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Aug 14, 16
I Will Survive?
A few evenings ago I watched The Martian, a film that stars Matt Damon. It's a story of an astronaut left for dead on the planet Mars, who survives for almost two years on his own. Against all odds and facing calamity after calamity, he is finally rescued and returned to Earth. At the end of the film he is speaking to a group of young astronauts. He makes the comment -- and I paraphrase -- at some point, you know you're going to die; you can either accept that, or you can get to work.

That line made me think about our current predicament - and actually, the movie is a really good analogy of what's happening on this planet right now. Everywhere we look we are facing seemingly insurmountable problems that threaten to end our existence: climate change, resource depletion, net energy decline, overpopulation, pollution, nuclear war threats, sea level rise, ocean acidification, melting of the polar ice caps, mass extinction . . . on and on it goes.

Just like in the movie, in real life there are lots of unbelievably smart people who can see right through a problem and find a solution. Like Matt Damon's character, these people don't accept failure, they merely look for another way to achieve their goals. More than a few of these experts have presented solutions for one or more of the problems we face as a species and about which they are most knowledgeable. True, for the most part, the solutions are radical and have little chance of working, but it's possible that they might.

Also just like in the movie, these super-brained people know almost nothing outside their own fields. And that's where the solutions they propose fall apart.

We face so many challenging problems on a planet with layers upon layers of complexity with only a few years of time left, that there is no way that any one solution will save us. The only way that humanity and the rest of life on this planet can avoid extinction in the short term is if every top expert in every field comes together and begins to work feverishly, nonstop, in the very little time that we have remaining, coming up with a plan that is so incredibly preposterous, so radical, that it just might work.

Interestingly, what I've just described brings to light a different problem: the absurdity of the idea that we war mongering, jealous, envious humans could ever work together in such a way - even when our very existence as a species depends on it.

Since I started this essay by talking about a movie, let me use fiction a little longer. Let's pretend that we could put aside our longstanding differences and get these savants together, get them working on a master set of solutions to all the challenges we face. What would such a gathering look like?

I've already mentioned that it would have to involve all the top leaders in every field of science - but also commerce, finance, government (after all, someone's got to pay for all this). And then you'd have to get these people together - not necessarily physically, but on the internet, with the occasional realtime gathering.

Then, once the plan was developed, it would have to be put into place and activated when the time was right (in other words, now).

There's long been a truism that the best way to hide something is to hide it in plain sight. So this group would do best to operate in the open, merely misdirecting the public as to its intentions and purpose.

Our global political system is too unwieldy to expect anything like this to happen in the public sphere. So it would have to be directed by a group of private individuals. The government would be involved on the periphery but only to keep them out of the way while enlisting their help to maintain control of the masses, allowing the group to do what they needed to do.

It's important to remember that one of the biggest problems facing us is overpopulation. The earth simply cannot support 7.5 billion people for much longer. In fact, at this point in the exploitation of our nest, it's not certain that the earth can support half a billion. Because of this inconvenient observation, it also would be very important to keep the details of any such plan a secret. If the hordes of humanity discovered that the plan to save the species included reducing the population by 7 billion, it might not go down very well.

But how to distract people to such an extent?

Let's see.

How about television? Or how about Facebook? And the latest: Pokemon Go with a presidential election and a global sporting event thrown in for good measure.

I'm still pretending here, but like the movie, it does make me wonder. I've known lots of people in my life who simply refuse to surrender. Some of them have been blindingly smart. A few have been quite powerful. If even one or two of them get educated about what's coming our way, I just can't imagine them rolling over and taking it.

Maybe that's what Davos is really about. Or any number of the other events around the world where the rich and powerful gather. Maybe that's what all such meetings are about. Regardless, for most of us, myself included, it won't matter. I feel confident that even if someone did figure out a way to preserve a portion of the earth's species, some of the earth's habitat, and a sampling of humans, that I wouldn't be around to see it. The odds are too great that I would be in the group of "7 billion humans too many".

But it's fun to think about, none the less.

posted by Dr. House | 3:58:23 PM |
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