Listening to a radio discussion about forthcoming missions, manned and unmanned, to the moon, made me realise quite how much Brexit thinking, climate change and space travel thinking have in common. It all comes down to the small-mindedness and short-perspective view that we demonstrate when considering these topics.
Over the years, spacecraft have almost entirely been decorated with national flags and carried messages of peace etc. from the people of the USA, the USSR, China, France, India, Israel and the growing number of space nations. Often the missions are repeating the tasks previously carried out by craft from other nations. But each time it is heralded as a breakthrough in USA/Russian/French/Chinese/... space capabilities. The important thing this is that each nation is able to hold its head up and say to the other countries on Earth, "See, look what we've been able to do. See how technologically advanced we are." But they all seem to overlook the fundamental issue of leaving Earth. The laws of physics don't apply separately to each nation, they are identical. To an External Observer all that would be seen is rockets carrying payloads popping up from different points of the surface of the planet again and again. They might carry different labels and insignia, but essentuially they're all doing the same thing, with varying degrees of success. The External Observer might say, "It's almost as if these crazy humans care more about where the craft was launched from than the fact that humankind has now achieved close space travel capabilities. Why don't they recognise this as a planet issue rather than a country issue?"
Likewise climate change. Individual countries may be keeping score but it doesn't actually matter where the C02 or CH4 comes from - your emissions are my problem and my emissions are everyone's problem. To have emissions trading accounts where countries can sell their allowances to others and shuffle around the responsibility is the narrowest and cruelest of thinking. It's like having a war with dead bodies trading where countries are allowed to offset their massacres against the lower bady bag count from participants who are less well-armed. Underdeveloped countries who claim they are being denied technological advancement unless they are permitted to repeat the acts of their big brothers and build power stations, dams etc. are right. We must deny them this. It's unfortunate but it's the only way. Simply because industrial giants like USA, China and Russia made high-emission investments in a time when we didn't know or care about these is no justification for everyone else to continue down this same doomed path. We must all act collectively and coherently on a planetary basis to solve these problems. And when the low- or zero-emission technologies emerge in sufficient scale and diversity to avoid the repitition of the problems, then we can promote the underdeveloped nations to the front of the queue with a justified priority and entitlement.
And so it is with Brexit. Surely we can all agree that this is a wholly national issue at the very least, with significant international overtones. And yet all we've seen from the elected Members of Parliament is an overwhelming avoidance of this as a national concern and a concentration on regional, party, and manifesto-led thinking. This is a problem that requires, dare I say it, a National Government, not the petty squabbling between th Tories, the DUP, the ERG and the XYZ.
History will not care whether it was American or Russian spacecraft that cluttered and contaminated the moon's surface, or whether it was Brazilian deforestation or Chinese coal consumption that hurt the atmosphere most. Nor will it focus on which UK party, group or faction influenced Brexit most. In restrospect these three matters will be seen as clear examples of how homo sapiens can't lift its head out of the tribal gutter and work towards solving bigger and, here is the key part, self-created, problems.