Abilene, My Abilene… But Nobody Wants To Go There.

When I went out on the back porch to look for Sammy this morning I looked up at the stars and saw a satellite passing, traveling northeast. Maybe it was the space station.

NASA confirmed in the last couple of days that Voyager I left the solar system last year, thirty-six years after it was launched.

The stars were bright and hard. I said to myself that I would give anything to be able to travel among them, to visit worlds in the deep reaches of space.

But we can’t even take care of the one world we can live on, much less reach others beyond our little solar system.

The Abilene Paradox at work. Everyone, except the nutcases, agrees that we have to do something about stopping global warming, and yet we do just the opposite. Generally speaking, nobody wants to exacerbate warming, but everybody finds reasons to exacerbate warming. Nobody wants to go to Abilene, but we go to Abilene because we think everybody else wants to go to Abilene.

I don’t know if I’ve got that quite right. Yesterday was the first time I’d heard of the paradox. It was part of the Coursera social psychology course. But as a group, humanity is doing the opposite of what it should be doing. Instead of cutting back on the use of fossil fuels, we dig for more and we use more. Instead of subsidizing renewable energies, like solar and wind and tide, we subsidize fossil fuels, the very things that are killing the planet. Instead of cutting the birth rate, we fantasize about ten billion people living on a world that cannot support the seven billion on it now.

But maybe it’s nothing as clever as the Abilene Paradox. Maybe humanity is simply a stupid species, driven by greed, lusting for ease, unwilling to do the hard things, to make the hard choices, to do what it needs to do to survive.

The stars aren’t out of reach because we haven’t found the physics that will get us there. They’re out of reach because we want air conditioning.

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