Obama's Big Moonshot: Save Humanity

Obama's Big Moonshot: Save Humanity

President Obama delivered a budget to the US Congress today. In the history of US policy, there has never been a more ambitious science-focused document to originate from the White House. This is Obama's moonshot for Earth. And Congress is essentially ignoring it.

The President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 is very long and filled with plenty of jargon that you might not want to ingest and may not completely understand. You can get a human-language version here, a kind of CliffsNotes from the president himself, but let me spell it out for you.

There are big ideas in here. Really bloody big ideas. These aren't just policy issues that will impact the health, wealth and happiness of American citizens. These are systemic changes to technology that, if implemented on a wide scale, could easily improve daily life for everyone on this planet.

Here are a few of the highlights.

  • There is a 21st Century Clean Transportation Plan where $US320 billion over 10 years will increase spending on trains, subways, light rail, bike infrastructure and footpaths, and change the way we spend existing transportation funds — all paid for by a tax on oil companies.
  • There is a "prioritised" R&D fund of $US152 billion — science is prioritised! — which includes $US7.7 billion for a government-wide clean energy R&D fund across 12 agencies, $US33.1 for biomedical research, and $US14.6 billion for basic research. (There also is an actual moonshot in there, which is described as such: A $US1 billion fund to cure cancer.)
  • There is money for space exploration, food security, assessing climate risk and a comprehensive strategy for improving innovation around water, including protecting the land that holds that water.
  • And there is an entire Climate Action Plan, a separate $US1.3 billion to stop the impact of climate change, which includes $US750 million to help developing nations make smart investments around clean energy and climate resilience.

People are angry, and maybe rightfully so, that Obama waited so long in this presidency to attempt to push these ideas through. That a lame-duck, IDGAF president up against a ticking clock might be full of progressive ideas but won't have time to deliver on them.

But here's what I think. We shouldn't forget that the original moonshot — the one where we actually shot for the Moon — was issued by the person who held the very same role as Obama. In 1962, this person ordered the country to think bigger than ourselves.

A little over a year later, he was gone. And a few years later, we went to the Moon.

Who knows which, if any, of these ideas will carry forward into another administration. But if even one of these ideas becomes reality, then Obama will have accomplished more than any president before him when it comes to technology. Because what Obama is proposing here is not just a few good ideas for Americans, but a road map for all humankind.

President Barack Obama touring Kanai Fjords National Park in Alaska, September 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Comments

    Considering how hard he had to fight for basic healthcare it's no wonder he's pushing this in the 11th hour.

    Getting so sick of hearing people say that he was a "lame duck President". He was labelled that by a belligerent Republican Party, when in fact he's up there with the best performing Presidents so far. The only reason he's been so badly hobbled is because of the colour of his skin.

      "Lame duck" is a political term used for someone whose term is nearly up, particularly one who can't run again - like Obama.

        By that reasoning, every president in their second term should be called that as soon as they start that term. So it's strange then how we've not heard any other president called that from early on? Besides that and my memory isn't perfect, but I seem to recall him being called that during his first term.

        Last edited 11/02/16 8:45 am

        @nodeity "lame duck" Is actually what they call a Democrat president who is has to work with a majority Republican Senate or vica versa - Basically every law they try and pass gets shot down.

          Thanks for clarifying that, although I still think he got the wrong end of the coloured stick with those one-eyed asshats he has to deal with. :)

    These are not even remotely what the USA needs. They are bankruptcy.
    USA needs precisely what Australia needs:
    1. A single billion population city confined to an area of land twenty miles wide by one hundred miles long:
    (A) For Australia this would be Darwin extended east one hundred miles on a square grid layout.
    (B) For the USA this would be Long Island.

    2. Fifty percent of the mainland (Australia/USA) would be declared national park.

    3. The remaining fifty percent of Mainland (Australia/USA) would be a single farm producing food and seed stock.

    4. All other population Areas would be demolished and recycled.

      Well if you read between the lines, you can tell that's what Obama's getting at - but try sneaking THAT by those Republicans!

      And megablocks, and judges, and teleporters!

      Each person will be so happy in their allotted 2.26m x 2.26m area!
      Putting all your eggs in one basket has always been a great strategy!
      We won't need minerals, or timber.
      Farmers don't need towns, to educate their children and buy supplies!

      Loony loony looooony.

      Not sure i agree but this is what we need to be doing, having a plan for the future.
      Right now the only plan is get rich quick and cash out before the next economic crash.

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