Anyone whos says it is hopeless is a godforsaken quitter

The Quadruple Squeeze
[Via Hot Topic]

Required viewing: Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre talking at TEDGlobal 2010 about the “quadruple squeeze” we’re putting on the planet through overpopulation, climate change, ecosystem loss and the problem of surprises — tipping points in the system. Rockström was lead author on last year’s Nature paper on planetary boundaries and is an interesting and compelling presenter. Bottom line? We face a huge challenge, but there are ways we can fix the problem… [Hat-tip to Resilience Science]

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Fixing all the complex problems facing us will not be easy but it is doable. Anyone who says otherwise is simply a different kind of denialist.

It comes down to will. Do we want to fix these problems or let them fester while small groups game the system for their own advantage?

We got to the moon in about a decade. We did not solve the problems involved because people said it was too hard to accomplish. We had a plan and adapted to changing circumstances as needed.

Now we have fundamental problems that affect us here on Earth, that can radically alter how we will live our lives in the coming years. Now, all we hear is “It’s too hard” or “It’ll cost too much” or simply “No.”

JFK gave a speech at Rice University in 1962 about space – the complete speech is above. It is one of the best speeches given by any recent American President because it actually defines what Americans have always done – overcome tremendous difficulties to create things that have never been seen before on the planet, and to use them to help others.

And this speech could so easily be adapted for today. Simply put in words like climate change for space. It still brings tears to my eyes, as it should for anyone who wants to move forward rather than hold on to what is not working. [My bold]

We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

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So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward–and so will space.

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

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Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.

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There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?[Still as relevant today as 48 years ago – Texas 34 Rice 17 this year]

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

We must be very different Americans today than were there 48 years ago. Too many leaders make a call to inaction. Today many, even if they recognize the problems, simply say there is nothing we can do. We also have many who want to wait and rest and look behind them, refusing to come up with any plan to move forward except to say “It’s too hard”, “It’ll cost to much” or “No.”

Resting, waiting or looking behind us is a path to decay and loss of relevance. Not to mention a world substantially different than the one we currently inhabit.

These problems will have to be dealt with eventually and no amount of resting, waiting or looking behind us will change that. Americans used to believe that difficult problems could be and had to be solved, no matter the cost.

Not so much anymore. There are many Americans trying to solve these problems and perhaps they may still succeed. But their success will be hampered every step of the way by powerful interests that want to rest, wait and look back.

Which side are you on – finding solutions or quitting?

3 thoughts on “Anyone whos says it is hopeless is a godforsaken quitter

  1. When one says “We” as in “WE went to the moon”, one really means America. As long as the United States considers it self capable of doing something, we can do it. That is what makes us exceptional. However, if we are told over and over again that we cannot possibly rise to the occasion or if our leaders don’t trust us, and the Unions are just out for money, we will never do any inventive again.

  2. If you mean that America is ill-served by many of its leaders, I’ll agree. But there are many leaders and groups who DO say we are capable of doing it, that we can rise to the occasion.

    Al Gore has said exactly that. I have personally heard him. He said that America is exceptional, that we can solve these problems and that there is a great opportunity for us in doing so.

    He is just one example. There are other leaders who recognize American exceptionalism in these areas and have put forth all sorts of rhetoric not too far from what Kennedy said.

    And all we hear is the chirping of crickets. Or fallacious rhetoric that has no relevance to the topic. Why is that?

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