. It would be an act of selfrighteous hubris even MORE uppity than the pride of Icarus – we don’t just fly to close to the sun, we would literally ‘create another sun’ at our whim if we could, and ‘think nothing of it. The funny thing, which has me in stitches right now is that IF I did it, nobody could stop me. No international court could sue me. I could bask in the light of a subtropical second sun, in midwinter iceland, with palm trees waving around me on my villa on beach front Reykjavík (which I aquired when prices where very low) sipping malibu’s, with lawyers and environmental groups protesting me on all sides begging me to stop argueing that my solar reflector is disrupting the global climate!, but I’d say, ‘sod it, that has never been an argument – global emissions of CO2 have been disrupting the climate for decades, and THAT has never been an argument either, so you can go and stuff it…
Accidentally Freezing The Sudan and Saudi Arabia for the greater Good, Oops
Here is where it gets really funny.. Say we have a climate change so severe, so horrendous that the ice caps start melting. And we need a solution. Well with what I propose we have one (tongue firmly in cheek here..) I propose we freeze a region of Saharan desert from the Sudan to the south of Egypt to Saudi Arabia and bask it in everlasting darkness, take away the suns rays there, so that it is cast in subfreezing temperatures…. and it starts snowing… and snowing… and glaciers emerge… and we accumulate.. a Saharan ice cap. I propose the feeble arguments of ‘those few people living there’ would be of no consequence. The area’s around these ‘primitive places’ would become lush and fertile with vastly increased temperate rains and glacial river systems in a matter of a few decades. I mean, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs right? We’d have to sacrifice Sudan and the Sub-Saharan wilderness and Saudi Arabia to the freezing hells and glaciers, but it would be for the greater good of fighting global warming and sea level rise. And all the increased rainfall would be a great way to increase agriculture and plant growth and carbon sequestration. And it would in effect destroy radical Islamic fundamentalism under several miles of thick ice sheet.
It would be a win-win situation !