Letter to Stephen Hawking, August 12th, 2010 | 01Mar2011 18:52:06
In the news this week Stephen Hawking, a brilliant and likeable scientist said “The human race must colonize space within the next two centuries or it will become extinct.” He cites the possibility of nuclear war and population growth as reasons to leave.
The logical question we need to ask is if we take to space, where might we go?
This question, within today’s technological level, limits us to our solar system, in which the moon and Mars alone may offer somewhere to take refuge, but both planets are incredibly hostile to life, and lacking in many of the minerals we would need to recreate conditions here.
On the other hand humans may build orbiting ‘hotels’ and preserve a few thousand that way, but these would be immensely expensive and limited in holding capacity.
Or we could travel like gypsies away from the sun, in giant, self-sufficient metal capsules, but survival in space is not an easy thing. It may end up to be a matter of deprivation, hunger, extremes of environment, drastically reduced quality of life, dangerous lack of hygiene, and so on, for the hapless humans who try it. Within our solar system, as I see it, Earth is the only, and best place for us.
Beyond our solar system we would need to travel for thousands of years just to reach our nearest star, and more thousands to the next one, with no guarantee of finding anywhere safe to land. So far no extra-solar system has revealed a planet anything like Earth, and I think never will, so we are trapped, in a manner of speaking, on this planet.
An alternative to fleeing the planet, is to stay here and make the most of it, but if we do that we are stuck with human nature, the very thing Mr. Hawking thinks is the cause for our need to leave. Human nature, or the monster within us is the cause of war, pollution, cruelty, and all the other evils which make humanity such an intolerable mess. Fleeing Earth will never solve that – just export it.