Gore is back in the news with his latest attempt at pushing forward a green agenda. That being for the US to try for 100% renewable energy within 10 years. Yes yes – all well and good. However in the process he has cited this call as being similar to JFK’s call to put a man on the moon. The problem is that we are comparing apples and oranges here.
In calling for putting a man on the moon, the technology was in the early stages of development already. New attitudes, technology, science and other aspects were needed in order to pull off the feat. However the moon landing didn’t require a massive overhaul of societal attitudes and supply chains. What was needed was for key sectors of R&D and the economy to advance a time table that they were already marching towards. The genius of JFK’s speech was that all which was needed was the right push at the right time.
Gore’s challenge is neither. Don’t get me wrong – I love the idea – I just don’t think its practical nor reachable. The breadth of the changes are too vast to be influenced by a single idea simply thrown at the wall like spaghetti. Most of it isn’t going to stick.
What is called for, if we were to press the JFK analogy, is for something relatively absurd but reasonable doable which focuses the efforts of a few key sectors to excel beyond anything they could hope to achieve without the right stimulus. As aptly put by JFK himself:
I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment. (A Special Address to Congress On The Importance of Space – May 25, 1961)
What really stood apart however was the simplicity of the goal itself. To take a man from here – send him to the moon – and return him safely. Gore has I think missed this idea as part of his message.
What should we do? Many of the key challenges are to some extent all internal at this point. Yes there is President GW Bush’s goal of going to Mars but the technologies that we need to go there are starting to become more and more specialized to the point where mega-projects involving hundreds and thousands of specialists are needed in order to achieve the goal. Once that starts becoming common place those goals, while historic, are no longer capable of capturing the imagination of a world which has become use to the extraordinary every day. In fact the pace of technological innovation is such that a lack of extraordinary things occurring in people’s lives becomes extraordinary in of itself.
To answer the question we need to consider what we could do in the next 10 years that will change everything in one fell swoop. What can we do that will transcend cultural divides and bring a new global perspective to the world around us. Also something for which is outside of the range of the ordinary person to accomplish but which is within the grasp of ordinary people to aspire to.
My initial reaction is to say that most of those challenges are either cultural or technology-cultural oriented.
- I believe that within 10 years we could have a single world government with the rights and powers necessary to eliminate war between nation states. That would mean nation states would give up their rights to wage war in exchange for a common system of governance (not government) which would protect the rights of statehood irrespective of their system of government.
- I believe that within 10 years we could bring clean water to the deserts of the world and replenish their fertility in order to bring stability back to those ecosystems on which all life on earth is dependent. That would mean protection of rain forests which are only being cut down because of the fertility of the soil and the pleasantness of the surroundings.
- I believe that within 10 years we can develop the technology to cleanly fly an Airbus A380 fully loaded from Vancouver Canada to Sydney Australia without a single drop of jet fuel or other petroleum based equivalent. That would mean the capabilities to transform all major shipping forms and truly eliminate the dependence on oil for which we are dependent.
Each one of these would radically change life as we know it. Notice thou that in each case I am not talking about the goal being the final solution – but rather to bring society to the single milestone that could trigger the on-set of a global change in consciousness that will take us the rest of the way towards a new enlightenment of our capabilities both individually and as a globally interdependent society.