Us or Them?

Satellites can’t see national borders as they cruise silently through their orbit about Earth. Often, even on Earth, there’s little distinguishing one side of a national border from another. Sadly, there’s an ongoing tendency to erect barriers and fences to separate “us from them”. And so, with great expenditures of energy, we have divided up the Earth’s land surface into “mine and theirs”.

We use even more energy to maintain these artificial divisions. For one, sum the energy used to conscript armies, to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and to maintain militaries while waiting for “just in case“. For another, sum the net energy loss when we replace vegetation with physical barriers such as fences and walls all across the world’s continents. These show that the need to identify and maintain differing group identities is strong within us.

While it’s often been said and often sung, “why can’t we just get along?“ There is no simple answer. Likely, we will continue to expend great amounts of energy upon national defence. What will happen when we run out of energy? Will national borders become irrelevant and peace break out? Or will we consume every last joule of available energy to continually separate “us from them“? Do we wait and find out or do we challenge this portent by trying peace beforehand?