“If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place . . .”

Google is running a doodle contest for young artists — “If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place . . .” Of course, since it’s a Google contest, the doodle needs to incorporate their logo, which seems oxymoronic. What does Google have to do with the world? Google certainly doesn’t make the world a better place, it just makes online life easier to navigate, which makes me wonder if Google thinks the internet is actually “the world.”

peaceIt seems to me that the real, offline world works fine just the way it is. Earth spins on its axis, travels around the sun, and hurtles through space in an orderly manner. The sun comes up in the east every morning and sets in the west every evening. (Well, no, the sun doesn’t actually rise and set except from our perspective. To the earth’s perspective, the sun is always “up.”)

There are deserts and rain forests, mountains and oceans, lakes and rivers galore, which all make the world a wonderful place. The soil is fertile (or would be if we didn’t over use it) and water is plentiful. Skies are blue when the sun is shining, and vivid reds and oranges when it sets. Sometimes, there is even a flash of green in the tropical sky or vast waves of colors in the northern hemisphere.

Can anything invented by a human make any of this better? If humans really wanted to invent something that would make the world a better place, they would have to invent something that removed humans from the world. The world exists just fine without us. It is we who need the world. There is a story about a Native American shaman who almost forgave the white men for the terrible problems they brought because they also brought horses, and horses make the landscape more beautiful. Has anyone ever said that humans out in the open make the landscape more beautiful? (I’m talking bodies here, not gardens.)

I admit I’m being picky. I presume Google’s contest is about inventing something to make the human situation better, and even then, I don’t know if there is anything we could invent that would make our world a better place. I don’t know if there ever has been anything . . . well, except for indoor plumbing and toilet paper. Energy that doesn’t destroy the earth has already been invented (or discovered, rather.) There are ways of pulling energy right from the earth, but the problem is the energy purveyors have yet to figure out how to make money off such energy. There would be no wires or conduits, no meters, just a simple and inexpensive piece of equipment, similar to a small television satellite dish.

It would be nice if someone could invent a pain pill that actually worked, that had no side effects, and wasn’t addictive, but if someone invented ways of preventing pain and ill health and death, the earth would soon be so overrun with humans, someone need to invent something that would gradually remove humans from the world.

It’s a good thing I don’t have to invent anything that would make the world a better place, because I wouldn’t. All that the major inventions did was allow for bigger buildings, more genetically modified food, more vehicles, more incursions into once isolated lands, and in the end, more humans. What would make the world a better place is if people were kinder to each other, but that’s not something we can invent. All we need to do is do it. So today, be kind to someone and make the world a better place.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.