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Carl Sagan Speaks Zeitgeist

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The Fifth Great Ape [Carl Sagan] One of the great revelations of the age of space exploration is the image of the earth finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time. Here we are on a planet which is about five thousand million years old, the sun around which it goes is not much older it is part of a galaxy which is perhaps ten or twelve thousand million years old which is one of perhaps hundreds of thousands of millions of other galaxies... Humans have been on this planet for something like a million years and for the vast bulk of that time things changed extremely slowly. The population increased very slowly, our technology increased and improved by very slow steps and just recently we had a huge increase. It's what's called an exponential, it's flat for a long time and then... boom! it's an increase in population, increase in technology, increase in pollution, increase in our powers to disturb the environment to change the planetary environment but we're the same old human beings as we were a thousand years ago or a hundred thousand years ago, not much has changed with us and so it's very hard for us to catch on that there's a new situation and we have to adapt to it. On the other hand, that's one thing we humans are good at... adapting, figuring out We're smart. That's our principal advantage over all the other species I mean we're not faster, stronger, better diggers, we don't fly all by ourselves. What we do is figure out and build because of our hands. The ancient myth makers knew we're children equally of the earth and the sky in our tenure on this planet we've accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage... propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders all of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we've also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience and a great soaring passionate intelligence. The clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Our ability, to understand things instantly so called common sense derives from a certain range of size and speed and duration that are appropriate for human existence. We know about things from a tenth of a millimetre to a few kilometres from a fraction of a second to a lifetime and so on. So when we are dealing with matters of quantum physics where particles are the size of 10^-13th centimetres or in cosmology where we are talking about ten billion light years or more, it is very reasonable that our intuition is not adequate to the task. Fundamental changes in society are sometimes labelled impractical or contrary to human nature, as if there were only one human nature but fundamental changes can clearly be made we're surrounded by them in the last two centuries abject slavery, which was with us for thousands of years, has almost entirely been eliminated in a stirring worldwide revolution. Women, systematically mistreated for millennia are gradually gaining the political and economic power traditionally denied to them. and some wars of aggression have recently been stopped or curtailed, because of a revulsion felt by the people in the aggressor nations. If a five or six year old asks why the moon is round or why grass is green the usual adult answer, at least in my experience is to discourage the child. say 'what shape did you expect the moon to be, square?' or 'what colour did you expect the grass to be, blue?' instead of saying that 'those are interesting questions, lets try to find out the answer' or maybe nobody knows the answer and when you grow up you'll be able to discover the answer. It would be very healthy for the human species if there were less discouragement and more scientists. It's not that pseudo-science and superstition and new age so-called beliefs and fundamentalist zealotary are something new they've been with us for as long as we've been human but we live in an age based on science and technology with formidable technological powers science and technology are propelling us forward at accelerating rates that's right and if we don't understand it and by we I mean the general public if it's something that 'Ohh I'm not good at that, I don't know anything about it' then who's making all the decisions about science and technology that are going to determine what kind of future our children live in just some members of congress? but there's no more than a handful of members with any background in science at all and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to going to blow up in our faces. I mean who's running the science and technology in a democracy if people don't know anything about it? Science is more than body of knowledge it's a way of thinking a way of sceptically interrogating the Universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility if we are not able to ask sceptical questions to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be sceptical of those in authority, then we're up for grabs for the next charlatan political or religious that comes ambling along it's a thing that Jefferson lay great stress on there wasn't enough said that to enshrine some rights in the constitution, or the bill of rights the people have to be educated and they have to practice their scepticism in their education otherwise we don't run the government the government runs us. The global balance of terror pioneered by the United States and the Soviet Union holds hostage all the citizens of the earth. Each side persistently probes the limits of the other's tolerance like the Cuban missile crisis, the testing of anti-satellite weapons in the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars, the hostile military establishments are locked in some ghastly mutual embrace. Each needs the other but the balance of terror is a delicate balance with very little margin for miscalculation. and the world impoverishes itself by spending a trillion dollars a year on preparations for war and by employing perhaps half the scientists and high technologists on the planet in military endeavours We have let all sorts of social programs languish as we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line. What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them... This is stupid. and then what happened with the resources is they went into increasing budgets for arms isn't that where the money went? That, and making rich people richer. The money all gets re-invested, if you've got money you put it in the bank the bank lends it out to people to people to buy homes and cars But not poor people, but not poor people. well that's a good.. It tends to stay up at that highly stratified, very... so more people employed with capital formation... I believe that the government has a responsibility to care for the people. I'm not talking about dole, I'm talking about making people self-reliant with people able to take care of themselves there are countries which are perfectly able to do that, the United States is an extremely rich country it's perfectly able to do that. It chooses not to. It chooses to have homeless people. This country has vast wealth, just look at something like Star Wars [The Laser anti-missile defence system] they've already spent $20 billion on it if these guys are permitted to go ahead they will spend a Trillion dollars on Star Wars... Think of what that money could be used for. To educate, to help, to bring people up to a sense of self-confidence. We are using money for the wrong stuff. So, that's another calibration of how serious the stakes are these days, how high the stakes are putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere promises, if that's the right word... a global catastrophe. In the particularly field that I'm involved with the exploration of planets there we have opened up a universe of wonders we have looked close up at dozens of new worlds worlds that we never saw before when you study these other worlds you learn about this one it's a very important fact by comparing our world with other worlds you can see a lot of things that can go wrong Venus for example has this immense greenhouse effect the surface temperature is hot enough to melt tin or lead. Anybody who says the greenhouse effect is just some fantasy... all you have to do is look at Venus very important object lesson. You put gases like Carbon Dioxide or CFCs other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over this country... They don't stay over that country, those molecules don't have passports, they don't know about national sovereignty, that's something they've never heard of. The atmospheric circulation spreads those gases all over the planet and so what one country does affects all the other countries. That's serious stuff. The depletion of the ozone layer lets more ultraviolet light from the sun down to the surface of the earth. Skin cancer is a serious consequence but there's a more serious aspect of it is... that the ultraviolet light attacks the little one-celled plants that are at the base of the food chain those are the guys that the next guys eat and the next guys eat and the next guys, next guys and way at the top of the ecological pyramid there's us. we're ultimately eating the one-celled plants that have been processed through lots of intermediate plants and animals and it's, it's clear that very thin atmosphere, it's so sensitive to the depredations of human beings you look at that and you say 'hey that's only one little world' We don't have anywhere else to go. No other planet in the solar system is a suitable home for human beings, it's this world or nothing. That's a very powerful perception and, so again we're messing around the global environment in a very serious, very stupid way and we just have to get our technology ahead it's not enough to say that corporations can do whatever they want as long as they make a profit, not if they're putting at risk people all over the world. They can't. There has to be a new way of approaching this and we can't say that one nation can do what it wants within its borders because as I've said before, what you do in one countries borders has consequences all over the planet. The solution to these kinds of problems has to be that everybody on earth works together. and so I think there's a certainly a chance of us getting out of this mess but not by business as usual, not by the idea that we shouldn't plan ahead, not by the idea that anybody can do whatever the hell they want and it doesn't affect the environment... So, there has to be a new way of looking at the future and that is that we are all humans and that we are the same species on one fragile little planet. We are all in this together, and we have to work together. That's kind of the silver lining of these crises, they are forcing us to become a planetary species. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet earth. But up there in the cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits national boundaries are not evident when we view the earth from space fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars. The old appeals to racial, sexual and religious chauvinism, and to rabid, nationalist fervour are beginning not to work. A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognises that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet. How would we explain all this to a dispassionate extra-terrestrial observer? What account would we give of our stewardship of the planet Earth? We have have heard the rationales offered by the super-powers, we know who speaks for the nations, but who speaks for the human species? Who speaks for Earth? From an extra-terrestrial perspective our global civilisation is clearly on the edge of failure in the most important task it faces, preserving the lives and well-being of its citizens and the future habitability of the planet. Here we face a critical branch point in history. What we do the world right now will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilisation and perhaps our species as well if we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we can plunge our world into a darkness, deeper than a time between the collapse of classical civilisation and the Italian renaissance, but we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet, to enhance enormously our understanding of the Universe, and to carry us to the stars. [End]

Video Details

Duration: 17 minutes and 41 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 1,458
Posted by: julius on Mar 5, 2011

The late Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was a hero in the scientific community and a role model for everyone else around the world. Carl Sagan's' influences carry today because his words, hence his empirical point of view, seem to be ever more appropriate in our current economic and political climate.

The video does not advocate that Carl Sagan supported The Zeitgeist Movement as he passed long before its conception. Rather, using his own words, to simply show how Carl Sagan was in line with the thoughts and direction of this movement that concerns all of human kind.

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