Frost on window, humans inhabiting space, and teamwork

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 8, 2015

One “tree” stood tall and elegant amidst a golden forest of feathery frost on our window pane the first weekend of the new year, inviting the “eagle” at the left to perch on its branches. Photo by Warren Harbeck

Like so many of you, I’ve had a lifelong fascination with images in the clouds – dogs, cats and other delightful creatures.

More recently, frost images on window panes have also been engaging my imagination (the pain of having to scrape frost off my car’s windshield excepted).

First, however, here’s a response to last week’s column re-affirming my resolution, in word and image, to pursue initiatives of peace and goodwill in the coming year.

Sandford “Sandy” McLeod, formerly of Bragg Creek, emphasized the importance of respectful teamwork in pursuing peace and goodwill. A leader in the aerospace industry, he was one of the presenters at last September’s prestigious International Space Conference in Toronto.

While there, he was asked a question he’d thought a lot about: What, in his opinion, is the greatest risk to human habitation of space?

Here’s what Sandy emailed us about the moment:

THAT QUESTION CAME UP after a presentation on quality assurance, ambient intelligence control, constantly interfacing to keep all human life intact and living a normal life in hostile and dangerous Space, while fully enclosed in bubble-like massive structures and, in some cases, in pressure suits for leaving the enclosures to work alone.

They’d be working every day as permanent residents, totally dependent on man-made machinery and oxygen-producing equipment creating forests and water systems, food, housing, waste management and the list goes on endlessly – creating a true and necessary artificial reproduction of Earth on the Moon and/or Mars.

I responded without hesitation:

We have proven Man can overcome almost anything in Space, I said. However, it will not be Space that is the greatest risk; it will be us, the humans. We will be the greatest risk.

As an example right here on earth, have any of you been locked in a cockpit cabin with three or four other pilots or engineers for extended periods of time and none of you can get along and or some don’t like the others?

Well I have, and over time it’s not a conducive environment to be in; it becomes intolerable. It happens periodically between scientists, astronauts, engineers and other support personnel that are critical to life-preservation.

There is no room whatsoever out there in total hostile Space for that type of behaviour. Everyone is totally dependent on each other at all times for survival. Before mankind actually attempts full and permanent habitation in Space, we must be able to get along much better than we do on planet Earth or we simply will perish. There is no margin whatsoever for human conflict out there.

—Sandford McLeod, Kaslo, BC

NOW ABOUT THOSE FROST IMAGES, take as an example the scene I encountered on my dining room window recently (see photo).

The filigrees of frost had created a golden forest. But what particularly grabbed my attention was how one tree rose tall and elegant above the others, inviting the eagle (at far left) to perch on its branches.

Yet, that grand tree and eagle were not at all the whole show. To the right of the tall tree was an etching of several smaller trees highlighted in such a way as to add to its glory. And the whole scene came together in a frame-able fantasy world.

And yes, I do see a connection between the image in the frost and Sandy’s comments on space habitation. Both speak to the beauty that can be achieved through individual excellence amidst the collective contribution of the whole in a spirit of peace and goodwill.


© 2015 Warren Harbeck

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