I found this article about why we’ll probably never be able to escape earth in a fleet of chrome-y, salvific starships to be beautifully written and surprisingly moving! Won’t you join me in the reading of it? (Also, if you are a Science Person and have reason to be more optimistic about the possibility of post-Earth humanity, please reassure me in the comments.)
Meanwhile, the tremendous increase in our knowledge of biology has taught us that human beings are much more complicated than we thought, being in effect complex assemblages interpenetrated with larger ecologies.
These and other findings make a contemporary evaluation of the starfaring plan rather startling: one begins to see it can’t be done.
Oh no! For some people this is a disturbing and deeply pessimistic conclusion to come to. Then when you combine that new judgment with the recently discovered problems concerning the plan to terraform and inhabit Mars (presence of perchlorates and absence of nitrogen), and we come to an entirely new realization about our species: there is no Planet B.
Earth is our only home.
Oh no again!
I do not spend a lot of my time wondering about humanity will do after I myself have died, much less what we will do in the more-or-less-near future when the Earth becomes uninhabitable, so I was more than a little surprised to find myself so heartbroken to learn that travel to the stars is almost certainly impossible, no matter how fast and massive we eventually build our spaceships.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t go into space; we should. We should send people to the moon, and Mars, and the asteroids, and every place we can in the solar system, putting up stations and swapping humans in and out of them. This is not only a beautiful thing to do, but useful in helping us to design a long-term relationship with Earth itself. Space science is an Earth science. The solar system is our neighborhood. But the stars are too far away.”
Why did this paragraph make me a little weepy? I don’t know, friends! I don’t know! I want something dim and distantly good to happen to us as a group, whether that be some sort of placid, pleasant afterlife or at least a hospitable bacterial biome for our genetic material. And probably it won’t! (I just like living so very much, I hate the idea of running out of it forever. I’d like to stay.)
If nothing else, this is a good reminder for all of us to re-read Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. “’Soon the sun will set’ – is that prophecy? No, it’s merely an assertion of faith in the consistency of events…It never was any better, it never will be any better. It will only be richer or poorer, sadder but not wiser, until the very last day.” Bless me, Father, for I ate a lizard.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.