What is “Progress”?

Why do we seek progress in this world? We presume that growth, growing bigger, expanding, making more money and gaining more power is a good thing. But the energy of this world is limited and we cannot leave it.

The Hubble Space Telescope looked as deep into space as possible, and took a photo known as the “Ultra Deep Field.” The telescope took a photo of over 10,000 galaxies, some of which were a few million years old, and others as much 10 billion years old. The image literally looks back in time approximately 13 billion years, about 400 to 800 million years after the beginning of the universe.

Deep Field

Consider what you are looking at.

It is a picture of a time machine because it literally shows things as they existed billions of years ago. Each object in the photograph does not even exist in the same time, meaning that if one galaxy in the photo is a billion years away and another is two billion light years away, then the photo shows two different galaxies as they existed in two separate times, i.e. a billion years apart.

Other things could be said: It’s beautiful, a long way away, the science of astronomy is amazing, it’s awe inspiring, and many would venture to express spiritual experiences and beliefs.

But consider something different. Let’s start with a hypothetical to illustrate. Imagine that you are from one of the galaxies in that photo. You wake up here on earth, you have some advanced knowledge and ability, but you do not know where you are and you do not have access to the science, technology and resources that you are accustomed to. Then you are shown a photo, this photo, that depicts your galaxy, which is the one that’s two billion light years away.

This is a picture of a prison. You’ve just been shown a photo of billions upon billions of places, including one place in particular, your home, that you cannot go. The chances of going to the places you are looking at are so impossible that you may as well be looking at a painting of a dragon or the Star Trek Enterprise. Imagination is the only way you will ever experience those things.

We are stranded here on earth. Luckily, it’s a great place to be. But if you were stranded on a desert island with a few fruit trees and a pond of fresh water, I would venture that most reasonable people would not cut down the trees to build a bowling lane or siphon off the water to make a fountain. But that is exactly what we are doing to ourselves.

It is estimated that the world population of humans in 10,000 B.C. was about 1 to 10 million. Some have concluded that the world population had bottlenecked at about 1 million between 70,000 B.C. and 10,000 B.C. and rose thereafter due to the development in agriculture from a hunter-gather society. By 1 A.D. there were as many as 150 million humans, and by 1,000 A.D. the population doubled to about 300 million. The Industrial Revolution saw another growth spurt, and by the 1800’s there were as many as 1 billion people in the world.

By 1927 the world population was at 2 billion. Think about that. The world population doubled itself in about a hundred years when it had previously remained at about 1 million, give or take, for thousands of years! That’s nothing. The world population reached 3 billion in 1960, and would pass 6 billion before the year 2000. That means that the world population doubled from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 5 billion in less time than the average human lifespan. The world population is expected to reach 10 billion by 1050. This graph pretty much says it all:


Population Growth

Population Growth

Of course, with such viral population growth comes more houses, more buildings, sprawling cities, infinite products, clothes, gadgets, video games, software, cars, and industrialized food of every sort to satisfy the unending desires of humans. There’s 800 million vehicles on the road and more to come. But there are limits. Consider the following comments from the “internet”:

“Growing populations, falling energy sources and food shortages will create the ‘perfect storm’ by 2030, the UK government chief scientist has warned. He said food reserves are at a fifty-year low but the world will require 50% more energy, food and water by 2030. The world will have to produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people and as incomes rise, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.”

The so-called “Green Revolution,” the exponential growth of the production of food beginning in the 1970’s, was greatly fueled by petroleum products. Our economy and transportation of food greatly depend on oil, which is a limited resource, at the twilight of its life. “’Peak oil’ is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline.” Some observers have asserted that peak oil has already been reached, and others assert that it will be reached by the year 2020. Our adverse impact on the environment is extensive and getting worse – a growing and complex problem that cannot be fully addressed here.

The last NASA Shuttle mission recently concluded. There is no comparative US space program to replace it. The US Government will be relying on the Russian space program to shuttle astronauts in the foreseeable future. Corporations (like Virgin records for goodness sake!), are supposed to figure out how to shuttle people into space on a regular basis. So, the government wants the same “industrialists” that got us into our current dilemma to figure out how to get us off this prison. The thing is, we don’t currently have the technology to even get a human being to the edge of our own solar system and back alive. The nearest stare is about 4 light years away. That may as well be a billion light years away. At our current rate of growth and consumption, even if we figure out how to travel at the speed of light in the next 200 years, we will not have the resources to do so. If we burn out our own planet, we’re obviously not going to have the energy to explore and expand beyond it.

Is “progress” a good thing? By the time we have the knowledge to go anywhere, we will no longer have the ability to do so. It’s obvious that we’re going nowhere soon.

Posted November 17, 2013 by spiritadmin in Current Events