No. 60 (June 2002)
One Destiny, or Many?
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
There are even more positive possibilities ahead of us than there are dark, negative ones. I don't care for gloom-and-doom stuff, and definitely don't want to write about some of those dark, negative ones the brightly positive ones are much more fun to explore. But some pretty straight stuff has to be said, and has to be addressed if we are to get to those brightly positive situations. Please bear with me while I say what has to be said...
Some difficulties looming ahead of us
I don't want government telling me how many children I can or cannot have. Do you? War, epidemic disease or starvation, however, don't seem to be very attractive as the alternatives to such controls, as our population on Earth continues to bulge. Some nations already restrain family size and several have flirted with involuntary sterilization. How long before our own once-spacious country has to follow suit?
But if we depend upon voluntary restraints and persuasion, it won't take long for those who honor broader concerns to be totally swamped-under by those who don't and who put their own immediate interests first-and-only.
Nor is this the only nemesis to our freedoms which looms ahead of us. Some of these constraints are much more immediate. We were already well into a police state years before 9/11 way back during our not-so-successful War on Drugs. While some among us fantasize about dispensing with government entirely, we head with seeming inexorability toward more and more government, more and more controls. And even the stringencies we have in place now appear hopelessly inadequate to fend off more terrorist assaults, more drug traffic, more disorders and more policing around the world.
A one-way trip on the roller-coaster
We have been on a one-way trip toward these stark alternatives. We cannot climb back down from our numbers, we can't climb back down from living in a complexly interdependent, technological civilization with vulnerable lines-of-supply and cascade potentials. We cannot climb back down from living in a complexly interdependent society requiring considerable coordination and government in some form.
To get back to a simple, organic, sustainable way of living would require the die-off or killing of more than 99% of us. In such a severe collapse, humanity could very well go extinct altogether. I don't think that this is the direction, either, that we or any rational person would care to go in.
Yet we have solved other great problems
We ended the Cold War. We've virtually eliminated the likelihood of exchanges of nuclear weapons on a strategic level (though not on a tactical level, and the India/Pakistan thing is currently worrisome). We've written here of easy ways we could feed hundreds of times as many people as are now alive here on Earth. The rise of the Internet has brought an era of plenty within potential reach of the majority of the human race. We've put human footprints on the Moon.
Yet here we are, sliding with apparent irreversibility toward loss of freedom, toward an ever-deepening police state, and toward a regimen of hardships, or toward a sudden and stunning collapse which humanity might never be able to climb back out of.
He who doesn't learn from the lessons of the future...
Let me be frank with you.
We are facing these stark alternatives, and most of us now reading this will live to undergo one or another of these, if we don't face up, and if we don't undertake deliberate, well-considered actions toward the one favorable option that DOES exist for us....
One destiny or many?
As we become increasingly and inexorably more and more involved with each other, on one planet competing for the same set of limited land and resources, we are being forced to forge one standard way of life upon all of us, one way of doing things, whether rule of law or Allah's will; one financial system; the American shopping center; whatever unified system.
Living on one planet only, we are being forced toward one iron destiny. Even in its most benign form, whichever that destiny becomes, to major portions of the human race it's a terrible outcome. Many would much rather die than accept it, and will fight it any way they can as we would ourselves, fighting imposition upon us of some totally alien way of life. We fought, bled and died enthusiastically to turn back the Axis powers. Most of us were willing to set up the means to destroy the whole planet rather than accept communism. Now surprise, surprise! we find those to be resistant to whom our own way of life is an alien imposition. One destiny for all of us forced by the limits of this planet as we continue to grow is a terrible and intolerable outcome at best.
Yet infinite resources, and infinite living space, with a little applied effort on our part, is sitting there waiting for us room in which to realize a million and one different destinies rather than being forced toward one straitjacketed destiny only.
Going at it the way we've been going, we could never develop the economical large-scale habitats, the terraforming, the transportation resources, in time to relieve Earth and build a rich and variegated human civilization throughout the solar system and possibly beyond. The first objection even most space-boosters will raise to this option is that (the way we are doing things now) even a century from now less than 1% of the human race could get to and live in space far, far less than could affect the issues cited here.
We don't HAVE to limit ourselves to the way we're pursuing space development now.....
Ways to pick up the pace of Space
We still have some room to work in
We have years, we may have decades before having to deal with the starker alternatives. The world around us might seem difficult now, but in fact it is far easier to work in than the much tighter situation that will exist in just a few years. Do you have any reasonable doubt that, as matters stand, things WON'T be much tighter and more difficult in just a few more years? Show me ANY other likely way than the one I propose here that will let us avoid those starker alternatives! (I respect prayer, but I don't think prayer and good will alone are going to do it "The Lord helps those who help themselves.")
I don't consider just closing eyes and thinking good thoughts to be a likely way to avoid the worst of what looms ahead. Closing eyes to DISCOVER some practical actions to take now that does have some likelihood of positive outcomes... Now is literally the very best time to do the things which can take us into a very different, indeed wonderful, place rather than those stark alternatives.
If dealing with this seems inconvenient to you today, what will it be tomorrow?
Of course, you can always do like everyone else, and wait for someone
else to take the necessary actions and, in the instance of patentable
discoveries and inventions, to reap the most immediate benefits when and
if someone finally does.
Related Space Science Reading
including its copyright for use with people
whom you care about or wish to inform.
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