We all have moments in our lives where something shifts, clicks into place. For me it was in June of 2008, when I clamped my feet to the end of the robotic Canadarm-2 on the International Space Station and rode the arm through an arc that took me 100 feet above the space station. Looking down at this incredible man-made accomplishment against the backdrop of our indescribably beautiful Earth, 240 miles below was a very moving experience. But as I looked down at this stunning, fragile oasis — this island that has been given to us, and has protected all life from the harshness of space — I was hit in the gut with an undeniable sobering contradiction.
In spite of the indescribable beauty of this moment in my life, I couldn’t help but think of the inequity that exists on the apparent paradise we have been given. I couldn’t help but think of all the people who don’t have clean water to drink or enough food to eat, of the social injustice, conflicts, and poverty that exists throughout the Earth.
We have within our grasp the resources and technology to solve many, if not all, of the problems facing our planet. We live in a world where the possibilities are limited only by our imagination and our will to act. It is within our power to eliminate the poverty and suffering that exists on our planet.
On my 2nd space mission, I spent half of 2011 living and working onboard the International Space Station. And while onboard, I spent most of any available free time I had with my face plastered to a window, gazing back at our Earth. As I watched our beautiful planet, I wondered what the world would be like in the next 50 years, and I pondered a question that gnawed at me constantly:
If we have the resources and the technology to solve the challenges we face, why do they still persist?
U p there, hovering above Earth with my orbital perspective, I came to believe that the answer to why our world still faces so many critical problems — in spite of the ample technology and resources we have at our disposal — lies primarily in our inability to effectively collaborate on a global scale.
As I looked back at our Earth from the orbital perspective, I saw a world where natural and man-made boundaries shrunk. I saw a world becoming more and more interconnected and collaborative, a world where the exponential increase in technology was making the impossible possible on a daily basis. Thinking about the next 50 years, I imagined a world where people and organizations set aside their differences and unhealthy competitive inclinations, and work together toward their common goals. After all, each and every one of us is riding through the Universe together on this Spaceship we call Earth, we are all interconnected, we are all in this together and we are all family – Ron Garan