Sustainability and the Astrobiological Perspective: Framing Human Futures in a Planetary Context

We explore how questions related to developing a sustainable human civilization can be cast in terms of astrobiology. In particular we show how ongoing astrobiological studies of the coupled relationship between life, planets and their co-evolution can inform new perspectives and direct new studies in sustainability science.

Using the Drake Equation as a vehicle to explore the gamut of astrobiology, we focus on its most import factor for sustainability: the mean lifetime of an ensemble of Species with Energy-Intensive Technology (SWEIT). We then cast the problem into the language of dynamical system theory and introduce the concept of a trajectory bundle for SWEIT evolution and discuss how astrobiological results usefully inform the creation of dynamical equations, their constraints and initial conditions.

Three specific examples of how astrobiological considerations can be folded into discussions of sustainability are discussed: (1) concepts of planetary habitability, (2) mass extinctions and their possible relation to the current, so-called Anthropocene epoch, and (3) today's changes in atmospheric chemisty (and the climate change it entails) in the context of pervious epochs of biosphere-driven atmospheric and climate alteration (i.e. the Great Oxidation Event).

Adam Frank, Woodruff Sullivan (Submitted on 14 Oct 2013)

Comments: Submitted to Astrobiology

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1310.3851 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1310.3851v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: Adam Frank [v1] Mon, 14 Oct 2013 20:54:17 GMT (5279kb)

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