Happy families are all alike; but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy
A Positive Vision for HumanityMay 15 2009
What Tolstoy had to say about families applies equally well to our vision of a future for humanity. The ways in which we can contemplate our own unhappy ending are uncountable. However there is only one story that I can think of ending with "and they lived happily ever after."
For the record I'd like to share my version of that story with you here and now.
For me there is is a very clear parallel between our current situation and the situation which existed in Rome during the fourth century AD. Roman territory had extended to the maximum limit, mines and forests were reaching a state of depletion and the adminstrative over burden was becoming complacent and corrupt.
What followed has become known as the Middle Ages or the Dark ages, Dark because the the economic energy had been sapped from the civilization due to the depleted resource base and the lack of access to new frontiers to conquer and exploit. During this time the education level of the general population declined and regions that were the Roman Empire fell apart into smaller warring factions. Revolutionary developments in art culture and technology were not to become common again until the Renasaince which encompassed roughly the 14th to 17th centuries AD
There is no common agreement about what factor brought Europe out of its slumbe but there were two events which had a major economic impact on Europe. The first was the Black Death or plague and the second was the discovery of the Americas.
The Black Death first struck Europe in the 1340's and is estimated to have killed between 1/3 and 2/3 of the total population. This amounts to about 20 million people in Europe alone. The ironic effect of this disaster like the natural disasters of today is that they create in their wake and economic boom. Labour becomes in short supply the ratio of people to resources becomes more favourable and there is generally a reduction in bureacracy and more of a willingness to do whatever it takes to survive.
The discovery of Americas led opened up vast resources of minerals and forests to Europe. The earliest explorers were driven by a rush to find Aztec and Inca Gold as well as copper, tin and silver mines in South America and rich forests and furs in North America.
The economic boom that followed was amplified by the Industrial Revolution and the discovery that we could use coal and oil to fuel machines that could do our work for us.
In short our cultural and economic revival was triggered by renewed access to resources which came, first because of the Black Death; followed by the discovery of the Americas; followed then by the Industrial Revolution.
It has taken us until the present time to begin to reach the limits of the wealth of resources that have come into our hands during what has clearly been the most eventful period of human history. We are arriving here with approximately 40 times the population of the world as it stood at the end for the 4 Century AD.
To this we can say congratulations and well done! ... But in order to continue on this track we need to continue to gain access to increasingly large stores of resources and territory, or we will feel the impact like a train crashing at full speed into the side of a mountain.
The formula that worked for the Romans and has worked for us is that growth in economic capacity is driven by having access to more territory bearing more resources and having access to better technology to access and utilize those resources.
For us its clear. more territory means that we need to move into space and better technology means that we must take steps to become more efficient and more effective in enhancing and harnessing the human capacity to learn and to expand our technological base as rapidly as possible.
More than this we need leadership ... Leadership who can create and communicate a vision that it is in all of our best interests to cooperate in order to create the technological capacity to reach into space and to harness the virtually unlimited energy and raw materials that are available to us there,
From space virtually unlimited energy will be available to us from the sun. Metals and other materials will be extracted from the moon and from the asteroids.
This is not science fiction this is our our future, our path to survival.
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