Freedom to Think

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I LIKE THIS ... “We can all save the world from something, The Beatles saved the world from boredom.” GEORGE HARRISON

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Carbon Footprint

I would like to investigate a different way to grab your attention. I sincerely hope that you will take the time to read what I hope is a thought provoking essay, an opportunity for each one of us to reflect and think again as we look at the world.

To have the world that we want each one of us should set the example rather than follow that of those that surround us

‘If you asked me to name the three scariest things facing the human race today I would give the same answer I guess that most people would. Nuclear war, global warming and the internet.’

‘I was asked the other day what the three greatest achievements of the twentieth century were. I thought long and hard before I replied with the following. Nuclear power, jet propulsion and Microsoft windows.’

These two quotes were attributed to a pair of American writers and commentators of repute within nine days of one another back in 2006. Neither contributor made their comment with any knowledge of the others words and yet within them lies an inevitable truth about the dichotomy that exists in our world today.

We live on a planet where technology has two faces. It was Adolph Hitler’s Nazis that drove Von Braun’s rocket propulsion science forward and there the plan was to kill. That science and the jet engines it developed ultimately put men on the moon, created foreign holidays in their millions and first bought the whole world’s culture into a sub twenty four hour working model. That same technology has undoubtedly saved millions of lives, bringing aid and medication, fresh food equipment and technology to places and people in need at a rate never previously conceived of in our history.

Of at least equal impact though is the fact that the same technology now puts an estimated one hundred and seventy thousand flights into the air worldwide every single day. In the United States alone traffic controllers handle around sixty four million air management moments each year, and around five thousand commercial flights are in the air over the United States at any one time twenty four hours a day seven days a week. The total estimated carbon emission from air travel alone is currently calculated to be in the region of 400 million tonnes each year.

7 billion people share planet Earth. The crucial word in this sentence is ‘share’. It is not an equal division nor is it ever likely to be, nonetheless we are all here vying for a part of the available space and resource. Probably the biggest single change to the level of comfort and lifestyle over the past five decades, for the western world at least, has been the introduction of ‘cheap sustainable energy.’

In the form of nuclear power I surmise we have an option for cheap energy at negligible obvious resource impact. Once again this comes at a price. A proliferation of ‘nuclear powers’ appear to be pushing our world ever closer to divisive and possibly final conflict. Every day that we consume nuclear power through our homes and workplace we add to a radioactive waste mountain that will prove our legacy to future generations for thousands of years to come.

Then there is the world of internet technology. Unprecedented access to information for millions, instant communication, instruction, shopping and a whole range of lifestyle choices never before available to more than three billion people worldwide. As a counterpoint to this halcyon world view there are over four billion more who have not that opportunity. There is as much bad information travelling the electronic medium that is the worldwide web as good, and increasingly we have a generation gap it seems governed by the very tool that brings us such instant reward. How many nonparticipants really understand teenage chat rooms, pyramid communication or indeed what today’s young people are downloading by the megabyte?

‘The price of technological advance must always be in the first instance responsibility. And whether that be corporate, national or individual any failure to take up this challenge will ultimately cost us all.’ This quote attributed to Winston Churchill in the last year of his life perhaps says it better than I am able...I encourage you to take a moment to think about the issues facing our world today. Commentators often suggest that no one individual can solve such complex issues as the social and technological governance of our world but I surmise they miss the point. It has always been about the individual. Einstein, Marie Curie, Von Braun, Bill Gates, heck Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ, all individuals, and though we may speculate on whether for better or for worse all changed the world.

Thank you for reading.
Thoughts penned by
David Jackman in the spring of 2009

Forgive me if you recognise the master talk, I was 'set up' a little different
in those distant days.....

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