At the United Nations, representatives from most of the world's countries come together to, ideally and in theory, further progressive long-term goals, like preventing human rights violations and human suffering. In practice, however, each representative's underlying reasons are more short-term and less altruistic, such as acquiring more resources and power to the countries they represent.
Amid the injustices, atrocities, and problems the United Nations should theoretically be trying to prevent, there is something more concerning and more catastrophic than mass genocides, climate change, or weapons of mass destruction combined: the possibility of an asteroid strike that could completely exterminate humanity.
The recent meteor that exploded over Russia had 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima nuclear explosion – and it was only one-third of the size of another asteroid that nearly grazed the Earth, according to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who recently spoke in a CNN interview.
This is a very concerning situation. It's even more concerning when you realize there's no global organization to handle the prevention of a meteorite strike. According to Tyson, while organizations such as NASA have the ability to detect and track asteroids, there is no organization – nor a plan in place – that would prevent such a catastrophe of an asteroid impact.
"We have no capacity to protect Earth from something that small,” he said, referring to the asteroid and meteor.
Tyson suggested that we, as a species, need to get some sort of global plan together to prevent our extinction.
What you really want, I think, is a world organization, maybe every country chips in, in proportion to their GDP, something sensible like that. And then there's a pot of money, and whoever has the space-faring resources at the time it's necessary – space-faring know-how – would then tap into that money, and then you save the Earth,” he said.
But, in politics, people generally don't group everyone together as “species,” they think of each other in terms of countries, races, classes, ideologies, and any other divisions they can come up with in pursuit of political gains – which was something Tyson mentioned:
“When do we start concerning ourselves with a budget to handle it? If it's going to come in a 100 years, what do you say? 'Oh, let our descendents worry about that and their Congress.' Eighty-eight percent of Congress faces re-election every two years. That's not a long enough time scale to match the time scales that matter for our survival,” he said.
The goal of such a global organization definitely is an idealistic and progressive goal, that's a certainty. What warrants further discussion is whether or not such an organization would fall into political gridlock and chaos similar to the United Nations and the U.S. Congress.
Maybe, since life on Earth is such a shared interest, it could bring the politicians of all kinds together to actually get something done. When you examine other instances where there's a risk of mass extermination, albeit on smaller scales, nuclear weapons for instance, representatives in the U.N. generally have worked well in the past – though some countries have decided not to sign or abide by things such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Once again, dissent comes down to power and resources.
Much less successful than the Non-Proliferation Treaty are the United Nation's somewhat dismal attempts to cut carbon dioxide emissions and prevent climate change. Although climate change is a scientifically sound (though widely denied) issue we face on a global scale, it seems like a more distant problem than the threat of a nuclear missile strike, which is much more acute.
With that in mind, will it take a comet or asteroid headed directly at the Earth for the world to react? Will this global space program be similar to the United States Congress where it's always a last-minute twist that prevents a government shutdown, fiscal cliff, or whatever else? And will these countries be engaged in a political battle over Tyson's theoretical “pot of money?”
I know there are many people out there who want to do what's best for the world without political gain. But they are rarely, if ever, politicians. Somehow, as a society, we have to remove money and power from the realm of politics. We have to remove politicians from the realm of science. And we need to look at each other as less as different national flags and more as members of the same species.