How long would it take you to drive 15 miles? 15 minutes? I can do it on a bike in about an hour. Three hours, if I walk.
Think about this: If you could travel that 15 minutes straight up, you’d be at the edge of space.
That’s right. Outer space (or nearly so). Exposed to that virtually airless environment (at 79,ooo feet), you’d be dead in an instant. Even if you had an air supply, the cold would get you. And if you were insulated against that, the radiation would ultimately do you in.
So the only thing that protects us from certain death is this thin layer of air, a layer so thin that you could drive through it in 15 minutes.
We forget (or never even realize) that our existence on this planet is extremely fragile. It may not seem like it, as we go about our day-to-day lives, but the reality is that our atmosphere is a very tenuous buffer against a very harsh universe. That universe just has to sneeze (such as with a massive solar event) or serve up a good sized asteroid, and suddenly all those squabbles in the Middle East or in Washington DC become not so important. Thinking about this made me wonder about how we get caught up in things that, when put in perspective, are petty and ridiculous.
Take the Koch brothers, for example. You know the guys: two very rich, old, white men who use their massive wealth to muddy the conversation about climate change, buy elections, push for damaging projects like the Keystone oil pipeline, pollute the air, water, and land, and ruin people’s lives, all in an effort to amass yet more wealth. When you already have billions, how much more do you need? But it’s not really about the money, is it? It’s about the power. Just like penny-ante dictators (Syria’s Assad, for example), the Koch brothers want more and more power over other people. Honestly, I think their goal is to own the entire United States. Why? Who knows? I’ll never understand the compulsion.
Are these people evil, or just terribly ignorant? I’m guessing the latter. I think they are so consumed by their lust for power, they have completely lost perspective on what life is all about–if they ever had it in the first place. When they die, as all of us will, everything they worked so hard to accomplish will be rendered meaningless. Their money and power will do them no good. Instead of leaving a world better than they found it, their legacy will be one of a decimated environment and ruined lives. That’s how they will be remembered. What is the point of that?
We human beings are capable of such beauty and courage and nobility. Consider our great works of art, our music, our literature. Consider all the people who sacrifice daily to help others or to save endangered species, or generally just to make the world better. When I look at all the things humans have accomplished that are noble and good, I think about how much more we could do if we could just focus our efforts in that direction.
Yes, there will always be tragedy in this world, but it doesn’t have to be tragedy brought on by the shortsightedness, ignorance, greed, or stupidity of humans.
We just need to change our perspective a little.
15 miles. It’s not very much.