Dr. Brian O'Leary
Author, Scientist, Former Astronaut, International Speaker.
"No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it."
New Years 2002 :
Meredith and I hope you'll have a joyous, prosperous and productive 2002. We are now based in Southern California, caring for our elderly mothers while teaching, writing, painting and forming new groups and alliances that could tackle the overall challenge we have to survive the threats of terrorism, war and pollution.
Since September 11, 2001, I have begun to reflect on the enormous implications of unfolding world events in the face of our unsustainable lifestyles. A global governance structure of some sort will become necessary to overrule the system we now have. We the people need to have jurisdiction over the survival of civilization while preserving the freedoms of individuals. As never before, we global citizens will need to debate a new constitution based on natural law that would remove human ecocide, competition and violence from the equation. The Earth is in the emergency room and is in need for allopathic solutions such as a solar-hydrogen or new energy economy to replace fossil fuels. We also need to ban weapons in space and limit them on Earth--before both terrorist and opportunistic economic/military threats overwhelm all of us.
Last century, 200 million people died from assaults by weapons and hundreds of millions more were killed by an increasingly toxic environment. These numbers will surely rise this century without massive public participation at a global level. War and tyranny have always been ways of life. But what is unprecedented is that the actions of war and ecological tyranny could finish us all off. We must be called to civil action as a world community.
The latest environmental news is not good. Even the mainstream consortium, Organization for Economic Cooperation's recent Environmental Outlook report (www.oecd.org/env, and www.rachel.org), gives a chilling set of warnings and new statistics, consistent with what is presented in my new book Re-Inheriting the Earth. They describe how bleak the year 2020 would look if we continue to use up our fossil fuels, continue to release large amounts of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and waterways, continue to ignore the Kyoto agreements on global warming, and continue to deforest, overfish, overgraze, deplete topsoil and water, etc. May this kind of "2020 hindsight" begin to permeate our resolve so that we may avoid catastrophe now, before it's too late.
The American democracy is in extraordinary trouble. At a time when we could be coming together to render widespread humanitarian aid to helpless refugees in Afghanistan rather than bombing them, at a time when we must urgently begin the awesome task of restoring the environment, those controlling our destiny have moved in the opposite direction. While some of us are waving flags and closing ranks behind the Bush administration, the voices of reasoned dissent and openness to solutions have become ever more silenced by a myopic American media. The tragic irony of all this is that it need not be that way, that the terrorists could eventually be brought to justice if only we too were to act justly ourselves. We might be "winning the war" but are meanwhile creating a nightmare of increasing militarism, fear, secrecy, denial, anger, cruelty, pollution, and the curbing of individual freedom of expression. We are also risking a World War III which could end it all.
U.S. official policies polarize us not only from Islamic extremists but from the rest of the world. I discovered this sobering fact from extensive recent dialoguing with colleagues and audiences in Europe and the daily exposure to the media abroad. As one British elder stated it, "Americans seem to have lost their sense of identity." Perhaps the $60 billion implosion of the Texas energy giant Enron, once the seventh largest corporation in the world and critiqued in my new book for its questionable practices in California and close connections with the White House, symbolizes what might happen when winner-take-all capitalism and exploitation of unsustainable natural resources are allowed to go unfettered. During the autumn of 2001 I was on a lecture tour of Austria, Germany, Scotland, England, France and California on issues relating to my new book. Meredith and I had landed in Paris on September 11 within minutes of the terrorists' horrific attacks on the World Trade Center. Hardly a single European we have encountered out of hundreds of interactions supports the continuing American bombing of innocent civilians in poor countries, military tribunals for accused terrorists, the ignoring of international agreements such as the Kyoto protocols on global warming, the antiballistic missile treaty, the accelerating toxicity of our environment, the ever-increasing hegemony of giant corporations, the arms trade, the media spin, the suppression of new ideas, the inequalities of the rich and poor, and the unbridled power of economic globalization, fast-track negotiations, with no checks and balances coming from an informed public.
The overwhelming consensus among Europeans is that American-led global cartels involving the abuse of dwindling natural resources, energy, money, food, medicine, government, military and intelligence must relinquish their power or the human experiment will have failed.
The common denominator of the current polarization is oil money. Our collective addiction to Middle East petroleum created the powers in charge of both sides of the conflict. We must now act forthrightly to implement solutions that could end this dependence. As never before, we will need to shine a new light on the world stage, a global republic/democracy whose powers will exceed those who are in charge now, regarding the overarching issue of sustainability. We will need to do all this while upholding the rights and freedoms of the meek--rather than of large corporate interests now in control of our destinies.
I shed tears of joyful sorrow over my own version of patriotism on a recent night of listening to jazz in Paris, music which was first composed and performed in America during mid-twentieth century. The spirit of jazz had deeply inspired me during my youth. I had been a proud Eagle Scout and selected as an Apollo astronaut. I wondered, how can we grasp for those straws that represent the best of us? How can we combine our extraordinary creativity and the blessings of nature we can still enjoy into a sustainable plan? Can we transcend our fears, our work-frenzy, our grief, our distractions, for just awhile, to embrace our own greatness and let it propel us forward? Only the formation of a firm resolve to move into solutions, and the tests of time, will tell us.
There is so much unacknowledged in our culture. There is so much unfinished business and exploring and growing to do. Why do we have to commit homicide, suicide, biocide and ecocide to do our business? We need to recognize the severity of human actions, but we also will need to forgive the transgressions and to accept the situation so that we may end our grief and move into solutions.
We need to develop a new global community in both real and virtual spaces. In his classic book The Different Drum, Scott Peck reminds us that community-building includes a chaotic phase which often discourages the founders. This period of ego-posturing usually precedes a surrender to a feeling of emptiness, the next phase. Then it would be possible to enter into the spirit of cooperation and selflessness comprising true community.
Perhaps, in those moments of inspiration, we could turn crisis into opportunity. Perhaps we could express our grief first and then move into responsible and compassionate roles. I hope Re-Inheriting the Earth will help shed some light on some of the basics. In addition, some of us are forming a coalition, Global Citizens for a Sustainable Existance Now!, which intends to facilitate a new world citizenship that would ensure an enduring human civilization through proper human action.
With all best wishes, Brian O'Leary