LEARNING OUR LIMITS
We human beings are marvelously malleable and cultivatable, by virtue of our distinctive intelligence, compared with any other animal. Our evolution as a species is not only natural but cultural, as we are molded and remolded by the urgings and constraints of our societal values, norms and institutions.
Just now appears to be a time when a major cultural transformation is necessary to reshape human behaviors worldwide, lest our current materialistic motives further overwhelm the Earth’s carrying capacity and disrupt vital natural systems. From one perspective, humanity, with its burgeoning and ravenous population, is a blight on the planet, a cancerous growth within the Gaian ecosystem. Can that threat be changed intentionally? If so, how?
My observation above is the premise of my inquiry into the topic of “Human Frontiers.” Think of a frontier as both a border and a gateway, a perimeter that either encloses and protects a territory or that opens onto new lands and opportunities for advancement. This second interpretation is distinctively American, given our history of westward expansion toward the Pacific Ocean. That same perspective also informs the Star Trek motto: “Space—The Final Frontier,” implying that outer space is to be explored, conquered and colonized as a natural next chapter of the human adventure of quest and conquest.
What’s imperative now, though, is not conquest but making do: recognizing the limits of our Earthbound species’ growth and expansion, and learning to be as frugal as astronauts living in a space ship must be, lest our whole enterprise come to catastrophe.