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Little Blue Dot .
There was once a planet where life evolved into such a state of advancement that the life forms at the top of the chain began to reason , and to think ; they became aware of their own existence , of their past , and their future . This species became organized , they invented the pop-up toaster . They also invented money , and power markets . To reach this stage took four and a half billion years . They thought they were smart . The cleverest thinkers looked out at space and calculated that there was no chance of any other complex life such as theirs anywhere else in the solar system . Everyone believed this , and their self-esteem was boosted considerably .
Some of them made a space rocket and flew to a barren rock that orbited their planet . From the rock their planet looked like a little blue dot in a vast sea of dark infinity .
The planet , however , had not allways been blue . It had also started out as a barren rock , with an atmosphere of noxious gases . But critically , it was exactly the right distance from its sun to allow marvellous changes to occur .
At the outset , some atoms combined to form basic molecules , which then combined to form compounds , which then combined into strings and started to replicate themselves . Complex chemicals had been born , life had begun . Hundreds of millions of years had passed to reach this stage . Evolution was obviously in no hurry .
The building block of life on the little blue dot was an element called carbon , and together with water it comprised the single cell early life forms . These cells combined ingeniously to create energy , and were so successful that all cells have copied the process for billions of years , without the need for evolutionary improvement . These smart little cells took carbon dioxide , combined it with water , and produced complex molecules called carbohydrates . An important by product of this process was something called oxygen . The catalyst needed for this to happen was light , provided by the sun . This process was given the grand name of photosynthesis .
Now then , once the early life forms had photosynthesised they could burn the carbohydrate in their cells to produce energy and allow themselves to grow , releasing carbon dioxide and water vapour in the process . These simple organisms had created the basic loop of life , and produced energy along the way .
The masses of oxygen produced by all this activity turned out to be a good thing for the planet as it wasn't toxic to the carbon life forms . Very slowly the oxygen built up in the atmosphere at the expense of carbon dioxide . The evolving life forms had very cleverly made themselves a breathable atmosphere .
By now almost four billion years had passed by , and life continued to evolve further . The single cell life forms discovered how to make many-celled organisms . These were soft bodied at the outset but later evolved into hard bodied organisms too .
At this time everything was living in the sea , but eventually the oxygen levels increased in the atmosphere enough and the first land based plants started to appear . The first animals , equipped with primitive lungs , were not too far behind .
Then , about three hundred and fifty million years ago , the life forms started to increase exponentially . Forests grew thick and lush on the surface of the pale blue dot . They were so profligate that dead trees and other plants built up vast seams of solid carbon . These seams were buried by sediment and detritus , and they hardened into a black and shiny type of rock . The clever life forms at the top of the chain later referred to this period as the Carboniferous , and they referred to the black rock as coal .
Evolution had now gathered speed , and had produced a huge bio-diversity across the planet . But a hundred million years later , calamity struck with disasterous consequences . Something stirred up the fragile but breathable atmosphere so badly that all life was almost wiped out . The clever people now refer to this apocalyptic disaster as a mass extinction .
But the little blue dot was resilient if nothing else , and it slowly repaired itself .Tens of millions of years passed by and evolution built up a new and very different stock of animals and plants from the survivors . The planet also warmed up considerably at this time , and a group of giant lizards evolved to dominate both land and sea . At around this time , one hundred and fifty million years ago , another natural phenomena occurred . Vast blooms of microscopic plants and algae formed and flourished in the planets warm and shallow seas . As these tiny plants died they settled on the sea bed and formed thick sediments of organic matter . This fallout became so deep that it deoxygenated the depths of the oceans and was not therefore oxidised in the usual way . The organic sediment built up deep , and fast , and the pressure created was enough to heat up and cook the lower layers of matter , turning it into something that would become known as oil . The upper layers of sediment gradually hardened and became rock , trapping and pressurizing the oil beneath it . Void pockets naturally occurred in the oil fields , and these were gradually filled and pressurised by vast quantities of methane gas .The amount of carbon involved , and locked up , in this underground cookery episode can be measured in thousands of billions of tonnes .
Another twenty five million years passed by with the planet still ruled by the giant lizards , they had evolved into very impressive creatures indeed , but their brains had remained small and basic . Biodiversity was once again flourishing and the planet was healthy when disaster struck for a second time . It was now sixty five million years ago , and the little blue dot was hit by a giant meteorite slamming into the planets surface with the explosive force of tens of thousands of nuclear bombs . The atmosphere was stirred up and clogged up , the climate became inhospitable , and the giant lizards were extinct . However , not everything died out in this second apocalypse , and the smaller , hairier , animals managed to survive this climatic disturbance . They weathered the storm . More millions of years passed by and these small animals evolved , becoming larger , and more importantly in the absence of the giant lizards , dominant . These animals mostly got around on four legs , but around seven million years ago two-legged creatures started to appear . These guys were stooped in stature , and very hairy , but they could think for themselves , having been endowed with large , active brains . Around two million years ago a more upright-standing and less hairy version started to appear . They very quickly evolved grunting into speech and learned to communicate , and whats more they discovered how to make fire . The smart people , the thinkers , had arrived , and they began to dominate the planet .
However , not content with that , they started to dominate one another .
They organised themselves into tribes , and fought aggressively against other tribes . The various tribes became so big that they called themselves nations . But the same thing happened , the nations fought against one another . But they also started to trade with one another too . Plying their trade in sailing ships , venturing further afield , eventually circumnavigating the world . The oceans of the little blue dot were stormy and dangerous , the wooden ships often sank , and this became a problem for the smart people .
Some of the traders then came up with an idea to make things easier . They all paid a premium into a pot so that lost ships and cargo could be reimbursed . This happened three hundred years ago , and the smart people called their idea insurance .
Not long after this , they discovered coal , and burnt it in place of wood . They invented coal fired steam engines to power their ships , much better than sails . And they also used it to power machinery on land too . The smart people had created an industrial revolution . Then they discovered that coal fired steam engines could be used to drive huge dynamos and create large ammounts of electricity . Coal-burning power plants were built , and coal was burnt in them by the billions of tonnes .
However , coal was dirty . It did not burn completely , and left soot everywhere . Then oil was discovered , and found to be a viable alternative to coal . So the smart people started burning it en masse in their industrial engines instead of coal . They also found it suitable as fuel for another recent invention , the horseless carriage .
The electric power plants and the horseless carriages proliferated like wildfire in all the nations . And pretty soon oil was being burnt in billions of tons , just like coal had been before it . Gas was discovered in vast quantities in the oilfields , and it too was used as fuel in the power plants . All the industrialized nations of the little blue dot were happy . The big burn up was well under way .
But there was a problem . Burning all these fossil fuels was releasing unnaturally large ammounts of carbon dioxide into the lower reaches of the atmosphere and the carbon molecules were absorbing reflected heat and trapping it there . This effect had been known about for over a hundred years but selective thinking meant nobody much cared . Eventually some of the smart people decided to try and put things right as they had noticed the surface temperature of the planet was increasing as a result . They spoke out about it and one hundred and sixty seven different nations , including the biggest nation , decided to negotiate a treaty to cut back fossil fuel burning . They all realised that if temperatures rose significantly then sea levels would rise and innundate the worlds coastal areas , where most of the richest cities and most of the agriculture and industry were located .
But there was a problem . A hundred years of profligate oil burning , and two hundred years of coal , had created a web of vested interests amongst the smart people . Cut backs would leave many organisations with stranded assets , including the nations where the oil , coal , and gas were located . This web of vested interests was a kind of empire . The empire of oil was the most powerful interest group on the planet . The biggest companies that would be affected would be the oil companies , and the manufacturers of horseless carriages . The single biggest user of oil was the military branch of the biggest nation , and they dug in with the empire of oil to jointly defend their percieved interests . They decided not to listen to the smart peoples warnings about the planet , and declined to cut back on fossil fuel burning .
So time passed , the empire of oil increased production , and the industrialised nations , particularly the biggest nation , continued to burn increasingly vast ammounts of fossil fuels .
The smart people saw this unfolding and became increasingly worried . They undertook scientific calculations , and came up with some grim predictions . The global thermostat would go through the roof if burning continued in such vast quantities . Trees would die in vast numbers , soil would dry up , oceanic circulation would slow down , and the amplifying impact of all this would add even more heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere , trapping even more heat .They were predicting a man made doomsday machine , a human induced third global apocalypse . But still the empire of oil and the biggest nation would not listen . Then the smart people pointed out that if their predictions were realised all the wealth that had been accumulated over hundreds of years would all be destroyed . They were not alone in speaking out either . Since the days of the wooden ships the insurance business had grown into something larger even than the oil business , in terms of annual turnover . The insurance people now spoke up . Global warming , and global disaster , would destroy their industry , unless fossil fuel burning was dramatically cut back . And without insurance ability how would the rest of the traders make money , or maintain value of what they had ?
This caused the empire of oil , and the biggest nation , to wobble a bit . And some of them even admitted there may be viable alternatives to power production . The smart people knew there were alternatives , but the empire of oil said more research was needed . So most people just kept right on using the empire of oils products in the face of lack of alternatives . And the empire of oil made so much money it got even stronger as a nation . And the barons of the empire of oil flew the world in executive jets , more powerful than anyone , except perhaps the president of the biggest nation , but he was one of them in reality anyway .
The smart people knew that the oil would run out one day , and they told everybody so . But nobody questioned this . They didn't want to talk about that . And besides , the empire of oil told them not to worry and that there was plenty left for a long time yet . Plenty of time to keep burning . Plenty of time to perfect research into alternative energies .
But then some dissident thinkers within the empire of oil said , wait a minute , oil really is running out . They reckoned that the days of accessible and cheap oil might be coming to an end some time soon . They started to get realistic about this prospect . They managed to calculate the point at which half of the oil ever created by nature would be used up . The answer they got was three years from now . That became known as the topping point . At that point , said the dissident thinkers , more than half the global oil reserves will have been used up , in just one hundred years , and we will be on the downward slope towards running out . More alarmingly , the use of oil is rising exponentially and it will therefore take far less than on hundred years to use up what is now left . And , there are no more reserves left to discover . The nations of the little blue dot would no longer be able to run their economies on growing supplies of cheap oil . They would be subjected to dwindling supplies of expensive oil .Gas would go the same way not long after . Everyone would then look to the alternatives to come to the rescue , but the infrastructure would not be in place for that to happen because the empire of oil , and the biggest nation , with their culture of suppression had held them back during the years of the great oil addiction .
There would be an energy crisis of mammoth proportions , and that would spark an economic collapse of frightening awfulness . And in turn , the empire of oil , and the biggest nation , could well find themselves left high and dry .
And that is the end of the story of the little blue dot .
Except , it's not the end . It's just the way things are after four and a half billion years . There is probably still some unfinished business . Perhaps this is really just the beginning ?
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