I guess I am a disillusioned environmentalist. I’d like to see the Earth totally unspoiled by any human activity but realistically I know that this is mostly a loosing battle. We may recycle, telecommuting and delivery may allow us to drive a lot less, we may drive cars with hybrid powerplants, we may consume less and reuse more, solar and wind energy may become cheaper but, in the end, the Earth’s population continues to grow and the developing world won’t settle for anything less than a standard of living equal to the post-industrial world. Most of the unspoiled areas of the world are essentially doomed. The radical greens can spike all the trees and bomb all the labs they want. Short of destroying all of humanity and thus preventing something like technology from ever emerging again, they will fail in the long run. This is bleak and horrible but I don’t really see any way we can avoid it.
The economic expansion of China (Or Brazil, India, Indonesia, etc.) is exactly what I am talking about. China is very ambitious and is bent on evolution and improvement on all fronts. They have seen how people in Western Europe, North America, Southern Oceania and elsewhere in Asia live and they want that too, no matter what it takes. If they have to burn all the coal, if they have to build twenty more dams the size of Three Gorges, if they have to, for example, build five times the number of nuclear powerplants the rest of the world has in total, they will.
There might be ways to reverse most of the damage that we’ve done and will do to the biosphere. Molecular manufacturing and space colonization are two things that have been proposed. But mechanosynthesis won’t restore extinct species for which we have no preserved DNA and, more to the point, it doesn’t exist yet. Requiring everyone to undergo bioengineering to be forceably evacuated to space colonies is an excerise left to students of public policy and political science. In short, the Earth, unavoidably, will eventually resemble a suburban shopping mall. The diversity of the biosphere will be greatly simplified. I’m not any happier about that than you are.