Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

The Moon as a symbol of hope

July 19, 2019

Eclipse July 2019

I sat out by the Diana Fountain in Bushy Park on Tuesday night and took a picture of the eclipsed Moon.

As I sat in the peaceful darkness, I thought about the fact that when I was nine-years old, human beings had sent a rocket ship to the moon, and men had walked about and collected some rocks.

As technology has advanced since the 1960s, the engineering in the Apollo program has not been eclipsed. Indeed, it seems ever more remarkable.

And amongst the moths and the bats, I reflected that “…if human beings can do that, then we can do anything that can be done…”. 

That qualification “…that can be done…” is there because although the aim of the Apollo programme was built on a whimsical folly, the engineers who made it happen could only use practical steps to make it real.

Some of the steps they took seem astonishing, but there was – obviously – nothing ‘impossible’. No steps relied on wishful thinking.

The excellent bookHow Apollo Flew to the Moon” , (my review is here) highlighted some of most astonishing facts:

  • The total mechanical output power of five first stage rockets was 60 GW. This is equivalent to peak electrical supply of the entire United Kingdom.
  • On its return from the moon, its speed just before entry into the Earth’s atmosphere was more than 11 kilometres per second.
  • Since Apollo 17 returned in 1972. no human being has been more than 700 kilometres from Earth’s surface.

And sitting in the dark I reflected that if we could achieve all these things then, surely we can – and eventually will – get our act together on Climate Change.

It may seem impossible now, but even the most politically deaf regimes will eventually dance to the theme of climate change – they have no choice.

And if the US were to devote to this problem even a small fraction of the energy and enterprise that it devoted to Apollo, they could yet inspire us all again, and leave a legacy to be proud of for all our children.

Durban is not so far from the Cape of Good Hope

December 16, 2011
Rainbow at the Cape of Good Hope

Rainbow at the Cape of Good Hope: not so far from Durban. Picture Courtesy of Panoramia(?) from Google Maps

Decent folk who hope that our leaders will institute collective international action to address the carbon crisis are used to disappointment. So the inconclusive outcome of the Durban summit and news of Canada’s exit from the Kyoto protocol will cause sadness, but no surprise. And as the science becomes clearer, so the extent of political manoevering and obfuscation increases as politicians seek to justify why they have not yet acted. And although there is really very little that I can add to raise anyone’s spirits, I note wryly that Durban is not all that far from the Cape of Good Hope. And I think a little hope is still allowed.

The nations of the Earth can only do what it is economically and politically possible for them to do. And no more. In the same way that some natural processes are energetically possible, but are forbidden by the second law of thermodynamics, so there are some political changes which cannot happen, even though we might desire them. So I feel that there is no point in ‘wishing’ that politicians would do what is environmentally called for – this is just to subject oneself to perpetual depression. Canada’s exit from the Kyoto protocol demonstrates this explicitly. It is politically impossible for a massively carbon-polluting democracy like Canada to just pay out billions of dollars and receive no ‘benefit’. And similarly the USA, China, and India are just not ready or able to act.

But I believe that what is possible is changing – and expanding – daily. The very concept of the peoples of the Earth acting collectively is now conceivable and not crazy. The idea that there could be a shared environmental hazard is now accepted. For countries that are just getting used to the idea that actively planning to destroy all life in other countries might not be such a smart thing, we are doing OK. Techniques and methods  for measuring and counting carbon emissions are still in their infancy. And there are thorny problems such as who ‘owns’ the emissions from ships or planes, or the goods they carry? Collectively we have moved a long way in recent decades. And the time for real action is probably now less than a decade or two away.

As consciousness changes,  and as the climate change signal emerges ever more clearly from the noise of cyclic variability, I feel sure that countries will eventually act. Of course each year we wait the task becomes harder, but I feel that we will eventually get our act together. At least I hope so.


Climate Change Discussion at Protons for Breakfast

November 25, 2010
Wind Farms in Texas

Wind Farms in Texas

I am just back from discussing ‘Climate Change’ at Protons for Breakfast. And after having eaten – I was ravenous! – I am reflecting on a very moving evening.

  • So many people – children and adults – concerned and interested and coming along to these sessions
  • So many helpers giving up their time.
  • My friend Lindsay standing outside in the freezing cold to make sure that people found their way to the right car park!
  • Andrew Russell giving up his time to be an expert when all NPL’s experts were abroad!

And as we came to the end, one of the attendees stood up and encouraged everyone not to give up hope – and she related her experience of how things were changing in Africa and that solar photovoltaics were making a real difference. I remembered the first few times we had run Protons for Breakfast and how depressed I had felt about our situation. Now, I don’t feel depressed about our situation – even though I still don’t know what will happen. But now I feel that as the reality of our situation becomes apparent, humanity has the capability to act together. And although there will be squabbles and political manoeuvring, we will do something. It won’t be ideal, but it will be – in some sense – enough.

Arriving home I watched the BBC News where there was a feature about giant  wind farms in Texas. The feature stressed how politically it was unacceptable to mention anything ‘green’ or global warming related, but the wind farms were there nonetheless – the largest wind farms in the world – colossal constructions harvesting a sustainable resource which should still be reaping rewards long after the ‘nodding donkeys‘ beneath them have nodded for the last time.

The World really is changing- in small ways and in large ways, and momentarily I feel happy. Being amongst fellow citizens and work colleagues like these –  I feel quite sure humanity will adapt to our new reality.


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