Thursday, February 25, 2016

Postcrossing message of peace from Kazakhstan to Germany

I had the opportunity this week, through Postcrossing, to send a postcard to a German named Lothar1, who likes to collect outer space and science-fiction postcards.

Lothar has a Tumblr site featuring all the cards he has received with that theme, and I checked it out to make sure I wasn't sending him a duplicate.2 The Tumblr was filled with astronauts, aliens, Guardians of the Galaxy, Boba Fett, Spock, and more.

But one particular postcard on the Tumblr caught my eye, because it was both hopeful and sad.

It was sent to Germany on January 31, 2016, by Dmitriy and Irina, residents of sprawling, landlocked Kazakhstan.3 Their message states: "Hello. We live in space. It's much nicer than the Earth: no oil, no wars, no economic decline. Only beautiful stars and planets. Take care!"

The message is tongue-in-cheek, of course (unless Dmitriy and Irina are way further along in space and mail-sending technology than the rest of us.) But it's kind of sad (and a little Gene Roddenberry-esque) to think that living and journeying between the stars is the best or only route to peace and good will.

Many people don't believe the world's problems can be solved.4 Someone asked me on Facebook the other day if I had an opinion about whether we're screwed. He was mostly asking with regard to the climate and environment. But I got a little revved up and sent him a long reply. Here's an excerpt:
Are we screwed? Well, that’s a pretty weighty question. I think human civilization, and this is nothing new, continues to be selfish, wasteful, inefficient, callous toward nature and other lifeforms, and just generally a bit of a plague on the planet. We aren’t very good caretakers of each other or of the amazing resources we’ve been blessed with.

Are humans screwed? Well, despite such amazing achievements in medicine and technology, I think that life will actually get more difficult for the majority of humans, save for a privileged minority, moving forward. Overpopulation, pollution, wars over resources, climate change, easy access to weapons of mass destruction, wars over religion and more are going to make Life on Earth anything but Easy Street in the next century.

Are animals screwed? A lot of them are. Species will continue to disappear. To the detriment of all. Some losses will be felt stronger than others; if we continue mucking things up for the bees, we’re going to put much more pressure on the “Are Humans Screwed” portion of the equation.

Is “nature” screwed? That’s probably the most resilient aspect of the planet. It can adapt and overcome all of these wounds that we’re inflicting upon it. But nature has the one advantage that places it above everything else – time. It will shake off our plague, but maybe not for 200 or 1,000 or 10,000 years. And it doesn’t care about humans. So maybe our environment will evolve into something that works great for the trees and the bacteria and the koalas and the bees, but isn’t at all hospitable to humans. Tough cookies for us. ...

One silver lining I can leave you with: I think social media and the Internet are great in the sense that we have more power than ever to raise awareness and try to change attitudes about all of the aforementioned doom-ism. People can connect with a click and share ideas in ways that we never could before. If we can use this new Hive Mind for good, and not just for sharing cat GIFs, maybe we (and Earth) have a chance.

Pretty pessimistic, I know. Sorry about that. I wasn't actually intending to throw that in when I began this post. But it suddenly seemed to fit, and perhaps it will be useful one day to scholars and people who write biographies of ancient-times bloggers.5

Let's end on a fun note, and one that ties in with Postcrossing, outer space and international mail. The U.S. Postal Service this week issued an awesome new International Forever Stamp that features the moon. Check it out:

Go snap up some of those sweet stamps and send postcards of peace and good cheer to people you don't even know in Kazakhstan, Fiji, Nigeria, Iran, Russia and everywhere else around this planet. It's the only one we've got.

1. Not the one of the Hill People.
2. I sent him a card from groovy Penguin Science Fiction Postcards box set that I received at Christmas from Dan Herman.
3. Coincidentally, I did postcard exchanges with a trio of very nice Kazakhstanis in December, because I wanted to receive some stamps and postcards from that country, to add to my list.
4. He says, as the USA barrels toward President Donald Trump.
5. Since robots will do all the work, people will have to find something to occupy themselves, right?

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