“While there is no use crying over spilt milk, when the cow and the grass have also died, there might be some call for remorse.” ~DHG
I have on clear nights taking to staring at the stars in vain. My, no doubt, pseudo-ponderous ponderings have led me into contemplation of what I call the “Planetary Civilization Germination Rate (PCGR).” You see, in the Milky Way alone there are estimated to be about 100 billion earth-like planets. And yet, we do seem to be very much alone. It is an interesting exercise to imagine reasons why that might be so, the apparent aloneness that is. For me -seeing the difficulty that we are having in finding a reasonable way for all of us to live together decently on this little planet- I wonder if in fact the PCGR is very low.
Maybe in fact, when a super-predator such as ourselves arises to the point it overwhelms all other life-forms on the planet and the planetary life-support systems themselves, it simply cannot find a way to live in peace, both with its other same-species members, and well, everything else which genetically, biologically, chemically, and geophysically is really its extended body. Nature, with all those planets to work with (and an estimated 50 sextillion in the universe) may not care that its odds of producing a species -that is powerful enough to take over a planet, and yet intelligent enough not to destroy itself and its planet- are so, well, astronomically low.
And yet what is so frustrating about our situation here on Earth, is that we are so tantalizingly, - so reach out right in front of you - palpably close to being able to create a Golden Age of peace, justice, equality, and abundance for all, the likes of which humanity has never known, and the likes of which it has been searching for in its bosom since the time we shambled forth from the African savannahs so long ago. We have the means, the technologies, and the resources to provide every child on the planet with a world-class education, world-class health care, and world-class dignity in terms of clean water, clean air, clean energy, a verdant living environment, and a safe, dignified, happy home. Really, all it would take would be the level of “investment” that America makes in one or two of its failed wars. All it would take would be a sustained –we’re all in this together- Great Transition for a decade or two at the most.
We are so close, also, to another alternative. The hands of the doomsday clock of the Atomic Scientists have been moved to 3 minutes before midnight. I cannot say how many years that translates into, but I do know, in terms of climate change, we are within years, or a decade or two at the very most of falling off a cliff from which it will be exceedingly difficult to climb back up, those of us that is who have survived the fall. There are four recent papers that must give us pause: pause at the insanity of policy makers who think they are being reasonable when they are not; pause in our own daily actions when we think we can go on as we have been going on when we cannot. The first paper points out that we have only half the “carbon budget” we thought we had: Paris my friends, is out the window. The second indicates that multimeter sea level rise is very possible within 50 years: London, New York, Shanghai, etc., etc., are also out the window, too, with only their tops visible above the waves. The third paper points out that CO2 emissions are at a pace where frankly there is no analogue: we simply don't know what is going to happen or how bad it’s going to get. The fourth’s sobering analysis is that most of the major proposed geoengineering schemes, are either too dangerous, or inadequate, or both: so forget that easy Promethean Hail Mary.
So what do we do? The best solution is a Great Transition. We must go all out now for a fair-for-all version of a sustainable Earthly Paradise. Either that or what’s left of us after the fall will spend whatever time is left, tearing apart whoever else has also barely managed to survive.
The seeds of the new world are all there: the seeds of justice, equality, health, and joyously free creativity. The soil is all set and the conditions are just right. The problem is the boots of the rich and the powerful who seem to want a world where they continue to live off the corpses of what might have been.
The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.