Ancient Indian cosmology

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Re: How do gay Buddhists explain this one?

Postby viniketa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:34 am

Huseng wrote:
viniketa wrote:In short, much more advanced than we tend to think. It is true that the rate of scientific discovery and technological change in the last 400 years outstrips anything that's gone before.


I don't think the rate of scientific discovery was a direct result of people somehow "finally getting it right", but just that they had the resources suddenly to devote themselves exclusively to such pursuits.


Agreed, as this indicates:

viniketa wrote:This is in part due to implementation of other technologies in transportation and telecommunication.


Huseng wrote:In the last two centuries it has largely been a result of increased social complexity as a result of fossil fuel exploitation coupled with a culture that directs its intellectual resources into the direction of engineering and science


Fossil fuel has played a part in the development of social complexity, but it is not the only "causal" factor in this or other social change in the last 400 years. Changes in philosophical thought, in general, and religious thinking, in particular, are factors in the 'rise' of so-called 'scientific thinking'. In the West, factors associated with the rise of Protestantism play into the development of both industry and science. That's a whole other thread, perhaps.

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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby Indrajala » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:43 am

Lhug-Pa wrote::good:

About one thing you wrote though, that is if I understand you correctly, I don't think that materialists destroying the planet has anything to do with a subconscious desire to destroy everything in hopes of ending suffering. I think it's plain ignorance and/or greed.

There have been times where I thought if there's a "god" It might as well destroy everything and just start over at this point. However such a wish never made me want to start supporting any agenda to destroy the planet via technology or pollution.


I'm of the belief that a materialist who doesn't have any conviction in past or future lives, or some kind of post-mortem consequences for their misdeeds, will be inclined towards destructive behaviours. Afflictions if not recognized as existent in some form or another will direct a persons towards destructive activities (in materialism such afflictions would be seen as epiphenomena and rendered ultimately unimportant neural activities -- if they interfere with our hedonism, then maybe they can be chemically addressed, but that's it). Even in the classical West this was recognized by thinkers like the Stoics.

Materialism promises that no matter how destructive and hedonistic you are in your life, you'll die and be embraced by eternal oblivion, freed from the consequences of your actions. Eternal peace. Everyone gets pardoned for their sins. When this becomes collective and mainstream, everyone starts living just for themselves in this current life with all activities directed more or less around what is of benefit immediately. The mainstream idea becomes one of "you only live once, so live it up, and screw the consequences". There is minimal concern for distant generations of humans (toxic radioactive waste is their problem, not ours) or even animals (they're cute, but expendable to the system as a whole). This great conflagration of passions left unchecked runs its course and from the ashes something new arises, but nevertheless the process is ultimately quite horrid and painful.

This is a wrong view in Buddhist terms of course. How this unfolds and affects someone's behaviour is quite profound. For instance, if you had a strong idea about karma, causes and conditions, you might think twice about testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific Ocean, killing immeasurable plant and animal life while contaminating the atmosphere and oceans with radiation which in the long-term would prompt diseases in both humans and animals alike. Not only would you refrain from such activities given your own karmic fate, but you'd probably feel that harming so many beings was reprehensible. The same goes for testing on animals. Think of all the billions of lab rats and other species which are butchered on an industrial scale "for the good of science". It is like a totem where no matter the harm inflicted on others, the glory and well-being of the very idea of science is unquestionable. Kill billions of beings, contaminate the atmosphere and oceans with toxins and radiation -- it ultimately is for the good of science (which apparently makes our lives immediately better and enjoyable, and time to enjoy life is short), so to hell with the consequences.
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby Namgyal » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:51 am

Lhug-Pa wrote:
I don't think that materialists destroying the planet has anything to do with a subconscious desire to destroy everything in hopes of ending suffering. I think it's plain ignorance and/or greed.


It makes sense that folk who believe that their responsibility ends with their own demise should be careless about what they leave behind. I visited a famous arboretum recently and it made a vivid impression on me. I stood in a grove of Dawn Redwood trees with their amazing twisting red trunks and bright green leaves and I wondered what the world would be like if it were entirely covered with gardens of strange and beautiful plants. Our science is easily powerful enough to achieve this and also to manage and train the animals so that they no longer have to feed on each other. In classical Tibetan and Chinese painting there are a number of symbolic types of landscape that feature receding hills, beautiful coves and distinctive rock formations. Although these landscapes are very stylised they are actually places in the world that resemble them, so with only a minimal amount of Zen tinkering they could be perfect. There would be no need to pray to be reborn in a pure land.
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Re

Postby Indrajala » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:53 am

viniketa wrote:Fossil fuel has played a part in the development of social complexity, but it is not the only "causal" factor in this or other social change in the last 400 years. Changes in philosophical thought, in general, and religious thinking, in particular, are factors in the 'rise' of so-called 'scientific thinking'. In the West, factors associated with the rise of Protestantism play into the development of both industry and science. That's a whole other thread, perhaps.

:namaste:


I agree, though I think for the most part it was fossil fuels that enabled both industry and science like we have them now.

Of course in India where they had a surplus to spend on vast projects like Nalanda University, it wasn't engineering or chemistry they were focused on, but subjects like grammar, meditation, metaphysics, scriptural studies and astronomy.

What a society values intellectually is of course variable. I find it curious though that in ancient India they were so heavily invested in subjects that had zero military application. None. You can't get a military advantage from studying Panini's grammar! But nevertheless countless scholars memorized that material and spent their lives debating over it largely on the state's payroll.

Now our universities are largely directed towards producing that which is either commercially and militarily useful.
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby viniketa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:54 am

Huseng wrote:Materialism promises that no matter how destructive and hedonistic you are in your life, you'll die and be embraced by eternal oblivion, freed from the consequences of your actions.... There is minimal concern for distant generations of humans (toxic radioactive waste is their problem, not ours) or even animals (they're cute, but expendable to the system as a whole). This great conflagration of passions left unchecked runs its course and from the ashes something new arises, but nevertheless the process is ultimately quite horrid and painful.


Not that materialism doesn't play it's part, but this line of thinking seems more in line with the thought that the whole universe exists for the use and benefit of human beings. This line of thinking can be encountered in spiritual traditions, as well.

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Re: Re

Postby viniketa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:57 am

Huseng wrote:Now our universities are largely directed towards producing that which is either commercially and militarily useful.


Yes, which is precisely why we need to very carefully examine the sources and history of the development of this state of affairs.

For me, at least, that will have to wait for another time! :zzz:

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Re: Re:

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:40 am

viniketa wrote:Popperian 'positivism' plays a part in this, but one can't blame poor Karl for everything (nor was he expressing something particularly new, just the hearing it got was new).


Of course, there's always Ayer - a man whose views one just loves to hate. Now, in Captain Kirk's voice: "AYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER!"

viniketa wrote:
Huseng wrote:Materialism promises that no matter how destructive and hedonistic you are in your life, you'll die and be embraced by eternal oblivion, freed from the consequences of your actions.... There is minimal concern for distant generations of humans (toxic radioactive waste is their problem, not ours) or even animals (they're cute, but expendable to the system as a whole). This great conflagration of passions left unchecked runs its course and from the ashes something new arises, but nevertheless the process is ultimately quite horrid and painful.


Not that materialism doesn't play it's part, but this line of thinking seems more in line with the thought that the whole universe exists for the use and benefit of human beings. This line of thinking can be encountered in spiritual traditions, as well.


True that. Also, we really shouldn't overestimate the influence of various spiritual doctrines on the actual realpolitik in all its horror. Regarding ecology, it's enough to think of China or Japan, both right now and in the past, or of the present India. There may be (and have been) living traditions there aplenty, numerous enlightened teachers and dedicated disciples - and still it's regular ecocide, often presened as a patriotic, sober and selfless act, as opposed to the pathetic freakshow of treehuggers. The spiritual types might protest (though, incidentally, few of such voices are heard), but the companies and governments - and societies - don't give a deer's turd.
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Re: Re:

Postby Indrajala » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:04 am

treehuggingoctopus wrote:True that. Also, we really shouldn't overestimate the influence of various spiritual doctrines on the actual realpolitik in all its horror. Regarding ecology, it's enough to think of China or Japan, both right now and in the past, or of the present India. There may be (and have been) living traditions there aplenty, numerous enlightened teachers and dedicated disciples - and still it's regular ecocide, often presened as a patriotic, sober and selfless act, as opposed to the pathetic freakshow of treehuggers. The spiritual types might protest (though, incidentally, few of such voices are heard), but the companies and governments - and societies - don't give a deer's turd.


In Asia pollution is treated as an aesthetic problem. Spiritual traditions are helpless in the face of capitalist industrialism.

Buddhist organizations might advocate recycling and bringing your own chopsticks instead of using the disposable ones, but at the same time they'll hack down a whole forest to build their new shining temples while praising themselves for apparently being eco-friendly and using the air conditioning sparingly.

This is what kaliyuga looks like.
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Re: Re:

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:22 am

Huseng wrote:In Asia pollution is treated as an aesthetic problem. Spiritual traditions are helpless in the face of capitalist industrialism.

Buddhist organizations might advocate recycling and bringing your own chopsticks instead of using the disposable ones, but at the same time they'll hack down a whole forest to build their new shining temples while praising themselves for apparently being eco-friendly and using the air conditioning sparingly.


Exactly what I had in mind. Hence no need to blame materialists and materialism - you can have a Christian society, a Muslim one, a Buddhist one, a Hindu one... it appears it really ceases to matter the moment the Champion of All Time comes onstage. Every religion (qua institution) ultimately takes refuge in the establishment with its institutionalized delusion and greed.
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Re: Re:

Postby Indrajala » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:34 am

treehuggingoctopus wrote:
Huseng wrote:In Asia pollution is treated as an aesthetic problem. Spiritual traditions are helpless in the face of capitalist industrialism.

Buddhist organizations might advocate recycling and bringing your own chopsticks instead of using the disposable ones, but at the same time they'll hack down a whole forest to build their new shining temples while praising themselves for apparently being eco-friendly and using the air conditioning sparingly.


Exactly what I had in mind. Hence no need to blame materialists and materialism - you can have a Christian society, a Muslim one, a Buddhist one, a Hindu one... it appears it really ceases to matter the moment the Champion of All Time comes onstage. Every religion (qua institution) ultimately takes refuge in the establishment with its institutionalized delusion and greed.


I would argue, however, that most of the elites of societies nowadays are materialist in their worldviews. Business leaders, government officials and anyone with ample education and resources is likely going to believe in the mainstream global belief system of materialism, even if they call themselves Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, or anything else.

It is like how many self-identifying Buddhists might say they "believe in rebirth", but the furtherest they ever plan is to retirement and their funeral expenses. They don't plan for their next lives by making merit and so on. If they really thought rebirth was realistic they'd make appropriate plans, but they don't.

For most "religious people" spirituality is just a fantasy. Something to believe in and paste over the default belief system that the state and society support. It includes community and might make you feel good, but at the end of the day it is just a "belief system" pasted on top of another prevailing worldview.
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Re: Re:

Postby kirtu » Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:13 pm

Huseng wrote:
treehuggingoctopus wrote:True that. Also, we really shouldn't overestimate the influence of various spiritual doctrines on the actual realpolitik in all its horror. Regarding ecology, it's enough to think of China or Japan, both right now and in the past, or of the present India. There may be (and have been) living traditions there aplenty, numerous enlightened teachers and dedicated disciples - and still it's regular ecocide, often presened as a patriotic, sober and selfless act, as opposed to the pathetic freakshow of treehuggers. The spiritual types might protest (though, incidentally, few of such voices are heard), but the companies and governments - and societies - don't give a deer's turd.


In Asia pollution is treated as an aesthetic problem. Spiritual traditions are helpless in the face of capitalist industrialism.


Not entirely. In Hawaii Save Our Surf became a major force. Granted that this is a secular organization but it has a strongly spiritual underpinning. Also the Native Hawaiian people's organizations were finally able to stop bombing on Kahoolawe and the ostensible motivation there was the island's historical sacredness.

Materialism does not have to win. Non-materialist do not have to jettison science (in fact to avert the impending disasters they must embrace science and mathematics).

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Re: Re:

Postby Indrajala » Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:30 pm

kirtu wrote:Materialism does not have to win. Non-materialist do not have to jettison science (in fact to avert the impending disasters they must embrace science and mathematics).

Kirt


I don't have much faith in science as long as it is divorced from any strong sense of morality or spirituality. We're cooking and poisoning the planet as a result of scientific development. You might say it is human misuse of a neutral tool, but that's the whole problem. The tool is extremely destructive and misused continually. It is the institution of science which is developing the technology to exploit the Alberta tar sands. It is scientists who are creating mutant varieties of corn that stand to harm countless people and animals. Millions of animals are tortured and killed in laboratories around the planet every year. Despite all our problems down here NASA is still sending probes to Mars to zap rocks and take photographs of an Arizona like landscape.

So much scientific knowledge has already been used to destructive ends. Do we need MORE rope to hang ourselves with?
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby catmoon » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:01 pm

The question should be: Why is it when presented with a rope, we immediately go forth and proceed to hang ourselves with it?

The answer is simple. Greed. We want a lot of food, warm dwellings in winter, cool in summer, we want to be able to get wherever we want to go quickly, we want instant communications, we want cures for diseases, 24/7 entertainment and Gucci handbags. We want power, which means armies and weapons. We really really want that one. We want to have all the children we like, and we will not accept restraints on the wants.

With such motivations, how could technology not be put to bad uses?

When things are going badly, there is a strong tendency to look for something to blame. Blame allows us to drop responsibility for the problem and place the evil outside of ourselves. But if we are willing to pay a trillion dollars a year for defence, it should not be surprising that people will accept some of that money and develop for us the weapons we are so willing to pay for. That is not the fault of technology, it is the fault of our own incredibly stupid misuse of our vast wealth.

Science can provide for us almost anything we desire. The problem is, we desire all the wrong things.
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby Indrajala » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:14 pm

catmoon wrote:Science can provide for us almost anything we desire. The problem is, we desire all the wrong things.


We desire infinite energy supplies, but that ain't going to happen:

Image

Technology is restrained by resource limits, which we are rapidly learning.

In any case, science won't save us from the eventual demise of industrial civilization. It won't prevent vast population reduction which will be a result of resource limitations.

The problem is that governments largely believe there are technological and scientific solutions to our predicament, and instead of doing sensible things like directing people towards simpler lifestyles, gardening and sustainable urban models, they are pushing much of the same old expecting some solution will be found if enough money is spent on R&D.

Greed can be neutralized, but not in our present model where everyone is a consumer and the whole system depends on us consuming.
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby viniketa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:27 pm

Huseng wrote:In any case, science won't save us from the eventual demise of industrial civilization. It won't prevent vast population reduction which will be a result of resource limitations.


But we can't manage either without science, for that matter.

I've not much time this AM, but I leave you all with two words (both from the same word root): utilitarianism and usury...

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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby catmoon » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:48 pm

Huseng wrote:
catmoon wrote:Science can provide for us almost anything we desire. The problem is, we desire all the wrong things.


We desire infinite energy supplies, but that ain't going to happen:

Image

Technology is restrained by resource limits, which we are rapidly learning.

In any case, science won't save us from the eventual demise of industrial civilization. It won't prevent vast population reduction which will be a result of resource limitations.

The problem is that governments largely believe there are technological and scientific solutions to our predicament, and instead of doing sensible things like directing people towards simpler lifestyles, gardening and sustainable urban models, they are pushing much of the same old expecting some solution will be found if enough money is spent on R&D.

Greed can be neutralized, but not in our present model where everyone is a consumer and the whole system depends on us consuming.


Actually, it turns out there is enough uranium and thorium in ordinary granite* that you could mine it, extract the uranium, and fuel nuclear plants with it. So technology can in fact provide us all the energy we desire, but there are obvious drawbacks!

Now, if we are confronted with the demise of industrial civilization, I would predict that rather than reduce our wants and desires, humanity will eventually re-evaluate its ethics and reluctantly accept the nuclear solution. Its already a done deal in France. It's just a matter of waiting for the fuel crunch to bite a little harder.

Governments are basically in the business of giving the people what they want. If they fail to do so they are out of a job. And people really really want the power on. Push comes to shove, people will look at their failing economies, then look at France, with their 50 years of relatively problem-free power generation, and say "We could do that. Even if we can't, we can hire them to do it for us."

It might be possible to turn the culture of greed around, but geez how do you sell life in a cave eating a coupla tsampa balls a day, no medical, no dental, no internet, no pension?





*20-50 grams per tonne IIRC
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby Namgyal » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:56 pm

Two thirds of the world's scientists are employed in defence research, which is what one would expect during a dark 'Age of Weaponry' :guns: , but even if they were to all suddenly retrain as climatologists and ecologists it would not be enough, because there are too many people.
We are rapidly coming to the point when our only survival option will be to settle a new pristine planet :alien:
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby Indrajala » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:03 pm

catmoon wrote:Actually, it turns out there is enough uranium and thorium in ordinary granite* that you could mine it, extract the uranium, and fuel nuclear plants with it. So technology can in fact provide us all the energy we desire, but there are obvious drawbacks!


Nuclear energy possesses a hidden energy subsidy. Fossil fuels are used to build, maintain and decommission nuclear power plants. Fossil fuels also enable a society to be sufficiently complex to support the intellectual and technical trades which operate the nuclear power industry. We rely on fossil fuels for the so-called green revolution (machinery, fertilizers, pesticides, etc...), allowing us to produce vast amounts of food with little labour which would otherwise have to be produced by small family farms making up 80% or more of the population. Such was the case in pre-industrial times, rendering most of the population permanently attached to the land for their subsistence. In our present time we would be no exception if it was not for fossil fuels which provide human labour in a transportable and easily stored form (oil, coal or natural gas). A barrel of oil contains the equivalent of ten years or more of human labour. This enables vast numbers of technicians and scientists to run a nuclear power plant rather than farming.

So, without that energy subsidy it is unlikely the nuclear power industry would be sustainable. Already it is heavily subsidized.

Moreover, it isn't just an issue of electricity. Our whole global infrastructure is largely dependent on petroleum driven machinery. We might have electric cars, but most of the vehicles on the road today depend on petroleum. Planes, tanks and ships likewise run on oil, not electricity. It would be extremely demanding to convert even half of the current global infrastructure to run on electricity produced by nuclear plants.

A quick tech fix is a fantasy. A dangerous one at that. Most people are assuming "they'll figure something out", but this is unrealistic thinking.


Now, if we are confronted with the demise of industrial civilization, I would predict that rather than reduce our wants and desires, humanity will eventually re-evaluate its ethics and reluctantly accept the nuclear solution. Its already a done deal in France. It's just a matter of waiting for the fuel crunch to bite a little harder.


As I pointed out nuclear energy has a hidden subsidy that is not normally taken into consideration. When that subsidy starts disappearing the fate of nuclear power plants that will need to be decommissioned will become uncertain. It is a rather terrifying prospect.


Governments are basically in the business of giving the people what they want. If they fail to do so they are out of a job. And people really really want the power on. Push comes to shove, people will look at their failing economies, then look at France, with their 50 years of relatively problem-free power generation, and say "We could do that. Even if we can't, we can hire them to do it for us."


This is unrealistic. Look at the chart I posted above. Our global conventional petroleum production already peaked and will start to decline within the decade. This will produce countless feedback loops that devastate economies and societies (for instance when economic growth becomes impossible the whole system of creating money from loans, which are issued based on the assumption of future economic expansion, will falter and produce countless more problems within societies). Even if a nation decided to rapidly build nuclear reactors, you can't just set them up in a few years and have them fully operational and on the grid in short order.

In any case, it isn't just an issue of electricity as I outlined above. You need oil, not electricity, for plastics and agricultural petro-chemicals.




It might be possible to turn the culture of greed around, but geez how do you sell life in a cave eating a coupla tsampa balls a day, no medical, no dental, no internet, no pension?


That's not what I'm proposing. If governments were on the ball they'd subsidize organic agriculture and direct youth towards becoming food producers. They'd work on public transit and walkable cities. Trains instead of highways. Local food production rather than salads driven in from thousands of miles away. Bike paths rather than five lane highways.

But that is not happening on any notable scale.

Our industrial system will run its course and self-terminate. In the process many wars will be fought, people will go hungry and in the long descent many ordinary people will just give up on life when they realize their hopes and dreams are utterly impossible despite having been told from childhood otherwise.

This is kaliyuga.
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby Lhug-Pa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 6:01 pm

Huseng, it's complicated for me to try to explain what I thought you meant at first, when you wrote:


Huseng wrote:Many humans having an inherent desire for death perceived as oblivion in the face of so much suffering,


And that's why I'd erased my post (even though I didn't erase it quickly enough), that is because I couldn't quite convey my thoughts.

Anyhow, I could try to explain more the post I erased which you replied to before I erased it, however I don't have time right now.

At any rate, I agree with a lot of what you're saying in this thread.
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Re: Ancient Indian cosmology

Postby catmoon » Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:19 pm

That's not what I'm proposing. If governments were on the ball they'd subsidize organic agriculture and direct youth towards becoming food producers. They'd work on public transit and walkable cities. Trains instead of highways. Local food production rather than salads driven in from thousands of miles away. Bike paths rather than five lane highways.

But that is not happening on any notable scale.

Our industrial system will run its course and self-terminate. In the process many wars will be fought, people will go hungry and in the long descent many ordinary people will just give up on life when they realize their hopes and dreams are utterly impossible despite having been told from childhood otherwise.

This is kaliyuga.


Your basic premise that we are in some way dependent on oil is incorrect. It's just the fuel of choice at the moment, an arrangement of convenience. It would be pretty straightforward to synthesize fuels and chemical feedstocks directly using power from nuclear plants. The only reason we don't do it right now is that it is not cost effective. Well that and the drawbacks to nuclear power. If the Germans could synthesize fuels in 1945...

But the drawbacks would be: a massive increase in the number of nuclear plants
a proportional increase in radioactive wastes
increased risk of plant accidents
a gargantuan quantity of waste heat

So the hopes and dreams are possible. But they are not pure gain, they come with substantial baggage as it were. And if population continues to rise, in time new hurdles will arise.

The end of the world has been prophesied pretty much every year since Jesus was around. Time after time it has been proven wrong, and time after time new prophets have arisen. Always they claim we face circumstances we have never faced before, and each time we find a way through. Always the gloomy extrapolations are produced, and always they are invalidated by simply doing things differently.

I like your ideas on transportation. Lots of waste there.
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