But don’t do it without an operator’s manual – you might mess it up. Luckily for us, climatologist Richard Alley disclosed an instruction manual for how to operate the planet Earth last weekend.
“Earth: The Operators’ Manual” opens with a thorough grounding in Earth’s climate history and an overview of the current dilemmas, but its main thrust is an upbeat assessment of the many viable sustainable energy options…“Of course we share the best climate science, but we know today’s audiences want to see solutions, not just restatements of the problems,” said writer/director Geoff Haines-Stiles.”
The conceptualization of geoengineering as a response to climate change is often limited to plans to inject sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere or “fertilize” the ocean with iron. While watching this trailer, I couldn’t help but think that geoengineering ought to be considered more broadly: as a stance taken towards social and biogeochemical systems in which “solutions” are found to “problems” by assuming a ground that reduces society and nature to technical devices. “Solutions” are based on that ground. As Alley narrates:
“Our use of fossil fuels for energy is pushing us towards a climate unlike any seen in the history of civilization, while a growing population needs more and more clean energy. I believe science offers us an operators’ manual with answers to both of these huge challenges, oh, and by the way, it’s operators’ plural – we’re all in this together.”
Will we communally respond in a manner dictated by scientific norms? It seems there’s not a straight line between the scientific findings of climatology and its normative implications. Our interpretations of scientific findings are framed by many socioeconomic and cultural factors that will shape or even determine how we eventually respond.
Ultimately, I don’t think the fault for rushing to draw this line lies with Alley – it lies embedded within the entire socio-economic paradigm that refuses to acknowledge and discuss climate change as an existential risk. This understandably leads professionals with a deep understanding of the risk to overreach the boundaries of their expertise by developing normative programs blind to the many economic, social, and cultural drivers of ecological degradation and biogeochemical destabilization.