OPINION: Artemis 1 Launches Not Only a Rocket, But A Search for Social Collaboration

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NASA/Keegan Barber, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Guests at the Banana Creek viewing site watch the launch of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft on the Artemis I flight test, Nov. 16, 2022, at Kennedy Space Center.

The following opinion article represents the views and opinions of the author, and not necessarily those of Westwood Minute.

By John Aram, Contributor

The recent launching of the Artemis 1 rocket to the moon and ultimately to Mars invites reflection about the uniqueness of our planet and the need to protect it. In order to ensure the livability of our planet, we need social collaboration within the United States, let alone across societies, that is as unique as the planet itself.

Viewed from the perspective of an outgoing rocket, the earth fades away until it becomes indistinguishable from millions upon millions of other planets. Vast and perhaps mysterious, but not unpopulated, our own Milky Way galaxy may have up to 100 billion stars[i] and there are estimated to be between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the universe.[ii] 

Too infrequently, I believe, do we acknowledge what an exceptional privilege it is to be conscious, purposeful, and most likely unique beings in an inert natural world of unimaginable scale. To see our planet in the context of its uniqueness should lead us to commit ourselves to protect the precious vessel on which our lives depend.[1]

Yet, incredibly, last summer 50 Senators and 207 Representatives[iii] voted against policies designed to address climate change amidst daily information about massive forest fires, floods, crop failures, and extreme weather events associated with global warming, many in those Senators' and Representatives' own states. Because there is no place to go if Mother Earth becomes unlivable, the degree of political opposition to arresting and reversing global warming is shocking.

Moreover, these events likely presage a probable future of chaotic migrations within and between societies, violent resource competition, human starvation at unprecedented levels, and social breakdown from the inability of governments to adapt. No matter how much or little one has contributed to the crisis, no one will escape its social and economic consequences. And no matter how progressive some states such as Massachusetts or some municipalities such as Westwood are in confronting climate change, in an interdependent world, we all suffer from indifference and intransigence.

Looking at ourselves from space reveals not only our planet’s singularity but also its vulnerability. A healthy planet is a common resource to which social collaborators and non-collaborators have free access. Unfortunately, a significant number of elected officials and their constituencies in the United States turn their backs on this common resource today; what’s worse, they do so eagerly and angrily. It is as if an undercurrent of self-harm runs beneath the surface of our society.

Enmeshed in our ideological conflicts, we lose sight of the extraordinariness of our planet and the uniqueness of our conditions of life. In contrast, looking at ourselves from a distance asks us to appreciate the exceptionality of life, the precariousness of our existence, and the contingent character of humankind’s future. 

We need to put aside whatever self-limiting assumptions of race, class, sex, or party identification hold us back from creating a benefit which we can all share, avoiding the costs everyone will pay. A most daunting and yet important challenge for MA social collaborators may be enticing indifferent citizens and reluctant states to work for common, life-affirming goals.

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[i]https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Herschel/How_many_stars_are_there_in_the_Universe#:~:text=The%20Sun%20belongs%20to%20a,in%20the%20Milky%20Way%20alone.

[ii] https://www.space.com/25303-how-many-galaxies-are-in-the-universe.html

[iii] https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/5376/actions

[1] Westwood’s commitment to phase out fossil fuels and develop a climate action resiliency action plan may put it in the forefront of communities working to address climate change. See: https://www.townhall.westwood.ma.us/home/showpublisheddocument/20130/637406101794730000

Thanks to John Aram, a retired professor of management policy, and a recent resident of Westwood, for contributing this opinion to Westwood Minute.

Westwood Minute takes no position on the opinion articles that it publishes, but seeks accurate and thoughtful commentary on topics that matter to our community, from a variety of differing viewpoints. Feel free to reply with your reaction in comments below, or submit another perspective to WestwoodInAMinute@gmail.com.


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