Isolations of Space and Time

IV. Emanation

We are slowly coming to terms with the converse idea that actions taken within our frame have consequences for systems beyond. The obvious example here is the imagining and construction of the U.S. federal highway system begun in the 1950‘s, which fomented dramatic cultural changes that have implications today at the planetary scale.

We have designated this a global problem of highest priority – our chrono-centrism tells us that any change outside our frame is a dangerous thing. But we do not understand well what this change will mean, in the short or long term, for us or the Earth.
Neither do we understand the far-reaching reverberations of proposed re-mediations any better than we understood the implications of cross-country paving half a century ago.

This is not to dispute the human-sourced enrichment of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere, but rather a caution about our response. While experts agree that Earth’s average temperature is likely to rise due to carbon increase, there is no science or model that can yet reliably predict what consequent changes will happen, or where or when. The weather is unpredictable more than a few days out; future climate a much less clear view.

There are also confounding variables unaccounted for. Many long time-scale cycles and systems on Earth are poorly understood, like glaciation and polar reversals; many more may be yet unrecognized. And many of these systems, like climate, are chaotic, and therefore highly unpredictable. Any of them could work against or with the change we have already wrought, and with or against any changes we make in response. We are operating time-blindly.

There is an architectural, spatial analogy to blind process tinkering. Visiting older houses I have seen living space degraded by the accumulation of poorly understood problems fixed with bad solutions, that inevitably create more problems that are themselves understood poorly and solved badly. The invariable result is a house which is accommodated rather than accommodating.
In short, we make a mess.

Without large scale vision and perspective, without comprehensive understanding of interconnected systems and processes, and without the tools to predict outcomes accurately there are limits to what we can effect. Isolations in time and space are always stopgap measures.
How should we act given how little we can know?


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