National Geographic : 1976 Jul
necessarily mean intercommunication. I live on the 33d floor of a large apartment house in Manhattan. I don't even know who's on my floor. It seems to me that there are two other directions we can take-we can go down, we can go up. Down-that is, under ground cities-has a lot to recommend it, especially in that it leaves the surface free for other life forms. We can't consider land use as for the benefit of mankind and mankind only. In an underground society we no longer have weather. at the rate at which you and I pay for electricity. This makes selling Manhattan Island for twenty-four dollars look like nothing. All those people driving in to work every day-they're each spending two or three million dollars a day, at least by nature's accounting. For centuries we have lived in an East-West world, with national wealth depending upon control of the oceans over which moved the raw materials for industrial nations. But the wealth now is in energy and its production, and we must consider a North-South world bound together across the North Pole. Right over the Pole from the Americas are the Soviet Union and China. The technology of ultrahigh voltage electrical transmission makes it possible to connect Russia, China, and the Americas into a single gigantic power grid. This grid would connect night and day; We can live all year round in an equable temperature at all latitudes. We can have transportation not affected at all by inclement weather. We can establish our night and day the world over to suit ourselves and thus remove a great deal of what separates us from each other. Going up, however, is perhaps the more attractive direction and the one that mankind is more likely to take. Our concept of land use now may include not only the land on the surface of the earth. We can colonize the moon or build space colonies (page 76). at one time or another, 50 percent of our electrical generating capacity is not working, but with night and day connected in an intercontinental grid, we suddenly discover that our generating capacity has been doubled. Nothing will bring world economics into common accounting more rapidly than that energy grid. Humanity is still struggling along in a complete misapprehension, greatly fostered by ignorance and fear. In this great fear, human beings still assume that there is a fundamental inadequacy of life support on our planet. Every one of the great ideologies says, "You may not like our system, but we have the fairest, most logical and ingenious way of coping with the fundamental inadequacies. Because others think differently, we finally must have a showdown of guns." For the past 20 years, we have had the nations of the earth getting ready for In the moon we have a world that is really dead, which has no ecology. We can make use of it any way we want, without interfering with any life-force. Colonies, whether they are on the moon or in near space, would fulfill functions that are now fulfilled by the cities on the surface of earth. Properly handled, the earth may become a rather parklike world, a rather low-density world, with most of humanity living in space communities. And then, someday, there will undoubtedly be a panel talking about the future of space use. Armageddon, taking the highest capabilities of man and focusing them on waste. I know the political assumptions that say there is not enough to go around are invalid. I know now that politics is invalid. I know war is invalid. Yet, I also know the technology, and I know it is highly feasible to take care of all humanity at higher standards than anyone has known. Just consider that today one communications satellite weighing less than a ton can outperform the transatlantic communications system with its 175,000 tons of copper cable. In times past, with 90 percent of humanity living on farms, the human race was inherently remote. Every nation looked out for its own welfare. But now we are in absolute critical proximity. A completely new world has come about. Our greatest challenge today is not at all how we get on independently but how we get on together.