Arthur C. Clarke wrote a book titled 1984, Spring: a Choice of Futures, similar in format to his earlier nonfiction book Profiles of the Future about mankind’s options for that hallowed, once future year. I yanked the title for my essay as it is most apt to describe our current state of flux here on planet Earth. We have wandered from our birthplace in ancient Africa, walked countless deserts, sailed lakes, seas, and oceans, conquered continents, built machines to fly us into the sky and on towards the stars.
As Carl Sagan said, “we have much to be proud of.” But here, now, in the 21st century where the future is finally starting, we have to ask the question: what is that future? A future of climate disaster, economic chaos, global terrorism, runaway religious hatred, political stagnation, and a financed fear of science? People across the western world are being manipulated to distrust science and the gifts it has brought us. Many young families are refusing to vaccinate their children, allowing once disappearing diseases to gain a new foothold. Europeans and Americans are fighting against GMO foods (apparently unaware that all modern fruits, vegetables, and grains are genetically modified) and by extension, denying the developing world an opportunity to be fed.
Our understanding of the global climate is accelerating, and we are beginning to fully appreciate the intricate interconnection our planetary environment has. This “web” is quickly deteriorating as we burn forests for cattle pasture and pump hydrocarbons out of the ground, burn them, and pump megatons of CO2 into the sky. Global warming is real, the effects of it are becoming more pronounced. I believe that the time for prevention is past. We now need to expend resources to recapture that CO2 and store it back underground, or convert it into bricks for building material. There are people out there that have amazing ideas for recapture technology, they just need the funding.
The growing crises in American education is also alarming. Many states are attempting to literally rewrite history to reflect a Christian Conservative view of not only our own nation’s story, but of the rest of the world as well. Science is again under assault with the perverse desire to teach “creationism” as a theoretical alternative in regard to evolution. I will quote Arthur C. Clarke from 1984, Spring: “I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent.”
Economic textbooks will present the triumph of unfettered capitalism while ignoring the importance of regulation and worker’s unions in shaping a more equitable distribution of wealth. The current ownership of the vast majority of this wealth by the filthy rich has created a “middle” class of working poor kept complacent by dumbed down television, electronic noise called music, and an endless variety of media distractions and designer prescription medications (Brave New World and 1984 had a baby and it’s called NOW). The internet provides hope that this situation may change, but the powers-that-be are already trying to find ways to stifle free speech online and charge extortionist-level fees to access it. This can not happen, and through public action, it will not happen.
And finally, while Earthly issues urgently need our attention, we must not stop looking above us to beyond. The last few years have seen a huge evolution in the promise of privately funded space flight. SpaceX and Elon Musk are working to create a space-based economy and open the solar system to genuine human involvement. Continuing planetary reconnaissance of Mars, the Saturnian system, Mercury, Vesta, and soon to be explored or revisited this year, will be Ceres, Jupiter, and Pluto. We have found impressive evidence of water on Mars and the tantalizing confirmation of Martian methane. That, coupled with the oceans of Europa and Enceladus (with her huge water geysers) the chances of finding life in our solar system beyond Earth are better than ever. We are going to unlock the mysteries of our origins and the origins of the universe that birthed us.
2015 will be a benchmark year. The opportunities for success are immense. We need to take charge of those opportunities and direct them to fulfill our desire for the best possible future. A future of peace, prosperity, equality, discovery, and hope.
I’ll be there with you.