Identify Threats To Our Future

04.06.16-petitions

Throughout human history we have faced threats of various kinds; war, disease, and famine are but a few. But at the recent International Planetary Defense Conference held in Maryland, 300 scientists from China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia and the United States met to discuss ways to defend the Earth from an asteroid hit. In February 2013, a 65-foot diameter asteroid appeared out of nowhere over the southern Urals, and exploded high in the atmosphere above the town of Chelyabinsk. The blast shattered the windows of thousands of buildings and injured many people by the shards. The scientists are requesting money for space telescopes (to detect asteroids on the other side of the Sun) and for “cosmic bumper cars” to deflect the objects away from the Earth. Apparently, those scientists are taking this threat very seriously, but it’s likely that very few people are aware of the danger of incoming asteroids – and of this program.

Yet many people are now aware of an even deadlier threat to our existence, and we’ve known a great deal about it since the 1970s. Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is now understood by the overwhealming majority of scientists to be the biggest threat to humanity, and to the myriad species of living things on our planet. And yet, apart from a significant number of meetings – and “agreements” between scientists, political leaders, and environmentalists since those days, very little has been done to address this existential threat.  Indeed, it’s striking that most of the conversations we are having today about climate change, e.g., the predictions about degrees of warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, species extinctions, and geopolitical strife, were being held in 1979.  

We also know that back in those days, many scholars such as social theorists, philosophers, economists, and political scientists, came to the conclusion that we could not be counted on to save ourselves from this man-made crisis, and their theories indicated a common principle: human beings are incapable of sacrificing present convenience to forestall a penalty imposed on future generations. They concluded that humans have trained themselves, either evolutionarily or culturally, to be preoccupied with the present, to worry about the medium term, and to disregard the long-term. Pope Francis writes that “our collective failure to respond to the crises heightened by rising temperatures, points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” And indeed, it’s worth noting that without a stable climate, there can be no civil society, and without a civil society, there can be no stable climate. 

So knowing this, what must be done if we are to try to save this beloved planet for many future generations? One thing for sure that each of us can do; we can identify these threats to our future for what they are, and insist that our elected leaders stop denying the problem and begin to pass legislation that specifically addresses these scientific realities.

Mike Kamandulis

Kersey, PA

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