The Coruscant Question
Why we can't turn earth into a planetary city
Alright, for those of you who don’t speak Nerd, Coruscant is the capital planet of the Galactic Empire in Star Wars. It is depicted as a giant planetary city. It’s existence posits the question, “Would it be possible to make Earth into Coruscant?” I don’t think so. Besides the obvious question of “Wouldn’t we have to destroy all the nature?”, I don’t even think we would make it that far. Just look at how the world is today! This year Australia and California had some of the worst wildfires on record and we’ve had so many hurricanes we are using Greek names. Lousiana is about to get hit for the 9th time! There’s also a pandemic spreading across the globe, many believe because we encroached on nature around China. Climate change is also melting polar ice caps and permafrost is melting releasing pockets of methane into the atmosphere. Methane can absorb 200 times more heat than Carbon Dioxide. This could kickstart “runaway climate change” in which the planet gradually heats into an irreversible hellscape. And all of this is only a 1 degree increase in the global average temperature. Yes, some people may bring up the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in which the earth warmed 5 to 8 degrees and life still survived. The key difference is that temperature difference was over 200,000 years. We raised our temperature 1 degree in 100 years. Too fast for most species to adapt and survive.
Let’s backtrack the clock to Summer 2019 to see how we got here. The Brazilian government had encouraged people to burn down the Amazon rainforest for ranchlands at an alarming rate last year. There are plenty of other reasons for the insane weather this year, but I think this is the smoking gun. I think both Brazil and Trump, China and India as well, think that we can develop and build and tear down until out countries are as densely populated as Europe. But the planet will never survive that. Or rather, WE won’t. During the times of Ancient Greece and Rome, and all the other European empires, they decimated their natural resources. There used to be lions in Europe. Did you know that? There used to be bears in Africa too. The Roman Coliseum’s habit of killing animals for entertainment was one reason for their demise. Anyway, where am I going with this? Oh yeah. There is probably no way we could make the planet into a giant city.
But let’s assume we did. And let’s assume the city is built they same way our modern cities are built. With concrete and asphalt. City’s have a tendency to overheat. It’s called the Heat Island Effect. In the summertime the City of New York is much hotter than the surrounding countryside. There are few plants to ameliorate the effects of heat. No trees to cool everyone off with their transpiration (plant sweat). Add to this that asphalt and concrete absorb heat like crazy. Darks colors absorb heat. White and light colors reflect it. So this makes big cities hellishly hot in the summer. Now imagine we somehow survive a superheated planet where we tore down most of the forests and filled in most of the wetlands. Then we build cities on them and MAKE IT EVEN HOTTER!
But what about the Oceans you may say! Good point. It wouldn’t be a planetary city if we didn’t build on the oceans too wouldn’t it? Floating cities…thus making the world hotter again. The Ocean keeps us cool and if we build on it too…same problem. Only Coastal areas at higher latitudes will be remotely comfortable to live in. So, sorry to ruin the Coruscant Dream with science but unless we change the materials out of which cities are made and make buildings bioactive setups filled with plants we may never even make it to the next century or two. Not at current numbers. We’ve reached a point where humanity can drastically affect the weather and the quality of life of the whole planet. We need to know our limits. Our species and our planet depend on it.