A thousand years

earth-to-spaceA wise old man named Jon Stewart said something recently that I took some solace in. He said that the U.S. is still fundamentally the same country today as it was three weeks ago.

Indeed, it will take a lot more than the election of a woefully ill-prepared and recidivist politician to make a significant impact on our world.

Nonetheless, some frightened Americans immediately started exploring a move to Canada or some other venue that doesn’t appear on the verge of a political meltdown.

Before the lights go out

It appears that we humans will have to move to survive. But it will be to a place much further away than Canada.

73015788BV003_SCIENTISTS_MOHow about a nice little spot in Proxima Centauri, a relatively nearby galaxy that is said to hold potentially habitable planets for our ilk?

We better get cracking. We may have only a millennium or so before the lights go out here on Planet Earth. So theorizes the venerable mathematician and theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (and he’s maybe someone we should listen to).

At Oxford Union in Great Britain last week, Hawking surmised that we humans inevitably will burn through Earth’s natural resources, hastening the demise of our already fragile planet. And, somewhere in that timeframe, it’s entirely conceivable that an extinction event could occur.

A thousand years. Can we survive that long? Said Hawking: “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.”

A world of ills

Meanwhile, in the here and now, can we even begin to cure the divisiveness we face in and outside the country? Can we move away from fossil fuels and become self-sustaining with green energy? Can we solve poverty and mass-starvation? Can we end senseless wars, genocides, and meaningless destruction?

climate-change-effectsHawking isn’t betting on it. Since we likely won’t have established self-sustaining colonies on other planets for at least a century, the scientist theorizes that the next 100 years will be critical to our survival.

The possibilities of nuclear terrorism, accelerating climate change, and dangers of artificial intelligence, among other things, could threaten our very existence.

If we manage to get beyond those threats, Hawking surmises, we still must expand outward toward other solar systems to survive.

A thousand years is not a long time, when you consider that the planet has been around for at least four billion years. But in terms of human evolution, it is significant—especially given the accelerated pace of technological achievement.

Any good news?

As I’ve written previously in these pages, we are already making moves toward space. Humans could colonize Mars in this century and make considerable progress in solving the manifest problems with manned space travel.

green-energyI never cease to marvel at human ingenuity, so I’m hopeful.

But I’m also skeptical, because our species appears to be failing in its responsibility to protect our planet. Our oceans, our forests, our natural resources are all under siege, it seems, and efforts to mitigate this reality are sporadic and diffuse.

Every day we see increasing and irrefutable evidence of this, with warming average temperatures, melting polar ice caps, and rising sea levels.

Entire species of plants and animals are threatened, and even dying off. Unchecked greed and corruption are causing poverty, polarization, and violence.

Technology is one part of the solution, but more important is a unified, worldwide commitment to solving mankind’s massive problems.

If we can do it, we might not have to leave after all.

2 thoughts on “A thousand years

  1. Fred dunfey

    No mention is made of technological improvements that could sustain life here on our planet. No need to worry about a future 1000 years from now. We are having problems with tomorrow. We are having trouble even agreeing on what are problems.

    One constant exists. We can’t project the future very well.

    That being said, your article was interesting.

    Reply

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