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Even deadly meteors and asteroids may not unite the human race

The 10-ton meteor that streaked into Earth's atmosphere at 40,000 mph and exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk was a reminder that the universe is not such a hospitable place. Still, though hundreds of people were injured and thousands of windows were shattered, no one died and repairs can be made. By comparison, the terrestrial havoc wrought by Hurricane Sandy in the northeastern United States was far more devastating. 

In the movies, when humanity is faced with imminent doom, whether from a massive asteroid or an invasion of space monsters, the people of the world forget their differences, band together and save themselves. In the real world, such unanimity of purpose is far more rare. When it came time to help their fellow Americans whose lives were upended by Sandy, quite a few members of Congress balked, delayed and refused to let go of their compulsive quest to scale back government spending. Ideology trumped compassion. 

Similarly, many of the same people refuse to accept the settled scientific facts that indicate the changing global climate is bringing more destructive storms, drought and rising seas. They cannot honestly refute the science, so they willfully ignore it. They have a vested interest in the status quo and so choose short-term political and economic gain over the long-term welfare of the human race. It is oh-so-much easier to blame the president, blame a conspiracy of international scientists or talk about God’s wrath than it is to tell the oil and coal companies and the polluting industries that provide large donations at election time that they cannot do business as they have in the past.

If a gigantic asteroid were barreling toward impact with our planet, you can bet there would be at least a few members of Congress who would insist on leaving it alone, either because they would see it as a warning shot from the Almighty or because a mining company with a savvy team of lobbyists had laid claim to the big rock. Two minutes before Armageddon, somebody will still be trying to figure out how to make a quick buck off of it and he’ll have friends in Congress insisting that it’s the American way.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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