One Universe


As an astronomer, I sometimes think in expansive terms. So the title of this article could have just as easily been “One World” or something like that. For it is about the limits of where we live.

But in a real sense while we live in just one universe, in a galaxy like this about 2/3 of the way out from the center, in a rather stress free neighborhood.

Right now we realize our universe is quite a bit smaller.  Except for the lunar landings more than 40 years ago, all of us live here on this “small blue marble”.  And that is something that we all have never really owned.

This past year we all failed to pass climate change legislation because some of us wanted things different from the others and in the end we could not agree.  So we settled for virtually nothing.

The problem is, that because it is one home for us all, even if many agree to strongly limit CO2 emissions but one decides to go on a crash diet of burning coal, then we are all still screwed.  What struck me this morning is that this is a principle that covers so many more areas that we first may suspect.  And it changes millennial old paradigms that we have enshrined in our religions and our values.

Here are some more examples taken from recent headlines –

  • “The End of Antibiotics” is an article published online by Time Magazine.  In it states that “tens of millions of pounds” [of antibiotics] are used in animal feed stock to allow them to fatten up better and on schedule.  It is the massive over use of these miracle drugs that is causing, no driving the evolution of bacteria to become more immune to this type of treatment.  Europe ban such use some time ago but the USA refused to go along.  Now I suspect that the USA argument is that China, Mexico, Brazil, India also don’t do this and so why should they.  But because of the wholesale use of antibiotics … even when not specifically required … continues this causes the world use of this system to fail.
  • The case for coal vrs nuclear vrs renewable energy has the same structure.  Why should the USA change its habits when we have been suffering for using too much foreign oil and now we are converting to using our own resource – coal – but our use is slowly raising the temperature of the planet every day.  Moreover, the same argument applies to others as well.  China has little petroleum but plenty of coal and they need new energy to come on line steadily.
  • And finally the same thing applies to religion.  Each of the major western religious traditions (and here I will include Islam) have roots in a time when one way to strengthen your cause was to make sure you annihilated your enemies; these traditions teach that adherents are blessed and that outsiders are not.  And in the end this translates to them being less than human.  Not so long ago in terms of human social evolution, say 200 years, our ability to take this stance and inflict damage on those who disagree with us was limited to relatively short ranges.  But today for most groups it is planet wide.

So the simple conclusion of this essay is to ask each of you – How do we all gain some universal respect for one another and how to do we create empowered social structures to help implement world wide safeguards to protect us, our universe and all of the others who share in this gift of life?

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Investing, Singapore Incubator, Spiritual Threads

  1. Uwe says:

    Frank,
    reading the examples from your thread I tend to unite with the pessimists saying “mankind is a skin disease of planet earth and sooner or later earth will get rid of it”.
    But to your concrete question how to make the world a better place, I must confess that I no longer believe that any “system” or “structure” will offer a solution. The only hope is that more and more people will recognise that egoism is bad, even for themselves, in the long run. We all can influence the flow of time and evolution by our everyday decisions and if we try to be a little more aware of the consequences of our deeds and try to love our neighbours a little bit more (which is a Christian value, but I feel that other religions could accept it as well), that will change the world in the long run.
    If we don’t drive gas guzzlers, eat less meat, pay voluntarily more for renewable energy, don’t buy products made in the 3rd world with child labour etc. this will hopefully lead to a new system which will be more human and will preserve the environment.
    Maybe that’s all just stating the obvious, but I don’t believe any longer that politicians or industry leaders, even if they try hard, can change much because the world economic system is self sustaining and driven only by: profit.
    Well, and if not, we will see what remedy planet earth will have to cure itself …
    Cheers, Uwe

  2. Murli says:

    Uwe, without meaning to wade into a whole debate on religion, I’ll say that empathising with one’s neighbours (“love” takes it too far, IMHO) is one of many common-sense approaches that both you and Frank suggest. That Christians claim this as a virtue for themselves doesn’t make this an exclusively Christian value.

    Frank, interesting thoughts. I’ve been thinking about this myself recently and I can’t say I disagree with Uwe and other cynics about Earth possibly ridding itself of us. Which reminds me of a hilarious piece I once saw by George Carlin. Something to the effect of, “Save the planet? The planet is fine! It’s been through billions of years of volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, comet crashes… It’s the people that are f***ed!”

    More seriously, I think it’s time to get the policymakers, scientists, engineers, businesspeople and media out of the room, and make way for the game theorists. For all of the problems you’ve highlighted here. That’s the only class of people that has experience working with this kind of problem. Nash Equilibria and suchlike. Implementing the game theorists’ possible solutions? Ah, that’s another story.

    • Frank says:

      Murli and Uwe –

      I own a tee shirt that has the “golden rule” variations from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and several other religious traditions. Caring for others at the level we care for ourselves is clearly a universally agreed upon virture. So the “devil is clearly in the implementation details. Oui?

  3. Murli says:

    Yep and I hazard a guess that it’s been a universal value since before religions even existed, ie it’s a purely biological phenomenon. All animals are social to one degree or another and need each other to some extent whether within the same species or across species. That’s practically the definition of the word “ecosystem”!

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