On Oct. 13th, 2021, Star Trek star William Shatner became, at 90 years old, the oldest living person to travel into space – a guest on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle. Here is what he, so eloquently and poignantly, had to say about the experience.
"I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of that connection I had been looking for between all living things—that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe. In the film “Contact,” when Jodie Foster’s character goes to space and looks out into the heavens, she lets out an astonished whisper, “They should’ve sent a poet.” I had a different experience, because I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.
It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna . . . things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral."
The scientific evidence that this world is being destroyed bit by bit is irrefutable.
According to the WWF and Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) biennial Living Planet Report, the abundance of birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles is in freefall, having declined on average by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 2018.
As for the destruction of our soil, a 2017 UN report found that a third of the planet’s land is severely degraded and that fertile soil is being lost at the rate of 24bn tons a year.
Then there’s our water. Studies estimate there are now 51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world's oceans. Not one square mile of surface ocean anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution.
Why aren't we fixing all this?
If Shatner is right and we’re the source of this destruction, why are we making so little progress in addressing these crises?
Could one problem be that both governments and the private sector media seem to be focusing almost entirely on climate change phenomena, on floods, famines, and fires? A consequence is that polluters that don't fit into that paradigm seem to be getting off scot free.
Big Agro isn’t scaling back the use of poisonous pesticides and fertilizers. Plastic remains everywhere. 5G wireless technology has been introduced with no radiation “safety” limits for trees, plants, birds and bees. The armaments industry is thriving. The list could go on and on.
However, we should be careful about simply blaming the very real crises we face on irresponsible and out of control corporations. Let's not forget that at the head of all of these industries are real people, CEOs, Boards of Directors, major investors.
There is strong evidence to conclude that we have a massively selfish and greedy, wealthy class whose priority is to accumulate more and more, no matter what the consequences.
- The world’s 2,153 billionaires now have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.
- In 1978 top CEOs made 31 times that of a typical worker. Today they make 351 times that amount.
- During the pandemic the billionaires of the world gained 3.9 trillion dollars. During the same period workers around the world lost 3.7 trillion dollars.
This wealth grab has been facilitated by the growing corporate capture of government decision making, and not just in the developing world.
As an example of our own culpability, did you know that 80% of the world's mining companies have their headquarters in Canada? They've chosen to register in Canada, not because of our mines and minerals. It's our trade agreements that attract them - trade agreements with carefully written investor-state clauses that prevent partner countries from effectively regulating Canadian mining companies.
I don't think this is the way ordinary people want democracy to work. Yet most of us show little interest in monitoring the democratic process, preferring to leave it to others to sort things out.
But is there a price to be paid in taking democratic governance for granted?
Has our species become the cancer cells of our planet?
What we know about cancer cells is that they grow indiscriminately, without regard for the welfare of the body at large. Behind them is an army of precancerous cells that may or may not attack their host.
Have our elites, the 1%, become like cancer cells - always seeking more from our planet, no matter what the cost?
If so, what about the rest of us in the developed world - the 99%? Are we, like those ambivalent, precancerous cells, predisposed to joining the elites if we can? Or are we more like sheep, content to believe that technology or some sort of messianic figure will rescue us and our planet?
Cancer cells, if not fought, eventually kill their host. They then, with nothing to feed on, die themselves.
Surely, we are not so stupid as to let that happen to us?