JANUARY 29, 1962
NEW YORK—After a weekend which saw the postponement of Colonel Glenn's orbital flight and the failure of our moon rocket to hit its target, many people may be anxious to know what valuable information can be brought back by these space experiments.
Man's curiosity has always been challenged by the unknown. With the present population explosion on the earth, our curiosity may well be whetted by the possibility that areas outside our own planet might be settled by human beings. It is challenging to the imagination to think that one might come upon a civilization that had gone far ahead of us, or that one might find ways of exploring and using other planets where human life had not yet appeared. The possibilities of the future are so tremendous, in fact, that they make one realize with increasing impatience how stupid we are on this planet to be bickering with each other over whether we want to survive or not.
News dispatches from Geneva now report that Russia, the United States and Great Britain have again been unable to reach a decision on banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere. This made even more pointed to me the lesson embodied in a film called "The Day the Earth Caught Fire," produced by Val Guest in association with Pax Films Limited. The story takes place in London at a time when nuclear tests in the atmosphere had become so forceful that they had moved the earth from its orbit. As our planet drifts closer and closer to the sun, catastrophies are reported from all over the world—including floods, tornadoes, ice, snow and terrific heat. Only as a result of all these calamities do the four great nuclear powers of our world come together in the interest of self-preservation. They decide to give up competition and together to make four experimental explosions in the hope of putting the globe back on its normal orbit. The film ends without defining whether or not the attempt is successful, but viewers are made to realize that the governments and peoples of our world are behaving in a most childish manner.
The Russians now say they want a ban on testing, but each nation is to depend on its own national ability to discover whether any other nation is violating the rules agreed upon. Perhaps they mean this as a challenge to confidence and trust in each other's word. On the other hand, it may be that both sides have really come to realize how great is the danger of tests to human life. With increasing power, it may be possible to upset what we now call nature's controls. Hence that most rare quality—common sense—may come to our rescue and drive us to do what is good for humanity and to forget our nationalism.
Whether we have really suffered enough to do this is a question I cannot answer at present. But I certainly hope we have, for it is obvious that killing each other off on this planet is no way in which to participate in the real challenge, which is to gain greater knowledge of all the worlds around us. Perhaps one can fall back on the thought that the human race must be very strong indeed, because so many attacks are constantly being made on it and still we have survived.
A new effort to rid us of malaria, one of the scourges that bedevil us here, is being aided by the use of postage stamps distributed by the Philatelic Agency for Malaria Eradication Postage Stamps. The agency will help enlighten the public on the World Health Organization's campaign, which will receive support from the sale of these stamps. It is hoped that 109 member states of the World Health Organization will be actively enrolled in the drive by World Health Day, April 7, and of course all stamp collectors will have to buy this issue of stamps, the theme of which will be "The World United Against Malaria."
Two men who are giving thought to the problems I have mentioned in this column will be speaking at the dinner to be given by Americans for Democratic Action in New York City on February 1 at the Hotel Astor. I am sure that Harlan Cleveland and Arthur Schlesinger will be both practical and imaginative when they address this National Roosevelt Day Dinner. Perhaps many of my readers who live in the New York City area will be there to hear them.