Tomorrow morning, early tomorrow morning, my wife and I are heading to the hospital for a scheduled C-section. I’m going to meet my son. Over the next 20 years or so, my duty as a father is to mould and shape him into an honourable and respectable human being. This is something I do not take lightly for it is one of the purest legacies we leave.
I found myself watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Episode 13 this evening entitled: Who Speaks for Earth?. I was in awe of the profound and prophetic words and some points stuck with me. First, Sagan spends some time crafting an image of past civilizations with a comparison between the Greeks and Egyptians. With his explanation that Aristotle believed in two groups; Greeks and Barbarians, this concept rationalized the practice of slavery. There was no sense of a collective community to Aristotle. Sagan also explained the city of Alexandria as the first true cosmopolitan city. It was the heartbeat of innovation and discovery. Its library held invaluable volumes detailing observations and methods. It was not until the mob mentality of the religious deemed the library and its possessions as pagan that the library was razed to the delight of local politicians. It was at this point one of the most poignant statements I have ever heard was uttered…
History is full of people who out of fear or ignorance or the lust for power have destroyed treasures of immeasurable value which truly belong to all of us. We must not let it happen again.
Let that sink in….
My first instantaneous thought was of the Koch Brothers. Scientific discoveries do not belong to any one party or country. These discoveries belong to all of us because they tell of our shared kindredship. We are all in this together.
My second thought deals with the conviction Carl Sagan has to calm the rising nuclear storm among world powers, and he does it in blaring subtlety. He could see the big picture; how all civilization could end within a short, short period of time. Thankfully, these tensions seem to have died down enough that it is not an imminent threat. But, it does remind me a very real, current threat in climate change. Perhaps, this is one reason the Cosmos series was revived.
In my opinion, the threats of climate change are much more dangerous. The outcome would be the same, total destruction, but the impacts are so subtle most don’t catch the trends. Even when all factual evidence points toward environmental collapse in the mid-range future, many do not see it as imminent or requiring even short-term mitigation.
Earth. We were given a beautiful home. Let’s not blow it.
The sixty years between World War II and September 11, 2001 were unparalleled for discovery and innovation even though they were fueled by fear. First, fear of Japan, Germany, and later Russia. After the war was over, a new ominous threat emerged that (in the eyes of most) threatened our future as a country if not defeated, communism. ‘Necessity breeds invention’ sure was true during the Cold War and our Research & Development infrastructure became the envy of other countries.
On the tragic day 2,977 innocent lives died, our nation changed. We awoke to a new, hidden enemy with no country boundaries. It brought us together like nothing before. We were united. But some quickly turned to ideology and misinformation leading us into constant military offenses with no real way to fund them. One of the first schemes was by increasing the maximum allowable interest rate of student loans. Personally, mine went from 2% to 6% overnight.
Later on, other sources were needed to continue funding war campaigns. Although most of this funding was borrowed against our future generations, the rest came from discretionary spending. One of the major spending bills is that for science R&D and energy R&D. When the Human Genome Project was completed in April 2003, America’s largest scientific spending project in history was over. Instead of using these funds for other science and technology programs, no other big science project has ever come to fruition (the Spallation Neutron Source began construction prior to 9-11-01).
This letter is for any and all that have a genuine interest in the future of our country. Many whose livelihood and passion dwells under the umbrella of Research & Development have watched helplessly over the past decade a deterioration in the enterprise that has made the United States the most successful global leader in the history of civilization. This enterprise emerged from one of the darkest tragedies in our nation’s history on December 7, 1941. With great foresight, our leaders knew resilience and ultimately the preservation of our way of life depended not upon naive belief but creativity and innovation among the brightest minds in the country; themselves immigrants brought here by persecution.
Beginning with the Manhattan Project, the U.S. has built unchallenged scientific leadership. The unfortunate irony is that another dark tragedy on September 11, 2001 started its slow downward spiral.