After soaring one astronomical unit from the sun to reach the skin, eyes, and nerves of the human body, heat and light energy supports life on earth. The energy released from fusion, caused by the rapid collision of helium atoms deep inside the sun, is the process that powers the stars; therefore, a universe lacking in fusion will lack in humans.
Besides contributing to the sustenance of life, what are the international implications of this intriguing physical concept?
Twenty-five years ago, a group of industrial nations agreed on a project to develop a new, cleaner, sustainable source of energy.1 ITER – meaning ‘the way’ in Latin – is an international effort designed to manage the increasing demands of global energy consumption by developing fusion as an energy source. It is nearly possible that people – tiny, little people – can exploit the power of the universe.
This goal is not only a scientific aspiration. I believe it represents an ideal by which humanity can live. The most significant factor illustrated by ITER is that it defines the social, political, and technological achievements of mankind. Fusion power presents an ambiguous and unknown technology that may likely be a defining characteristic of the future. There exists potential for the intricate challenges of climate change, environmental degradation, and sustainable economic growth to be mitigated or solved using fusion energy. Without the need to burn coal, drill for oil, or pollute, humans may be facing a future of environmental reinvigoration, climate stabilization, and economic breakthrough.
In 2010, the percentage of humans living in cities surpassed 50%. In order to fuel this increasing population density, the earth is currently being drilled, blown up, and burned, leading to an increase of carbon in the atmosphere and the interruption of a chemical balance that has existed for millions of years. At some point, all of this damage will have to end. It will either be humans or the earth that makes that decision. If it is earth, the survival of humans cannot be guaranteed. It is almost as if humanity is slowly removing each nail from its house, which will eventually lead to a collapse.
Although the entire international community can benefit from fusion power, there are certain societies that will require this advanced technology to succeed economically. In the next 50 years, the EU, United States, China, India, Brazil, and Japan will likely be the greatest beneficiaries. In the next 100 years, all of humanity may benefit. These massive world powers fuel a drive in government to achieve unlimited energy production.
The fact that politicians have come to this agreement is both surprising and unsurprising. The agreement is surprising because it represents a new level of international cooperation that may achieve substantial breakthroughs in support of human consumption and growth. It is also unsurprising for just that reason – the agreement is driven by consumption and growth. One can bask for years in that irony and never gain an understanding of global governance. Is global governance the summation of the complex processes of each individual in the world, or is it the result of government attempting to create the “conditions for ordered rule and collective action?”2 A contradiction is found in the understanding of the human condition.
Humans claim to seek peace, prosperity, and equality for all; yet very little of this exists in the world and it is left up to the behest of government to make it that way. If the world is moving toward ‘global governance,’ then hopefully achievements such as ITER will become increasingly prevalent and common. The problem is that the summation of each individual’s consumption fuels the decisions made at the top – the governments and international organizations that see the bigger picture of humanity. Is humanity on the right path to achieving global sustainability by continuing to increase our ability to consume?
That is not an answer I am capable of creating. What I can say is that part of the purpose of this blog is to unravel the future of global governance in order to better understand the various paths that may unfold in time.
In retrospect of human history, we can only hope that the zenith of international cooperation has not yet been reached. The bullet train of time has reached a platform of enormous opportunity – to choose between excess or sustainability, selfishness or wisdom, death or life. The decision to exploit this opportunity is left to policy makers in governments around the world. The decision to contribute to a better future is up to each one of us.