April 17, 2020 at 10:11 am by Frank White
I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of...100,000 miles, their outlook would be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument suddenly silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivision, presenting a united facade that would cry out for unified treatment.
Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins
Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys
What might be some positive lessons learned from the impact of the COVID Effect on global society?
One of the most important is that humanity, when we are united to response to a threat or opportunity, can achieve an enormous amount in a short period of time. A recently published essay by Charles Eisenstein makes this point in great depth. (1)
In the United States, we have already learned this lesson in the past, but seem to have forgotten it. For example, the US was deeply divided between isolationists and interventionists regarding the wars raging in Europe and the Pacific, until Pearl Harbor. Although much of the American Navy was destroyed in the attack, the nation rallied, rebuilt, and helped to win a world war in four years. Contrast that with the 20-year war in Afghanistan, which is still not quite over.
In response to the Soviet Union’s launching of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 and then the launching of the first human into orbit in 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the US would send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. At the time, no one had any idea how to do that, but with a clear mission and a sense of urgency, NASA accomplished the goal, in spite of a stand down after a terrible fire killed three astronauts and in the wake of the president’s assassination.
In response to COVID, the Earth’s population has acted as a species, perhaps for the first time ever. The phrase of the astronauts, “We’re all in this Together” is stated as a self-evident truth...though it was not so clear even a month ago.
Maybe you like the Green New Deal, maybe you hate it. However, one criticism of it was that we simply could not do it; it was impractical to make such a massive change in our economy and society in time to “flatten the curve” of climate change. And what would we do to support all the people thrown out of work by the radical changes envisioned in the Deal?
Well, a lot of what we have done in the past month, like reducing the amount of fossil fuel use, and helping people who are unemployed because of the lockdown, look a lot like that proposal.
Perhaps we should do it, perhaps we shouldn’t, but we can no longer say we can’t do it.
It seems that humans only respond to threats or opportunities, doesn’t it? If the threat is large enough and immediate enough, we will overcome our differences and respond. If the opportunity is large enough and immediate enough, we will respond. The differences don’t go away, but they are submerged long enough to react to whatever has suddenly claimed our attention.
Humanity, for good or ill, is the most powerful species on Spaceship Earth. We hold the fate of so many other living things in our hands. The virus has taught us a critical lesson, if we are only willing to learn it and act on it: we can use this enormous power for enormous good.
oCopyright, Frank White, 2020, All Rights Reserved
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