HSHM 211 Lecture 19: Global Catastrophe 19

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Hist of Science, Hist of Med
HSHM 211
William Rankin

HSHM 211: GLOBAL CATASTROPHE SINCE 1750 4/19/17: The Age of Catastrophe  Environmentalism 1. Cultural and political as much as scientific 2. Trust, authority, doubt  The ozone layer 1. Slightly higher ozone concentrations in the upper atmosphere 2. Early 1970s: Paul Crutzen a. Upper-atmosphere ozone threatened by humans? 3. 1974: Rowland and Molina a. Much more imminent threat: cfcs (chlorofluorocarbons) o Very useful manufactured chemicals o Useful because they’re stable, but so stable that they survive into high altitudes o Then zapped by UV light, and broken parts destroy a lot of ozone 4. Exponential growth of CFC production from 1950s to 1970s a. 1985: Hole in ozone layer discovered b. Reactions o CFCs banned o Major US leadership o 1978: First regulation o 1985: First international treaty o 1987: Montreal Protocol to end most CFCs within ten years  Precautionary principle in action!  Regulation without consensus  The ozone hole could not be explained, which provoked action  Nuclear winter 1. Smoke in the air blocks the sun 2. Artificial winter: the U.S. below freezing in the summer 3. 1982: Paul Crutzen a. Nuclear war and the ozone layer o Bad results b. Nuclear war and global warming (rather, global cooling) o Sunlight reduced by a factor of 2 to 150 c. Nuclear war and mass extinction o K-T boundary: asteroid impact as a natural nuclear winter? 4. Unified science of catastrophe? a. Sagan: planetary research o Venus: runaway greenhouse effect o Mars: no organic molecules without ozone o A very fragile global equilibrium?  The Anthropocene 5. After nuclear winter predictions, Gorbachev influenced USSR to decrease nuclear weapons productions a. End of Cold War eased nuclear winter predictions b. However, still major concern today for both ozone and climate  Two visions of earth as home 1. “Spaceship Earth” a. Humans as confident managers b. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) o “Geodesic dome” o “Dymaxion” house and car o We can engineer our way out of problems  1968: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth  Metaphor of politicians, economists, technofuturists 2. “Pale Blue Dot” a. Humans as a disturbance b. Carl Sagan (1934-1996) o Astronomer, TV o Humans are insignificant, narrow-minded, irresponsible 3. Fuller: a fragile earth requires control 4. Sagan: a fragile earth calls for humility  Takeaways 1. Persistent conceptual roadblock a. Human-focused, confident, economistic b. Human-phobic, holistic, pessimistic c. Biggest lesson of catastrophe: this dichotomy is not helpful 4/24/17: Where do we go from here?  The age of catastrophe
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