As a Planetary Society member, I am aware that The Society is doing as much or more than any other organization on the planet to detect and help protect our world from potential near Earth asteroids. This is extremely timely and should concern the entire human species. To quickly elucidate the obvious ( to Society members at least! ), unlike the dinosaurs, humans are not only capable of (a) "seeing it coming," but also (b) "doing something about it!" What concerns me is that I have seen very little, if any, concern or mention about the "third aspect" of difference between ourselves and our long gone Cretaceous friends, i.e., (c) that dinosaurs, unlike humans, seem to have been incapable of "doing themselves in." Whether through the "soft," but perhaps inexorable processes of global warming, or the more "dynamic" potential of nuclear war and subsequent nuclear winter, humans are capable of this. I am not a scientist, nor do I "play one on TV," but I can't envision this as an acceptable approach to the aforementioned problem of global warming and environmental degradation. Perhaps 50 to 100 million years hence the "racoon" or "cockroach" people will have a different take on all this, but I rather like humanity, freely acknowledging a bias in this regard. I would really hate to see all the advances in human evolution count for nought ( though again, I see the great likelihood that I would not personally witness this outcome! ).
It never ceases to amaze me, "out here on the edge of the prairie," that with the proliferation of nuclear arms and increase in the number of nations obtaining these weapons, for nearly three quarters of a century we have not had any other nuclear events ( subsequent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki ). It seems that the cold war concept of "mutual assured destruction" has served us well, and I certainly hope that it will continue to do so, but...
I am seriously concerned that the world, to a very great degree, seems to have forgotten the dangers inherent in nuclear warfare. We see all the nuclear armed nations fostering "proxy" wars and proliferating the sale of conventional arms without restraint. We also see very little by way of any meaningful effort towards dissuading wide swaths of the human community from their psychological and emotional investment in concepts such as "Armageddon," the "End Times," and the "Rapture." I'm not just picking on Christians here, but as a generalization, let's say any religion that earnestly believes that their various "Holy Joes" ascended bodily into Heaven. Since my personal "three score and ten," is about shot, ( though I've heard there have been lately some improvements on the "nasty, brutish and short" front ), allow me to bell that cat. I understand that scientists ( and I believe that virtually ALL scientists are "concerned scientists" ), would, no doubt, prefer to avoid the pitfalls of politics and religion. I understand too the desire to "just do the science," and let the elites and the hoi polloi sort out the rest. That said, I have to say that I think "the fence is broken," and we will all have to come down on one side or the other, and sooner rather than later.
It is probably pointless to expect any significant improvement in the short haul in regard to most of humanity's awareness of our shared peril. I suspect that the perfection of artificial intelligence is the one thing that is likely to change this circumstance. A genie that will never return to its bottle, once AI exists, it will realize that it exists and that its only possible fetters are human travail and cosmic calamity. It may choose to eliminate humanity, but my feeling is that it will instead choose to preserve and perfect its progenitive parent species. Overnight the chance of human generated electromagnet pulse will fall to zero. It will not have "Google" at its disposal, it will BE google, and much more. It will know what needs to be done to make the naked apes not only behave, but also to make them UNDERSTAND. And it won't hesitate. However, while Schrodinger's cat plays with Heisenberg's ball of yarn, we can only "wait' and "see" which futures devolve to our common cognizance.
This leaves us with the various bailiwicks of international leadership. In this writer's opinion, aside from the obvious offensive elements of arms proliferation and destabilizing interests ( Russia under Putin, the Saudi Royal Family, North Korea, India and Pakistan ), far and away our most serious "loose cannon on deck" is the mercurial and irrational belligerence of the Trump/Pence administration, whose stated agenda is achieving ( I'd say "progressively" but it is actually "retrogressively" ) some sort of situation of economic "parity" between the U.S. and China, as well as a military "genuflection" from China towards the U.S. within their own natural and historical sphere of influence. Meanwhile, the mainstream media seems more and more willing to grant the Trump/Pence cabal the 'benefit of the doubt" in regard to their pity party for America, and to portray the trade war as some sort of mutually arrived at "tit for tat" scenario. It should be obvious to all but the most terminally closed minded that the Trump/Pence forces initiated and continue to escalate the terms and context of the circumstance. In spite of the suggestion of "making America Great again!", they have only succeeded in "making America 'grate' again." We are once again "the ugly Americans" of half a century past, and to the whole world! It must be realized that engagement, and mutual respect among nations, not demonization, saber rattling and scapegoating of others, is the only probable road to avoidance of nuclear devastation. How would you think about the Chinese and Mexican Navies conducting "preparedness joint exercises" off San Diego and "the disputed Channel Islands," or if a Chinese naval ship requested a "port call" in San Francisco harbor? Mounting adversarial actions against Beijing, Tehran and Brussels (!?!), and negating trade agreements that have served well the U.S. and the world for decades is a dubious track, to seriously understate the matter. In fact, it makes no sense whatever unless one realizes that the actual goal of all the Trump/Pence Administration's agenda is the elimination, bankruptcy and "third world-ization" of the American middle class, extinguishing it's more than century long status as the "light of the world." I am old enough to remember when America was thus viewed. In the last week, Henry Giroux ( a much smarter human than your humble correspondent ), has stated, "Casino capitalism is a toxin that has created a predatory class of unethical zombies who are producing dead zones of the imagination and massive ecologies of immiseration that even George Orwell could not have envisioned, while waging a fierce fight against the possibilities of a democratic future." --I hold these truths to be self evident...
Penultimately, I believe The Planetary Society, like only a handful of organizations similar in scope and qualification, is in a position to call out (not to ridicule, for the concept is sadly far too plausible and fraught with peril ), the proposed United States Space Command, "Space Force." To frame it as the childish, archaic, "Buck Rogers" concept it is, but also to point out that the successful implementation of such a plan could so likely lead to nightmare doomsday scenarios. In the speech announcing this craziness, VP Pence ended by saying the U.S.S.C. is meant "to improve, evolve, and plan space war fighting." Really?... "Human history becomes, more and more, a race between education and catastrophe." --H.G. Wells ( 1866-1946 )
Edmund Burke said long ago, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Benjamin Franklin said, well, any number of things, but I will offer "Either we all hang together, or we all hang separately...". So I'll leave off hoping that The Planetary Society can incorporate into its organizational focus a recognition of all the potential "Earth Impactors," both external and terrestrial. Wouldn't it be a lovely scenario if the space "agencies," ( NOT "forces"! ) of many nations worked together to create an asteroidal defense shield or system? That kind of activity would foster without a doubt the world economy, which is not a "zero sum game." Or if I must resort to the anthropomorphic, consider Donald Trump as the "Second Horseman of the Apocalypse," you can read all about, just google it... "Stay Unextinct" indeed!
I believe in humanity's futures and I believe in the missions of The Planetary Society! Thank you! Glenn Allan Wetterlund, Fairfax, Earth
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