Content tagged philosophy

Why save the world?
posted on 2013-10-10

I've wanted to save the world for as long as I've known there was one. Why? In my youth, I biked miles through the Washington woods, ran (sometimes on all fours) with sled dogs in the swamps, forests, and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, picked the top two inches off hundred-foot cedar trees, sailed a ninety-foot yacht throughout the Puget Sound, backpacked across the Olympic and Cascade mountains, explored a lava tube on Mount Saint Helens, and read a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. I learned the science of atoms, Earth's organisms, galaxies, and the universe. I read about the beauty and horror of human history, as well as our technological marvels and follies that led us to cure diseases, fly through the air, land on the moon, create rudimentary thinking machines, and brought us to the brink of nuclear and environmental oblivion. Along the way I came to see reality, the universe, nature, etc., as amazing and beautiful, particularly my own little corner, the Earth. I see the whole Earth as home, and all of humanity and the other organisms as family. I'm not motivated by any abstract philosophy, theological dictate, or ideological zeal. I simply don't like seeing my home trashed, my family suffer with dreams deferred, and beauty soiled.

I recognize that most people have a more focused view of world, home, and family, whether by necessity or perspective. That's fine with me. Everywhere I look, I see people who care about themselves, family, friends, city, country, and yes, sometimes even the whole world. When you add up that concern each of us has for our own small corner of the universe, that is an enormous potential force to move our world in new and better directions.


World, home, and family

Does the world need saving? I would say "yes", no matter how you define "world" and "save". People are suffering from wars, despotic regimes, oppressive cultures, economics, and the fragility of our own bodies and minds. Species are going extinct. We are consuming beautiful places and filling them with our wastes. Asteroids, solar storms, supervolcanoes, climate change, and evolving viruses and bacteria are looming threats. I understand if those existential threats aren't foremost on your mind. There are far more personal threats from crime, health problems, and economic hard times. At any scale, there are changes for the better all of us can make to our "world."


Geomagnetic storms - a global natural hazard we can deal with

Why bother trying saving the world if it's too hard? For many, simply keeping ourselves and our loved ones fed, housed, and secure is hard enough, let alone trying to build a better future. Some problems are so big that they seem impossible to solve. We've solved huge problems before and can again. While it's true many people are overcome by their problems, it's also true that many succeed against seemingly overwhelming odds and challenges to create better lives for themselves and their loved ones. It can be done. In many cases, people have faced similar problems before, and solved or at least dealt with them. Therein lies hope for all others that follow. On the global scale, we have faced many challenges and come through. Many of us grew up in the shadow of global nuclear war, which thankfully hasn't happened. Scientists discovered that chemicals used for refrigeration and aerosols, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), were destroying Earth's ultraviolet-protecting ozone layer, which led to international treaties phasing out these chemicals worldwide. From 1968 to 1972, twenty four human beings left the bounds of Earth to orbit the moon. Twelve walked on the moon's surface. Anything less than this feat is possible - as are many that exceed it. I know personally that something can be done about existential threats to humanity and the Earth. I spent nine years of my career planning a space mission to warn power grid operators and others of storms blowing off the sun so they can keep power flowing to our civilization.

Beyond "saving", there are many ways to make your world and life more amazing and beautiful through art, music, literature, science, exploration, and invention. These pursuits go hand in hand with saving the world. The solutions to many problems come from the passion people have pursue beauty and truth, and explore the possibilities of nature and technology. These pursuits bring people joy, and they are more free to follow them when not burdened by poverty, starvation, war, violence, disease, oppression, and the like. Add compassion and a desire to preserve beauty, and you have the pieces to solve the greatest problems.

Solving the problems of one's life and the world is all too often extremely difficult, with extreme effort, patience, and taking advantage of happenstance. How to make it easier for people to move the world in a direction that is better for all of us is another question.

This blog covers philosophy, savingtheworld, space

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