I think all of us at some point in our lives wish we could make the world a better place. It is at this time in my life that I have chosen to try to do this by offering my thoughts in the form of 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) 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 Earth looks like the moon - cold, empty, barren and without life. Imagine no trees, no birds singing, no grass or trees, 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 color to the planet and meaning to our very world. I don't only refer to this in the physical sense. Life also brings color 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 without life circling the sun, 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 it's 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 we and this planet 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 regions with such a broad spectrum of competing beliefs, religions, and economic interests, while, 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 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 we take create a planet that may be 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 are on different agendas. Whether we are individuals, regions, or countries we all have different ideas of what 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 such different interpretations of reality, we have different beliefs that guide our actions, we have different needs, and 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 survive carry their ability to reproduce so 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 may still only be in it's 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 where we can live by common rules but also retain our unique differences that might 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 best 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 all Life and Earth with the world changing technology that may already exist or lie ahead in the future. Both have their place though I think that given the way technology is affecting Life and Earth we will be forced to 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.
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. You also may offer the same hopefulness for Life and Earth in your own ways. My dedication for this book is to Life and Earth but also to those individuals that I have met that have encouraged my thoughts.
If you are unable to cover all the topics then many of the ideas have been presented in the form of a story in a section called How a Planet Survived. This section also discusses some possible guidelines that might be included in a global "Universal Philosophy". The current edition is Edition 1 though "Life and Earth" will be an ongoing project as new topics are covered. Please note any text in RED represents web links you can visit if you go to the www.lifeandearth.com web page. If you are an institution and would like to print the pdf version for educational purposes it is fine to do so, though I do appreciate your letting me know. I hope you enjoy "Life and Earth".
Polar Bear Image courtesy of Hal Brindley at FreeDigitalPhotos.net