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The Long Astronomical Perspective

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It might be a familiar progression, transpiring on many worlds: a planet, newly formed, placidly revolves around its star; life slowly forms; a kaleidoscopic procession of creatures evolves; intelligence emerges which, at least up to a point, confers enormous survival value; and then technology is invented… In a flash, they create world-altering contrivances. Some planetary civilizations see their way through, place limits on what may and what must not be done, and safely pass through the time of perils. Others, not so lucky or so prudent, perish. This is one reason that in the long astronomical perspective there is something truly epochal about “now”… This is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself, as well as to vast numbers of others. We humans have already precipitated extinctions of species on a scale unprecedented since the end of the Cretaceous Period. But only in the last decade has the magnitude of these extinctions become clear, and the possibility raised that in our ignorance of the interrelations of life on Earth we may be endangering our own future. Of course we must keep our planet habitable — not on a leisurely timescale of centuries or millennia, but urgently, on a timescale of decades or even years. This will involve changes in government, in industry, in ethics, in economics, and in religion. We’ve never done such a thing before, certainly not on a global scale. It may well be too difficult for us. Dangerous technologies may be too widespread. Corruption may be too pervasive. There may be too many quarreling ethnic groups, nation-states, and ideologies for the right kind of global change to be instituted. However, we humans also have a history of making long-lasting social change that nearly everyone thought was impossible. We have often, despite our diversity, despite endemic hatreds, pulled together to face a common enemy. Our leverage on the future is high, just now. We seem, these days, much more willing to recognize the perils before us than we were even a decade ago. The newly recognized dangers threaten all of us equally. No one can say how it will turn out down here. But this is also, we may note, the first time that a species has become able to journey to the planets and the stars. Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze. (Renewable Energy Budgets)

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 18 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Reid Gower
Director: Reid Gower
Views: 402
Posted by: tradottiinitaliano on Oct 10, 2011

Celebrating the promises and the perils of our technological progress.

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