On day 80 of the BP Gulf oil spill, while we tried to forget that an additional million gallons of crude oil-give or take-belched from that underwater theater of horrors into those once rich blue-green ocean waters; on the same day that at least two additional American service members and numerous civilians were lost in the oil wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; on the same day the United States and Russia announced that they were trading busted spies with one another in a surreal and almost comical sequel to the Cold War, right out of some otherwise compelling and complex novel by John Le Carre'...
Countless Americans held their collective breath while they strained to be among the first to hear where the current king of the NBA hardwood will be collecting his millions next year. Ultimately, thousands of faithful hearts in Cleveland were shattered while New York, Chicago, and other hopefuls were left waiting, embarrassed, and bitter, at the altar of unrealized future championships.
Meanwhile, slipping beneath the headlines almost as silently as it had drifted through the overnight starlight, the first successful 24-hour-plus flight of a solar-powered, piloted aircraft concluded rather inconspicuously on a sunlit morning at a Swiss airfield. Many had said it couldn't be done.
It wasn't the first time the "experts" were wrong. On an otherwise apparently unremarkable December morning in 1903, after two failed attempts, Orville Wright took a 700 pound aircraft, known as the Flyer, on the first successful, sustained, piloted, heavier-than-air flight in history ... for all of twelve seconds. The following year, with his brother Wilbur at the controls, the first flight of more than five minutes was completed.
Perhaps it was because professional basketball was still decades away that the exploits of the Wrights made a bigger splash and lasting impression than we will likely record for the designers, builders, crew and pilot of the solar aircraft. Project co-founder, Bertrand Piccard, declared "there is a before and after in terms of what people have to believe and understand about renewable energies," adding that the flight was proof that new technologies can break the dependence on fossil fuels even though many claim it can't be done.
The project team will next set its sights on a trans-Atlantic crossing before attempting a round-the-world voyage in 2013, with limited stops. Whether or not those attempts are successful, there is no way to know if their story will be the top news of the day. After all, perhaps some big sports blockbuster or a sleazy revelation about the private life of an entertainer, a pro athlete, or maybe a politician, will lead the evening headlines. And even if they do make the lead story, there will be plenty of folks who will have predicted that they would fail and who are not interested.
Unfortunately, we live in a world mostly comprised of spectators. For them it is easier to comment on the lives of others and prognosticate the failures of those who dare to attempt-or, in other words, to predict what can't be done rather than imagine what is possible. Most of all, they can't be made to look beyond their own limitations or to dare to risk failure in a cause larger than themselves, which may be why we settle for the world as we know it rather than demanding the world that could be.
There are lots and lots of things we can do. We can instigate, educate, and try to motivate. We can illuminate, legislate, and regulate. But there is one thing we absolutely cannot do. We can't make them reach for the skies because we can't make people care...
Posted: 7/13/2010 3:57:22 PM by
Heather Wallace | with 2 comments