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Byron Shire
September 20, 2021

S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Ground control to Tesla

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Image S Sorrensen

S Sorrensen

My place. Sunday, 8.38pm

These are weird times.

A peal of thunder booms so loudly the shock shakes my shack, causing a jar of muesli to freak out and jump from the kitchen shelf, and my touch-sensitive world globe to turn its light off.

But that’s not so weird. Not as weird as:

There’s a Tesla in space. A cherry red 2008 Tesla Roadster. In the driver’s seat is a life-size mannequin. The roof of the convertible is down so the mannequin can see the stars as it steers, one hand on the wheel, towards Mars, listening to Bowie’s Space Oddity. He (it’s a male it) wears a spacesuit. (Well, the roof is down…)

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.

I’m sweating, partly from the startling thunder and partly from the heat. The storm is, I reckon, a result of the incredibly hot day we had today. This year, no doubt, will be another record-breaking hot year. Sixteen of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.

But that’s not weird; that’s climate change. What’s weird is:

Knowing this, government prattles on about a pollie’s love life while forests are cut, coal is mined, reefs die and the rich send their cars into space. That’s weird.

Climate change is the new normal. Mitigation was too difficult – it got in the way of business. Capitalism is unstoppable – well, until the last consumer finds nothing on the shelves. Government has stuck its fingers in its ears and hopes the stock market will save it. It won’t. It doesn’t need government anymore. Money rules.

Take your protein pills, and put your helmet on.

I’m not panicking. I’m a bush bloke, so a bit of a storm isn’t going to upset me. Startle me, maybe. And maybe humanity can actually snap into consciousness, remedy the dire planetary situation…

Okay, I do feel a little afraid, even as the thunderclap fades to rumble.

What if the Tesla Roadster in space is not a trumpeting of success, but a white flag of defeat? What if Elon Musk, a smart fella, has seen the signs, listened to science, and, like Stephen Hawking, has figured that humanity must abandon Earth to survive? Elon is going to Mars. He can afford it. I want to go!

Maybe this Tesla in eternal orbit is not a triumph of human achievement. (50,000 years of sustainable land management on Earth is a triumph of human achievement.) Maybe a rocket-powered electric car in space is just more junk. The richer you are, the classier your rubbish and the bigger your bin. Maybe Mars will be the next planet to feel the sting of the growth economy.

Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.

I reach out to touch the darkened globe, and – BANG!

My shack shakes easily. You see, I built it myself for my family in a pretty valley. (We chose Earth over Mars. It was, um, in our price range.) But I never really got the hang of bracing. Actually, that’s not true. I understand the principles of bracing, no worries, but I fall down in the tedious application of those principles (Barnaby Joyce effect).

The second crash of thunder angrily shakes my unshored-up shack. The globe lights up too. I wonder if the muesli has jumped back onto the shelf. (These are weird times. Anything could happen.)

The thunder rumbles northwards, and a sprinkle of rain rides a breeze in through the window. It’s cool and refreshing. There’s no rain on Mars.

With the rain, comes hope. I’m not abandoning Earth yet.

I’ll keep the Subaru on Earth.

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  1. It’s worth remembering Nikolai Tesla who, among many paradigm shifts, advocated the, relatively non-lethal AC power against the entrenched well capitalised DC of Edison – who showed the deadly potential of DC by electrocuting a rogue elephant, condemned to death after killing too many handlers, from which was born Ole Sparky, the infamous,iniquitous electric chair.
    He also showed how the earth itself could be used as one of the AC points but that would make power transmission virtually instantaneous and, in the phrase so worshipped by the early advocates of nukes, “too cheap to meter”.
    His work on solid state, non toxic storage batteries, in the 19thC is hard to grasp even now.
    Personally, I’d happily ride a one-way rocket to Mars, just for the sheer adventure but then, I is weird.


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