Mission: the Earth!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Twelve years ago, as a logical reaction to the “Mission: Mars" decided by the American President Bush Jr. -the same one who decided the ignominious invasion of Iraq- I published the article from which I now reproduce a large abstract, convinced that today it is still more urgent to take care of the "Mother Earth". President Obama, who has had so many wise decisions (medicare, regularization of immigrants, creation of millions of jobs, attention to the environment, agreements with Iran, Cuba ..., detente with Islam ...) at the end of his term , he made the mistake of launching the "Mission: Mars". I consider timely to tell him, with even greater conviction and urgency, what I wrote then to his predecessor:

“Mission: Mars”. President Bush recently announced that the United States’ space policy will be amended appropriately so that within the next ten years moon landings will be so frequent so as to ensure the presence of men on the moon and, with that experience, to be able to land on Mars. Immense amounts of money will be invested to make this ambition a reality and the American people, well prepared by the publicity that will surround this achievement, will feel proud of their incomparable power.

As a scientist, I am well aware of the beneficial “collateral” results that may be argued in favor of a project of this nature. But as a citizen of the world I am also aware of the much more urgent challenges for the conditions of life of the humans, which once again will be left unattended. I have had the occasion to get to know close-up many of the corners of the earth and to admire the creative grandeur that nests in the infinite diversity of its inhabitants. I have dreamed and endeavored to contribute to alleviating the situation in which so many inhabitants of the Earth live (and die), while waiting for the more prosperous nations to finally turn their eyes toward them. The majority were still yearning for the long-awaited order “Mission: Earth” to be issued from the corner of abundance of the global village, but this has not occurred. The urgent necessities in matters of health, nutrition, justice, education... of the great majority of people are neglected and subordinated to the brilliance of a government and of those who, in their own country or abroad, blinded by fleeting lights, are unable to see the consequences of not looking around themselves and forward. And of not looking backward to learn from the lessons of the past.

Looking upward wasn’t hard. It was easy. The hard thing is to look at the great problems of the Earth at the dawning of this century and millennium and to recognize that the remedies applied thus far to resolve many of these problems have failed. Although it has been said that effects are more important than causes –how absurd!– it is urgent to reduce and then eliminate the breeding grounds for misery, exclusion, exploitation and dependence that generate frustration, radicalization, despair and violence. To resolve the discrepancies, to prevent them. It is urgent to modify economic policies that have widened rather than narrowing the gap that separates the rich from the poor. And to learn to give the same value to the lives –and to the deaths– of all human beings, who are “equal in dignity” as proclaimed in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is cited as often as it is violated. And to ask the reason for the growing indifference of so many of our youth. In summary, to question why social pathologies, indifference and tedium are growing among those who most benefit from the advances in knowledge and its applications that contribute to our material well-being.

If instead of reaching Mars, we could reach those who suffer from AIDS, malaria, leprosy, Alzheimer, cancer, pneumonia, SARS, chicken flu, prions (“mad cow disease”), hunger, cold...; those who suffer from the consequences of natural and man-made catastrophes. If instead of getting to know the moon better, the United States would get to know the United Nations better, right there on the same island of Manhattan, and would lead, as it did in 1945, the establishment of this ethical and legal framework that mankind so urgently needs today, integrating into the United Nations system the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank (which is, by the way, “for Reconstruction and Development”) the World Trade Organization... If the United States would only decide to immediately become a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; if it would observe Guantanamo and in doing so immediately realize that justice on a worldwide scale requires very specific attention: trafficking of all kinds, impunity for the guilty, for those who cause often irreparable damage to the environment, for those who practice “creative accounting”... If in addition to demonstrating the presence of water on the red planet, the United States would help, as only that great American nation can do, to find and better administer water resources on the Earth... . If only the US would look nearby, toward Haiti, toward Central and South America, toward Africa. If only it would look toward the countries that are exploited and wary of so many broken promises. If only it would send expeditions to countries where thousands of millions of people live, or rather survive. Then the United States would go down in history as the empire that led the conversion from a culture of force to a culture of conciliation, coexistence and peace. This would be the best mission that the United States could undertake, the one that the American people deserve. Everyone together on the side of life... on Earth. This would be true leadership.

After September 11 it was prudent and comprehensible to take all possible measures to prevent tragedies of that nature, while knowing –and Spain unfortunately has experience in this matter– that there will always be an opportunity that terrorists will use to commit their acts, especially in the case of suicide attacks. Thus, except at very specific times, preventive and dissuasive actions must not result in citizens living terrorized and becoming slowly isolated from their neighbors, instead of integrating their capacity for solidarity and helping others in catastrophic situations. President Kennedy encouraged the creation of the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress, while promoting the space program and the fight against cancer. Despite the “race” with the USSR, he looked more often toward the Earth than toward the moon. At that time young people turned their attention to the United States. Now the great majority are looking in other directions. Now the less fortunate are fighting to merely survive. The others –although I see hope in the growing number of “dissidents”– are often seduced by what is in fashion, by the dictates of consumerism, by addiction to alcohol and drugs, wasting time –our great treasure– distracted, dazed, apathetic.

To enlighten this horizon that is today so dismal, numerous prestigious organizations maintain that it is essential to provide the world with a United Nations system that has adequate human and financial resources to guarantee worldwide compliance with laws –ranging from the economy to culture and the environment–, which would enable true global governance. We would all applaud the effort if a significant part of “Mission: Earth” would reveal and eliminate drug trafficking networks (starting from the top!), the illegal sale of weapons, tax havens (a scandal that is consented, a reality that is intentionally ignored), mafias and extremism. Millions of people would applaud the actions of anyone who would improve their welfare in that regard.

In putting “Mission: Earth” into practice, one of the priorities accepted by all citizens of the world would be to reform the United Nations -“We, the people...”- to enable everyone to participate in a new dialog to establish the necessary “contracts” to adequately face the future that, whether we wish to recognize it or not, will be our common future.

I am concerned by the rampant anti-Americanism that I see everywhere. Any reaction against people as a whole is unjustified and dangerous. It is not the citizens, but rather the elected officials at a given time that may deserve overall condemnation. To foster sentiments in favor or against any country or culture is another way of promoting terror. No one chooses his place of birth, the color of his skin, or whether he is born male or female. How and where someone is born is neither a credit nor a discredit and, thus, no one should boast or be shunned on that account. It is not how or where one is born, but how one is brought up, how one acts, that is important. Education for all, throughout life! This should be the most relevant and significant basis of “Mission: Earth.” If only instead of investing in prestige for today, investments were made in the future of the inhabitants of this planet.

Today, when we contemplate the Earth as a whole we become aware of the serious irresponsibility of transferring to the marketplace the political duties which, guided by ethical ideals and principles, could lead to true democratic governance. The absence of any reaction from institutions and individuals, and the resignation, submission and distraction of so many even seem more unexpected and inadmissible when we observe the degradation of the environment –of the air, the seas, the land-; the progressive uniformity of cultures whose diversity is our treasure (being united by universal values is our strength); and the erosion of many relevant aspects of the democratic process that we built with steadfast efforts. How is this possible? In many of these countries, starting with the United States itself, there is no denying that freedom of expression exists. Everyone may say what they wish... But the most popular broadcast media often select the news to be aired and present it in such a way as to favor a single opinion, the acceptance of what is happening (or what they say is happening), and the way that the self-congratulating governments handle problems. On the other hand, the dissenters are quickly associated with those who warrant “preventive suspicion.”

The United States is a melting pot of cultures. It has been a haven for immigrants and has known –and still knows– how to attract talent from all over the world, endowing the country with extraordinary creative strength. Immediately after making the Moon-Mars Project public, with the next US elections as a backdrop, Russia announced the re-launch of its space programs and the European Space Agency indicated that it would attempt to “adapt its pace” to the new calendar set by the United States. The interests of an enormous industrial complex have applauded this initiative. Certainly it would be fascinating to find out whether any basic forms of life have been able to evolve on Mars. But all countries should unite to implement space programs that would not detract from the first priority, which are the already-existing life forms, and fore mostly the human beings, that already inhabit the Earth. Mission: Moon and Mars? No, President Bush. Your country is already unduly far removed from the hearts of the majority of the citizens of the world. Don’t take it farther away. It would suffice to have the vision and the courage to proclaim, “Mission: Earth!”

The same, but being urged for having entered the anthropocene, with potentially irreversible processes that demand the immediate adoption of correcting measures, we must repeat today in a great popular outcry on a world level. In the presence of the threat of reaching points of no return in climate change and, consequently, the habitability of the Earth, ... facing the widening social gap and the increase of extreme poverty, ... taking into account the thousands of people who die every day of hunger at the same time as colossal figures ($ 4 billion) are invested in weapons and military expenditures ... aware of the obvious lack of solidarity of a system that allowed so far this year more than 6,000 human beings -all equal in dignity- have drowned in the Mediterranean, ... and that according to OXFAM, less than 70 people possess ("the hand that closes opaque" denounced José Ángel Valente) a wealth greater than that of half of humanity ... let us raise the voice with firmness and constancy, the voice of "We, the peoples ..." to achieve that in the most exalted instances of power be decided "Mission: the Earth!" ...

This is the only way to clarify the somber horizons we owe to young people and children.