This is Major Tom…

Posted by on Nov 17, 2006 in Uncategorized | No Comments


…to ground control.

The British economist Paul Seabright points out in his book “the Company of Strangers” that it is through our species amazing ability to collaborate and co-create that we have lifted ourselves up – against the evolutionary odds – from being a minor, largely hairless infant mutation of ape stock, relatively well-adapted to the changing environment we found ourselves in some millenia ago, to being the first creature to shape our environment. In truth, we hold the future of our planet and all of our fellow earthlings in our curiously pink paws.

I recently caught a comment on one of those Radio 4 intellectual chat shows that went something like this: a large number of all those who’ve seen the Earth from space have had their view of our little planet and the role of our puny little naked ape species transformed by the experience of seeing how small and insignificant you and I are – in the really, really big scheme of things. It’s much like the feeling described in James Lovelock’s Gaia.

In Brecht’s Life of Galileo, one of the many representatives of the Roman Church points out that the old Ptolomeic system had an important political value: if catholics realised that the earth was not at the centre of the universe, then this might lead to them realising that Rome wasn’t at the centre of the world either…

Appeciating how small we are in the big scheme things can also work its magic without space travel or astronomy. Maybe you’ve experienced the same kind of insight by being lost in nature or through one of the many emotional mysteries of life – it’s kind of humbling, awe-inspiring as the Romantics had it in their ideas of the Sublime.

OK if you haven’t had such an experience recently or you need a turbo-boost to think again about what we need to curb our worse inclinations then go to worldometers. Each of us is just one tiny piece of an unimaginably large and complex web of life, yet together we seem to be doing all we can to ruin the beautiful blue and green globe.

Have a look at the site and if you want to do something about it, do so (if you need any help, try Tim Ashton and Antidote’s Change the World for a Fiver and their new tome, Change the World 9-5. Go on, buy both…

Now seems a good time.