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Is There Time?

Is There Time?

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Is There Time?

318 Seiten
4 Stunden
Oct 19, 2010


Is there time to avoid humanity’s extinction? Practically everything that has ever lived is extinct; we will be no exception unless we work very hard to be an exception. Wrestling with that problem led to a chilling, undeniable conclusion: the human species is ultimately doomed on Earth and we have no plan.

The Earth will eventually become uninhabitable and moving people off Earth is the only credible survival alternative, short of some sort of intervention. The United Nations produced some encouraging declarations at the turn of the century fostering hope for humanity in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary.

In 2007, fourteen space agencies created a document proposing global coordination for space exploration, another recent heartening, if limited, development.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is our primary space exploration agency; its strategic planning is found wanting. NASA strategic planning has become increasingly tactical and less inclusive over the last ten years. Nevertheless, evaluation of its evolving strategic planning is instructive to identify what to draw on and what to avoid.
Space advocacy groups sponsor some creative ideas; yet they usually quibble over how rather than the more important question, why?
A convincing, understandable, comprehensive strategic vision and mission for humanity elude us... until now. This book is about why it is critical to move aggressively from wars on each other to a War on Extinction.

Oct 19, 2010

Über den Autor

As a former Fortune 500 aerospace executive for over thirty years and a planetarium program director for an additional ten years, Donald Richard Prescott has been planning and managing successful, complex operations for decades where strategic planning is an essential tool. A revealing stint as director of strategic planning and service on local government planning committees provided opportunities to speak to and participate in groups about complex strategic issues as well as appearing in a local cable documentary about transportation and community development. He has interfaced with congressional and governmental leaders, directly participating in securing millions of dollars of governmental funding for two local projects. Prescott has also written and published award winning short stories (Concoctions), a science fiction novel (Daddy's Different), a nonfiction book about avoiding human extinction (Is There Time?), and a book of essays (Layman's License). He has written a full-length-three-act play, planetarium show/display scripts, two family histories, technical articles and business plans as well as edited several newsletters. Recent awards and published work include multiple Writers’ Journal “Write to Win! Contest” awards/publication, The Orange County Register Dreamscape Contest publication, placing in Writer’s Digest competitions, Long Story Short E-zine short story publications and internationally published short stories/essay in The Taj Mahal Review as well as awards on among others. He currently writes and explores life in Orange, California.

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Is There Time? - D. R. Prescott




By D. R. Prescott

Copyright Donald Richard Prescott 2010, 2016.

Smashwords Edition

Smashwords Edition, License Notes:

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.



Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Why?

Chapter 3: What?

Chapter 4: How?

Chapter 5: Where?

Chapter 6: When?

Chapter 7: What more?

Chapter 8: Who and What?

Chapter 9: What strategic visions and missions?

Chapter 10: When are strategic values flexible?

Chapter 11: What is strategic planning?

Chapter 12: What plan?

Chapter 13: How long is strategic?

Chapter 14: What? - 6 People Off-Earth.

Chapter 15: What? - 1,000 People Off-Earth.

Chapter 16: What? - 10,000 People Off-Earth.

Chapter 17: What? - Majority of People Off-Earth.

Chapter 18: What? - Majority of People Out of the Solar System.

Chapter 19: What else?

Chapter 20: What is sensitivity analysis?

Chapter 21: What makes us worth it?

Chapter 22: How can space advocacy help?

Chapter 23: Why is we so conflicted?

Chapter 24: What are our options?

Appendix A: World Population

Appendix B: Human Outcomes

Appendix C: NASA Strategic Goals FY 2000 - FY 2006

Appendix D: Selected Advocacy Organizations

Appendix E: Reading and Resources

About the Author

List of Figures

Figure 1: Searching for a Plan

Figure 2: Sentience, Sapience, Intelligence

Figure 3: The Human Computer?

Figure 4: Why?

Figure 5: How We Keep Asking Questions.

Figure 6: World Population Projections, 2000-2500

Figure 7: Energy Production-Consumption, 1995-2004

Figure 8: World Primary Energy Production, 1970-2004

Figure 9: Human Energy Consumption, 1995-2004

Figure 10: NASA Strategic Values FY 2000 through 2006

Figure 11: FY 2000 NASA Flow Down Example

Figure 12: NASA Planning Terminology

Figure 13: NASA Plan Partial Goals Comparison

Figure 14: A Strategic Plan for Humanity

Figure 15: Flow Down to Strategies

Figure 16: U.S. Total Outlays Current & Constant Dollars

Figure 17: U.S. Outlays by Function FY 1969 versus FY 2010

Figure 18: U.S. Outlays by Function FY 2010 and a Proposal

Figure 19: World Population More and Less Developed

Figure 20: Space Advocacy Organizations

Figure 21: What are our options?

Figure A1: World Population Growth Rate Trend

Figure A2: World Population Projections

Figure A3: Expert Carrying Capacity Estimates

Figure A4: Base Case Human Population Over-Under Expert Carrying Capacity Estimates

Figure B1: Why, How, Outcomes

Figure B2: Human Outcomes

Figure B3: Intervention

Figure B4: Preservation

Figure B5: Expansion



To my wife, Cherianne; our children, Don Jr. and Kimberly; their children, Don III, Samuel, Lindsay, Joshua, Ryan, Michael and Zoe; their spouses; everyone I have ever cared about; everyone I have ever known; everyone alive at the moment; and everyone yet to be born; I think this is that important.

There are thanks due to many people, too numerous to specifically name here. However, here are a few who more directly influenced this book.

Thanks to the K-12 students and teachers, who attended my planetarium shows full of promise and for asking questions that often made me stretch. Every day they attended, they made my day.

To Sheryl Johnson, Astronomy Educator, my genuine thanks for reviewing the first draft and especially for the many insightful and stimulating discussions we’ve had since I’ve known her. She is a part of this book.

Mary Halvorson, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Santiago Canyon College, took the time to give me needed feedback on the first draft, to her my heartfelt thanks.

Thanks go to Dr. Stephen Eastmond, Tessmann Planetarium Director, for inspiring, thought-provoking discussions over ten years from which some ideas have woven their way into this book.

My appreciation goes to Robert Menn, my replacement as Program Director at the planetarium, and Alice Shevitz, a friend and fellow writer, for reviewing the second draft for glaring grammatical and presentation issues.

Barbara Cloninger, my personal assistant for fifteen years, has my dearest thanks for her unfailing support and making me heed my wife’s advice and call the doctor before I keeled over.

There are very special people to whom I owe so much, of course, my grandparents (Etha and Harry and my maternal grandmother, Margaret Craft), my parents (Charles and Louise), my aunts and uncles (Geraldine and Jack Handley; Dick and Priscilla Craft) and my very exceptional sisters (Gloria and Carol).

There are others from my formative years whose influences were very strong and still resonate after all this time, especially and fondly Shelda Barnett (Johnston) and particularly Fred Crossen, Carol McCormick (Potts) and Don McKinley. Two grade school friends of mine, Terry Kapp and Bill Jones, had a penchant for word-jousting that held me in good stead in later years. These people likely have or had no idea how much knowing them meant to me.

To my children, Donald and Kimberly, I think of you often recognizing that the subject of this book will likely affect you and my grandchildren more than your mother or me. The future is yours, not ours. I hope this book makes a positive difference. Thank you Kim for your editing and input; it was valuable.

Unparalleled thanks and love go to my beautiful wife, Cherianne, for her patience, encouragement, lifelong support and time sacrificed together as I hunched over the keyboard, seemingly forever in her eyes.

The artwork, illustrations, tables and graphs in this book were created by the author, unless otherwise noted. Photographs and composite images were created from royalty-free clip art or courtesy of NASA. Cover was designed by the author. Bolide photograph integrated into cover art is courtesy of NASA.

Chapter 1: Introduction

People have visions of the future. Some are modest; others are grand; a few are bleak, more than a few conflict. Collectively, (as families, classes, schools, churches, towns, nations or any other groupings you may imagine), we have visions and even missions, but what about humanity, the species as a whole? How do our separate visions for the future integrate into a comprehensive, coherent vision for humanity?

Wrestling with that problem stirred my planning juices and forced me to ask, where is the strategic vision for humanity?

Answer: It does not exist.

Challenge: If one were to create a single, undeniable vision for humanity, what might it look like?

As I searched for and reviewed strategic plans (the United Nations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institute of Health, and National Science Foundation (NSF),, among others), the lack of a cohesive, human strategic plan haunted me and stimulated my aerospace planning roots. Humanity does not have a common strategic vision. We are at war and/or in competition with each other rather than facing an unavoidable reality. We are vulnerable; there are many threats to our existence; and, we can do something about it.

That led me to a chilling, undeniable conclusion: the human species is ultimately doomed on Earth and we have no plan. Practically everything that has ever lived is extinct; we will be no exception unless we work very hard to be an exception. Nature can be a harsh taskmaster. Are we next? Is it unavoidable? When will it happen? Will there be an intervention?

It may not happen today, tomorrow or thousands of years from now but it will happen; someday, the Earth will no longer be habitable for humans; there is little argument about that from experts. Short of an intervention, which is possible and a subject for later discussion, I am convinced that moving off the Earth is humanity’s only real chance against extinction.

One would think that the United Nations would be the logical place to find such a vision for humanity and so it is but, even there, the current strategic planning myopically deals with symptoms (poverty, sustainability, politics, conflict and human rights) rather than the broader strategy necessary to avoid human extinction. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of altruistic and humanistic ideas have been written into U.N. resolutions. Still, a comprehensive, integrated plan for humanity eludes us.

Many people have written books supporting common causes like dodging objects from space, staving off hunger, dealing with pandemics, combating global warming, supplying energy, eradicating poverty, stemming extinction and confronting other actionable threats. However, none have addressed the larger issue, the lack of a common vision and mission for humanity.

The chart (Figure 1) represents an assessment of, the United Nations and the United States Government web sites subject matter in search of a strategic plan for humanity. Variations of search phrases were specified to attempt to isolate a vision, mission or strategic plan for humanity from the number of hits at each web site.

Figure 1: Searching for a Plan

There were 23 hits on united nations strategic plan, 5 hits for global strategic plan and 19 hits for strategic mission followed by only 3 hits for human extinction. On closer inspection, these were specific plans for selected, isolated subjects that, while surely a part of the larger issue, are not an inclusive strategic plan for humanity. It is interesting to note that there are numerous titles about extinction across the three sites but no umbrella plan for humanity. When searching for an extinction level event plan or an extinction strategic plan, the results were zero. The conclusion is either a strategic plan for humanity does not exist or it is top secret.

Since the thrust of this book focuses on avoiding human extinction, it is significant that all searches with the term, humanity, failed to show any results underscoring the premise that no formal strategic plan for humanity exists.

There are a number of space advocacy titles that usually deal with who, what, when, where and how humans should go to and use space. Few, if any, convincingly address the why and the how at the same time.

One document that I ran across confirmed my suspicions. The Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for Coordination, a paper produced from a 2007 meeting of fourteen space agencies, highlights the lack of a coordinated plan:

"Bilateral and multilateral cooperation among space-faring nations has enabled much of what has been achieved so far, and this will continue in the future. But there’s never been a single, comprehensive strategy for space exploration [emphasis added] that allows existing plans to be coordinated and new ones to be developed." [1]

If there is not a single, comprehensive strategy for space exploration then a comprehensive strategy for humanity does not exist or is secret. This meeting of national space agencies recognized that a global effort is necessary for space exploration but why only space exploration? Space exploration is but one small part of human activity. A true integrated plan should cover everything, everyone.

Since I had started this project as a review of the NASA Strategic Planning processes, using the fruits of that labor were synergistic. NASA’s strategic planning might act as a good resource for constructing a universal, inclusive vision for humanity. Why? NASA has done some fair strategic planning in the past that considered, or by inference included, all of humanity. In addition, NASA and other national space agencies are charged with space exploration responsibilities, which are fundamental to getting people off Earth. NASA was involved in the creation of The Global Exploration Strategy. Unfortunately, I also discovered that NASA planning had turned more tactical, limited and less inclusive since 2000.

With initial conclusions and suspicions in hand, I rummaged around looking for a shared human vision. Many private and public organizations are devoted to the success of humanity, the United Nations, the Red Cross, the Peace Corps, religious organizations, humanitarian groups, national agencies, foundations and the like. I found no truly common vision.

My search led me to the results of the United Nations 1999 conference in Vienna (UNISPACE III) which is a digestible document for people not into reading long and laborious reports, The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development. This declaration adopted in a plenary meeting on 30 July 1999 [2] gave me some hope that human beings might have a chance against the mighty forces of nature. A second seminal document sculpting my thought processes was a United Nations Resolution called 55/2 United Nations Millennium Declaration of 2000 [3] that dealt with many symptoms but lacked any reference to extinction. Both documents offer glimmers of hope that humanity might inch toward solutions but each lack an integrated, obvious strategic vision for humanity.

While the scientific community, NASA and other space agencies have formed and are forming some sensible international partnerships to share knowledge, technology and accomplishment, an internationally-accepted strategic plan does not exist or only partially exists in separate plans for this and that. There is a lot of discussion headed toward a better future but no vision or road map to get there. As a species, we are ideologically and politically adrift, pushed this way and that by immediate necessity and parochial interest. Globally, we have difficulty staying a peaceful, productive course. Cultural schisms abound. Monetary interests are prolific. The gulf between ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’ is considerable and growing, likely to be exacerbated by climate change; people find many reasons to quarrel and too few to cooperate; human kills human almost routinely; is it futile to expect more?

Yet, in spite of the negatives, encouraging words in those documents represent some altruistic and expansive ideas that are actually strategic. Bolstering my motivation was a 2004 report by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, comparing the Vienna Declaration (UNISPACE III) [4] with the United Nations Millennium Declaration:

Protecting the Earth’s environment and managing its resources:

Using space applications for human security, development and welfare:

Enhancing education and training opportunities and ensuring public awareness of the importance of space activities:

Strengthening and repositioning of space activities on the United Nations system.

The U.N. Millennium Declaration offered more good thoughts about Poverty eradication;, Changing the patterns of consumption and production: and Protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic development...—not bad ideas to consider when formulating a plan. The Millennium Declaration also states:

"We recognize that, in addition to our separate responsibilities to our individual societies, we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As leaders we have a duty therefore to the entire world’s people, especially the most vulnerable and, in particular, the children of the world, to whom the future belongs."

Do they really mean it or is it just political rhetoric, merely window dressing?

Numerous people have tried to get us to understand and support common causes like combating global warming, dodging objects from space, colonizing the solar system, staving off hunger, dealing with pandemics, eradicating poverty and confronting other natural and man-made threats. Good for them but I think there is a larger issue, mission if you will. Maybe it is so simple, so obvious, to give us an aha moment, an approach that every human can readily understand, endorse and encourage. A convincing plan should inspire civilization as well as raise individual spirits and present encouraging possibilities for humanity. It needs to integrate and channel human efforts in the face of one of our most annoying and unproductive attributes—apathy.

Human apathy must be overcome. In developed countries, many become so comfortable with conveniences and entitlements that moving them into action requires a significant jolt. Others seem to give up, as dismal as that seems, and have the attitude that nothing can be done and humans might as well give the Earth back to the plants and animals. These people often think that people are just plain no good. Overcoming apathy will take a vision and mission that spurs people into action, makes them want more and promises them the opportunity for adventure and prosperity.

A number of important things are not seriously considered, or even given any thought in certain circles, especially in the political arena. I want to take you on a journey from the marvelous human ability to ask why to seeking guidance from the NASA strategic planning process as well as generally understanding the planning development. Then, spend a little time creating an example of what a comprehensive, inclusive strategic plan for humanity might look like; look at possible downsides; and, finish with conclusions, my conclusions that you might share by the time you reach the last chapter.

I believe that human beings can avoid extinction, if not forever then perhaps interminably. In the process, we might even discover a greater purpose. Why do it? Because, it interests me; I think it is important; and, I am just old enough where my priorities are shifting from considering things worth having to things worth being and doing. If this effort gets you to ask why more often or gives you pause in the voting booth, I will be a happy planner. I hope that we are not too late.

First, there is one simple but bewildering question: Why?

Notes and References:

[2] United Nations Conference, 1999. The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development.

[3] United Nations, 8 September 2000. 55/2 United Nations Millennium Declaration.

[4] United Nations, 23 July 2004. Pages 31-32, Table 2. Report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III).


I Keep six honest serving-men:

(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Where and When

And How and Why and Who.

I send them over land and sea,

I send them east and west;

But after they have worked for me,

I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five.

For I am busy then,

As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,

For they are hungry men:

But different folk have different views:

I know a person small—

She keeps ten million serving-men,

Who get no rest at all!

She sends ‘em abroad on her own affairs,

From the second she opens her eyes—

One million Hows, two million Wheres,

And seven million Whys!

- Rudyard Kipling, 1902

Chapter 2: Why?

Why breathe, eat, sleep, work, worship, love, hate, wash, compete, lust, cheat, play, hurt, kill, struggle, think…? Why permeates everything. After satisfying basic needs, humans tend to seek answers to questions of increasing complexity. Our lives become an iterative search for purpose, a quest for meaning. For most of us, our purposes may not be obvious or even conscious acts. Just staying alive is a basic purpose of living things. It is when we begin asking why that the concept of purpose teases us and being alive becomes significantly more than merely to exist.

Rudyard Kipling created a poem in a story called The Elephant Child. [5] I memorized the first four lines early in life. It highlights the human ability to ask questions.

The five W’s and an H as many of us learned in grade school were and are considered fundamental to communicating. I find Who, What, When and Where as well as How tangible concepts where Why is something else, something more, something unique. You can usually identify specific actions or things to Who, What, When, Where and How but Why can splinter into different meanings to different people at different times. Why is a multidimensional concept requiring subtle qualitative and quantitative thinking as opposed to the more quantitative nature of its brethren, Who, What, When, Where and How. Why leads us to purpose which most often differs from person to person. When we ask, ‘What is the purpose of it all?’ we stare down an abyss of uncertainty. It is asking the big Why.

Purpose is a synthesis of science, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, religion, morality, politics, in short, everything living beings and the inanimate were, are or could be. Copious amounts of flexibility and understanding are necessary to attempt to unravel this sinewy saga about what we are and what we might become.

The critical and perhaps the most fundamental component of our quest is sentience, or consciousness. Without sentience, little else other than mindless existence seems attainable. Being aware does not necessarily mean that an entity

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