Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | November 12, 2014

Leaving Earth

Leaving Earth
Or…
Leaving The Earth Behind

Please advise me.
Don’t know what is the best title for this post.
Can you help?

After reading this, can you suggest the preferred meme?

At any rate Mathew McConaughey’s INTERSTELLAR film played with his friends seem to go all out — way out of the Galaxy to find satisfaction.

And am totally with them in the space of almost two hours in the comfortable cocoon of the darkened theatre in Leicester square.

Indeed in the comfort of the dark — Space colonisation seems to be an extreme version of an all too common human belief: “It is easier to adapt to our problems than to confront them head-on and thus to address them through Reason, and solve them.”

In the first instance [inside the dark theatre] I support the Space Colonization hypothesis, because it affords the enterprising elements of the human species the vastness of space to explore and to pioneer their way towards a new vista and a new beginning in exploration and development, outside of our small and beautiful blue star named Earth…

So far so good.

Am fully onboard this “trip” and even enlist myself in this Progressive view. A view that I share with my friend and neighbour Richard Branson, as well as with Ellon Musk, and so many other mere mortals like Peter Diamandis and the x-prize folks, as well as all the NASA and ESA friends who are fully committed to a future of Humanity in Space.

Kudos all around.

And myself am ready to fly there today if possible, [R U Listening Richard?] yet am also aware of the antithesis.

And then there is the serious and robust antithesis to the premise of Space Colonization before we put our House in order here on Earth. And as an intelligent human being [One only hopes], am comfortable with the contradiction held firmly in my head. And because am able to see both sides and only because of that intellectual dynamic — I understand the difficult choices and the right decisions. Therefore am working heartily for the Environmental Parliament and for the Earth’s balance, harmony, and environmental safety, through Global Leadership in reaching a global agreement on atmospheric emissions control and clean energy usage.

I do all that, and am up at work before sunrise each and every day because I know better…

I know better the urgency of the problem.

I know better than leaving the problems behind for others to sort out. I know better than the Hollywood creatives and the energy lobbyists dwelling in the US House of representatives and in the Senate — that the 7 billion human beings here on Earth, have got no choice but to survive on their small patch of Earth that we are about to scorch.

I know better than to advocate leaving our shared community garden called Earth because we can’t protect the Commons from the usurpers, the polluters, and the dirty oilers.

And in the end — I know better than preaching comfortable lullabies, otherwise knows as Bullshit.

And I also know that a Captain cannot leave the Mothership in her hour of need. And in case you missed the parable — that Mother ship is our Earth.

I have to tend to that first…
I have to minister to it’s people…
I have to secure our future here on Earth…

And I truly believe when that is done — all the rest will follow.

This is my Vision: An Earth safe from the ravages of a warming planetary atmosphere and protected from Climate Chaos.

And I know how to go about getting that: We can achieve that by addressing the Climate Change issue at the Global Level. We can get there by changing our Energy production to renewables and Clean Technologies. And by jolly, we’ll get there if I have anything to do with it.

That’s the first order of business. It’s job number one. First things first.

Let’s sort this thing out immediately and then we can focus our resources elsewhere. But if we have a choice I’ll always seek to put out the home fires first.

Not that we cannot pursue both Visions at the same time. Indeed we should… provided that there are not conflicting resource issues and attention span. And of course we cannot allow the spaceship race to pollute massively our atmosphere with carbon, either. Because my friend Richard’s spaceship and it’s ilk are causing far more pollution than commercial airliners. By dumping carbon soot in the highest reaches of the atmosphere — just by themselves contribute enough soot and carbon to the layer that heats up our atmosphere that they will give us another extra two degrees Celsius in atmospheric warming. All this due to their high altitude emissions, the fuel they burn, and their frequency of flights.

Shitty Deal if you ask me…

And leaving your troubles behind is also shitty…

And am just saying this because in the long term space colonization, is pure Hollywood fallacy, and it embodies the fantasy of escapist culture. Yes in the American ideal, we can fantastically sweep away all of our troubles by majestically moving to another city. Yet in that case we best admit that because we can’t come together to discuss, agree, and solve our problems — we will just run away like pussies. We will run with the tail between our legs and leave behind the ones unable to fly off the planet, to live in a Malthusian dystopia and perish gasping for their last breath of air.

A shitty deal for sure.

And yes — in the short term it is also a defeatist position in that we admit failure. We admit that we can’t solve the basic problems. We can’t hack at the root and we are breaking off branches. We can’t afford to prevent escalating climate change, environmental ravages, and ecosystem collapse — so we turn tail and suggest to ourselves and all others that instead we must learn to live diminished lives and expect that this is our lot. So, Go Ahead: Tell the young lads to live with it. And stuff it…

That’s no way to live…

Because today’s major challenge is not how to solve the Climate Change problem, but how best to explain it to the well meaning young people in the US and in the UK as well as in Europe and then to those living in the developing and emergent economically world and especially around the equator — so that they take it upon themselves to solve it.

Telling them that they have to adapt to a world in which four degrees of global warming has taken place is not my story. Am a leader longing for Victory not Defeat.

And even if you had chosen defeat — how do you explain to the discounted future generations [your children and mine] that because we did not do anything to solve the Climate Change Problem — we are faced with the potentially runaway global warming that will turn this beautiful earth into an inferno much like Venus?

I like to see you telling that story from a Hollywood perspective.

Unfortunately our Cultural Identity and our prevalent conversation is dictated by Hollywood’s visions of the future of Humanity. And thus we are defined, like the film Interstellar…

Am waiting for the Bollywood version of Interstellar, with song and dance and plenty of sexual imbroglio — all in silver and gold space suits — but for now I’ll stick to the hero of Interstellar power trash talking: “It’s like we’ve forgotten who we are. We are Explorers, Pioneers, not Caretakers … We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.”

At some deep level — I Love the words. And their meaning. It resonates with me each and every time that am facing a pitched battle. Turn and leave like a coward or stay and fight? But am also aware of the subtler nuances, of this complacency about what’s going on in this earth and the natural response of most people in power. If it’s too difficult, they always say: Chuck it.

CHUCK IT.

This could very well be the epitaph of our age.

Interstellar is a magnificent film, true to the best traditions of science fiction, visually, auditorially, and editorially, astounding. Yet once you see past the necessary silliness — you will find a moving exploration of literary parenthood, separation and ageing.

But this Space Fantasy Film, is also a classic exposition of two of the great themes of our age: Exuberant Technological Optimism and Catastrophic Political Defeatism.

The premise is as follows: Earth and its inhabitants are facing planetary catastrophe, caused by “Seven billion people, and every one of them trying to have it all”, which weirdly translates into a succession of blights, trashing the world’s crops and sucking the oxygen out of the atmosphere.

Much like Avatar — this is a studio product. It is a very US centric film and Hollywood business reality dictates that when your major film ticket receipts are in the US, and your audience bipolar [Republican anti science and flat earth denialists] you can’t afford to earn the hatred of the US and The FOX led broadcast media by mentioning climate change. The “blight” is an obvious substitute for the ravages of a warming planet and runaway Climate Change. This little “gimmick” has probably earned hundreds of millions of dollars in additional theatrical income from ticket receipts.

YES. Civilisation’s collapse at the start of the film is uncomfortable and eerily similar to today’s Climate Storms, Weather Extremes, and Warming and rising oceans. Yet the California drought of today comes to mind when the film’s beginning is laced with interviews of veterans from the Dust Bowl disaster followed by economic collapse of the 1930s in the United States that spilled imbalances world wide, and caused everything evil that followed, including the second WORLD WAR and regional wars.

But compared to Mathew McConaughey’s sissy visage, with healthy drinks & smoothie gulping persona [In real Life too] these Dust Bowlers are the real heroes. After all the dust bowl survivors were brave human beings too wreathing the storm as best they could. And in their worn-out faces we see the past, and maybe the future, but at the very least, they prefigure the themes of climate chaos, ageing, and loss.

Yet they also remind the rationally thinking beings amongst us — of a world of Great Public Policy. A world of strong political agency. Indeed at that time there were many mistakes made, in attempting to treat the Great Depression and bring an end to the Great Famine. Yet although grand follies were committed — Big, Bold and Brave things were also done that put things right. Am just thinking of the New Deal, the America Works Program, and the Civilian Conservation Corps. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of Grand Public Policy unleashed in order to set things straight.

Today, that Enterprising Leadership is totally missing. The world that spawned FDR as an Explorer and Innovator in Public Policy and Leadership, is almost as different from our own today, as the planets visited by Interstellar’s astronauts are different from the Earth. And that Vision — judging by the outcome of the US elections this last week is totally missing from both electors and elected…

I too, would want to leave the Earth behind if I were Obama, or a rational Public Leader in the US and had to find ways to reason, and negotiate, with the Taliban occupying both Houses of Representatives, today in the US capital.

Mathew McConaughey and friends, leave the Earth too, just to find a place where humans can escape to. Or, if that fails, they seek to find a suitable world in which a cargo of frozen embryos can be deposited.

Talking of embryos, and holding the girlfriend’s hand, am going for an after film “curry” to talk things over. You know it takes a serious effort to disconnect from the clutches of fantasy — when you emerge from the theatrical suspension of disbelief out in the cold wet air. It takes a moment to understand and remember that such fantasies are taken seriously by millions of people, children and adults, who consider this scenario, a realistic alternative to addressing the thorny problems we collectively face on Earth today…

Problems we can solve by working together and by not running away from them.

Problems that even NASA cannot run away from. Because NASA runs earth observing satellites that inform us of the state of our planet today and the urgent need to do something about. And so does the ESA [European Space Agency] and although they are not up to speed yet — they also ring the warning-bell about the runaway global warming.

But then you have a small NASA website devoted to the idea of Space Colonization as a back bet. A hedge. A save the species bet, that if we turn everything upside down and it all goes pear shaped — there will be some embryos to survive and make a fresh beginning somewhere in the wilds of the galaxy. A sort of James town colony in the depths of space. Except without the friendly Indians saving the colonists with gifts and Thanksgiving repast.

Got it?

Still borrowing from Hollywood and speaking of a distant future NASA claims that gigantic spaceships “could be wonderful places to live inside, about the size of a California beach town, and endowed with weightless recreation, fantastic views, freedom, elbow-room in spades, and great wealth.” Of course, no one could leave, except to enter another spaceship, and the slightest malfunction would cause instant annihilation. But “settlements in earth orbit will have one of the most stunning views in our solar system – the living, ever-changing Earth.” We can look back and remember how beautiful it was.

Am thinking this shite, they borrowed from Bollywood and not Hollywood but who is counting.

And then on the Bollywood theme, NASA claims that there’s the money to be made. “Space colonization is, at its core, a real estate business. … Those that colonize space will control vast lands, enormous amounts of electrical power, and nearly unlimited material resources. [This] will create wealth beyond our wildest imagination and wield power – hopefully for good rather than for ill.” In other words, we would leave not only the Earth behind but also ourselves.

I am not making this shit up. It’s NASA’s website alright probably drafted by an intern from Bangalore…

That’s a common characteristic of such fantasies: their lack of imagination. Wild flights of technological fancy are accompanied by a stolid incapacity to picture the inner life of those who might inhabit such systems. People who would consider the idea of living in the Gobi Desert intolerable – where, an estate agent might point out, there is oxygen, radiation-screening, atmospheric pressure and 1g of gravity – rhapsodise about living on Mars. People who imagine that human life on Earth will end because of power and greed and oppression imagine we will escape these forces in pressure vessels controlled by technicians, in which we would be trapped like tadpoles in a jamjar.

If space colonisation is near impossible today, and space travel fraught with danger [when my friend Richard Branson, for all his billions, cannot even propel people safely into the reaches of our atmosphere] how will it look in a world that has fallen so far into disaster that leaving it for a lifeless, airless lump of rock would be perceived as a good option? A good business venture for real estate? A rare metals mining opportunity?

In these circumstances — methinks, we’d be lucky enough to possess the wherewithal to make stone soup, let alone break rocks for mining, or sell real estate to each other.

Duh?

And then there are the Anachhorites. Anchorites to some but who cares for the grammar. It is their teleological thinking that I care for and the fact it harkens back to the dark Ages of religious intolerance. It brings back the days of Total and Complete Prohibition of Free thinking. That’s why we call it the Dark Ages. It seems that only by understanding this as a religious impulse, we can avoid the conclusion that those who gleefully await this future are insane.

And yet they captured both United States Houses of Representatives, this last week. Go Figure.

And they believe that just as it is easier to pray for life after death than it is to confront oppression, inequity, and hate — this current Stellar fantasy permits us to escape the complexities of life on Earth, for a starlit wonderland — far beyond the difficult to understand Scientific Politics of Climate Change.

In Interstellar, as in many other versions of the same “Run Away To The Stars” story, space is heaven, overseen by a benign Technology, peopled by delivering angels with oxygen tanks.

It’s as if hearing Mathew saying: “We have failed to prevent global warming, so we must adapt to it and run away as fast and as far as we can”

The “we” referred in these instance, is to drastically different people. We in the rich world can brook no taxation to encourage green energy, or regulation to discourage the consumption of fossil fuels. We cannot adapt even to an extra penny of tax. But the other “we”, which turns out to mean “they” – the people of the tropics – can and must adapt to the loss of their homes, their land and their lives, as entire regions become wastelands. Why is that not an option?

Yet the lives of the poor appear unimaginable to most people in our position, like the lives of those who might move to another planet or live inside a space station. Lives so drastically different that Aldous Huxley seems to have got it right, in his “Brave New world”

We are so stupidly different that we are unwilling and fearful to take a bold step in reducing the amount of energy we consume and replacing fossil fuels with other sources, simple and cheap as these are by comparison to all other options. We consider this to be inconceivable and outrageous, while the mass abandonment of much of the inhabited surface of the world due to global warming — seems a realistic and reasonable approach to the “inevitability” of Climate Change.

David Hume wrote: “It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger”

Here we see this contemplation ratified.

But at least Hume could explain what he meant, by contrast to Mathew and Richard, and Ellon, and most of those who talk breezily about adapting to a warming planet, and unhealthy atmosphere, and adapting to Climate Chaos, caused by climate breakdowns that will surely kill people by the billions…

What’s their solution?

Sea Levels Rise? Solution: Relocating cities to higher ground. More Solutions: Moving roads and railways, diverting rivers, depopulating nations, leaving the planet?

Never mind the details.

Technology — our interstellar God — will sort it out, some day, somehow.

Bollocks, I say.

I know.

You see — am a Technologist…

Yours,
Pano

PS:

The perfect Storm:

Exuberant Technological Optimism, coupled with Serial Political Defeatism and Lack of Leadership.

This is the formula for the deferment of hard choices to an ever-receding Neverland of life after planetary death.

No wonder this Hollywood fallacy and Bollywood fantasy is so so very popular.

And to think of it that today the Rosetta spacecraft landed a probe on a comet 300,000,000 miles away from earth after a ten year journey through space makes me giddy with excitement. But even more so the fact that President Obama managed to corner President Xi of China for a comprehensive Climate deal in capping emissions from both countries…


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