Space

What are the first thoughts that come to mind when you think of the word space? I find myself thinking about a cold vacuous black oblivion stretching between the stars. For some people, however, space is a little more grounded in our perceptual surroundings, maybe the space in a room, or a space of time.

Living in Canada, we have a lot of space, and lately I’ve been wondering if we’ve been using that space efficiently enough… When you’ve got millions of miles of space, with a large portion of which being fertile soil, the prevailing mindset tends to be one of exuberant ambition, there isn’t a whole lot of thought put into using the space efficiently. You can just expand in a haphazard sprawl across the landscape. What about when you have millions of mouths to feed, a depleting fuel supply, and you have to start taking soil sustainability into account? Perhaps the haphazard industrial sprawl of the last century is finally catching up to us with some rather grievous repercussions.

The Earth is finite. This massive, practically incomprehensibly vast accumulation of space dust and matter that is our home in this region of space is entirely limited to the progress made in the past 4 billion years when the first stirrings of our star began to build the solar system through orbit of dust and rock. So, despite the fact that we humans are only naturally inclined to live on the 30% of the Planet’s surface we walk on, there’s 7 billion of us trying to scratch a living, and in case you didn’t realize, we have evolved very, very little from our African ancestors roaming the plains. Despite a depression in gene expression from generations of hiding in caves to wait out an ice age, we are relatively unchanged from our ancient hunter/gatherer brethren. Sure we are capable of launching men in metal rockets to the Moon and back, to say the accumulation of human innovation hasn’t come an exceedingly long way would be daft, but we are still equally susceptible to the internal hormones that dictate behaviour, from a desire to mate to the fight or flight response of a sudden scare. Despite all our social systems and intelligent innovations, we are still animals with largely instinct based behaviour. My point being we react to our present and direct surroundings and although our frontal cortex does indeed give us the unique ability to simulate future outcomes from present circumstances most unlike other animals, this advantage or ability if you will, to project or predict accurate long term results is dismal to say the least, most optimally suited for short term quick fix rewards (which is entirely appropriate in hunter/gatherer environments but absolutely detrimental to the long term sustainability of the Earth’s resources when 7 billion of us enter the equation.)

A quote I found….

       “Most of the time, we only perceive and worry about what is going on around us, although we occasionally spare a thought for the relatively near future. Of course, modern communication provides us with up-to-date news about what is happening in other parts of the world, but such events seem remote and not a reason to worry. These limits to our sensual and cognitive capacities make it difficult to appreciate that planet Earth is a finite sphere in a vast space that is almost devoid of matter, and that our activities have an impact that extends far beyond our immediate environment—in both space and time.” – EMBO Reports

We have a very limited perception of our surroundings. Everything we see is not necessarily as it seems. The very senses we use to interpret the world are not as uniform and intuitive as one might believe. As these are the only senses we have, from the moment we are born until the moment we die, it is only what we can perceive with our own consciousness that is truly real, so it’s easy to think that OUR senses are optimal, from any individuals perspective, without a rational comparison of others, s/he would likely assume her senses were as good as could be. Do you really think a rhino considers the eye sight variations between itself and a potential predator? When someone gets old, does the deterioration of their visions clarity become instantly apparent as it begins to occur? According to Dr. Anna Franklin from the University of Surrey, infants are born with an extremely limited sense of colour perception that generally develops within the first 3 months of life and the very simple aspect of language association with colour plays a crucial role in colour perception.  Members of the Himba tribe in Namibia have a slightly altered method of categorizing colour than that of the conventional Western mindsets. They do not have a very scientific outlook on the matter and have no mind for the colour spectrum as we see it projected with white light through a prism. In English there are 11 words to describe colour, the Himba only have about 4, they are largely based on the natural surroundings. Their first set of colours, Zoozu, is most dark colours, including reds, blues, greens and purples. Vapa which is mainly white, but also some yellow (urine perhaps?) Borou is some greens and blues, and Dumbu which also includes greens but is mostly reds and browns. Their sense of colour goes beyond categorizing it verbally, their linguistic association actually goes as far as to affect their perceptions. When given a rather simple colour perception test  of colours from the green spectrum, but of varying origins within the Zoozu and Borou classifications, the Himba could spot the difference instantly, where as   the Western born researchers had a very hard time perceiving the difference. The same went the other way, when they added a blue to the ring of green, but both colours were in the Borou classification, the Himba were extremely hesitant and often were even incorrect in assessing the misplaced colour when to the Westerners, the difference was readily apparent.

Let me demonstrate….

You pretty much need to climb to the top of Everest to readily detect the curvature of the Earth, at least unaccompanied by flight. Needless to say, perhaps we’re not as omniscient as we’d like to think ourselves to be. Maybe we need to rethink methods of using space…

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