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January 1, 2010, Volume 17 Nr. 4, Issue 255
The Space Project to Save Humanity 
Happy New Year 2010

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

An Associated Press article by Vladimir Isachenkov at the end of the year 2009  reporting on the blast-off of the Russian rocket carrying the crew module called the Soyuz TMA-17 to the International space station on December 30 was the lead-in to humanity's joint effort at preventing a comet from possibly colliding with earth in the near future.  Typically, I do not gamble.  However, if were offered the opportunity to purchase a million-dollar lottery ticket whose odds of winning are one in thirty-seven, I would quickly purchase numerous tickets.  One in thirty-seven.  Those are the odds calculated by the world's astronomers that the comet Apophis would smash into our planet on it's first pass during the year 2029.  NASA studies conclude that Apophis would fly past earth at a distance of 18,300 miles.  This is analogous to a 45 caliber bullet grazing past a human head a mere centimeter or so away.  Taking margin-of-error and/or other undetected (friction from dust, etc.) forces during the comets flight path into account the cause for alarm is vastly amplified.

So it is good to see Anatoly Perminov of the Russian space agency inviting the Chinese space agency, NASA, the European space agency, and the space agencies of other space faring nations to join the project to deflect and protect the earth from this impending calamity with alarming odds of being realized.  
The comet impact date and time becomes more accurately calculated the closer we are to the impact event.  While the exact date may be a bit off the threat is real.  Permonov in the spirit of human co-operation and concern for fellow-human beings states,

Calculations show that it's possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision without destroying it (the asteroid) and without detonating any nuclear charges. The threat of collision can be averted.

People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Apophis is just a symbolic example, there are many other dangerous objects...
Or, perhaps, kill millions.  Imagine it.  Humanity getting together in an unprecedented co-operative endeavor in saving its members from a natural object of mass destruction. Ah, what a wonderful thing!  

So, here we are at the start of a new decade in the early 21st century conspiring to implement human science and technology to prevent nature from bombing the earth with much more force than the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  What amazing progress humanity has accomplished.  And yet.....

We humans continue to kill each other the world over.  The British medical journal, Lancet, reports that an estimated 94,939 - 103,588 documented Iraqi civilians have been killed during the "liberation" of Iraq.  The total combat wounded military casualties are over 100,000.  Another 320,000 have brain injuries from combat and non-combat causes.  Over 4,000 U.S. deaths are reported.  

In March 2008 Palestinian Center for Human Rights tallied the casualties from the Israel-Gaza war:

Over the course of the 22 day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, a total of 1,434 Palestinians were killed. Of these, 235 were combatants. The vast majority of the dead, however, were civilians and non-combatants: protected persons according to the principles of IHL. PCHR investigations confirm that, in total, 960 civilians lost their lives, including 288 children and 121 women. 239 police officers were also killed; the majority (235) in air strikes carried out on the first day of the attacks. The Ministry of Health have also confirmed that a total of 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault, including 1,606 children and 828 women.

In Afghanistan where the Taliban use human shields against US Forces, the United nations reports that a record high 2,118 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2009 as a result of insurgent, U.S. and NATO forces, drones, "smart" bombs, IEDs, etc.  

Humanitarian agencies report that in Sri Lanka, 250,000 civilians remain trapped in the northeast territory as its civil war winds down.  And on and on it goes: the Somali civil war, the war in northwest Pakistan, the Sa'dah insurgency in Saudi Arabia, the Mexican drug war, the north Caucuses insurgency, Chad's fourth civil war, the insurgency in south Thailand, the insurgency in the Maghredb (Algeria Mauritania, Morocco), the Niger Delta conflict, the insurgency in Ogaden (Ethiopia), the Kashmir, the rebellion in Columbia, etc.  
These current conflicts deserve at least as much attention to ending their catastrophes as does the comet Apophis.  Imagine for a moment if the most brilliant minds of the world were to meet and initiate a project that would end violence, death and destruction.  Imagine a planet where it's inhabitants come together and conclude that the earth requires a systematic approach to stopping its collision with the "comet" war.  That would, of course, require the changing of the human mindset on war and conflict resolution by force.  President Barak Obama did say, "I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place."  But there appears to be little momentum in that direction from the most powerful man alive.  What is needed is a change in the space between the ears of the earth's 6-billion plus people - a mind space project to move beyond the slaughter that produces only more of the same.  

History is littered with examples of the futility of war.  If war were so successful then would not the human race have reached a point where war would become unnecessary?  War is obsolete as a means of conflict resolution but remains as a defining paradigm of the limbic primitive human mind.  The history books of the world's nations mark epochs and ages by a never ending serious of wars and conflicts.  It's the same-old-same-old over-and-over again.  Albert Einstein said,

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.

While I'm eager and willing to buy the million-dollar lottery ticket with one-in-twenty seven odds of winning, I would be foolish to buy one having the same odds that humanity will change its mindset on war.  

To paraphrase Anatoly Perminov of the Russian space agency: People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred billion dollars and build a system that would allow to prevent war, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands and millions of people.

Albert Einstein said upon the release of atomic power that everything "has changed except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind".  And herein lies the problem.  As a species we can contemplate and probably succeed in saving the planet from the collision of comet Apophis.  Yet, we are unable to contemplate and save our species from war and killing each other.  Perhaps, it is because the scientific and technical feat of saving the earth from external destruction requires little effort from the heart of mankind.  Perhaps, it is because this feat and that of making war share the same cerebral processes necessary to accomplish the task while ignoring the heart of humanity.  If that is the case, then humanity deserves its encounter with comet Apophis where its natural ending, like war, is devoid of the heart.  

Happy new year 2010.

2010 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski is co-editor and co-publisher of Metaphoria along with his life partner and wife, JeanneE. He is 30-year veteran retired teacher and a member of Veterans For Peace. His writings have appeared in Metaphoria, Dissident Voice, After Downing Street, Buzzflash, Counterpunch, Thomas Paine's Corner, Omni Center, Rutland Herald, Times Argus, and others. 

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