Every time I watch a jumbo jet hurtle down a runway and then lift skyward I’m awed by the science that made that feat possible. How many pounds of aircraft, people and luggage are being propelled into the atmosphere? Who ever dreamed it could be done? I’m constantly humbled by how little I know.
A mere 66 years separate the Wright brothers’ first flight and Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon. It’s miraculous that science could achieve so much in that time frame. And now with the advent of AI new developments in science will likely speed “advancement” even faster although we don’t yet know how these ‘advancements’ will play out. Will they solve many of our man-made problems or only add to them? Perhaps in another 66 years we really will be living in settlements somewhere in outer space.
What really amazes me though (and not in a good way) is how we can make these huge advances in certain sciences, like aviation, yet we still can’t learn the basics, like how to get along. War continues to be waged around the world. As well, it has been suggested that if everyone on the planet consumed resources as fast as the average Canadian, five Earths would be needed to sustain us. As a species we can be so brilliant, yet we can also behave as daft as that ostrich with its head buried in the sand.
In the early days of the Covid pandemic we were all forced to slow down. You could almost feel the planet sigh with relief. The air cleared almost immediately as most of the planes were grounded and people who could worked from home, sparing the atmosphere all those carbon emissions. Wildlife began to appear where it dared not tread just weeks before. People returned to the humble Craft; baking, knitting, gardening. Wouldn’t it have been nice if this grand pause could have taught us to slow down permanently, breathe more deeply and appreciate simple pleasures? But life has ramped back up. It’s what keeps the economy going.
But let’s return to science, that miraculous body of knowledge that created vaccines and medicines that extend our lives. That changed our means of communication. That continually evolves. Biologists. Physicists. Geologists. They are all working on discoveries to further enlighten and improve the human condition.
Right now climate scientists are working particularly hard and are sounding an alarm loud and clear. They have the knowledge to teach us how to save ourselves and yet we’re still too preoccupied with our rampant consumerism, fast fashion and celebrity culture to hear it. Like that airplane hurtling down the runway, it can feel as though planet earth is careening toward disaster. But writer George Monbiot reminds us that political systems were made by people, and they can be changed by people. And we’re not ostriches. As Dr. Seuess says, “We have brains in our heads. We have feet in our shoes. We can steer ourselves in any direction we choose.” If we can blast airplanes into the sky and rockets into outer space surely science can help rejig our trajectory, moving us toward the creation of a kinder, gentler and greener world.