Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Futurist Friday: Sustainable Civilization

Astrophysicist Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, is part of a group of researchers who are looking at climate change from an “astrobiological perspective.” Frank’s work is based on the premise that we aren’t alone in the universe–that some kinds of intelligence, and civilization, has arisen over and over again in the course of billions of years and the vast expanse of space. If that’s so, it is probable that no challenge humans are facing now is unique, including global warming, which Frank sees as an inevitable side effect of energy-intensive technologies.

Frank and his colleagues constructed mathematical models to explore how any civilization that arose in the history of the universe might have responded to rising global temperatures . This 3 minute video presents the four scenarios they explored:

The good news? It’s possible to model a response in which population numbers and world temperatures both rise, but as the civilization adopts sustainable practices, catastrophe is averted. The bad news? Turns out you can do all the right things and still be doomed.  Um, enjoy?

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