Sarcophagus in 2050

Sarcophagus in 2050

On a certain day in the Earth year 3000, a cold wind whipped noisily across a wide wasteland. In the middle of this wilderness was a huge concrete structure, glistening in the morning sun. In the shadow of the gigantic building stood an adult male and a boy who gestured and nodded toward it as they talked.

‘ Although I thought that we may never know what this monument-like structure is all about,’ the man was saying, ‘I have managed to analyse the inscription carved into that iron plate on the wall. It’s in the script of the so-called Western world of a thousand years ago. Here is written ‘Chernobyl’. Yes, and the three triangles there above the letters form a symbol that was used throughout this world to represent nuclear power, which we know brought destruction to the planet in Earth year 2050.’

No sooner was that said than the two rocketed up into the air to enter a spaceship that hovered over the wasteland, and then took off at full speed to disappear into the sky and off beyond the clouds.
‘Phew, that was too close indeed! What an unpleasant surprise. What we have just visited was the infamous Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Really, how could we have known that we’d find so many of those concrete tombs scattered across the face of the Earth.’

‘Father, what are they, those tombs?’ The boy stood staring through the window of the speeding spaceship at the blue-green Earth shrinking away in the distance.
‘My son, it was a thousand years ago, about the Earth year 2050, I believe. I don’t know the details, but judging from the data available here in our shipboard computer, there seems to have been a long period of great turmoil, with widespread confusion, ruin, and desolation coming one after another.
Our ancestors, it seems, had some one thousand years ago built massive nuclear power facilities throughout the world. In control of these, they placed giant robo-computers which had no hearts to guide them in their duties.’

‘What, oh really? Heartless computers?’
‘Exactly, for you see, in those days the limited knowledge and wisdom of people led them to believe that they could not generate enough electrical energy unless they employed robo-computers like that.’
‘Really? Anyone knows that unlimited supplies of energy are freely available. The natural world can provide everything, right?’

‘Naturally, my boy. And it’s not that people back then were ignorant of that fact. They were simply so caught up in developing a new economic and political order that nature and the good in human spirit were not brought into the picture.’
‘Oh, my. Then, what became of Earth after that?’
‘Well, son, that monumental tomb, or sarcophagus, that you saw down there was one of many that sprang up in the early twenty-first century to seal inside them something of great danger to people and other living things. Well, actually the first of them was built there in the nation of USSR, over a nuclear power plant at a place called Chernobyl.

It was there that the first great explosion and meltdown occurred, and people found themselves helpless in the face of an unknown horror. In the radiation that was spread by the explosion, many children and adults died from leukemia and other cancers. Animals, trees and other plants also lost their lives, and a sombre hush fell over the whole region. This is why such a great amount of concrete was used to cover over the radioactive core of that nuclear power plant. Indeed, it became Planet Earth’s largest coffin of steel and concrete.’

‘Oh, and then?’
‘It was not long before a similar fate befell nuclear power stations sitting on the soil of nations all over the planet. These tragedies were made possible by three grand oversights. The first was to produce waste material from those nuclear reactors without understanding the nature of that waste, and even ignoring facts that should have warned them. As it was, they secretly buried it under the ground, dumped it into the ocean water, and released it into the air. Yes, but it soon reappeared to take frightful revenge on humankind.’

‘The second major mistake was to place their trust in computers which had not yet been developed to include a gentle sensitivity to nature. Their greatest fault was inability to see into the hearts and minds of human beings and other living things. Computers back then also made frequent errors in simple calculation. Finally, the third mistake people made was to ignore the living power of the magma that perks and rolls inside Planet Earth. Therefore, they naturally could not foresee violent volcanic eruptions or great earthquakes that appeared without warning.’
‘There,’ interrupted the boy, ‘those spots I see there on the other side of Earth’s largest land mass, are they somehow related?’

‘Right you are! That is the great region known as Asia, our homeland of long ago. Back then in the middle of the twenty-first century, Asia such as Japan, China and India ended up with more of those sarcophaguses than anywhere else on Earth. It is not surprising, then, that it was the Asian ancestors of our ancestors who were the first to flee from their world of concrete coffins to become emigrants to space.’ The man paused to take a deep breath and squint at the blue planet they had left far behind.

‘Remember this well. The poison from plutonium that lies inside those concrete tombs has been there for only two thousand years. Plutonium 239 has a half-life of some 24,000 years, which means that it takes that long for half of the atoms in it to disintegrate.’
‘Twenty-four thousand years? Hmm . . . If only a thousand years has passed, it will take another twenty-three thousand years!’
‘Yes, that’s right. We human beings can expect to live only about fifty to one hundred years. If a thousand years is hard to imagine, what can you say about such a horrible bunch of trash that humankind has made to take over the environment of our ancestral planet for thousands of years, and has even been spread to space beyond?

As you grow to become a man, and travel back to Earth and elsewhere in search of understanding about our species, keep this in mind. It was only after the disasters of the twenty-first century that humankind began to seriously consider the importance of not the outward journey to other lands and planets, but of the evolution inward to the heart and conscience of their own existence.’
‘Yes, what is ultimately true in this vast universe is not the philosophy of progress in economics or politics over one, ten or even a hundred years, but something that sages in ancient India and China had thought about a few thousand years ago. What gives joy and guides the human spirit through its own inner space is an awareness of the boundless evolution of the heart towards a good, fair, caring attitude that lives on even beyond a thousand or ten thousand years.

Furthermore, that awareness can come only from sincerely learning the laws of nature and the psychology of inner and outer space. Otherwise, our human race is bound to leave a trail of stone tombs wherever they go, just as they did to end their glorious history on Earth.’

On sped the spaceship carrying the travelling father and son, silently into a black nebula, and setting a course for a galaxy in the 9,999th zone of the universe.

Written by Tajima Shinji
Published by Oxford University Press, 1999






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