From the “Opinion” section of the February, 1979 issue of High Times comes a think piece from then-California governor Jerry Brown. In honor of Brown’s 83rd birthday on April 7, we’re republishing it below.
Several years ago, some academics wrote a book about the limits to growth, trying to calculate what was possible given geometric expansion in the various economies of the world. And while some of their assumptions have been discredited, the basic question still remains. On this earth, as we deplete our air and water resources, stresses are imposed on our society, on our ecology, and ultimately on our future survival. I am very struck by the limits that press in against us materially, economically, psychologically and politically—and those limits must be respected.
But as I look out into space and as I look at the possibilities that an expanding universe and an expanding exploration of that universe make possible, I sense in my own mind not only immediate benefits in a practical economic sense but in a far more profound way for the people of this earth. The earth map is drenched in the blood of a thousand, a million conflicts over recorded history.
We’re divided among arbitrary geographical lines, separated into ethnic categories and divided along various linguistic groups, but when we look at the earth and the human species from a few hundred miles up we can’t help but sense the oneness of the human race and of this species that has been part of the universe for such a limited period of time.
I also think of the closing frontier, the closing of the west, and what that does to the psychology of people. As long as there is a safety valve of unexplored frontiers, the creative, the aggressive, the exploitive urges of human beings can be channeled into long-term possibilities and benefits. But as those frontiers close down and people begin to turn in upon themselves—that jeopardizes the democratic fabric.
I don’t happen to think that the frontier is closed. It’s just opening up in space. That opening up, that exploration, is first and foremost a discovery of the unknown, a breaking out of the egocentric, man-dominated perceptions that still tie us down here below. As we break out of that narrow perception and see the possibilities, endless and infinite as they are throughout the entire universe, we concentrate the creative energies of the best and most talented of those among us. The byproducts here on earth—whether they be monitoring the oceans, the land, the water, protecting the environment, knitting together the human family through transportation and communication and other scientific breakthroughs, or just exciting the imagination—in space, we summon up more energy and more concentrated human talent than in any other human endeavor.
The mind of man will develop and will expand technologies. Some of them are destructive. Some of them kill millions of people. And some of them open up untold new horizons. That is where space is. You can’t limit the mind of science and technology and human beings as they put things together, as they synthesize, as they put together new combinations of thoughts and information that have never been put together before.
Here in this state, where we have witnessed the creation of new industries, where we witnessed the gold rush, the creation of the airplane industry, the movie industry, the record industry, we are also on the cutting edge of space development and exploration, we are going into space as a species.
We will be there whether we are labeled Americans or Russians or Chinese or Brazilians or some other ethnic category; but the human race is going out wherever that space will permit us to go.
So it is only a question of when and who and what kind of leadership will take us there.
You have to keep on going, you have to keep on pushing because that is the human impulse. And instead of fighting it or ignoring it, you have to develop it and respect it, encourage it and celebrate it. That is why we are here.
The potential of this state and this country and this species has just begun to be tapped. It is just a matter of courage. It’s a matter of investment. It’s a matter of work. It’s a matter of collective effort and common purpose. That’s been the destiny of California, of America, and it’s going to be the destiny of this world as those of us in this room and those of us on this planet work together to push back the new frontier, which is the everlasting frontier—space, the universe itself.