There is also the approach of simply declaring something to be a human right and repeating it over and over again, until most people accept it as a truth. This is how Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont has made healthcare into a right, not a privilege. At every opportunity and with his distinctive Brooklyn accent, he simply says, “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.” The more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Why should someone who is wealthy have better healthcare than someone who is poor? We’re all human, aren’t we, so shouldn’t all of us have access to good healthcare, or at least some basic level of treatment?
In the United States, this idea has made a lot of progress, and as Bernie himself says, his ideas were once radical, but have now become mainstream. Whether you agree with Senator Sanders or not, you have to admit that his approach has worked.
Experiencing the Overview Effect as a Human Right
Since the mid-1980s, I have been conducting research into the experience of astronauts when they view the Earth from space and in space, from Low Earth Orbit or on lunar missions. (4) My colleagues and I have suggested that the experience results in a profound shift in worldview, one in which the astronaut clearly sees the extent to which the Earth is a unified whole, a system where everything is interconnected. They often say the experience convinces them that “we’re all in this together.”
I have come to believe that it is a human right for everyone to experience the Overview Effect, either by going on a suborbital hop, into orbit, or through a virtual reality experience, because it reveals to us the truth of who we are and where we are in the universe. I can simply say it, like Bernie Sanders, or I can offer some reasons why we should think of it this way. I can also argue that adopting this attitude will help human society to evolve.
The truth is that the Earth is in space, it has always been in space, and it will always be in space. To use a popular metaphor of our times, we are the astronauts of Spaceship Earth and we are constantly exploring space as the Earth moves through the universe at an unbelievably high rate of speed. However, although we know that we are on a planet and this planet is in motion, our senses tell us that the Earth is a stable platform with the heavens revolving about us. We experience the world as our ancestors did, 100, 1,000, even 10,000 years ago.
We are like the people described in Plato’s Republic, who live in a cave in which there is a great fire. They stare at shadows reflected on the wall by the fire and take those images for reality. When one of them leaves the cave and goes out to the “real world,” they can’t understand what he is talking about on his return.
Is it any wonder that we are destroying our spaceship and making it almost uninhabitable? Is it so puzzling that we kill one another over borders and boundaries that cannot even be seen from orbit or the Moon? Is it really a surprise that we cannot work together, even to save ourselves from catastrophe?