Is It Time to Colonize Mars?

Homo sapiens is a serial killer of the ecosystem.

Yuval Harari author of Sapiens & Homo Deus

 

In Expedition New Earth—a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World science season—Stephen Hawkins claims that Mother Earth would appreciate it if we would find a new planet to call home.

And do so in the next 100 years.

Because of “climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our planet is increasingly precarious” wrote the BBC. Remaining on Earth longer than another 100 years places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction, Hawking claims.

We must…continue to go into space for the future of humanity. Stephen Hawking

Another thought-leader said: “There are really two fundamental paths,” [Elon] Musk told an overflow crowd at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. “One path is we stay on Earth forever, and there will be some eventual extinction event. … The alternative is to become a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species.” (CBS News; 9/27/16) (Elon Musk is the founder of Space X)

Words from an essay I wrote in 2008 remain true today:

Republicans have made clean-energy legislation a dirty word.

New York Time columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “We don’t have a ‘gasoline price problem.’ We have an addiction problem. We are addicted to dirty fossil fuels, and this addiction is driving a whole set of toxic trends that are harming our nation and world in many different ways. It is intensifying global warming, creating runaway global demand for oil and gas, weakening our currency by shifting huge amounts of dollars abroad to pay for oil imports…destroying plants and animals at record rates…..”

More fundamentally our problem is that six billion people (10 billion by 2050) are addicted to the consumption of our alive, interconnected, and interdependent planet.

That is not sustainable.

Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute, Washington D.C., wrote, “A sustainable society is one that satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of future generations.”

Sustainability is the moral issue of this generation.

We will change how we think, and we will figure out how to live sustainably on this planet or we will not. Either way, something spectacular is going to happen. If we change, we will renew our economy, restore American global leadership, and help save the planet. We will experience a new renaissance of ideas and an indefinite future. Nothing less will save our way of life and perhaps the young of today and the unborn of tomorrow.

People I believe (Al Gore, scientist Jim Hanson, philosopher Daniel Quinn, & explorer Will Steger) say we have 10 to 40 years to change. If we don’t change, the momentum that carries us to possible extinction will be too great to overcome.

We must understand that the disruption of global climate is not a linear process—predictable and measurable in discrete ways. Climate change is a nonlinear process—unpredictable and uncontrollable. Small changes will have large impacts—on storms, temperature, precipitation, humidity, soil moisture, atmospheric circulation patterns, snow and ice cover, and ocean currents.

Unintended systemic consequences may not be seen until it is too late. Impacts may well happen sooner and with greater destruction than even the worst predictions. Nature is amoral and species neutral; she doesn’t care about us–she just acts naturally. And such changes in our weather will set off equally nonlinear, unpredictable, and uncontrollable reactions that will affect all life forms on this planet—including the human population. A massive chaotic transformation of life may take place on this planet.

Without change, within 200 years we may perish as a species or a few islands of prosperity and privilege may survive surrounded by a sea of misery and violence. We need to move quickly and boldly.

We, like addicts of all types, are experts at denial; we pretend the worst will not happen. We are irresponsible. We expect magic, God, or some heroic leader to rescue us. We need a spiritual awakening–a moment of metanoia: a shift of mind. Scientist Rupert Sheldrake said, “It is like waking up from a dream. It brings with it a spirit of repentance, seeing in a new way, a change of heart. This conversion is intensified by the sense that the end of an age is at hand.”

God will not rescue us. Nor will a hero or heroine save us. We are responsible for our collective fate. The great threats of climate change, population growth, species extinction, resource depletion, and global poverty have called for change for a long time. Are we ready to listen and to change how we live together on this planet….?

Change will be difficult but ease or difficulty is not the issue. The question is: are we ready to change or not? If we are ready, we will get behind a new vision for the renewal first of the United States and then of the world and we will do what is necessary.

We put a man on the moon eight years after John Kennedy challenged the nation. We can be free of foreign oil and produce 100% of our electricity from renewable energy within 10 years.

Whatever we do, something spectacular is going to happen soon. We will experience an evolutionary bounce or an evolutionary crash.

Back to 2017:

Republicans are now leading America. Donald Trump is our president.

I just want to think about the future without being sad.

Elon Musk in conversation with TED’s Chris Anderson (4/17)

5 thoughts on “Is It Time to Colonize Mars?

  1. Thanks, Tom, for your very well crafted wakeup call. I particularly liked your “something spectacular is going to happen either way” dichotomy. It really captures, in a basic and honest way, our dilemma. We can chose or lose, deny or accept. You know that old cliche offered by commencement speakers this time of year, “The future is in your hands.” It’s spot on now, more than ever. The future is in all of our hands. Let’s not blow it.

  2. “I don’t feel like we can trust liberal scientists.” That’s the response from a colleague when I mentioned Hawking’s comments last week. It made me wish that someone other than Al Gore had sounded the alarm all those years ago; it’s beyond comprehension that the future of our species has become a political issue. But circling back to your opening Yuval Harari quote, I wonder if perhaps it’s best that we serial ecosystem killers stay on this planet. It would be a shame for us to ruin another also, as I don’t fear we’ve learned one iota from our mistakes here.

  3. Agree with Heide — we don’t need to go and mess up another place!
    Our current state of affairs re: climate change – is so backward!! I recently installed solar panels on my home and the savings to me are greater than I hoped for — almost down to nothing!
    We would do well to heed the “liberal scientists” . I would ask anyone who uses that term what the agenda is for liberal scientists? Saving us money? Saving our planet? We know what the agenda for using fossil fuels is — $$$$$!!!

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