Our Fragile Earth – Think about it

Our Fragile Earth – Think about it

I have a concern about our short-term thinking. The stock market moves up or down based on the news and/or psychology of the day. Publicly traded companies focus on quarterly results. Politicians focus on elections every two years. As a Homo Sapiens we have only been around for about 200,000 years (or about 6,500 years if you are a Creationist).

Mother Earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years and some form of life has existed for about 3.5 billion years. The Dinosaurs showed up about 250 million years ago and ruled for almost 200 million years. The Egyptians ruled for over 2,700 years and the Roman Empire took over for the next 500.

Our country has existed for less than 250 years and has only been a world leader for about 75 years. In the last 60 years the world population has doubled!

The land that we occupy is only about 1/3 of the surface of the Earth. The earth’s crust (that we depend on for life) is only about 18 miles thick below land. The remainder is mostly ocean that has an average depth of about 2 ½ miles. The crust below it only aveages about 5 miles. Think about these measurements in terms of the size of the earth which has a diameter of 4,000 miles.

What about the atmosphere that we require to breath? Healthy people can survive to 10,000 feet. Above that, most people need oxygen. From 12,00 feet to 50,000 feet oxygen and a pressure suit or a pressurized container is required. Above 50,000 feet a fully sealed suit or a space suit is needed.

To summarize these facts: We live on an extremely thin outer crust of the planet and rely of an extremely thin band of air to stay alive. As a species we have been around for less than .006% of the time since life emerged. Home Sapiens took the first 199,940 years to provide a population of 3.6 biiion and only 60 years to add another 3.6 billion. Do you see a problem here?

A Return to Prominence

A Return to Prominence

Make America Great Again was a slick slogan and not altogether unwarranted. To make things better it is important to understand the areas where we once led the world, but have lost that position.

Shortly after WW II we were the only viable Super Power politically, economically and militarily. Our standard of living was unsurpassed. The rest of the world looked to us for both leadership and as an example of what is possible.

Today we rank 15th in terms of standard of living behind all of the Scandinavian countries, most of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. While our economy, in terms of GDP, has risen by 100% in the last 20 years, the average middle class family incomes have only risen by less than 10%. Over the past 20 years the cost of both healthcare and advanced education has risen at 2 ½ times the rate of overall inflation. Our per capita healthcare cost is by far the highest in the world and averages 2 ½ times the average for the EU countries. Our per capita healthcare costs exceed $11,000 per year. At the same time our quality of healthcare is ranked only 37th by the WHO. The healthcare is the single largest industry in our economy currently standing in excess of $ 3.5 trillion. Our infrastructure, especially as it relates to transportation, has substantially deteriorated. Our debt to GDP ratio stood at 35% in 1970 and it currently stands at 136%. Our spending is out of control. While this is only a sample of areas where we have lost prominence, but they are important issues that deserve attention and affirmative action to repair.

What needs doing, you ask? I can tell you what doesn’t work. Finger pointing and blaming the “other” side. My observation that the extremes on both sides of the political divide are in control of the narrative. Unfortunately, they seem to be attracting more folks that in the past confedered themselves to be open minded and more moderate. Polarization is increasing and it does not serve our country well. Many persons tend to blame both the media and our elected officials for what is wrong and they are definitely co-dependent. However, I ask what are we, as individuals, doing to make a difference. I witness republicans pointing fingers at the democrats saying that their liberal, socialist agenda is ruining the country. I witness democrats saying that our problems are a result of short-term profit-oriented agenda espoused by republicans. I ask, how is this working for us?

What I am suggesting is that the solution can start with each of us. It’s a simple behavioral change that is most difficult to implement. It begins by not playing the “blame game”. If we can achieve that then the next step will be to look for common ground. We will always have issues that are beyond compromise and on those we simply agree to disagree. I am certain that there are items on education, healthcare, middle class incomes, budgeting and infrastructure where common ground is possible. It only takes a few to be examples for others. Become an example and spread the word.

Our career politicians will not make the needed changes as it would threaten their political longevity. The only other way to make the changes that the majority of voters want is through the Constitutional Amendment process. Our founders saw this as a way for the will of the people make changes as times warranted it. After the initial 10 (AKA the bill of rights) we have made 17 additional changes. Now is the time for one that makes comprehensive improvements. The first item would be term limits (you can understand why your elected representative will not favor this change). The most recent polls indicate that over 2/3rds of voters’ favor term limits for members of congress. A recent poll in Idaho came in at 84%. Once this occurs it will be making future elected politicians more accountable to the will of the people.

Including too many provisions in a potential Amendment would make it more difficult to survive the approval process, but I would include the following provisions: Elected representatives to have the same healthcare coverage as the general population and add on amendments to proposed legislation (that have nothing to do with the intent of the bill) are no longer allowed. All of these have tremendous support of the voters and none would ever pass Congress.

The Pyramids of Egypt – Just for fun

The Pyramids of Egypt – Just for fun

We recently traveled on tour to Egypt with Gate 1 Travel. We have been on at least a half dozen trips with Gate 1, and they always provide top-notch service. I have always been intrigued by the pyramids at Giza and the controversy regarding their origins. Conventional wisdom dictates that the Giza pyramids were the result of fine-tuning other less sophisticated and failed attempts. An example of an early effort is the Step Pyramid.

The Pyramid of Djoser or Step Pyramid is an archaeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis. The 6-tier, the 4-sided structure is the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt. It was built in the 27th century BC during the Third Dynasty for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser. The pyramid is the central feature of a vast mortuary complex in an enormous courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration.

The pyramid went through several revisions and redevelopments of the original plan. The pyramid initially stood 62.5 meters (205 ft) tall, with a base of 109 m × 121 m (358 ft × 397 ft) and was clad in polished white limestone. The step pyramid (or proto-pyramid) is considered to be the earliest large-scale cut stone construction. Our tour guide said that the pyramid was designed and built by the architect/engineer/all-around genius Imhotep.

Imhotep (“the one who comes in peace”; late 27th century BC) was an Egyptian chancellor to the pharaoh Djoser, the probable architect of the Djoser’s step pyramid, and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis. Very little is known of Imhotep as a historical figure, but in the 3000 years following his death, he was gradually glorified and deified.

Traditions from long after Imhotep’s death treated him as a great author of wisdom texts and especially as a physician. No text from his lifetime mentions these capacities, and no text mentions his name in the first 1200 years following his death.

Photo of a panel from the interior of the Step Pyramid.

The Giza pyramid complex, also called the Giza Necropolis, is the site on the Giza Plateau in Greater CairoEgypt that includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza. All were built during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. The site also includes several cemeteries and the remains of a workers’ village. Note that the “Great” Pyramid (and the largest) is the furthest one away in the photo.

The Bent Pyramid is an ancient Egyptian pyramid located at the royal necropolis of Dahshur, approximately 40 kilometers south of Cairo, built under the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Sneferu (c. 2600 BC). A unique example of early pyramid development in Egypt; this was the second pyramid built by Sneferu. The Bent Pyramid rises from the desert at a 54-degree inclination. Still, the top section (above 47 meters) is built at the shallower angle of 43 degrees, lending the pyramid its very obvious ‘bent’ appearance.

Photo of a panel from inside the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu

According to accepted theory, both the Step and Bent Pyramids were examples of earlier attempts leading to the fantastic pyramids at Giza. The problem that I have is that no other pyramids that were constructed later on were even close to as sophisticated. The degree of inclination is the same for all of the three at 51.5 degrees. While there were a few pyramids that were constructed later at this same angle, none were even as large as the smaller of the three, the Pyramid of Menkaure. It and the  Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) were both built after the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The largest was built first (according to conventional wisdom) then the next largest, then the smallest. Interesting, isn’t it?

None of the later pyramids were as large or as well constructed as the ones at Giza. A good example is the Black Pyramid, which was built almost ten decades later and was made out of mud brick. Also, there is no direct evidence that any of the main Giza Pyramids were intended as burial tombs for the pharaohs. None of them have the Hieroglyphs that you would expect to accompany a tomb for the afterlife, like the ones in the Valley of the Kings.

The Black pyramid was originally about 75 meters tall with a base 105 meters long and an incline of 57°. Typical for pyramids of the Middle Kingdom, the Black Pyramid, although encased in limestone, is made of mud brick and clay instead of stone. The ground-level structures consist of the entrance opening into the courtyard and mortuary temple, surrounded by walls. There are two sets of walls; between them, there are ten shaft tombs, which are a type of burial structure formed from graves built into natural rock. The pyramidion, which is the capstone of a pyramid, was covered with inscriptions and religious symbols. Some of these were scratched off, leading researchers to conclude the pyramidion was never used, or it was defaced during Akhenaten‘s rule.

There are hundreds of additional examples. Pyramid building devolved after the construction of the Great Pyramid. What happened to technology? My view is that the Great Pyramid could have been built much earlier than the time of Khufu, and perhaps he took advantage of it or even intended to use it as a burial tomb. I have been on the inside of the pyramid. The only evidence that the “Kings” chamber was intended as a tomb is the broken sarcophagus.

It is not clear t me if this is a sarcophagus or was intended for some other purpose. It could also have been intended for a Pharaoh, but was damaged in transport and never used.                                                                                     The Pharaoh’s burial room in the Step Pyramid contains numerous hieroglyphs and colorful decorations, why is there none of this in the Kings alleged burial room in the Great Pyramid? The use of hieroglyphs and colors at burial sites has been documented to have been in use at the time of the Scorpion King I and earlier, possibly as many as 1,000 years before the rule of Khufu. Does it make any sense that Khufu did not desire to document and decorate his expected journey to the After Life?