Monday, July 13, 2009

Finite Systems

I saw a little thing on global warming this morning and wondered why this concept is so hard to drive into some people's heads.

Do you all remember those "Sea Monkeys" we used to get as kids? They are still around you know. My daughter had them not too long ago. They are just brine shrimp packaged as pets. So I want to suggest a little experiment. If you took one little sea monkey and put it in a big glass of prepared (salt) water it would likely thrive in what to it would seem like an ocean. Now, what would happen if you gradually added some toxic substance one grain at a time?

You can see where I'm going with this. Initially, no effect right? But as that toxic substance built up, the Sea Monkey would eventually drop dead. Why? Because it's finite ecosystem would pollute and eventually kill the poor little thing.

Now, why is it that when you expand that ecosystem to the size of our oceans or atmosphere, some people suddenly become blind to the reality that it is the same exact thing? On at least three occasions I have had conversations with seemingly intelligent people who appear incapable of grasping the concept that our oceans and atmosphere are finite systems (one even tried to argue that the atmosphere was infinite... another guy insisted you can't pollute the ocean because it's too big...I'm not kidding). If you continue to pump toxins into that sea monkey's "ocean" you will kill it. If you continue to pump toxins into our atmosphere and ocean you will eventually kill us too. This isn't rocket science.

When I was a kid I had a 3 or 4 gallon aquarium that I put a couple of guppies in. Well, those guppies did quite well. They breed like rabbits you know. It wasn't all that long before there were a shit load of guppies in that tank. It was pretty cool. Then one day I woke up and every single guppy in that tank was dead. The guy at the fish store explained I had experienced what was known as a "blow out". The filtration system could no longer process the volume of waste produced and the aeration system could no long produce enough oxygen to support that many fish. The result was they all dropped dead at the same time. Scary stuff isn't it?

Now I'm not suggesting we immediately ammend our lifestyles and go back to horses and home made goods. But we do need to start thinking in terms of preservation. And I think it starts with the big guns. The factories, municipalities, countries, etc. that do the major dirty dumpings. Get them in check and work backwards. Hybrid cars are a good start. But we need to do more. And to those of you who say "we are doing all that" my response is "are we really".

So, think about it. ANY FINITE SYSTEM can be polluted. Our oceans are not infinite. Our atmosphere is not infinite. Look up the definition of infinite. I firmly believe it is far from too late if we get our acts together. But whenever you go to the polls to vote, make sure you are looking at your candidates record on the environment. The future of our race (and most of the life on our planet) depends on it.


Common Sense


  1. Good blog. For some specifics on what policies to support, check out Thomas Friedman's "Hot, Flat and Crowded".