To truly understand the direction our species must take moving forward, it’s necessary to understand the past, providing us with blinding respect for the present.
Exploration of the deep ocean is necessary to decode our Earth’s history, and all its inhabitants, here and gone. So is the exploration of caves, the upper atmosphere, geology, anthropology, genetics, micro/macro scale examination of the seemingly endless biodiversity of our world, the complexity of the brain, the list goes on, but most certainly, the exploration of space. To ignore our place in space, is analogous to spending our entire lives neglecting the rest of the world, unconvinced that anything other than our backyards or local playgrounds had anything else to offer. We must go. To learn. To grow. To develop our mind amidst the natural pursuit of knowledge through the acquisition of maturity, understanding, and self-preservation.
Never mind the metaphors which suggest our hunger for exploration is embedded in our DNA. We must go because the window of opportunity will not stay open forever. Our fate may have a place and time along the trajectory of some ancient protoplanetary crumb, rendering an “oops” or “uh oh” far too late or long overdue a moment of conscientiousness from a species with the capability to actually decide to alter its own trajectory while in motion. This is something an asteroid, meteor, comet, or volcano cannot. It truly is up to us.
No matter who among us is looking to the universe for a creator’s guidance, “A species" - Carl Sagan asserted - "at war with itself" - this applies to a psychological war as well - "is doomed." Keep in mind that we are entering into an era via astronomy and astrophysics previously untapped; whereby the discovery of new worlds continues to develop and surprise, on a scale not of months or years, but day-by-day, hour-by-hour, throttled merely by currently available technology - presently improved upon every few months at a rate never before experienced throughout human civilization - sifting through and analyzing datasets collected from our robotic emissaries off planet, or on the ground, surveying the local solar neighborhoods at unprecedented distances.
However exciting this is, our technology is outpacing our ability to keep up. We are intellectually far behind on the road leading to the visitation or settlement of new worlds. It’s vital to our survival that we continue to commit ourselves toward a societal goal of global scientific literacy, which subsequently invokes humility, honesty, clarity, mindfulness, and above all, a sense of urgency; not simply as stewards of this planet, but as a species which arose to consciousness with the ability to alter its own course of action through reason.
And still, until we collectively embark on this outward journey together, Carl Sagan’s words echo loudly to us, reminding us of our place in space, and our current motion through the seemingly unnoticeable cosmic timeline:
“The Earth is a small stage in a vast cosmic arena…there’s no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit? Yes. Settle? Not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.”
I encourage the pursuit of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) education not to attach myself to a newly-popularized acronym or social meme. I support these fields because although they shouldn’t need sensationalizing, our civilization owes everything we do every moment of every day to the inquisitive nature of us. The word “science” itself bothers me. Science is not a label, it’s a simple noun we’ve provided ourselves to condense the explanation of how we go about finding things out regarding …everything. And STEAM is the compartmentalized inclusion of the fields we’ve created as a springboard for curiosity.
Steps toward a scientifically literate society: substantiation yielding clarification from verification toward inspiration and innovation through evolution by intelligent direction.
— Rich (sagansense)