I think at some point in our lives, each of us wishes that we could make the world a better place. It is at this time in my life that I have chosen to do this by offering my thoughts in this book called "Life and Earth". I hope that some of my ideas may help lead us to protect the world we live in, and possibly, make it a better place. The subject matter revolves around the possibility that the side effects of our rapidly growing technologies (e.g. nuclear proliferation, climate change, man-made viruses, artificial intelligence, overpopulation, pollution, etc.) may significantly jeopardize the future of life and the planet. In the grand scheme of life and our existence I can think of no greater concern.
For a moment try to forget all your problems and wants. Imagine that the Earth looks like the moon - cold, empty, barren, and without life. Imagine no grass or trees, no birds singing, no smell of flowers or taste of honey, no fresh air to breathe, and no water - just the coldness of outer space. After you imagine such emptiness, it becomes clear that life is the ingredient that gives colour to the planet and meaning to our very world. I don't only refer to this in the physical sense. Life also brings colour to the world with music, with art, our beliefs, and all that we consider right and wrong.
One can only imagine the emptiness if life did not exist. If Earth was just a barren planet circling the sun without life, who would be left to believe anything? If the universe was only empty space filled with pockets of energy and bodies of matter, who would be left to even suggest that there were such things as right or wrong, or that anything had any meaning at all?
So here we are on this planet Earth, different from any other planets we have observed because it is painted with this unique phenomenon we call Life. It is precious and we are a part of it. Over the eons, all life on this planet has come to define itself by its passion and desire to continue - to survive. As we face the challenges of survival, we can always give up, but we don't. Instead, our road of survival is paved with hope and optimism for the future of Life and Earth. The fact that we look forward to living each day is proof in itself of our love of life.
In the past, the balance of Nature has kept us on this road of survival, but there has been a change in only the last few centuries that this planet and we have never faced. We have introduced the wildcard of world changing technology. How can we stay on this road of survival, given that the planet is divided into so many countries and cultures with such a broad spectrum of competing beliefs, religions, and economic interests? At the same time, all of these countries have more and more access to the growing technologies that impact Life and Earth in both good ways and bad. The benefits of our technologies are wonderful, but given the impact of their side effects, I believe that the countries of the planet must explore them in a more concerted and careful manner - together - if we are to stay on our road of survival. If we want to survive and endure, then life may no longer be about how we can protect ourselves from each other. It may be about how we can work together to face this new changing world due to our technologies.
It is now, as Life and Earth face unprecedented change due to our technologies, that we will define the future and the world that we will live in. At one extreme, will the actions that we take create a planet that may become barren and empty? Or, will we help contribute to creating a planet that flourishes with life, and endures for as long as possible? With our current technology, we may now have the ability to lay out the path for either scenario.
One of our biggest problems as we move forward, is that the countries of the world have different agendas. Whether we are individuals, cultures, or countries, we all have different ideas of which path will take us to the best future. The real problem therefore, is not whether we want a desirable world with a bright future. It is simply that we have different ideas on how to find our best future. This shows up so clearly in the vast number of religions that we live by, and that we often fight over. Our broad differences stem from the fact that we have many different interpretations of reality, we have different beliefs that guide our actions, we have different needs, and we have different ideas of right and wrong. These differences can create conflict and competition between us.
While it might seem that countries should cooperate more as we go into the future, we must not forget that our differences, and competition, are also what allow some of us to survive when all would seem lost. Differences can be good and this shows most clearly when the environment changes, and some species survive, while others do not. Life has endured through the fact that some of us go one way, while others go another. Though some might perish through their inability to adapt, those that do survive, carry their ability to reproduce so that they can continue and endure.
Cooperation versus competition seems to be the underlying question as we enter this new age of rapid technological change, which is still in its infancy. Do we stay with competition, our traditional way of survival? Or, do we learn to cooperate and live with common beliefs and common values.
Where is the balance to be found whereby we can live by common rules, but also retain our unique differences that will ensure our survival? Our dilemma is that at one extreme, we can all choose to be the same (cooperation), but then who is to say what is the "right" path to ensure the survival for Life and Earth? On the other hand, if we are all free to choose and be different (competition), the risk is higher that we may harm Life and Earth with the world changing technology that may already exist, or lie ahead in the future. Both cooperation and competition have their place, but I think that, given the way technology is affecting Life and Earth, we must lean more toward cooperation in order to survive.
"Life and Earth" explores this fine balance between cooperation and competition, and proposes the creation, and education, of a global "Universal Philosophy" to encourage cooperation between individuals and countries, while still maintaining many of our cultural and ideological differences that make us unique. "Life and Earth" is especially directed at world leaders since they have the greatest direct influence on Life and the planet. Countries and leaders must have the vision, will, and trust, in order to work together to create the world we imagine it might be. Ultimately, "Life and Earth" is a reflection of hope that the leaders of the world will learn to cooperate in order to deal with the complex technological changes we are about to face.
The purpose of "Life and Earth" is not to judge our differences, whether they be religious, or in the ways that we see right and wrong. It simply proposes that we accept that we have differences, that we question the reasons for our differences, and we try to find some optimal common ground to help us move forward into a very important period of technological change, possibly over the next 30 years. To me it is a somewhat overwhelming thought that each of us may now be living in the most life impacting period in the approximately 3.5 billion years that life may have existed on this planet.
It is difficult for any creature to look outside of its own perception of the world. Whether we are a seal in the Arctic ocean searching for fish, or a farmer awakening each day to care for his crops, we all get absorbed each day in the world that we perceive. It is very rare that we have a chance to question the nature of the world and ourselves. "Life and Earth" has been created so that we can for a moment see a different perspective of the world outside of our own.
It is now more important than ever that all of us gain a new perspective on Life and Earth. Technology is coming at us over the last 100 years like a landslide. It is as if we all are faced with a new language to learn, that we do not understand. Technology is consuming us. We are no longer the creatures that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years interacting with the four basic elements in their simplest form - Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.
Our developed world has come to be so different from the world of our past. It is a simulated world of holographic images, movies with characters that fly and do superhuman feats, digital games that consume our children's minds, and the list goes on. This new digital reality that we live in is so different from the one from which we evolved. Our new world of technology places us in a position where we must question what reality has come to be, and where we want our reality to go. Many children in developed societies will grow up never knowing what it is to interact with Nature, as we have evolved to do so in the past.
Will we be able to exhibit the good judgement required, given that our perception of reality is becoming so distant from that of our past? Can we appreciate the value of our forests and our pristine waters? One might start to wonder if we really do appreciate what we have, given for example, the plastic that we are putting into the oceans which harms sea creatures, and ultimately ourselves.
I believe "Life and Earth" is important because it helps us to understand more about what technology is, and how the consequences of technology are having significant repercussions on Life and the planet. We indulge so much in the addictive pleasures that come from technology, while we willingly ignore how these pleasures affect us in negative ways. Corporations that offer these technologies often do not have second thoughts of the repercussions, only that of profit. As a result, they have such an incredible influence over our individual consumption and actions. Corporations and country policy makers must find the will to cooperate, and address the technological repercussions that are affecting Life and Earth.
"Life and Earth" is one attempt to help us understand the problems related to technology. It is time for us to really understand ourselves, to understand our technology, and to acquire the data and willpower to make intelligent choices. The world has become complex and we need to step back to the basics of the flow of matter and energy - the undeniable - and find a sensible path that is also undeniable. This is the message of this book, put forth to you with simple analogies that when pulled together makes clearer the direction we must take to ensure our brightest future.
I care deeply that all of us might be able to achieve the goal of protecting and creating a world that will endure the trials of the ages yet to come. My concerns are those of one who has the greatest optimism and hope for all that humankind and life can be. I dedicate this book to my mother who has since passed on. It was her kind, trusting, and generous nature, that she shared with others that showed me that the world could work together if we can learn to trust each other. I also give my special thoughts to my dog Dusty who also has passed on. I have placed a dedication page for Dusty because, to me, he represented the peaceful, appreciative, and trusting nature, that I would hope both countries and individuals can come closer to.
The current version of "Life and Earth" is Edition 5. If you are unable to cover all the topics, then many of the key ideas have been presented in the section called How a Planet Survived. The main difference from previous editions is that a new section called The First Step has been added. This outlines how humankind might actually create a Universal Philosophy, a subject that was not covered in previous editions. If you are an institution and would like to print the pdf version for educational purposes, it is fine to do so. Please note that words in bold red represent web links that you can click on at www.lifeandearth.com for more information. Images for Life and Earth were provided by myself, some were provided courtesy of www.nasa.gov for which I have noted credits below, and most were purchased through various image providers. I hope you enjoy "Life and Earth".
Image Credits from www.nasa.gov
Section - Cover: Visible Earth globe_west_2048.jpg
Section - Preface: Moon Surface
Section - Introduction: Earth Moon Image
Section - Introduction: Astronauts on the Moon - Image AS11-40-5873
Section - So What Can We Do: Visible Earth globe_west_2048.jpg
Section - Scientific Data and Intelligence: Hurricane - 4922919267_c0ddf9c28b_o.jpg
Section - Scientific Data and Intelligence: Asteroid - asteroid20161103-16.jpg
Section - A Cooperative Example: Space Station