It would appear that humanity is at a crossroads, and it has nearly (some would say it already has) outgrown the Earth's carrying capacity. Likewise, the influence, or perhaps poor management is a better description, of human industry has reached such a level that it has altered the chemistry of the biosphere and changed climatic patterns. The Earth is suffering, and if the Earth is suffering so, too, will humanity. We are in a positive feedback loop with nature, and we ultimately defile ourselves every time we defile the Earth. But we must be positive (it is far too easy to be negative) and humanity must use all the incredible skills and intelligence that it has been blessed with to save both our future and that of the biosphere. Global warming, the unchecked harvesting of resources, and overpopulation (see Appendix 4 in this book) are the key issues that humanity must deal with in the very near future, and both understanding and learning how to control these complex problems will be key to the successfully terraforming of other worlds in the deeper future.
In this chapter, the physical properties of the Earth have been noted and arrayed, and its place within the Solar System and future time has been explored. Our next task is to look more closely at the physical interactions that make a biosphere possible, since understanding how such exquisite and complex systems come about will be the key to terraforming both Mars and Venus.
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